Last Updated: June 24, 2013
2010 LG Plasma TV Sets
Product Review Part 1: Introduction
Extensive features, Innovation, and overall value
For 2010, LG is presenting eight models - ranging from 42-inch entry-level HDTVs to premium 60-inch plasma TVs. It is the smallest plasma TV line for 2010. But it still represents serious competition to both Samsung and Panasonic.
Unfortunately, many who appreciate the benefits of plasma over LCD would often ignore LG and instead focus on Panasonic and Samsung. But those doing so will often be missing not only on some of the best plasma HDTV deals around, but even more so, missing on some extremely valid HDTV options representing solid overall value especially at the premium-end category.
In this LG plasma TV product review, we first go through the full LG line of plasma TVs for 2010 to see what is on offer from this major player in the field, and then review LG's relatively affordable high-end PK950 series.
Introducing the new line of LG Plasma TVs
As a TV maker, LG Electronics main TV business is its line of LCD and LED HDTVs. This explains why year after year, LG is the TV maker that is presenting the smallest number of plasma TV models from a single brand.
For this year, LG has come up with just eight models (actually, the LG website lists 10 but in reality, only 8 are available at the time of this write-up) spread over two entry-level series and two premium series.
Irrespective of the small number of models, the latest LG plasma TV line still constitutes one of the most advanced and valid TV options irrespective of brand. No wonder, sets such as the inexpensive entry-level 42-inch LG 42PJ350 and the relatively affordable 50-inch LG 50PK750 from within LG's Infinia plasma line are proving to be among the bestselling plasma HDTVs for 2010. Yet, as indicated in our introduction, many home theater enthusiasts and videophiles in the market for an HDTV often dismiss LG and instead look elsewhere without even knowing what is on offer from this major TV maker. Those doing so will often be missing on some extremely valid HDTVs. You see, LG real strength arises out of its ability to deliver feature-packed HDTVs and refined styling at a price the competition would often find it hard to beat.
This applies irrespective of whether one is dealing with entry-level HDTVs or one of the latest Infinia series of premium plasma TVs. This LG's edge over the stiff competition becomes more clear at the premium end category. A case in point is the 2010 LG 50PK950 flagship plasma TV which at present is selling online at under $1,400.
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This LG plasma TV has been described by a major review site as a 'gem' offering a most extensive feature set and sleek slim styling complemented by LG's single-glass design and one that is significantly thinner than the latest Panasonic plasma TVs. The PK950 also delivers solid picture performance characterized by relatively deep blacks and accurate overall colors. The LG flagship series falls within the same price bracket as that of the Samsung PNC6500 and the Panasonic G25 series; yet in terms of features, it offers more, representing a better overall value. This LG advantage increases as one moves towards the bigger 60-inch versions - with LG's massive 60-inch 60PK950 selling online for just $2,150!
OK, these LG plasma TVs do not come with 3D; 3D is not on LG's agenda for its 2010 plasma TVs. Some may interpret this as LG's inability to keep up with the latest technical developments. We do not think so. Rather, we see this as a marketing choice inasmuch as for 2009, Sony did literally miss the LED TV market. This 3D issue is not much of a loss; as we have expressed in the following article appearing under our 3D TV section, despite the much touting by TV makers like Panasonic and even Samsung, 3D TV is still in the making to be truly the TV entertainment technology of choice in the home. In other words, the absence of 3D from the LG plasma line for 2010 should in no way minimize the PK950 LG plasma TV appeal to those looking for the best picture.
So why is it that many in the market for an HDTV often dismiss LG?
Admittedly, in the past, the LG picture quality has often been rated by major review sites as one that is not exactly up to that of corresponding sets from Samsung or Panasonic due to LG's lighter shade of black - one that would become mainly visible especially in side-by-side comparisons under the ideal dark room test environment.
What many fail to realize is that outside side-by-side comparisons, it would be hard to tell the difference. In other words, LG plasma TVs have always represented great overall value, thanks to an often superior feature set with respect to the competition, and a solid picture overall - a picture that is very much in line though not exactly up to that from both Samsung and Panasonic.
Yet this is the year that has brought about a real major change. With its 2010 plasma line, LG has significantly raised the bar in picture quality with respect to previous lineups - with a black level that matches that of the competition and a performance that in certain areas, even outdo the other players in the field.
2010 LG Plasma TVs - Full Product Evaluation: What's covered in this product review article
Editor's Note: This LG plasma TV review is being divided into three parts, including this introduction; in the remaining two parts, we look at each series - highlighting the main features on offer, and then proceed with a detailed review of the PK950 LG flagship series. For further details, please refer to this article content index at the top of this page.
2010 LG Plasma TVs ...an overview
For 2010, LG is presenting four series, a 720p entry-level series, a 1080p version of the 720p series, and two premium series; the latter two falls within its Infinia line of HDTVs for 2010.
