LG claims the 50PG6000 offers the blackest ever blacks on a plasma TV. Pioneer’s £4,000 ‘Kuro’ 50in plasma promised a 20,000:1 contrast ratio, whereas this sumptuous plasma giant claims to top that by 50 per cent.
The 50PG6000 also boasts four HDMI inputs – one more than Pioneer’s flagship PDP – and sells for a quarter of the price. Chuck in a depth of just 80mm and a design that does away with a bezel for a visually striking ‘single-layer’ glass look and you’ve got quite a proposition.
Is LG's newest TV too good to be true?
So is there a catch? Well, yes. Unlike pretty much every other big-screen plasma available, it does not use a Full HD panel. This is a 720p product. So does that make it a non-starter with Full HD sources such as Blu-ray and HD DVD?
Amazingly, the answer appears to be ‘No’. I’ve been long convinced that Full HD is the only way to go if you want to enjoy every ounce of available HD goodness, but this modest monster blew my preconceptions asunder.
A striking plasma
Visually the set is a wow. With no bezel, edge-to-edge glass plate and rounded edges, the 50PG6000 looks unlike any other flatscreen. There’s no extruding frame or speaker grille; LG’s engineers have managed to shield them completely from view.
The only sign of life when the set is switched off is an elliptical design on the TV’s lower lip, which lights-up in an unusual, but understated, lime green LED strip. The most obvious user-friendly feature of this plasma is its plethora of ins and outs.
Four HDMI inputs is as many as I’ve seen on any telly. As they are v1.3 it allows DeepColor support and can accept 24 frames-per-second 1080p video – although the latter is, of course, wasted on this 1365 x 768 resolution panel.
Thanks to an excellent user interface and a lightweight less-is-more remote control, the 50PG6000 proves a piece of cake to calibrate. Aping an Apple Mac’s use of simple and colourful icons, the eight-category-strong menus ‘float’ over most of the screen.
From there it’s a short hop to the ‘advanced’ menu where black level, white balance, gamma, red/ green bias and the all-important noise reduction can be tinkered with and saved under an ‘expert’ setting.
Look deeper and there are more sophisticated tweaks possible, including a Film mode suitable for TV, AV and component 480i/576i material, and a Tru-motion function to reduce judder.
You won't miss Full HD
This screen lapped up my HD DVD of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, a challenging hi-def disc chosen to push this plasma’s bold black claims to the limit. A piano in Deckard’s flat approaches true black, and it’s this skill with contrast that helps produce convincing colours, although skin tones can look a touch overcooked.
Using the preset ‘cinema’ mode (which I suspect is closely related to the THX’s Movie Mode employed by its US cousin) immediately solves the problem, but it is oddly costly in terms of black level.
Better to cool down the colours and white balance manually in the picture settings menu because, equally annoying, if the ‘black level’ is pushed to its highest setting the picture actually greys-over.
Once adjusted, there’s plenty of shadow detail to be picked-out on LA’s sidewalks in the gloom, while light beams cut a swathe through the mist, showing impressive level of clarity at this resolution.
Aside from the occasional soft close-up and some noise in backgrounds, the movie’s reliance on slow, lingering and often gloomy shots plays right into this plasma’s hands.
Desert storm Brighter and newer fare comes from Sahara, also on HD DVD (nice format, it’ll go far), which demonstrates how much of an all-rounder this plasma is. Peak whites are shown-off well and a high-octane car chase is completed smoothly with top-rate realism.
A digital broadcast of BBC News 24 holds up okay, but there’s enough digital noise to annoy, even with the set’s reduction mode at its highest setting.
And as is usually the case, watching a DVD on a screen of this size – Planet Earth in this case – involves much mosquito noise, poorly defined edges and a sheen across the entire screen.
At least those rich blacks, peak whites and vivid colours endure, thanks to the set’s impressive brightness. One positive benefit in having a one-million pixel screen – instead of two-million pixels – is that the pixels are bigger and therefore brighter.
The audio emanating from the hidden speakers is reasonably precise: there’s just enough mid-bass to cope well with most dialogue, while the Clear Voice mode scrubs away background noise.
TruSurround XT does a decent enough job at widening the soundstage, but the result can only ever be for emergency use: the screen has a digital audio optical output to route all sound into a home cinema amplifier.
Not just a pretty TV
With the 50PG6000, LG has taken non-1080p panel and put it in a gorgeous chassis. But to call it merely a style TV would be to miss the point.
This screen also has an impressive black level (making a daring play for Pioneer’s crown as the blackest of all, it gets closer than most), high shadow detail and decent colour fidelity.
In a PQ battle with Sony’s hi-spec 1080p KDL-46W3000 LCD it wins by a country mile. Clearly the lack of Full HD resolution will limit the LG 50PG6000's appeal to high-enders and future-proofers alike, but this screen remains a bargain.
I can’t wait to see what the upcoming Full HD version, the LG PG7000, can do.