LG LV550T (42LV550T) Full HD LED LCD TV Review
Uniformity issues spoil the fun
IntroductionThe LV550T finds itself at the forefront of LG’s 2D offerings this year and, as such, ships with all the Smart TV features, isf Modes and networking options that are on offer with the 3D TVs. We’ve been particularly impressed by the passive Cinema 3D experience found in both the LW550 and LW650 reviews so will the LV550T’s two dimensional pictures possess sufficient quality to merit its place in a crowded marketplace and, more importantly, can it do enough to gain an AVForums Badge? We’re not going to find out by dwelling on the introduction, so let’s dive in for a look.
Design & ConnectionsLike its 3D stable-mates, the LW550 and LW650T, the LV550T forms part of LG’s Infinia range and so bears more than a passing resemblance to them both, in terms of looks; the major difference being a ‘brownish’ hue to the gloss black cabinet that frames the matte screen in slender fashion with a 1cm clear plastic strip down the left and right hand side of the display. The swivel stand moves through 20 degrees, either way, and features the same look and colour of the bezel with the transparent edging also in evidence. Other than that minor personal grievance, the LG 42LV550T has little to fall out with, in terms of design, and it would sit happily in most environments. The supplied remote control is standard LG issue, i.e. it looks and feels a little bit cheap and emits a click, on each depression - but it’s sensibly laid out and back-lit, which makes up for it.
The LV550T features the de facto 4 HDMI connections on the side connections panel, with 2 USB ports and a CAM slot also sharing the same directional positioning. Our familiar complaint of the HDMI ports being situated too close to the edge can be trotted out again here but it’s something to consider if your HDMI cables are fairly thick. On the rear facing panel, there are downward facing RF, Digital Audio Out, D-sub PC, LAN and Headphone connections. There are break-out adaptors supplied for legacy SCART and Component connections and their terminals complete the line-up of downward facing inputs. Finally, there's also the input for LGs media box (not included) that allows for wireless HD streaming to the TV.
MenusSetting up the LV550T won’t give many people any problems with the friendly initial procedure and, once up and running, owners will be greeted by LGs nicely presented, and rather bold Home dashboard from where you can access just about every function and feature available on the TV. We understand, and mostly, applaud these attempts at unification but it’s still annoying there’s no dedicated button for taking you in to the Setup menus as it makes calibrating the proverbial pain the posterior but we shouldn’t really complain as at least LG are good enough to provide isfccc modes with 10 point White Balance controls.
Once in to the the Picture menu, we find options for Aspect Ratio (choose Just Scan for HD); Energy Saving - that just dims the picture so we disabled it and Picture Mode options of Cinema, Game, Vivid and Standard plus the two, aforementioned, Expert ISF settings allowing access to the advanced picture controls and for the creation of distinct settings for day and night time viewing.
From the Expert Control area there's Dynamic Contrast ,Noise Reduction, MPEG Noise Reduction and Super Resolution all of which we disabled. The Black Level function can be set to Low/High to match Video/PC Levels. There's a Real Cinema option to engage a cadence detecting film mode and LED Local Dimming can that be set High/Med/Low/Off and we'll look at this later, along with TruMotion that governs LG’s 500Hz Motion Clarity Index engine, or in other words, frame interpolation.
In addition to the 2 and 10 point white balance sliders we have an option for choosing a base Colour Gamut offering choices of Standard and Wide in addition to the EBU, SMPTE and BT709 standards, some global pre-set gamma choices and there’s also a 2D Colour Management System(CMS) present.
FeaturesOther than 3D and the Magic Motion Remote Control that ship with LG’s top-tier offerings, the LV550T comes equipped with most of the other features we’ve become accustomed to in the 2011 televisions save for a USB PVR function that isn’t present in the UK ranges.
LG’s Smart TV functionality be accessed via the Home dashboard or via the Premium button on the remote. The almost omnipresent BBC iPlayer features amongst the catch-up services, and the likes of Box Office 365 and Acetrax form VOD services with YouTube catching anything else you could possibly want to call up to your TV. If you really can’t bear the thought of being drawn away from Twitter and/or Facebook to simply sit down and watch the TV for a while, then you’re good with the LV550 as apps for these two are also included. There’s even an on-board web browser but it’s very limited in its scope and should probably be only considered as an emergency back-up solution. To access all of this you’ll need to be connected to your network, of course, and this can be done either through a LAN cable or a Wi-Fi USB dongle (AN-WF100), sold separately.
