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LG SL8000 (42SL8000) review: LG SL8000 (42SL8000)

With one of LG's intriguing, LED-backlit, flagship SL9000 TVs only a few days from arriving in our labs, we thought we'd pass the time with a model in the next range down, the 42SL8000. We were hardly prepared for just how enjoyable a time we'd have with this £1,000, 42-inch, 1080p LCD TV.

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8.8

LG SL8000 (42SL8000)

The Good

Sumptuous design; excellent pictures; features and connections galore; great value for money.

The Bad

Limited viewing angle; getting the best picture can be a rather labour-intensive process.

The Bottom Line

LG has long been doing very well indeed in the UK TV market, thanks to some ultra-aggressive pricing. With the 42SL8000, the company has finally proven definitively that it's not only a budget brand, but one that's capable of producing LCD pictures to rival the best of the competition

Strikingly skinny
Although the 42SL8000 might not be quite as thin as the upcoming SL9000 models, at just 50mm deep, it's still strikingly slim compared to most LCD sets. The thin profile is complemented by a glorious high-gloss finish on the bezel, with a saucy but subtle injection of blue in the extreme bottom edge. Hubba.

Fearsome feature set
The 42SL8000's divine looks aren't the only source of joy, though. This TV also has an awesome array of features. In terms of connectivity, for example, it boasts an innovative wireless Bluetooth system for use with headphones or for playing MP3s and JPEGs from mobile phones. Among numerous other connections, there are also four HDMI ports and a USB socket that, impressively, is capable of playing high-definition DivX video, WMV, MP3 and JPEG files.

The TV also claims to have 200Hz processing. As with many other 200Hz systems, the 42SL8000 doesn't actually refresh the picture 200 times a second. Rather, it combines a 100Hz refresh rate with a scanning backlight. This slightly compromised approach has its foibles, as we'll see presently.

The 42SL8000 offers a beautiful design and, most of the time, picture quality to match

LG seems to have done some interesting things with the 42SL8000's contrast too, since the 1080p screen boasts a startlingly high claimed contrast ratio of 150,000:1. Such contrast-ratio figures have to be taken with a huge pinch of salt, though.

Picture-processing chops beyond the 200Hz system come courtesy of LG's solid, multi-purpose XD Engine system, and a Real Cinema processor developed to get the most from 1080p/24p Blu-ray playback.

It's worth pointing out that most of the features we've discussed are adjustable from the 42SL8000's excellent on-screen menus, which cope with the TV's huge feature count superbly, thanks to their combination of big, bold graphics and a logical structure.

These pretty menus contain one final feature worth mentioning before getting stuck into the 42SL8000's picture performance: the ISF presets. These are there so that you can pay an engineer from the Imaging Science Foundation to professionally calibrate your screen to suit your specific viewing-room conditions.

Outstanding image quality
Thus far the 42SL8000 hasn't really put a foot wrong, offering a design and features that make its £1,000 price point seem cheap. For us, its appeal merely increased as we sat and watch it in action.

Right away, it's impossible not to be struck by the outstanding dynamism of the 42SL8000's pictures. Bright whites share the frame happily with easily the deepest, most natural blacks we've seen on an LG LCD TV so far. It's a pity that the set's black levels reduce quite severely if you watch the screen from a wide angle. But the same can be said of 95 per cent of other LCD TVs, too.


Colours are startlingly vibrant, yet, unlike LG TVs of old, this colour intensity doesn't come at the expense of natural tones, even when watching standard-definition pictures. In fact, standard-definition pictures are very watchable in general, with decent sharpness and well-suppressed noise complementing the excellent colours.

The 42SL8000 rises strongly to the challenge of rendering the detail and clarity of HD sources, especially since the 200Hz engine does a stand-up job of limiting the amount of motion blur and judder.

As we mentioned earlier, the 200Hz engine comes with one or two strings attached. For instance, if you leave the system active while watching a sport that features a fairly small ball, like football or, especially, cricket, sometimes the scanning backlight can cause ghostly second or even third balls to appear around the real one. Fine details can occasionally flicker, too, and shimmering halos can appear around large moving objects as they pass across the screen.

You can easily minimise these side effects, though, by switching the 200Hz engine to its low setting, or even turning the system off completely if it really annoys you with any particular source type. In fact, provided you put some effort into it, the 42SL8000's 200Hz engine gets far more things right than wrong.

Even the 42SL8000's audio is surprisingly decent for such a slender TV, with an open, engaging, clear and detailed sound stage that even manages to offer a modicum of bass. Only a tendency to sound slightly harsh with extremely high-pitched sounds takes some gloss off the set's audio performance.

Conclusion
The LG 42SL8000 looks gorgeous, has more connections than you'll ever need, is bursting with features and options, offers pictures that are a joy to behold 99 per cent of the time, and, at £1000, isn't expensive at all considering what it offers. What's not to like?

Edited by Charles Kloet