Design & Connections
Rounding off the package is the TVs remote control. This is a slim black plastic unit with all the main controls intuitively laid out. The remote doesn’t look or feel over cluttered and all the main options are accessed using the menu and navigation keys.
Menus & Setup
Looking at the picture menu first, we are greeted with an aspect control selection, energy saving options, and then picture mode. There are seven modes to choose from, ‘Vivid, Standard, THX Cinema, sport, Game, ISF Expert1’ and ‘ISF Expert 2’.
Selecting a picture mode opens up the usual main front panel controls, ‘Brightness, Contrast, Colour, Tint and Sharpness H&V’. Under these is the expert menu selection. In here we have more control over the advanced picture controls such as ‘Dynamic Contrast, Noise Reduction, Gamma, Black Level, Film mode, Colour Standard, Colour Gamut, xvYCC, Expert Pattern and Colour Filter. We then have the White Balance controls which quite usefully have white fields built in to the TV. You can select these in 5% steps to measure the greyscale with your meter and software. This does offer a full greyscale calibration using as many points as you wish, (2 point, 10 point or 20 point). And with this function, along with picture wizard and colour filters, plus, the fact they can be saved on each input selection, you can fully calibrate this TV without using a pattern generator or DVD/BD disc with your required patterns.
Rounding up the advanced controls is a 2D colour Management System for Gamut correction which while very welcome, is probably the slight downside to the wealth of calibration controls. You see, with this system we can correct the x,y coordinates for the colour points, there is no dedicated control for luminance correction of the colours. Maybe this one slight omission will be corrected for the next models?
And let’s move back to the Picture Wizard for a moment. This is the first time that any manufacturer has attempted to put a useful feature into a TV so you can set up the main controls correctly for your environment and viewing room, without the need for a THX optimode or Digital Video Essentials test disc. This feature is very easy to use with a small window at the top of the screen showing where you are with the control you are adjusting, such as Brightness. The bottom of the screen has three boxes that show you the results when you have (from left to right), too little of the control, the correct amount of the control, and too much of the control. The wizard moves between Brightness, Contrast, Colour, Tint and sharpness H&V before allowing you to select which inputs the changes you have made should be applied to.
It is a very basic tool, but anything which helps the general public set up the TV controls correctly for their rooms is a step in the right direction in my opinion. And when you add in the white balance and other test patterns built into this TV we really do have a product that is showing how calibration and set up controls should be implemented. Indeed, if the recently reviewed mega high end Panasonic VX monitor had this kind of flexibility, it would allow even more accurate calibration. And that’s a high end screen costing many thousands; this LG is less than £1200!
The THX mode is set up by their technicians to the standards and I understand that for the licensing the CMS and Greyscale controls should not be accessible (as with this TV). However, the main controls should not be greyed out and for one simple reason. We still require setting the Brightness and Contrast controls for the room and lighting conditions that the TV will be used in. The recently reviewed JVC HD750 also had the CMS and Greyscale greyed out in THX mode, but we still had full main control use. I have no idea why that is not the case here, but it does compromise an otherwise very welcome preset. However, the usual ISF password for unlocking the ISF options also unlocks the THX mode (not very handy for end users who will never have access to this password), so at least a Calibrator can change the front panel controls if desired. (In this mode there is access to the greyscale and CMS as well). I’m hoping that the other THX certified screens coming this year from other manufacturers are not compromised like this for the end user. You can see the THX testing criteria On their web page here and funnily enough it is identical in many ways to the process we use when reviewing.
Moving to the other options under the menu system, set up is used to auto or manual tune the digital and analogue tuners. Sound as you would imagine is for selecting the options including the SRS Tru-surround XT and sound modes. Option lets you select languages, simplink etc with lock, USB and Bluetooth controls wrapping up the menu system. With the Bluetooth function I was able to link my mobile phone to the panel and look at some photos on the screen.
As I have already mentioned above, this LG screen does have some excellent features built in for calibration of its pictures. Everything from test cards to white balance patterns (0-100ire) to the basic Picture wizard, tells us that LG take calibration seriously and leave other more premium displays in the shade. It’s time that other manufacturers introduced this kind of calibration control as it cannot be that expensive if LG can add in THX and ISFccc under £1200.(And all of LG's TVs from entry level to flagship all have ISFccc).
