LG LD950 (47LD950) Review

Steve Withers takes a look at LG's passive 3D display and compares it to its more active cousins

TV Review

35

LG LD950 (47LD950) Review
SRP: £1,499.00

Introduction

I have been lucky enough to review five different 3D displays this year and even though some were plasma and some were LCD models they all shared one factor in common - they used active shutter lenses. This technology has both its advantages and disadvantages so I was looking forward to having the opportunity of comparing the active approach with the alternative passive delivery method. The total domination of active shutter displays in the 3D market place makes it easy to forget that there is an alternative approach and LG are to be congratulated for offering the choice because currently the LG LD950 is the only passive 3D display available. So let's take a look and see how the LD950 measures up to the competition and indeed LG's own active shutter displays.

Styling and Connections

The LD950 is essentially LG's LD920 adapted for the consumer market and to a large extent this is obvious when looking at the LD950. The LD920 was the display that LG installed in pubs as part of SKY's 3D rollout and as such was rather utilitarian in its design. Its main purposes was to effectively demonstrate SKY 3D in bars and clubs and as such it was missing certain flourishes like Freeview HD, DLNA compatibility and NetCast which is LG's internet platform. One of the other items that the LD920 was missing was an HDMI v1.4 connector because that wasn't needed for SKY 3D due to the platform using existing boxes with v1.3 connectors. Now we've mentioned in previous reviews that to watch 3D you don't need to buy new HDMI cables as pretty much any decent HDMI cable can carry the 3D signal. However to use a 3D Blu-ray player you do need a display with an HDMI v1.4 connector because the player looks for this, if it isn't there it assumes the display is not 3D capable. So the only real difference between the LD920 and the LD950 is the addition of HDMI v1.4.

Given the gorgeous design of some of LG's recent displays the 47LD950 is something of a throwback to their 2009 displays with a big glossy black plastic bezel that measured 5cm at the top and sides and 9cm at the bottom. There was also a clear plastic strip about 2cm wide down each side. The screen was also plastic but in some respects this was a good thing as it was far less reflective when compared to glass fronted displays. This is useful as nothing will draw you out of a 3D image faster than reflections on the screen which destroy the illusion of depth. The back of the chassis was matt plastic and the entire display was mounted on a gloss plastic stand. On the left hand side facing the screen are the side inputs and on the right hand side there is the on/off switch and some basic controls. The overall look clearly reflects the fact that this display was developed last year and and also betrays its origins as a commercial rather than consumer product. I also suspect that since the polarized panel is quite expensive to make, the cheaper build quality helps keep the overall cost down. The 47LD950 is also quite deep as it uses traditional CCFL backlighting instead of more recent LED edge lighting but given the poor backlight uniformity that edge lighting produces this could be an advantage.

The supplied remote is also the standard black LG design but with one vital addition, the 3D button - this button is very important, for reasons that I will come back to later.

The obvious difference between an active 3D display and a passive 3D display is that the glasses used are simple polarized lenses which most people will be familiar with from the cinema. These glasses are very cheap to produce and LG includes four pairs with the 47LD950 but frankly they could easily include many more. The glasses come in different colours and each pair includes a case and lens cloth. They are easy to use, there are no batteries or charging and no synching with the screen; you just put them on. They are also very light and comfortable to wear and easily fit over glasses and if you should break a pair you can just buy another pair for a pound. Since the passive system is identical to that used in many cinemas, in some cases you can even use the glasses that you brought home from the movies. I happened to have a few pairs of RealD 3D glasses lying around the house and these worked perfectly with the 47LD950. This is the biggest advantage of passive over active because it will cost hundreds of pounds for a family of four to have sufficient active shutter glasses but with a passive display it costs nothing. In addition if you were to have a large group of friends over to watch a sporting event in 3D (one of the most likely scenarios) it would be prohibitively expensive with an active shutter display but very cheap and easy for a passive display. This is obviously the main reason that this type of display was chosen for the installation of SKY 3D in pubs and clubs.
The 47LD950 has a standard set of connections and at the back there are three HDMI inputs, as well as an aerial socket, two SCART sockets, a component video input with left and right analogue audio RCA connectors, a VGA input, a digital optical out, a RS232 interface and an audio in. The back connectors on the 47LD950 face outwards and as usual I would prefer it if they faced downwards thus allowing for easier wall mounting and tidier cable management.

