LG 47LE8900 review

Direct LED lighting meets a decent price, solid multimedia features and a Freeview HD tuner to very desirable effect

TODO alt text

LG 47le8900 1

As already noted, the 47LE8900's design is nifty enough to class as an innovative feature as well as a mere aesthetic attraction.

The gleaming gloss black, single-layer fascia with its little outer transparent border really is very attractive, despite the bezel being a little wider than some. It's nice to find, too, that the screen rotates on its equally attractive desktop stand.

The really clever bit, though, is the 47LE8900's 35mm depth. For this runs totally counter to our experience of direct LED TVs, which generally stick out much further.

Being able to deliver the potential picture prowess of direct LED lighting in a body that looks like it must have been built around edge LED lighting is a seriously neat trick.

What's more, the direct lighting is capable of local dimming, whereby clusters of LEDs in the lighting array can be controlled individually, enabling wildly varying luminance levels in different parts of the screen. At its most extreme, this could enable the set to achieve areas of peak white next to patches of near-perfect black.

Compare this approach with the single light source of CCFL TVs or the 'one brightness level suits all' approach of direct LED sets without local dimming, and it's obvious how local dimming has the potential to deliver a huge boost to contrast performance. Indeed, LG claims a monster ratio of 9,000,000:1 for this screen.

Other important specs include 200Hz processing – actually 100Hz plus a scanning backlight – to improve motion reproduction, a built-in Freeview HD tuner and a reasonable looking suite of multimedia tools.

The latter come courtesy of a trio of jacks: a D-Sub PC port, a LAN jack, and a pair of USB sockets. The LAN permits you to access content either from networked DLNA client devices or from LG's NetCast online platform. And the USB slots enable you to play video (including DivX HD), music and photo files or enable the TV for Wi-Fi via an optional dongle.

In an ideal world this dongle might have been included on such a high-spec TV rather than being an optional extra, but LG is hardly alone in its approach.

NetCast has potential in that, as with all TV online systems, it can be updated with extra features when they become available. But at the time of writing it's arguably the weakest TV online platform, offering only YouTube, the PICASA online photo album site and a fairly uninspiring weather forecast service. Here's hoping LG can up its online game fast to keep up with what its rivals are doing now.

While we were investigating the 47LE8900's multimedia talents, we couldn't help but notice in passing how lengthy the set's picture adjustment menus seem to be, a discovery backed up by the fact that the set has been officially endorsed by both THX and the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF).

The THX approval is a guarantee (of sorts) of the set's picture quality, and results in two handy picture presets featuring calibration settings deemed to produce optimal results during bright and dark conditions.

Real enthusiasts, though, will set more store by the ISF support, since this means the TV has been confirmed as suitable for professional calibration for your room conditions by an ISF-trained engineer.
Looking into the sort of tools an ISF engineer might use, you'll find a surprisingly well-specified colour management system. This includes a series of gamma presets, the ability to adjust the brightness and contrast of each of the red, green and blue colour components and the ability to tweak the tint and saturation of the red, green, blue, yellow, cyan and magenta colour components.

There's also a huge list of other tweaks to be found outside the ISF 'Expert' picture mode, including both MPEG and standard noise reduction circuits, a colour booster, a black level booster and a wide colour gamut option.

LG 47le8900 5

You can deactivate or adjust the strength of LG's TruMotion, and you can deactivate the local dimming. We would leave TruMotion off as although it does reduce judder and blur it generates distracting side effects. We did appreciate, though, the fact that LG has taken a leaf out of Samsung's book and enabled you to adjust the strengths of the judder and blur components of TruMotion individually.

We didn't often feel the need to deactivate the local dimming, on the other hand, finding that its benefits to contrast far outweigh any problems it might cause with respect to low-level detailing going missing in dark parts of the picture. Just occasionally you might want to switch it off if you're watching something particularly dark, like, perhaps, a horror film.

Last things we should cover in this section are the set's carriage of four HDMIs and Bluetooth support for wireless communication with Bluetooth-enabled devices like mobile phones or headphones.