LG 47LW550T £1300
30th Mar 2011 | 14:11
LG's new 47-inch 3D LED screen makes a convincing argument for passive 3D
LG 47LW550T: Overview
LG is unique in the UK TV market by offering both active and passive 3D sets. The 47LW550T is one of the latter, dubbed Cinema 3D by the Korean brand to help confused consumers realise that it shares the same glasses technology that they've become used to at their local multiplex.
The 47LW550T arrives on retailers' shelves against a backdrop of a bitter active versus passive argument between LG and its rival Samsung, with the latter at pains to point out that the former's Cinema 3D technology cannot display a full HD 3D image. And that's true, because the 47LW550T's screen-mounted polarising filter sends one half of the 1,920 x 1080 Blu-ray image to one eye and the other half to the other. It's what impact that has on picture quality that's important.
First, though, some background info. The 47LW550TT is a 47-inch edge LED-lit set – part of LG's new 2011 range – and is also available in 32-inch, 42-inch and 47-inch guises.
Its living room appeal is helped by a slender design and blue-tinted gloss black bezel, but the frame around the screen is rather wide, meaning the 47LW550TT isn't as eye-catching as Samsung's rival D7000 range.
LG 47LW550T: Features
The 47LW550T is packed with all the features we expect from a premium TV plus a few nice extras.
The headline act is the Cinema 3D technology. By using a screen filter to sort out left and right eye images, instead of active shutters in the 3D glasses, LG has been able to throw in seven pairs of lightweight, battery-free goggles. That automatically gives the 47LW550T appeal to Sky 3D subscribers wanting to throw a 3D football party, although why they come in a variety of garish colours is a mystery. The set also includes a 2D-3D conversion engine.
Something that may get more everyday use than the Cinema 3D feature is the 47LW550TT's 'smart' capability. Like all high-end TVs launched this year, this LG is smarter than Albert Einstein in a Savile Row suit. Its multimedia talents break down into three areas: Smart Share media streaming from a home network, unrestricted web browsing and App access. Net connection is done via the Ethernet jack or optional wireless dongle.
The selection of pre-installed apps in LG's Smart TV portal is pretty decent, including Acetrax and Viewster movies-on-demand, vTuner net radio, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, Google Maps and the ubiquitous BBC iPlayer. Some of these you may already have courtesy of your Blu-ray player or TV service, but it's better to be safe than sorry. More obscure/niche/pointless apps can be downloaded from and placed on your personalised dashboard. Check out www.lgtvapp.com to see what's on offer.
The web browser promises unfettered surfing – something that Panasonic has omitted from its own Viera Connect smart TVs. Because our review sample arrived before the TVs hit shop shelves (first week of April) it hadn't been activated.
We had more joy with the Smart Share function, which seems quite robust. Connected to both a NAS drive and a PC on our tech network, we were soon streaming MP3s, JPEGs, and H.264 video files to the 47LW550T's screen with ease.
A feature that will never get a lot of fanfare in the advertising blurb is the 47LW550T's extensive picture calibration possibilities. That's a shame, as what's on offer here is unrivalled in the flatscreen TV market.
Beyond the usual Vivid, Standard, Cinema and Game picture presets are two ISF Expert options. Selecting one of these opens up the Expert Control sub menu, where you'll find all manner of consumer-baffling tweaks, including a full colour management system. This is where an ISF-certified technician will be able to calibrate the 47LW550T to within an inch of its life, saving their work for you to call into action at the touch of a button.
What's great about the 47LW550T is that owners get to play at being an ISF nerd, too. LG's Picture Wizard, found in the setup menu, is a step-by-step process that encourages you to adjust various levels until one image in the screen matches LG's own recommendation.
It's similar to the system found on Philips 46PFL9705, but more advanced, including White Level, Tint and Horizontal/Vertical Sharpness stages. The results are saved to the ISF Expert 1 preset. We found our selections greatly improved on the picture quality offered by the Standard mode preset.
Connectivity is par for the flatscreen course. There are four HDMI v1.4 inputs (side-mounted, with one offering Audio Return Channel support), two USB ports, Ethernet, composite, PC input and digital audio output. Because of the size of the connections recess, a special adaptor is provided for component and RGB Scart.
Other features of note include the ability to use the 47LW550T with LG's optional Magic Motion remote control, 100Hz TruMotion smoothing technology, DivX HD certification and a built-in Freeview HD tuner.
LG 47LW550T: Picture quality
Before we get onto the 47LW550T's 3D performance, it's worth noting that its hi-def 2D images are excellent.
LG claims a 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio for the 47LW550T, but our lab measured a real-world figure of 262,000:1. That's quite a big difference, but 262,000:1 is still impressive, putting it easily in the upper echelons of current LED TVs. And that objective figure translates to subjective viewing, too.
With Ridley Scott's Robin Hood on Blu-ray, the 47LW550T offers a well-contrasted picture that's capable of displaying peak whites and Emo-grade blacks simultaneously. The opening night-time scene, with torch-wielding villagers surrounded by the forest darkness, is therefore suitably atmospheric and immersive.
This excellent contrast ratio and black level comes courtesy of a stable edge-LED backlighting system (with local dimming) that manages to avoid any trace of light pooling. A 16-step greyscale pattern showed clear delineation without any crushed blacks. Even doubling up to 32 steps only resulted in the brightest whites failing to separate.
