LG’s outstanding Freeview Playback implementation finally brings the full joys of the digital TV age to the masses
Freeview Playback works superbly
Nice set of features
Second digital tuner weakens signal
Limited viewing angle
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LG's 42LT75 is the UK's first TV to meet the Freeview Playback standard, offering digital recording, similar to Sky+, but with the Freeview broadcast service. So should Sky be quaking in its boots?
Before we get into the 42LT75's Freeview Playback stuff, let's get a couple of more basic things out of the way first. Its connections include two HDMIs, component video input, PC input, and a digital audio output.
Now we can get down to Freeview Playback business, starting with the fact that the built-in hard-disk drive required for recording the Freeview channels is a very healthy 160GB in size - enough to store around 60 hours of digital recordings and between 45 and 90 hours of analogue ones.
If you're wondering why the maximum digital recording capacity is fixed while the analogue one varies, it's because the TV automatically records the direct digital bitstream in the case of Freeview, whereas with analogue the user can decide whether they want the recordings in High or Normal quality modes.
Naturally, the 42LT75 comes bearing two digital tuners, so that you can record one digital channel while watching another, and thanks to the TV adhering to the latest Freeview Playback Group 2 standard, you can use the seven-day electronic programme guide to set Series Links.
As with Sky's system, these are dependent on broadcaster support, but Freeview claims that around 90 per cent of its channels are already playing ball.
Moving into other areas of the 42LT75's spec sheet, some people might be disappointed to find just an HD-Ready 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution rather than a 1080p one. But to our mind this merely reflects the screen's focus on the standard definition Freeview services.
The screen can still take HD right up to 1080p/24fps, though, with LG's XD Engine system on hand to improve picture quality and an impressive 8,000:1 contrast ratio promising good black levels.
Ease of use
It's hard to imagine how all the recording/pausing/rewinding/forwarding/series link functions of this Freeview Playback TV could have been integrated any better. Even die-hard technophobes should be recording away to their heart's content within minutes. And within a couple of days they'll have forgotten that life without Freeview Playback ever existed.
The 42LT75's recording quality is excellent. Recordings of digital channels are indistinguishable from the original broadcasts, as you'd expect of a TV that records the direct digital bitstream. But analogue recordings are good too, especially if you opt for the High mode, with only a touch of MPEG blocking and extra softness evident to betray the fact that they're not the original broadcasts.
The basic picture quality of the screen, meanwhile, is also rather good. Especially notable is how good standard-definition feeds from the Freeview tuner look. We've oft-criticised previous LG screens for not handling digital broadcasts at all well, but here, in the course of integrating the Freeview Playback system, LG's technicians have improved things enormously,largely removing the previous overt noise, motion smearing and colour tone problems.
The 42LT75 delivers better black levels with all sources than previous LG LCDs too, reducing the level of greying over of dark scenes to a point where it seldom seriously distracts you from what you're watching.
Despite its focus on standard definition, meanwhile, the 42LT75 is a very accomplished HD performer, presenting hi-def sources with excellent crispness and detail, pleasingly little noise, and generally very natural colours.
Things could still be better, however. Black levels, though improved, are merely good rather than great. Also the viewing angle is limited, and colour saturations, while natural, aren't as dramatically vivid as those of some rivals. Our tests revealed that the second digital tuner receives a weaker signal than the first, resulting in lost channels for those in borderline Freeview reception areas.
But provided you're confident about your Freeview signal, none of these niggles prevent the 42LT75 from amounting to comfortably LG's best LCD picture performer to date.
While there's nothing outstanding about the 42LT75's audio, it's certainly no sonic slouch, having enough volume, clarity and dynamic range to keep up with all but the most OTT of action movies.
Given its size, performance quality and feature count, the asking price seems remarkably cheap.
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