At the side there is the standard Common Interface card slot, an additional HDMI input, a headphone socket, a USB port and a composite video input with left and right analogue audio RCA connectors.

Menus & Setup

The 47LD950 uses the standard LG menu system which is well designed, sensibly laid out and uses large colourful icons that are easy to read. The menu is also simple to navigate, intuitive to use and very responsive. Best of all LG don't hide any key functions away in some hard to find sub-menu.

The main menu page gives you a series of eight options each represented by an appropriate icon. The icons available are: Set Up, Picture, Audio, Time, Lock, Option, Input and USB. I'll address Set Up, Picture and Audio in more detail later but as for the other choices, Time relates to setting the time as well as the timer and sleep mode functions and Lock controls the parental lock. In addition there is Option which offers a series of generic controls for functions such as language, Input which obviously allows the user to change between inputs and label them and USB which allows the user to watch content via the USB input.

The actual Set Up of the display was very easy with the Freeview channels being tuned in about 5 minutes. The resulting EPG is well laid out and easy to use with an attractive design that is semi transparent, appearing over the channel you are watching and there is also still audio as you navigate through the channel choices.

The Audio option allows you to choose different audio presets such as Standard, Music, Cinema, Sport and Game as well as set the Digital Audio Out from bitstream to PCM. The sound was reasonable and about as good as can be expected from such a modern display with hidden speakers. Overall the sound was acceptable for general TV watching but for anything more immersive I would recommend outboard amplification.

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. There is also an Energy Saving function but all this does is dim the picture and is best left off. The Picture Mode gives you a choice of a number of different settings including the usual Vivid, Standard, Sport and Game. Probably of more interest to the AV enthusiast is the inclusion of a 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. There are two settings allowing the calibrator to create two distinct presets, one for daytime viewing and one for night time viewing.

Within the Picture Mode there are standard controls such as Contrast, Brightness, Horizontal and Vertical 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 also the Expert Control option which gives the professional calibrator access to an impressive array of picture controls. There is a Dynamic Contrast which seeks to boost the contrast ratio by changing the Brightness and Contrast controls on the fly and is best left off. There is a Noise Reduction control but I found it didn't really improve the picture and was best left off. The Black Level function should be left on Low and the Real Cinema function controls the deinterlacing of film based material and where possible should always be left on. The TruMotion 200Hz control activates the frame interpolation function and has a choice between Off, Low and High. The Colour Gamut offers a choice of Standard and Wide and the Edge Enhancer acts much like a sharpness control and just like any other sharpness control it 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 I found Warm to be the most appropriate. There is also a control for Gamma which provides a choice between Low, Medium and High and here I found that Medium best approximated a gamma of 2.2 which is the target we use in our reviews here at AVForums. The 47LD950 has both 2 point and 10 point White Balance controls, I selected the 10 point option which should allow me to very accurately calibrate the Greyscale and Colour Temperature.

Finally within Expert Control there is a Colour Management System (CMS) that should allow you to accurately calibrate the Colour Gamut. In the CMS that LG has built into the 47LD950 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 47LD950 is a 3D display there is a menu dedicated to the 3D settings which can be accessed via a 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 side by side, top and bottom, checkerboard and frame sequential.

Features

As mentioned previously the 47LD950 is missing a few features that are largely standard on more recent displays, including Freeview HD, DLNA compatibility, a LAN socket and an internet platform. However it does have standard Freeview, 4 HDMI inputs, 3D capability and includes four pairs of glasses.

In addition the 47LD950 includes LG's TruMotion 200Hz which uses scanning backlight technology and frame interpolation to try and eliminate motion blur and picture flicker. Finally, you can connect a digital camera, MP3 player or flash memory through the USB port in order to access multimedia content including DivX HD, JPEG and MP3.

Test Results

For this test I chose the Cinema mode which should represent the most accurate of the pre-calibrated presets. I selected Just Scan to ensure I wasn't introducing any unwanted scaling and I turned off the Energy Saving function and any other 'enhancement' feature. Using a PLUGE pattern I could see that the Brightness setting of 50 was actually too low and in fact the best setting was 54 for my viewing environment and there was a small amount of clipping but moving the Contrast setting down to 70 corrected that problem. I found that leaving the Sharpness controls set at 50 resulted in an image that was free of any unwanted ringing or softness and I left the Colour setting at 50 as well.

