Last Updated: June 24, 2013
2010 LG Plasma TV Reviews
LG's Infinia PK950 Flagship Series
A most tempting mix of features, performance and price
The LG PK950 series is being rated as the best plasma TV LG has ever created. It comes with a most aesthetically pleasing look and an impressive feature set. Most important, the PK950 promises superior picture performance thanks to a new THX mode and a redesigned plasma display panel.
And this LG flagship series comes at a most attractive price - one that would surely be hard for the competition to match. But...
Can the LG PK950 deliver the superior picture performance it promises? How does these LG TVs compare with premium HDTVs from other brands? Are customers satisfied with the latest and greatest LG plasma HDTVs? Go though our LG TV review article for answers to all this and more.
Introducing the new flagship LG Plasma TV: The PK950 Series
For 2010, LG has come up with what is being rated by many as one of the best plasma TVs - this despite a few shortcomings with picture performance. This is the PK950 series. As with other LG PK HDTVs, the PK950 series comprises two screen sizes, the 50" 50PK950 ($1,430) and the 60" 60PK950 ($2,150) LG plasma TVs.
PK950 plasma TVs form part of LG Infinia line of HDTVs. Infinia comprises the best LG plasma and LED TVs and is characterized by more refined styling complemented by LG's single sheet of glass design.
As part of the LG Infinia lineup, PK950 LG plasma TVs come with a most impressive feature set - from LG NetCast Internet-enabled TV platform and the latest THX picture modes, to a new redesigned plasma display panel for improved picture quality. LG also adds the new TruBlack anti-glare filter to the PK950 and that according to LG should help improve black levels significantly over what we saw on previous generation LG plasma TVs.
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The new LG flagship plasma TVs come with what can be defined as the most exhaustive set of user-adjustable picture controls. It is not that all controls perform as expected but it is definitely one that would enable even most demanding videophiles to dial in the best picture for their liking. Both Samsung and in particular Panasonic are catching up in this respect, but LG is still the king here. With the PK950 plasma TVs, LG also throws its Magic Wand TV remote, the Wii-style remote found on the LG LX9500 3D LED TVs, this apart from the more conventional multi-button remote.
As indicated earlier on in this review, notwithstanding the impressive feature set, LG's flagship plasma TVs come at a most attractive price. The latter represents LG's most important edge over the competition, one that becomes more than just an edge at the larger screen sizes. No wonder it is the 60-inch 60PK950 HDTV that so far is turning out to be the bestselling PK950 LG plasma TV.
Certainly, the PK950 represents more than just the typical improvement one would expect over previous generation LG plasma TVs. The new flagship LG plasma TVs are definitely the best HDTVs LG has ever created. The real issue is:
How do LG's best plasma TV compares with respect to the competition? Do they deliver a picture worthy of a flagship series from Samsung or Panasonic?
Editor's Note: For those who have already gone through the rest of the LG plasma TV discussion appearing on this site, some of the information may seem like repeated content due to similar features on the different series. We opted to include all relevant feature details in this PK950 review article for our readers' convenience - thus avoiding the need to keep shifting back and forth between different pages for the relevant information.
The PK950 LG Plasma TV ...in detail
Priced at about the same as Panasonic G25 and Samsung PNC6500 series plasma TVs, these LG plasma TVs come with a similar feature set but one that in certain aspects, deliver more than that of the competition. We take a detailed look at LG's top plasma TV to discover why this is LG's winning card for 2010.
LG flagship series comes with a more refined styling than that of the PK750, the second Infinia plasma TV series for 2010.
Both come with the single sheet of glass design that extends from edge to edge covering the set 0.9-inch bezel, for a seamless look.
This is LG's 3rd generation single layer design, yet on the PK950, it looks quite impressive and helps further enhances the set ultra-flat appearance.
The PK950 includes a narrow transparent edge around the frame. The panel stands over a see-through transparent vertical column and a black glass base. The transparent column is very much the same to what we find on Samsung plasma TVs and leads to a most pleasing yet minimalistic design that blends well with any room decor.
PK950 LG plasma TV 'Single layer' seamless design with the subtle transparent plastic edging - similar to that found on 2009 LG plasma TVs.
