Last Updated: June 24, 2013
2009 LG Plasma TV Review
Lineup Overview and the
PS80 high-end LG THX Plasma TVs
Superb color, extensive features, and... inexpensive
When in February, Pioneer and Vizio announced they were exiting the plasma TV market, many thought that next to follow will be LG. But LG's response was a complete line of innovative plasma HDTVs - from entry-level to high-end yet affordable THX display-certified plasma HDTVs.
Features abound even on entry-level 720p series while the high-end LG PS80 plasma TVs come with one of the most advanced and innovative features that HDTV technology has ever delivered; and this at a price that is well below that of the competition. In particular, the massive 60-inch LG 60PS80 plasma TV represents a most compelling option for the home theater on a budget.
In this LG plasma TV product guide, we first introduce you to the full LG plasma line for 2009; we then proceed to review LG's high-end PS80 series.
LG Plasma TV lineup for 2009: an introduction
Although as a TV maker, LG mainly concentrates on its LCD HDTV line, yet its 2009 line of plasma TVs still constitutes one of the most advanced and valid options in the industry. LG real strength in the TV industry arises out of its ability to deliver feature-packed HDTVs at a most affordable price tag - in particular at the really big-screen TV end of the market.
In this respect LG definitely delivers better than the competition. In particular, the massive 60-inch LG 60PS80 represents quite an interesting option for the home theater and home entertainment in general. Admittedly, LG picture quality is not up to that of corresponding sets from Samsung or Panasonic due to LG lighter shade of black. But this LG plasma TV still delivers a great picture overall with superb accurate colors thanks to its THX picture mode, a great stylish one-sheet design, and extensive advanced features with integrated Netflix support and numerous user-adjustable picture settings. And this high-end TV from LG comes at a price that is well below that of the competition.
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LG Plasma TV line for 2009 comprises eight models ranging in screen size from 42-inch to 60-inch - covering both entry-level TVs as well as a full line of THX display-certified HDTVs.
Entry-level LG plasma models include the 50-inch 720p LG 50PQ20 ($800); this is the cheapest 50-inch model within the 2009 LG lineup. This is followed by the 42-inch LG 42PQ30 ($650) and the 50-inch LG 50PQ30 ($860).
Despite being entry-level, these 720p TVs still come with a few interesting features and the latest cutting edge 600Hz sub-field drive technology which LG calls Smooth Motion. As with present plasma display technology, LG new display panel supports dynamic mega-contrast ratio levels, improved picture brightness at lower power consumption than previous generation panels, 100,000hrs panel life, and a wider tonal range for improved color accuracy.
The higher brightness levels supported by the new LG plasma panel make these LG plasma TVs suitable as direct replacement to LCDs under bright lighting environments. However, LG shiny screen can be an issue under bright lighting in that the anti-glare coating found on these LG plasma TVs is not as effective as that found on similar sets from Panasonic and Samsung.
Features include LG SimpLink to control other compatible HDMI-connected devices with the TV remote, multiple picture modes - including a Game mode, and extended user-adjustable picture controls. When it comes to the TV audio, entry-level sets get the same treatment as LG high-end models. Audio comes at 10W RMS per channel and includes among others, SRS TruSurround XTTM for simulated surround sound via the set two speaker system. Connectivity is more adequate for entry-level TVs and includes 3 HDMI inputs, a PC input, USB for JPEG and MP3 files, and a complete suite of analog video inputs - including an S-video. The latter is often skipped on the latest HDTVs from other top brands. You also find an RS232 port for servicing and external TV control.
Conveniences include a swivel stand - missing even on the most expensive Panasonic HDTVs, a full suite of smart energy saving options including the use of an intelligent sensor to control the TV brightness according to the room ambient light level, three modes of image retention control, and a useful freeze-frame feature that will let you freeze the current frame content till you take note say of a contact number during a commercial.
Moving up the LG plasma TV line for 2009, one finds the two THX display-certified plasma series, the PS60 with its 50-inch LG 50PS60 ($1,050) and 60-inch LG 60PS60 ($1,750), followed by LG high-end PS80 sets, the 50-inch LG50PS80 ($1,300) and the 60-inch LG 60PS80 ($1,950) already referred to above. Both LG plasma TV series come with an almost identical specification set and add THX display certification, LG Picture Wizard to help you set the picture settings correctly, a fourth HDMI input, and LG 'single layer' design.
