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LG 52LBX LCD TV

Introduced as LG's flagship line of 1080p LCD TVs just last summer, the Korean giant's LBX series began shipping to dealers in the forth quarter of 2007. The LBX TVs seemed promising, albeit relatively light in features compared to some similarly priced competitors.

Then, in January 2008, just a few months into the LBX's reign, LG announced the LG60 series at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The new models cost a few hundred bucks more than their LBX counterparts and have a more expansive feature set, so the flag has clearly been transferred to a new ship.

The LBX series has not been discontinued, however, merely pushed down a notch in LG's lineup. Products that find themselves in such circumstances sometimes prove to be terrific bargains, while others are simply reduced to also-ran status. Read on to see which way it shakes out here...

Features
Nicknamed Opus, the LBX series consists of three 1080p LCD TVs, with screen sizes measuring 42, 47, and 52 inches. For this review, LG provided the largest model, the 52LBX.

The LG's overall appearance is sleek and attractive in the usual futuristic manner. The gloss-black cabinet looks great when the set is turned off, but it's shiny enough to cause reflection problems in anything but a totally dark room. The beveled edges that frame the screen are especially problematic in this regard, effectively mirroring the screen image as well as any ambient light sources.

The cabinet sits atop a neatly designed swivel stand, which provides a nice sculptural touch. Personally, I think the decision to finish the stand's central pivot cover in contrasting silver was a mistake—this one bright element smack in the middle of an otherwise pure black field calls too much attention to itself.

Like most upper-end LCD TVs these days, the 52LBX has a 120Hz display panel, which means the rate at which complete frames are flashed on the screen is doubled from 60 to 120 per second. In addition, it can interpolate where moving objects should be in the frames it adds to the input signal, a function LG calls TruMotion, or TruM for short.

The intent is to smooth out fast motion and improve detail on moving objects, and for the most part, 120Hz operation delivers. It has proven effective enough in other sets for me to consider it a must-have LCD feature. That said, none of the implementations I've seen so far has been perfect, and when the picture conditions are just right (or is it wrong?), the 120Hz process can introduce obvious picture artifacts. Fortunately, these normally manifest only briefly, and unless you are specifically looking for them, you probably won't realize that anything untoward has occurred. A few of my UAV colleagues also complain that 120Hz produces a less film-like picture, but I've yet to find this a problem.

At first, I thought the 52LBX was missing a key HDTV feature generically known as "1:1 mode." TVs without this mode "overscan" incoming video signals, enlarging the picture slightly and cropping the edges. This expansion process is necessary when displaying analog broadcast TV signals, in which the top few lines of picture are normally used to carry coded information. If not overscanned into invisibility, you see an annoying line of white flickering "hash" at the top of the screen.

But digital HD broadcasts and discs exhibit no such hash. Simply put, engaging 1:1 mode turns overscan off, enabling the TV to display each and every one of the 1920x1080 pixels contained in an HD signal without scaling or altering the image size in any way. On most TVs, the improvement in picture quality with 1080i and 1080p signals is significant and immediate.

It turns out that the 52LBX does have a 1:1 mode, but it is not documented in the manual, it cannot be found intuitively, it only applies to the HDMI inputs, and it only works properly with 1080p signals. To engage the TV's 1:1 mode on a particular HDMI input, you use the Input Label function in the Options menu to relabel the input to "PC." This works as expected, but only under certain conditions, which I'll get to shortly.

A few other features that bear mentioning are LG's XD Engine processing and USB Media Host. The XD Engine provides three functions—XD Contrast and XD Color should be turned off lest they screw up your carefully tweaked picture settings, but XD Noise is reasonably effective and can be left on if you so desire.

USB Media Host lets you attach a flash drive or other USB storage device and display JPEG images or play MP3 files stored thereon. You can navigate the files onscreen, and even play an MP3 in the background while showing a slide show. Could be a fun thing to do at your next party.

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