LG PS8000 (50PS8000) THX Certified 50inch Plasma Review

THX certification, ISFccc and 50 inches of screen for less than £1,200? You betcha!

by Phil Hinton
TV Review

68

Best Buy
LG PS8000 (50PS8000) THX Certified 50inch Plasma Review
SRP: £1,200.00

Introduction

There is no doubt that over the last two years, LG have been on a charm offensive with serious AV Fans in an attempt to show that they can be considered a quality brand for Plasma and LCD displays. It is not just the brand image they have been working hard to improve - your average LG display now has some of the most cutting edge technologies employed in well priced displays throughout their range. What we have here for review today, is the company’s flag ship plasma screen the 50PS8000. And don’t let the words, ‘flagship’ confuse you about how much this panel costs, because even though there is a recession in full bite, we have found this TV for sale at under £1,200 at Comet, Laskys and just under £1,100 on Amazon.

Design & Connections

So just what does the PS8000 offer us? Starting with the design, LG has kept the top of the range full bezel glass design. This is one sheet of glass that moves from the panel and across what should be the bezel in one entire sheet and all at one level. This gives the TV a slick designer look with just a blue strip at the very bottom. This strip lights up when the TV is powered up. The screen surface is not entirely black in appearance, more a dark grey with black bars towards the edges of the glass sheet front cover. The only thing breaking these design lines is the LG logo placed centrally at the bottom of the panel. The table top stand supplied with the PS8000 is also a one sheet glass design with a silver main panel holder, and it allows the screen to swivel by around 25 degrees. This glass also has a faded blue colour running through it which again catches the blue light when the TV is powered up. Unpacking the TV and attaching the stand takes a few minutes and is easy to do.

Moving around the back of the TV we have the now familiar main input board to the right side (looking from the back) and further connections placed on the right side of the bezel. Having your inputs to one side of the back panel is always a clever design step as it makes connection and disconnection of sources far easier. On the back panel we have three HDMIv1.3 slots (with a fourth on the side panel), two scarts, component and VGA/PC plus audio input for DVI and an RS232 port and optical audio output. On the side panel we have composite, s-video, USB and PCMCIA card slot. So, as you can see there are enough connections to keep even the most demanding AV enthusiast happy.

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

Once we had our sources connected it was time to auto tune the digital and analogue TV channels. This was tested as normal on three separate occasions and on each the TV auto tuned all available channels in around 10 minutes. The EPG for digital channels can be accessed via the main Guide button, and provides a simple full page menu. Pressing the Info button on the remote with the tuner provides a mini menu system with programme synopsis and signal details. Although the LG doesn’t offer the most designer style menus for the EPG, they are well laid out.

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.

This is the first time I have ever seen such dedication to users and professionals in menu systems. How many times do we have to keep pushing the other display manufacturers to provide these options? And it can’t be expensive to add if LG are doing the full thing with ISFccc & THX certification at this price level! Come on Panasonic et al….
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!

Looking at the new THX Cinema mode, we were surprised to find that all the front panel controls (Brightness, Contrast etc) had been greyed out. Now, the THX mode is designed to get close to D65 for white balance and Rec.709 for HD colour points used for film and broadcast out of the box. This is yet another option that allows the public to get the most accurate image for correct colour and greyscale without professional calibration. Although we would always recommend a calibration to your sources and environment (something a preset like THX cannot do), we also encourage educating public in exactly what they are missing. We will see how close this preset is to the standards later in the review, but I do have one concern.

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.

Features

the USB option allows connection of a hard drive, digital camera or iPod. I connected my camera and iPod to test these functions which worked without any major problems. The iPod connection does require quite a few menu jumps to get to the files available and there is no easy way to see what these files are. But in the end I was able to watch some of the AVForums.tv videos and listen to music tracks. It seems that TVs these days have to come with these connections and options and the LG is fully capable of hosting most of the major file types for playback. Video quality of course depends on the source codec and I was unable to find any way to adjust the picture controls while in the USB mode. Our 640 x 360 MP4 videos were, as you can imagine, fairly poor quality, but using an HD file on a USB device would allow better quality.