Close-up view of LG's elegant support column - similar to that adopted by Samsung on some of its HDTVs
The matching table-stand also allows the set to swivel by 20 degrees to the left or to the right. The rectangular base is ingenious set in such a manner to enable you to still place the TV quite close to the wall should you desire so.
All TV controls and front inputs are positioned along the vertical and bottom sides of the screen; this makes them completely hidden from the front.
Despite these sets miss the thinness of high-end Samsung plasma TVs, yet the LG PK950 are still relatively thin, and at 2.1-inch, they are significantly thinner than the latest 2010 Panasonic Plasma TVs.
Overall dimensions without the stand are 46.9” x 29.0” x 2.1” (W x H x D) for the 50-inch, while the 60-inch measures 55.5" x 33.9" x 2.0".
PK950 side view
LG is using a completely redesigned PDP on its plasma TVs. It incorporates a significantly reduced gap between the outer glass protective layer and the PDP glass surface. This helps minimize the double image problem common with most plasma TVs especially when viewing from extreme off axis due to internal reflections between the top protective glass layer and the glass surface of the PDP itself.
Yet, the most awaited picture-related improvement on the PK950 series is the use of LG's new TruBlack filter that should help preserve black levels much better under bright ambient light conditions.
And to what it is worth, one final improvement with respect to the new LG PDP is that PK950 LG plasma TVs have a rated mega contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1. Basically this is the same as that of the competition but as further explained in our contrast ratio article, the impact in picture performance is by far less than what TV makers are trying to imply with their mega contrast numbers.
User menu on the PK950 LG plasma TV follows on the footsteps of the less expensive series and includes the same basic user menu and navigation structure. Overall, the menu simple layout is functional and very easy to navigate. Included, there is also a useful Quick Menu and a first for LG, basic onscreen explanations.
Directly associated with the menu is the set TV remote control which in the case of the flagship LG plasma TV series includes both a standard clicker that comes with well differentiated keys but that like the clicker on the Panasonic, do not enable infra-red control of other devices, and the much touted magic wand TV remote. The latter works on the same principle as the Nintendo Wii controllers - just point at the screen and move your hand to control the TV. It works fine but we sincerely doubt if users will eventually stick to new magic wand remote once amusement wears off.
The standard TV remote comes with a few dedicated buttons to activate LG's energy saving menu, NetCast and TV Widgets, SimpLink, aspect ratio control, and a frame freeze button. Instead, the Magic Wand remote comes with just a volume control, channel selector, and an OK button that activates a simplified menu on the TV screen controlled by the 'Magic Wand' pointer.
Picture related features
If there is an area in which LG excels is the rich feature set on its HDTVs. The PK950 LG plasma TV feature set definitely is one of the best and comes with a number of important picture quality features - apart from various conveniences designed to make the TV viewing experience one of the best.
Top of the list from a picture quality perspective is the new THX display certification. By engaging the THX picture mode, one should expect an out-of-the-box picture with correct gamma, luminance, and color temperature among others. As further explained under part 1, this is no guarantee you will get the perfect picture, but you should definitely expect one that is as close as possible to what may be considered perfect.
THX certified HDTVs have been around since 2008 though it wasn't before 2009 that THX display-certified HDTVs became truly affordable. What is unique with LG's implementation for 2010 is that apart from THX Cinema, LG included a second THX mode for bright room environments, THX Bright Room. This is a most welcome feature as THX picture modes have so far been non-used adjustable and generally too dim for viewing under a bright environment.
These THX modes form part of LG's most comprehensive set of picture modes. The latter also includes two isf-ready Expert modes designed mainly for professional calibration and that gives total control to the user, plus four other adjustable picture modes; these include a relatively dim-by-design Standard mode whose default settings complies with Energy Star, a Vivid mode which is too bright for most home environments, a Sport mode and a Game mode to optimize the TV dynamic picture response and colors for fast action sports and games.
All these picture modes use independent memories per input to enable the user to adjust these picture modes separate for each input.
The PK950 includes three 3 AV Modes preset to optimize picture and sound settings based on Cinema, Sports or Game content; these can be easily set with a convenient button on the remote control.
