LG LM960 (55LM960V) 55 Inch 3D LED LCD TV Review
LG have ambitions in the high-end market, Steve Withers finds out if they're ready
IntroductionLG have come a long way over the last few years, moving from a brand that was primarily associated with budget sets, to the second largest TV manufacturer in the world. They made this transition through a combination of listening to feedback, getting the basics right and competitive pricing. However, faced with a saturated TV market in the developed world and wafer thin margins in the less developed parts, LG have now set their sights on the higher end. LG believe that they have the technology and the quality to target the kind of consumer who appreciates and, perhaps more importantly, is prepared to pay for a high end product. In short, exactly the kind of consumers who are members of AVForums.
Not that this is the first time LG have tried to enter the higher end of the market - last year, after lengthy delays, they launched their much hyped Nano TV on an expectant public. Unfortunately, it's fair to say that the launch wasn't handled well and the arrival of the LW980 was overshadowed by technical issues, changed specs and high prices. The main issue was that the much heralded Nano technology didn't completely eliminate the LW980's banding problems, especially when local dimming was engaged. Unfortunately, without the local dimming the native blacks were very poor and with the local dimming there was obvious 'haloing'. This in turn seemed to be related to a change in the number of dimming zones, which were mysteriously reduced from the 288 found on the Korean version to a mere 96 by the time the TVs arrived on our shores. Throw in some rather limited stocks and a higher than expected price tag and the result was something of a PR train wreck.
Undeterred by this setback, LG have returned this year with another product aimed squarely at the higher end of the market. The LM960 is their flagship TV, at least until they release their 55" OLED screen later this year, and incorporates many of the technological advances found on last year's LW980. There's a full LED backlight array, a Nano filter, local dimming, Cinema 3D and the latest incarnation of their Smart TV platform. Not to be outdone, the designers have been busy too, reducing the bezel to a mere 5mm and incorporating an all too familiar stand. The good news is that LG appear to have listened to our feedback on the LW980 and incorporated some improvements, the bad news is that the LM860 didn't fare so well when we reviewed it a couple of weeks ago. So will the LM960 deliver the kind of performance expected of a display costing nearly £2,900? Let's find out...
Design and ConnectionsThe 55LM960's high end aspirations are immediately obvious, with a striking design that could easily grace any contemporary living room. LG have clearly been inspired by their Korean rival's minimalist approach to bezels but have gone one better, reducing it to a silver strip a mere 5mm wide. LG call their 'bezel-less' look the Cinema Screen Design and presumably if the bezel were any smaller there would be nothing to hold the panel in place. LG and quite a few other manufacturers, to be fair, feel that this 'bezel-less' approach results in a more attractive display when the TV is off and a better picture when it's on. Well the first part is certainly true and the 55LM960 makes for a very attractive piece of objet d'art in your front room. The problem is that at some point you will hopefully turn on your 55LM960 and then, the absence of a bezel may not be so beneficial. The human eye needs a point of reference when looking at a screen, ideally a black border, which is exactly what you'll see around a real cinema screen. Whilst a 'bezel-less' design might seem like a good idea, in practice it could be detrimental to the image.
The chassis itself is only 2cm deep for most of its length, although it widens out to 4cm at the bottom where the speakers are housed. Around the outer edge is a brushed metal strip, along the bottom is a 4cm wide brushed metal strip with an LG logo on it and the rear of the chassis is made of black metal. The chrome stand bears more than a passing resemblance to Samsung's 'quad foot', although LG's version looks more like a downhill skier. At the bottom right hand side of the screen (to the rear) there are some basic touch sensitive controls including On/Off, Volume, Programme, Home and Enter. At the rear - on the left hand side as you face the screen - are the connections and on the right hand side there’s the power cable. As is becoming increasingly common on these ultra slim displays, the power cord is hard wired to the rear of the chassis. This wouldn't be so bad if the cord was reasonably long, but at only 1.5m it might be too short for a lot of installations. There is a small access panel where you can rewire a longer power cord but a genuine detachable cable would be more user friendly for most people.
