An Old Geeks Review of the LG 55LM960V-rather long!

Paul Hayward

Active Member
PART ONE.


Yes, yes...I know!! The negativity surrounding this 3D LG TV is palpable. So what is a fussy old videophile with over 30 years of video and audio passion behind him doing consorting with such a despised and hated TV set? Read on.


For some time I have been longing for a good 3D experience...apart from life that is. I own a Sim2 3 chip DLP on a 92" wide Firehawk that is not 3D compatible. I have had some painful experiences with active shutter, both plasma, LED and front projection. One of my fellow enthusiasts has a 12 foot wide screen lit by the new Epson 9000. A wonderful 2D picture from such a bargain of the projector, however the 3D was dim and stressful to watch with some troubling artifacts. The only time I felt comfortable with this tech was while watching the new Sim2 3 chip Lumis Solo and its infamous triple flash....and I still felt oddly uncomfortable and a bit headachy afterwards.


The only other experience is with LG's passive system. Having seen this under a number of conditions, the LG approach to 3D provides a wonderfully stress free 3D experience for me. I toyed with the idea of going for the 55 LW980 but unfortunately succumbed to the bad press that was being 'banded about' on this forum. A bad call on my part.
When LG came out with their new offering, I was on the verge of retiring and the new 55LM960v seemed like part of a good retirement present. I read the reviews avidly and after the disappointing write ups I managed to actually see the thing in action. I was impressed, really impressed. Unlike the debate around the LW980, I thought the criticisms of the LM960v on this forum descended into dogma and a kind of status through complaining rather than a more balanced approach to a product with undoubted issues that needed resolving. As long as I could get the TV for under £2000 with a 5 year guarantee and a 28 day return policy I would risk the hassle if it all went wrong. To cut a long story down a bit I took delivery of the LG 960v three weeks ago.

I thought I would divide this post up into two parts. The first part will address my subjective experience with the set and will include addressing some of the problems voiced earlier in the year. The second part will deal with my attempts to calibrate and take measurements from the TV based on the Chromapure calibration software package and the i1 Display Pro meter supplied by the excellent Rickie from Kalibrate LTD.

After carefully unpacking this monster, mindful of the returns policy, I placed it on the table (with help!) and stepped back. It is a very thin TV with a dark reflective surface and a thin chrome trim that nicely frames the screen. The two chrome feet do stick out like ski's but they look better in the flesh (or chrome) than they do in the pictures. Next my wife wondering in from shopping and exclaimed OH!! Ohh?? I whispered anxiously, 'Yes' she said, 'I like it, it’s the sort of fancy TV I've wanted you to have for years. Look how thin it is. It looks great' I can’t think of a more powerful recommendation for the design of this stunning looking TV. My wife has a long term grudge against video equipment, so this is praise indeed. And it is a very impressive thing to behold. Turning it on and the delight increases as the bright, sharp, colourful and detailed images seem to hang in space within the almost bezel-less design. The picture really does go right to the edge of the screen. I decided to run the TV in for a few days prior to serious viewing, updating the software as I went. Of course I diligently turned off the enhancements and tried the standard, cinema and isf modes for viewing as well as exploring the smart features. But first I needed to test out some of the issues flagged up on this forum and other reviews.


First up, high black level, panel uniformity problems and the dreaded 1080/24p movement smearing.

To my surprise, the absolute black level viewed in a dark room was better than I expected. It was a glowing greyish black for sure but deeper than I had been lead to believe by some of the reviews and competitive with my old 42” 8th gen Kuro that this TV replaces. The Kuro is still in the room so I can compare the black levels and they are about evenly matched on this set. The uniformity across the screen however was problematic. In the upper right hand corner was a lighter milky area and below it two smaller pinched looking light spots leaking from the edge of the screen. Hmmmm. Once I was aware of it, the brighter patch became visible in dark scenes mostly in the black bars. However, after my two day burn in, this area virtually disappeared and blended into the grey black of the rest of the screen. Once your eyes adjust you can make out areas of non- uniformity where some areas of the screen are slightly lighter than others. This is mild with my set but I think it marks out LED back lit solutions from plasma where the black field is or should be perfectly uniform. It is completely uniform on my old Kuro.


However, once the TV had settled down, I could only force an awareness of black level issues by watching films using extremely low contrast scenes. As I began to understand the different functions of the TV, I was able to improve the contrast and shadow detail considerably. But sticking with my first impressions, the dark scenes I’m referring to are snippets from the final Harry Potter film, especially the attack on Hogwarts, the maze scene in the Goblet of Fire and scenes from Dark City and The Descent. I think the main issue for me was simply that higher black levels tend to reduce depth and fidelity and de-saturate the image in very low contrast scenes as black becomes a more milky grey. But I was surprised and pleased at how well this set held up under contrast busting fire and I was mercifully not at all aware of the shadow detail dissolving into the ‘milky mess’ described in the AVForum review. And as for the 1080/24 dark scene motion smearing/trailing problem, it simply does not exist on my set, a finding I am eternally grateful for.