Additional picture controls include eleven aspect ratio settings - including a 'Just Scan' mode for 1:1 pixel matching (this makes these TVs also suitable for use as a big PC monitor,) three of each color temperature and gamma presets, a 2-point and a 20-point fine color temperature control, adjustments for dynamic contrast, noise reduction, black level setting, color management support for accurate setting of primary and secondary colors through the use of the provided test patterns, and a color filter function that can turn on the red, green, or blue components of the video signal independently to enable the user to set color saturation and hue accurately.
The color filter on these LG plasma TVs is similar to the Blue Only Mode function found on some Samsung HDTVs and makes for a more exact calibration without the use of additional color filters.
The whole calibration process requires a color bar pattern. This means you need a setup disc (as detailed in our guide to home theater calibration discs here), to get access to a suitable standard color bar pattern.
An alternative option to the a setup DVD is the test pattern you get late at night on some TV stations once their programming is over.
Setting up the color and tint levels with the color filter mode is very easy once you have a suitable color test pattern.
Note that with LG HDTVs, color and tint adjustments are also available through the Picture Wizard II.
Adjusting Color & Tint using the
Let us assume you were to activate the 'Blue' color only. In this case, the white and blue bars on the SMPTE test pattern shown here would both appear blue.
The whole issue is to get these as close a match as possible.
SMPTE Color Test Chart
Go to the Color adjustment, and adjust the color control until you notice that the two big blue bars on the far right and far left side of the screen match the intensity of both of the smaller horizontal blue boxes just directly below the bars.
Next, adjust the Tint (green/red) setting. Adjust the tint level until the intensity of the other two large blue bars to either side of the center black bar (note that during the Blue Only mode, the yellow, green, and red bars in the test pattern will show as black since the red and the green are switched off), is in line with that of the corresponding smaller blue rectangles directly below.
You will notice that color and tint are interactive; moving one control also affects the intensity of the other control - meaning that all four blue bars will be affected.
Proper color/tint setting is achieved once all four vertical boxes appear as solid blue bars, with no visible distinction between the bars and the rectangular boxes underneath.
Mentioning the Picture Wizard feature, this year we find an improved version of LG's picture wizard, hence the reference Picture Wizard II, for easy picture calibration; this is a simple guided self-calibration by providing on-screen reference points through the use of test patterns to help non-expert users adjust key picture quality elements like black and white levels, color, tint, and vertical and horizontal sharpness. It’s like having a basic calibration disc built into your TV.
LG provides 24p Cinema mode for direct support of 24p movie content without the use of 2:3 pulldown processing necessary with 60Hz TVs. LG achieves this by using 3:3 pulldown processing.
This implies a 72Hz refresh rate - created by simply repeating each movie frame three times. This eliminates the judder associated with 2:3 pulldown processing completely; the latter appears as a hitching action and becomes most noticeable in scenes that incorporate slow camera pans or in scenes shot with a handheld camera.
Included, there is also an Intelligent Sensor picture mode for more comfortable viewing; this automatically optimizes the picture to the light and color conditions in the room for a more enjoyable viewing experience.
Apart from the picture related features discussed above, all LG plasma TVs and including the PK950 series, come with a useful frame-freeze function, build-in timer and three modes of image retention protection and that LG refers to as Image Sticking Minimization, or ISM.
Non-picture related features on the PK950 LG Plasma TV Series include:
1] LG NetCast Internet-based Entertainment access is one of the best implemented Internet-based TV entertainment platforms. It is not one of the fastest around but it loads much faster than last year - something which makes it more usable than before. LG NetCast was the first to include the Netflix service - giving you access to a huge selection of movie titles. For 2010, LG NetCast platform has been further improved and includes access to Napster™ and Roxio CinemaNow™ pay-per-view movies to access Hollywood latest hits.
Other services include YouTube videos, streaming Vudu movies in full 1080p HD resolution and 5.1 surround sound, Pandora Internet radio, and Yahoo TV widgets for up-to-the-minute news, stock information, weather updates, Flickr and much more.
