Not that this is the first time LG have tried to enter the higher end of the market - last year, after lengthy delays, they launched their much hyped Nano TV on an expectant public. Unfortunately, it's fair to say that the launch wasn't handled well and the arrival of the LW980 was overshadowed by technical issues, changed specs and high prices. The main issue was that the much heralded Nano technology didn't completely eliminate the LW980's banding problems, especially when local dimming was engaged. Unfortunately, without the local dimming the native blacks were very poor and with the local dimming there was obvious 'haloing'. This in turn seemed to be related to a change in the number of dimming zones, which were mysteriously reduced from the 288 found on the Korean version to a mere 96 by the time the TVs arrived on our shores. Throw in some rather limited stocks and a higher than expected price tag and the result was something of a PR train wreck.
Undeterred by this setback, LG have returned this year with another product aimed squarely at the higher end of the market. The LM960 is their flagship TV, at least until they release their 55" OLED screen later this year, and incorporates many of the technological advances found on last year's LW980. There's a full LED backlight array, a Nano filter, local dimming, Cinema 3D and the latest incarnation of their Smart TV platform. Not to be outdone, the designers have been busy too, reducing the bezel to a mere 5mm and incorporating an all too familiar stand. The good news is that LG appear to have listened to our feedback on the LW980 and incorporated some improvements, the bad news is that the LM860 didn't fare so well when we reviewed it a couple of weeks ago. So will the LM960 deliver the kind of performance expected of a display costing nearly £2,900? Let's find out...
Design and Connections
The chassis itself is only 2cm deep for most of its length, although it widens out to 4cm at the bottom where the speakers are housed. Around the outer edge is a brushed metal strip, along the bottom is a 4cm wide brushed metal strip with an LG logo on it and the rear of the chassis is made of black metal. The chrome stand bears more than a passing resemblance to Samsung's 'quad foot', although LG's version looks more like a downhill skier. At the bottom right hand side of the screen (to the rear) there are some basic touch sensitive controls including On/Off, Volume, Programme, Home and Enter. At the rear - on the left hand side as you face the screen - are the connections and on the right hand side there’s the power cable. As is becoming increasingly common on these ultra slim displays, the power cord is hard wired to the rear of the chassis. This wouldn't be so bad if the cord was reasonably long, but at only 1.5m it might be too short for a lot of installations. There is a small access panel where you can rewire a longer power cord but a genuine detachable cable would be more user friendly for most people.
Menus & Setup
The Setup sub-menu allows the user to tune in, set up and edit programmes for the EPG. The Sound sub-menu includes controls for setting up the sound mode, effects and volume level. Despite the decidedly slim dimensions of the chassis, the sound on the 55LM960 was surprisingly good. We have become used to the generally poor audio on modern TVs but the 55LM960 surprised us with a level of sound quality that surpassed many of its competitors. Whilst it obviously isn't the same as having a proper surround setup or even a decent soundbar, it was certainly good enough for general TV watching and dialogue was always clear. However despite the reasonable sound quality, given the screen size and price tag, we would recommend investing in some form of outboard amplification and speakers.
Within each Picture Mode there are standard controls such as Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness, Colour and Tint, as well as a Picture Reset function. However within the isf Expert1 or Expert2 modes there is also the Expert Control option which gives the professional calibrator access to an impressive array of picture controls. The TruMotion control activates the frame interpolation function and has a choice between Off, Low, High and User. As the name suggests, the LED Local Dimming controls the LED blocks that illuminate the screen and dims them depending on picture content in order to create deeper blacks.
Within Expert Control there is also a Dynamic Contrast control which seeks to boost the contrast ratio by changing the Brightness and Contrast settings but we recommend you leave that off. There are also Noise Reduction and MPEG Noise Reduction controls that we didn't really improve the picture and were also best left off. The Black Level function can be set to Low or High depending on your requirements and the Real Cinema function controls the deinterlacing of film based material and, where possible, should always be left on. The Colour Gamut offers a choice of Standard and Wide as well as industry standards like EBU, SMPTE and BT709. Finally the the Super Resolution and Edge Enhancer controls act much like additional sharpness controls and just like most other sharpness controls they should be left off.
Finally within Expert Control there is a Colour Management System (CMS) that should allow us to accurately calibrate the colour gamut. The CMS on the 55LM960 is another example of LG listening to our feedback and they have finally included separate controls for luminance (brightness), saturation (colour) and tint (hue). There are also controls for the three primary colours (Red, Green and Blue) and the three secondary colours (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow). LG are to be congratulated for including a full CMS and this should allow use to calibrate the colour gamut very accurately.