The 55LM960 adopts what has largely become the standard layout for connections these days, with some facing downwards and the rest facing sideways. The 55LM960 comes with an extensive set of connections, including four HDMI inputs that face sideways (HDMI1 includes the ARC - Audio Return Channel). Unfortunately, as is also quite common these days, the HDMI inputs are too close to the edge and if you use reasonably robust HDMI cables they may be visible. In fairness, the HDMI inputs are 15cm from the edge, which is better than many other manufacturers but we would prefer to see them at least 20 to 25cm from the edge to avoid the problem of visible wires. The remaining sideways facing connectors are composed of three USB sockets (one of which is for use with an outboard HDD) and a CI (Common Interface) slot. The downwards facing connections include a LAN socket, a VGA connector, a SCART socket (using a supplied adaptor), an audio in, an optical digital out, an antenna connector, a satellite connector, component and composite video inputs (which use supplied adaptor cables) and a headphone socket.
The 55LM960 comes supplied with the standard LG remote control but it also ships with the latest version of LG's Magic Motion remote control. The standard remote is made of glossy black plastic and overall it has a pleasing ergonomic design, it is comfortable to hold, intuitive to use, has buttons that are sensibly laid out and includes a back light. Looking at the remote, there is the first sign that LG have been listening to feedback because it includes a button called Settings, which takes you directly to the setup menu. On last year's LG TVs, you could only access the setup menu by going via the Home page, which was a pain when calibrating. However, the Home page itself still makes an excellent central hub for all the 55LM960's features and can be reached via a dedicated Home button. There is also a button called My Apps which gives you access to specific Smart TV content and a dedicated 3D button. Finally, the remote control has LG’s Q.Menu button which brings up a shortcut to either the key 2D or 3D menus.
The second remote control included with the 55LM960 is LG's Magic Motion remote which is designed to help navigate the Smart TV platform and is a motion sensitive device similar to the controller on a Nintendo Wii. The slim glossy and black controller is comfortable to hold and easy to use. There are a few basic buttons on the Magic Motion remote such as On/Off, Volume, Programme, Mute, Home, My Apps, 3D, Up/Down/Left/Right and Enter. The controller was a lot more accurate at navigation than last year's and combined with the central scroll wheel, it made using the Smart TV features very easy. In fact we found ourselves growing quite attached to the Magic Motion remote and the inclusion of a small microphone for voice control is another clever idea which certainly beats shouting across the room. Having said that, we struggled with the voice control and found it much easier and faster to point and press.
The 55LM960 is a Cinema 3D display which means it includes LG's passive rather than active shutter approach to 3D. Last year, LG were the only manufacturer to offer passive 3D but it would seem that others have begun to realise its greater mass market appeal and now Toshiba and even Panasonic offer passive displays. The attraction of passive over active is obvious, not only are the glasses far cheaper but they are also easier to use - no batteries, no recharging and no syncing. The provided glasses are extremely light, as you would expect, and will fit comfortably over a pair of prescription specs. They are also nicely tint free and don’t darken the 3D pictures overly and come in a variety of colours. Thanks to their inexpensive nature, LG are able to include seven pairs of glasses with the 55LM960 - four regular pairs, a clip-on pair and two pairs of Dual Play glasses. Of course if you need any more you can either buy them for a few pounds or if you have them lying around, you could even use RealD glasses from the cinema.
Menus & SetupAs already mentioned, LG have added a Settings button to the remote control, which makes accessing the menu system considerably easier than last year, although once you're in the main menu it looks basically the same as last year. However, that's no bad thing because the LG menu system is one of the best around, sensibly laid out, easy to navigate and intuitive to use. Within the main menu, there are various sub-menus including Setup, Sound, Time, Lock, Option, Network, Support and Picture.
The Setup sub-menu allows the user to tune in, set up and edit programmes for the EPG. The Sound sub-menu includes controls for setting up the sound mode, effects and volume level. Despite the decidedly slim dimensions of the chassis, the sound on the 55LM960 was surprisingly good. We have become used to the generally poor audio on modern TVs but the 55LM960 surprised us with a level of sound quality that surpassed many of its competitors. Whilst it obviously isn't the same as having a proper surround setup or even a decent soundbar, it was certainly good enough for general TV watching and dialogue was always clear. However despite the reasonable sound quality, given the screen size and price tag, we would recommend investing in some form of outboard amplification and speakers.
