LG LW650 (42LW650) 3D LED LCD TV Review
The LW550T was a hit with us. Can the LW650T go one better?
IntroductionWhen it comes to 3D LCD TVs, LG are actively passive in their approach; that's to say they're backing their Cinema 3D approach of achieving the effect through a combination of a polarised screen and glasses. Steve Withers certainly found plenty to like in his recent look at the LW550T and with just the addition of a slightly souped up motion interpolation system, in the LW650T, we're expecting good things here too.
We're fans of the images the IPS variant panels can produce; although they might not boast the most impressive contrast ratio performances, on paper, their wide viewing angles and relatively smooth motion handling are distinct advantages over some other panels found in the current crop of LCD televisions. With the inclusion of of seven pairs of 3D glasses and the generous viewing angles, we regarded the LW550 as an excellent choice for the family wanting to dive in to the extra dimension; and it was awarded the highly coveted AVForums Highly Recommended badge, as a result. Can the LG 42LW650T justify the slightly inflated price tag? Read on after the summary and scoring for the full in-depth review.
Design & ConnectionsWhilst the LG LW650T is by no means the most stylish TV we've seen recently, it is by no means offensive to the eye. LG are obviously saving their designer big guns for the upcoming - and unfeasibly skinny - Nano LW950T but the 650 is still a slender number with a thin gloss black bezel framed with a transparent strip surrounding the matte screen. The supplied remote looks and feels a little cheap and 'clicky' but we've no complaints over the lay out or ease of operation. There's not much to say about the 3D eyewear supplied other than they're far more comfortable to wear than all the active shutter types we've encountered so far. Manufacturers do need to start coming up with more effective ways of masking reflections, however, and LGs passive glasses are as big a culprit for this as many of the active types. Unfortunately the Magic Motion Remote Control, that's supposed to be in the box, didn't materialise but Steve gave his thoughts in the 550 review and the upcoming PZ950 review will provide my experiences.In terms of connections, all 4 HDMI ports are sideward facing on the connections plate and suffer from the all to familiar issue of being too close to the edge to guarantee your cables being hidden away in use, particularly if you favour chunkier HDMI leads. Also to the side are two USB ports and a CAM slot. Downwards facing we have inputs for the supplied break-out cables that take care of the legacy Scart, Component and Composite connections. There's also a very robust antenna socket for Freeview HD, a LAN port, D-SUB PC connection plus accompanying audio jack and Digital Audio Out. Outwards facing on the rear of the plate, there's an RS-232 connection for both service and system integration, RCA jacks and a further composite video terminal. There's also the input for LGs media box (not included) that allows for wireless HD streaming to the TV.
We've waxed lyrical in the past on the virtues of LGs, for the most part, well thought out and clearly presented menus and there's no deviation with the LW650. The GUI manages to be big and bold without slipping in to looking like it was designed for children. Our criticism in the cumbersome methods required to affect calibration remains and it's the one area of the menus where we aren't satisfied. For a full look at the menu system, please refer to Steve's LW550 review linked in the Introduction; here we'll just deal with the main picture affecting parameters and a couple of other items.
The Picture menu houses 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 two 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 and MPEG Noise Reduction, all of which we disabled. The Black Level function can be set to Low/High to suit input and, with the 650, Low was optimum for video sources. There's a Real Cinema option to activate cadence detection which we activated and LGs stab at motion interpolation in TruMotion 200Hz - we'll deal with this later. LED Local Dimming can be set High/Med/Low/Off and, again, we'll look at this later.
In terms of the calibration suite on offer, 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. Very nice. LG are also good enough to provide both 2 and 10 point White Balance controls and a 2D Colour Management System. As we mentioned, the controls are irritating to use because the menus overlay where you want the meter, meaning you have to make the adjustment and then exit and then, again, access the controls through the Home dashboard leading to countless 'unnecessary' remote control clicks. Sort it out LG!
We'll also just make mention of the AV Sync item found in the Audio menu that we found it necessary to play with, for every external source, in order to mitigate the very obvious lag issues the 650T has.
