Design and Connections
The remote control is the standard glossy black model that LG uses with all its latest displays. Personally I like the LG remote, it is well designed with good ergonomics and a slick look; I found it comfortable to hold and intuitive to use with all the buttons sensibly laid out. There are controls for all the main functions including the aspect ratio, the AV mode, the input and the menu. It also appears that LG have moved the EPG button to a more sensible place on the remote which would suggest they have been listening to reviewer feedback. Of course for a lot of people the remote is somewhat irrelevant as they will be using a universal remote but if you don’t then I think you will be happy with the one supplied.
The main menu page gives you a series of eight options each represented by an appropriate icon. Aside from the Set Up, Picture and Audio options which I’ll come back to there is also the Time option which relates to setting the time as well as the timer and sleep mode functions and the Lock option which controls the parental lock. In addition there is Option which offers a series of generic controls for functions such as language, the Input option which obviously allows the user to change between inputs and label them and the USB option that allows the user to watch content via the USB input.
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 are Noise Reduction controls for both analogue and digital signals but I found they didn’t really improve the picture and were 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 should always be left On. The Colour Gamut offers a choice of Standard and Wide with Standard being the best to choose. The Edge Enhancer acts much like a Sharpness control and just like any other Sharpness control it should be left off.
Finally there is a Colour Management System that allows you to accurately calibrate the Colour Gamut. In the CMS that LG has built into the PK350 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 both the saturation and luminance and Tint which sets the hue.
I selected the Movie preset and performed a basic calibration on the PK350 by setting the brightness and contrast correctly, selecting the best Gamma and Colour Temperature settings, ensuring that any unnecessary video processing was turned off and that the Sharpness controls were set correctly so that they weren’t adding ringing or making the image softer.
The out of the box Colour Gamut performance was also quite good with overall DeltaEs of less than 5 for all the colours which is very good. The Luminance errors were all very low which is good because this is the error that is most noticeable and the same applied to the Hue measurements with the exception of Magenta. The Colour measurement showed that the image was a little saturated, especially in Green and Red but overall this is a very good result for a pre-calibrated setting. The addition of a Colour Management System should hopefully allow for an even more accurate performance.
Despite this problem I was able to use the two point White Balance control just as effectively and the resulting performance was superb with all the errors below 3 and most below 1. The Gamma was now tracking between 2.0 and 2.2 which is more appropriate for a display in a room with some ambient light. Overall this is a reference performance in terms of Greyscale accuracy and other manufacturers could really learn from LG’s example.
Although the Colour Management System doesn’t have separate controls for Luminance, Saturation and Hue the controls that are available do allow for a reasonable amount of flexibility. I was able to get the overall DeltaEs down to less than 3 for all the colours which is excellent and below the threshold at which the human can’t distinguish these errors. The error numbers for Luminance and Hue were excellent but the image was still slightly over-saturated in Blue, Green and Cyan (which makes sense since Cyan is a combination of Blue and Green). Overall this is a reference performance in terms of accurately reproducing Rec709 and once again LG are to be congratulated.
The performance of the PK350 in the video processing tests was very good. Using both my PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs I first checked the SMPTE colour bar test which the PK350 easily passed, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The PK350 also performed very well when it came to video deinterlacing with jaggies only appearing when the line was at a very extreme angle. In the second test the motion adaptive deinterlacing was also excellent with slight jaggies only appearing on the bottom line.
The PK350 also performed well in the film detail test and correctly locked on to the image resulting in no aliasing in the speedway seats in the familiar race car footage. In the cadence tests the PK350 correctly detected both the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format and the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. Finally the PK350 performed equally as well when handling film material with scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without any blurring or shredding.
The PK350 performed very well in the tests on the HQV Blu-ray 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 PK350 also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems. In addition to displaying 24p material, the PK350 also had no problems with 50Hz or 60Hz material.
I used my Spears and Munsil test disc to check the headroom performance of the PK350 from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) and there were no signs of clipping, in addition the PK350 also showed detail down to video level 17 with black below that. The PK350 also performed well on the other tests on this disc including tests for dynamic range, sharpness, contrast, greyscale and image cropping.