Within the Picture menu there is an option for choosing the Aspect Ratio and where possible always use the Just Scan selection as this will pixel map the incoming signal exactly and thus avoid any overscan or unnecessary scaling with HD material. There is also an Energy Saving function but all this does is dim the picture and is best left off and for the same reason the Intelligent Sensor picture mode is also best avoided. The other Picture Modes available include Vivid, Standard and Game but probably of more interest to the AV enthusiast is the inclusion of a pre-calibrated Cinema setting and two isf settings. As is the case with all of LG's Cinema 3D displays there is no THX mode but Cinema mode is designed to offer a good approximation. The isf settings, called Expert1 and Expert2, allow a professional calibrator to access advanced picture controls and then lock them once finished. There are two settings to allow the calibrator to create two distinct presets, one for daytime viewing and one for night time viewing.
Within each Picture Mode there are standard controls such as Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint, as well as a Picture Reset function. However within the isf Expert1 or Expert2 modes there is also the Expert Control option which gives the professional calibrator access to an impressive array of picture controls. The TruMotion control activates the frame interpolation function and has a choice between Off, Low, High and User. As the name suggests, the LED Local Dimming controls the LED blocks that illuminate the screen and dims them depending on picture content in order to create deeper blacks.
Within Expert Control there is also a Dynamic Contrast control which seeks to boost the contrast ratio by changing the Brightness and Contrast settings but we recommend you leave that off. There are also Noise Reduction and MPEG Noise Reduction controls that we didn't really improve the picture and were also best left off. The Black Level function can be set to Low or High depending on your requirements and the Real Cinema function controls the deinterlacing of film based material and, where possible, should always be left on. The Colour Gamut offers a choice of Standard and Wide as well as industry standards like EBU, SMPTE and BT709. Finally the the Super Resolution and Edge Enhancer controls act much like additional sharpness controls and just like most other sharpness controls they should be left off.
The Expert Control also allows you to select the Colour Temperature, the choice is between Warm, Medium and Cool and here we found Warm to be the most appropriate. There is also a control for Gamma which provides a choice between 1.9, 2.2 and 2.4 and we initially chose the gamma of 2.2 which is the target we use in our reviews. The 55LM960 has both 2 point and 20 point White Balance controls, which you select under the heading Method and which should allow us to very accurately calibrate the greyscale and colour temperature.
Finally within Expert Control there is a Colour Management System (CMS) that should allow us to accurately calibrate the colour gamut. The CMS on the 55LM960 is another example of LG listening to our feedback and they have finally included separate controls for luminance (brightness), saturation (colour) and tint (hue). There are also controls for the three primary colours (Red, Green and Blue) and the three secondary colours (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow). LG are to be congratulated for including a full CMS and this should allow use to calibrate the colour gamut very accurately.
Since the 55LM960 is a 3D display there is also a menu for all the 3D settings which can be accessed via a dedicated button on the remote but it will also pop up when the display detects a 3D signal. This menu allows you to choose between the different 3D delivery systems including 2D to 3D conversion, side by side, top and bottom, checkerboard and frame sequential. There is also a control for adjusting the depth and viewpoint of the 3D effect when converting from 2D to 3D. Additional 3D menus can be selected whilst actually watching 3D content, these can be accessed using the Q.Menu button on the remote.
FeaturesThe 55LM960 has an excellent overall menu system that is comprehensive, responsive and intuitive and the TV setup was very straight forward. The whole process only took a few minutes and the GUI walks you through tuning the TV and establishing a wireless or wired connection. There is also LG's excellent Picture Wizard, which helps you optimise your image for your viewing environment. Of course the 55LM960 has a built-in FreeviewHD tuner that is easy to setup and includes an Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) that is both sensibly laid out and informative. Our only complaint would be that it doesn't include a window or audio for the channel you are currently on. There's also a free-to-air satellite tuner but it should be stressed that this is not a Freesat tuner so there's no EPG or other niceties. When you select input on the remote the resulting interface is very well laid out an informative and does include a window showing your current input. It also allows you to easily rename the inputs depending on what you've got connected to the 55LM960. There have been reports that labeling a HDMI input as PC for use with a HTPC can result in problems, especially being unable to enable the 3D modes. Although we don't use a HTPC, we tried to replicate these problems by labeling a HDMI input as PC but were unable to.
We really like LG’s new layout for their Home page, which acts as a hub through which everything else can be connected and can be accessed using the Home button on both remotes. We found navigating the Home page was very easy, especially using the Magic Motion controller, and the system was quick and responsive. All the content is very accessible and is cleanly presented using a ‘card’ style format for the different categories – Premium, 3D World, LG Smart World and Smart Share. If you have a favourite app you can make it quicker to access by adding it to My Apps, which will see it included in a bar at the bottom of the Home page and you can also access them directly by hitting the My App button on either remote. To add to the usability, the Home page can be customised to your own preferences in appearance, organisation and layout.