FeaturesThe LW650 is almost identical to the previously reviewed LW550, in its feature set, save for an extra 100Hz of motion interpolation technology - where the 550 was fitted with 100Hz TruMotion, the 650 gets 200Hz and, to be honest, we don't see it as reason to choose the LW650 over it's slightly more budget friendly sibling. In fact, save for setting very conservative User parameters, for fast paced video action we didn't feel the need to engage it, at all, with both the High/Low presets exhibiting fake looking motion and obvious artefacting. Interestingly, engaging TruMotion in 3D mode did give the picture more sharpness by way of reducing 'jaggies' but the soap opera effect together with the artefacting led us to conclude it's better left alone. We've no doubt some will prefer the 3D image with TruMotion enabled so we'd urge owners to experiment here.
LG's Smart TV platform can be accessed through either the Home dashboard or, more directly, by using the Premium button on the remote control. Like just about every other 'smart' tv incarnation there's access to BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter but we must say the iPlayer widget worked particularly nicely with speedy response and decent quality video. There also dozens of apps to look at, from games to horoscopes with new content being added on a regular basis. There's no 3D on demand service, as yet, to match Sony and Samsung but it's surely just a matter of time.
Test ResultsWe'll just preface this section by stating - before anyone begins to wonder - the following set of results are definitely with the LW650 in its pre-calibrated state. We haven't slipped up and posted the calibrated results first, this is how it was out-of-the-box! First off let's take a look at the greyscale measurements:
Wow LG, very nice job! It's probably at this moment that a professional calibrator, charging a customer, would start thinking to themselves that they may need to offer a discount. In reality, with errors being under 3 across the scale, we could leave the 10 point white balance controls alone and move on to the CMS. Excepting a slight kink at 90% stimulus, gamma response was flat-lining to our chosen 2.2 target too; so what minor improvements that could be made through the calibration suite would likely only be seen on the charts. Still, we know you all love a nice graph so who are we to deny?
And the LW650's 'un-tweaked' colour reproduction was rather special, also. Time to open a bottle of red, kick back and watch a Blu-ray? Not quite but very nearly. Again this is a truly outstanding result for the LW650 with only the slightly off-hue performances of green and magenta likely to be noticeable and then only when stood next to something providing reference images. Luminance was just a little too low for both primary and secondary colours but overall errors are all below the threshold of our eyes being able to discern them. We've a 2D CMS to tinker with so let's see if we can improve on matters.
Ok, just for you, we had a tinker with the 10 point white balance sliders and after very, very little effort indeed we got to iron out the gamma response but, to be honest, on-screen results weren't exactly a world away from the pre-calibrated state, i.e. things were looking tonally neutral and correct. We've reduced errors in greyscale almost to the point where they can't even be seen on a graph so it's a (probably unnecessary) job done and on to bringing the gamut more in line with the Rec.709 standard.
We'll admit to just the slightest feeling of disappointment that we weren't able to bring green further away from yellow but, reality check, nobody is going to notice in the home environment. Luminance performance, all round, is spot on and our images do have slightly more vibrancy and pop so it certainly was a worthwhile exercise for the perfectionist in us.
This is another area where the LW650 exactly mirrored the LW550's performance so we'll just engage in a quick resumè here. Scaling performance of 480i/576i signals was very good with no ringing beyond that seen in poorly compressed material. Deinterlacing of both SD and HD sources was also excellent with the LW650 also handling the most common PAL and NTSC film cadences with aplomb. Video encoded text over film material didn't overly challenge the 650 either and we can safely put a tick in the Excellent column.
As readers of Steve's LW550T review will know, it didn't score particularly well when it came to input lag, with a latency between 90-100 milliseconds. However, acting on our feedback, LG have issued a software update to address the issues and we duly updated the 650 in eager anticipation of the promised improvement. Having taken 15 measurements, in GAME mode - connected via HDMI, we're pleased to announce the 650 measures better, but only slightly. Our measurements were all, unfortunately, in the 80-90 millisecond range and LG could probably do with taking another look. We are confident that LG will crack it eventually and we certainly know they're keen to do so!
As we'd expect from a LED lit LCD, the LW650T was an efficient performer drawing an average of 67w, calibrated, and 82w in 3D mode with the backlight up at 65. In standby, our measuring equipment couldn't detect any consumption. Which is nice.
Picture Quality - 2DThe polarised filter on the screen of the LW650m that makes the passive 3D possible, does mean that pictures do seem a little dim, by default, especially for a LCD TV. No matter though, the LW650 has luminance to burn and cranking the backlight up in to the 50's results in more than enough ftL's for night time viewing. The 650's backlight setting goes up to 100 so there's plenty of luminance left for a daytime setting too. One thing we noticed was that the FPR (Film-type Patterned Retarder) tech used on the panel seemed to be slightly masking detail in high contrast portions of the image. We checked for clipping issues and there were none and also ran it side by side with a Panasonic plasma, calibrated to a similar standard, and there certainly seemed to be just a little less high frequency detail. We don't wish to overblow this - we are talking very minor differences - but we wouldn't be doing our duty if we didn't report.
