LG PG7000 (50PG7000) Plasma TV Review

We get hands on with LG's latest flag ship Plasma, which promises performance levels to match the best. Phil Hinton investigates

by Phil Hinton
TV Review

2

LG PG7000 (50PG7000) Plasma TV Review
SRP: £1,500.00

Introduction

LG are well known as a 'value for money' brand in the UK and offer plasma technology at prices which are certainly aimed at the mass market. So it is interesting that this latest TV from 'Life's Good' offers technology sometimes only seen in the higher end of the market. Can it compete on quality while remaining a value for money product?

The 50PG7000 is the flagship plasma from LG's 2008 range, and their first stab at a full HD (1920 x 1080) panel. The press information and glossy brochures highlight some of the sets unique features in detail and also miss out on some that they really should be promoting, such as the ISF ccc controls.

Design and Connections

Starting with the looks of the set and you would be hard pushed to find any real differences between the design of this TV and the company's 720p HD ready versions. It was planned that the PG7000 was to have had a silver bottom strip to signify a difference, but this seems to have been dropped in the UK. The actual front panel is a one sheet glass affair that goes from edge to edge with no frame edges protruding out. This gives the TV a sleek finish with the bottom bezel bending away from you towards the stand. There are no controls visible on the front and the power light looks like a smiling face in the bottom right hand corner. Sitting on an AV rack in our testing facilities the set did look very slick with its minimalist design lines. The HDTV also has an invisible speaker system, tuned by Mark Levinson

Around the back we have the main AV inputs gathered on the right hand side with the power socket on the left, almost central to the unit. The inputs are generous with four HDMI v1.3 sockets (three on the back and one side mounted), two scarts and one composite plus VGA, S-video and an RF cable connection for use with the DVB tuner. One interesting addition is an RS232 control port for the custom install market also situated on the rear of the set.
LG 50PG7000

The TV is shipped with a black stand for table mounting which allows a 30 degree swivel for moving the set to a desired off centre angle. The supplied remote control is also functional, if a little on the cheap, plastic side. Indeed it is identical to the remotes used with every TV in LG's range. The buttons are well placed and easy to see, with main controls situated at the top. Input selection is made by depressing the input button only, there are no separate input selection buttons for quick access. It is well laid out and after 10 minutes of use, quite intuitive. I however do not like what appears to be a leather like finish to the plastic under the keys, at least that is what I think it’s supposed to be. For the company’s top end HDTV I would have thought a nice machined metal remote would have been more fitting with the stunning design of the actual TV.

Using the remote to power up the screen we are met with what I can only describe as a colourful computer game like menu. It has large icons which are clear and concise as to what they do, and to be honest, perfect for the mass market that the set is aimed at. Selecting the picture settings as I always do to begin with, we are greeted with an expansive and well designed menu layout. You can select your aspect ratio which includes a just scan option for 1:1 pixel mapping (i.e. no overscan on full HD content, it uses the entire resolution), along with the traditional zoom, 16:9 and 4:3 settings. Underneath this is the picture mode selection which includes, 'Vivid, standard, cinema, sport, expert 1 and expert 2'. It is the expert controls that we are interested in here as they lead on to the full white balance and CMS controls, necessary to get the very best out of this TV. Indeed selecting expert 1 from factory default gives a very suitable image, which apart from a red push, looks fairly accurate. More on this later. Next it's time to set up all the channels via the DVB tuner, which in auto mode completes the task in around 5 minutes. This is a fairly accurate auto set up procedure which worked the same on the three occasions I tried it.

The EPG for the freeview channels, like the main menu screens, is a colourful affair and fairly straightforward and easy to use. Indeed apart from the vivid colour scheme and channel selection of six channels per screen, it works as well as any other EPG on the market.

So once the LG 50PG7000 had been running for a few hours it was time to look in detail at the best settings out of the box, as well as how accurate the ISF ccc controls are for calibration.