Next up are the vexed issues of BANDING and the DIRTY SCREEN. Dan,dan dan dan daaaan!!!

After much experimentation, I can confirm that my TV does suffer with a dirty screen like effect. Fortunately, it appears to be mild and only visible in scenes with large patches of white or yellow, eg snow scenes, bright cloud scenes and desert scenes. In addition, the camera has to be panning vigorously across the scene for this issue to become visible. Oddly enough, green soccer pitches are immune which is a plus. It looks like something dirty behind the screen organised in vertical streaks. I sit 7.5ft away from the 55” screen. That is the way I like it but it does mean I become aware of the slightest blemish. When I move further away, this streaking effect is hard to spot. Also, turning down the backlight helps too but frankly I prefer the brighter image. In spite of my closeness to the screen I can go hours without noticing the streaking even with backlight up high. However, I feel potential buyers need to know just in case. For me it is a minor irritation balanced against the many considerable virtues of this set.

OK, OK, I admit it I’m biased.

What I mean to say is that there is some good news for you uniformity freaks. For as long as I can remember, I have watched TV with some form of bias lighting. I now use a strip of LED’s that are attached to the rear of the TV. They are powered by the TV or PS3 through a USB port. My LED’s are somewhat blue and I would recommend white LED’s from Ikea. I also know Panman40 has had some success with an adjustable bias light. However, for me the bluish ones seem to do the job. In my darkened space peering at the dark grey screen initially I might add with that accursed patch of light in the far corner, I switched on my bias lighting and ‘hey presto’, I was peering at an apparently uniform black. I was stunned. This seems an ideal solution and it truly does improve the perceived black when watching real world material. I would not have believed the difference such a simple effect could have. I find sitting in the dark watching TV a strain at the best of times. Bias lighting solves the strain problem and improves the perception of black significantly and seems ideally suited for this type of display device. Highly recommending and it seems to take the TV up a level in dark scenes.


Finally, I couldn’t finish without a comment on 3D with this set. In short it is simply wonderful and made all the more so for the bezel-less design which softens the perception of boundary errors. I have sat through Universe 3D, Thor 3D, Despicable Me 3D, Tangled 3D and Resident Evil Apocalypse 3D. However, I think the most impressive film to date bar none is Avengers Assemble 3D. Utterly amazing and so well balanced. The image is so richly saturated, sharp and detailed with a very natural 3D effect. It is post-production 3D to boot which bodes well for future 2d to 3d conversions. And not a headache or eye strain in sight!! A nice feature is that the TV automatically senses the 3D material, warns you and then switches to 3D. The red 3D button on the remote can then be used to activate LG’s new 2D to 3D conversion. This is often dismissed in the reviews as gimmicky etc, but I and my son have found it very acceptable and engaging. It gives the TV an aquarium look with some internal depth between objects and characters within this space. Most of the time it works without any odd effects and provides a bridge between real 3D and plain 2D while we wait for more of the good stuff to be produced.


I do think this TV has been on the receiving end of some pretty unforgiving criticism which may not apply in anything like the same way to later production models. Certainly many of the shortcomings have little merit when applied to my August built TV. I continue to be impressed with the quality, detail, brightness, sharpness, flexibility and sheer watch-ability of this TV. But is this TV a truly reformed character or am I still in the ‘I’ve paid good money and I’ve got to fool myself and everyone else into liking it’ category? Next up…..Calibration and Measurement…..the place where perception meets reality!!! Gulp!!!
 

hilandae

Standard Member
Hello Paul,

Thanks for sharing your experience with lm960v. I am waiting a long time to buy this tv here in Greece. I appreciate your time and efford to share with us . I believe i am gonna love this tv too.
I am looking forward for part two.

Best Regards
 

Paul Hayward

Active Member
Hi hilandae,

Good to hear you enjoyed the write up. I am working on Part 2 and I've decided to dedicate that topic to DIY settings followed by objective measurement to see how close you can get without professional calibration. Part 3 will be the calibration proper. Still loving this wonderful TV.

Regards,

Paul
 
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djsneak

Standard Member
my wife wondering in from shopping and exclaimed OH!! Ohh?? I whispered anxiously, 'Yes' she said, 'I like it, it’s the sort of fancy TV I've wanted you to have for years. Look how thin it is. It looks great' I can’t think of a more powerful recommendation for the design of this stunning looking TV.