The out of the box greyscale performance was very good with DeltaE errors of less than 3 on all points except 60 IRE, which was just slightly over. In terms of tracking green and blue were close together and about 5% over the target and red was between 5 and 10% below the target so whilst the loss of energy in red might result in some slight discolouration on the greyscale itself the actual errors are small enough to be largely indistinguishable to the human eye. The gamma measured between 2.1 and 2.3 but averaging around our 2.2 target. Overall this is very good and represents the kind of performance I have come to expect from LG.

The out of the box colour accuracy was also very good with DeltaEs of less than 3 on all the colours except red. The reasonably accurate greyscale mentioned in the previous paragraph is also reflected in white which measures close to the D65 target. The errors in the luminance (brightness) of the image are all very small which is good because this can be most obvious to the human eye. The errors in green are also very small in luminance, colour (saturation) and hue (tint) which is good because green is the colour the human eye is most sensitive to. The reason for this is obvious if you look at the CIE chart where you can see that green makes up the largest part of the visible spectrum. The only real errors relate to the levels of saturation in red and blue which in turn is causing an error in magenta. Overall this is a reasonably good colour accuracy but the inclusion of a CMS will hopefully allow us to calibrate this performance to an even greater degree.

The out of the box measurements were done using the 2D Cinema preset but there are also presets for 3D, specifically Cinema, Game and Sport. At the moment calibration for 3D viewing remains problematic in the absence of any established industry standards, however the two main problems are light loss and colour shift and thus any calibration approach needs to address these issues. The problem of light loss is best addressed by simply increasing the light output of the 3D display as much as possible without introducing any clipping. Adjusting for the colour shift is a bit more difficult and ultimately the most effective way is to actually take readings through the 3D glasses in order to compensate for the colour shift they cause. The 3D Cinema setting retained more accurate colours but was rather dim, the Game setting was brighter and the Sport setting was much brighter but at the expense of any kind of colour accuracy.

As I have come to expect from LG the 10 point white balance controls allow for a post calibration greyscale performance that was excellent with all three colours tracking at the target point of 100 and a DeltaE of less than one at all points. This is a reference performance with the gamma still averaging around 2.2 and 2.3 and the greyscale transitioning smoothly from white to black with no discolouration.

Although it is good that LG includes a CMS it remains a nuisance that it only has two controls, one which sets Hue and one which sets Colour (Luminance and Colour) because ideally a CMS should control Luminance, Colour and Hue individually. However in this case the colour gamut was very good after calibration, measuring close to Rec709 and with an overall DeltaE of less than 2 for each colour. The Luminance measurements were also excellent which as I mentioned earlier is the most important of the three components of colour and the hue errors were also very small. The only errors remain in the colour saturation of red and blue (and therefore magenta) but these errors don't show in actual viewing material. Finally the reference greyscale performance is reflected in the accuracy of white which is smack on D65. Overall this was an excellent performance but I would like to see LG introduce a full CMS in their 2011 range of displays.

Video Processing

Overall the performance of the 47LD950 was very good in the video processing tests which surprised me as this is an older display and would suggest that LG have addressed certain issues through software upgrades. As usual I started with my PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs and first of all I checked the SMPTE colour bar test which the 47LD950 easily passed, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The 47LD950 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. 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 47LD950 performed well in the film detail test and correctly locked on to the image resulting in no aliasing. In the cadence tests the 47LD950 also correctly detected both the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format and the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. The 47LD950 also correctly displayed film material with both horizontal and vertical scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without any blurring or shredding. These are all areas where previous LG displays have failed so full marks to LG for making these improvements.
The 47LD950 performed very well in all of the tests on the HQV and Spears & Munsil Blu-ray discs using high definition content. With the 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 47LD950 also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems, even the tortuous wedge shaped test on the S&M disc.

Using the S&M disc I checked the headroom performance of the 47LD950 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 47LD950 also correctly showed detail down to a video level 17 and reference black below that to video level 0.

The 200Hz TruMotion function is actually 100Hz with a scanning backlight but using the FPD Benchmark Software disc's scrolling resolution chart the 47LD950 measured around the 300 line mark without TruMotion enabled which is pretty standard for an LCD display. Things improved a little with TruMotion set to Low and when set to High the motion resolution improved to about 600 lines which is pretty good. Unfortunately activating the TruMotion function results in the dreaded 'soap opera' effect so I would recommend leaving it off.

LG displays in the past have been guilty of unnecessary sharpening or video processing that couldn't be defeated but I didn't find any evidence of that on the 47LD950 and I'm especially impressed that LG appear to be addressing these issues on their existing displays as well as on their newer releases.