Colour performance is similarly commendable. With our own Picture Wizard-enabled preset, tones were bright, believable and full of subtlety. Reds managed to look red, rather than orangey. Again, a reference gradation test showed none of the blocking that afflicts less well-engineered screens.
The 47LW550T falls down slightly with motion. There is a noticeable loss of picture detail with fast horizontal pans; engaging the TruMotion frame interpolation tech, even on its low setting, resolved the problem immediately, but introduces predictable haloing around fast-moving objects. When Avatar's Sully takes control of his Na'vi for the first time and runs around like a loon, we were quick to dispense with TruMotion.
Switch up to three dimensions and the 47LW550T continues to raise a smile, but it isn't without its flaws.
Firstly, despite using passive technology, the 47LW550T still exhibits crosstalk. As always, it's dependant on the material, but anyone hoping this niggling 3D side-effect would be AWOL will be disappointed.
On the plus side, 3D glasses without active shutters means flickering pictures are a thing of the past. Watching Avatar 3D on the 47LW550T was a pleasure, and the fact that having ambient lights on didn't irritate the 3D delivery system was a welcome bonus.
The viewing angle is also good. Move around the room and the picture follows. The same cannot be said of Active 3D systems, where the eyewear can lose sync. However, go off-axis vertically and you begin to notice the horizontal ripples of the screen's filter, especially with bright material.
And what of the resolution loss? Well, it's certainly true that full HD 3D Blu-rays don't look as sharp as their 2D counterparts and if you get close to the screen you can clearly see where horizontal resolution has been chopped in half, but at a normal viewing distance it's much harder to spot.
And even with the resolution loss, the sharpness of the overall picture is impressive; losing half the vertical resolution doesn't mean it's suddenly back to DVD standards. It's more like Blu-ray lite. Whether or not that's good enough for you is a personal choice, but we'd suggest that the positives of the passive 3D system outweigh the negatives.
LG 47LW550T: Sound, value and ease of use
Despite the 47LW550T's slender design, LG's engineers have managed to endow it with a decent set of speakers that deliver a better performance than some of its competitors. They do most of their work in the midrange, and lack real low-frequency impact, but the sound is generally warm and engaging, rather than thin and raspy.
At full volume (100 on the nifty, animated speaker dial) the 47LW550T goes quite loud, too, although you'll want to nudge it down a notch as distortion does begin to creep in. The optical audio output and audio return channel-savvy HDMI jack make it easy to connect the 47LW550T to a home cinema system.
The sound menu features a few tweaks that users can make. The 47LW550T offers five adjustable presets: Standard, Music, Cinema, Sport and Game, of which cinema was our personal favourite, adding the most bass. The sport mode, by contrast, seems to rob the entire soundstage of any weight, making BBC's news readers sound like croaking, reanimated corpses.
Clear Voice II is also offered; whatever LG thinks it's supposed to bring to your aural experience, it's best left permanently ignored.
Oddly, and somewhat refreshingly, we found nothing resembling a virtual surround mode. Perhaps LG has realised that it's simply not worth bothering with.
The 47LW550T should be available for around £1,300, which is less than competing models such as Samsung's UE46D7000 (£1,700), Philips PFL469705 (£1,600) and Panasonic's TX-P42VT30 (£1,600). Your hard-earned money gets you a well-featured 47-inch LED with a commensurate picture and an enjoyable 3D performance. Cinema 3D isn't state of the art, but the cost-saving from the seven bundled glasses compared to Active Shutter specs means it's certainly a bit of a bargain.
Ease of use
Living with a 47LW550T shouldn't pose any problems to those with a modicum of consumer electronics know-how, but some aspects do take getting used to.
For instance, unlike some other brands, LG's home page mixes regular TV menus (input/setup) with all the set's smart functions, plus a PIP (Picture in Picture) window of what you're currently watching. It's certainly pretty and colourful, but you may prefer a more traditional layout.
Other niggles include not being able to access the Home screen when 3D material is being played (presumably because of the PIP window), a blazing white light sited in the lower right corner of the screen that has to be deactivated in the settings menu, and a health warning that pops up whenever your call on a 3D source.
LG 47LW550T: Verdict
If you're happy listening to MP3s on an iPod rather than lugging a Discman around, then you'll probably also appreciate the convenience of the 47LW550T's Cinema 3D system without worrying too much about its sub-full HD, three-dimensional images.
Of course, there's more to the 47LW550T than its 3D capabilities. This is a high-end smart TV, with plenty of fine-tuning options, at an eye-catching price.
The 47LW550T offers a high-quality 2D picture performance thanks to efficient edge-LED lighting and a brilliant set of user adjustments, while 3D images benefit from the 47-inch screen size and flicker-free Cinema 3D technology. The online portal and Smart Share make it an ideal set for a connected home.
The 47LW550T's motion-handling isn't up to the high standards set by other areas of its picture peformance, and some of the picture and sound presets (take a bow, 'Vivid') are hopelessly inadequate. The wide bezel design isn't as neat as it could be, either.
Hardcore AV geeks will always remain sniffy about passive 3D screens because of the drop in picture resolution, but LG needn't be bothered – the 47LW550T is a consumer product, not a reference-grade 3D display.
Its 2D performance is rock-solid, its mulitimedia functions are up to speed with the competition and its particular flavour of 3D is convenient and comfortable. Fun for all the family, as the saying goes.
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