LG PS7000 (50PS7000) Plasma TV Review

LG continues to show other manufacturers how calibration control and value for money are done.

by AVForums
TV Review

15

LG PS7000 (50PS7000) Plasma TV Review
SRP: £999.00

Introduction

LG's attitude to Plasma technology is refreshing. Despite their position in the market as a value-based company, the Korean firm hasn't gone down the route of producing only Liquid Crystal TVs. LG's 2008 plasmas defied their low price tags with a stunning array of calibration options, but have frustratingly fallen short of AVForums recommendation due to inherent video processing and contrast shortcomings. Let's see if this year's LG 50PS7000 raises the bar.

The display is a Full HD 1920x1080p Plasma with 4 HDMI inputs, and a digital terrestrial (Freeview) TV tuner. It sits just below the 50PS8000 (reviewed last month by Phil Hinton) in the LG Plasma range, the only difference apparently being the lack of THX Certification on this cheaper model. Of course, LG's TVs have been putting other industry players to shame for some time now with their comprehensive calibration and picture setup options, so it's possible that this TV can be calibrated to the heights of the PS8000, anyway.

Design

You know, it's not often that I actually exclaim "wow" when I pull a TV out of its box, but the 50PS7000 was an exception to that rule - LG's designers have really delivered the goods here. The TV incorporates the fashionable "single layer" design, meaning that the Plasma panel is actually recessed slightly behind a single sheet of glass. And although not quite as flat as the higher-end Panasonic NeoPDP displays, the screen is also still very slim indeed.

It's difficult to see under certain lighting conditions, but the front of the display, and the acrylic stand on which it sits, have a great purpley-blue tinge to them - not unlike Samsung's "Touch of Colour" design. Status LEDs on the front panel light up in an appealing violet shade.

Despite featuring gloss black quite heavily in its design, this TV doesn't pick up scratches like some older LG displays I've reviewed (my usual dislike of the gloss black finish comes from the fact that it's normally impossible to keep clean and unscratched). The sheet of glass that makes up the TV's front panel appears to be incredibly resistant to scratches, so a quick dust now and then should keep the display looking as good as new.

Menus & Setup

LG's typical attractive on screen displays greet you when you first turn the 50PS7000 on. Once you have the TV tuned and receiving Freeview broadcasts, you can pull up the main menu and select between one of eight categories.

Most interesting to us are the Picture adjustments. The first option in here is called Picture Wizard, which is a neat calibration feature which assists the user in correctly configuring basic controls such as Brightness, Contrast, and Colour. A reference image is shown at the top of the screen, with a description and three sample images sitting below. These images show what the main image will look like if the control is set too low, correctly, or too high. It's a great feature to have, because it lets users see for themselves what the controls do. Remember, though, that Picture Wizard is a feature that benefits the built-in Freeview tuner most. If you have, for example, a DVD player that needs to have a performance quirk "calibrated out", it won't get you perfect results.

The next option is for Energy Saving, which dims the screen's light output in order to, you guessed it, save energy. You can choose from three settings, turn it off entirely, or choose to use an "Intelligent Sensor" which varies the light output of the panel depending on the ambient light conditions.

Next, we have Picture Mode selection. The TV defaults to the horrendous-looking "Vivid", but scroll down to the bottom of the list and you'll find two ISF-branded "Expert" modes. These modes unlock the full set of picture options, and even before calibration, they presented a considerably improved image.

We have typical Brightness and Contrast controls, and in the Expert modes, we have not one but two Sharpness adjustments: one which affects only the horizontal plane, and one which only affects vertical. And lastly, we have a Colour control, a Tint control, and "Expert Control", which leads us to the advanced adjustments.

Amongst other things, these screens feature a selection of predefined Gamma curves, allow us to manually change the Black Level between PC and Video standards, turn Film Mode (cadence detection) On or Off, manually force colour matrix decoding between SD (601) and HD (709) standards, choose between a Standard or Wide colour gamut, and enable or disable an Edge Enhancer.
The next option is the "Expert Pattern", which is a smart solution to a common calibration problem, and is only available on the TV's Tuner input. When we calibrate displays, we often have to set basic controls for the tuner's input by eye, or by taking educated guesses and then adjusting any noticeable problems out. The reason for this is simple: while we can easily hook up a DVD test disc or a pattern generator to an HDMI input, we can't do this for the RF input. So, short of hijacking a broadcasting tower, we have no way of displaying test patterns relevant to the TV tuner. LG solves this problem by providing two internal test patterns, the first being a SMPTE bars pattern, and the second showing checks for overscan, resolution, colour, and more. It's a great feature which takes the guess-work away.

There's also built-in colour filters, too, which allow you to display Red, Green and Blue channels individually. These aid in setting the Colour control properly, and are a considerably better alternative to the inaccurate "filter glasses" that forum members may be aware of.

