Over the last few years LG really have upped their game in producing some very watchable televisions at very competitive prices. We've always been big fans of the presentation of their menus - if not necessarily the usability when calibrating - and they certainly don't shy away from packing the higher end TVs with features. In the past the LG plasmas have had fairly mediocre black levels and some have been highly reflective. LG have looked to address these shortcomings with the inclusion of the TruBlack filter and if they can achieve deeper blacks with increased contrast performance, the PZ950 might make quite a compelling proposition.
The LG 50PZ950T has a big brother in the shape of the 60PZ950T that join together to form the figurehead in LGs attempts to woo the enthusiast market this year. With so much to look at, we best get cracking!< b>You can read the full review after the summary and scores below...
Styling and Connections
This being an active shutter 3D TV, we'd need a pair of 'tech specs' to explore that side of the PZ950 and LG duly oblige by providing one set of 3D eyewear in the box. The glasses are relatively lightweight and comfortable to wear but the decision for the frame to be entirely hewn from shiny black plastic is a mistake as it picks up every little bit of light in the room causing very distracting reflections on the lenses. Not only that but the first sample we received also let out a low level buzz that once picked up on, is almost impossible to ignore. The second pair sent to us were less noisy so we'd advise anyone receiving a noisy pair to seek a replacement.
Menus & Setup
The LG GUI certainly ranks amongst our favourites and nothing has changed here with the PZ950. The Home button of the remote control takes you to the TVs dashboard, from which you can access every function and option available.
Under the centre of the video window is the SETUP option that houses the SETUP, PICTURE, AUDIO, TIME, LOCK, , NETWORK and SUPPORT sub-menus.
The SETUP sub-menu is largely concerned with tuning options but there's also a Booster option that can provide that little extra oomph to a weak signal through your aerial. It's not something we could test as our signal is already excellent but it could save some a few bob on an aerial upgrade or external signal amplifier. The AUDIO menu has treble/bass/clear voice and sound mode options as well as settings for digital audio output and switching the Audio Return Channel (ARC) on or off. Under TIME you can, unsurprisingly set the time, and wake up/sleep timers. The LOCK menu has password settings and a parental lock option whilst you can set up or check your connectivity options in the NETWORK menu. The SUPPORT menu plays home to self-checks for picture, audio and signal as well as the option to check for software updates and product information. Everything else you could possibly think of, except picture options, is found under the OPTION sub-menu.
Moving down the PICTURE menu and we have an Energy Saving option, Picture Mode choices (choose ISF or THX!) and the standard Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Tint controls. We also have a slider for both vertical and horizontal sharpness - we set both at 20 as well as Picture Reset option. Also, toward the bottom we have the Expert Controls sub-sub menu, if you will.
In the Expert menu we have a setting for Dynamic Contrast that messes with gamma and was left off; Noise Reduction might prove useful for particularly poor source material and there's a Super Resolution option that doesn't seem to do much so was also set to off. Gamma can be set High/Low/Medium with High being the darkest option, Black Level can be set High or Low with low being appropriate for video signals and High for PC levels. Switch Film Mode on to engage cadence detection and there's a choice of
Standard or Wide colour gamut - we found standard closer to the HD standard at default. We can engage a red/green/blue colour filter for setting a more accurate colour and tint and choose from a range of colour temperatures with Warm providing the best greyscale performance. From here we can also choose to set our white balance from either 2 or 20 points and the colour management system is also accessed from the Expert menu. We will deal with the white balance and colour management in the calibration sections.
Like Panasonic before them, LG list the 600Hz sub-field processing as a feature designed to improve motion resolution which is not quite the whole story but it's a nice big number to stick on a product card, in store, to give the impression they handle motion better than LCD TVs that can only muster a puny 400Hz. In actual fact these sets of numbers are totally unrelated to one another but at least it conveys the truth even if it is by means of marketing rather than anything else.
The gamut performance against the HD Rec. 709 standard is actually very impressive. So impressive in fact that only the blue primary is of any real concern with all the other colours having over all errors below 3. We've only a 2D CMS to play with so we'll have to hope that the individual Colour controls can reign in the luminance of blue.
Not too shabby at all! If we're being totally honest - and of course we always are - we didn't use the full array of the 20 point controls, instead going up in 10% increments, but as you can see from the charts, that level of control wasn't required for reference performance from the PZ950. Our images are free of yellow colour cast and nor are they just a little too pink. Bringing up a greyscale stair-step pattern confirms the impression of neutrality the charts would suggest and we can now adjust our primary and secondary colours in confidence, knowing they will be applied to a tint free base.
Gamma tracking was also much improved, giving pictures a believable sense of depth and tonal integrity. We could pretend we'd used some clever calibration strategy to tame the spike at 80% stimulus but it wouldn't be the truth as it just fell in to line with the RGB tracking. We love it when this kind of thing happens!