Aside from that minor point, we found the LW650 to be a great 2D performer in all lighting conditions with the reasonable black levels holding up well in the daytime and maintaining respectability in the evening. The matte screen also helped disperse reflections, to an extent, and the generous viewing angles are worthy of consideration when pitched against some other LCD's. We also need to give credit to LG for producing an edge LED lit display that didn't exhibit poor uniformity as we've seen from so many others. The LED technology certainly meant we could detect some haloing under motion, in darker scenes, but with local dimming set to 'Low' it was somewhat mitigated whilst not losing the black levels setting local dimming to 'Off' brings about. Note: setting dimming any higher than 'Low' really eats in to shadow detail so we'd recommend being conservative.
We've seen better motion handling in some recent LCDs but the 650 was by no means bad in this area. For 24p Blu-ray material we certainly had no issues and only with fast paced video did we feel need to tinker with the TruMotion user settings, finding a happy place with De-Judder at 0 and De-Blur at 5 but, again, we'd recommend owners experiment to discover what they find pleasing
Picture Quality - 3DIf we may, can we just step out of the editorial 'we' for a moment to bring you a more personalised account of the LW650's 3D performance? I do so for the reason that personal experiences of the two 3D technologies are precisely that, personal. I'll have to admit that I find active shutter glasses difficult to wear for sustained periods, my eyes become strained after less than half an hour and sitting the entire way through Avatar is something of a challenge - I'm just too aware of the shuttering and it gives me headaches and dizziness so it's something I can only now do in short spells.
Enter LG's Cinema 3D system and my own, personal 3D day is saved. Gone is the sense of flicker. It's like opening a new window on the experience and I can finally hop aboard the 3D bandwagon. If I were being picky, and I am, the loss of resolution, when compared to the last 3D TV (Panasonic VT30) through the doors is just about perceptible, with perfect eyesight from within 4 feet. That would probably translate to around 5 and 7 feet for the 47 and 55 inch versions, respectively, but the added sense of depth increases resolution perception and I certainly don't feel I'm missing out - quite the opposite, in fact! Some object to 'scan lines' being evident in LGs Cinema 3D system but I have to say, again, I had to be very close to the screen to notice them and certainly closer than is a comfortable viewing position. The lack of crosstalk, when compared to other 3D LCDs, is also very refreshing as are the wide viewing angles. The glasses are extremely comfortable in use with less light lost than active eyewear and let's not forget they're cheap as the proverbial chips - not a factor to be sneezed at when you've children (or clumsy adults) in the equation. Viewing angles on the vertical plane aren't generous but we don't envisage many will be standing up to watch their movies.
All in all, LGs Cinema 3D solution is, by far, the best in-home exposure to the industry's latest craze I've experienced to date.
- Comfortable 3D Experience
- Viewing Angles
- Stunning out-of-box Greyscale and Colour Performance
- GUI Presentation
- Bright Room Performance
- Screen Uniformity - for edge-lit LCD
- Lag - Input and Audio
- Slightly Soft HD Images
- Calibrating is a Pain with Menu System
LG LW650 (42LW650) 3D LED LCD TV Review
If we'd have reviewed the LW650T prior to the LW550T there's no doubt the 650 would have been a worthy recipient of a Highly Recommended award but, as it is, it will just have to cope with 'merely' being given the Recommended badge. It can blame the 550 for representing such good value for that.
Once again we were bowled over by the passive Cinema 3D experience and the 2D performance was no slouch either. Out of the box colour reproduction and greyscale was in the realms of unbelievable and if they can replicate that in mass production numbers, LG will have truly achieved something quite remarkable.
There's room for improvement, of course, gaming and audio lag are both noticeable without measurement and the calibration process is severely inhibited by the menu system. There's also a question mark over the polarised filter slightly masking detail of high contrast, high definition sources but we won't over-play it.
If you're a family in the market for a 42" 3D television, is it really worth the added expense of active shutter technology - not to mention the risk of suffering with flicker? We think probably not.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,000.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level6
3D Picture Quality7
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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