LG 37LE5900 £700
7th Oct 2010 | 10:48
Edge LED lighting in a 37-inch LCD TV for £700 can't be bad. Or can it?
LG 37LE5900: Overview
One day all LCD TVs will have LED backlights. LG's 37LE5900 is an edge-lit set that that costs just £700, proving that the technology is getting cheaper by the day and hastening the inevitable demise of creaky old CCFL.
That aggressive price isn't only attraction; there is an amazing set of features crammed somehow into that breathtakingly slinky chassis, including a Freeview HD tuner, 100Hz processing and, most startlingly, access to the Korean firm's NetCast web platform.
Despite its impressive feature list, the 37LE5900 sits in the middle of the current LG pecking order for LED sets. Right above it is the LE7900 series, which introduces controllable, locally dimmed backlights and single-layer chassis designs. Step up again and you get to the LX6900 series with its 200Hz processing and 3D playback.
Moving below the LE5900 series, your first stop is the LE5300s, which ditch the online capability. Down again and you get to 100Hz-free LE4900 series, while the LE3300 sets sit right at the bottom of the LED lineup with their smaller screen sizes, reduced features and more limited connectivity.
LG also does, of course, an extensive range of direct (full) LED TVs – most notably the LX9900 3D range and LE8900 non-3D range – and traditional CCFL screens, including the 3D 47LD950.
LG 37LE5900: Features
The cool, superslim aesthetic is maximised by a smart bezel infused with a subtle touch of red.
Connections are remarkably extensive for such an affordable edge LED set, with four HDMI jacks, and an expansive set of ports to help the TV engage with the ever-expanding multimedia universe.
These kick off with an Ethernet socket there, first and foremost, to support the TV's built-in Freeview HD tuner. But the port can also be used to jack into files stored on a networked PC, or to take the TV online with NetCast.
The set also carries a D-Sub PC port, and not one but two USB inputs. Having a brace of these enables you to use the set's Wi-Fi capablilty (via an optional dongle) and enjoy its various multimedia playback facilities without having to swap inputs.
While online features are welcome, the lack of available content on the NetCast platform is a drag. The current options are limited to AccuWeather, the inevitable YouTube and the Picasa photo sharing site.
Given how much extra content is available via the online services from rival brands, LG really needs to get busy signing content deals as quickly as possible over the next few months.
A couple of years ago wireless AV delivery systems were all the rage, with just about every brand promising to do away with boring old cables sooner rather than later. This this concept hasn't really taken hold, with LG's Wireless Control system a case in point.
The 37LE5900 has a port on its rear for adding an optional extra wireless system, capable of shipping full 1080p video and digital audio from source to screen.
This facility isn't marketed in any meaningful way, though, and UK websites selling the relevant add-on kit are extremely scarce.
Probably the main thing going on picture processing-wise is LG's 100Hz TruMotion system, for increasing the fluidity and clarity of moving objects as they zip around the screen. But while this has its moments, the best thing about the 37LE5900's features is the number of picture calibration tools at your disposal.
With such goodies as a full colour management system, 10-point gamma correction and various contrast and noise reduction options, it's little wonder that the set comes with two picture preset options designed to be used by an Imaging Science Foundation representative for professional calibration.
It's unlikely that many of the target audience for this particular set will bother stumping the money for professional calibration, but the option is there if you want to use it and it flag the TV's customisable nature to more knowledgeable customers.
In a typically LG touch, though, the 37LE5900 doesn't let its interest in appealing to the enthusiast market blind it to the more straightforward, simplicity-first needs of the majority of the TV-buying public. And so the features list also contains a Picture Wizard which, like the various similar systems now found on computers, guides you through the picture calibration basics in foolproof fashion.
LG 37LE5900: Picture quality
While it's easy to be impressed by the range of picture adjustment options, the results of even the most painstaking fine-tuning are rather disappointing.
The single biggest problem is the patchiness of the backlight, which finds some parts of the picture looking clearly lighter in tone than other parts. We spotted at least four areas of extra intensity, all quite large, and all clearly visible while watching any predominantly dark footage.
At its worst this luminance inconsistency is very distracting, thereby breaking the first rule of good TV pictures.
It doesn't help that these pools of extra brightness are sufficiently large to compromise the 37LE5900's general black level response, leaving dark scenes looking greyer and messier than is desirable.