LG, along with a number of other manufacturers have realised that one of the reasons 3D hasn't been as popular as they'd hoped is the general lack of content. To address this, LG have upgraded their previous 3D Zone app to 3D World which now occupies an entire card on the Home page. At present there are around 70 things to watch encompassing entertainment, sports, documentary, kids and lifestyle and it’s free! The only problem is that it is somewhat dependent on your broadband speeds but there is certainly some interesting content available that allows the 55LM960 to show off its 3D capabilities. There’s also most of the usual 2D video on demand services such as BBC iPlayer (coming soon), YouTube and Lovefilm, although the sooner LG add Netflix, the better. If you’re a member of the social networking generation and can't get through your favourite TV programme without chatting to your friends, there's Facebook and Twitter present and correct. However, you'll need to purchase a separate camera/mic attachment, (AN-VC400) if you want to take things one stage further on Skype and chat to people face to face.
The 55LM960 includes a web browser which looks very similar to Panasonic’s latest version and offers a tabbed browsing experience, along with the option to create favourites that can appear on your home page. It isn't as responsive as the Panasonic version but then the 55LM960 lacks the processing horsepower of the Japanese manufacturer's dual core TVs. However, thanks to the Magic Motion remote’s scroll wheel, navigation is a breeze and is definitely superior to Panasonic's Touch Pad controller in that respect.
The support of audio files is fairly comprehensive and includes AC3, EAC3, HAAC, AAc, MPEG, MP3, PCM and DTS. The 55LM960 has built-in WiFi and is DLNA compliant but it also has WiFi Direct (WiDi) which allows it to connect directly to similar devices without going through your router. Thanks to these features, media streaming is relatively easy to achieve and you’re not limited to files on a PC as the 55LM960 will happily communicate with a Mac, smartphones and tablets. We downloaded the latest remote app (both iOS and Android versions) and found the interface to be reasonably effective, although a lot of features appeared to be 'coming soon' and overall we weren't as impressed as we had been with Panasonic's version.
Finally, the 55LM960 includes LG's Dual Play feature which can be used with either the X-Box 360 or the PS3. This feature requires you to use the special glasses included, where on pair has polarised lenses going one way and the other pair has polarised lenses going the other way. The result is that when you look at the screen you only see one 540p image and so using the Dual Play function, each player sees only his view on the screen.
Test ResultsAs with all LG displays the 55LM960 includes their excellent Picture Wizard setup function. This is a very simple and effective way of optimising your display for your viewing environment and is very useful for a novice or someone without a calibration disc. We have heard reports of people being unable to save the Picture Wizard settings on their 55LM960 but this was never a problem with our review sample. For the purposes of our out-of-the-box measurements we choose the most accurate preset and then optimised it for the viewing environment by correctly setting the Brightness and Contrast controls. We found that the Cinema preset offered the best out-of-the-box performance, although the Expert1 and Expert2 modes were essentially identical to the Cinema mode, suggesting they share the same basic setup. For these tests we selected colour gamut BT709 which should approximate Rec.709 and we also chose a colour temperature of Warm. The Cinema (and Expert) modes turn off the majority of special features but we also made sure the TruMotion was off, as well as the local dimming because we are interested in the panel's native performance.
As you can see from the graph above the out-of-the-box greyscale performance was something of a disappointment with some quite sizable DeltaEs (errors). On the RGB Balance graph you can see that whilst red was reasonably close to our target of 100, blue was tracking about 10% too low and green tracking about 10% too high. This resulted in some noticeable discolouration when viewing a stair step greyscale pattern and a definite green tinge to the image. However the gamma measurement was tracking quite close to our target of 2.2 which is better and the luminance of the gamma was also excellent. Since RGB was tracking in straight lines and since the 55LM960 includes a 20 point white balance control, we would expect to be able to noticeably improve the greyscale performance after calibration.
As you can see from the CIE Chart to the right, the overall colour accuracy was also something of a disappointment. The luminance measurements were all too low and there were some sizeable errors in the saturation of red, blue and unsurprisingly magenta. All the secondary colours were showing some quite large errors in hue and overall the errors were large enough to be noticed. The rather poor greyscale was obvious from the large error in white and the fact that white was clearly missing the target of D65. Some of these errors, especially the ones related to the secondary colours, might be the result of the greyscale but thanks to the new full colour management system, we should be able to correct all the errors.
