LG 42LH40 LCD HDTV Page 2
The LG was the only one of the sets that produced a geometrically accurate image at all resolutions with a 4:3 source, or a source that needs to be played back in a Zoom setting to fill the full width of the screen. However, the Zoom mode did squeeze the image slightly in the vertical. This was visibly subtle on most program material, but it could be distracting to some viewers. (None of the judging panel sessions or measurements used program material that required either the 4:3 or Zoom aspect ratio settings. Rather, they used Just Scan, which worked properly.)
The Nitty Gritty
The LG turned in terrific scores for color (where it finished in a first-place tie with Panasonic) and resolution. It tied for second place in shadow detail, but two sets also tied for first in that category, and the second-place scores were well below the first-place ratings.
In fact, the LG fell decidedly mid-pack overall, largely because of its relatively mediocre black level and (despite that tie) shadow detail. “Black uniformly poor,” wrote one panelist. Another thought its black level might have been the highest (according to the measurements, it wasn’t). Some non-uniformity was also visible when the screen faded to full black, in the form of a slightly higher black near the upper right-hand corner. Another panelist noted that the LG had a particularly tough time in a scene from Seven Years in Tibet (chapter 10), where several characters walk through a semi-darkened temple. Another commented on the faded blacks in the star field in the Stargate scene, and also remarked that the blacks appeared to fade out when he moved off axis.
There was a positive comment about the shadow detail on the wall panels in the interior scenes from Casanova (chapter 7), although this is not, overall, a dark scene. The same individual remarked that the shadow detail in Spider-Man (in the low-contrast scene in chapter 13) was notably faded. While the comments on shadow detail were generally critical, at least one panelist remarked that it was better than she expected compared with her impressions of the LG’s black level.
Things brightened a lot when the comments turned to color. One judge favorably cited the bright and sharp (but not excessively sharp) colors in the Spider-Man balloon scene (chapter 17). Three commented on the natural fleshtones, and two specifically cited Casanova, where one declared the LG’s fleshtones were perhaps the best in the group. The reds came in for praise as well; one panelist called them “radiant and gorgeous.”
Although one respondent observed that the colors were noticeably washed out when viewed from off axis, there was some disagreement about this point. Two judges commented that they thought the colors held up well. Two other panelists, who gave optional scores for the sets’ off-axis performance (not included in the composite scores), differed as well. One of them rated it good (3.5 stars), and the other rated it poor (1.5 stars). As with all the LCDs, the off-axis performance appeared to vary considerably with the angle, viewing distance, and program material. (Off-axis problems can sometimes be hard to assess in a store demo. The bright settings used in a showroom tend to hide it.)
Detail proved to be the hardest call for the panelists on all of the sets. The LG again landed in the middle, but the comments were generally positive. “Excellent,” wrote one. Another remarked on how the painted temple walls in Seven Years in Tibet looked “wonderfully textured.” However, one panelist remarked that motion in the image diminished the detail significantly (this is a problem with LCDs in general, which lack motion compensation), but the same panelist only repeated this criticism against one other set, the Toshiba.
Altogether, the LG turned in a respectable but not star-making showing. Its strength was in its color, no doubt due to its remarkably flexible calibration controls. Its biggest weaknesses, which it shared with two other sets in the group, were its blacks and shadow detail.
These problems were not as obvious when I briefly turned on the studio’s overhead fluorescent lights after the formal scoring was over. This means that you’ll be unlikely to see them in a brightly lit showroom. Perhaps not at home, either, if you rarely watch the set with the room lights dimmed—or turned off.
We’re anxiously waiting to see what LG has in store in its upcoming local-dimming sets. They should greatly improve on these issues (although for a price), giving the company’s accomplishments in other aspects of image quality a chance to shine.