LG RU-42PX11 Plasma EDTV

The power of processing.

Note: the other TVs in this Face Off include the Panasonic TH-42PD25 Plasma HDTV, and V inc. Vizio P42HD Plasma HD Monitor.

When the final votes were tallied, the LG lost to the Panasonic by the narrowest of margins. It rarely did anything wrong, but, at the same time, it rarely did anything well either. It was this middle-of-the-road performance that garnered it a strong second-place finish behind the Panasonic.

The LG exhibited the same false contouring as the V, Inc., both with Video Essentials and other material. In the "Montage of Images" clip with the waving flag, the LG's processing was the only one in the test that had almost no jagged edges. It was also the only plasma in the test that didn't crush whites, which the other two plasmas did to varying degrees. Scott declared this the clear processing winner after seeing its performance with Gladiator. It was also the only plasma to correctly handle the Snell & Wilcox pattern from Video Essentials. Despite its problems with quantization, this was Scott's pick for DVD material.

On the other hand, with The Fifth Element, all of the reviewers commented that the colors weren't as vibrant as those of the other displays. Comments like "muted" and "desaturated" were on several questionnaires. Maureen and Scott commented that there seemed to be a thin veil over the LG and V, Inc. (plasmas A and B, in their words). This was due to the Panasonic's excellent contrast ratio, which caused the other two plasmas to appear washed-out in comparison.

Many panelists commented on the LG's detail level. While it has the same number of pixels as the Panasonic, the LG appeared far sharper. With some material, it seemed to have almost as much detail as the much-higher-resolution V, Inc. One of the processing features on the LG is its XD Engine. Normally I don't pay much attention to these types of processing features, as they often just add edge enhancement. When enabled, though, the XD Engine made the image appear much sharper with no visible edge enhancement. This was both surprising and unique in the Face Off (had the other plasmas had such circuitry available, I would have enabled it).

With HD material, the praise became somewhat more muted. Adrienne seemed to sum up what the others were thinking with, "I wasn't as pleased with the performance after calibration because the others got better." There were still comments about detail, but now the previously soft Panasonic seemed to be as sharp as, if not sharper than, the LG. It didn't lose points with HD, but the others seemed to gain points. The panelists were impressed by the bright image after I calibrated the plasma and set the light output to all it could do, but not enough to change their votes.

One problem that concerned all of the panelists was phosphor lag. This occurs when a bright portion of an image seems to persist for a few seconds after it is replaced by a darker image. In the long term, this is called burn-in. Adrienne commented that this was noticeable throughout Master and Commander. One scene has a sailor walking below deck with a lantern, and the lantern's bright spot would lag on the otherwise-dark screen. LG obviously knows this is an issue and provides the user with ways to counteract it: an orbiter (which moves the image around the screen slightly), a full-white field to counter the burn, and an inverse circuit that inverses the video signal so that you can "unburn" what you burned in (to some extent). These should be enough to fix an accident, but don't expect them to work miracles and counteract abuse. The V, Inc. barely had a problem with this, and the Panasonic didn't at all.

The panelists didn't say much about the remote, but I hated it. Here's a sample of the names on the buttons: MTS, ARC, APC, DASP, FCR, and Memory/Erase. Do you know what these mean? I don't, and I read the manual. That last one seems almost scary. Is it selective Memory/Erase, because I wouldn't mind losing most of high school. Hmmm, I pressed it, and I still remember high school, but I seem to have erased my train of thought (what a surprise).

Maureen had the best quote for this plasma: "It's the Cheesecake Factory of the plasma world; perfectly adequate, rarely offensive, but there are better for more money." That pretty much says it all. Its only real problems are quantization errors and burn-in. Its black level is in the middle, and its gray-scale accuracy is in the middle, but it's the brightest overall and has excellent processing. It has a 3.0 GPA because it earned straight Bs, but it was beat out by a display with a 3.1 GPA—a few As and a few Ds.

• The XD Engine is excellent
• Brightest plasma in the Face Off