LG LG7000 (42LG7000) LCD TV Review

Here we have a display that comes frustratingly close

by AVForums
TV Review

180

LG LG7000 (42LG7000) LCD TV Review
SRP: £1,000.00

Introduction

Since just about every manufacturer has a glossy 1080p LCD display out there, it’s not surprising that we’re beginning to see consumer electronics companies differentiate their product with unique design features. Such is the case with LG’s 42LG7000, which features the company’s “Scarlet” chassis design. Not only this, but as with all of LG’s high-end displays, it’s chock-full of features: Bluetooth connectivity, USB access for photos and music, a 100hz display system for decreased motion blur, and best of all – ISF CCC controls and an “Expert Mode”, to aid the calibration process.

Design & Connections

The “Scarlet” design essentially amounts to a combination of gloss black, silver, and transparent, glass-like material at the bottom, near the hidden speakers. The design is very appealing, even if the usual caveats of gloss black apply: chances are, it’s going to pick up fingerprints and micro-scratches quite easily (our review sample already had these).

On the back of the display, LG has provided 3 HDMI inputs (with another being mounted on the side, for a total of 4). There’s also two SCART terminals (only one supports the higher quality RGB video, though) and also the mandatory Component video and stereo audio RCA-style jacks. There’s also a VGA PC input, a USB input, an RS-232C port for controlling the TV in an automated home theatre setup, and of course, an RF input for connecting your standard TV aerial to. Whew.

When the TV was first powered up, it showed some very slick-looking on screen menus, which thanked the user for choosing an LG product. After a few language prompts, it began tuning analogue stations, but thankfully allowed me to skip this process and jump straight to the Digital TV tuning (a very nice option for those of us who aren’t going to bother with analogue PAL broadcasts, in their final years).

Once this was completed, the TV asked where it was installed: in a Showroom, or a Home environment. The latter option should theoretically give a more accurate image, but it was of the usual vibrant, tinted, unrealistic variety. Before I discuss how I began correcting this, there's one neat feature to talk about: the TV’s on-screen manual. The 42LG7000 provided the option of displaying some basic, concise information pages on-screen. This is much better and much more convenient than a paper manual, and is smart thinking from LG.

Menus

The on screen displays in LG’s high-end HDTVs look absolutely fantastic. They’re incredibly well designed and use the company’s wine-red and white colour design. They’re quick to respond to user input, as well, which meant that the calibration was eased significantly.

One great feature is the window which appears when pressing the INPUT button. By default, the TV shows icons of the different sockets in a row. If there’s a device connected to these sockets, the icon will appear in colour; if not, it’ll be greyed out. It’s unusual for a TV’s menus to be this helpful. Going one step further, if you assign labels to the inputs – for example, you assign the label “DVD” to the HDMI1 input, then the icon will change to that of a disc, with the “DVD” label displayed above. This is very user friendly. A big thumbs up to LG for their on-screen displays: they’re great to look at, and great to use for technophobes and experienced users alike.

The menus provide a good number of controls. Typically, options to adjust the Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour, and Tint were available. Choosing either the “Expert1” or “Expert2” viewing modes unlocks the “Expert Control” menu, giving control over a good amount of video processing features, and also control over the low and high ends of the Greyscale. There’s also a 2D Colour Management system, which allows the Saturation and Tint of both the primary and secondary colours to be altered. It’d be nice to have controls for the Luminance (Brightness) of these colours too, for ultimate control, but as we found out later, this wasn’t as necessary as we might have thought.

By the way, the "Expert Menu" includes a control called "TruMotion", which is LG's brand name for their 100hz Motion Interpolation system. We discuss this later in the review.

Test Results

Even although we selected the “Home” setting during the TV setup, the out of the box performance of the LG still displayed the usual uncalibrated bright, blue, processed image. After correcting the Black Level, Sharpness, selecting the “Warm” white balance (Greyscale) setting, and turning off all the questionable image processing, I performed some calibration measurements to see how close to accuracy LG’s display was coming with these basic adjustments made.

For once, the “Warm” colour temperature mode wasn’t overly blue-tinted - in fact, its only real problem was a lack of red, which is a much better than average result. Primary colour accuracy was fantastic, with red and blue being almost exactly on target, and green having a comparatively small error (we've seen LCD TVs where green, in particular, is often completely off target). On top of all this, the Gamma curve was also quite close to our ideal of 2.2 already, giving an average Gamma of 2.35.

