LG PW450 (50PW450T) 50 Inch HD Ready 3D Plasma TV Review
Steve Withers takes a look at LG's 50 inch budget 3D plasma
IntroductionWhen we reviewed LG's 42PW450 we were amazed that they could deliver an active shutter 3D plasma for such a low price and even include a pair of glasses. Of course sacrifices had to be made to achieve this and the PW450 range uses a 768p panel and is a little light on features but it still offers remarkable value. Unfortunately whilst the 2D performance was quite good the out-of-the-box measurements were rather inaccurate and the input lag was surprisingly large for a plasma. The 42PW450 was also hampered by the size of its screen which reduced the impact of its 3D and the crosstalk issues that seem to be afflicting all of LG's active shutter displays this year.
We have discovered in recent reviews that differing screen sizes of the same model can result in variations in performance, especially in areas such as black levels. We were therefore pleased to have the chance to also review the 50" version of the PW450 because not only will the larger screen improve the impact of the 3D but other areas might be improved too. So let's take a look at the 50PW450 and see how it compares to its smaller sibling
Styling and ConnectionsThe look of the 50PW450 is, of course, identical to its smaller brother the 42PW450 and thus shares the same clean lines and simple design. Despite the larger screen size the dimensions of the gloss black plastic bezel are the same and measure 2.5cm at the top and sides and 5.0cm at the bottom. The stand is also made of gloss black plastic and metal, whilst the front facia is a charcoal grey with a brushed metal effect. Once again we were pleased to see a reasonably high level of build quality on an entry level model and although there was a slightly plastic feel to the bezel the addition of a metal back helped give the 50PW450 a solid feel. The 50PW450 also comes with a detachable 3-pin style power cable which makes positioning it easier.
The 50PW450 also has the same connections as the 42" model which at the rear 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 50PW450 has no internet or streaming capabilities, there is an ethernet port at the rear but strangely there is no headphone socket.
The 50PW450 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.We remain impressed that considering the 50PW450's price point, LG have managed to include a pair of their latest AGS250 active shutter glasses. This is all the more impressive when you consider that a lot of their competition don't even include glasses with their premium models. The AGS250 glasses have a slightly retro look to them 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 50PW450 and additional pairs can be bought for about £60.
Menus and Set UpAs with the 42" version, the 50PW450 uses last year's menu system which means to access it 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 sub-menus 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.
Within Picture you will find all the standard controls such as Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint which can be accessed from all the presets, as well as a Picture Reset function.
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 50PW450 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 50PW450 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 ResultsAs always this part of the review relates to the best performance that the display can deliver without resorting to advanced calibration techniques. In the case of the 50PW450 we found that the best out-of-the-box measurements came from selecting the Cinema preset and the only other adjustments that were required were to set the Brightness and Contrast controls correctly for our demo room.
As you can see from the chart above the out-of-the-box greyscale performance of the 50PW450 was actually very good and in fact quite a lot better than the 42" version. This might be due to panel variations or perhaps the 50" review sample had been run in for longer but, whatever the reason, the RGB tracking on the 50PW450 was quite good. The RGB Balance shows that green is tracking a the target of 100 and red is tracking about 5% above and blue about 5% below resulting in DeltaEs (errors) that are all less than 5 and mostly less than 3. The gamma curve is also very good as is tracking in a straight line just above our target of 2.2. The 50PW450 includes a 21 point White Balance control so we should be able to improve this performance still further.
The out-of-the-box colour performance of the 50PW45 was very similar to the 42" model and as the CIE Chart shows the biggest errors are in red and blue and therefore magenta which is a combination of those two colours. As you can see from the chart red is under-saturated in colour and has a large error in hue as well as being over saturated in terms of luminance (brightness). The same is true for blue which is both under saturated, in terms of colour, and over saturated in terms of luminance. Since magenta is a combination of red and blue it is also under saturated in terms of colour and over saturated in terms of luminance. However these errors aren't too obvious because the under saturation of colour is offsetting the over saturation of luminance and thanks to the CMS we should be able to address some of these issues.
As you can see the RGB Balance is now tracking at the target of 100 for all three primary colours and the resulting DeltaEs are all less than 1, which is essentially perfect. The gamma curve is still tracking above our target of 2.2 but the resulting stair step test pattern looked good with a nice transition from black to white, free of discolouration.
The first thing to notice on the CIE Chart is that the colour of white is now measuring exactly at the industry standard of D65 which is a reflection of the excellent greyscale performance. We were able to correct the hue and luminance errors on all three primary and all three secondary colours but there were still errors in the colour measurements. In the case of green, the colour is still a little over saturated and in the case of red, blue and magenta the colour is under saturated. However, even with a CMS, there is little you can do if the native gamut is under saturated, after all you can't add what isn't there. However the luminance measurements are good which is what our eyes are most sensitive to and whilst the colour gamut doesn't quite hit Rec.709 the overall DeltaEs are mostly less than 3.
The 50PW450 includes the same impressive video processing that we found on its smaller brother and therefore handled our review tests well. Because the 50PW450 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 50PW450 performed very well, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing.