2] These LG Plasma TVs are Wi-Fi ready - meaning all that is required for wireless connectivity is to plug in the optional LG AN-WF100 Wi-Fi USB adapter. The second USB2.0 port present on the PK950 LG TV comes in handy as it still leaves you with a free USB port should if you use the Wi-Fi dongle.
Directly related with LG's network connectivity is DLNA support for streaming of multimedia content from your PC. DLNA comes with an interesting user interface and includes plenty of options especially when playing music files. The main problem with LG's DLNA is that the user interface is slow especially when browsing folders with lots of large photo and video files on your PC.
3] Complementing these LG's premium plasma TVs is LG's AN-WL100W Wireless Media Kit. The latter helps reduce the cable clutter by freeing your TV from interconnects with all your other media sources. LG says that the wireless media kit supports streaming of 1080p full HD content to your TV from up to 50 feet away, even through walls and doors. But the LG media kit gets mixed consumer reviews - with one customer complained of communication problems between the media kit and the LG TV even at 12 ft away when the media kit was enclosed in an AV closet.
4] Connectivity is among the best you can find though as is the present trend among TV makers, these LG plasma TVs miss the S-Video input. Overall, connectivity includes four HDMI ver. 1.3 with x.v.Color and CEC (for use with LG SimpLinkTM to control multiple compatible LG devices via the TV remote), one PC VGA type D-sub 15-pin input, two composite video, two component video, and two USB2.0 ports. There is also an Ethernet port for broadband LAN connectivity, a proprietary 'wireless control' port for the LG media box, a wired remote control input, and an RS232 port for servicing and control purposes only (such as when using a PC or a Crestron type remote control system.)
One issue some may encounter with the LG's rear connectivity bay is that all rear connections are facing towards the back wall instead of downwards, something which may turn out to be problematic with low profile HDTV mounts in an on-wall installation.
5] Smart Energy Saving Options have also been provided for improved energy efficiency. Apart from adhering to the latest Energy Star requirements, these LG plasma TVs come with various energy-saving options like the ability to choose content-specific setting, or engaging the 'intelligent sensor' to automatically dim the picture in line with the ambient light.
It even includes a 'video mute' option that switches off the picture while continuing with the sound, like when leaving the room for some time with the TV still on; this drastically reduce power consumption.
6] Audio comes at 10W RMS per channel and includes LG's 'Infinite Sound' for simulated surround sound via the set two-way four speaker system. Included, there is also LG's Clear Voice II feature to help differentiate the human sound range from others, thus improving the audibility of the human voice.
This LG plasma TV sound is good at low volumes and the Clear Voice option does help especially during conversations. But as with most of the latest slim flat panel TVs, it lacks both bass - especially deep bass tones - and even treble response. Like most other flat panel TVs, the only way to really enjoy good quality sound that matches these HDTVs picture quality is to use an external sound system.
There is no doubt that the latest flagship LG plasma TVs deliver one of the very best pictures - with what can be rated as an excellent overall performance notwithstanding a few 'minor' issues, thanks to the PK950 solid deep black levels, accurate natural-looking colors, and clean video processing.
In THX Bright Room mode, these LG plasma TVs deliver the most accurate colors and the best out-of-the-box picture with deep blacks and relatively good shadow detail especially in the darker parts of the image despite the not so accurate gamma.
Yet if there is an area in which LG registered a major performance improvement is in its black levels. In the past, LG's major handicap has always been its rather lighter shade of black. With the PK950, LG managed to get in line with the competition. In their PK950 review, FlatpanelsHD measured a black level of just 0.04 cd/m2 (0.01 ftl) after calibration - practically the same they measured on the G20/G25 Panasonic series. Cnet measured a 0.007 ftl for the G20 but here we are talking about a difference that would become visible to the human eye - if at all - only under the ideal dark room test environment and only in side-by-side comparisons. In other words, under normal viewing conditions, one will never be able to take notice of this negligible difference between the LG and the Panasonic.
Definitely, the new TruBlack filter has brought about a visible improvement on this year flagship LG plasma TVs in black level performance - with a black that is three times darker than that measured on LG's 2009 PS80 flagship series.
