LG's 42-inch, 1080p 42SL9000 LCD TV isn't just thin -- it's really, really thin, measuring about 29mm at its deepest point. That means it's just as slender as the ground-breaking and popular B7000 and B8000 TVs from Samsung. The LED-edge-lit 42SL9000 can be picked up for around £1,200.
Skinny like a model
Although the 42SL9000's astonishingly slender dimensions mean it cuts its most dramatic dash if viewed from the side, it's also mighty handsome when ogled from the front. The glossy black bezel and screen both share a single sheet of glass -- a clever touch that oddly exaggerates the set's thinness. There's an appealing infusion of grey along the extreme bottom edge of the bezel too.
The set's connections are quite plentiful, including four HDMI sockets, a USB port capable of playing JPEG, MP3 and DivX standard- or high-definition files, and an RS-232 port so the TV can be integrated into a wider control system. There's even a further connection you can't see: wireless Bluetooth, either for playing files via Bluetooth phones, or listening to the TV through Bluetooth headphones.
Connection-wise, the only disappointments are that there's no Ethernet port for connecting the TV to a PC or any online services, and that most of the set's connections stick out from the back. That negates the TV's slenderness to some extent if you're hanging it on a wall.
Lighting on the edge
The 42SL9000 sports LED edge lights. An array of LED light sources, ranged around the bezel, fire light across the back of the screen, and the light is then bounced out to the viewer by an array of tiny mirrors.
Using edge-mounted LEDs, rather than ones mounted directly behind the screen, means the 42SL9000 has no local-dimming capability, whereby each LED array used to illuminate the picture can be individually controlled, resulting in a greater contrast range. But the 42SL9000 still claims a huge contrast ratio of 3,000,000:1, and, as we've seen with Samsung's LED-edge-lit models, not having local-dimming capability certainly doesn't mean pictures can't be very good indeed.
The 42SL9000 sports LG's 100Hz TruMotion processing, and a seriously long list of picture options, so that you can make your images look perfect. Among the highlights of these tweaks -- all contained within a series of extremely attractive and logically organised on-screen menus -- are dynamic colour and contrast modes, a gamma-adjustment and noise-reduction system, and the option to adjust the level of -- or deactivate -- the TV's 100Hz and Real Cinema motion-compensation elements.
As usual with LG TVs, the 42SL9000 is so flexible that it's been endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation. Two presets are included for use by an ISF agent, so that they can calibrate the screen for you.
On first impressions, the 42SL9000's pictures are very good. The image looks exceptionally bright and this helps colours look fearsomely intense, especially if you use the TV's wide-colour-gamut mode. Also helping colours look richer is the 42SL9000's likeable black-level response. The set's blacks are deeper than those of most LCD TVs that use an ordinary CCFL backlight, rather than an LED system.
Another, more surprising, strength of the 42SL9000 is its handling of standard-definition pictures, which look sharper than is often the case with 1080p screens, while also enjoying some of the better noise-reduction processing we've seen.
But, while the 42SL9000 can deliver sometimes fantastic pictures, they're not always the unqualified success we'd hoped for. For instance, while the set's black levels are good, they're not spectacular in the way that blacks on some rival LED screens are. There's definite greyness over the blackest parts of the picture. Indeed, there's enough to hide a degree of shadow detail during the darkest scenes.
It doesn't help, either, that the screen's viewing angle is extremely limited, with backlight inconsistency becoming quite pronounced if you have to watch the image from even a small angle. We also have concerns with the TV's motion-handling capability. The set's 100Hz engine throws up more processing side effects than we'd like, particularly shimmering around large moving objects. Yet, without the system in play, moving objects and camera pans can look rather soft.
Talking of softness, the 42SL9000's high-definition pictures don't consistently look quite as crisp as we'd like. Also, while colours are mostly very good, skin tones occasionally look slightly sickly, while pure whites tend to have a rather salmon-pink appearance.
Extravagantly thin TVs like the 42SL9000 traditionally struggle to produce decent sound. But, while the 42SL9000 doesn't produce the bass or treble extension that you might get with a good-quality chunky TV, the resulting mid-range compression isn't bad enough to lead to regular harshness, muffling or distortion. At any rate, the 42SL9000's audio definitely outguns that of Samsung's super-slim TVs, if not by a particularly massive margin.
Glorious to look at, exceptionally well-specified and boasting plenty of features, the LG 42SL9000 makes an admirable attempt at stealing Samsung's super-slim-TV crown. But a few shortcomings in the picture-quality department make it a likeable rather than irresistible TV, and, unusually for LG, it struggles to justify its cost.
Edited by Charles Kloet