Design & Connections
Menus & Setup
Fortunately, the same restriction doesn't apply to photos viewed over the USB input from a memory card reader or a thumb drive; and as a result, high-res images viewed in this way can look absolutely gorgeous on the big screen.
Bluetooth connectivity is supported, as usual, but personally I've yet to find a compelling use for this. It's also worth reminding readers here that the 50PK990 has a Freeview HD tuner built in, so users can enjoy HDTV over an aerial for no additional monthly fee.
Overall, the results were excellent for a preset mode, with most errors measuring under 2, making them almost unnoticeable. Correlated colour temperature hovered at around 6,000K in darker areas of the picture (making them appear very slightly too reddish) but closer to 6,500K in brighter parts.
Colour was less spectacular, but still an improvement on the highly serviceable THX mode. The TV's 2D CMS features “Colour” and “Tint” controls for all six primary and secondary colours; the “Colour” control affecting saturation and luminance together. Using these controls, it was possible to rectify all errors except for the slightly off-hue blue. This represents overall Excellent performance that will satisfy all but the staunchest videophiles.
While running the video processing tests on the 50PK990, the first thing I noticed was that even with an unscaled 1080p signal, there was some degree of ringing around fine details in the picture (this is even with the “Edge Enhancement” control turned off). Sadly, this is an almost entirely undefeatable problem with the LG 50PK990 that no amount of adjusting could cure: the TV's video processor applies some sort of sharpening to the image at all times. Reducing the Sharpness controls only blurred the already sharpened image rather than removing halos, like a correctly implemented control would.
There is one way to sidestep the sharpening, but it only works for certain types of signal. If you label the HDMI input you're feeding the TV with as “PC” and the input signal type is 1080p at 60hz, the TV will enter PC Mode and you'll be free from the ugly ringing. Unfortunately, you will also lose the effects of the Colour Management system, and of course, this won't work with European HDTV sources, because those are 50hz-based and the PC mode will only enable if the signal is 60hz. This also means that you cannot avoid the ringing if your Blu-ray Disc player is outputting 24p. This is not the first time that LG have introduced such a scenario: certain models from 2008 had different issues that disappeared in the PC mode. (Interestingly, the Sharpening is only applied to the Luminance portion of the picture; the Colour channels are left completely untouched).
Moving on, I tested how well the TV smoothed jaggies in interlaced material. The 50PK990 did a good job here, with all three of the rotating bars in the HQV test pattern appearing smooth, except at the edges, which is quite common. In real world usage, there were no unusually obvious problems with jaggedness. Unfortunately, the deinterlacing circuitry did not engage Film Mode during the PAL 2-2 Film test on the HQV test disc, which means that film-based content (such as high-budget dramas and, of course, films) will lose a little bit of vertical detail. For the US NTSC TV system, the 3-2 test passed, which is good news for owners of older (non-upconverting) DVD players and large US DVD collections.
Finally, the scaling (the actual resizing of the SD image to HD) did not throw away fine details. However, because the TV applies Sharpening to all signals unless it's in the PC Mode, it was hard to judge the quality of the scaling due to the added ringing.
Under normal conditions, input lag on the LG 50PK990 measured at around 60ms, which is unusually high for a Plasma display. Sadly, enabling the “PC” mode did not manage to cut this figure down. Even with this lag, though, the experience of playing games on a large-screen TV is a good one, and the perception of processing lag varies with the individual.
After calibration, the following power readings were taken from the LG 50PK990:
0 IRE (Black screen): 150 watts
50 IRE (Grey screen): 290 watts
100 IRE (White screen): 348 watts
One thing that isn't improved from previous LG PDPs, though, is image retention. During the review period, the 50PK990 would often suffer from visible retention even if the video causing it was only displayed for a short period of time (10 seconds or so). Image retention is where static on-screen images such as TV station logos or video game score counters leave shadows of themselves on the screen, even if they are no longer present in the video signal. Fortunately, none of the retention I encountered stuck around for too long, and cleaned up quickly after using LG's own “White Wash” pattern.
Overall, calibrated images look pleasing, but perceived detail takes a hit due to the additional Sharpening that LG have seen fit to include behind the scenes. Given the large size of this display, if this issue bothers you, then you would have to sit some distance back to avoid noticing the artefacts it introduces, which is hardly ideal. Test patterns are good for showing off this issue, but if you want a clearer indication of the effects of this processing, then here's a comparison showing something readers will be very familiar with – a web browser showing AVForums.com on the LG 50PK990. The image on the right shows it as rendered by this TV, whereas the image on the left shows what it would look like unprocessed. As you can see, the finest details that characterise the very best HD images (or in this case, make the text more readable) become smudged as a result of the processing.
On the plus side, the colour reproduction is excellent despite some very minor chromaticity errors (as illustrated on the triangular CIE charts earlier in this review), and the Greyscale tracking is essentially perfect. These two traits mean that images on the LG 50PK990 can still look very realistic.
- THX mode produces great Greyscale and Colour with the click of a button
- One of few TVs currently on the market with a Freeview HD tuner
- 20-point Greyscale calibration results in Reference quality Greyscale tracking
- Less panel generated noise than several other Plasma displays
- Image processing reduces the clarity of small details in the picture, which is counter-productive, especially on a High Definition TV
- Image retention is still an issue
- Input lag higher than several other Plasma displays
- YouTube and Picasa photo viewing quality is lowered since the calibrated picture settings can't be used
- Film Mode detection is not very robust; be sure to bring your own upscaling DVD player!
LG PK990 (50PK990) Plasma HDTV Review
Unfortunately, image retention is still an irritating issue, and intrusive video processing, while not entirely devastating, is completely unnecessary, especially on what is supposed to be a flagship model. Beyond these quirks, there's enough to like: colour accuracy is excellent, and the 20-point Greyscale calibration control brings Reference quality performance in this area. The THX mode also allows users who don't want to pay for calibration to see video quality that's nearly as good.
The biggest problem for LG, though, is that little of these strengths are unique to them any more. In the past, LG's calibration controls set them apart, especially from one other major Plasma manufacturer, but the competition has now caught up and has even outdone LG in the colour accuracy stakes. (LG's 20-point Greyscale calibration control is still a unique feature, though).
Ultimately, like so many things, your buying decision will come down to price. At around £1500, the 50PK990 is around £100-200 more expensive than Panasonic's mid-range TX-P50G20, which is a better display in just about every regard. Were LG's display to be cheaper, it would qualify for a recommendation based on its favourable attributes, but the truth is that there's at least one better display out there that can be had for less money - and thanks to LG's insistence on tampering with video signals, which does them absolutely no favours at all, there's likely to be more still to come.
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