The impetus behind LG's development of their Nano technology actually stemmed from a limitation in one of their previous designs. The LE8900 and the LX9900 were released last summer and both incorporated a full LED backlight with an ultra-slim chassis. The idea behind this design was to eliminate the clouding and uneven backlight that plagues displays using edge LED lighting but at the same time offer consumers a comparatively slim chassis. Overall we were quite impressed with these displays but there was one problem, due to the close proximity of the LED array to the panel itself, under certain circumstances, you could see the array causing banding. This was especially noticeable when a camera panned across a uniform background such as a football pitch during last year's World Cup.
Thus was born Nano technology which is essentially a filter that is placed between the LED and the panel. This filter serves two purposes, one it diffuses the light being produced by the LEDs which will hopefully eliminate the banding problems and, secondly, it should help reduce the haloing caused by local dimming. The 55LW980 is, along with its smaller 47" brother, the first LG display to utilise this new filter along with a full LED backlight. That isn't all though, because as LG's flagship LCD model the 55LW980 comes packed with just about every feature imaginable. Aside from the aforementioned Nano filter, full LED backlighting and Cinema 3D it also includes Smart TV, built-in WiFi, MCI 1000Hz, Dual Play, a Magic Motion remote control and Freeview HD. Of course being a Cinema 3D display, LG also throw in seven pairs of passive glasses which should accommodate all but the largest family.
There's no question that the LG 55LW980 is a feature packed display but can it deliver on its promises and can it justify its relatively high price? They say good things come to those who wait, so let's see if the 55LW980 has rewarded our patience...
Design and Connections
The overall colour scheme is unsurprisingly black with a black metal back and a black bezel surrounding the panel beneath the glass facia. This bezel is 2cm wide at the top and sides, and 4.5cm wide at the bottom and the whole glass facia has a clear plastic trim about 0.5cm wide around the entire outer edge of the chassis. Incredibly, the chassis itself is only 2.5cm deep which if nothing else proves that LG have succeeded in producing an ultra-slim display with full LED backlighting. The overall build quality is excellent and the entire display sits on a very solid stand that is made of black metal and glass. At the bottom right hand side of the screen 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.
The second remote control included with the 55LW980 is LG's Magic Motion remote control which is designed to navigate the Smart TV platform and is a motion sensitive device similar to the controller on a Nintendo Wii. It is slim, glossy and black too and we found it comfortable to hold and easy to use. There are a few basic buttons on the Magic Motion remote such as On/Off, Volume, Programme, Mute, Home, Up/Down/Left/Right and Enter. However it is mainly designed for point and click navigation within the Smart TV platform and for this we found it to be quite useful, although you will need a steady hand.
The relative cheapness of the glasses is a major advantage of the passive system and LG are currently including 7 pairs of passive glasses with every Cinema 3D display and, if you need any more, you can buy them for a few pounds. In fact, if you have any RealD glasses that you've brought home from the cinema you can even use those as an alternative because they use the same circular polarised technology. The glasses provided with the 55LW980 are light and comfortable to wear, come in different colours and don't require any batteries or syncing. This makes them much better suited to those that are not technically minded or to small children and if they are broken they are easy and cheap to replace. This is the major advantage of passive 3D over active shutter 3D and it allows those with a Cinema 3D display to invite large numbers of friends around to enjoy 3D without the enormous outlay that would be required with active shutter glasses.
Menus and Set Up
Once the main Setup menu has been accessed there are various sub-menus including Setup, Picture, Audio, Time, Lock, Option, Network and Support. The Setup sub-menu allows the user to tune in, set up and edit programmes for the EPG. The Audio sub-menu includes controls for setting up the sound mode, effects and volume level. As has become increasingly common with modern displays, as the chassis gets thinner so the sound gets worse. It's basic physics really, if you have tiny speakers that are hidden away in the bottom of the chassis and probably firing downwards you really can't expect great sound. As it is, thanks to some digital processing, the sound on the 55LW980 isn't too bad and is certainly adequate for basic programme watching. However if you're looking for that truly immersive film watching experience then you owe it to yourself to get some outboard amplification.
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 96 LED blocks that illuminate the screen and dims them depending on picture content in order to create deeper blacks.
