LG PW450 (42PW450T) 42 Inch HD Ready 3D Plasma TV Review
Steve Withers takes a look at LG's sub £500 3D plasma
IntroductionWhen it comes to their entry level plasmas both Panasonic and LG appeared to have followed a similar strategy by offering bare bones displays that use last year's technology and a lower resolution panel. We saw this to be the case when we looked at Panasonic's P42C3B, a review of which can be found here, and LG would appear to have followed suit with their 42PW450. Much like their competitor, LG's entry level plasma has an HD Ready 720p panel, doesn't include Smart TV and uses last year's menu system.
However the 42PW450 does differ from the competition in one respect, it is also a 3D display which uses the active shutter technology. That's right, LG are offering an active shutter 3D plasma for less than £500 and if that wasn't enough they are even including a pair of glasses. It all sounds too good to be true, so let's take a look and see if LG have managed to deliver a 3D plasma with performance that confounds its price tag.
Styling and ConnectionsGiven the entry level status of the 42PW450 it unsurprisingly sports a relatively pedestrian design but the clean lines and uncluttered facia were actually quite appealing. The gloss black plastic bezel measures 2.5cm at the top and sides and 5.0cm at the bottom, the stand is also made of gloss black plastic and the front facia is a charcoal grey with a brushed metal effect. Considering its entry level status we were quite surprised at the reasonable build quality and although there was a slightly plastic feel to the chassis the addition of a metal back helped raise the 42PW450 above its station. The 42PW450 comes with a detachable 3-pin style power cable which makes a nice change after the hardwired power cables we've seen on Samsung plasmas recently.
Whilst the number of connections isn't quite as comprehensive as some higher end models, you wouldn't expect that at this price point and there are probably enough for most people. The rear connections include two HDMI inputs, a VGA connector, two SCART sockets, an analogue audio in and component video in both using RCA connectors, an optical digital out, an antenna connector, an RS232 connector and a wireless control connector. At the side there is an additional HDMI input as well as a USB 2.0 port, a composite video and an analogue audio input both using RCA connectors and a CI (Common Interface) slot. Despite the fact that the 42PW450 has no internet or streaming capabilities, there is an ethernet port at the rear but strangely there is no headphone socket.
The 42PW450 comes with LG's standard remote control which whilst somewhat plastic, basic and light weight is at least comfortable to hold and intuitive to use. There are all the usual controls including buttons for the EPG, 3D, Aspect Ratio and AV Mode. The menu is accessed by pressing the Home button, there is the Q.Menu button which provides a short cut to regularly used sub-menus and a dedicated button for 3D Settings.Considering the 42PW450's price point, LG rather generously include a pair of their latest AGS250 active shutter glasses. The glasses themselves have a slightly retro look to them and reminded us of the glasses worn by Michael Caine in the 60s but we found them light and comfortable to wear. However we also found that they let far too much ambient light in at the sides, would have benefited from larger lenses and due to their snug fit they were also difficult to wear over normal glasses. On the plus side they can be recharged via the USB port on the side of the 42PW450 and additional pairs can be bought for about £60.
Menus and Set UpThe 42PW450 uses last year's menu system which isn't necessarily a bad thing because LG's menus are some of the best designed and most intuitive available. In fact, using last year's menu system proved to be a benefit because on the higher end models this year you have to access the home page and then select the setup menu which is time consuming and frankly rather frustrating.
To access the menu system on the 42PW450 you just press the Home button on the remote control, although you can also access the Picture and Audio menus using the Q.Menu button on the remote control. We found the responsiveness of the menu system to be quite slow and this could be quite frustrating when going in and out during the calibration process. Once in the main menu page there are eight options each represented by an appropriate icon: Setup, Picture, Audio, Time, Lock, Option, Network and My Media.
Within the Picture menu there is an option for choosing the Aspect Ratio as well as LG's excellent Picture Wizard and an Energy Saving function. The Picture Mode gives you a choice of different settings including Vivid, APS, Standard, Sport and Game but of more interest to the AV enthusiast is the pre-calibrated Cinema setting and two ISF settings. These ISF settings, called Expert1 and Expert2, allow a professional calibrator to access advanced picture controls and then lock them once finished.