Next, Greyscale/White Balance controls. "Warm" is the most accurate preset, as usual. Get ready for this, though: as well as just letting us adjust the low and high ends of the Greyscale tracking, LG also have a 20-point mode! Instead of just controlling dark and bright areas and trying to balance out any deficiencies, we can isolate specific points (such as 20 IRE, 30 IRE, etc) and control these manually. This is a comparatively insane level of control, and I really look forward to seeing what sort of quality we can get out of it - well done LG!

Is that all? Nope - LG have provided a 2D Colour Management System as well, allowing us to control the Saturation and Hue of all primary and secondary colours. The only thing that would make me happier would be a full 3D system which let us control the Brightness/Luminance of each colour, but regardless, this amount of control is very close to exemplary. Other manufacturers have a lot to learn from what LG are offering.

Test Results

Since LG provide the Picture Wizard feature, I used this to perform Basic Calibration of Brightness, Contrast, Colour, Tint, and Sharpness. The wizard rightly reminds users that the settings gained from using it may not be optimal for the connected device: in my case, I had to perform more tweaking with my usual test pattern disc to really nail things down. I also set the Colour control correctly, because LG provide the Blue Filter option, allowing you to do so.

(By the way, I did notice that after having test patterns up for a few moments, they left image retention on the screen for another minute or two afterwards - not really a big deal, but potentially irritating for some).

Here's how the TV performed after this basic setup:

The result were fairly good, but not excellent. Greyscale tracking improved considerably closer to the brighter end of the spectrum, and Colour accuracy was decent, but not spectacular (colour luminance levels were consistenly too high, and the green point, in particular, was oversaturated).

So, my first port of call was to improve the Greyscale performance. Because the uncalibrated RGB tracking wasn't very flat, I opted to use the 20-point control method, which would allow for the greatest accuracy. Unfortunately, I uncovered a bug in the TV's menus whilst using the 20-point system, which made full calibration impossible. Explaining how to recreate the issue is beyond the scope of this review; but the end result simply is that at the highest intensities (90 and 100 IRE), changing the Greyscale parameters simply doesn't do anything - it makes no difference to the picture. What makes this doubly frustrating is the fact that when the system does work, it allows the TV to achieve Reference quality greyscale reproduction. Take a look at the chart to the right - the tracking has been made perfect up until the point where the system stops working!

The traditional 2-point Greyscale calibration system isn't affected, so I had to resort to using it. The end result wasn't as ruler-flat, but is still great:

Moving on, it was time to fine-tune the colours. The Colour Management System in this TV is two-dimensional, offering "Colour" and "Hue" controls. But, it turns out that the "Colour" control actually affects Saturation and Luminance; the two are tied together - not quite as much accuracy as we'd like, but still very welcome. Often, aligning Saturation correctly would bring Luminance close - in these cases, I compromised to get both suitably close to accurate. In other cases, like with Magenta and Yellow, setting Luminance correctly would severely undersaturate the colour, in which case I had no choice but to prioritise Saturation.

Once complete, the results were absolutely excellent. The biggest error remained with the Hue and Saturation of Blue, but this had very little effect on the TV's real world performance. Take note of the huge improvement made, all thanks to the level of control LG provide.

Video Processing


The 50PS7000's built-in scaling is very nice indeed - feeding in a 576i image from SD DVD resulted in a picture that looked very crisp, but without visible ringing - an excellent result. The Film Mode options are greyed-out when using the HDMI input, so the TV operated in Video mode and threw away film resolution unless I had my DVD player or AV receiver perform the deinterlacing. In this regard, the LG 50PS7000 is still ahead of the Panasonic plasmas in terms of video processing - these screens lack cadence detection features entirely (whereas with this LG, they're only deactivated for the HDMI inputs), and have much softer scaling.

Gaming Performance

The LG 50PS7000 is very responsive indeed whilst playing video games, so you can have plenty of fun beating laggy LCD TV users on Xbox Live or Playstation Network with this TV! There's really nothing else to add, because I couldn't find any problems.

Energy Consumption

Energy consumption was measured after calibration, with full-screen test patterns. Measurements were taken with Energy Consumption turned off entirely, and also with the "Intelligent Sensor" on "Low" setting.
0 IRE (Full Black) - 50 IRE (Grey) - 100 IRE (Full White)
Energy Saving OFF: 148 - 307 - 392 (watts)
Energy Saving ON: 131 - 288 - 366 (watts)

Picture Quality

Picture Quality: HD

I had a look at the Japanese Blu-ray Disc of Pixar's Monsters Inc. (the Japanese release wasn't delayed into 2010, you see) on the 50PS7000, and was very happy with how the picture looked. Granted, there's a little bit more PWM noise visible on this screen than on the Panasonic Plasmas I've been looking at recently (which gives the entire picture a slightly dithered look if you're sitting near), but the colours were also more accurate, too, which helped tremendously.

One thing unnerved me just a little, though, and that was motion. The 50PS7000 employs a very light touch of motion interpolation when it's fed with 24p input, presumably because the TV designers feel that people find the 24fps frame rate of movies too low for lifelike movement (they'd be right - 24fps gives filmlike movement, not lifelike movement!) We should be able to shut this off entirely, but there is no such menu option, which is a pity. I imagine that the step-up PS8000 model, with its THX Certification, won't feature this small flaw (the THX modes we've seen on other displays turn off any such motion smoothing, indicating that they look out for this during their certification process). If it bothers you on this THX-less model though, you can force your BD player to send 60hz output, but of course, you're now signing up for 60hz motion judder. Choices, choices...