As mentioned previously, the Cinema and Expert modes all gave the same out-of-the-box measurements but the Expert modes offer more calibration controls, specifically a 20 point white balance and a full colour management system (CMS). We chose to use Expert1 for these measurements but Expert2 would give the same results. A professional calibrator would most likely use Expert1 as a Day mode and Expert2 as a Night mode before locking the calibrated settings.
If the two point and twenty point white balance controls interact with one another then it is always best to start with the two point to get the greyscale reasonably accurate and then fine tune with the twenty point. When using the twenty point, we started at 100 IRE and worked our way down going in intervals of 10 IRE and using the 5 IRE intervals if necessary. As you can see from the graph above the greyscale performance was now reference with errors that were all less than 1. The gamma was measuring around our target of 2.2, with a slight dip at 70 IRE, resulting in a slight increase in the gamma luminance at this point. However, overall this was an excellent greyscale performance and we're glad we didn't experience any of the problems seen on the 47LM860.
After calibrating the greyscale we saw an immediate improvement in the colour gamut and thanks to the full colour management system we were able to produce a nearly reference performance in terms of colour accuracy. As you can see on the CIE chart, white was now correctly measuring at D65 and the overall errors were one or less with the exception of blue. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do about the slight under saturation of blue, green and magenta because even with a full CMS, you can't add what isn't there. However all the luminance measurements were spot on and the minor errors in the hue of red and blue were not noticeable, resulting in a very accurate colour gamut.
LG have normally performed very well in these tests and we were glad to see that the 55LM960 was no exception. We started with the SMPTE 133 pattern which revealed cleanly scaled 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The 55LM960 also scored well when it came to video deinterlacing with jaggies only appearing when the line was at an acute angle in the first test on the HQV disc. In the second test the motion adaptive deinterlacing was also good with slight jaggies only appearing on the bottom bar of the three moving bars.
The 55LM960 also performed well in the film detail test and correctly locked on to the image resulting in no aliasing. In the cadence tests the 55LM960 correctly detected both the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format and the 2:2 (PAL - European) format and also quite a few obscure ones. The 55LW980 also had no problems handling film material with both horizontal and vertical scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without any blurring or shredding.
With our Blu-ray player set to 1080i the display correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (provided the aspect ratio is set to Just Scan) and showed good scaling and filtering performance as well as good resolution enhancement. The 55LM960 also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems.
Using the S&M disc we checked the headroom performance of the 55LM960 from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) and it was very good with absolutely no signs of clipping. In addition, the 55LM960 also correctly showed detail down to a video level 17 and reference black below that to video level 0, as long as you had Black level set to High. If you used the Low setting the blacks will appear darker but you will be crushing them and you will lose shadow detail.
The 55LM960 includes LG's Motion Clarity Index 1000Hz (MCI 1000) feature which is called Tru-Motion in the menu and is designed to increase the refresh rate to improve motion handling and reduce blurring. Using the FPD Benchmark Software disc's scrolling resolution chart the 55LM960 measured around the 400 line mark without TruMotion enabled. This is a pretty good result for an LCD and things improved with TruMotion set to Low with the 55LM960 measuring around 700 lines. At the High setting and when set to High the motion resolution really improved with over 900 lines, which is excellent. Unfortunately, activating the TruMotion function results in the dreaded 'soap opera' effect and even on the Low setting film immediately looked like video. We would recommend leaving it off with film based content, although it can prove useful for better motion clarity on fast paced sports broadcasts.
LG have struggled with input lag over the last year and unfortunately the 55LM960 continued the trend in this area, delivering an input lag measurement of 100ms in Game mode. This corresponds to the measurements taken in our review of the 47LM860, which had an input lag of 101ms. Clearly for hardcore gamers, this input lag is far too high and precludes the 55LM960 being used for any kind of serious gaming. Also for some reason the local dimming feature is disabled in Game mode, although it is available when playing a 3D game or when using 2D to 3D conversion. It's a pity that LG can't get their act together in this area because, as we mentioned before, 3D gaming is incredible with passive displays and if you include LG's Dual Play feature then the 55LM960 would be a great choice for serious gamers.
