Review: Is LG's Smart TV The Best Yet?
By David Richards | Friday | 22/06/2012
LG has released its entrant in the Smart TV showdown, but how will it fare against its Samsung and Panasonic contenders?
At the recent CES Show in Las Vegas one of the most talked about Smart TVs was the LG 55" LM 9600 Cinema 3D model; not because of its skinny looks, but more the voice activated remote and its dual play gaming capability.
During the last 12 months LG has gained ground in Australia by aggressively marketing their Cinema 3D Technology and their content which includes services such as Telstra Big Pond Movies, Telstra TV and the ABC's catch up iView service.
The first thing you notice about this TV is its brilliant good looks and picture quality which is among the best we have seen on a passive 3D LED TV.
Overall the Panasonic Viera Plasma TV has the best picture but this is let down by a poor management system and a lack of quality apps and functionality when operating in a Smart TV mode.
The LG 55" TV is not only good looking on the outside it has a well planned application and on screen content structure, which we believe is critical when offering a TV that is packed with new processing capability in the form of an Intel dual core processor and over 50 apps.
Turning this TV on is a bit like getting into a car for the first time: it can be intimidating. But once you get use to driving your way around the applications and, above all the new functions that this TV delivers, you will suddenly realise that this TV is more top-end BMW than top-end Ford.
It's a bit like the days when the first smartphones appeared, and I suspect that using this TV will evolve in the same way people got use to using the applications on a smartphone.
The first thing that you notice is that the black is fast catching up with what was delivered by the old Pioneer Kuro technology which can be found in Panasonic plasma TVs. Review journalists around the world judged this to be among the best TV display black in the world.
The new LG black has similar characteristics as it is deep, rich and contributes to the overall display that this TV delivers.
To deliver the sharp picture quality LG is using Nano Full LED backlighting technology with local dimming that outputs the strong blacks. The 400Hz refresh rate is achieved by the use of 200Hz frame interpolation and black frame insertion technology.
Motion blur is nearly non-existent and when you enable the dynamic tracking the display is impressive, the colour output is bright and vibrant with decent black levels
The wafer thin 5mm bezel and the petite 20.6mm side profile, coupled with a brand new U shaped swivel stand, gives this TV real design character; however, the stand which is polished metal is a tad big at the front when compared with the sleek design of the new Samsung stand on their 55" TV offering.
Irrelevant of where you sit in front of this TV, the displayed image is in your face. Because of the sleek design, it's a lot like sitting at the movies in front of a big screen.
If you are using this TV on the stand access to the AV input is fairly easy but if you wall mount the display screen, make sure that you get your installer to leave a space behind the TV so that you can easily plug in attach devices, or you can move to Wi Fi and DLNA connectivity as the means by which you connect devices.
With this TV some of the buttons are hard to reach. It's also difficult to read the labels as they are behind the TV.
The big benefit of an LG Cinema 3D TV is the quality of their Passive 3D TV technology and the fact that no batteries are needed for either the normal 3G glasses or the Dual Play glasses.
Weighing just 13g, the LG 3D glasses are comfortable to wear. There is also a clip-on pair for prescription glasses. I first found these at the CES Expo and they are excellent.
One of the real standout features of the LG Cinema 3D Smart TV is dual play and I suspect that a lot of parents are going to get a lot of pressure from young gamers.
To get the full benefits of the LG technology, each player has to wear a pair of glasses as if he or she were attempting to view a three-dimensional image on the screen. With these glasses on, two different images are displayed at the same time on the LG TV.
Each image is polarised using a special filter.
When user A looks at the screen they only see their image the same applies to user B. This stops a user taking a gander at another person's screen in an attempt to get an unfair advantage when playing a split-screen game.
Wireless Display (WiDi)
Back at CES in January, LG announced it had cut a deal with Intel to launch the world's first native Wireless Display (WiDi) television.
This technology can now be found in the new LG Cinema 3D Smart TV, commonly known as "wireless HDMI" for its ability to stream high definition content over a 4Gbps data connection. WiDi operates in the 60GHz extremely high frequency (EHF) band.
