Recently, while perusing my local big box store, I happened upon what appeared to be two identical HDTVs. Both displays were from the same manufacturer, offered up 50-inches of HD goodness with all the bells and whistles that one could ask for in a modern HDTV - minus 3D of course. One cost one price and the other exactly $500 more. On the surface they appeared to be identical displays so I thought maybe there had been a mistake. It wasn't until the salesman pulled up the displays' spec sheets did we notice the only difference - dynamic contrast ratio. One display, the cheaper one, had a dynamic contrast ratio of four million to one, whereas the more expensive display touted six million to one. $500 more for a "feature" that will make ZERO difference (at those insane figures) in the display's overall image quality got me thinking: what does one really need in a HDTV?
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Barring the ability to play back 3D content, what's required of an HDTV is actually pretty basic and comes down to only a few important factors: size, resolution, refresh rate, inputs and calibration controls. The rest can fall by the wayside. Wanting to find the best, most basic HDTV available, I set out for my local Wal-Mart where HDTVs are sold solely on price versus what "features" they offer the end user. After glancing at more than a half dozen sets I settled on a 42-inch LCD from LG. The LG 42LK450 is a 42-inch, 1080p HDTV that has a reported contrast ratio of 100,000:1, a refresh rate of 60Hz and is ISFccc ready - all for $699 retail. If you're looking to enjoy SD material and HD content, be it broadcast or Blu-ray, the 42LK450 technically has everything you need.
The 42LK450 measures 40 inches wide by 25 inches tall and three inches deep so it's not as thin as some of the LED based LCDs, but I argue if you're using the included table stand then all HDTVs are 10 or more inches deep. The 42LK450 weighs a surprising 33 pounds with the stand, which again is heavier than some, but does give it a more solid, better-constructed feel. As for inputs - the 42LK450 has three HDMI inputs along with two component inputs as well as inputs for RF, AV, RGB, PC, RS-232 and USB 2.0. There's even a digital audio output (optical) if you want to pair the 42LK450 to a soundbar.
The 42LK450 comes with a bevy of calibration controls including two ISF picture modes: "ISF Expert 1" and "ISF Expert 2." The differences are geared toward optimizing the 42LK450's image for either daytime or nighttime viewing. Speaking of optimizing the 42LK450's image - it also has LG's Intelligent Sensor, which automatically adjusts the display's image depending on the ambient room conditions, a neat feature for sure but one that ultimately gets turned off if you're serious about your image fidelity.
In terms of performance the 42LK450 gets right to the point and never deviates, resulting in a rich, HD experience with zero fluff. When I say fluff I mean features such as 120Hz motion processing, auto dimming (which the 42LK450 has), Web-enabled Apps like Twitter and Facebook, convoluted menus and so on and so forth. The 42LK450 is about as plug and play as you can hope for and thanks to its ISF picture modes, looks pretty good out of the box. The image isn't ultra or artificially crisp but it's far from soft or vague. Colors are rich without seeming overly saturated and black levels are solid but not class leading. Motion, despite being only a 60Hz display, is smooth with few (if any) artifacts. Truthfully, the 42LK450 matched the performance of my reference Samsung display that I've had for three years now and paid upwards of $3,000 for when new.
Read about the high points and low points of the LG 42LK450 HDTV on Page 2.