Moving on to the already excellent colour performance and we were able to make small improvements. We thought we may be able to do a little better here but, in the end, the 2D CMS only allowed for a us to tame the luminance of blue at the expense of it being slightly off hue and under-saturated. Our eyes are far more sensitive to errors in luminance of the colours so it's a trade we'll take but we really would like to see LG implement a full, 18 point, 3D CMS in next year's range. That said, we're less likely to see errors in blue than any of the other colours and only with a reference calibrated display to compare against are we even going to notice any issues here.
We weren't expecting any howlers from LG in this department and the PZ950 certainly scored well here. Standard definition processing was very good with no high frequency detail lost and only the barest amount of ringing visible when scaling. Video deinterlacing was also handled well with just a small amount of jaggies present on our various tests.
Cadence detection, where the TV detects progressively shot material sent through an interlaced signal, was another plus point with the most common 2:2(PAL) and 2:3 (NTSC) cadences locked on to with no issues. This was true for both standard and high definition interlaced signals in our testing. The PZ950 also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material and handled 24p content without any undue stutter.
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 PX990 also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems.
We were both surprised and disappointed to measure the PZ950's latency in the region of 90-100 milliseconds in Game mode. LGs own measurements don't back up our findings and we're working with them to discover the reason for the discrepancy and we should have another sample in for testing very soon; upon which we'll update this section of the review.
Unfortunately we're unable to bare such glad tidings here as the PZ950T was still routinely returning a lag time of 100 milliseconds in GAME mode and this was with the input labelled to PC, as well as untouched. It's a very disappointing result, especially for a PDP, and it caused us the need to notch down the difficulty level in FIFA 11 - for shame!
Considering this is a 50" plasma energy consumption for the PZ950 was actually very good with it drawing an averaged 160w, calibrated, with 210w in 3D mode and 0.5w in standby.
Picture Quality - 2D
Speaking of black, the PZ950 continues LG's tradition of being fairly mediocre in achieving a deep shade of the backbone to great contrast performance. From memory, we'd say it does slightly better than the PX990, it replaces, but there's certainly room for improvement here. The TruBlack filter does a reasonable job of maintaining contrast but it is, unfortunately, visible in anything like bright conditions with lines showing across the screen. With the lights down, and disappointing black levels excepted, the PZ950 did provide us with some real enjoyment and its superb motion handling, believable colours and excellent video processing it punches well above the sub £1,000 price tag it can be had for now. After seeing so many Panasonic's recently, watching the Copa America, at night, was a particular highlight. So there you have it sportsfans - the PZ950 is definitely worthy of your consideration!
Picture Quality - 3D
We mentioned the issues with the glasses earlier but, to reiterate, the gloss plastic construction picks up every last reflective source in your room and they also let out a low level buzz that, once heard, is very difficult to ignore although the second pair we received were certainly less bothersome. The glasses are such an integral part of the 3D experience and it's disappointing to class LG's active shutter eyewear as a major let down. As this wasn't our sample to mess around with we refrained from lining the insides of the frames with matte black masking tape but we suspect it may have proved quite effective.
Once we had ourselves in the right viewing environment, where the glasses weren't proving too distracting, we did notice a couple of issues with the PZ950's 3D playback. The major problem was in the fluctuating of black levels in dark scenes. Regular readers may now just be double-checking they're reading a LG review rather than a Panasonic one but, rest assured, that is the case. The effect is identical to last years Panasonic TVs, where changes in luminance of low light scenes would cause the entire brightness of the screen to raise. It is something we saw fairly frequently and might just prove to be too much for some. The other problem we noticed was a very occasional wobble to the picture when displaying in side-by-side mode. It was so infrequent that it barely merits a mention but we have to report everything we see.
Having reported the issues to LG, they issued us with a new sample loaded with a new software version and the brightness fluctuation issue seems to have been fixed along with the SBS 'wobble'. Hats off to LG for being so proactive and it certainly improves the experience considerably but we've certainly had better 3D experiences from other manufacturers and, indeed, very much from LGs own passive tech panels but with a few tweaks here and there the PZ950 will be a very capable performer.
- Excellent calibrated images
- Motion handling
- Picture processing
- Mediocre and noisy blacks
- 3D glasses can be noisy and reflective
- Lots of foreground crosstalk
- Calibration menus are fiddly
- TruBlack filter is visible in bright conditions
- Input lag
LG PZ950 (50PZ950) 3D Plasma Review
Anyone reading back that last paragraph could be forgiven for thinking that we took a real dislike to the PZ950 when that isn't actually the case. Watching fast moving sports on the PZ950 was as real pleasure with it in another league to the vast majority of LCDs out there; and certainly better than the Panasonic plasma experience, as things stand. The calibrated greyscale and gamut combined with some excellent video processing gave pictures a really natural look and, in the right conditions, provides an experience that belies the sub £1,000 price tag the PZ950 can be had for.
If you're going to situate the PZ950 in the right viewing environment and you sit at 'normal' viewing distances, this could be a real bargain but we felt there just too many restrictions on placement and niggles with 3D performance to merit a badge. Nearly LG, very very nearly and they could yet turn it around with a combination of software fixes and a revision to the eyewear!
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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