In addition, LG PS80 HDTVs include other picture enhancement features like 48Hz Cinema Mode for proper rendering of 24p content over HDMI without any judder. However, the real significant difference however between the PS60 and the PS80 LG plasma TVs is the presence of LG NetCast in the higher-end series. This is similar to Panasonic VieraCast and Samsung Medi@2.0 IPTV entertainment access with the difference that LG NetCast includes support for streaming of Netflix movies - a first of its kind among high-end models from major brands.
LG has also recently launched a third 60-inch plasma TV, the LG 60PS11 ($1,900). From a features perspective, the PS11 is basically a no-frills massive plasma TV with similar features to entry-level PQ30 LG plasma TVs, with just a slight difference though. The PS11 brings with it what LG calls 24p Real Cinema to display 24p sources without image judder - similar to the 24p support on PS80 LG plasma TVs.
At the present online prices, 42-inch and 50-inch LG plasma TVs face serious competition from the main leaders in the field despite that these are selling at about the same price as corresponding sets from Samsung and Panasonic. Mind you, LG plasma TVs are capable of delivering a great picture overall and possibly have the best feature set for the price.
However, for many LG does not have a sufficient extra-edge over the competition to turn most consumers away from Samsung and Panasonic. Samsung plasma TVs have a similarly rich feature set and are capable of an excellent picture. And if you are after the best in picture quality, Panasonic plasma TVs delivers better.
Instead, it is at the 60-inch screen category that LG is the king; in particular, it is LG high-end series that is LG's winning card for 2009. You see, for most consumers, the primary issue in HDTV choice is often a matter of price.
At this massive screen size, the 60PS80 LG plasma TV delivers more than its main competition - in spite of its significantly lower price - in terms of overall value thanks to its superior and more technologically advanced feature set. Experts agree that though the LG picture quality is not exactly in line with high-end sets from Panasonic or Samsung, yet this massive LG 60-inch plasma TV is still capable of delivering a great picture for your home entertainment at a budget.
The 60PS80 LG Plasma TV ...a detail review
Priced at about the same as 58-inch plasma sets from Panasonic S1 and Samsung B650, this larger LG plasma TV comes with a feature set that is in line with that of the more expensive Samsung Series 8 and Panasonic V10 high-end sets. Netflix streaming, picture calibration wizard, THX display certification, 24p input support and single-sheet design, are just but a few of the features we have already referred to in our introduction. We now take a detailed look at LG's top plasma TV to discover why this is LG's winning card for 2009.
As expected, the LG high-end series comes with a more refined styling than the rest of the 2009 LG line-up.
It uses a similar 'single layer' design as that found on PS60 LG plasma TVs. This 'top' layer extends from edge to edge covering the set slightly wider black bezel for an extremely high-end look that differentiates the PS80 from the competition.
This is LG's 2nd generation single layer design. On the PS80, it looks quite impressive and helps further enhances the set ultra-flat appearance. It is equivalent to the 'single sheet of glass' design found on the more expensive Panasonic V10 series.
PS80 LG plasma TV 'Single layer' design with the subtle chrome accent above the power button
Close-up view of LG's elegant support column
We still prefer the ultra-slim design with the crystal clear support column of Series 8 Samsung plasma HDTVs over LG and Panasonic single sheet design. But then we think the LG PS80 overall design is well crafted and more aesthetically pleasing than Panasonic V10 HDTVs
Below the LG screen is a simple horizontal strip with a subtle chrome accent on the left side, just over the power switch. The sides are edged in a fine metallic silver that matches the pedestal on the swivel stand.
All set controls and front inputs are positioned on the right and left side of the screen; this makes them completely hidden from front view.
PS80 side view
The base of the support stand has an almost oval shape and includes a 20 degrees swivel action to either left or right - a much-appreciated convenience that is often missing at this screen size on most HDTVs from other brands. The oval shape of the base is also ingenious shaped in such a manner to enable you to still place the TV quite close to the wall should you desire so.
Panel thickness stands at 3.2 inches without the stand - almost the same as the Panasonic V10. Overall dimensions without the stand are 57.7” x 36.5” x 3.2” (W x H x D).
As with other plasmas from top brands, these LG plasma TVs' glossy screen comes with anti-glare coating which while still effective in minimizing glare, it is not as effective as Panasonic AR coating or Samsung FilterBrightTM ant-glare technology.