Since the 55LM960 is a 3D display there is also a menu for all the 3D settings which can be accessed via a dedicated 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 2D to 3D conversion, side by side, top and bottom, checkerboard and frame sequential. There is also a control for adjusting the depth and viewpoint of the 3D effect when converting from 2D to 3D. Additional 3D menus can be selected whilst actually watching 3D content, these can be accessed using the Q.Menu button on the remote.
LG, along with a number of other manufacturers have realised that one of the reasons 3D hasn't been as popular as they'd hoped is the general lack of content. To address this, LG have upgraded their previous 3D Zone app to 3D World which now occupies an entire card on the Home page. At present there are around 70 things to watch encompassing entertainment, sports, documentary, kids and lifestyle and it’s free! The only problem is that it is somewhat dependent on your broadband speeds but there is certainly some interesting content available that allows the 55LM960 to show off its 3D capabilities. There’s also most of the usual 2D video on demand services such as BBC iPlayer (coming soon), YouTube and Lovefilm, although the sooner LG add Netflix, the better. If you’re a member of the social networking generation and can't get through your favourite TV programme without chatting to your friends, there's Facebook and Twitter present and correct. However, you'll need to purchase a separate camera/mic attachment, (AN-VC400) if you want to take things one stage further on Skype and chat to people face to face.
The support of audio files is fairly comprehensive and includes AC3, EAC3, HAAC, AAc, MPEG, MP3, PCM and DTS. The 55LM960 has built-in WiFi and is DLNA compliant but it also has WiFi Direct (WiDi) which allows it to connect directly to similar devices without going through your router. Thanks to these features, media streaming is relatively easy to achieve and you’re not limited to files on a PC as the 55LM960 will happily communicate with a Mac, smartphones and tablets. We downloaded the latest remote app (both iOS and Android versions) and found the interface to be reasonably effective, although a lot of features appeared to be 'coming soon' and overall we weren't as impressed as we had been with Panasonic's version.
Finally, the 55LM960 includes LG's Dual Play feature which can be used with either the X-Box 360 or the PS3. This feature requires you to use the special glasses included, where on pair has polarised lenses going one way and the other pair has polarised lenses going the other way. The result is that when you look at the screen you only see one 540p image and so using the Dual Play function, each player sees only his view on the screen.
As you can see from the CIE Chart to the right, the overall colour accuracy was also something of a disappointment. The luminance measurements were all too low and there were some sizeable errors in the saturation of red, blue and unsurprisingly magenta. All the secondary colours were showing some quite large errors in hue and overall the errors were large enough to be noticed. The rather poor greyscale was obvious from the large error in white and the fact that white was clearly missing the target of D65. Some of these errors, especially the ones related to the secondary colours, might be the result of the greyscale but thanks to the new full colour management system, we should be able to correct all the errors.
As mentioned previously, the Cinema and Expert modes all gave the same out-of-the-box measurements but the Expert modes offer more calibration controls, specifically a 20 point white balance and a full colour management system (CMS). We chose to use Expert1 for these measurements but Expert2 would give the same results. A professional calibrator would most likely use Expert1 as a Day mode and Expert2 as a Night mode before locking the calibrated settings.
After calibrating the greyscale we saw an immediate improvement in the colour gamut and thanks to the full colour management system we were able to produce a nearly reference performance in terms of colour accuracy. As you can see on the CIE chart, white was now correctly measuring at D65 and the overall errors were one or less with the exception of blue. Unfortunately there was nothing we could do about the slight under saturation of blue, green and magenta because even with a full CMS, you can't add what isn't there. However all the luminance measurements were spot on and the minor errors in the hue of red and blue were not noticeable, resulting in a very accurate colour gamut.
LG have normally performed very well in these tests and we were glad to see that the 55LM960 was no exception. We started with the SMPTE 133 pattern which revealed cleanly scaled 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The 55LM960 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 on the HQV disc. 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 55LM960 also performed well in the film detail test and correctly locked on to the image resulting in no aliasing. In the cadence tests the 55LM960 correctly detected both the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format and the 2:2 (PAL - European) format and also quite a few obscure ones. The 55LW980 also had no problems handling film material with both horizontal and vertical scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without any blurring or shredding.
With our Blu-ray 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 55LM960 also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems.