In ISF Expert1 or Expert2 there is the Expert Control sub-menu where you will find Dynamic Contrast which tries to boost the contrast ratio by changing the Brightness and Contrast controls on the fly, a Noise Reduction control, a Black Level and the Film Mode function which controls the deinterlacing of film based material. There is also the Colour Gamut control which offers a choice of Standard and Wide and the Edge Enhancer which acts like an additional sharpness control.
The Expert Control also allows you to select the Colour Temperature where the choice is between Warm, Medium and Cool as well as control the Gamma with a choice of Low, Medium and High. The 42PW450 has both 2 point and 21 point White Balance controls, which should allow for very accurate calibration of the Greyscale and Colour Temperature.
Finally within Expert Control there is a Colour Management System (CMS) which should allow for an accurately calibrated Colour Gamut. In the CMS there are controls for the three Primary Colours (Red, Green and Blue) and the three Secondary Colours (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow). The actual controls are Colour which sets the saturation and luminance and Tint which sets the hue.
Since the 42PW450 is a 3D display there is also a menu dedicated to the 3D settings which can be accessed via a button on the remote and allows you to adjust the 3D Picture Size, the 3D Depth, the 3D Viewpoint, the 3D Picture Balance and the 3D Picture Correction.
Test ResultsFor this test we chose the Cinema mode which should represent the most accurate of the pre-calibrated presets. We also chose a Colour Temperature of Warm, a Gamma setting of 2.2 and the standard Colour Gamut. We turned off the Energy Saving function and any other 'enhancement' features and we optimised the Brightness and Contrast settings for our viewing environment. We found that leaving the Sharpness controls set at 50 resulted in an image that was free of any unwanted ringing or softness and we also left the Colour setting at 50 and the Tint control at zero.
As a general rule we tend to find that LG displays have quite accurate out-of-the-box settings so we were surprised to see such a poor greyscale performance on the 42PW450. As you can see from the chart above whilst the luminance and gamma are measuring quite accurately the greyscale tracking is very poor. Red and green are tracking below the target and blue is measuring off the scale which is resulting in sizeable DeltaEs (errors) and quite noticeable discolouration on a stair step pattern. Whilst this is a disappointing result the inclusion of a 21 point white balance control should result in a much improved performance after calibration.
The inaccurate greyscale was very obvious on the CIE chart with white measuring nowhere near the industry standard of D65 and sadly the accuracy of the colour gamut was also something of a disappointment with sizeable errors in most colours. The secondary colours suffered the greatest with cyan and magenta being a long way from their correct coordinates but blue and red were also over saturated. However as with the greyscale, all is not lost and thanks to the addition of a colour management system (CMS) we should be able to improve these accuracy levels considerably.
Initially we used the 2 point white balance control to dial in a more accurate greyscale and then we used the 21 point control to fine tune the performance. As you can see from the chart above, red, green and blue are now tracking at our target of 100 which has resulted in errors of less than 1 which is essentially perfect. The luminance and gamma are also tracking close to our target, with the exception of 90IRE which is measuring slightly off but isn't noticeable.
The first thing that was apparent on the CIE chart post calibration was that white was measuring correctly at D65 which immediately improved the accuracy of the primary and secondary colours. Whilst the CMS included on LG displays isn't a full three axis system with control over hue, colour and luminance individually, it is quite effective and we were able to improve the accuracy considerably. The most important measurement is luminance because errors here are most noticeable to the human eye and as you can see the errors are all below 1. The same is true of the hue measurements and the only remaining errors were in the colour measurements. Here we found that red was under saturated whilst blue was over saturated which in turn led to an error in magenta because this colour is a combination of the two others. However this wasn't really noticeable in actual viewing material and overall the errors were all less than three which is the point at which errors are indistinguishable to the human eye.
We have found in previous LG reviews that the video processing is very good and happily the 42PW450 follows this tradition. Because the 42PW450 has a 1024x768 panel it means whatever your content’s resolution there will always be some form of scaling, either scaling up from 576 and 480 or scaling down from 1080. In fact, even if your content has a resolution of 1280x720, there is still some scaling due to the native panel’s resolution of 1024x768. However, if the scaling is good this shouldn’t create any issues and using the SMPTE colour bar test on both the PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs we could see that the 42PW450 performed very well, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing.