Test Results

Stepping through the various presets and picture modes, we looked to find the most accurate out of the box. I decided to use the THX preset as our base measurement. However, just to be thorough, I also looked at Vivid and Standard modes and these were both over saturated and too bright against the standards. The same can be said for the Sport and Games mode and the picture controls in these modes do not have the advanced and expert controls to fully calibrate them. However, using one of the two expert modes we can set up greyscale and then apply that to all modes (except THX). The two expert modes are designed for a calibrator to set up the TV and then apply a password setting for ISF day or ISF night.

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?

The out of the box front panel controls in THX mode are greyed out and fixed. I have mentioned above why this will cause some issues for end users and members of the public. The contrast is set at 80 and Brightness as 50. Looking at the results from our measurements they are not too bad for a factory calibration, yet not as good as we would ultimately want them. The greyscale mix is not very flat and indeed it looks like it has possibly been calibrated at just 50ire, i.e. at one point. I cannot be positive that this is actually what has been done, but the results certainly point to that conclusion. Indeed looking at the images produced in THX mode they do have a blue overtone to whites and this is borne out in our measurements. Gamma tracking is good for the most part, but there is a dip around 70-90ire. However compared to the other out of the box settings, we really are quite happy with the image quality in THX mode.

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?

Calibration is never an easy or quick process. Indeed, the above calibration results were obtained after a good six hour session with the LG and I finally had to compromise slightly with my gamut attempts. But as always Calibration is worth the effort for the quality of the final images on screen. Starting with the greyscale first, I was not happy with the built in grey fields as we don’t know at what point they are inserted in the video chain (only really useful for the TV tuner calibration in my opinion). Instead I used our calibrated pattern generator (Sencore), but thanks to Gorman on the forums, I found an option for using the 10 and 20 point greyscale controls without relying on the in built grey fields. I was able to correct the greyscale to almost perfect levels. This did leave gamma slightly wide of our desired 2.2 point, with nearer 2.5 from 20ire to around 2.3 around 50ire and 2.2 towards 100ire. I was happy to accept this result, and of course you can change this in your own calibration if you desired.

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.

Picture Quality

So starting with the THX out of the box setting and SD material from the built in freeview tuner, the images were above average for free to air content. There is a slight yellow cast with the THX mode to my eye, but certainly nothing that draws the viewer from the images on screen, and other people may not notice it. In terms of detail and image noise, the Freeview tuner handles the SD content in an average manner with a slightly soft feel. Adding in some low noise reduction from the TV's picture processing, certainly made the material at normal viewing distances an adequate enough experience for every day viewing. It’s not the best SD performance I have ever seen, but then again it's also by no means the worst, so a middle of the road performance overall for Freeview. Moving to my SKY+HD box via HDMI improved matters in terms of a crisper look to SD material with the TV in just scan mode and obviously the SKY box scaling the images to 1080i. Even with DVD the LG produces fine images that have a nice natural skin tone. Obviously the THX mode does help here. Switching to the likes of Sport or Standard in out of the box settings just look washed out and over saturated with image artefacts and noise issues highlighted. So THX mode gets our vote for the most accurate and pleasing images out of the box. Obviously there is an issue with the Contrast and Brightness settings being greyed out and end users will have no control over these, this is a downside and may be LG can fix this issue with a firmware update? They can be accessed by entering the ISF code, but this will not be available to the general public.

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.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

LG PS8000 (50PS8000) THX Certified 50inch Plasma Review

So, in wrapping up my findings with the LG 50PS8000, what we have here is really a bit of a bargain, but with some slight problems. The feature list and calibration controls offered are certainly amongst the best in the industry and the THX mode is an excellent out of the box picture preset. Full calibration really brings the best out of the PS8000 resulting in a performance to keep up with the competition in terms of colour accuracy and detail with HD material. SD material from the freeview tuner is average in terms of detail and noise, but at normal viewing distances the image is pleasant enough with no major caveats. HD performance is excellent with Blu-ray and picture processing is improved over previous LG screens with no judder or image jumps. The slight downsides for this TV are a dynamic range and black level which though good, still struggle to pull out the darkest parts of the image, which can looked washed out at times. And image retention which has been an issue with previous LG screens is still an issue with the PS8000. The retention is not overly obvious when watching normal material, however it does eventually disappear and while not a deal breaker, is something to consider when looking at this TV.

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.

Best Buy

Scores

Sound Quality

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6

Smart Features

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.
8

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8

Picture Quality

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.
.
7

Video Processing

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.
.
7

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
8

Colour Accuracy

.
.
8

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
.
6

Screen Uniformity

.
.
.
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6
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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