The calibrated colour reproduction worked wonders for photorealistic content, but also for animated films and heavily stylised live action, where realistic colour was (probably) never the goal, anyway. Of course, it didn't make the candlelit-yellow scenes in Criterion's fantastic Blu-ray Disc of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button look any more pleasing (nor did it make David Fincher's film any more entertaining...), but this was never the point! The film looked almost exactly as it should, and we can't ask for more than that. The motion smoothing irritated me on live action content more than it did with computer animation, though.

Speaking of such processing, last year's LG LCDs and Plasmas featured an annoying noise reduction feature which would curtail the level of detail the screen was capable of reproducing, unless certain conditions were met (it was possible to fool the TV into turning the system off, but the side-stepping brought other consequences so was far from ideal). Great news - it's gone! The level of natural detail present from 1080p Blu-ray sources was every bit as great as I hoped it would be. Textures and film grain patterns were reproduced naturally and cleanly, instead of appearing artificial and hazy. Full 1920x1080p reproduction is finally here - good job, LG.

The Plasma panel itself produces fairly nice pictures, but there's a little more PWM noise than on some competing models, and the black level isn't as good. In a darkened room, blacks were beginning to turn grey. They were still better than most LCD displays, though, and unlike those, the darkness was uniformly grey rather than patchy and inconsistent. Also, although our review sample never suffered from the dreaded Plasma screen burn, it did show some temporary image retention. If we'd had a test pattern or other static image on the screen, a shadow of this image would be visible on the panel for a few moments after, until it cleared itself away. I don't imagine this will be too problematic or irritating in real-world use, though.

Picture Quality: SD

Digital TV broadcasts from the TV's own tuner looked just about as good as could be expected. I'm not a fan of LG's sharpening process, which tends to make edges look a little "scabbier" than some competing systems, so I made sure not to overdo this control (other TVs sometimes let you squeeze a little bit more perceived detail out of grubby SD broadcasts, but LG's becomes overbearing quite quickly so is best ignored).

The cadence detection ("Film Mode") option works very well. In my testing, I could leave it on permanently and forget about it - films were deinterlaced correctly, and video content didn't confuse the processing and was also handled properly.

Thanks to the lack of overbearing sharpening, and the accurate greyscale and colour characteristics, even the bargain-basement-bitrate Freeview channels didn't look too hideous, and if anything good ever came on one of them, I'd be fairly happy to sit back a few extra steps and watch on this display.

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Industry leading calibration controls
  • Calibrated greyscale performance is excellent
  • Calibrated colour reproduction is also excellent!
  • SD video processing is serviceable
  • Excellent detail thanks to untampered-with 1080p input
  • Built-in speakers give fairly convincing sound
  • Sleek, impressive design, with scratch-proof gloss black

Cons

  • 24p input is tampered with by motion interpolation system, which makes films look slightly unnatural
  • Black level performance isn't the best
  • More PWM noise than some other Plasma displays
  • Temporary image retention may annoy some people

LG PS7000 (50PS7000) Plasma TV Review

As usual with LG's displays, I find myself noting the improvements upon last year's model, and giving a slightly reserved, but not unjustified recommendation - the 50PS7000 is certainly a display worth checking out. My biggest gripe is with the display's black level performance, which can't reach the depths of most competing Plasma panels, but is nevertheless acceptable for the most part. Also irritating is the forced motion interpolation system which activates when 24p sources are sent to the panel, which just robs the 50PS7000 of an AVForums badge.

With that said, the calibration options (and the accuracy that results from using them) that LG have built into this display make an utter mockery of the almost non-existent attempts of certain other big-name Plasma providers, and allow the 50PS7000 to produce some gorgeous looking pictures. OK, so one of the two Greyscale calibration controls that LG provides has a bug in it, but some other manufacturers don't offer an easily accessible Greyscale calibration system at all (let alone two of them!) Likewise, the Colour Management System is one of the far better examples we've seen on a consumer display. It doesn't allow for individual control of Saturation and Luminance, but I got an absolutely fantastic result out of it regardless.

LG appear to be doing absolutely everything they can to make their Plasma displays the number one choice for value-conscious shoppers, and their displays have been improving year-on-year. If you don't mind the 24p motion interpolation and are happy in the fact that you're not getting top-tier black level performance, then the LG 50PS7000 represents fantastic value for money (in fact, you can get it for £910 if you follow this Dixons link and enter the code 5TV at the checkout).

Scores

Sound Quality

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.
.
.
.
5

Smart Features

.
.
8

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

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.
.
.
6

Value for Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
.
7

Picture Quality

.
.
.
7

Video Processing

.
.
.
7

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
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7

Colour Accuracy

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7

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
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6

Screen Uniformity

.
.
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6
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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