LG 47LM860V £1599.99
11th Sep 2012 | 16:23
LG delivers a solid if unspectacular premium TV
While LG's mid-range LM660 TVs have generally impressed this year, its flagship LM960V Nano televisions were a letdown. So it's with a degree of uncertainty that we find ourselves today faced with a TV from the LM860V series that sits just one step below the LM960V flagships.
The LG 47LM860V gets off to a cracking start, though, by boasting one of the prettiest designs the TV world has ever delivered. Its frame is outlandishly thin and finished in an endlessly stroke-able metallic finish, while its distinctive 'Floating Metal Wing' stand design is ultra cute, too.
Spec-wise, the LG 47LM860V is also clearly anything but a basic model. For instance, it can play just about every multimedia file format under the sun, either via a networked DLNA PC or USB storage device.
It's also got a vast network of online services, courtesy of LG's latest smart TV engine, while pictures are served via LG's 800 MCI (Motion Control Index) processing. This will hopefully prove handy in fighting the sort of motion blurring problems witnessed on a few LG TVs this year.
The edge LED lighting system responsible for the LG 47LM860V's pictures, meanwhile, benefits from a local dimming system where sectors of the lighting can have their light levels adjusted individually, to boost contrast.
This being an LG LCD TV, the LG 47LM860V also employs the brand's passive 3D technology, and ships with five sets of 3D glasses (more details on these on the Features page).
Another standout feature of the LG 47LM860V is its provision of a second remote control. This so-called 'Magic' remote can be used to point directly at options on the screen, Nintendo Wii-style, and provides a welcome alternative to the standard remote control.
As mentioned already, if you're feeling really flush you could step up from the LG LM860V to LG's LM960V range, which use LG's direct (rather than edge) LED lighting system.
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Below the LG LM860V sits the LG LM760T, which features a slightly different design - including a distinctive half-moon stand - and loses a few minor features, such as a dynamic colour enhancer, as well as MHL and second TV connectivity
Further down still you get to the LG LM660T series of TVs, which ditch the extra remote control and reduce the picture processing power, but still look great and offer a terrific high-value proposition.
Now, though, let's get back to the job of finding out if the LG 47LM860V is worthy of its premium status in LG's range.
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LG has finally managed to overhaul its great Korean rival Samsung in the design department. This is evidenced in spectacular fashion by the LG 47LM860V, which is gorgeously slim in both its rear and its bezel width. It's also glimmeringly attractive, thanks to the metallic finish of what little frame there is.
What's more, with the TV off, it looks as if the bezel is only around 1mm wide, thanks to the way the inner part of the bezel is finished in the same black that the screen adopts when it's inactive. With the TV on you notice around an extra 9mm of black inner bezel, but even this is so small that you scarcely notice it in the context of the 47-inch screen.
The LG 47LM860V's slimness and the way its connections are all positioned for side access make it a great wall hanging option. But its desktop stand is also gorgeous if you decide to go that way, and enables you to rotate the TV on it, too.
Connections are plentiful. Four HDMI ports deliver your main video sources - including 3D - while the multimedia talents so crucial to modern TVs are supported via a trio of USBs, and both LAN and integrated Wi-Fi network solutions. File compatibility via all these sources is great, and includes DivX HD alongside most other key photo, music and video formats.
LG is also to be commended this year for making its TVs easier than most to get talking to networked Apple Macs as well as DLNA-linked PCs. This is an eminently sensible move, given the market penetration of Apple's devices these days.
The LG 47LM860V's connections also include MHL support, a straightforward D-Sub PC port, and access to an integrated Freeview HD tuner. LG isn't currently following Panasonic and Samsung in offering built-in Freesat tuners.
As you'd expect of any premium, big-brand TV this year, the LG 47LM860V's multimedia talents extend to a suite of online services. In fact, LG's Smart TV online platform is now a contender for the most expansive in town, offering a dizzying quantity of apps and video streaming services.