As is typical of LG, features on LG plasma TVs abound - from entry-level series to LG's Infinia line of plasma TVs. All LG plasma HDTVs - from entry-level to the most advanced models - are characterized possibly by the most advanced set of user-adjustable picture controls - one that would surely enable even the most demanding users to get the best picture for their liking. Present is also a 2-point and new for 2010, a 20-point IRE white balance adjustment system which is supposed to enable users to set the perfect grayscale along the full range of brightness levels.
Entry-level HDTVs get the latest new slim 0.9-inch bezel and a 2.2-inch thin panel - much thinner than the chunkier 3.5-inch 2010 Panasonic plasma TVs; included, there is also LG's Picture Wizard II for easy picture calibration, 24p playback, and even an ISFccc calibration option - a feature that is often reserved by other brands for premium models.
The higher end series get LG latest Infinia design with its refined single sheet of glass styling, the much improved THX display certification with its dual Cinema and Bright Room THX modes, and enhanced access to Internet-enabled TV entertainment. And this apart from a few extras reserved solely for the flagship line such as the TruBlack filter which helps make a visible improvement in the flagship black level performance over the rest of the LG plasma TV lineup, and LG's Magic Wand TV remote.
Main Innovations for 2010
One cannot discuss the new LG plasma TVs without first mentioning something on the most important innovative features found on the latest LG plasma TVs for 2010.
LG has completely redesigned its plasma line for 2010, with the new sets being significantly slimmer than those from Panasonic, having an overall panel depth that stands at no more than 2.2-inch, and HDTVs that are some 40% lighter than previous models.
In addition, entry-level 720p and 1080p series come with what LG is calling TruSlim Frame, a thin frame around the display panel that boast a bezel width of just 0.9-inch. Instead, premium series enjoy the more refined single-layer of glass styling.
But the LG redesign is not just cosmetic...
LG has significantly reduced the gap between the outer glass protective layer found on most plasma TVs and the glass surface of the plasma display panel itself; the new spacing is now less than 70% of what used to be in previous generation PDPs.
This second glass layer is common place among plasma display panels but apart from protecting the PDP itself, it also enhances image distortion due to internal image reflections leading to double images especially with off-axis viewing. For 2010, Panasonic has simply removed this second glass completely in favor of improved picture performance despite leaving the PDP more vulnerable.
LG decided to retain the protective advantage offered by this second layer but by significantly reducing the gap, it virtually eliminates double image problem completely except in extreme off-angle viewing conditions - which conditions would not normally crop up in the normal home environment.
A second picture quality related improvement resulting from the new LG plasma TV panel is the integration of the new TruBlack filter on its flagship series. This helps preserve black levels better under bright light while improving contrast for a much better picture performance in bright room conditions.
And to what it's worth, the new panels also come with an improved mega contrast ratio. LG quotes a 3,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio for all plasma TVs except for the flagship series which gets an improved rating of 5,000,000:1. But as further explained in our Contrast Ratio article, a picture is not made of contrast alone. So please do not play the TV makers' game; the impact in picture performance is far less than what TV makers are trying to imply with their mega contrast numbers.
Directly related with LG's new design is the LG Infinia concept. According to LG, INFINIA™ TVs represent an innovative new family of HDTVs that aim to deliver 'freedom' in home entertainment.
LG is presenting two plasma TV series within its Infinia line, the PK750 and the PK950. Features of INFINIA LG plasma TVs vary by series but the main characteristic is the single-layer of glass design that extends from edge-to-edge for a seamless look; this is further complemented by the new slim bezel behind the top glass, and the thin profile.
Other features associated with the Infinia line include:
1] Enhanced access to Internet-enabled TV entertainment thanks to LG NetCast feature - through the TV broadband connectivity. The latter can be either wired or wireless; however, wireless connectivity requires the optional LG’s AN-WF100 Wi-Fi USB adapter.
2] A THX-certified picture for superior picture quality.
Complementing LG's premium plasma TVs is LG's AN-WL100W Wireless Media Kit. This is an interesting option to reduce the cable clutter by freeing your TV from interconnects with all your other media sources. LG says the wireless media kit supports streaming of 1080p full HD content to your TV from up to 50 feet away, but one customer reported that while the unit works fine at very close distances of just a few feet, at 12 feet, he experienced difficulty in getting a strong enough signal to support HD communication when the media kit was enclosed in an AV closet. This media kit is compatible with all 2010 LG plasma TVs featuring NetCast.
Both the PK750 and PK950 series come with THX display certification. LG is one of the few TV makers that this year is presenting HDTVs with THX certification. Selecting the THX picture mode should theoretically give you an out-of-the-box picture with correct gamma, luminance, color temperature, correct HD color, correct de-interlacing, clean standard definition upscaling, smooth motion, and minimum video artifacts.