The impressive black level efforts of recent edge LED sets from Sony and Philips throw the 37LE5900's shortcomings into stark relief.
Colours suffer slightly as a result of its contrast woes, lacking a little of the naturalism and subtlety noted with some other recent LG sets. They're still quite punchy and bold, though.
More bad news arrives by way of standard-def performance. A combination of what appears to be fairly low-rent scaling processing and some pretty obvious motion blur leaves even decent quality standard-def sources looking a bit soft and mushy.
Colours are noticeably less accurately toned with standard-def sources too, a once common flat TV problem, but one that now ought to be handled rather better.
The 37LE5900 isn't bad with HD, at least when the content on show is predominantly bright and colourful and so not prone to highlighting the backlight consistency woes. There's a reasonably crisp feeling to proceedings, with good detailing and a general dearth of noise. Even the motion blur noted with standard definition is much less troublesome with HD, especially with the TruMotion processing in play.
With this in mind, it's a pity that TruMotion can generate a few little processing side effects, but it's possible to turn the it off if you find these get too overwhelming.
Perhaps the only truly unequivocally positive thing about the 37LE5900's pictures is a high brightness output that does its best to hide the contrast concerns where it can by driving colours and bright scenes out with an almost desperate level of aggression.
LG 37LE5900: Sound, value and ease of use
The 37LE5900's audio isn't bad for a super-slim set. Vocals are reasonably well rounded and convincing, be they shrill children's voices or gruff male ones, music sounds light and punchy, and the set even manages to shift up half a gear when pushed by the extreme range of a good action film.
That said, the 37LE5900 certainly can't hold a candle to the best efforts from, say, Philips or Loewe.
The 37LE5900's low price initially makes it seem like a bargain, but you spend with one, the more the less of a steal it seems. So much so, in fact, that it's difficult to recommend that anyone hunts one down, even for the £600 for which it has been seen to go on the internet.
Ease of use
The aforementioned Picture Wizard is just one of a number of ways in which the 37LE5900 is superbly easy to use.
Another key element is the peerless onscreen menu system. This is due partly to the big, clear icons that dominate the main menu, partly to the simple logic of the structure of all the menus and partly to how careful LG has been to 'build up' the complexity of the option, enabling you to delve as deeply, or as superficially, as you dare.
The remote control is decent, too. It's a bit plasticky, and somewhat cluttered, but using it proves a pleasingly logical and fuss-free experience, thanks to the prominence given to the most important buttons.
LG 37LE5900: Verdict
The 37LE5900 blasted into our test rooms with all guns blazing, packing a slim, sexy design and bags of features for a price that looked remarkably cheap for a TV using today's buzz technology, edge LED.
It also then did a good job of appealing to our inner geek by providing a startlingly extensive suite of picture adjustments - some of them really quite high-end in nature.
Less geeky members of the team were impressed too, though, by how exceptionally easy to use the TV is thanks to a superbly designed front-end.
But by the end of the review, though, the wheels had rather come off in comprehensive fashion. For while the 37LE5900's sound isn't bad, at least in the context of the super-slim TV world, its pictures are a real disappointment thanks to bland standard definition scaling and some of the most severe backlight inconsistency we've seen on an LCD TV to date.
The edge LED tech in the 37LE5900 helps it really look the part, with its slim profile and sporty, red-tinged sculpting and finish. It's also better connected and featured than some TVs costing loads more, and can produce some decent picture quality with bright HD sources.
The set's black level response is a mess, thanks mostly to some overt patches of brightness inconsistency. Colours are a bit off-key at times, too, and the set's standard definition pictures are soft and fuzzy. Finally, LG's NetCast online platform is currently miles behind its rivals in terms of content.
We desperately wanted to like the 37LE5900. Everything about it seemed tailor-made to be a hit, from its lovely slender design through its hip edge LED lighting to its willingness to take on board our ever-growing multimedia needs.
But, unfortunately, our hopes came crashing down around our ears when we switched the TV on and clocked its various picture shortcomings, including a backlighting flaw that we ultimately found impossible to ignore and which regularly impaired our enjoyment of films and TV shows.
If this is what edge LED looks like on a budget, we'd rather save up for a few more months to get a more premium example of the technology.
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