The 42PW450 also scored very highly in the jaggies tests on both discs as well as performing very well on the diagonal interpolation test, with two of the three moving bars appearing smooth and only the bottom most extreme bar showing very slight jaggies. The 42PW450 also had no problems in correctly detecting both 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence and 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) cadence, as well as a number of less common formats. This is far better than the Panasonic P42C3B which couldn't correctly detect either 2:2 or 2:3 cadence. Finally, the 42PW450 also performed well when displaying film material with scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without blurring or shredding.
The 42PW450 can accept a 1080p signal which it then scales down, so using the HQV Blu-ray tests we could confirm that the 42PW450 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and correctly showed video text overlaid on film based material. The 42PW450 also had no problems displaying 24p material without any judder. The Spears and Munsil Blu-ray was used to check the high and low dynamic range performance of the 42PW450 which was very good, showing picture information down to reference black (video level 17) and above reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255).
The input lag on the 42PW450 measured around 60ms in Game mode, which whilst better than the 90 to 100ms we've been measuring on other LG TVs, is still quite slow. It might not be an issue for the casual gamer but will undoubtedly be too slow for the more dedicated player. This is unfortunate because serious gamers would normally be one of the target customers for a plasma of this size, especially when you consider its 3D capabilities.
Due to the self-illuminating nature of plasma technology the energy consumption will always be larger when compared to LCD displays, however compared to the Panasonic P42C3B the overall energy consumption was still quite high. This increased energy consumption might well be due to the increased brightness and in its calibrated mode we measured an average energy consumption of 160W which increased to 200W in 3D mode and in standby mode the 42PW450 used less than 1W.
Picture Quality - 2DThe excellent scaling and deinterlacing in the 42PW450 combined with the accurate greyscale and colour gamut resulted in a very pleasing standard definition image, with DVDs in particular appearing very clean and artefact free. The Freeview HD tuner also performed very well and, depending on the broadcaster, resulted in some very good images, especially with high definition material which retained a level of detail despite the lower resolution.
The 42PW450 is an ‘HD Ready’ display which means it has a 768p panel which is a lower resolution than the 1080p resolution used on Blu-rays, but at any sensible viewing distance this shouldn’t really be an issue. The 42PW450 scales down the 1080p output of Blu-rays and the resulting images were very pleasing, primarily because of the accurate greyscale and colour gamut. The 42PW450 was also able to display 24p material without introducing any judder and generally handled motion very well.
The 42PW450 was capable of producing a surprisingly bright image for a plasma but the dynamic range was hampered by some equally poor blacks. Whilst blacks have never been LG's strong point, the absence of a TruBlack filter resulted in some genuinely poor black levels. For those that place importance in these things we measured a 0IRE screen at 0.11cd/m2 which is worse than a lot of LCD screens. The level of shadow detail was at least reasonably good and although we didn't see any noise in black parts of the image there was noise in areas that were just above black. However you could only see this noise up close and once you moved to a sensible viewing distance it became invisible. There was also some Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) noise to the overall image when viewed up close, especially in the brighter parts, but from a sensible viewing distance this wasn't an issue.
Picture Quality - 3DAs we mentioned in the previous section the 2D performance is reasonably good but in reality there are better displays at this price point that offer both 1080p and greater features. Therefore the relevance of the 42PW450 rests entirely on its 3D performance and unfortunately here the display was found wanting.
The main problem appears to be in the way that the 3D image is rendered and especially in the way that the 42PW450 handles different depth cues. We found that images that were at zero parallax, that is just at or behind the plane of the screen looked very nice with good dimensionality and no crosstalk. Unfortunately images with a parallax that was very negative (appearing in front of the screen) or very positive (appearing in the background) were not as well rendered resulting in artefacts and excessive crosstalk. This effect was similar to the performance we saw on some of the Sony 3D displays and resulted in 3D images that just didn't look quite right and as a result often shattered the illusion.
The other issue with the 42PW450 was the screen because, as we have frequently mentioned, a smaller screen size reduces the immersive impact of a 3D image. Having said that the smaller size meant that the crosstalk and other artefacts were less obvious. The most obvious target for a 3D screen of this size is the gaming market but as you will see in the next section the excessively large input lag would preclude this display from serious gamers.