User menu on the LG PS80 plasma TV follows on the footsteps of the less expensive series and includes the same basic user menu and navigation structure. Overall, its simple layout is functional and very easy to navigate even though there is no on-screen help as is the case with Samsung's equivalents.
Directly associated with the menu is the set remote control which is a modified version of the basic remote provided with the rest of the LG plasma TV line for 2009. The main difference with the PS80 remote is the presence of dedicated buttons for LG NetCast and Yahoo Widgets apart from similar dedicated buttons for LG SimpLink and LG energy saving options - which we like.
If there is an area in which LG excels is the rich feature set provided with its HDTVs; the PS80 LG plasma TV feature set definitely surpass that of the competition. And apart from the latest 600Hz sub-field pixel technology for improved motion resolution and a 2,000,000:1 mega-contrast ratio rating, these LG plasma TVs come with quite a few technologically advanced and we add, useful enhancements.
Top of the list is LG NetCast entertainment access center. Like Panasonic VieraCast and Samsung Medi@2.0, LG NetCast gives you access to internet content direct on your TV via your broadband internet connectivity and the set Ethernet port. NetCast is possibly one of the very best implementations of IPTV functionality and presently provides the best direct TV-internet experience.
A first for LG here is that with NetCast, the user can stream movies, TV shows and videos with Netflix - giving you access to a library of over 15,000 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.
Like Panasonic V10, these LG plasma TVs come with THX Display Certification which signifies that the PS80 display has been certified to present all HD and standard definition content at the maximum resolution with the correct color and luminance levels. Termed THX Cinema, LG picture quality in THX mode is excellent with accurate colors; it represents the easiest way to a great picture.
Some may complain that in the THX picture mode, most basic picture settings are unavailable - including the possibility to alter the image brightness level.
But the THX picture mode is mainly an out-of-the-box picture setting intended to deliver the correct picture settings without the need to play around with the set numerous user-adjustable picture controls available under other picture modes. LG provides more than just the basic set of picture enhancement controls. In particular, advanced picture settings include adjustments for color temperature, dynamic contrast, noise reduction, gamma, black level, white balance, and color management support for accurate setting of primary and secondary colors through the use of the provided test patterns.
You also get various 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.
THX Cinema is just one of seven picture modes. These include the relatively dim-by-design Standard mode whose default settings complies with Energy Star 3.0, 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, and two isf-ready Expert modes designed mainly for professional calibration.
Apart from these seven picture modes, the LG PS80 also 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.
LG Picture Wizard enables easy self-calibration by providing on-screen reference points for 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 also provides 24p Cinema mode for direct support of 24p movie content without the use of 2:3 pulldown processing. LG achieves this by repeating each movie frame twice for a video frame rate of 48 Hz; this eliminates judder completely.
Apart from the video features discussed above, all LG plasma TVs for 2009, the PS80 comes with a useful frame-freeze function, build-in timer and three modes of image retention protection which LG refers to as Image Sticking Minimization, or ISM.
Audio comes at 10W RMS per channel and includes SRS TruSurround XTTM for simulated surround sound via the set two speaker system. Speaking of speakers, here is another innovation on part of LG. These LG plasma TVs use a system of what LG calls 'invisible speakers' - originally introduced on 2008 LG HDTVs whereby each speaker is embedded in strategic points behind the front cabinet and use minute vibrations to turn the entire front bezel into a speaker system. This leads to a better quality TV sound than that produced by the down-firing speakers used on most of the competition. In particular, the LG speaker system helps deliver a wider sound field - with sound that appears radiating from the entire front panel.
Connectivity is among the best you can find; this is also one of those HDTVs that still include an 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 SimpLinkTM devices via the TV remote), one PC VGA type D-sub 15-pin input, S-video, composite video, two component video, and a USB2.0 port for JPEG, MP3 playback and DivX HD files. An RS232 port is also included for servicing and external TV control such as by using a PC or a Crestron type remote control system - similar to what you find on Panasonic sets.
These TVs are energy star 3.0 compliant and come with a few smart energy saving options - including three settings for an intelligent sensor that automatically adjusts the brightness level according to the light present in the room. Rated average power consumption for the 60-inch 60PS80 LG plasma TV is 360W - which is basically in line with the competition.