Test ResultsWhilst the LG 42LV550T may not feature a THX mode, as per models higher up the range, it does come with two isf modes - allowing for distinct day/night time calibrations – along with both 2 and 10 point white balance controls and a 2D CMS so any results we get here should be fairly easy to better.
Having measured both of the Expert isf modes, we found isf 1 to offer the closest to our target gamma value of 2.2 whilst sharing the same greyscale performance. We then set our Brightness and Contrast controls using PLUGE patterns and it might be worth noting that default contrast was heavily clipping; so well worth the investment in getting some test patterns for any owners out there.
Images are noticeably over-baked with red running high in the greyscale, throughout, and blue correspondingly low too. The DeltaE 1976 bar graph looks like a staircase (getting progressively worse) and it’s a pretty average out-of-the-box result for an LCD in this day and age, and certainly nowhere near the standards achieved by the LW650T we looked at recently. Fortunately the errors are fairly linear so we won’t have any tricky mid-scale issues to resolve.
Moving on to the un-calibrated colour performance and we took measurements using the Wide, Standard and BT709 Colour Gamut options and were surprised to see very little actual difference between any of them, with Wide actually, very marginally, closer to the Rec 709 standard we’re targeting. This is a pretty good set of measurements for the LV550, with only the off-hue performance of green of any real concern – and then only in a minor way. All colours were a little under illuminated but we wouldn’t necessarily need a CMS to fix that. We’re unlikely to be able to fully saturate cyan but, again, it’s of no huge concern
We’ve never had particular trouble with LGs calibration controls before and, indeed, have been able to achieve some excellent results using the 2 point and 10 point white balance sliders in tandem but not so this time; whatever strategy we tried – middle out/bottom to top/top to bottom, the 10 point controls were making a mess of our mid-scale results. Sometimes having contrast set ‘too low’ can have an effect on 10 point white balance controls, but that wasn’t the case here either, so we had to content ourselves with a 2 point high/low calibration with many iterations. All that said, we still managed to return excellent results, it just took a little longer than it would have had the 10 point functioned correctly. It’s just another reminder, in video calibration, to take nothing for granted!
The only slight detriment to the controls not working how they should was that we were unable to fine tune our gamma response, meaning were revealing a little more shadow detail than we would wish for, but that’s being very picky as a stair-step pattern revealed perfect neutrality – as far as the eye is concerned – and we were ready for our colour calibration…
We were able to, mostly, fix our hue error with green but it came at the expense of saturation and it was a tricky trade-off to call. On balance, on screen material looked marginally better more on-hue and less saturated, rather than vice versa, but had lighting conditions been less favourable, we may have gone the other way. As expected, we couldn’t fully fix the saturation of Cyan but with overall DeltaE’s measuring below 2.3 – across the board - we could be well satisfied with results!
Continuing in the vein of the numerous other LGs we’ve seen this year, the LV550T fair flew through this area of testing. The LG scaled both 480i and 576i very well, with no apparent loss of detail or ringing. Both video and motion adaptive deinterlacing were also handled competently, with only jaggies appearing on the most testing of material as was video text overlaid on film based material. Blu-ray 24p content was also correctly displayed but it would be a crime, nowadays, if it weren’t. The 550T also had no problems in locking on to the most common PAL (2:2) and NTSC (2:3) cadences, which is a refreshing change from many of the latest review samples we've received.
The LG LV550 was capable of displaying all the way up to peak white (video level 255), with no signs of clipping once the Contrast control was reigned in and showed detail down to video level 17. We had a play around with the TruMotion interpolation settings and found that a custom setting of De-Judder to 0 and De-Blur to 3 brought about a small improvement in motion clarity, with little to no artefacting, but we’d only recommend its use with video based material.
All in all, it’s an excellent set of results for the LV550T and they’re up there with Samsung, at the moment, but without any of the back-door processing we see from their (fierce) Korean competitors.