Gaming Performance

Whilst I make no claims to be a regular gamer I ended up playing quite a few games on the 47LD950, mostly in 3D. I found the response on 'Avatar', 'WipeOut' and 'Super Stardust' to be very responsive and I certainly wasn't aware of any lag. In actual tests I found that my calibrated ISF Expert1 preset measured a lag of 30ms which is pretty good and should keep most people happy. Curiously when I used Game mode the lag increased to 50ms which is very odd. Usually you get the smallest lag times in Game mode and I can only assume that there was some video processing in game mode that slowed the 47LD950 down. My ISF Expert1 preset had every extraneous function turned off which might account for the faster response time.

Energy Consumption

As one would expect with an LCD display the 47LD950 is reasonably efficient when it comes to energy consumption. Whilst not quite as low as some of the more recent LED backlit displays the 47LD950 measured 112 watts when displaying a 0, 50 and 100 IRE window. During regular viewing the 47LD950 consumed an average of 144 watts and it used less than 1 watt in standby.

Picture Quality - 2D

I found the 47LD950 performed quite well with standard definition material, no doubt due to the excellent greyscale, colour accuracy and video processing. Both PAL and NTSC DVDs looked great and whilst Freeview didn't always look that good this was mostly a limitation of the actual broadcasts themselves. The Freeview tuner itself worked very well and although some people might find the lack of Freeview HD an issue I think most people will either use SKY, Freesat or an outboard Freeview HD PVR anyway. I tried using the noise reduction functions on 47LD950 in the hope of cleaning up the Freeview channels but there isn't much you can do when images are that compressed.

With high definition sources the 47LD950 really impressed, courtesy of the previously mentioned greyscale and colour accuracy. There was plenty of fine detail and as long as you kept the TruMotion off movies had a nice film-like quality. The 47LD950 handled 24p without any problems resulting in smooth judder free images. I watched some scenes from 'I Am Legend' and the colours in the empty New York looked suitably natural whilst the red of the sports car really popped just as the director intended. In addition camera pans were smooth and motion seemed natural; in fact it was only in the darker scenes that the 47LD950 failed to impress.
The off axis performance was very good for an LCD display which would lead me to believe that the 47LD950 uses an IPS panel and this would explain the rather mediocre black levels and poor dynamic range. Also despite using a CCFL backlight rather than LED edge lighting there was some clouding which is a shame, having said that it was still better than the terrible backlight uniformity that plagues edge lighting.

Picture Quality - 3D

Whilst the 47LD950 is a competent 2D performer, it was the 3D performance that really interested me and here I was genuinely surprised. I found the 3D performance of the 47LD950 to be excellent, especially with the kind of side by side material you would get from SKY 3D and 3D games on the PS3. The use of polarized glasses resulted in absolutely no crosstalk, even when objects were very near the camera. This resulted in a solid, bright and dynamic 3D image with plenty of depth and dimensionality.

Passive 3D works by using a polarized filter on the panel coupled with a pair of polarized glasses, the display then shows two interlaced images, one for the left eye and one for the right, which the brain combines resulting in a three dimensional image. The benefit of this approach is an almost total lack of crosstalk but the disadvantage is a reduced resolution. Active 3D by comparison shows each eye's full 1080p frame sequentially and the glasses synch the LCD shutters so that the left eye see the left frame and the right eye sees the right frame. The advantage is a full 1080p 3D image but the disadvantage is crosstalk to some degree or another, especially with LCD panels.

I was especially impressed with 3D gaming and I found myself enjoying 'Super Stardust', 'Avatar: The Game' and 'WipeOut' far more than I ever had with active shutter glasses. When I played 'WipeOut' on an active display the fast movement resulted in crosstalk and other artefacts that destroyed any sense of depth but this wasn't the case with the passive glasses. The same goes for 'Avatar' where the active display had trouble keeping up if you changed the view too quickly, this didn't seem to trouble the 47LD950.
Initially I was very disappointed when watching 3D Blu-rays as there appeared to be a problem with motion resulting in parts of the image appearing out of focus. Initially I tried switching the Left/Right 3D setting to Right/Left but this just inverted the image resulting in near objects appearing far away and vice versa. However I discovered that if you used the 3D button on the remote to turn the 3D off and then turned the 3D back on again this corrected the problem.