A deep shade of black is an extremely important picture quality parameter as it helps render better those difficult-to-define quality attributes like color richness, picture depth, and picture detail especially in television and movie scenes where lots of dark and light content is shown simultaneously. Indirectly, a better black level also leads to better rendering of picture contrast.
One review site noted that these LG plasma TVs suffer from a similar problem encountered on Panasonic G20/25 and S2 series plasma TVs, namely that of fluctuating black levels with different average level picture content, though the Panasonic picture is a bit more stable.
Unlike LCDs, all plasma TVs do this to some degree and happens as plasma display technology tends to adjust the overall brightness depending on the average brightness of the picture - also referred to as average picture level (APL) - to prevent panel overheating and excessive stress, and to extend the panel's life.
These fluctuations do not compromise in any way the LG solid black level performance. With most program content, they would not be so obvious, and will become mainly visible only when the average picture content is excessively bright as dynamic APL (average picture level) circuits enter to limit the overall drive level to the panel to protect the PDPl.
Shadow detail on these LG plasma TVs is good though not perfect due to a less accurate gamma. According to a FlatpanelsHD review, gamma varies between 2.09 and 2.23 across the different gray levels; instead Cnet refers to a relatively accurate average gamma of 2.16. The ideal gamma should remain stable at 2.2 across the full range of light levels.
But both review sites agree that overall shadow detail still looks good as gamma remains quite close to the 2.2 standard in the dark parts of the image.
Colors on the PK950 look nice and natural - especially in the brighter parts of the image, without any color casts as instead is the pale blue cast present on the Samsung PNC7000 and the greenish cast of the Panasonic G series.
In the darkest parts of the image, not all colors show up while near black colors take a bluish cast. One particular online review mentions a yellow push - with yellow appearing a bit too saturated and shifting towards red; this is not considered critical and as confirmed by the same reviewer, it is something that can be easily corrected in the advanced menu.
Otherwise, color decoding and color reproduction is very good, doing better in certain areas than the competition.
Grayscale uniformity is also good but there is still room for some improvement. LG provides a 20-point IRE color temperature control which should theoretically provide the necessary fine-tuning to maintain all shades of gray close to the D65 standard across the entire brightness range - thus preserving color fidelity at all brightness levels. Cnet complains that the 20-point system does not work as expected - with settings that appear to shift over time and lack of sensitivity in the controls. In this respect, the standard 2-point systems works better.
Video processing is clean and free from video artifacts. These LG plasma TVs can also handle 1080p/24 content correctly - thus delivering the correct cadence of 24p movie content. Cnet in their review of the LG 50PK950 mentions some softness and ringing artifacts in the finer detail areas of their test patterns but adds that these would not show with normal program content.
Motion resolution stands at around 800 lines, similar to that on Samsung plasma TVs; instead, corresponding Panasonic plasma TVs can handle 1080 lines. The LG performance is still exceptionally good. At this level of motion resolution, you would not be able to perceive any difference between these LG plasma TVs and the Panasonics with normal broadcast content. This also explains why at this level of motion resolution, you need special test patterns to detect any difference in performance.
Standard definition looks good and relatively sharp on the LG as long as you stick to digital inputs - much better than on G-series Panasonic plasmas but not as good as on corresponding Samsung plasma TVs, resolving every single line of the DVD format. Jaggies in moving diagonals are minimal. Noise reduction is good.
Equally important for PC gamers, PK950 LG plasma TVs can very well serve as big PC monitors - delivering crisp clear text and graphics via both the HDMI inputs as well as the VGA-type PC input.
Response time, Phosphor trailing and Input lag: As with other plasma TVs, response time is not an issue and the PK950 LG plasma TV has a very fast pixel response. The real problem with plasma TVs arise with phosphor trailing. However, according to FlatpanelsHD, these LG TVs hardly exhibit any phosphor trailing, doing better than corresponding Panasonic and Samsung plasma TVs.
According to the same review site, input lag is also quite low. Coupled with the almost free phosphor trailing image, one should expect the LG PK950 to be one of the best plasma TVs for gaming even though it suffers a bit from image retention.