With that said, LG provide some extensive controls to fine-tune these results further – so why settle? We entered the “Expert Control” menu (which I like the name of, by the way – not for reasons of ego fulfillment, but because it seems like a good way of pleasing users who want to calibrate without scaring the average customer), and managed to produce the following improvements in accuracy:

RGB tracking was improved to a fantastically flat level, and as evidenced by the pink line in the chart, Delta Errors never rose above 3 (the spike in the chart indicates an area which is too dark to measure reliably). For reference, the average pair of trained eyes can tolerate errors of up until 4 before they become noticeable. This means that the 42LG7000 provides an incredibly solid greyscale base, from which it can produce very realistic pictures.

Colour accuracy – for both Primaries and Secondaries – was absolutely excellent after calibration. The Hue and Saturation of each colour was incredibly close to perfect. As we mentioned, there’s no way to fine-tune the Luminance of each colour for full control (which you can't see from the triangular CIE diagram above, by the way), but even if this adjustment was present, we wouldn’t make too much use of it, because this aspect was, again, very close to ideal already.

And, we also saw a very slight improvement in the already commendable Gamma performance, which in theory should add more believability to this already good result.

Video Processing

Impressed, I used the PAL version of the Silicon Optix HQV test DVD, being sent from a player sending a 576i signal over HDMI. This meant that the TV’s video processor’s deinterlacing and scaling capabilities were doing much of the work, rather than the DVD player's. On the “rotating bar” and “rotating lines” jaggies tests, I was incredibly impressed with how clean the results were. Furthermore, on the “American Flag” test, I could only notice very small, pixel-sized errors in the starry area of the flag. The rippling red stripes – a challenge for any HDTV, and one we still see quite a lot – were rendered entirely clearly.
The film mode tests were less impressive: even with the “Real Cinema” option turned on, the LG didn’t correctly deinterlace 2-2 Film Content when we input it over HDMI. The same was true over the other inputs we tested; but oddly this function DID work correctly on the TV's own Digital TV tuner (which is strange behaviour). As a result, pair the 42LG7000 up with a high quality Upscaling DVD player.

Picture Quality

Basic Calibration Performance - SD

After performing a basic calibration, I did some channel surfing using the built-in Digital tuner. Writing this section of reviews is difficult, because quite frankly, the quality of most Digital TV pictures is a disgrace, and there's little a TV can do to counter this. LG do a little to try and make the best out of what's honestly a fairly pathetic situation; as with their premium PG7000 Plasma display, there’s some MPEG Noise Reduction going on behind the scenes. Although I often elect to use this feature on Digital TV broadcasts when it's present, I don't have the choice here - it's always on. Although it does a decent job of cleaning up mosquito noise artefacts from the picture, it can leave things looking a little smoothed-over. Really, I’d rather LG had this as a configurable option, so we could pick our poison.

Of course, with high quality standard-def sources, it was different story. High quality DVDs could look fantastic, although I preferred using an Upscaling DVD player to send the signal to the TV as 1080p, as this let me disable the TV’s Overscan, and see the extreme edges of the picture.

Basic Calibration Performance - HD

At first, I was happy with the High-def image quality from Blu-ray Disc, but after a minute or two, something started to irk the absolute videophile in me: images from Blu-ray looked just a tiny bit “chalkier” than they should, and a little posterised, as if the finest details weren't making it to the screen. After making sure that all noise reduction controls were disabled on both the player and the TV, I checked some other discs, which I know intimately.

20th Century Fox’s US release of I-Robot, which is utterly stunning in every possible way I can think of, rose the alarm that something was not quite perfect. Certain very high-frequency details (the tiniest details in the picture) appeared to be missing, whereas others were coming through. The actual on-screen look of this was that the film’s grain pattern (which on properly configured setup should be entirely visible, but unobtrusive), appeared to be displayed in bits and pieces, producing a slightly hazy, grittier appearance. We confirmed the root of the problem by trying different discs, players, and even HDMI cables just in case, but in each case, the culprit was proven to be LG’s display.

I also noticed two other issues which test patterns didn’t reveal: firstly, we have a slight twist on a more common problem, which relates to 24p content. Many TVs don’t display this content correctly, and instead show a rhythmical judder to movement, which is visible on slow camera pans. The LG doesn’t suffer from this particular problem; as with the “Real Cinema” mode turned on in the Expert Menu, everything is smooth and filmic – well, for a while, anyway. Every so often, the display would “skip a beat” and miss out a few frames, which is even more jarring than the standard 3:2 judder we’d get on a non-24p setup. As a result, we turned off the 24p “Real Cinema” mode and made do with the more traditional, rhythmical judder, instead of long periods of smoothness followed by a skip. The final issue was perhaps the most minor, and it comes in the form of highly contrasted objects leaving ghost images to the left and right, even if they’re still (this isn’t a motion issue).