Once the problem had been fixed, watching 'Avatar' in 3D was nothing short of a revelation as James Cameron's carefully layered compositions became readily apparent. The added depth totally drew you into the film and once again I found myself being mesmerized by the 3D as if I'd never seen it before. I also watched the same scene from the 2D Blu-ray at 1080p and there really wasn't a noticeable drop in resolution when I switched to the 3D Blu-ray, possibly due to the added depth making the image appear more detailed than it actually was. 'A Christmas Carol' was also a wonderful 3D experience and Robert Zemeckis is another director that like Cameron knows how to use 3D in a creative fashion. I should also point out that 'A Christmas Carol', as well as some other 3D Blu-rays, has variable black borders at the edges to stop an artefact caused when there is only a left or right eye image. This is part of the content and not a failing of the display itself.

I found wearing the passive glasses to be much more comfortable and far less tiring than with active shutter glasses. In addition there are no batteries to worry about, no turning them on and no problems with synching or flicker. It is this simplicity that makes them appealing to children and those of a non-technical nature and they are also robust and cheap to replace.

I honestly believe that passive has the best chance of achieving mass market acceptance because of the cheap, easy to use glasses and the consumer's familiarity with this delivery method from their local cinema. It seems to me that the problem at the moment is that consumers perceive passive to be an inferior technology to active. This isn't actually true but clearly passive's current inability to display a full 1080p 3D image just reinforces this perception. However if manufacturers can produce cheaper passive displays that can show a full 1080p 3D image from a Blu-ray then all the other advantages of passive technology really come into play.

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Very good out of the box greyscale performance
  • Good out of the box colour accuracy
  • Reference greyscale performance after calibration
  • Very good colour accuracy after calibration
  • Excellent video processing
  • Very impressive side by side 3D performance
  • No discernable crosstalk
  • Very cheap 3D glasses
  • 3D glasses comfortable to wear and easy to use
  • Reasonable off axis performance for an LCD display
  • Colour Management System
  • 10 point greyscale controls
  • Reasonably short lag time for gamers
  • Very responsive menu system

Cons

  • Mediocre black level and contrast ratio
  • Mediocre sound quality
  • Some backlight clouding
  • Unable to display full 1080p 3D images
  • Problem locking on to 1080p 3D Blu-rays correctly
  • Unusually large input lag in Game mode
  • Lack of Freeview HD
  • Lack of NetCast internet platform
  • Lack of DNLA/networking/streaming capability
  • Quite expensive compared to other 3D displays

LG LD950 (47LD950) Review

Overall the 47LD950 is a competent 2D display with an excellent greyscale, accurate colours and some very good video processing but it is as a 3D display where it really shows promise. The complete lack of crosstalk resulted in very immersive 3D images and for the first time I found myself excited by the format in a way that I hadn't been by the active 3D displays that I have previously reviewed. Due to the nature of the technology the 47LD950 is especially effective with side by side material and games but even with the reduced resolution 1080p 3D Blu-rays still looked impressive due to the added dimension. The comfort and ease of use of the glasses, coupled with their cheapness is also a major advantage of passive over active.

Of course there are problems, the main one being the 47LD950's inability to display a full 1080p 3D image and although some line structure was visible, at any sensible viewing distance it really wasn't that noticeable. The problem of the 47LD950 not locking on to a 1080p 3D Blu-ray correctly is a nuisance but turning the 3D off and on again seems to be an effective work around and I'm sure that LG will address this with a software upgrade. The other areas of weakness for the 47LD950 were the poor blacks and the lack of any internet, networking or streaming capability. Finally the 47LD950 is quite expensive compared to many active displays although this can be offset by cash back deals in conjunction with SKY and the added cost of active shutter glasses.

Ultimately I can't recommend the 47LD950 due to some of its limitations and because hopefully cheaper passive 3D displays that can reproduce a full 1080p 3D image will be released in 2011. However as a technology I am a huge fan of the passive method of delivering 3D and I honestly believe that if 3D is to succeed as a mass market format this is the best approach. I also feel that LG are to be congratulated for producing displays that use both 3D technologies and providing the consumer with a choice.

Scores

3D Picture Quality

.
.
.
7

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Smart Features

.
.
.
7

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Value for Money

.
.
.
.
6

Verdict

.
.
.
7

Picture Quality

.
.
.
7

Video Processing

.
.
8

Greyscale Accuracy

.
9

Colour Accuracy

.
.
8

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
.
6

Screen Uniformity

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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