LG 32LV550T £600
6th Jun 2011 | 10:00
Impressive mid-range TV with bags of features and enjoyably cinematic 2D performance
LG 32LV550T: Overview
Don't be fooled by the lack of 3D, the 32-inch 32LV550T is very well specified indeed for a £600 TV.
Highlights of what's on offer include LG's new Smart TV online system with numerous video streaming sources and a new store full of apps. You'll also find extensive multimedia playback potential comes courtesy of USB inputs and DLNA PC networking - complete with LG's currently exclusive tie-up with the Plex online multimedia interface.
Edge LED lighting, meanwhile, is still quite unusual for affordable 32-inch TVs; as well as significantly reducing power consumption benefits, it can deliver picture quality benefits such as rich colours, high brightness levels and enhanced contrast – provided its tendency to suffer from inconsistent illumination is kept in check.
The 32LV550T is the smallest member of the LV550T range; above it are the 37-inch 37LV550T, 42-inch 42LV550T, and 47-inch 47LV550T. LG's LV450U series provides edge LED for less money, but you'll have to do without Freeview HD tuner or any Smart TV capability.
If you want 3D on an edge LED TV from LG, meanwhile, your cheapest port of call is the LW450U range.
LG 32LV550T: Features
The 32LV550T looks and feels well made, with a dark finish and slim transparent trim, part of which is illuminated to pleasing effect by a little white power light.
The connections provide a hint at the power contained within that svelte (34.9mm deep) frame. Highlights include four HDMIs, all facing out sideways from the set's rear left side, two USB ports, a LAN port delivering PC file streaming and Smart TV online and an RS-232C control port. None of the 32LV550T's numerous jacks faces directly out from the TV's rear, which is very helpful to anyone wishing to wall-mount the TV.
The USB ports can be used not only for playing JPEG photo, MP3 music and MPEG4/DivX video files from USB storage devices, but also for adding Wi-Fi connectivity via an optional dongle. You can't, however, use the USBs to record from the set's built-in Freeview HD tuner to a USB HDD as you can with some current Samsung and Panasonic TVs.
Plex, meanwhile, attempts to streamline and provide a more intuitive interface for the often complicated business of getting files from your PC onto your TV. This is a great idea in principle, and there's no denying the attractiveness of the menus. The only catch is that getting Plex working - especially from an Apple Mac - can be challenging, and even once it's working you might find it a little unstable.
However, the LG/Plex relationship is still in its infancy, so it's more than likely that there will be regular software and ease-of-use improvements in the near future.
Turning next to LG's new Smart TV system, it's a large step forward from the NetCast system sported by 2010 LG TVs. Especially welcome is a new 'hub' screen that provides quick and easy access to whatever sources are plugged into your TV.
Included on this interface is access to two tiers of LG's latest online services. The most important is the Premium content stream, containing most of LG's video streaming services, such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer, the AceTrax movie purchase/rental service and access to the subscription-based MLB.tv baseball service. Other useful tools are Facebook and Twitter 'apps', a vTuner Internet radio conduit, and the woomiTV 'video gateway'.
Less content heavy and useful applications can be found in a secondary list, presented extremely elegantly in the form of a virtual shop, complete with app 'shelves'. However, while it's easy to admire LG's elegant visual approach to handling large numbers (50 plus) of apps, the quality of many of these apps is average at best. Many are extremely basic games that only the very young or terminally bored would consider playing more than once, while others - such as an app about playing music on wine glasses or another based on Tarot cards - are just plain bonkers.
The 32LV550T's expansive feature list continues with its picture set-up controls. Highlights include a series of presets, a backlight adjustment, processing systems for boosting contrast and colour performance, a tool for adjusting skin tones, separate MPEG and 'standard' noise reduction systems, resolution-boosting processing, edge enhancement processing and various settings for LG's TruMotion system for smoothing out movement.
This latter feature comes on top of a built-in 100Hz engine, and is preferable to most motion processors because it enables it to fine tune blur and judder independently of each other.
The 32LV550T has been endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation and an Expert mode provides two and 10-point gamma calibration, plus adjustments for the contrast, brightness, tint and 'colour' (which seems to mean saturation) of the red, green and blue image components. You can additionally adjust the tint and colour of the cyan, yellow and magenta secondary hues.
LG 32LV550T: Picture quality
Despite its excellent user interface, the 32LV550T is a little trickier than most TVs to set up for optimum performance. None of the provided presets work particularly well, with even the Cinema mode failing to impress, thanks to its reduction of contrast range (perhaps in a bid to deliver more shadow detail and warmer colours).
The best results were obtained using an adapted version of the Standard preset, with the contrast and backlight levels ramped down by between 20 and 30 per cent from their starting positions.
If you're watching Blu-ray, you'd also be advised to turn off most of the TV's video processing circuitry, including TruMotion, as many have an adverse affect on high quality sources. The only option you might want to leave on for Blu-ray playback is Real Cinema, as this seems to reduce judder without making things look unnatural or over-processed.
Once you've got the 32LV550T set up right, it delivers some very enjoyable pictures. Colours are punchy and with an accuracy that extends to tonal blends as well as shades, meaning there's little if any sign of such issues as colour striping, colour blocking, or over-smoothing of skin tones.