Mrs Approval rating = 10/10, the most overlooked score of all tech reviews LOL
 

Butters

Well-known Member
Thankyou for a really helpful and thought provoking post. Especially good to read about the comparison to your older pioneer kit. Looking forward to the next update.
 

Paul Hayward

Active Member
PART 2 DIY Adjustments.

Before I launch into this topic, I just want to set the record straight regarding a few things especially now that I have calmed down. Firstly, black level. The Pioneer 42" kuro 8th gen plasma does produce a darker black. This is true even when the 960v is set with backlight to zero, black level on 'low' and local dimming on high. The LED black is however a more neutral grey out of box, whereas the plasma has a noticeable red push in the black. I'm sure this could be improved with tweaking. However the 8th gen Kuro was definitely a calibration-lite plasma for the end user. Secondly, regarding the dirty screen effect, this is a difficult problem to work around. Even lowering the backlight and contrast and sitting further away will not rid you of the problem under certain conditions. The BBC home improvement show 'Homes Under the Hammer' with its slow pans over white walls is a brutal test of the DSE. I must stress that this issue is not bothersome most of the time but if you are fussy and liable to 'lock onto' blemishes, then the DS could be a problem for you. To put it in context, plasma also can suffer with this issue due to the nature of the filters they use. As yet we do not have a perfect TV. Finally, I just wanted to say that I cannot find any evidence of the dreaded halo's even with local dimming set to its most aggressive 'high' setting. And goodness knows, I've searched. For me LG have completely solved this problem.

OK, onto the DIY calibration lottery. Strictly speaking this is not so much calibration as shooting in the dark. I was intrigued to read the thread on AVSForum regarding this TV where people were singing the praises of the flatpanelhd reviews and in particular the improvement found by copying the published calibration settings. Hmmm. Can you get close to good calibration result simply by copying? What about set to set differences and room differences etc. Well there was only one way to find out. So, using my new calibration software and meter, I chose a setting, ifs 2 and recorded the factory pre set values and then compared them with post 'Flatpanelhd' settings. These settings were essentially copied from their review found here.

http://www.flatpanelshd.com/review.php?subaction=showfull&id=1338560188

Only the contrast (75 as opposed to 82 from HD) and brightness (53 rather than 50 from HD) were arrived at by using AVSHD test disc. I also took the liberty of switching truemotion to user with blur and judder on zero and colour to 53. HD has colour at 50. I've placed the results below.

Red, Green and Blue tracking from factory pre-sets.

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RGB tracking with the FlatpanelHD settings

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Actually, both are not too bad. In both green seems to track very accurately. However, in the first case blue and red are running a little low. In the second both green and red are tracking close to the 100% mark with blue about 10% higher. This combination does produce a pleasing, if somewhat inaccurate and cooler picture. However, what did stun me was the pre and post gamma.
This is the factory pre-set gamma which is not too shabby especially between 40 and 80 ire. It's a bit high in the lowest quadrant which is likely to produce crushed blacks and compromised shadow detail.

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But look at what flatpanelhd settings do for gamma!!!!

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Not bad tracking or what!!! This success is also repeated with the colour gamet as the flatpanelhd settings reduce the errors with the slight exception of green.

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The big surprise for me is that you can get half way to a respectably calibrated image just by copying calibrated results. I'm sure there are many factors that would make this process variable from set to set and room to room. It is absolutely no substitute for a professional calibration. However, my findings strongly suggest it is definitely worth a try.

I want to finish up with a thought about contrast and brightness. I find I'm using the free AVSHD disc most of the time now. http://www.avsforum.com/t/948496/avs-hd-709-blu-ray-mp4-calibration. It produces some excellent charts for setting black level and contrast (white level) leaving you to tweak it out with real world content. This disc combined with AVForum's picture perfect tutorials is the way to go. Next up, my attempts to properly calibrate the LG 55LM960v.

Regards,

Paul

PS I do hope you guys will be understanding if all the graphs are messed up. Its the first time I've done this sort of thing.
 

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Beastlee

Standard Member
Thanks for this write-up Paul. Having picked one of the 47" versions up for £850 last week I was horrified to start reading the earlier discussions on this range. Personally I have found it to be an excellent unit and it far exceeds the quality and capability of the Samsung 46LE656A that it replaces. Having read through this thread I will return home later and try a few settings changes, however with the few changes I've already made I am already thrilled with the PQ.
 

Paul Hayward

Active Member
Hi Beastlee,

Thanks for the kind words. I agree. I think this is a great TV with a few remaining issues that plague most LCD/LED designs such as the dirty screen effect.

Regards,

Paul
 

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