So moving to the THX preset that has been calibrated in the factory by the THX technicians - just how close does it get to the industry standards?
Looking at the gamut you can see that the LG is not quite capable of hitting the correct blue point for colour. This is also true in every measurement we took, including the wide gamut setting. Although this is slightly short of the desired point, there is no obvious on screen issues with blue and the shades of blue to the eye. In terms of hitting the Rec.709 triangle, the colour points in THX are slightly wide, but this does take into terms the restricted blue point. Luminance and Delta E errors in the CIE while not exactly correct, are far better than expected and are not that far away from the correct colour points for the x,y coordinates but Y (luminance) is also not that bad when everything else is considered. Indeed, with the slightly restricted gamut performance we will also have to compromise in our approach to hitting as close to Rec.709 as possible in our calibration attempts, so switching to expert mode how did the LG perform?
Moving to the gamut, you will see that I have compromised slightly with position given the restricted gamut and blue point, which we can do nothing about. However, this has allowed me to be as accurate as possible with the remaining points, while making sure that luminance and DeltaE errors were minimal. As this is not a 3d CMS system, we have no control over luminance levels and it is a case of balancing against hitting the points in the triangle, while also watching the deltaE and luminance errors. The blue point is a restriction of the TV and we cannot add back what is not there, so the rest of the gamut points need to take this in to account. When looking at the errors we do see a high deltaE for blue and cyan, but as blue is already compromised in the produced gamut that is still very good. Luminance errors could be less if we went for slightly less correct points but I was satisfied with our results here and after 6 hours of work, the on screen checks just confirmed to me that this was so.
Moving to our calibrated settings certainly improved matters over the THX mode as we could correctly set up two memories for room conditions, ISF Day and ISF Night. This is where the LG really impressed me with its image quality and excellent colour balance. Running it side by side with our reference Pioneer Kuro was great fun and in most areas the LG could stand up there with the Kuro in terms of colour performance and detail levels once calibrated to the standards. Skin tones and shadow detail looked very convincing with only the slightly reduced dynamic range and black levels pegging back the LG. In terms of blacks, they are certainly improved slightly on last years PG7000 TV, but not quite up there with the Pioneer and indeed, the latest Panasonic’s are probably a smidge better here as well. But then again, looking at this LG, especially with Blu-ray material, the image performance against the cash outlay makes this screen at 50 inches a bit of a bargain in my book. Even when you add in the cost of an ISF calibrator setting it up with optimum care and attention, it is still a bargain! And talking about Blu-ray playback I am also happy to report that the high frequency cutting and slight jump on some 24p material, that had been present on some LG screens we have reviewed in the past, is not seen on this plasma screen.
But, as with all display technology you do get some areas that are a compromise or certainly a niggle. The black levels are improved, but there is still some work to do here in my opinion. However, as I have said above, it competes well and looks sublime with most material, only the really dark and dynamic scenes look a little washed out. Some of this will be a result of the image processing behind the panel, but an improvement might also be had in adding a filter in future to LG’s panels that restrict ambient lighting washing the image out, which can happen with this and the latest Panasonics. Good room placement and lighting positioning will help matters. Next is the issue of image retention and sadly it is still here with this latest LG model. I am puzzled as to why this is still an issue for LG and their panels as it has been highlighted for a couple of years, now. It’s not a deal breaker in my opinion as the retained information is not overly obvious when watching normal, bright images, and it does fade away after about 10-20 minutes. But it is there and if you are looking at buying this TV, it is something to weigh up and consider against all the positives we have mentioned. One final slight issue I did find with normal use was a lip sync drift with the built in freeview tuner. After watching a channel for about 10-20 minutes, the sound would start to drift from the sync with onscreen images. This was quickly fixed by switching channels and going back again and I have reported the issue to LG for their attention.
LG PS8000 (50PS8000) THX Certified 50inch Plasma Review
The LG 50PS8000 offers extremely good HD images with the most extensive calibration tools on the market. Plus it has an accurate enough THX preset for those who decide that ISF is not quite for them yet. And finally, all this comes with a screen measuring 50 inches for less than £1100 (like we found at Amazon). Even with the minor problems found with image retention and freeview lip sync, I still think this is a bit of a bargain and would recommend you get a demo if you’re in this end of the TV market. It’s a big screen best buy in my opinion and you have money left over to get it calibrated to its very best performance levels.
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