LG have hardly been endearing themselves to the gaming fraternity with their 2011 ranges – 60 milliseconds lag is the best we’ve seen from an LG this year – and that’s hardly a stellar result - so we were very pleased to see the LV550T comfortably out-perform its siblings in returning figures between just 1 and 2 frames, at 60 frames per second. The 550T returned figures ranging between 16 and 31 milliseconds, in Game mode, with most being closer to the 30 millisecond mark. We can certainly report to have experienced no performance hit at these kind of numbers and we expect that will hold true for the vast majority of gamers out there.
Whilst the LV550T may not be enough to bring a smile to the face of your average Governor of California, it certainly returns excellent figures for power consumption. In its calibrated state, the 550 consumed a mere averaged 56w. Out of the box, in Standard mode, consumption rose to an average of 89w. Now there’s a way to sell a calibration to the other half!
Picture QualityAlthough the LG calibrated very nicely and showed excellent picture processing, there were a few issues with overall image quality. First and foremost was the light pooling, with large patches where the screen noticeably lightened as a result of how the side-lighting is dispersed to the display. We're used to seeing uniformity issues with edge-lit LCD's but they don't normally intrude in to brighter content, which was, alas, the case here. Naturally darker scenes were even worse hit, add that to the already mediocre shadow detailing and black levels and we have a television that was close on 'unwatchable' in low light conditions. We fiddled with the LED Local Dimming control but nothing helped the pooling and, indeed, going anything above Low brought about very intrusive haloing around people and objects. It is, again, a common problem with this particular technology but the LV550T is possibly the worst we've seen in this regard and LG should take a look at the diffusion technology employed.
Where the LG LV550T did shine (pun not intended) was in a brighter environment, thanks to plenty of light output and the matte screen, although the pooling issue was still even visible here. Motion wasn't handled particularly well, with quite a lot of smearing, although we did find some assistance from TruMotion set very conservatively, with fast moving video action. With the right (i.e. bright) content, the 550T produced detailed, natural looking images and its relatively wide viewing angles, on the horizontal axis, means placement would probably not be an issue but we were far too often distracted by issues created by the technology. It seems ironic that just as manufacturers were getting to grips with producing CCFL TVs with good uniformity they suddenly all switched to LED but we do understand the pressure they're under to produce energy efficient goods; and that the LV550T is.
- Viewing angles
- Calibrated images looked excellent
- Video processing
- Low input lag for an LG!
- Energy consumption figures are very low
- Light pooling
- Haloing around objects
- Smeary motion, at times
- 10 point white balance unusable on this sample
- Calibration is frustrating due to menu system
LG LV550T (42LV550T) Full HD LED LCD TV Review
The LG LV550T is a victim of the technology it employs. Had it not been for the pooling and haloing issues, that are a common bi-product of LED edge-lit TVs, the LG would have no doubt been a worthy recipient of a AVForums Recommended award. Unfortunately, such was the distraction the lighting issues caused, we found ourselves restricted to enjoying the 550's beautifully calibrated, detailed images with only the brightest of content in less than optimum viewing conditions; even then they occasionally intruded. Unless manufacturers can find ways of making more affordable LED backlit sets we might just find ourselves saying, come back CCFL, all is forgiven.
The LG LV550T is typically styled for their Infinia range with its tinted black bezel framed either side by slim transparent strips, left and right. The remote is also familiar LG, all clicky but responsive and well laid out. The - new for 2011 - annoyance of having to navigate through the Home dashboard to enter the Setup menus also reared its head too and makes calibration far more of a chore than it really should be.
Although shorn of the 3D capabilities of its more illustrious stable-mates, the LG LV550 is not bereft of features with the full LG Smart TV suite at its disposal, including the likes of BBC iPlayer and Twitter. We were surprised by the bugs we encountered using the 10 point white balance controls but fortunately the 2 point worked flawlessly and we were still able to produce reference greyscale and gamma results with colour reproduction excellent, out of the box, and slightly improved through calibration. Video processing was of a high standard with scaling, deinterlacing and cadence detection tasks handled with proficiency; Blu-ray 24p material was also handled correctly. Two other areas where the LG LV550 did hit the mark were in its low figures for energy consumption and input lag, with an averaged 56w consumption and 30 milliseconds latency, making this the first LG we've been able to recommend to gamers this year.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £799.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level6
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money6
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.