Overall the video processing performance of the PK350 was excellent and better than many of its more expensive competitors.
The input lag time was about 50ms which is surprisingly high, especially for a plasma. I have reviewed LCD displays with input lags from 10 to 80ms but the majority of plasmas that I have tested have very low lag times so I'm not entirely sure why the current crop of LG plasmas have such high input lags. Having said that I wasn't aware of the input lag during actual game play but it might be a little slow for hardened gamers.
Like all plasma displays the PK350 uses a self illuminating technology so the power consumption varies with the content shown on screen. Therefore high contrast white background material will use more power to create an image whilst darker scenes will use less. The highest measured figure with normal viewing content was 300 watts, the lowest was 180 watts and the average was 220 watts. The consumption figures at 0, 50 and 100 IRE rasters in the calibrated picture mode were 150 watts, 210 watts and 350 watts. The PK350 doesn’t have the most efficient energy consumption, even for a plasma but it’s average consumption number is quite good.
Blu-rays of course looked fantastic with the accurate Greyscale and natural colours really showing through and the 1080p image resolving plenty of fine detail. When watching 50Hz and 60 Hz material the pictures were free of any processing artefacts and there were also no issues when watching 24p content with the images free of any judder. As you'd expect from a plasma its handling of motion was excellent and this really showed through not only on Blu-rays but also on video games. The performance was equally impressive when displaying a 1080i Freeview HD image provided by an outboard tuner.
The internal Freeview decoder did a good job and the resulting picture was relatively free of compression artefacts on the channels that use a reasonable bandwidth. Thanks to the excellent scaling and deinterlacing in the PK350 standard definition images looked very good and were thankfully free of artefacts; DVDs in particular looked very impressive.
I didn't experience any problems with image flicker and the instances of image retention were quite rare, I certainly wasn't aware of any image retention when watching normal viewing content. Previous LG displays had suffered from unnecessary edge enhancement that couldn't be defeated but there appeared to be no such issues with the PK350.
This isn’t to say that the PK350’s image was perfect because it still suffered from a couple of minor issues. First there were some reflections off the screen but this seems to be an issue with all displays and it shouldn’t be a problem a long as you’re careful about ambient light. Secondly there was a bit of PWM noise but you can expect that from every plasma to some degree or another and it didn't cause any loss of sharpness nor was it noticeable at a sensible viewing distance.
Finally the PK350 suffered from LG’s usual underwhelming blacks which has always been their weakest link. The addition of the TruBlack Filter on their more expensive displays has certainly helped in this area but since the PK350 doesn’t have the TruBlack Filter its blacks can’t compare to many other plasmas that I've seen. Having said that I'm not expecting a Kuro at this price point and the blacks on the PK350 are still better than almost all LCD displays.
Overall I think that the picture quality on the PK350 and the resulting image was pleasing and natural no matter what the source.
- Very good out of the box performance in Movie mode
- Reference greyscale and colour reproduction when calibrated
- Excellent video processing
- Good build quality
- Full ISFccc calibration controls
- Very reasonable price
- No TruBlack filter so blacks are a bit lacking
- Appears to be a bug in 21 Point White Balance software
- Some PWM noise
- Occasional image retention
- Screen can suffer from reflections in rooms with excessive ambient light
- Higher input lag than usually found with plasmas
- No internet TV capability
- No DNLA streaming capability
LG PK350 (50PK350) Review
At this price point I would consider the PK350 to be the very definition of a Best Buy. You have a well made and attractively designed display that has a very accurate pre-calibrated setting as well as a comprehensive set of ISF calibration controls. Once properly calibrated the PK350 produces a reference quality performance in both Greyscale and Colour Gamut and the excellent video processing means that both standard definition and high definition images look fantastic. With this kind of performance, at this kind of price I strongly recommend that anyone who is thinking of buying a plasma on a limited budget should take a look at the PK350.
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