A few rivals put the 50PB65's mixed picture performance into perspective, but its aggressive pricing could still find it an audience
Superbly vibrant colours
Good feature count
Slight black level issues
Noise with standard definition
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Given the 'style icon' status achieved by its Chocolate-branded mobile phones, it's easy to understand why LG is keen to try and translate this stylish success into other parts of its business. And so it is that we find ourselves faced with a massive 50in plasma TV dressed - so LG claims - in the same style as its mobiles.
Only we don't really see it. For us, it's just another attractive set finished in glossy black which, far from following the diminutive approach of the Chocolate phones, is actually rather chunky. Oh, well. The label was a neat idea, at least.
Fortunately, the spurious Chocolate claims are by no means the 50PB65's only attraction. Take, for instance, its connections. For while the set only has two HDMIs, these can receive 1080p signals - including the 1080p/24fps ones used by most HD DVD and Blu-ray film transfers. Plus they allow you extensive control of other new LG kit, such as a DVD player, via the TV's remote control.
Naturally the set also sports the component video jack demanded by the HD Ready specification, plus two Scarts and a CI slot to support a built-in digital tuner. And there's a digital audio output to pass on to suitable receivers any digital audio tracks piped in via the HDMIs.
The 1366 x 768-pixel screen also has a significant specification claim to fame: a claimed contrast ratio of 15000:1. This is only 1000:1 short of the contrast figure quoted by Pioneer's revolutionary new plasmas.
When it comes to image processing, LG has really gone to town. Kicking off is its own XD Engine system, designed to boost colours, black levels, and fine detailing while also reducing noise.
Then there's Faroudja's DCDi system for stopping contoured edges looking jagged, and finally - unusually for plasma technology - 100Hz processing. This doubles the customary PAL refresh rate to make motion look smoother and sharper.
Also worth a mention is LG's Clear Filter Pro system. This replaces the usual thick glass arrangement on plasma TVs with a single film filter that boosts brightness by a claimed 30 per cent while reducing reflections.
The 50PB65's remote happily shuns the style-over-substance approach of many of LG's predecessors, instead combining tasteful looks with intuitive layout to good effect.
The onscreen menus, meanwhile, are superbly presented, leaving as our only minor concern the fact that some of the features available could be a touch technical for some folk, who'll need to consult the manual.
We can't recall seeing any other plasma TV that produces colours as aggressively vibrant as these. Even relatively dull, 'realistic' footage such as Eastenders takes on a near-kaleidoscopic intensity, while colour-rich material as exemplified by Forza Motorsport 2 on the Xbox 360, almost has to be viewed wearing sunglasses.
Colours as full-on as these would be pretty unforgiving of plasma technology's common problem of colour banding, where blends are presented as a series of stripes rather than smooth gradations. Thankfully, the 50PB65 doesn't really suffer from this problem.
Its picture is also extremely bright, driving those vibrant colours off the screen and delivering peak whites and hard contrasts with startling intensity. Moving objects in the picture also progress smoothly and sharply and are free of plasma's common dithering noise. Initially, we weren't sure 100Hz was really necessary on a plasma TV, but maybe it can help after all.
The instant attraction generated by the 50PB65's aggressive picture traits is sadly undermined by a number of flaws that become more noticeable over time.
The first and worst of these concerns the black levels. For, despite those extravagant 15000:1 contrast ratio claims, dark scenes tend to look slightly flat and grey.
We'd also mention that, although colours attract with their vibrancy, they also suffer from some jarring tonal changes, especially during dark scenes.
Next, high-definition images don't enjoy quite the same snap and precision as we see with the very best big-screen TVs, and standard-definition images tend to look rather noisy while watching all but the very highest quality sources.
Last but not least, the image's extreme brightness actually has the effect of pushing the screen a bit harder than it seems to be comfortable with, resulting in ghostly traces of bright image portions being retained for a moment or two after they're supposed to have disappeared.
The LG's large chassis is put to good use in producing a soundstage with plenty of power, range and clear detail.
While its pictures are by no means perfect, there's no denying that the 50PB65 represents a great deal: you get a heck of a lot of features coupled with sheer screen size for remarkably little cash.
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