The Expert Control also allows you to select the Colour Temperature, the choice is between Warm, Medium and Cool and here we found Warm to be the most appropriate. There is also a control for Gamma which provides a choice between 1.9, 2.2 and 2.4 and we initially chose the gamma of 2.2 which is the target we use in our reviews. The 55LW980 has both 2 point and 10 point White Balance controls, which you select under the heading Method and which should allow us to very accurately calibrate the greyscale and colour temperature.
Finally within Expert Control there is a Colour Management System (CMS) that should allow us to accurately calibrate the colour gamut. In the CMS that LG has built into the 55LW980 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 55LW980 is also 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.
Of course the 55LW980 has a built-in FreeviewHD tuner that is easy to setup and includes an EPG that is both sensibly laid out and intuitive to use. Our only complaint would be that it doesn't include a window for the channel you are currently on. There is also a recording and timer functionality that can be used in conjunction with an external HDD that can be connected via one of the USB sockets.
When it comes to sharing content, you can connect a digital camera, MP3 player or flash memory through the USB ports and then access the multimedia content via Smart Share on the Home dashboard. The 55LW980 also includes DivX HD and is DLNA compliant for streaming content. Finally, the 55LW980 includes LG's Dual Play feature which can be used with either the X-Box 360 or the PS3. The idea is that you purchase two pairs of special glasses, 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. Therefore when playing two player games, each player has a full screen image of their particular view rather than both views being squeezed into the same frame. It is quite a clever way of using the polarised technology for features other than just 3D.
As you can see from the graph below, the out-of-the-box greyscale performance was something of a disappointment with some quite sizable DeltaEs (errors). On the RGB Balance graph you can see that whilst green is reasonably close to our target of 100, blue is tracking about 15% too high and red is tracking about 15% too low. This will result in clear discolouration when viewing a stair step greyscale pattern and as such will impact on the overall colour accuracy of the 55LW980. However the gamma measurement is between 2.1 and our target of 2.2 which is better and the luminance of the gamma is also very good. Since the three primary colours are tracking in straight lines and since the 55LW980 includes a 10 point white balance control, we would expect to be able to noticeably improve the greyscale performance after calibration.
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 10 point white balance and a 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 it only took a few small tweaks of the CMS to get a nearly reference performance in terms of colour accuracy. As you can see on the CIE chart, white is now correctly measuring at D65 and the overall errors are one or less which is indistinguishable to the human eye. As always we would like to see LG upgrade their CMS so that you had independent controls for hue, colour and luminance but in all fairness this is an excellent result and there isn't much more you could do to improve it what is an already excellent performance.
This year has been a mixed bag as far as video processing goes with many manufactures being unable to even detect 2:2 cadence correctly. In fact, as things stand, LG is at the head of the pack in terms of video processing with all of their current models being able to pass our review process. Of course as LG's flagship model, the 55LW980 was no exception and had excellent video processing that performed very well in all of our tests.
As usual we started with our PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs and first of all we checked the SMPTE colour bar test which the 55LW980 easily passed, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The 55LW980 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 55LW980 performed well in the film detail test and correctly locked on to the image resulting in no aliasing. In the cadence tests the 55LW980 also correctly detected both the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format and the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. The 55LW980 also correctly displayed film material with both horizontal and vertical scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without any blurring or shredding.
The 55LW980 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 55LW980 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 we checked the headroom performance of the 55LW980 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 55LW980 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 55LW980 has LG's new Motion Clarity Index 1000Hz (MCI 1000) feature which is just the latest version of their TruMotion interpolation software and it's still called that in the menus. Whatever it’s called, the concept is the same, to increase the refresh rate to improve motion handling and reduce blurring. Using the FPD Benchmark Software disc's scrolling resolution chart the 55LW980 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 55LW980 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.
For some reason the input lag on LG displays this year have been quite high with some measuring a delay of over 90ms even in Game mode. To their credit LG have been working on this and have released firmware updates in an effort to reduce the input lag. On the 55LW980 we measured an input lag of 45ms in Game mode which, whilst a lot better than some other LG displays this year, might still be a bit slow for the serious gamer. We tried naming the input PC - as some on the forums have done - but we found this made no difference to the measurement. It's a pity that LG can't get the input lag below 20ms because, as we mentioned earlier, 3D gaming is incredible with passive displays and if you include LG's Dual Play feature then the 55LW980 would be a choice item for hard core gamers.