The 50PW450 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 50PW450 also had no problems in correctly detecting both 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence and 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) cadence, as well as a number of less common formats. This is good to see when so many other manufacturers seem incapable of producing a display that can correctly detect 2:2 cadence and in some cases even 3:2 cadence. Finally, the 50PW450 also performed well when displaying film material with scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without blurring or shredding.
The 50PW450 can accept a 1080p signal which it then scales down, so using the HQV Blu-ray tests we could confirm that the 50PW450 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and correctly showed video text overlaid on film based material. The 50PW450 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 50PW450 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 50PW450 measured the same as the 42" version at 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.
As with the 42" model, the 50PW450 was capable of a surprisingly bright image for a plasma but due to the self-illuminating nature of plasma technology this resulted in energy consumption that was higher than many other plasmas we have reviewed. We measured an average energy consumption of 220W which increased to 250W in 3D mode, although in standby mode the 50PW450 used less than 1W.
Picture Quality - 2DAs is often the case, the combination of excellent scaling and deinterlacing coupled with an accurate greyscale and colour gamut resulted in a very pleasing standard definition image on the 50PW450, 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 display's lower native resolution.
As previously mentioned the 50PW450 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. Therefore the 50PW450 needs to scale down the 1080p output of Blu-rays but the resulting images were very pleasing, primarily because of the excellent scaling and accurate greyscale and colour gamut. The 50PW450 was also able to display 24p material without introducing any judder and as you would expect from a plasma it handled motion very well.
As with the 42" version of the PW450, the 50' model was also capable of producing a surprisingly bright image for a plasma but the dynamic range was again hampered by some equally poor blacks. Whilst blacks have never been LG's strong point, the absence of a TruBlack filter on the PW450 resulted in some genuinely poor black levels. We measured a 0IRE screen at 0.11cd/m2 which is the same as the measurement we took on the 42" model and frankly worse than a lot of LCD screens.
Despite the poor blacks, 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 green noise in areas that were 5% above black. However you could only see this noise up close and once you moved to a sensible viewing distance it became invisible. As with the 42PW450, 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 - 3DWhilst the overall 2D performance of the 50PW450 was very good it is the 3D performance that really determines whether the PW450 is worthy of recommendation. Whilst we have been impressed by the quality of the 3D on LG's passive displays we have the 3D on their active displays to be somewhat compromised. This was the case with the PZ and also the 40PW450 and sadly it also applied to the 50PW450.
It is difficult to determine quite where the problem lies but it appears to relate to the way that the 3D image is rendered and especially in the way that the 50PW450 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. There is a control in the 3D menu for adjusting the 3D effect but we were unable to correct the problem.
The poor 3D rendering was something of a disappointment and this is a shame because in other areas the 50PW450 performed quite well. One of the major benefits of the 50PW450 over the 42PW450 is the larger screen size because we always find the bigger the 3D image, the more immersive the experience. One of the big problems with 3D is that the glasses can cut out up to 75% of the light but thanks to the surprising brightness the 50PW450 this was less of an issue. The inclusion of ISF controls and two memories means that 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 50PW450 was also able to handle motion quite well and despite the lower resolution there were no obvious scaling artefacts.
- Bright image for a plasma
- Good out-of-the-box performance in Cinema mode
- 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
- Excessive 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 (50PW450T) 50 Inch HD Ready 3D Plasma TV Review
The 50PW450 shares many of the strengths of the smaller version, which is perhaps not surprising considering they are the same model but it also has some differences. Both models have excellent post-calibration colour and greyscale accuracy, as well as a comprehensive set of calibration controls and we remain impressed that LG include them on their entry level models. They also share the same video processing - which is excellent - and coupled with the greyscale and colour accuracy meant that the 50PW450 was capable of producing very nice images from both standard and high definition material.
The 50PW450 also had no problems with cadence detection or 24p material and handled motion very well, resulting in images with a smooth and judder free appearance.Where the two displays did differ was in the out-of-the-box performance with the 50PW450 delivering a far more accurate image in Cinema mode than the 42PW450. This difference might be due to variations in panel size or it might just be specific to the particular 42PW450 we reviewed previously. Whatever the reason might be, the greyscale and colour gamut were far more accurate out-of-the-box on the 50PW450 and, in fact, the greyscale in particular was very good.
Sadly, the 50PW450 also shares many of the weaknesses of the 42PW450, including the poor black levels and noise in parts of the image just above black. On the plus side, the 50PW450 could produce reasonably bright images and there was also good shadow detailing. However we did see some PWM noise, especially in the brighter parts of the image, although as with the noise in above black, the noise in peak white wasn't obvious from our normal viewing distance. Another weakness is the 50PW450's general lack of features and whilst it has Freeview HD built-in it also has very limited networking, streaming and internet capabilities. Finally, the input lag measured at 60ms which is very high for a plasma and whilst this is better than many of LG's recent LCD displays it will be too high for an enthusiastic gamer.
As has been the case with all of LG's active displays this year, the 3D was something of a disappointment. 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. 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 we found the 2D performance of the 50PW450 to be very good but as with LG's other active displays the 3D was a disappointment. Given that this is the major selling point of the 50PW450 and given that there are now 3D displays from competitors at a similar price we find it difficult to give a full recommendation.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £550.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level6
3D Picture Quality6
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money7
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