And then, whilst recording footage for the upcoming video review of this TV, I made a discovery. If you use the TV's label to menu the input as "PC", then the TV shuts off many of its video processing functions and solves many of these problems. So, by labelling all the inputs on the TV as "PC" and meeting certain other conditions - for example, ensuring the device was sending RGB video, and not doing so at 24p - I managed to trick the LG into giving me a better picture. Well - almost. There was one remaining problem, and that is that with this method, the LG constantly applies its "TrueMotion" video processing, meaning that films appear to have a fast-forwarded, processed, amateur video look. So, the choice is up to you - lessened detail, or awkward looking motion for films?

Picture Quality: Calibrated

Putting those quirks aside, we began a full calibration of the 42PG7000 using the user-accessible “Expert Control”. Once we were done, we admired the fantastic accuracy of the final image – so much so that we forgot about the other issues for a short while.
It’s also worth discussing the quality of the LCD panel component itself. The contrast ratio it’s capable of producing isn't terrible, but on the whole, blacks still had a touch of the infamous “LCD greys” - unless we dimmed the Backlight setting to an extent where the entire image was too dark. Additionally, the viewing angle on this display is a little steep – a lot of depth is lost when viewing off-axis. Our advice to any prospective owners is to install this display in a brighter environment (or a darker environment with some degree of ambient lighting behind the screen), and to view straight-on.

And, what of response time? LG do include the aforementioned "TruMotion" feature, which activates the 100hz Motion Interpolation system. A demo on the TV discusses how this feature improves response time (although this said, by LCD standards, we didn't notice any issues with response time in the first place before being shown the difference here). There's a catch though, and that is like many other 100hz LCDs, turning the 100hz mode on causes the dreaded "fast forwarded amateur video look". Some people enjoy watching films shown in this un-film-like way, but as a film lover, I prefer the accurate picture, so I turned this feature off for such content. With Video content, which looks faster already, this feature could be enabled with relative safety. It's just a shame that this function is turned on permanently with the "PC" Input label, as described above.

Verdict

5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Excellent on-screen graphics and labelling make for great ease of use
  • Extensive calibration options
  • Brilliant greyscale tracking and very good colour accuracy
  • Diagonal interpolation (jaggies smoothing) works brilliantly
  • Extensive features: USB input, Bluetooth connectivity

Cons

  • Video processing subtly degrades high-def video
  • Lack of fully working 24p mode for judder-free Blu-ray playback
  • Average dynamic range and black level rob the picture of some depth

LG LG7000 (42LG7000) LCD TV Review

It’s clear from the degree of control (and the out of the box accuracy) that LG have implemented in the 42LG7000, that they care a great deal about enthusiasts’ enjoyment of the image quality. Even with only a basic calibration performed, this display looked more accurate than many. The LCD panel in this TV isn’t capable of producing truly rich blacks in comparison to some competing LCD panel types, but we welcomed the inclusion of a Backlight control to reduce the overall light output (depending on room lighting conditions and personal preference, a picture that’s a little too dark is arguably superior to one that’s too bright). It might sound odd, but some LCD TV manufacturers still don't include this basic adjustment.

Although it seemingly has all the right components for excellency, it's the implementation and software which let LG down. Most viewers will be delighted with the LG's huge range of features, whereas die-hard videophiles will feel that the company is sending a mixed message, by implementing fantastic calibration options, but then allowing other strange issues through. It's baffling that LG's display doesn't deliver every drop of detail from 1080p frames, unless you trick it into doing so, and then introduce unrealistic motion as a result. Some errors have clearly been made in the design.

LG’s display offers extensive, easy to access calibration options which can be used to gain fantastic greyscale and colour accuracy, but goes on to introduce other flaws (with partial workarounds) which mean it's not as good as it should be for serious movie watching. With this said, it also offers an extremely user-friendly interface, which might be a consideration if there’s less technically accustomed users in your home. We'd love to see LG issue an update for this display changing a few things and giving us an Off Switch for every part of the "behind your back" video processing. Many of the right ingredients are here, but for now, we have a display that comes frustratingly close before stumbling slightly in the final lap.

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
.
.
5

Screen Uniformity

.
.
.
.
.
5

Colour Accuracy

.
.
8

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
8

Video Processing

.
.
.
7

Picture Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Smart Features

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
.
.
.
.
5

Verdict

.
.
.
.
.
5
5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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