Image retention (IR) is not of concern even though these LG plasma TVs tend to have more susceptibility to image retention than other plasma TVs. Image retention is temporary and in general the retained image will quickly disappear on its own. In the extreme case, you can always activate LG 'Color Wash' or in the worst case, the 'White Wash' feature. But as stated, in the majority of cases, it will disappear without any user intervention.
Image retention is something that will show up especially if you fail to activate the pixel orbiter while leaving static images on the TV screen for extended periods, like when playing games with bright images that remain static for more than 2hrs. All plasma TVs exhibit image retention in such circumstances. We have seen reports of image retention even on the Panasonic G-series - despite being rated as least susceptibility than Samsung and LG plasma TVs.
Image retention is more pronounced during initial use when the new phosphors burn more intensely. One expects image retention to lessen and eventually disappear after about the first 200hrs of use. Note however that you can do a lot to help protect your plasma TV investment by simply keeping the brightness and contrast levels down, especially during the first few hundred hours. More on how best to protecting your plasma TV is available on our site here.
Screen Performance: The LG screen on the PK950 series is able to preserve blacks extremely well under relatively bright room conditions thanks to the new TruBlack filter, but it is not able to attenuate reflections sufficiently.
The real problem with the LG screen is that while the new LG TruBlack filter is highly effective in preserving blacks under bright artificial light during night-time viewing - doing better than both Panasonic and Samsung plasma TVs, in the presence of very high levels of daytime ambient lighting, the LG black levels fall. This suggests that under heavy ambient light conditions, the new LG filter is not able to preserve the deep blacks due to what appears to be reflections inside the panel as a result of ambient light entering the panel.
Reflections off the top glass can also be an issue during normal viewing under bright light; but they are no more problematic than reflections from other shiny screen HDTVs - including the equivalent priced Samsung PNCPNC6500 series and even the more expensive PNC7000 3D Samsung plasma TVs.
As with most HDTVs, a dimmed viewing environment is essential to enjoy the best picture supported by these LG plasma TVs.
Power consumption: This is an area in which most plasma TV reviews do not agree as TV power is highly dependent on picture settings, and in particular on the picture brightness level. FlatpanelsHD reports 225W once calibrated while Cnet reports 268W for the 50-inch PK950 LG plasma TV.
In either case, these measurements fall within the average power consumption of the latest plasma TVs. The Cnet reading renders the LG one of the least efficient - with a power consumption that though better than 2009 plasma TVs, is still marginally more than that of corresponding Samsung and in particular, Panasonic G-series plasma HDTVs.
Irrespective of brand, these readings confirm that though the latest plasma TVs are more energy efficient than 2009 models, edge-lit LED TVs still use less than half the power of the latest plasma TVs.
With the PK950 LG plasma TV series, LG managed to register a giant step in picture performance of its plasma TVs with respect to previous generations. The new LG plasma TVs does not represent some new unattained frontier in display performance by Panasonic or Samsung premium HDTVs, but with the PK950, LG has for the first time come up with a product whose performance once calibrated matches - and in certain areas surpass that of the competition.
Deep blacks, natural colors, good shadow detail, relatively accurate THX mode though, negligible phosphor trailing, correct handling of 1080p/24p content, excellent motion resolution, a functional Internet TV platform despite a bit slow to load, and sleek styling, all form part of the PK950 LG plasma TV package.
Yet the major leap for LG is in its black levels - thanks to the new TruBlack filter. All is complemented by a most comprehensive set of user-adjustable picture controls, one that would enable both demanding enthusiasts and inexperienced users to get the best picture for their liking, thanks to features like ISFccc calibration and LG's Picture Wizard II.
This is not the TV to use under bright ambient light; reflections may be an issue. Equally important, with all rear connections facing the wall instead of downwards, a slim wall installation may prove difficult. Some may also feel uncomfortable with image retention even though we we believe this is not worth worrying about and expect this to get a lot better with time.
The bottom line: The PK950 is definitely the best LG plasma TV ever - with a picture quality that competes well with that of corresponding models from both Samsung and Panasonic. No wonder these TVs have averaged close to 5 stars out of 5 in customer reviews posted on major online stores. These represent a great TV option for those who do not care about 3D but who are after solid picture quality and an aesthetically pleasing design at a very reasonable price.
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