LG is set to go head to head with Samsung, with LG claiming that their new 3D technology is superior to that offered by their arch rival. We take a look at one of the new LG 3D LED TVs that also comes with new IPTV services.
55in edge-LED LCD screen
Passive 3D built in
Smart TV functionality
Extensive multimedia support
Design and Specs:
LG has certainly talked the good talk with its new ‘Film-Type Pattern Retarder’ passive 3D TVs. But now it’s time to walk the walk, as we find ourselves staring with anticipation at the brand’s flagship 3D LED TV, the 55in LW6500.
The big point about FPR, so far as we’re concerned, is that it makes 3D much more affordable. For whereas last year’s passive 3D TVs had to build a glass substrate filter into the screen, at great cost, with FPR you essentially just stick a polarising filter onto the front of the screen and save yourself a heck of a lot of work and cost in the process. Which results, of course, in a much cheaper proposition for consumers.
The first thing to say about the LW6500, though, is that it’s not quite as attractive as we might have liked LG’s flagship FPR 3D TV to be. Sure, its dark bezel looks opulent and glossy enough, and the appearance of a few millimetres of transparent material beyond the main bezel’s edges cleverly emphasises the screen’s svelte depth. But the bezel’s width feels a little old fashioned by today’s standards (certainly when compared with the practically bezel-free Samsung D7000 and D8000 series), and we kind of missed the all-in-one-plane fascia sported by LG’s Infinia TVs.
It’s back to cutting edge business with the LW6500’s connections, though. The increasingly inevitable four v1.4 HDMIs get the ball rolling, but there’s also a pair of USBs for playback of most types of multimedia files – including DivX HD – and a LAN port for either accessing files on a networked PC or else transporting yourself to the nothing-if-not-varied world of LG’s new Smart TV online service.
More needs to be said about both these LAN-related functions. First, when it comes to accessing stuff via your PC, the LW6500 is the first TV we’ve seen to go the PLEX route. PLEX is essentially a media server utility designed to provide a ‘bridge’ between your Mac or PC and your TV (or other PLEX-enabled home theatre equipment). Movie streaming, home video streaming, TV streaming and music sharing are all possible via PLEX, and there’s much to admire about its pretty, clean, graphics-heavy interface. It has to be said we came across a few problems with setting PLEX up for this test, but we’re sure it’s just that it’s a pretty new system that will doubtless be refined over time.
The new Smart TV online platform, meanwhile, brings a smartphone sensibility to online TV functionality, by putting pretty much everything in app form, and having a store from which you can buy/download the apps you fancy from LG’s wide-ranging and eclectic app collection.
We’ve seen plenty of weird and not particularly wonderful apps on the other Smart TV platforms that have launched this year. But LG’s current offering turns the wacky-meter up to 11, with such startling discoveries as an eye test app, a colour blindness test app, an app that teaches you first aid, a Tarot app, and even a Wine Sound app that features wine glasses being played as a music instrument. OK!!
Thankfully LG divides its app collection between Premium content and, well, ‘b-list’ content, with the Premium channel thankfully providing a very decent selection of services, including the de rigueur ABC iView, the BigPond movie TV/Movie service, YouTube, Picasa, iConcerts, Facebook, GoogleMaps and Twitter.
As with all the latest Smart TV platforms, LG’s will be updated routinely in the coming months. And we were mostly very pleased, too, with the interface LG has devised for its Smart TV system. It’s very graphics-rich, spaciously laid out and just generally appealing, with apps in the store presented on virtual ‘shelves’ and a single screen providing access to huge amounts of content – as well as all your AV inputs and, less helpfully perhaps, the main TV calibration menus.
You can ditch the standard remote in favour of an innovative and actually very useful ‘Magic Remote’ option that lets you control the TV by pointing the remote directly at the option you want to select.
As with most LG TVs, the LW6500 is endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation, and as such is extremely well equipped with picture fine tuning tools.
Other key things you should know about the LW6500 before getting into how it performs are that it’s distinguished from the LW5500 series lower down LG’s range by having 200Hz and a slightly higher claimed contrast ratio of 9,000,000:1, and that it comes with seven free pairs of polarising 3D glasses. Yes, seven.
