LG 50PM970T review
|Review: December 2012|
In a nutshell: LG's flagship plasma TV isn't noticeably better than its cheaper models and fails to justify its premium price.
Design & looks
LG's range of plasma TVs are nicely styled, and certainly a lot better looking than Panasonic's 2012 range. The 970 is the pick of the crop, and it features a slimline design, relatively narrow bezel and a slender silver stand.
Its most striking feature however, is probably the fact that its screen measures 50 inches from corner to corner. It's big enough to make a real design statement in any room.
It's also worth noting that LG's onscreen menus are probably the prettiest of any manufacturer, without ever sacrificing usability or falling into the trap of dumbing them down. Full marks here.
We also like the fact that this flagship model comes with a "magic remote" that allows you to scroll and zoom with the help of the remote's wheel functionality. It may not be magic, but it's definitely cool.
A good plasma screen should be capable of delivering outstanding picture quality, so it was with some disappointment that we criticised LG's cheaper 50PM670T model for its relatively low contrast and picture definition. The 970 has nearly double the native contrast ratio of the cheaper model, and is also fitted with LG's TruBlack filter, so we were keen to see how it would perform.
The results are mixed. It's certainly true that this model delivers truly satisfying blacks. Unfortunately, the effect of the TruBlack filter seems to be to reduce the brightness of whites and colours too. The results are good if you always watch TV at night with the lights off, but in daylight it really does feel subdued.
Things look up when we consider how quickly the screen responds to movement. With a 600Hz rating, the panel always responds rapidly, with the result that there's never any sign of ghosting, even when watching fast-paced sport or action movies.
Viewing angles are also impressive, with no sign of colour shifts when me move our head even six feet to the left or right of centre.
Image retention isn't a problem either, as any fixed on-screen images such as channel logos fade within seconds, even after prolonged viewing.
It's also worth pointing out that this is a relatively energy efficient screen by plasma standards, rated as class "B". That's better than many rival plasmas, but not as good as most LED TVs.
We'll conclude this section by saying that while this TV can deliver excellent picture quality under perfect conditions (curtains drawn, lights off), under real-world conditions (daylight, lights on) it performs no better than the cheaper LG plasma models.
All plasma TVs use active shutter 3D glasses. These have the benefit of delivering full 1080p resolution images to both eyes (unlike passive 3D). However, they do have disadvantages.
Firstly, they're quite expensive, and since no glasses are included with the TV, you'll need to factor this extra cost into your purchase. They're also heavier and less comfortable than passive glasses, and can sometimes be prone to a flickering effect.
Because they switch alternately between left and right eye, each eye receives light only half the time, and so the light intensity is reduced by 50%. Now, as we've noted, plasma TVs aren't as bright as LED TVs, and this model in particular is really quite dim. The cumulative effect of all this is that watching this TV in 3D is really only feasible under optimum lighting conditions (i.e. darkness).
We also have to point out that this model suffers from more crosstalk than we're happy with, resulting in a ghosting effect when an image intended for one eye is perceived by the other eye, spoiling the 3D effect somewhat. It's not always present, but it's there often enough to bother us.
The audio quality of this flagship model isn't noticeably better than the cheaper models. We'd have to rate it as average.
The Virtual Surround option does appear to boost bass and mid-range frequencies, but whether this will be to your taste depends on what kinds of programmes you enjoy watching. The Clear Voice 2 feature helps to improve voice clarity, put the real problem is the lack of punchiness in the bass. For this, there's only one solution - to purchase a soundbar or a 5.1 home cinema system to complement your new TV.
Smart TV is one of the key selling points of this TV, and is a real strength. The Home Dashboard is simple and easy to navigate. From here you can access content from the BBC iPlayer and youtube, download movies from Netflix and LoveFilm, and catch up with social media at facebook and twitter.
Happily there are no problems to report when it comes to connectivity. Both Wi-Fi and an ethernet connection are available to connect to the internet. With support for DLNA you can stream video and other content from a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
There's no problem connecting other home cinema kit either, thanks to the inclusion of 4 HDMI connections, a combined composite / AV connection, SCART, analogue and digital audio connections, a headphone jack and a CI slot. There are also 2 handy USB ports.
A Freeview HD tuner is included, but not Freesat.
Conclusion - not up to expectation
We had high hopes for LG's flagship plasma TV, but it just didn't meet our expectations. While 2D picture quality can be outstanding under optimum conditions, there's just too much variability and in the real world it doesn't look as good. 3D performance in particular can be problematic, and the fact that no 3D glasses are included is another downer. Audio quality is nothing special either.
What, then, are the strengths of this model? It's certainly a nice-looking TV, and a 50 inch screen for less than a grand isn't to be sniffed at. Smart TV is a real selling point, and there are no problems when it comes to connectivity.
Overall though, we don't feel that it's worth paying the extra compared to the cheaper LG models. The LG 50PM680T is really just as good, and if you don't require Wi-Fi you can snap up a real bargain with the LG 50PM670T. On the other hand, if you're seeking the ultimate home cinema experience, we'd point you in the direction of the Panasonic TX-P50ST50B.
LG 50PM970T features include:
- 50 inch plasma screen
- 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Triple XD Engine
- TruBlack Filter
- 600Hz Sub Field Driving
- 3D Ready (active 3D)
- Game Mode
- Freeview HD
- Smart TV
- Audio: Dolby Digital, Virtual Surround, Clear Voice 2, 10W x 2 sound output (RMS)
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet (LAN) x 1, DLNA, HDMI x 4, USB x 2, headphone x 1, component in (Y/Pb/Pr) x1, composite x 1, digital audio out (optical) x 1, Audio In x 2, PC in x 1, Scart x 1, RF In (Terrestrial / Cable input) x 1, CI slot
- Magic Remote included
- Energy efficiency class: B
- Typical power consumption: 130W
- Size without stand (WxHxD): 1168 x 701 x 53.4 mm
- Size with stand (WxHxD): 1168 x 765 x 297 mm
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