Using the S&M disc we checked the headroom performance of the 55LM960 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 55LM960 also correctly showed detail down to a video level 17 and reference black below that to video level 0, as long as you had Black level set to High. If you used the Low setting the blacks will appear darker but you will be crushing them and you will lose shadow detail.
The 55LM960 includes LG's Motion Clarity Index 1000Hz (MCI 1000) feature which is called Tru-Motion in the menu and is designed to increase the refresh rate to improve motion handling and reduce blurring. Using the FPD Benchmark Software disc's scrolling resolution chart the 55LM960 measured around the 400 line mark without TruMotion enabled. This is a pretty good result for an LCD and things improved with TruMotion set to Low with the 55LM960 measuring around 700 lines. At the High setting and when set to High the motion resolution really improved with over 900 lines, which is excellent. Unfortunately, activating the TruMotion function results in the dreaded 'soap opera' effect and even on the Low setting film immediately looked like video. We would recommend leaving it off with film based content, although it can prove useful for better motion clarity on fast paced sports broadcasts.
LG have struggled with input lag over the last year and unfortunately the 55LM960 continued the trend in this area, delivering an input lag measurement of 100ms in Game mode. This corresponds to the measurements taken in our review of the 47LM860, which had an input lag of 101ms. Clearly for hardcore gamers, this input lag is far too high and precludes the 55LM960 being used for any kind of serious gaming. Also for some reason the local dimming feature is disabled in Game mode, although it is available when playing a 3D game or when using 2D to 3D conversion. It's a pity that LG can't get their act together in this area because, as we mentioned before, 3D gaming is incredible with passive displays and if you include LG's Dual Play feature then the 55LM960 would be a great choice for serious gamers.
As far as energy consumption is concerned the 55LM960 is incredibly efficient for a screen of this size. Obviously, due to the nature of the technology, LCD uses less energy than plasma and LED backlighting is more efficient than CCFL so we would expect the numbers to be good. However an average measurement of 110W in calibrated mode is excellent for a 55" screen. When we went into 3D mode the brightness increased which pushed the energy consumption up but even then it only averaged 140W, which is still very good. Certainly if you're looking for a big screen TV without a big carbon footprint, then the 55LM960 could be the one for you.
Picture Quality - 2D
We can't say were were surprised by the black levels because they have never been LG's strong point but they were very poor even for a LCD TV and measured 0.25 cd/m2 in their native form. Due to the poor black levels, shadow detail also suffered, making it difficult to distinguish details in dark scenes. Thankfully the 55LM960 does include local dimming, although after last year's debacle, LG are unsurprisingly being very cagey about the actual number of zones. The local dimming certainly helped and it is fair to say that the black levels are hard to tolerate without engaging it to some degree. The good news is that the local dimming appears to be better implemented on the 55LM960 than on the 47LM860, perhaps due to the Nano filter. There was some haloing, of course, but it was less noticeable than on previous models, even in high mode and to get a half decent black level you really needed to engage the high mode. The problem with aggressive local dimming is that aside from halos, you also suffer from a loss of detail, especially in dark films but generally this was preferable to the weak native blacks.
Whilst the problem of weak blacks was largely expected, the second problem came as something of a surprise because despite the presence of a full array backlight and the Nano filter, the backlight uniformity was very poor. In fact we could see the clouding and light pooling in the corners, even in bright scenes. Considering that last year's 55LW980 had a very even back light and no light spill at the edges or corners, this is a step backwards for LG. Clearly this is an issue that LG needs to address because the whole point of having a full array backlight is to avoid the kind of uniformity issues that plague LCDs that use LED edge lighting. The good news is that the 55LM960 didn't appear to suffer from the array banding that manifested on the 47LM860, nor was there as much dirty screen effect (DSE), although there was some in evidence.
Given the poor blacks, uneven backlight and compromised dynamic range, the 55LM960 was relying on it's image accuracy, superb video processing and inherent panel luminance to deliver the goods in terms of 2D performance. Thankfully, the 55LM960 had no trouble in hitting 200 cd/m2 even in its calibrated Expert mode, which means it certainly has brightness to spare, making it ideal for more challenging rooms where light control isn’t possible. The viewing angles were also very good, even approaching plasma levels at times. The contrast did become a little washed out at extreme angles but given the weak black levels to start with, it was hardly noticeable with most normal content.