This delivers the capability to transmit both compressed and uncompressed high definition content. Whether consumers will use this technology is questionable as the transmitter needs to be able to "see" the receiver in the television.
What is needed for this technology to take off is a new generation of notebooks that have the new Intel (WiDi) technology built in.
Out of the box there are two remote controls, the standard one and the new voice activated voice remote: LG's Magic Remote.
The voice activated remote lets a user input commands such as when searching Google you simply activate the voice button and talk. The remote which has no backlighting is very sensitive when used in the hand as a pointer; however, when used to voice search I found it very effective.
The Magic Remote as it is called by LG has several shortcut buttons on the remote which is small and fits in the hand easily. These buttons includes 3D to My Apps to a home screen button.
In the middle of the remote is a scroll wheel, which supports Web page scrolling and TV channel switching.
Inside this TV is a dual core Intel processor which has led vendors like LG to load up their TV with applications. In the case of LG and Samsung, I believe they have gone overboard as the presence of so many applications when you first switch to home is intimidating and confusing. It looks more like a case of 'mine are bigger than yours' strategy.
What LG has done is deliver a superior looking screen for their applications that also allow users to customise their apps into separate user tabs. This is neat but working out how to do this is a whole different story.
When you click onto home what you get is 29 application options, it's a bit like 'WOW where do I go? What I do?'
What I would like to see is a simple bar that gives you the option of clicking TV, Settings, Applications, My Apps and Content.
This would allow you to step into a viewing zone of your choice quickly.
Inside LG's app world there are numerous choices, 3D video demos and video on demand services which give owners access to content; however, a lot of this content is either a good demo for what the TV can deliver or below par content. What is superior are the services like BigPond Movies and the ABC's iView service that allows one to catch up with missed programs minus TV commercials.
One thing missing from this TV is adaptive bit-rate streaming. Tthis will come as several organisations move to deliver content to TVs.
Users also have the option of six 1080p-ready inputs. One HDMI terminal also supports the latest Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) function.
At one stage I plugged a PC into this TV and within seconds, LG's Smart Share kicked in and delivered my PC screen to the TV screen instantly.
When compared to the new Samsung and Panasonic Smart TV offerings the LG TV delivered superior sound, however I highly recommend that you invest in an attach home theatre kit either as a sound bar attach or with a 5.1 or 7.1 channel system.
The new LG Smart TV comes with an integrated subwoofer that really delivers especially when playing Blu ray 3D movies where it balanced the "echo/airy" sound produced via the use of LG's own Sound Zooming technology. Audio was clear despite some heavy background channel sound when playing movies.
The 5.1-channel DTS surround sound support clearly came into play when connected to a home theatre kit.
This is a brilliant TV: the display and audio are as good as we have seen from any LED TV and the 3D via the use of passive technology is significantly better than previous 3D TVs. The display screen design is among the best out there, however the stand is a tad too big when compared to the stand on the Samsung TV. This is due to the Samsung running horizontal to the TV as opposed to the front vertical look of the LG stand.
What is a standout with this TV is dual play. I first tried this out with a car racing game at the CES Show and later in Australia. It is addictive and will appeal to both hard core gamers and social gamers.
Unlike the Samsung Smart TV, this TV has no built in Skype camera, nor does it support a traditional web camera. While it supports Skype I don't really want to go out and buy a separate Skype camera for a TV.
Applications on this TV are as good as you will get on any TV; however it is overkill as there are far too many. What is needed is a common structure for applications, which in the future could be a Google TV or Apple TV type approach.
Ideally I would like to get access to the apps via a smartphone or tablet. I would also like to see all vendors adopt a common approach to delivering apps with each vendor delivering a store where users can go to shop and download apps.
Overall this TV is well worth buying and although it is a pricey $4,299, it is among the best available.
Apr/May 2011 issue
reviews the hot new iPhone attach device, the Zeppelin Air. And we look at what's going on in the tablet space...