Among the highlights are Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Lovefilm, BlinkBox, ITN News, AceTrax, YouTube, The Cartoon Network, iConcerts, Viewster, and the recently added Game World and KnowHow Movies portals.
Game World provides access to some fairly basic, family-friendly games - some available in 3D - while KnowHow Movies is the new film streaming platform from Dixons. This provides films to rent (for up to £3.99 (about $6.40) for the latest titles) or buy (for as much as £12.99 (about $20)), and it seems to work well enough.
However, we did find ourselves feeling a bit resistant to the arrival of yet another video streaming service.
As usual it's worth stating that as well as lots of high quality content (mostly video streaming services plus the usual social media suspects) there's also plenty of dross among the LG app list. Personally we think LG could benefit from cutting away some of its app chaff to make it easier to focus on the good stuff.
But at least the interface (including a clever second remote control) LG has developed for its latest online services is a good one, as we'll see later.
Focusing next on the LG 47LM860V's picture technology, it uses edge LED lighting with a local dimming system that can deliver different levels of brightness to different sections of the LEDs. This, obviously, should boost contrast, because it means dark parts of the picture can 'do their own thing' separately to bright parts.
The quality of the final results will vary, though, depending on both the subtlety of the local dimming and the quality of the processing that's connected with it.
LG has also equipped the LG 47LM860V with the current top tier of its motion processing technology, dubbed MCI 800 - a name that reflects its delivery of an 800Hz-like effect, thanks to a native 200Hz panel, a scanning backlight system and some motion interpolation processing.
LG has a commendable history of providing truly comprehensive quantities of picture adjustments with its TVs, so it's no surprise to find a relatively premium model such as the LG 47LM860V boasting all sorts of colour management, gamma shifting and picture processing adjustments.
And with so many calibration 'guns' at its disposal, it's also no surprise to find the LG 47LM860V earning the endorsement of the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF). This means you can pay for one of their engineers to come round your gaff and professionally calibrate your new TV's pictures so that they're perfectly optimised to your specific viewing environment.
The last aspect of the LG 47LM860V's functionality we need to focus on is its 3D playback. Naturally this uses LG's passive system, which applies a polarising filter to the screen's front so that you can get a 3D effect that's less tiring and less flickery, but also slightly less detailed than the pictures you get from active 3D TVs.
Passive 3D also works with much cheaper glasses than the ones you have to use with the active 3D system, hence why you get five pairs included free with the LG 47LM860V. These include four normal passive 3D glasses, and one pair designed to clip on over a pair of normal spectacles.
There are also two further pairs designed for use with LG's Dual Play feature. This enables two players to enjoy full screen play simultaneously with games that support the Dual Play feature.
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For much of the time the LG 47LM860V's pictures are excellent. Outstanding, even. But they do also come a little undone at some fairly key moments.
The good news kicks off with the intensity of the TV set's colours. This has long been an LG strength, but the LG 47LM860V manages to combine gloriously aggressive saturation levels with a level of blend subtlety, range of tone and, crucially, naturalism, that's eluded past LG generations. So accurate are colours, in fact, that they add an extra layer of detail and depth to HD images.
Not surprisingly, the sort of ultra-rich colours just described owe a major debt of gratitude to two further impressive picture areas. First, the level of brightness the LG 47LM860V can produce is almost scary, despite it still retaining an A Class rating for energy efficiency.
But also looking impressive, at least initially, is the set's black level response, which provides a great foundation for colours to work against. The screen's ability to produce a credible black colour also means that dark colours retain their naturalism more successfully than is common with LCD TVs.
The LG 47LM860V does a great job, too, of pulling out every last bit of detail from good quality HD sources, at least in 2D mode. In fact, the quality of colour processing noted earlier, together with the screen's innate sharpness, ensures that the LG 47LM860V delivers a level of subtlety and clarity that really separates the premium TV men from the budget and mainstream boys.