The excellent scaling meant that standard definition looked very watchable but it was with high definition content that the 55LM960 was able to come into its own and, at times, it looked truly stunning with beautifully realised and detailed pictures filling the screen. Unfortunately the problems with black levels and screen uniformity were always present and as a result even the areas where the 55LM960 excelled were always diminished. There have been reports of motion trails with 24p content on the 55LM960 but we didn't experience this problem with our review sample. However we did experience the occasional judder on 24p material, which whilst infrequent could be annoying when spotted.
We happened to have the Panasonic P55VT50 in for review at the same time as the 55LM960, which allowed us the opportunity to directly compare the two. We appreciate that the P55VT50 is a plasma and the 55LM960 is a LED LCD TV and we understand that there are some people who just don't like plasmas but we feel it is a valid comparison. The difference in black levels between the two was quite shocking and even with the 55LM960's local dimming set to high, the P55VT50 was vastly superior. Not only that, in dark scenes the P55VT50 retained all the shadow detail whilst the 55LM960 was a grey mess. In fact, with the exception of brightness, the P55VT50 wiped the floor with the 55LM960 in every aspect of image quality from motion handling to picture detail and from image accuracy to dynamic range. However, what made these differences all the more striking was the fact that the P55VT50 is £600 cheaper than the 55LM960!
Picture Quality - 3D
Aside from a degree of consumer apathy, 3D's other problem has been a lack of quality content but when done correctly the results can be incredible. So it was with Hugo which, in the hands of a master filmmaker like Martin Scorsese is a remarkable 3D experience that the 55LM970 could fully replicate. This is due in part to the increased brightness which gave the images far more dynamic range in 3D but the absence of crosstalk and the reasonable screen size also helped. I was mesmerised by the incredible layering in each shot, the imaginative use of depth and the solidity of objects within the frame. People often comment on the lower resolution of the passive approach but at no point was I aware of this and, in fact, quite often I found myself marvelling at the amount of detail I could see.
Thanks to the polarised glasses all of our concerns about black levels and screen uniformity on the 55LM960 were far less of an issue in 3D and the menu allows you to choose between Standard, Cinema or User settings. This means you can either go for a brighter but less accurate image or you can go for a more accurate but slightly dimmer image. You even have the choice of the User setting if you want to calibrate the 3D image but with 3D we tend to find that brightness and lack of crosstalk are the two most important elements.
As always we found 3D gaming to be fantastic fun on a passive display with the lack of flicker making long gaming sessions far more comfortable and the fast movement in some game play was also better rendered. The other big advantage of passive 3D is a very wide angle of viewing along a horizontal plane which, along with the cheap glasses, makes watching spectator events much easier. However it should be noted that passive 3D has quite a narrow viewing angle in the vertical plane so bear that in mind when installing the 55LM960. In conclusion all I can say is that whilst I’ve seen some very impressive 3D displays of late, LG's passive approach remains the most fun.
- Reference greyscale and colour after calibration
- Effective filter keeps contrast in bright environments
- 3D images are bright and free of flicker and crosstalk
- 3D glasses are cheap, comfortable to wear and easy to use
- Video processing
- Good off-axis performance
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Built-in WiFi, Freeview HD and satellite tuner
- Impressive internet and streaming capability
- Layout of Home Page is excellent
- Menu system is well designed and intuitive
- Magic Motion remote works really well
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Very low energy consumption
- Out-of-the-box performance could be better
- Native black levels and contrast are mediocre
- Obvious light pooling in the corners of the screen
- Some judder to motion at times
- Unable to display full 1080p 3D images
- Input lag remains a problem for gamers
- HDMI inputs too near the edge of the chassis
- Very expensive compared to similar models
LG LM960 (55LM960V) 55 Inch 3D LED LCD TV Review
The main remote control is well designed and comfortable to hold and we're pleased to see that LG have added a button to directly access the setup menu. There is also a Magic Motion remote included, which seemed more precise than last year and we actually found it useful for navigating the Smart TV features. Since the 55LM960 includes LG's Cinema 3D system, there are five pairs of passive 3D glasses included as well as two pairs of Dual Play glasses. The menu system on the 55LM960 is well designed, comprehensive, easy to navigate and responsive, which makes setting up the 55LM960 very easy. It also includes LG's Picture Wizard, which is a excellent feature that allows you to optimise the picture for your specific viewing environments.
