The Time Machine Plasma is a 1080p panel with 600Hz subfield and an integrated 250GB DVR. It allows you to pause live television and schedule recordings without the need of an external PVR box.
The concept of a built in DVR isn’t new for LG. They have toyed with the idea in the past but the marketing around the idea wasn’t as savvy as it is now. By labelling it “Time Machine” and making a panel that is on-par with the rest of the plasma market, they are building a brand that consumers will remember when they walk into stores.
The DVR functionality works quite well. We had no problems at all recording, pausing and rewinding live television. Unfortunately, the EPG is only of the “now and next” variety, making programme scheduling a little arduous. We would have liked to see a full 7 day EPG or support for the ICE TV guide to make it as easy to use as a Windows Media Centre enabled PVR. However, for something with basic functionality, it works fast with quick channel changing and intuitive controls. When recording Full HD television, the 250GB hard drive will fill up pretty quick but by connecting an external hard drive that space can be upgraded via a feature called “Time Machine Link”. The cheaper version of the time machine Plasma, the 50PS70FD, doesn’t come with an internal hard drive but instead relies on the link feature for storage.
As far as image quality goes, we tested the unit with 1080p Full HD content, 720p video and standard definition DVDs to see how well it performed. On the whole, we were happy with the image quality but there were a few issues that detracted from the overall viewing experience. Across all resolutions, edges tended to be a little soft at times with minor image noise detracting from the detail of the images. Turning the edge enhancement feature on made things a little worse, with over sharpening artefacts starting to creep in.
The colour reproduction was excellent and calibration wizard was incredibly easy to use and highly accurate. The wizard uses many of the same test patterns professionals use to calibrate a television showing the user how to achieve an accurate image. The calibration tools are fairly limited compared to some of the higher end plasmas on the market without the ability to control specific colours and gamma but considering the level of quality able to be pumped out just from using the wizard, we were happy with it.
With 1080p content, apart from the minor image noise we witnessed, the image quality is quite good. The black levels were excellent and the contrast was top notch. Obviously, the further back you sit from the unit, the less noticeable the few image aberrations become. While this is a 600Hz model, it didn’t handle motion as well as we expected. For fast moving motion it worked beautifully but when it came to slow pans, there was a little judder to contend with. With the spate of LCD TVs on offer at the moment with 100Hz and 200Hz options that are able to remove judder altogether (preferably with the feature set to low); we were surprised that a 600Hz model suffered from this issue. It isn’t noticeable at all times, but depending on the film you are watching, it may annoy you now and then.
720p and standard definition content was handled well on the Time Machine. The scaling was done well with limited noise. We tested it with games as well on both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 and had no problems at all with either. The fast motion of gaming is ideal for this unit and the reported 0.001ms response time seems to be accurate in that regard.
The sound quality from the “invisible” speakers is quite good with a robust volume range and the “clear voice” feature works well allowing dialogue to be clearly heard while preventing sound effects and score from being overpowering. This was particularly evident in the opening scene from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. While the speakers were excellent, we did experience some problems with the pass through optical audio. With our home theatre system connected to the panel via the optical audio port at the rear, the sound would periodically cut out completely for a split second. We used the same media and the same Blu-ray player on another TV to make sure it wasn’t a problem on our end and the issue didn’t occur suggesting that it was the TV that was causing the cut out. Whether this is simply a fault with our review unit or indicative of the Time Machine range is unclear.
The design is quite attractive with a piano black finish and bezel-less glass. The stand fits to the unit quite easily and the remote is quite easy to work out. When switched off the unit has a red glow at the bottom of the and when turned on it changes to a white glow. However, this can be turned off if it annoys you.
The connections at the rear include three HDMI, two Component and one Composite connection. There is also a 15pin D-sub port for PC connection as well as an audio in for PC audio. As mentioned previously there is also an optical audio pass through connection as well. The side panel has a futher HDMI port and Composite connection as well as a USB 2.0 slot. The USB slot can be used to extend the storage capacity of the DVR or can also play content directly on the panel with support for HD DivX, AVI, MPEG, Jpeg and MP3.
While there were a few issues here and there with the panel, considering the price and the integrated DVR this is quite a good purchase. Most of the issues are moot from a comfortable viewing distance except maybe the pass through audio which is quite annoying for people using home theatre systems. We tend to think that issue is a fault though as it seems unlikely that a panel would go into production with such a glaring problem. However, you should take it into consideration nonetheless when deciding if this is the panel for you. Also, keep in mind that this unit as rather heavy so make sure you get someone to help you when setting it up.
The 50inch LG Time Machine is available now for the recommended retail price of $3699.