Test Report: LG 47LW5600 3D LCD HDTV

At 3D theaters, you’re handed lightweight passive glasses that work in tandem with a polarizing filter positioned over the projector’s lens. When viewing at home with a 3D TV, you use bulky, battery-powered glasses with active shutter liquid-crystal lenses. Passive glasses in theaters are cheap and easily replaced. But at an average cost of $100 per pair, glasses used at home represent a sizable investment. Better to put them in a safe place — and keep ’em away from kids!

LG’s new approach to 3D seeks to bridge the gap between home and theater by removing expensive, energy-sucking glasses from the equation. The technology used in its new Cinema 3D TVs works similarly to 3D movie theater systems that employ passive glasses. Instead of the TV sequentially flashing left/right frames, however, its front surface is covered with something called a Film Patterned Retarder that acts to polarize alternating lines in the display. With polarized glasses, your left eye sees one set of lines (sourced from the left image frame), while your right eye sees the other (sourced from the right image frame).

The upside to passive 3D via flat-panels is that the glasses are cheap and you can view at an angled (read: relaxed) head position without any performance drop. Passive 3D tech also appears to eliminate crosstalk problems plaguing many first-gen 3D TVs.

When LG first introduced its passive tech, it was noted that, with the TV slicing up the left/right video frames (something it did by averaging the value of the odd and even lines), each eye could only take in 540 lines at a time — half the resolution you get with 3D TVs that use active shutter glasses. But a “3D picture enhancement algorithm” software update that LG delivered during my review process supposedly changes the situation somewhat. According to LG, instead of averaging values, updated Cinema 3D sets now display the odd and even lines for both left and right frames sequentially within a single 120-Hz refresh cycle. (Once I installed the update, resolution differences weren’t apparent when I watched 3D, leading me to write off the matter as academic.)

The 47LW5600 marks the debut of LG’s Smart TV platform. A new Home Dashboard GUI lets you browse apps offered on the platform — a list that includes Netflix, Vudu, Amazon Video on Demand, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. (Hulu Plus and MOG are on tap to arrive by the time you’re reading this.) The best part? You can browse them with a background program playing in a sizeable window in the GUI’s upper left corner. Home Dashboard also offers a Web browser and DLNA portal called Media Link for streaming videos, photos, and music from a PC. The TV comes with two remote controls: a regular one and a “Magic Motion” remote that lets you point-and-click onscreen items in a mouse-like manner. It can also be used to control basic TV functions like channel selection, volume, and power on/off.

The 47LW5600 has a simple, elegant design and a mere 1.2-inch depth. The bezel, a bit thicker than that of some other new TVs from LG and others, tapers in at the edges, while a row of touch-sensitive controls at the bottom right lets you operate basic functions.