Test Results

Using the set in factory default mode to start with, I switched to the expert 1 setting and set the contrast, brightness and sharpness using test patterns. The results below are from the out of the box settings in Expert 1 and colour temperature standard.
Colour temperature out of the boxRGB out of the boxLuminance out of the box.
LG 50PG7000
LG 50PG7000

As you can see in the CIE chart the colour gamut is over the Rec709 HDTV standard with the temperature around the 7500k mark. The good thing is that the gamut looks like it is within acceptable distances, which should calibrate back towards the standard without any issues. The greyscale is also not overly bad, with red being about 10% under in the mix ratio across the board. Again as we have a full white balance system we should be able to get the greyscale as accurate as possible. So overall the results out of the box are not bad, although there will be some things seen in the uncalibrated image such as oversaturated green and red, resulting in blushed skin tones.
LG 50PG7000
LG 50PG7000

Moving on from the out of the box settings we set about trying to see how accurate we could get the image using the ISF ccc controls in a full ISF calibration.

As you can see after some work was put in with an ISF calibration, we managed to get the main areas pretty accurate. Greyscale from 20IRE to 100IRE is now ruler flat with DeltaE errors below 2 across the range. This is an excellent result and certainly gives us an accurate base to work from. Once set we moved to the colour management system and again were able to get the primary and secondary colour points accurate to the standards, and without losing any luminance values. Indeed there were no after effects with the greyscale either which just required a quick run through and retune. Again luminance (Gamma) was also accurately calibrated to 2.2 giving us an excellent calibration result in all the major picture areas.

We also checked the video processing results and apart from a strange setting when using HDMI (you can't change the cadence detection modes unless you connect via component) all the HQV and FPD benchmark tests were passed with only slight issues that didn’t affect the overall picture quality. So with calibration complete and video processing working like it should, we moved on to Picture performance.

Picture Quality

LG 50PG7000
What I want to cover first when it comes to picture quality, is the black level and contrast ratio. As we have seen in the market lately, this is becoming an important feature to get right, as the rest of your picture quality is based on how good your black levels are. What we probably have to bear in mind is the price of the PG7000 and that the best screens out there cost considerably more. Indeed the TV with the best contrast ratio and blacks, the LX5090 from Pioneer, is a good £900 SRP above the LG. (Obviously the LG will not sell anywhere near the SRP so the gap will be greater in real market terms.) And even the TVs with the next best black levels, the 42inch Panasonic's, are still a little more expensive than this 50 inch LG.

So do we get a black level that can challenge the best out there at any price point?

Well no, sadly the LG7000 couldn’t compete with either black level or contrast ratio. In all honesty, if LG had managed to hit the holy grail and produce Pioneer levels of black at this price point, something would have been seriously askew. The LG doesn't manage the infinite black levels claimed in the company's PR, but then again, it's not in the competing price bracket. (The screens in the attached photo are both ISF calibrated).

So do we get a black level that can challenge the best out there at any price point?

Well no, sadly

You may be wondering why black is so important. Well the deeper the black level the more accurate your image is. You get more depth, more accurate colours and richer picture quality. The contrast ratio of this screen suffers due to its black level not reaching the best on the market. However in every other area of performance this Plasma screen does compete with the rest of the market, and this is probably why I feel a little frustrated with its blacks.

With standard definition TV pictures through the freeview tuner, the image looks tidy and free from the most common artefacts. It will obviously depend on which channels you chose to watch and their quality of signal, but find a good one like any from the BBC and the PG7000 doesn’t disappoint. In out of the box settings as discussed above, images are watchable with greens and reds looking slightly over saturated but only really noticeable with strong use of these colours in the material. Watching ITV football coverage was a case in point for poor signals, with lots of image noise and the greens of the pitch looking too vibrant, almost like they had been featured in a miracle grow advert! DVD material was also acceptable with no issues being present when feeding interlaced signals into the LG. The image in expert 1 and out of the box is certainly watchable without any serious problems with colour inaccuracies.