It's important to stress, too, that the LG 47LM860V's clarity remains largely unspoiled when images contain a lot of motion. Most of LG's other TVs this year - including the otherwise good LM660T models - suffer with a degree of motion blur and/or some slightly uncomfortable motion artefacts caused by LG's motion processing system.
But these issues generally disappear on the LG 47LM860V - particularly if you stick with either the motion processing's relatively gentle Clear mode or set up your own 'User' setting with the judder and blur elements set below their halfway points.
Shifting our gaze to standard definition, it's good to see LG really getting to grips with the sort of upscaling processing you need to convert standard definition images to the screen's Full HD resolution.
Certainly the screen is able to add a sense of denseness and detail to standard definition images without exaggerating noise - and you can't really ask for much more than that.
The LG 47LM860V is also on great form with 3D. The non-shuttering nature of the passive glasses helps you enjoy 3D images that are brighter, more richly coloured and more stable than those enjoyed from the vast majority of active 3D TV sets. It's also great to find 3D images suffering only very rarely with crosstalk ghosting noise, which is another key passive 3D benefit.
Plus, of course, many families will be very happy indeed that the passive approach enables LG to include enough pairs of glasses to have four or five people joining in the 3D fun immediately, with no need to invest extra cash in adding to the one, two, or zero pairs of active glasses you tend to get with most active 3D TVs.
The negative sides to LG's passive technology, though, are also apparent on the LG 47LM860V. For starters, while crosstalk is mostly hard to see, if you try to watch 3D on this TV set from an angle of more than around 13 degrees above or below the screen, crosstalk levels suddenly explode to seriously unpleasant levels.
Also, passive 3D pictures look noticeably less crisp and detailed than good active ones, especially thanks to the appearance of horizontal striping and jaggedness over contoured edges or small, bright picture elements.
Overall, though, the LG 47LM860V delivers a superbly watchable, vibrant, deep and believable 3D experience that only the most die-hard HD enthusiasts could feel hostility towards.
There is one further problem with the LG 47LM860V we need to discuss, though. That's a few weaknesses when showing dark footage. This might sound odd, given our previous praise for the set's black level depths. But the problem is that this black level depth comes at a price.
The thing is, the only way to get the deepest blacks out of LG's screen is to use the TV's local dimming system. Yet this causes distracting squares and rectangles of light around any bright objects if they appear against dark backgrounds.
You can reduce the impact of these light 'chunks' by reducing the TV's backlight level, but this approach doesn't wholly resolve the distracting problem. And it reduces the brightness and shadow detailing of your pictures.
So how about turning the local dimming off? Well, this certainly solves the light blocking problem, but unfortunately it also results in a major reduction in the image's black level response, leaving dark scenes looking rather greyed over.
Last year we might have felt more sanguine about the light blocking issues on the LG 47LM860V, but Sony's HX853 models have now shifted the goalposts of what's considered possible from local dimming edge LED technology.
Don't get us wrong; for the majority of the time the LG 47LM860V's pictures can be made to look really quite lovely - especially if you're in the mood for 3D. But there are just enough problems when the going gets dark to potentially upset movie fans.
Ease of use, sound and value
The LG 47LM860V is pretty exemplary in the usability department, handling its extensive suite of features in a way that shouldn't alarm even the most technophobic of users.
A particular highlight is the latest Smart Hub on-screen menu. This provides a handy, beautifully presented (in Full HD) way of both seeing and quickly accessing all your sources, including the multitude of game/streaming/information/entertainment apps available through LG's app store.
The layout of the Smart Hub seems logical and does a pretty good job of emphasising the most useful stuff, while keeping the more niche apps tucked away only to be discovered by those who can be bothered to seek them out.
It's also impressive how the TV's menus effectively put multimedia sources on an equal footing with more traditional video ones.
The TV's calibration/set up menus are pleasantly presented too, and reasonably logical in their organisation. Again, it's pleasing to find that the most complicated options are tucked away sufficiently well that relatively unsophisticated users won't accidentally stumble across them.