As far as energy consumption is concerned the 55LM960 is incredibly efficient for a screen of this size. Obviously, due to the nature of the technology, LCD uses less energy than plasma and LED backlighting is more efficient than CCFL so we would expect the numbers to be good. However an average measurement of 110W in calibrated mode is excellent for a 55" screen. When we went into 3D mode the brightness increased which pushed the energy consumption up but even then it only averaged 140W, which is still very good. Certainly if you're looking for a big screen TV without a big carbon footprint, then the 55LM960 could be the one for you.
Picture Quality - 2DWhen you're aiming your new display at the high end market, you can include all the bells and whistles in the world but at the end of the day what matters is the picture quality. Unfortunately, despite the 55LM960's striking design, excellent Smart TV features and impressive calibration controls, it let's itself down in two very important areas - black levels and backlight uniformity.
We can't say were were surprised by the black levels because they have never been LG's strong point but they were very poor even for a LCD TV and measured 0.25 cd/m2 in their native form. Due to the poor black levels, shadow detail also suffered, making it difficult to distinguish details in dark scenes. Thankfully the 55LM960 does include local dimming, although after last year's debacle, LG are unsurprisingly being very cagey about the actual number of zones. The local dimming certainly helped and it is fair to say that the black levels are hard to tolerate without engaging it to some degree. The good news is that the local dimming appears to be better implemented on the 55LM960 than on the 47LM860, perhaps due to the Nano filter. There was some haloing, of course, but it was less noticeable than on previous models, even in high mode and to get a half decent black level you really needed to engage the high mode. The problem with aggressive local dimming is that aside from halos, you also suffer from a loss of detail, especially in dark films but generally this was preferable to the weak native blacks.
Whilst the problem of weak blacks was largely expected, the second problem came as something of a surprise because despite the presence of a full array backlight and the Nano filter, the backlight uniformity was very poor. In fact we could see the clouding and light pooling in the corners, even in bright scenes. Considering that last year's 55LW980 had a very even back light and no light spill at the edges or corners, this is a step backwards for LG. Clearly this is an issue that LG needs to address because the whole point of having a full array backlight is to avoid the kind of uniformity issues that plague LCDs that use LED edge lighting. The good news is that the 55LM960 didn't appear to suffer from the array banding that manifested on the 47LM860, nor was there as much dirty screen effect (DSE), although there was some in evidence.
Given the poor blacks, uneven backlight and compromised dynamic range, the 55LM960 was relying on it's image accuracy, superb video processing and inherent panel luminance to deliver the goods in terms of 2D performance. Thankfully, the 55LM960 had no trouble in hitting 200 cd/m2 even in its calibrated Expert mode, which means it certainly has brightness to spare, making it ideal for more challenging rooms where light control isn’t possible. The viewing angles were also very good, even approaching plasma levels at times. The contrast did become a little washed out at extreme angles but given the weak black levels to start with, it was hardly noticeable with most normal content.
The excellent scaling meant that standard definition looked very watchable but it was with high definition content that the 55LM960 was able to come into its own and, at times, it looked truly stunning with beautifully realised and detailed pictures filling the screen. Unfortunately the problems with black levels and screen uniformity were always present and as a result even the areas where the 55LM960 excelled were always diminished. There have been reports of motion trails with 24p content on the 55LM960 but we didn't experience this problem with our review sample. However we did experience the occasional judder on 24p material, which whilst infrequent could be annoying when spotted.
We happened to have the Panasonic P55VT50 in for review at the same time as the 55LM960, which allowed us the opportunity to directly compare the two. We appreciate that the P55VT50 is a plasma and the 55LM960 is a LED LCD TV and we understand that there are some people who just don't like plasmas but we feel it is a valid comparison. The difference in black levels between the two was quite shocking and even with the 55LM960's local dimming set to high, the P55VT50 was vastly superior. Not only that, in dark scenes the P55VT50 retained all the shadow detail whilst the 55LM960 was a grey mess. In fact, with the exception of brightness, the P55VT50 wiped the floor with the 55LM960 in every aspect of image quality from motion handling to picture detail and from image accuracy to dynamic range. However, what made these differences all the more striking was the fact that the P55VT50 is £600 cheaper than the 55LM960!