From a performance perspective, the 60PS80 LG plasma TV is capable of very good picture - thanks to its THX picture mode. One difference here with respect to the Panasonic THX mode is that the LG THX mode comes with a brighter picture than Panasonic G10 and V10 THX equivalents. Unfortunately, in the THX mode, you cannot adjust even basic picture parameter settings like the brightness level. But this is the same as the THX mode on Panasonic equivalent. You see, the THX mode is mainly designed as an out-of-the-box picture mode.
Color accuracy in THX mode on the LG PS80 is very good - with a color performance that is defined by experts as superb and pleasing - though it is not exactly spot on to the HD standard as is the case with the Samsung B860.
On the other hand, the black level on the LG - while still better than most CCFL-based LCDs, does not compare with that of the latest Panasonic Viera and Samsung plasma HDTVs. Expert reviews appearing on both Cnet and hometheatermag.com agree that the blacks on the LG PS80 can turn out to be disappointing for a high-end HDTV - with the set main weakness being its inability in rendering absolute black levels.
This is the main reason for the somewhat poorer picture and the slightly less saturated colors on the LG in comparison to that on corresponding Samsung and Panasonic sets.
As we often say, a deep shade of black is an extremely important picture quality parameter as it helps render better those difficult-to-define quality attributes like picture depth, picture detail - especially in television and movie scenes where lots of dark and light content is shown simultaneously, and color richness. Indirectly, a better black level also leads to better rendering of picture contrast. This does not mean that the LG PS80 picture quality is sub-standard. As we have already expressed earlier on, these LG plasma TVs have a great picture with natural-looking accurate colors - with a picture that Home Theater magazine defines as bright and crystal clear, one that looks good with most broadcast content and that you will definitely enjoy.
Video processing is clean and free from video artifacts. This is an area where LG PS80 does better than Panasonic G10 and V10 sets - especially when handling standard definition material.
Screen performance is not as good as Samsung or Panasonic. Glare is not an issue but the anti-reflective coating on these LG plasma TVs is not capable of sufficiently attenuating reflections of bright objects in the room especially when displaying predominantly dark content - in which case the LG screen acts like a mirror. This is something that quite a few customers have complained about.
At this screen size, things get rather more problematic - making proper TV placement essential to avoid picking up reflections of objects in the room.
As with Samsung B860, image retention (IR) can be a bit of an issue with this TV especially during the first 200 or so hours of use when displaying predominantly static content. This is typical of the latest brighter plasma display panels due to the use of more sensitive phosphors. Image retention is not a problem in that it is totally reversible as long as burn-in has not taken place. Just activate LG 'Color Wash' and in extreme cases use the 'White Wash' feature. One expects IR to lessen and eventually disappear after about 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. During this period, the fresh phosphors in plasma display panels burn more intensely as they are ignited. More on protecting your plasma TV investment is available on our site here.
LG NetCast offers an extremely positive and enjoyable TV-Internet experience. As most customers agree, it is highly responsive. On out part, we think it represents the best implementation of IPTV-based interactive features found on high-end HDTVs.
Sound quality is surprisingly very good for the TV 'invisible speakers' system, a lot better than most flat panel HDTVs from other major brands. But you still have to hook this massive plasma TV to a proper surround sound system for the best audio-visual experience that these LG plasma TVs can deliver.
The bottom line: At an online price of just under $2,000, LG's massive 60-inch 60PS80 high-end plasma definitely represents the best overall value pack at this screen size for the home theater on a budget.
This is the TV that comes with the best feature set; LG NetCast is a joy to use, there are plenty of inputs to choose from, and its elegant design would surely add impact to any room decor. LG THX mode delivers a great picture thanks to its highly accurate color while the included Picture Wizard is an added bonus to the already extended set of user-adjustable picture settings for those who like to play around with the user controls for the best picture.
It is true that the LG picture quality is not exactly in line with corresponding Panasonic or Samsung TVs but... the LG PS80 is $700 cheaper and comes with a picture that you would definitely love and enjoy. This makes the LG a worthy option; experts agree that the differences in picture quality mainly becomes noticeable only in side-by-side comparison. Taken on its own, the 60PS80 LG plasma TV is definitely a great big screen TV worth every dollar.
Note: All prices quoted in this 2009 LG Plasma TV Guide were correct at the time of this write-up. Prices of HDTVs change continuously; we therefore advise to check the respective amazon links for the latest price updates and online offers.