One final positive of the LG 47LM860V's operating system is the second, 'magic' remote it ships with. This clever little gizmo is sculpted to fit very comfortably into your hand, and can be used instead of the traditional remote to point directly at options on the screen you want to select. We are confident that many people will find this approach more intuitive than the usual remote control.
It's a nice touch, too, to find a menu scrolling wheel on the magic remote, so that you can quickly move up or down extended menus in the TV's set up areas.
For the most part the LG 47LM860V is an example for other operating systems in the smart TV age to follow. Really our only serious complaint is that LG ought to exercise a bit more quality control over the apps it puts onto its system, since all of our experience of smart TVs to date suggests that app quality easily trumps app quantity.
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The LG 47LM860V's audio is slightly better than you might expect, considering how little bodywork there is for speakers to squeeze into.
That said, while the mid-range sounds reasonably clean and credible with relatively restrained footage, there isn't really any headroom in the speaker system for action scenes to expand into, leaving them sounding a bit flat, bass-light and muddy.
LG could reasonably argue that £1,599.99 (around $2,567) isn't a horrendously high price to pay for a feature-laden, gorgeously designed and in many ways strong performing TV.
However, it's impossible to ignore the fact that Sony's superior (where picture quality is concerned) 46HX853 is routinely available for at least £250 (about $400) less, while LG's own 47LM660T also costs around £250 less, despite still carrying much of the spec sported by the LG 47LM860V.
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If you want LG's top-level edge LED TV, the LM860V series is it. And the 47-inch LG 47LM860V wears its premium credentials on its sleeve, thanks to a truly sensational design and a feature count that fully embraces today's multimedia needs.
For instance, you can play back a strong range of multimedia file formats via USB or wirelessly networked PCs and Macs, and you can go online with LG's new Smart TV service.
This service is jam packed with content now - some of it even quite useful - and the interface for accessing it all is excellent.
Also excellent for much of the time are the LG 47LM860V's pictures, thanks to their sparkling colours, punchy contrast, excellent sharpness and detailing, and good motion handling. Our only concerns are a few lighting inconsistencies during very dark scenes and the fact that the TV feels a touch expensive.
The LG 47LM860V is possibly the prettiest TV you'll ever see. Its tiny bezel enables it to fit into a much smaller space than most 47-inch TVs, too. Also very appealing are its multimedia talents, thanks to both the wide range of file formats it can support, its embracement of Macs as well as PCs, and its provision of excellent on-screen menus and a great alternative 'magic' remote control option.
Finally, its pictures frequently look outstanding, at least when showing bright, colourful footage.
LG's local dimming system needs work, since it can cause rather over-obvious blocking of light around bright objects. Yet if you turn it off, black levels reduce sharply. LG could do with cutting away the more pointless apps it has to offer too, and the set maybe struggles to justify all of its cost.
Few TVs scream 'buy me' at prospective punters louder than the LG 47LM860V. Aesthetically its gorgeous, and its feature list is everything you could hope for - and then some - from a 2012 premium TV. It performs excellently too for the most part, being particularly in its element with bright, colourful footage.
We can't give the LG 47LM860V a completely unreserved recommendation, though, on account of the issues it sometimes has when showing dark scenes, and its slightly painful price.
But it's still a superior TV that makes us very excited about what LG might unveil at January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2013).
The main rival to consider has to be Sony's 46HX853. Although an inch smaller, Sony's flagship 2012 model is a stellar picture performer, with groundbreaking contrast by edge LED standards. It's also got much better audio than the LG 47LM860V, and is £250 (about $400) or so cheaper - though it's neither as pretty to look at nor quite as rich in features.
You could also consider saving £250 by getting LG's own 47LM660T mid-range model. This isn't as strong when it comes to handling motion, but is still a good option overall.
Otherwise you could consider Samsung's UE46ES7000 if you fancy a similarly glamorous, similarly specified but active (rather than passive) 3D option, or Panasonic's 47ET5, which is essentially an LG passive 3D panel but with Panasonic's online service and picture processing applied to it.