A carefully calibrated 32LV550T also enjoys a good black level response for an affordable edge-LED TV. There's some evidence of greyness over parts of the picture that should look black, but the extent of this isn't as pronounced as it is on, say, Panasonic's TX-L32E3B. As a result, the 32LV550T can produce a picture well suited to film viewing.
It's a relief to report, too, that the 32LV550T delivers its impressive black levels without suffering much with inconsistent brightness levels. Some of the presets can cause a touch more brightness to appear in the screen's four corners, but this is easy to get rid of if you're careful with the backlight settings.
There's a slightly hollow look to dark parts of the picture, as one might expect of an edge LED TV - especially one with no apparent local dimming capability. The missing shadow details are lost within blackness, though, rather than low-contrast greyness, which makes their absence much easier to forgive.
More good news concerns the 32LV550T's sharpness with HD material. There's genuine snap to Blu-ray playback, with the impact of HD's extra detailing aggressively apparent. Importantly, though, this sharpness doesn't look in any way forced (so long as you don't use the set's Super Resolution processing option), meaning the image isn't overly grainy and doesn't suffer from stressy edging.
It's also good to find that the sharpness of HD sources is only slightly reduced during action scenes, indicating a respectable response time for an LCD panel. You can all but eradicate motion blur with TruMotion, but this tends to cause a few side-effects unless you turn down its power so much that it's barely worth using in the first place.
Real Cinema, which gently reduces judder without causing unwanted side effects, is the most successful processing tool for motion for watching Blu-rays.
The 32LV550T isn't quite as accomplished with standard-definition material, with upscaled images looking a little soft and de-saturated, but even quite low-quality sources are pleasingly free of noise.
The TV boasts a respectably low input lag of 40ms compared with the 100ms or so found on some of LG's other recent TVs, making it a good bet for gaming, although this figure is only achievable in Game AV mode.
LG 32LV550T: Sound, value and ease of use
LG's recent TVs have tended to be rather underwhelming sonically and this theme continues with the 32LV550T. There's hardly any bass worthy of the name, and the mid-range can sound a little crowded during action scenes. The biggest problem, though, is an over-emphasis of treble sounds, which creates an imbalanced and rather harsh soundstage.
The 32LV550T represents excellent value for money. If you want proof of this, just consider what it offers compared with Panasonic's same-priced TX-L32E3B. There's full Smart TV, whereas the Panasonic offers no online features. The 32LV550T also enables you to stream in files form DLNA PCs - with Plex, if you wish - whereas the Panasonic carries no such multimedia support.
Next, while the Panasonic model does enable you to play photo, video and music files from SD cards, it doesn't offer any USB inputs, despite these likely being easier for most people to use.
Finally, while the TX-L32E3B's pictures are generally pretty good for £600, the 32LV550T's are better.
Ease of use
The set's superb onscreen menus make extensive – but never excessive – use of graphics to ensure things are legible from a distance and the overall structure is exemplary (once you've got your head round the fact that you have to engage an ISF preset to access the more sophisticated picture controls).
If extensive picture tweaks are beyond or beneath you, LG has helpfully included a Picture Wizard tool that enables you to adjust pictures with the help of some built-in test signals and guidance.
The 32LV550T's remote control is also very good, featuring an intuitive layout and tactile, responsive buttons.
The only ergonomic issues are that the Setup menu is found through the main Hub menu when perhaps it should have its own dedicated space and that the TV defaulted to Kyrgyzstan during its initial login to LG's online services, requiring manual selection of the UK before the BBC iPlayer became available.
LG 32LV550T: Verdict
The 32LV550T is a well-made TV with tons of features for an exceptionally aggressive price.
It's better looking than most 32-inch sets and its connections wouldn't look out of place on a flagship TV.
The screen, meanwhile, incorporates a full HD resolution and edge LED lighting, as well as 100Hz and LG's TruMotion processing engine. Plus there are all manner of picture fine tuning tools pitched at every level, from amateur through to professional. No surprise, then, that the set is endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF).
First impressions of the 32LV550T aren't particularly good. But while none of the picture presets are especially effective, it doesn't have to take long with the 32LV550T's onscreen menus to get things looking really rather good for 600 quid. Particularly effective is the TV's contrast and colour performance, and pictures look pleasingly sharp and detailed with HD, too.
There are some minor motion problems, but nothing that can't be worked round, and standard-definition images look a little soft. The set's audio is nothing to write home about, either, but overall this is still a very superior 32-inch TV for the money.
Finding Smart TV online, DLNA PC support (with added Plex sophistication) and USB multimedia playback for so little money is a great result. The edge LED backlit is also a great success, helping to produce some generally very watchable pictures.
Too many of the Smart TV apps do little more than clutter up the interface and the picture requires careful calibration. Standard def images can look a touch soft, the Plex system can be hard to set up and the audio is merely average.
The 32LV550T initially seems to be a rather 'quiet' TV by LG's current standards; a mid-range model with no headline-grabbing 3D credentials that just seems out to give people decent looks and good screen specs for relatively little money.
The deeper you delve into it, though, the more goodies you start to uncover - most notably its full incarnation of LG's Smart TV system, extensive DLNA PC network compatibility (including the Plex interface), USB multimedia playback, optional Wi-Fi, and an extensive suite of picture calibration aids for such an affordable telly.
With some judicious calibration the 32LV550T is an engaging and natural picture performer. It's a shame the audio performance isn't as good, but it's certainly one hell of a telly for the price.
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