The poor 3D rendering was something of a disappointment and this is a shame because in other areas the 42PW450 performed quite well. It was certainly capable of a reasonably bright image and thanks to the inclusion of ISF controls and two memories a professional calibrator could create settings for both 2D and 3D performance. The glasses themselves had no problems synching and didn't appear to suffer from excessive flicker which can often be an issue with active shutter systems. The 42PW450 was also able to handle motion quite well and despite the lower resolution there were no obvious scaling artefacts.
- Bright image for a plasma
- Impressive calibration controls
- Reference calibrated greyscale performance
- Very good calibrated colour accuracy
- Excellent video processing
- Good motion handling
- Freeview HD built-in
- Active shutter 3D with a pair of glasses included
- Competitively priced
- 3D suffers from crosstalk, especially in backgrounds
- Due to resolution all content has to be scaled
- Mediocre blacks
- Some PWM noise
- Limited networking and streaming capabilities
- No internet or Smart TV platform
- Input lag is very high
- Energy consumption is quite high
LG PW450 (42PW450T) 42 Inch HD Ready 3D Plasma TV Review
The LG 42PW450 represents a breakthrough in terms of active shutter 3D pricing and there is no doubt that at less than £500 it represents remarkable value. When you consider that LG are also including a pair of active shutter glasses, the 42PW450 becomes even more attractive.
As a 2D display the 42PW450 is a fairly solid performer with a very accurate colour gamut and a reference greyscale after calibration. It's good to see LG including a comprehensive set of calibration controls on an entry level display and it is something that other manufacturers could learn from. However it's unfortunate that the uncalibrated performance was so poor, we have got accustomed to seeing fairly accurate images from an LG display straight out-of-the-box and in that respect the 42PW450 was something of a disappointment.
One of the drawbacks of a 768p panel is that all content has to be scaled, either up from standard definition content or down from high definition material, so the quality of the video processing is important. Thankfully, the video processing on the 42PW450 was excellent and coupled with the greyscale and colour accuracy it was capable of producing very nice images from both standard and high definition material. The scaling was particularly good and resulted in some very impressive images from standard definition content and whilst the panel isn't full HD you were never really aware of the lower resolution when watching high definition material. The 42PW450 had no problems with 24p material and handled motion very well, resulting in images with a smooth and judder free appearance. It was also pleasing to see a display that could actually detect 2:2 cadence correctly as this simple task seems to be tripping up a lot of the competition.
The only major weakness with the image was the black level which certainly could have been better and whilst the 42PW450 can produce reasonably bright images the dynamic range suffered. There was good shadow detail but there was also some noise in parts of the image that were just above black, although this noise couldn't be seen from a normal viewing distance. There was also some PWM noise, especially in the brighter parts of the image, although once again this noise wasn't obvious from a normal viewing distance.
The 42PW450 is somewhat lacking in the features department but the Freeview HD worked well and the resulting images looked good regardless of whether the broadcasts were in standard or high definition. The 42PW450 has very limited networking, streaming and internet capabilities but then at this price point that should hardly come as a surprise. Sadly the input lag was far too high at 60ms and whilst this might be better than LG's current crop of LCD displays it is still too unresponsive for serious gamers. If saving energy is important to you then you might find the power consumption to be too high as well, even for a plasma.
Whilst the 2D performance was good there are better displays at this price point that also offer a full 1080p image and more features so the success of the 42PW450 rests on the quality of the 3D performance. Unfortunately, as we found in our review of the 50PZ950 (which can be found here) LG's active shutter 3D has taken a step back from last year. Whilst the display showed a good sense of dimension to images that were at zero parallax there was definite crosstalk and poor rendering of objects in negative or positive parallax - by which we mean objects that either appear to be in front of the screen or in the background. The size of the screen also meant that the 3D failed to create an immersive experience and whilst a 42" screen might be better suited to gamers, the high input lag precludes those of a serious gaming nature. On the positive side there were no problems with the glasses synching, there was minimal flicker, the image was reasonably bright and the display handled motion quite well.
Overall the 42PW450 offers a competent 2D performance but given the presence of better 2D displays at this price, its main selling point is the inclusion of 3D. However the overall 3D performance just wasn't good enough, even at this price point and as such we would find it hard to recommend the 42PW450 for those wishing to take their first steps into the third dimension.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £450.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level6
3D Picture Quality6
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money7
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