As far as energy consumption is concerned the 55LW980 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 wold expect the numbers to be good. However an average measurement of 100W 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 55LW980 could be the one for you.
Picture Quality - 2D
With standard definition content the excellent deinterlacing and scaling came to the fore, resulting in some very nice images. The built-in Freeview tuner was able to produce some very nice standard definition material but as always the ultimate determinant of quality was the bandwidth being used by the broadcaster. The larger the screen the more obvious the macro blocking on Freeview broadcasts and for this reason DVDs in particular looked much better due to less compression artefacts.
Once we moved on to high definition content the 55LW980 was able to come into its own and thanks to the excellent deinterlacing, Freeview HD broadcasts at 1080i looked very nice, with minimal artefacting and plenty of high resolution detail. Moving on to Blu-rays and the 55LW980 had no problems with 1080p24 content, the resulting images delivered loads of detail and smooth judder free motion that had a very pleasant film-like quality. Again, because of the excellent greyscale and colour accuracy the images had a natural appearance with realistic flesh tones. The off-axis performance was also very good which means the 55LW980 probably uses an IPS LCD panel.
Of course the big question was how did the Nano filter perform and here the results weren’t quite as cut and dried. Our initial impressions were very good and thanks to the Nano filter we weren’t seeing any of the banding that plagued last year’s full LED backlit models. We also weren’t seeing any of the clouding or unevenness in the backlight that ruins so many LED TVs that use edge lighting. What we were seeing was a bright image, with a nice even backlight which resulted in a very nice high definition picture, especially during the day. The problem was that in dark scenes, especially in a darkened environment the blacks were very poor, in fact with the localised dimming off we were measuring black at 0.25cd/m2.
Besides the Nano filter, itself, the other development on the 55LW980 is the local dimming designed to help improve the blacks. This certainly worked and once you engaged the Low setting the blacks immediately improved, now measuring 0.05cd/m2. If you used the Medium or High settings (there didn’t appear to be any real difference between the two settings) the black levels now measured 0.00cd/m2 on both which is to be expected if all the LEDs are essentially turned off. The problem with local dimming is that the blocks of LEDs result in ‘haloing’ which is very obvious when looking at images off-axis. This was especially true on the higher settings where light objects against a dark background would emit an unearthly glow. Despite LG initially announcing that the 55LW980 would have 288 LED blocks, in actual fact the display only has 96 LED blocks and this might well explain the obvious haloing. Of course the only way to really eliminate the problem of haloing is to have an individual illumination for each pixel and there already is such a technology - it’s called plasma!
We found that using the Low setting for local dimming would result in good blacks with the minimum of haloing and to a certain extent the resulting images were very good with an impressive dynamic range and plenty of shadow detail. Unfortunately there was now another problem, the banding that was absent when the local dimming was off had returned once we activated it. The blocks of LEDs behind the Nano filter would on occasion be visible and we can only assume that this is also a result of the reduced number of LED blocks that LG actually used on the 55LW980. It would seem that users are faced with the choice of no banding but poor blacks or great blacks and occasional banding. It’s debatable how many users would notice either the banding or the haloing but obviously it is our job to draw people’s attention to these issues and then let them make up their own mind. As always our suggestion is that if you are thinking of buying the 55LW980, you demo it first
Picture Quality - 3D
As is always the case with 3D, there are a number of barriers that can prevent the experience from being both immersive and enjoyable. The first is brightness - or rather the lack of it - and this is one of the main complaints that people have about 3D at the cinema. Thankfully, TVs and especially LCD TVs, have far more brightness than a cinema projector, which when combined with the passive polarised glasses resulted in a wonderfully bright and punchy 3D image. These passive polarised glasses also have another benefit in that there is no flicker to distract you or cause eye fatigue and they are very lightweight so you forget you’re wearing them. As mentioned earlier they also have the benefit of being very cheap, not having to sync and not using batteries or needing to be charged.
