LG Scarlet 42LG60FD review: LG Scarlet 42LG60FD

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The Good Distinctive design. Excellent HD performance. Brilliant tuner. Four HDMI ports.

The Bad Poor off-axis performance. Sound is disappointing.

The Bottom Line The LG 42LG60FD, or Scarlet as it's otherwise known, is a flashy, style-oriented LCD which thankfully has the performance and features to back it all up.

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8.0 Overall

As the fashion show at the recent Scarlet launch attempted to demonstrate, this television is all about design. From the mirror finish on the stand to the red powder-coated rear (which no-one will ever see), this is a seriously blinged-up set.

From a distance, it bears a more than passing resemblance to Loewe's high-end Spheros TV with its elongated black bezel and round power-button-thing. And while we're on the latter: what is with that? Definitely the TV's most distinctive feature, this touch-capacitive power ring is actually a hole clear through to the other side. We're not going to ruminate on this any further, but we'll just say there's probably a reason the US version has a plastic cover preventing anything from going through it...

In comparison, the supplied remote control is a little drab — even if it does feature a plastic, faux-leather finish. It's friendly enough, though, with large, simple buttons and a sensible layout.

For a TV worth 25 hundred dollars, you may be looking at the features list and wondering what else — apart from the admittedly sophisticated design — you are getting for your money. While it's missing the ultra-fashionable 100Hz mode, the features it does have are arguably more useful anyway.

A few specs first: this is a 1920x1080 television with a built-in HD tuner and a claimed 50,000 to 1 dynamic contrast ratio. We applaud the TV's inclusion of four HDMI ports, as you can never have too many, but this also means it only comes at the expense of only two component inputs and one each of S-Video and composite. This is a device for the HD junkie, clearly.

The tagline "she's intelligent" from the hammy ad refers to the television's "Intelligent Sensor" which monitors the lighting conditions of your room and uses 4,096 RGB sensing steps to optimise the picture quality accordingly.

Tweakers and professionals, however, will probably appreciate the inclusion of two ISF-calibrated modes instead, and though they may need some further adjustment to suit your own living space it's something the Scarlet's competitors don't have — or at least don't advertise.

Like many of its competitors, LG has added a USB port to its television which enables you to view photos and play MP3s, but unfortunately not one of the more popular formats we can imagine this would be handy for: DivX.

Generally, we were quite impressed by the performance of the 42LG60FD, and especially when utilising the aforementioned ISF presets. Whether you're hooking up a PlayStation 3, Foxtel iQ2, or using the excellent on-board tuner this is a set that shines in high definition. Colours are natural, blacks agreeably deep (for LCD) and detail levels high.

Whether it was movie watching or synthetic benchmark testing, the LG did extremely well. It even aced the HQV imaging tests on Blu-ray — something even the well-regarded Sony Bravia X-series couldn't manage.

We were even taken aback by the quality of the analog tuner — it's uncommonly good. In fact, reception on Channel 10 in particular was so clear we had to double-check if the TV had switched to the digital tuner by mistake.

All pretty positive so far, so what are the downsides? Well, firstly: despite being tuned by audiophile Mark Levinson himself, the sound is mostly rubbish. Sure, the speaker grilles are "invisible" but we'd take performance over looks every time. The standard mode is quite nasally and music is also quite bad — which is funny given this TV plays MP3s — and only when switching to the SRS TruSurround XT mode did the audio quality gain any degree of naturalness. Invest in a sound system instead, we say.

The LG has been criticised elsewhere for a shallow viewing angle, and while at the extremes and when viewed from above, the set loses blacks, it's still watchable. If sitting in front though you'll get about 100 degrees of decent picture quality — so unless you've got the football team over to watch TV in your corridor, this should suit most spaces.

Another minor problem is that HDMI input takes a long time to handshake — there was a lag of five to six seconds between changing inputs, which also made it difficult in our testing to do direct A/B comparison between an external tuner and the LG's.

And from the realms of the Twilight Zone comes our final point: the television puts out a lot of infrared energy, and we're not sure why. We experienced a lot of remote weirdness, with IR sensors on our other gear lighting up only when the TV was on, and our Marantz receiver randomly turning itself off. And it had nothing to do with the power ring as we first thought. Puzzling.

We had a lot of fun playing with the LG 42LG60FD, and though it's predisposed to style first we don't think it's been at the expense of picture quality. If you want better black performance then a plasma TV is the only way to go, but we think owners of this unit will be pleasantly surprised by its overall performance.

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