The 55LM960 has built-in WiFi and is DLNA compliant but it also has WiFi Direct (WiDi) which allows it to connect directly to similar devices without going through your router. Thanks to these features, media streaming is relatively easy to achieve and the support of audio files is fairly comprehensive and you are also not limited to files on a PC as the 55LM960 will happily communicate with a Mac, smartphones and tablets. We downloaded the latest remote app (both iOS and Android versions) and found the interface to be reasonably effective, although a lot of features appeared to be 'coming soon'.
We really like LG’s new layout of their Home page, which acts as a hub through which everything else is connected and which can be accessed directly from both remotes. We found navigating the Home page was very easy, especially using the Magic Motion controller, and the system was quick and responsive. All the content is very accessible and is clearly presented using a ‘card’ style format for the different categories – Premium, 3D World, LG Smart World and Smart Share. There’s most of the usual video on demand services, as well as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and a host of other apps and features including 3D content.
LG have always included fairly comprehensive calibration controls on their displays but this year they have gone one better and now include a full colour management system (CMS) that allows the user to adjust all three aspects of colour for the primary and secondary colours. Once you include the 20 point white balance control, that makes for an impressive set of calibration features. Whilst the out-of-the-box performance was rather average, especially compared to previous LG TVs, the 55LM960 could deliver a reference level of accuracy after calibration. As we would expect from an LG, the video processing on the 55LM960 was also good and it performed well in all of our tests.
So far, so good but when you're aiming your new display at the high end market, what really matters is the picture quality and here the 55LM960 let itself down in two very important areas - black levels and backlight uniformity. We can't say were were surprised by the black levels because they have never been LG's strong point but they were very poor even for a LCD TV. The local dimming certainly helped and appears to be better implemented than on the 47LM860 but there was still some haloing, although it was less noticeable than on previous models. The problem with aggressive local dimming is that aside from halos, you also suffer from a loss of detail, especially in dark films but generally this was preferable to the weak native blacks.
Whilst the problem of weak blacks was largely expected, the second problem came as something of a surprise because despite the presence of a full array backlight and the Nano filter, the backlight uniformity was very poor. In fact we could see the clouding and light pooling in the corners, even in bright scenes. The good news was that the 55LM960 didn't appear to suffer from the array banding that manifested on the 47LM860, nor was there as much dirty screen effect (DSE), although there was some in evidence. There have been reports of motion trails on 24p content with the 55LM960 but we didn't experience this problem with our review sample. However we did experience the occasional judder on 24p material, which whilst infrequent could be annoying when spotted.
On a more positive note, the 55LM960 had brightness to spare, making it ideal for more challenging rooms where light control isn’t possible and the viewing angles were also very good, even approaching plasma levels at times. The excellent scaling meant that standard definition looked very watchable but it was with high definition content that the 55LM960 really delivered, resulting in some stunningly detailed images at times. Unfortunately the problems with black levels and screen uniformity were always present and as a result even the areas where the 55LM960 excelled were diminished.
Whilst we may have had some reservations about the 2D performance, we were very impressed with the 55LM960's 3D performance. We found watching 3D content on the 55LM960 to be a highly enjoyable experience, due in part to the increased brightness which gave the images far more dynamic range. The presence of the glasses also improved the perceived black levels and the absence of crosstalk and flicker, coupled with the screen size gave the 3D more impact. There was a genuine solidity to objects within the frame, as well as real sense of depth and despite the lower resolution of the passive approach, at no point did we find this diminished our enjoyment. Thanks to Cinema 3D gaming on the 55LM960 could be a real pleasure and the inclusion of Dual Play is a great idea and a clever way of using the passive technology for something other than 3D. Unfortunately an input lag of 100ms, even in Game mode, precludes the 55LM960 from the serious gamer, who would otherwise be an obvious target for this display. Since the 55LM960 uses LEDs, we would expect the energy consumption to be good and it was, measuring 110W in its calibrated 2D mode and 140W in its 3D mode.
Whilst LG are to be applauded for their ambition, if they really want to take the higher end by storm, they will need to get the basics right. There is no point in producing a TV that has striking design looks, comprehensive calibration controls and an impressive Smart TV platform, if the picture quality is being hampered by basic issues with black levels and backlight uniformity. LG need to concentrate on improving the panel design first before they add all the bells and whistles; if they can do that then they will have a product to contend with. Unfortunately despite its high end price, the 55LM960 is currently not offering enough high end performance and this was made all the more obvious in direct comparison with the reference Panasonic P55VT50, which is £600 cheaper!
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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