The other barrier to enjoyable 3D is crosstalk which is when one eye is seeing the image meant for the other eye. This tends to be more of an issue with active shutter 3D where the refresh rate of the glasses isn’t fast enough but is far less of a problem with passive displays. In fact, in all the time that we used the 55LW980 for 3D viewing we never had any problems with crosstalk, even on difficult content.
The upshot of all this was that watching Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was nothing short of a revelation. Whilst the film has excellent 3D we found that the experience of watching it on the 55LW980 had far more impact than watching it on our JVC X3 projector. There is no doubt that this is in part due to the increased brightness which gave the images far more dynamic range in 3D. The absence of crosstalk and the reasonable screen size drew you in and each frame seemed to be full of depth. People often comment on the lower resolution of the passive approach but at no point were we aware of this and, in fact, quite often we found ourselves marvelling at the amount of detail we could see.
Thanks to the polarised glasses any of our concerns about black levels just weren’t 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 display. In conclusion all we can say is that whilst we’ve seen some very impressive 3D technology over the last year, the 55LW980 was undoubtedly the most fun we’ve had to date.
- Reference greyscale and colour after calibration
- 3D images are bright and flicker free
- No discernable crosstalk
- 3D glasses are cheap, comfortable to wear and easy to use
- Excellent video processing
- Good off-axis performance
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Built-in WiFi and Freeview HD tuner
- Impressive internet and streaming capability
- Menu system is well designed and intuitive
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Very low energy consumption
- Native black levels are quite poor
- Obvious 'haloing' when using local dimming
- Some banding when using local dimming
- Unable to display full 1080p 3D images
- Input lag too high for serious gamers
- HDMI inputs too near the edge of the chassis
- Lack of a dedicated setup button is frustrating
- Very expensive compared to similar models
LG LW980 (55LW980T) Full HD LED LCD 3D TV Review
As is the case with all LG displays, the 55LW980 has a comprehensive set of calibration controls and whilst the out-of-the-box performance could have been better, the calibrated results were excellent. In fact, our only real comment here would be to add a dedicated setup button on the remote to speed up the calibration process. Otherwise the greyscale and colour accuracy was first class and the resulting images were natural and realistic. The quality of LG's video processing has also been impressive this year and the excellent deinterlacing and scaling resulted in some very nice images on the 55LW980 regardless of whether the content was standard or high definition.
So far so good and on first impressions the addition of the Nano filter appeared to be a success too. We certainly weren’t seeing any of the banding that plagued last year’s full LED backlit models and we also weren’t seeing any of the clouding or unevenness in the backlight that ruins so many edge lit LED TVs. What we were seeing was a bright image with a nice even backlight but unfortunately we were also seeing some quite poor blacks. This could be improved by engaging the local dimming but this did introduce haloing, especially on the higher settings. We found that using the Low setting for local dimming got the best results but there was now another problem, the banding that was absent when the local dimming was off had returned once we activated it. It’s debatable how many people would notice either the banding or the haloing but if you're thinking of buying the 55LW980 we would recommend demoing it before making a decision. Despite LG initially announcing that the 55LW980T would have 288 LED blocks, in actual fact the display only has 96 LED blocks. This might well explain the haloing and banding experienced when local dimming is engaged.
We had no such reservations about the 3D performance and once again we found ourselves bowled over by LG's Cinema 3D. The 3D images produced by the 55LW980 were bright, crosstalk free and highly immersive, thanks in part to the larger screen. The lack of flicker resulted in a far more comfortable 3D experience and we never once found ourselves aware of a loss in resolution. In fact, whether the 3D was delivered via broadcast, Blu-ray or games we always found the experience to be both enjoyable and engaging. Speaking of gaming, the input lag measured at 45ms which isn't bad but might be a bit high for hard core gamers. In both 2D and 3D the off-axis performance was very good and the energy consumption was remarkable for a screen of this size.
Ultimately we have no reservations in recommending the LG 55LW980 based on the overall image accuracy, impressive list of features and the quality of the 3D. However, it isn't cheap and if you're thinking of buying one we advise you to demo it first to make sure you're happy with the black levels (dimming off) or the banding issues (dimming on) prior to purchase.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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