Part 1

See Part 2 – Review: Samsung Series 8

A new TV is much more than a slim black box in the living room. More and more the decision to buy a new TV set hinges on lots of criteria. How big it will be, what are the features, is it 3D? The list goes on… The three big contenders for your TV dollar today are LG, Samsung, and Sony. Steven Ambrose decided to fully test the latest 55” high end LED TV’s from each of these manufacturers, specifically the 55LM9600 from LG, the UA55ES8000 from Samsung and the KDL HX855 from Sony.

Why so many questions are posed is a TV is a big purchase, and should last you at least five years so you will have to live with any mistake for a long time. The good news is that all three of these TV’s from LG, Samsung, and Sony are excellent. The state of the art in TV has evolved to the point where at the sub R40 000-00 level there are actually no bad TV’s. There are differences and that is what this review is all about. All the contenders for the best TV of 2012 are Led backlit LCD TVs with a screen size of 55” and more features than you will probably ever use. Despite the size similarities they are very different and each reflects the focus of its manufacturer.

As this is a huge review on significant products, it will be a three part series with the conclusion reserved for part three.

LG 55LM9600

LG 55LM9600 - Front

Starting with the LG which has the exiting model number of 55LM9600 Cinema Smart TV. This is a huge beautiful beast, easily the best looking of the bunch. The LG has the thinnest Bezel, or surround around the actual screen, which enhances the look and gives the LG a floating in the air feel. It comes with an innovative stand which, like the Sony, makes the TV appear to float. If mounted on a wall its slim profile looks extremely elegant and still allowing access to all connectors.

The LG features the latest generation LED backlit panel along with full internet functionality. Using the built in Wi-Fi I was able to browse the web, use widgets and generally annoy the family. I found the Smart features complete and fairly useful.

Of much more use was the ability to plug a hard drive or USB stick directly into the TV. I could bypass my Boxee Box media player, and play HD movies, legally downloaded of course, directly on the LG. The media player interface, which LG call Smart Share Plus, was easy to use, and intuitive, I also could browse my home media server for pictures, movies, and my other multimedia content.

One of the stand out features, was the Wii-like magic remote which works really well,Even if it takes a few minutes to get used to. It allows you to move a cursor around the screen by pointing the remote at it. In fact this remote was the best of the three. LG also pack in a standard remote, should you not like the gaming style magic remote. The LG TV also includes voice control via the remote. This feature is best left unexplored, as it was not easy to use, and somewhat erratic in actual use, a pity, as the Samsung does a far better job with voice.

The next important feature was the actual picture. Out of the box the LG picture looked really good, if a little soft. There is a fantastic Setup Wizard that takes you through a simple but very effective set up process, and tunes the picture to ISF Standards. Once set up the picture was very good. Accurate colours and pure whites made it an easy TV to watch for a long time.

I did notice two issues that stopped the picture from being the best of the bunch. The first issue was a slight cinema style softness to the picture. This softness was appealing on older movies but tended to make fresh sharp HD moves look a touch smooth. The LG also flattered standard definition TV from satellite or normal tuned TV channels.

The second issue was some lack of uniformity in solid dark scenes, with a little on screen blotching. Related to this were black levels that were the worst of the bunch, by a small margin. The effect of this is to reduce shadow detail, along with the appearance of depth, and the overall impact of the picture.

That said, the LG has another trick up its sleeve that the other two don’t, and that is passive 3D. The LG uses the same glasses you get when you go to the movies to watch 3D, so no flickering, or charging of heavy geeky looking glasses. In use there is very slight loss of sharpness compared to active 3D glasses, but brightness and overall 3D effect is very good, and the lack of flickering makes the LG 9600 very relaxing to watch. The LG also features a further trick which passive 3D affords, and that is Dual Play mode. For this you need special glasses, which consist of two of the same lenses in each pair. Dual play then allows two game players to don the special glasses, and each simultaneously play a full screen game with different pictures. Playing Need for Speed, I was able to get a full screen view along with my opponent whilst racing. If you are a serious gamer, or even a casual gamer, you must try this feature. It works well and is great fun.

The LG 9600 comes in three sizes with identical features and fairly indistinguishable picture quality. The 47” is the value, relatively, pick of the bunch at a street price of around R18 000-00 but the 55” is the best looking large screen TV out there with a very comprehensive feature set, and once set up, a very competitive picture All for a price of around R35 000-00,

Pros

Best looking large screen TV on the market

Passive 3D with six pairs of glasses, dual gaming mode with glasses

Clever and useful remote coupled with useful online services

Cons

Slight softness to the picture, no matter the settings.

Worst Black levels of the review trio

Noticeable backlight bleed, and slight screen blotching.

Steven Ambrose – Executive Editor, CEO of the technology and strategy consulting firm Strategy Worx and a major gadget geek. A chartered accountant by training Steven sports a history spanning from heading statups to divisions of major multinational corporations, he ran and wrote for Gadget.co.za from 2006 to 2010, and now consults on technology and its impact on business as the brainchild and CEO of Strategy Worx. For more immediate comment, views and discussion follow him on Twitter
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