LG 42LE5900 £1200
11th May 2010 | 12:00
Edge-lit LED LCD TV with NetCast and sporadically superb pictures
LG is enjoying something of a purple patch. It's gone from being Korea's 'other' manufacturer to a big league player in the space of a few years and has been right at the forefront of LED innovation.
The slender 42LE5900 LED edge-lit LCD TV is future-proofed to receive free HD, web ready and decked out, appropriately enough, in a gorgeous, violet-accented finish.
LG rarely skimps on gadgetry and the 42LE5900 is positively bursting with them. The main attraction for many will be the Freeview HD tuner, which, obviously, means you'll be able to enjoy subscription free high-definition broadcasts: a specification that will be of particular immediate significance to any sports fans reluctant to swallow the Murdoch pill in order to enjoy the World Cup.
It's also internet enabled, has a fulsome four HDMIs and two USB ports for enjoying multimedia, including movies and downloaded music.
Ease of use
It's hard to see where LG can go from here when it finally decides to overhaul its current operating system. The tile-type menu layout represents a benchmark in ergonomic brilliance that most of its competitors are still struggling to emulate.
Our favourite is the 'Quick' menu, wherein selected, oft-used tweaks are arranged in a single, pop-up menu in the visually pleasing form of a rotating wheel.
The picture, sound and setup sub-sections are also incredibly comprehensive and are never intimidating, no matter how deep into them you delve.
Meanwhile, the web widgets (YouTube, Picasa and AccuWeather portals), are represented by a set of nicely rendered doors, suspended in front of a street scene, that swing open invitingly when selected.
It's unlikely that operating a television will ever become a pleasure in the strictest definition of the word, but this LG probably comes as close to it as one could realistically hope.
It's hard to avoid feeling slightly short-changed by the picture performance. It is excellent in many ways and will certainly delight hardcore hi-def heads, but is frustratingly inconsistent and lacks the kind of overall sure-footedness that might have netted a full five stars.
To start with the good things: the colour palette is bright and punchy, but rarely brash or oversaturated. It's as at home with the kind of hyperactive eye-ache that is today's kids' programming as it is with the soul-sappingly dreary tones of The Road on DVD.
Detail is very sharp, particularly with HD sources, although the 42LE5900 seems to require a stable image to 'focus' upon and struggles to retain its composure as soon as motion is involved. It's by no means the worst offender we've seen in this category, but mostly moving footage tends to develop a kind of gauzy sheen in front of the action as the display struggles to keep up with the action.
Blacks aren't bad, for an LCD set, but one flaw that true videophiles might find hard to overlook is the all-too obvious location of the LED array. Kill the lights and pop in something with scenes containing extremes of contrast and you'll see just where the diodes are and what they are doing.
The title screen of The Road, for example, which has plain white words on a jet black background, produces dim, but all-too-visible vertical lines either side of the lettering separating the totally dark areas of screen and those sections being addressed by the backlight.
One look at that credit-card-like chassis should tell you all you need to know about this set's audio capabilities. Wherever they are tucked away, the speakers manage to achieve a reasonable degree of fidelity, but are completely at sea with anything more demanding than a TV broadcast.
The narrow, forced sound and almost complete absence of bass means that the relentless sonic assault of the California cataclysm in 2012 sounds harsh and tiresomely cacophonous rather than convincingly apocalyptic.
Still, hang it on your wall, connect it to a decent set of separates and no-one will be any the wiser.
Anything over a grand is getting a little expensive for a liquid crystal set these days, no matter how slender or fancily-backlit it might be.
The few picture foibles also pose a problem that those on a tight-ish budget might be unprepared to work around. It is a beautiful, impeccably well-equipped and generally very friendly TV, though, and the value of its Freeview HD tuner is only going to increase over the next few years.
On balance, we like the LG, but would suggest that it's one for style and gadget-loving types who are prepared to indulge its minor video niggles for the sake of its lovely frame and wealth of features.
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