Moving to calibrated mode improves the image as you would imagine and apart from the slightly lacklustre blacks in certain scenes, the image is very accurate. It’s when you get a picture looking as good as the LG does with HD, you begin to see the benefits of plasma technology. Fast moving images from the action scenes in 10,000BC on Blu-ray look sublime with no evidence of smearing or loss of detail.

There are however some traces of phosphor trails with some very fast moving objects. This is sometimes referred to as green or purple snakes and was occasionally noticeable in title sequences or fast moving white text against a black background. Most viewers will not notice it, however. Indeed during my film and TV viewing on the LG, I only really noticed it now and again and I was really looking out for it. Moving on and HD material from Sky was also impressive and in the majority of cases I saw no issues with the image quality.

However another slight problem I did get from time to time was image retention. Even in calibrated mode, the LG showed evidence of retention from DOGs (Digital Onscreen Graphics). For example the Sky News ticker tape was momentarily visible in the bottom black bar after changing to a 2.35:1 movie. It wasn't present for very long, but it was annoying and not something that should be an issue with a modern screen.

The LG manages a performance that is certainly higher than its price tag and also has features we would love to see on other screens out there. Though the black level is not quite up with the best to make this TV a complete success, for the money we would be surprised if you could get a 50 inch HDTV that comes close in all the other areas of performance.
The built in sound system with its invisible speakers manages to give a very acceptable performance, with no issues in audio reproduction. Obviously you are not going to get that full cinema surround sound with weight and wide soundstage, but if its just a case of watching normal TV without firing up the home cinema system for film soundtracks, the LG sounds nice and clear.

Verdict

6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Nice sleek design and one piece of glass over the front makes this a design statement.
  • CMS and Temp controls for ISF calibration
  • USB and Bluetooth technology
  • Good Video Processing for SD and HD signals
  • Handles 24fps material with ease
  • plenty of inputs for existing equipment

Cons

  • The black levels are disappointing
  • Phosphor trails are sometimes visible with very fast objects
  • Image retention can be a slight problem, even in calibrated modes.

LG PG7000 (50PG7000) Plasma TV Review

The LG PG7000 promised to deliver a high end performance and indeed features many of the technologies we always want to see from a consumer TV. The inclusion of ISF ccc is extremely welcome and its video processing is certainly above average with the variety of material we fed it. Colour accuracy once calibrated was also very good and the greyscale tracked accurately across the board. The new features like USB and Bluetooth will please those who want that kind of flexability and the built in speakers perform better than most. Even the DVB tuner manages to offer an above average performance with SD material.

So it was all looking so promising until the little issues began to appear. The phosphor trails might annoy a few who manage to see them with fast moving material (such as video games), and there is also a tendency to see image retention, even when in calibrated mode. Even though these issues are only seen now and again and the retention finally disappears, it is still disappointing that they are still an issue. But may be the biggest problem for most enthusiasts is the PG7000's lacklustre black levels which struggle to compete with other Plasma screens of the same size in the market. However, we have to remind ourselves of the price level we are talking about as well.

I have hopes that LG will listen to what has been found here in this review. I also have no doubt that they will listen to feedback from the consumers. And let me say this, they have managed to produce a TV with a lot of promise, and features that actually are important. So it is with some hope that their next models will incorporate the missing black level performance along with the fantastic features they have already delivered on here. Fingers crossed.

In rounding up all I can say is that the PG7000 promises a lot and almost delivers. What we get is a performance which suffers slightly from small issues that should not exist, and the black levels should be better. However that needs to be balanced against the area of the market LG are targetting with this TV and the fact that you just can't buy a 50 inch plasma from any other manufacturer at this price and performance point. There are better sets out there, which have better black levels, but you won't find them for under £1500.

Scores

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Smart Features

.
.
8

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
.
6

Picture Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Video Processing

.
.
.
7

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
.
7

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
7

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
.
.
.
4

Screen Uniformity

.
.
.
.
.
5
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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