This is clearly a very big deal when you think that Panasonic’s P50GT30 active 3D TV doesn’t come with any free glasses at all. In other words, as well as the LW6500 already being aggressively priced for a 55in TV, its glasses situation alone saves you quite a bit, versus the cost of getting a similar number of glasses for an active 3D TV. So far as we’re concerned, it’s in this sort of equation that FPR 3D’s considerable threat to active 3D really lies.
Not surprisingly we kicked off our tests of the LW6500’s picture performance with some 3D action. And we weren’t remotely surprised to find the set’s accomplishments and shortcomings very much in-line with the pros and cons described in previous early active and FPR passive 3D samples.
There really is something quite relaxing about the LW6500’s approach to 3D. It just feels less tiring on your eyes, particularly if you have high ambient light levels in your room (which can show up active 3D’s flickering issue). The 3D image also looks brighter than most, if not all, active 3D pictures, and is also reasonably clean – so long as you’re watching from a sensible viewing distance and angle.
Get too close to the screen – which is quite easy to do when the screen’s as big as this one – and you start to see horizontal black lines running across the 3D picture and become aware of a quite jagged look to contoured edges. This latter issue is actually visible from quite distant viewing positions too.
When it comes to the most strongly debated aspect of FPR/passive 3D – resolution – the LW6500’s news is mixed. For while its 3D pictures do somehow manage to look higher in resolution than the mere standard definition picture you might expect, 3D Blu-ray discs and even Sky side-by-side broadcasts definitively do not look as detailed and sharp on the LW6500 as they do on the Panasonic P50GT30. And we can say this with confidence because we’re looking at a split 3D signal running on both screens simultaneously as we write these words.
The slight lack of detail is no surprise, regardless of how much LG tries to argue that its FPR tech delivers a full-HD 3D image. What definitely is surprising though is that the LW6500’s 3D images aren’t totally free of crosstalk. On many occasions parts of the 3D image looked slightly shimmery and indistinct. This isn’t quite the same as the very clear double ghosting of active 3D crosstalk perhaps, but it’s still quite distracting when you see it.
The LW6500’s pictures also explode into serious double imaging crosstalk if you have your head at an angle of more than just 10 degrees or so above or below the screen, while viewing from down the TV’s sides both reduces the 3D effect and makes the picture appear ‘wavy’ – presumably an artefact of the pattern retarder on the screen’s front.
For all these numerous shortcomings though, we’d argue that provided you can sit in a sensible position relative to the screen, the LW6500’s 3D images are perfectly engaging for a mainstream viewer. They just don’t have the precision demanded by the enthusiast’s market.
Our biggest issue with the LW6500 is actually more apparent with 2D viewing than 3D viewing, and takes the form of that old familiar edge LED bugbear of an inconsistent backlight. Without the set’s local dimming feature active, dark scenes look very inconsistent, with big and very obvious patches of extra brightness in each corner, even with the backlight set low.
Turning the local dimming engine on greatly improves this problem, but replaces it with a different one – large and very noticeable chunks of extra brightness around bright objects when they appear against dark backgrounds. To be fair you might not notice any of this while watching pretty straightforward daytime TV fare. But surely anyone buying a 55in TV is going to watch their fair share of films on it, and chances are you’ll be bugged by one form of the backlight inconsistencies or another at some point during any film.
In most other ways the LW6500’s 2D pictures are good. Colours are rich and mostly natural with good blend subtleties, HD pictures look sharp and detailed if very occasionally a touch noisy, and motion is solid – though LG’s TruMotion system does throw up a few artefacts, and so should be used sparingly. There is one final problem that will affect gamers, though. For we measured an input lag of 101ms for the LW6500, even using the set’s provided game preset. As you’d expect,
this translated into a pretty noticeable disadvantage when playing reaction-based games, especially online.
Considering how bulky its bodywork is, the LW6500’s audio is a disappointment. It’s clear and rounded enough with vocals to pass muster with simple ‘talky’ programming, but there’s no bass to speak of and the soundstage never manages to rise above ‘polite’ even during what should be raucous action sequences.
While the LW6500 doesn’t manage to convince us that passive 3D is actually better than active 3D, its 3D images are nonetheless more relaxing to watch and more than acceptable for the sort of casual, occasional use that’s likely to be the basis on which many people watch 3D sources. It’s also impossible to deny the attractiveness of the set’s price relative to active 3D sets, especially with multiple glasses taken into account. All of which makes it even sadder that a potentially very appealing 3D option is so badly let down by some fundamental backlight problems.
The LW6500 from LG runs at an RRP of $3299.