lg 50pk790

For its money, the 50PK790 packs a serious feature punch.

This actually kicks off with its design, which is certainly one of the most attractive we've ever seen wrapped around a plasma TV.

The screen is strikingly slim, for a start, especially right at its extremities - so much so that it actually cuts into your fingers a bit when you're lifting it into position either on a wall or on its very attractive, opulent-feeling desktop stand.

The bezel is very trim by large plasma standards, and the final style push comes from the screen's single-layer finish.

In fact, it's the way the glass panel lying across both the bezel and the screen is allowed to extend a small distance beyond the main bezel that chiefly accounts for the finger-jabbing sharpness when lifting the 50PK790 noted earlier.

Stylish looks

The 50PK790's rear is nearly as attractive as its front, thanks to its healthy stock of sockets, which include four HDMIs, a USB port able to handle JPEGs, MP3s, and best of all, DivX HD files; an Ethernet port for future Freeview HD interactive uses, accessing files on a DLNA PC or LG's new (to TVs at least) NetCast online system; built-in Bluetooth functionality for wireless connection to Bluetooth headsets, mobile phones and now, impressively, PCs; and optional Wi-Fi via a separately purchased USB dongle.

lg 50pk790

If you're paying attention you should have noticed that we mentioned Freeview HD back there.

Freeview HD

The 50PK790 manages to be right up to date by being the first LG TV we've seen with a built-in Freeview HD tuner. Obviously this is only immediately of benefit to you if you're lucky enough to live in an area served by the Freeview HD service.

But even if you're one of the millions of people who aren't already Freeview HD'ed up, it will be with you by 2012, so you might as well think ahead.

The other potentially most significant change here from anything LG delivered last year clearly comes with the Ethernet/Wi-Fi functionality, with the DLNA and online functionality enabling LG to keep up with the other big players in the TV world.

The new NetCast service clearly warrants more attention since it's the first time LG has introduced such a service onto a TV. When you first access the service, you're asked to pinpoint your location in the world, so that the service can provide you with local weather and time information once you get to the main NetCast 'jumping off' screen.

It has to be said, though, that this 'jumping off' screen isn't exactly overloaded with content when we remember what Sony, Panasonic and Philips are offering with their online TV systems .

Internet apps

All you get are global weather reports from AccuWeather.com, the seemingly inevitable access to YouTube (though via a more friendly interface than that of most rival online TVs), and the Picasa web photo album service.

lg 50pk790

What's more, during our tests both the YouTube and Picasa systems were unusable via our standard 2MB broadband download pipe; they kept generating network errors, despite our same broadband pipe proving perfectly adequate for, say, Panasonic's VieraCast and Sony's Bravia Internet Video services, as well as the BBC's iPlayer system via Freesat.

We're wary of being too harsh on such service disruptions so early in an online TV's life, but even if they were working, the amount of content available could hardly be considered jaw-dropping. Here's hoping more services - such as the already-promised Skype online video call platform - come online soon.

LG is - astutely - very big these days on getting endorsements from professional independent AV organisations. And so we find the 50PF790 sporting support from both THX - complete with two THX picture presets - and the Imaging Science Foundation, the latter of which can be called in to calibrate the screen professionally for you, storing night and day settings to two special preset slots.

Calibration

You can also use the ISF slots yourself to access an Expert menu, where you can find such impressive fine tuning touches as a full colour management system, complete with red, green and blue contrast, and brightness tweaks, plus colour and tint adjustments for all six primary colours.

These calibration features will undoubtedly catch the eye of any serious home cinema fan.
Other picture presets cater for Sport and Game content, with additional Vivid, User and 'Auto Power Save' options also available. The latter option works in tandem with such technologies as an ambient light level detection system to keep the TV running at its optimum efficiency. Though it's probably best avoided if you value premium picture quality over fractionally improving your carbon footprint.

Fans of casual gaming, meanwhile, might be chuffed to find a selection of simple games tucked away on the 50PK790, including Sudoku, Whack a Mole and Invader. However, these games - included it seems, as a riposte to Samsung's Content Library feature - really are basic in the extreme, and for the most part merely highlight some response issues with the remote control!

Motion smoothing

Wrapping up the 50PK790's features are adjustments to the set's gamma level, noise reduction circuits, dynamic contrast element, an excellent Picture Wizard that uses built-in test signals to help you calibrate images better yourself and, last but not least, 600Hz processing.

As with Panasonic's current 600Hz plasmas, the 50PK790 doesn't actually refresh the picture 600 times a second, but rather uses a 'sub-field drive' to fire each pixel as many as 12 times for each frame of a 50Hz PAL signal.

This makes the 600Hz title rather dubious, but hopefully it can still result in more fluid motion and a generally richer image.