The Short Form
|$2,800 ($3,900 list) / LGUSA.COM|
|LG's first LED-backlit LCD isn't perfect, but deep blacks, natural-looking color, and an affordable price make it worth a look|
|• Accurate color
• Strong blacks and good shadow detail
• Plentiful picture adjustments
• Wide viewing angle for an LED-backlit LCD
• Affordable compared with most competition
|• Aggressive edge enhancement limits
• TruMotion processing makes film-based images look unnatural
• Just-average standard-def upconversion
|• 120-Hz display
• LED backlight with local dimming
• TruMotion processing to reduce film judder
• Side-panel HDMI and USB 2.0 inputs
• Swiveling table stand
• Inputs: 4 HDMI 1.3; 2 component-,
2 composite-, and 1 S-video; RF Ant/Cable, PC RGB, USB, RS-232C, and mini-jack IR
• 45 x 32½ x 13½ in, 67 lb (with stand)
LCD TVs with LED backlights have generally commanded a premium price over regular models, but the feature is now starting to go mainstream. Case in point: A 46-inch version of the LED-backlit Samsung LN55A950 that we looked at last December now sells for under $3,000. And it has since been joined by the LG 47LG90 under review here, a 47-incher that sells for even less than Samsung's model. While our past tests of LED LCDs have turned up some downsides - limited viewing angle as compared to regular LCD sets, for example - the good strongly outweighs the bad.
If you've been keeping track, you'll know that the key benefit to LED backlights is that they can deliver deep, realistic-looking shadows on LCD TVs when combined with a feature called local dimming. LED backlights on LCDs are comprised of an array of small lamps. These can be independently switched to correspond to the brightness level of specific "zones," dimming or shutting off entirely (when displaying black areas in the picture, for example). By actively modulating sections of the backlight in this way, LED-backlit LCDs dramatically increase contrast levels over standard LCDs, which use a cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) that's always fully switched on.
Along with local dimming, the 47LG90 offers Intelligent Sensor automatic picture optimization and TruMotion processing to reduce motion judder in film-based programs shown on its 120-Hz display. It can also show 1080p/24-format signals from your Blu-ray Disc player with a straight 5:5 pulldown to hit its 120-Hz frame rate. But maybe this set's most notable feature is its picture-adjustment menu, which provides options that go far beyond those found on many other TVs.
The LG's looks are pretty standard-issue for a flat-panel set. A gloss-black bezel surrounds a nonreflective matte screen, while the speakers are hidden behind a blue-tinted acrylic panel that runs along the bottom. A touch-sensitive control strip occupies the screen's right side (the controls respond with a beep when you touch them), while the left side holds an A/V convenience input with HDMI and USB jacks tucked in toward the back. The matching gloss-black base can be swiveled up to 30º in either direction.
Back-panel connection highlights include three HDMI and two component-video inputs, an RGB PC jack, and an RS-232C port to connect to an advanced home-control system. LG's remote isn't backlit, but its big, rubbery buttons are clearly labeled and the keypad has an uncluttered layout. Pressing the Input button calls up an onscreen graphic depicting various jack types that you scroll through to select. (You can choose from a list of categories to re-label these, and the options include HD-DVD!) The Q.Menu button triggers an onscreen status list that can be used to quickly adjust the backlight level, picture preset, and display (aspect-ratio) mode. The display-mode options include Just Scan (shows pictures with 0% overscan), 16:9, 4:3, two zoom modes, and Set by Program, which automatically switches modes for you. All selections are available when displaying high-def video.
The 47LG90 provides seven picture presets, all of which can be customized independently for each input. Two of these, Expert 1 and 2, also provide a Color Management System menu to alter tint and saturation levels for primary and secondary colors. But the real kicker for TV tweaks will be the Expert Mode's 10-point color-temperature-adjustment option, which has controls to adjust red, green, and blue levels at 10 different brightness (IRE) steps.
Taking advantage of the LG's many picture controls, I was able to get its color looking darn near perfect - more so than on other TVs with less plentiful adjustment options. Other settings I selected included High Gamma, Low Black Level for HDMI inputs (High for component video), and Medium noise reduction for watching standard-def programs on cable TV.
One picture adjustment I had a painful time tweaking was Sharpness. When I approached a setting where the edge enhancement related to this control started to disappear, the picture would invariably soften. Ultimately, I had to use a compromise setting where the edge enhancement wasn't too blatant and the picture still looked relatively crisp.
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