Picture Quality - 3DWhilst we may have some reservations about the 2D performance, we were very impressed with the 55LM960's 3D performance. I have never made any secret of my preference for the passive approach to 3D on TVs due to the overall benefits. Yes the resolution is lower than the active shutter approach but on 55" screen at a normal viewing distance, there is no visible difference. However what is visible is the increased brightness and absence of flicker and crosstalk, which results in a far more comfortable and enjoyable 3D experience. Last year, LG had to go it alone with their passive approach to 3D which they call Cinema 3D but this year Toshiba and even Panasonic have joined the club. The reason for the change of heart is that passive 3D, with its very cheap and easy to use glasses, has proved popular with casual 3D viewers (which is just about everybody) and is better suited to large groups or those with small children.
Aside from a degree of consumer apathy, 3D's other problem has been a lack of quality content but when done correctly the results can be incredible. So it was with Hugo which, in the hands of a master filmmaker like Martin Scorsese is a remarkable 3D experience that the 55LM970 could fully replicate. This is due in part to the increased brightness which gave the images far more dynamic range in 3D but the absence of crosstalk and the reasonable screen size also helped. I was mesmerised by the incredible layering in each shot, the imaginative use of depth and the solidity of objects within the frame. People often comment on the lower resolution of the passive approach but at no point was I aware of this and, in fact, quite often I found myself marvelling at the amount of detail I could see.
Thanks to the polarised glasses all of our concerns about black levels and screen uniformity on the 55LM960 were far less of an issue in 3D and the menu allows you to choose between Standard, Cinema or User settings. This means you can either go for a brighter but less accurate image or you can go for a more accurate but slightly dimmer image. You even have the choice of the User setting if you want to calibrate the 3D image but with 3D we tend to find that brightness and lack of crosstalk are the two most important elements.
As always we found 3D gaming to be fantastic fun on a passive display with the lack of flicker making long gaming sessions far more comfortable and the fast movement in some game play was also better rendered. The other big advantage of passive 3D is a very wide angle of viewing along a horizontal plane which, along with the cheap glasses, makes watching spectator events much easier. However it should be noted that passive 3D has quite a narrow viewing angle in the vertical plane so bear that in mind when installing the 55LM960. In conclusion all I can say is that whilst I’ve seen some very impressive 3D displays of late, LG's passive approach remains the most fun.
- Reference greyscale and colour after calibration
- Effective filter keeps contrast in bright environments
- 3D images are bright and free of flicker and crosstalk
- 3D glasses are cheap, comfortable to wear and easy to use
- Video processing
- Good off-axis performance
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Built-in WiFi, Freeview HD and satellite tuner
- Impressive internet and streaming capability
- Layout of Home Page is excellent
- Menu system is well designed and intuitive
- Magic Motion remote works really well
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Very low energy consumption
- Out-of-the-box performance could be better
- Native black levels and contrast are mediocre
- Obvious light pooling in the corners of the screen
- Some judder to motion at times
- Unable to display full 1080p 3D images
- Input lag remains a problem for gamers
- HDMI inputs too near the edge of the chassis
- Very expensive compared to similar models
LG LM960 (55LM960V) 55 Inch 3D LED LCD TV Review
Well it would seem that the success last year of Samsung's design aesthetic has got LG's competitive juices flowing and the 55LM960 certainly delivers the goods in the looks department. The almost 'bezel-less' panel and silver stand are genuinely striking and despite the slim dimensions, LG have managed to squeeze speakers into the bottom of the chassis that actually sound quite good. The connections at the rear are fairly comprehensive and include four HDMI inputs, although we wish they were farther from the edge. The 55LM960 also includes a FreeviewHD tuner, as well as a free-to-air satellite tuner, although it should be stressed that it isn't a Freesat tuner.
The main remote control is well designed and comfortable to hold and we're pleased to see that LG have added a button to directly access the setup menu. There is also a Magic Motion remote included, which seemed more precise than last year and we actually found it useful for navigating the Smart TV features. Since the 55LM960 includes LG's Cinema 3D system, there are five pairs of passive 3D glasses included as well as two pairs of Dual Play glasses. The menu system on the 55LM960 is well designed, comprehensive, easy to navigate and responsive, which makes setting up the 55LM960 very easy. It also includes LG's Picture Wizard, which is a excellent feature that allows you to optimise the picture for your specific viewing environments.