We say theoretically because a review appearing on FlatpanelsHD says that the color temperature on these LG plasma TV sets is a bit too warm in the THX mode. But then we have to add that this is typical of most THX modes found on other TV brands. At the same time, it remains a fact that for a TV maker to earn the THX display certification, it has to pass more than 400 THX tests to ensure that the TV is capable of delivering a picture the way the director intended it to be - which is what THX display certification is all about.
Mind you, THX does not indicate its exact standards with respect to product certification, meaning that a THX-certified model is no guarantee in itself that it will outperform one that doesn't bear the THX logo.
However, there are several advantages to buying a THX-certified HDTV set. The most important advantage is that once you select the THX picture mode, you can be sure of enjoying a picture which at least meets the minimum performance standards to deliver images as they were intended to be - one that is as close as possible to what may be considered the perfect picture.
This makes the THX picture mode ideal for the inexperienced users who do not have the necessary knowledge of how to go about setting up a TV picture for the best image, or in that case for anyone who just want a simple effective way of getting a great TV picture. But most often, it is not the ideal picture mode for the professional, videophile, or home theater enthusiast looking for the very best picture. The THX mode as implemented on most HDTVs and including these LG plasma TVs, does not leave room for user adjustments. In other words, all picture parameters on these LG TVs are fixed and not adjustable unless you have access to the serving menu. This means that experienced users who are more apt to using one of the Expert modes on these LG plasma TVs, would definitely come up with an even better picture for their liking than that possible with the THX mode.
There is one major improvement though with respect to previous THX implementations. LG is delivering more than just a standard THX Cinema mode; included, there is also a second THX mode - THX Bright Room - as already indicated earlier on in this LG plasma TV review article. The bright room mode is definitely a most welcome feature by many looking to enjoy the best TV picture under higher levels of ambient light. It also happens that the new THX Bright Room mode is the most accurate out-of-the-box picture mode on this year LG plasma TVs.
In the past, THX picture modes have always been characterized by a rather dim picture, one that is mainly suitable for viewing in the dark room environment of the home theater. Yet many would normally watch their TV under brighter light conditions; this renders the dim picture of the standard THX picture mode rather useless in what actually happens to be the more common TV viewing environment.
Part of the new Infinia line is LG NetCast, available on both the PK750 and the PK950 LG plasma TV series. NetCast was originally pioneered by LG in 2009 and was the first to include Netflix. So far it has proved to be one of the best Internet TV experiences ever. The new implementation is much faster - though not as fast as Samsung's new web-connected TV platform - Samsung Apps.
With NetCast, the user can stream movies, TV shows and videos with Netflix, giving you access to a library of thousands of titles. You can also view YouTube videos, and stream Vudu movies in full 1080p HD resolution and 5.1 surround; at present, there are more than 2,000 HD titles to choose from. You also get direct access to Yahoo TV Widgets for up-to-the-minute news, stock information, weather updates, Flickr and much more, without the need for a computer.
For 2010, this NetCast platform has been further improved and includes access to Napster™ to enjoy unlimited on-demand streaming of music, and Roxio CinemaNow™ for instant access to pay-per-view movies from major studios directly on the TV screen.
While Panasonic has reserved the ISFccc calibration option for its flagship series only, all LG plasma TVs for 2010 come as ISFccc ready. This means that professional calibration technicians can calibrate these LG HDTVs to deliver the best picture quality for the home theater environment. The ISFccc calibration process includes adjustment for contrast, tint, sharpness and color levels with a high degree of accuracy. Once calibrated, the settings are locked to avoid any accidental changes. Technicians can store their calibration settings as ISF Day and ISF Night modes for best image quality under different light conditions; these ISF picture settings are added to the TV preset picture modes.
Inasmuch as Samsung is touting about its touch screen TV remote for its premium C9000 series, LG is equally boasting of its new Magic Remote for its flagship plasma and LED TVs. Mind you, Samsung's smart remote stands in a class of its own in terms of innovative features and supported functionality. But the LG Magic wand remote represents an innovative and simple way of controlling your TV.
The new LG remote utilizes the same principle as Nintendo Wii controllers. Just point it at the screen and move your hand to control the TV. The Magic remote has a few basic buttons like volume control, channel selector, and an OK button.
Mind you, some may consider the LG magic wand nothing more than a gimmick; and to a certain extent, we tend to agree. But it remains a fact that this uninspiring-looking piece of electronics can do a lot to control your TV functionality.
LG do not provide a picture-in-picture mode as instead is the case with Samsung; instead, what you get is a useful freeze-frame function that allows you to temporary freeze the picture to catch a phone number or some other detail during a commercial. It still represents a bonus over the Panasonic competition in that Panasonic plasma TVs do not come with a picture-in-picture feature or a frame-freeze option.