The 55LM960 has built-in WiFi and is DLNA compliant but it also has WiFi Direct (WiDi) which allows it to connect directly to similar devices without going through your router. Thanks to these features, media streaming is relatively easy to achieve and the support of audio files is fairly comprehensive and you are also not limited to files on a PC as the 55LM960 will happily communicate with a Mac, smartphones and tablets. We downloaded the latest remote app (both iOS and Android versions) and found the interface to be reasonably effective, although a lot of features appeared to be 'coming soon'.
We really like LG’s new layout of their Home page, which acts as a hub through which everything else is connected and which can be accessed directly from both remotes. We found navigating the Home page was very easy, especially using the Magic Motion controller, and the system was quick and responsive. All the content is very accessible and is clearly presented using a ‘card’ style format for the different categories – Premium, 3D World, LG Smart World and Smart Share. There’s most of the usual video on demand services, as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and a host of other apps and features including 3D content.
LG have always included fairly comprehensive calibration controls on their displays but this year they have gone one better and now include a full colour management system (CMS) that allows the user to adjust all three aspects of colour for the primary and secondary colours. Once you include the 20 point white balance control, that makes for an impressive set of calibration features. Whilst the out-of-the-box performance was rather average, especially compared to previous LG TVs, the 55LM960 could deliver a reference level of accuracy after calibration. As we would expect from an LG, the video processing on the 55LM960 was also good and it performed well in all of our tests.
So far, so good but when you're aiming your new display at the high end market, what really matters is the picture quality and here the 55LM960 let itself down in two very important areas - black levels and backlight uniformity. We can't say were were surprised by the black levels because they have never been LG's strong point but they were very poor even for a LCD TV. The local dimming certainly helped and appears to be better implemented than on the 47LM860 but there was still some haloing, although it was less noticeable than on previous models. The problem with aggressive local dimming is that aside from halos, you also suffer from a loss of detail, especially in dark films but generally this was preferable to the weak native blacks.
Whilst the problem of weak blacks was largely expected, the second problem came as something of a surprise because despite the presence of a full array backlight and the Nano filter, the backlight uniformity was very poor. In fact we could see the clouding and light pooling in the corners, even in bright scenes. The good news was that the 55LM960 didn't appear to suffer from the array banding that manifested on the 47LM860, nor was there as much dirty screen effect (DSE), although there was some in evidence. There have been reports of motion trails on 24p content with the 55LM960 but we didn't experience this problem with our review sample. However we did experience the occasional judder on 24p material, which whilst infrequent could be annoying when spotted.
On a more positive note, the 55LM960 had brightness to spare, making it ideal for more challenging rooms where light control isn’t possible and the viewing angles were also very good, even approaching plasma levels at times. The excellent scaling meant that standard definition looked very watchable but it was with high definition content that the 55LM960 really delivered, resulting in some stunningly detailed images at times. Unfortunately the problems with black levels and screen uniformity were always present and as a result even the areas where the 55LM960 excelled were diminished.
Whilst we may have had some reservations about the 2D performance, we were very impressed with the 55LM960's 3D performance. We found watching 3D content on the 55LM960 to be a highly enjoyable experience, due in part to the increased brightness which gave the images far more dynamic range. The presence of the glasses also improved the perceived black levels and the absence of crosstalk and flicker, coupled with the screen size gave the 3D more impact. There was a genuine solidity to objects within the frame, as well as real sense of depth and despite the lower resolution of the passive approach, at no point did we find this diminished our enjoyment. Thanks to Cinema 3D gaming on the 55LM960 could be a real pleasure and the inclusion of Dual Play is a great idea and a clever way of using the passive technology for something other than 3D. Unfortunately an input lag of 100ms, even in Game mode, precludes the 55LM960 from the serious gamer, who would otherwise be an obvious target for this display. Since the 55LM960 uses LEDs, we would expect the energy consumption to be good and it was, measuring 110W in its calibrated 2D mode and 140W in its 3D mode.
Whilst LG are to be applauded for their ambition, if they really want to take the higher end by storm, they will need to get the basics right. There is no point in producing a TV that has striking design looks, comprehensive calibration controls and an impressive Smart TV platform, if the picture quality is being hampered by basic issues with black levels and backlight uniformity. LG need to concentrate on improving the panel design first before they add all the bells and whistles; if they can do that then they will have a product to contend with. Unfortunately despite its high end price, the 55LM960 is currently not offering enough high end performance and this was made all the more obvious in direct comparison with the reference Panasonic P55VT50, which is £600 cheaper!
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,899.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level5
3D Picture Quality9
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money6
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