This 47-inch, 1080p LCD television is part of LG's Infinia LE8500 Series, which sits near the top of LG's extensive 2010 lineup. The LE8500 Series is loaded with most of the company's higher-end technologies and features--the only omissions are the Magic Wand remote and the 3D capability offered in the LX9500 Series. Perhaps the most intriguing of the 47LE8500's technologies is LG's new Full LED Slim design: The TV combines the best of both LED worlds, packaging a full-array LED backlight system, with local dimming, in the type of slim cabinet usually reserved for edge-lit LED systems. The 47LE8500 also boasts THX certification and TruMotion 240Hz technology, and it offers access to the NetCast entertainment platform, via built-in Ethernet or the optional USB WiFi adapter ($79.99). This year's NetCast iteration includes VUDU and Netflix video-on-demand, as well as Picasa, YouTube, and Yahoo TV Widgets. Skype is also available, with the purchase of an add-on camera. The 47LE8500 also supports wireless HDMI: You can mate this TV with the optional AN-WL100W Wireless Media Kit ($349.99) to wirelessly transmit the HDMI signal from source(s) to display. The 47LE8500 has EnergyStar 4.0¬ certification and carries an MSRP of $2,699.99
Setup and Features
The 47LE8500 has a single-layer design in which the front face lacks a raised bezel; combine that with its 1.4-inch depth, and the result is an attractively sleek look. Weighing in at 59.4 pounds (without the stand), the TV is a little heavier than recent edge-lit models I've reviewed--presumably, the full-array backlight system adds some weight. Both the TV and the swiveling stand have a high-gloss-black finish and a clear acrylic edge that lends a bit of style without drawing too much attention to itself. LG provides two remotes: a full-scale model and a smaller, stripped-down model that offers only volume, channel, mute, input and number buttons. The primary remote earns points for its backlighting and slender form. At first, I found the button layout to be somewhat cluttered; however, the more I used the remote, the more intuitive I found it to be. Especially helpful is the Q.Menu (for Quick Menu), which pulls up a miniature onscreen dial through which you can make common adjustments, like aspect ratio, picture and sound mode, sleep timer, and USB playback.
The connection panel includes four HDMI, two component video, one RGB, and one RF input to access the internal ATSC and Clear-QAM tuners. It seems this year that many manufacturers are reducing the number of component video inputs on their high-end models from two to one, but LG continues to offer two, which is helpful for owners of legacy components. The HDMI inputs accept both 1080p/24 and 1080p/60 signals, and one is side-facing for easy access (given the TV's slim design, it doesn't really have a dedicated side panel). Also side-facing are the dual USB ports, which support playback of movie, photo, and music files or the addition of the optional WiFi adapter. The back panel includes an Ethernet port for a wired network connection, as well as a wireless control port for use with the Wireless Media Kit.
For calibrators and videophiles, the 47LE8500 offers an extensive array of picture adjustments, but this TV also has some useful setup tools for the average consumer who may not want to delve too deeply into the menu. Three preset AV modes automatically set both the picture and sound parameters to suit a specific type of source content (THX Cinema, Sport and Game). In the video-only realm, you get nine picture modes, including two THX modes, two Expert/ISF modes, and an Intelligent Sensor mode that automatically adjusts the picture based on the content being shown and the room's ambient light. One of the benefits of a THX-certified display is the inclusion of a preset picture mode that should offer the most accurate settings out of the box, so you can theoretically switch to said mode and not have to worry about making any further adjustments. The 47LE8500 features two THX modes: THX Cinema and a new THX Bright Room mode, created no doubt to address the common complaint that previous THX modes were too dim. Unlike Panasonic, LG does not let you adjust the picture controls in the THX modes; so, if you are not satisfied with any particular aspect of the picture, you have little recourse. The only things you can adjust are TruMotion and LED Local Dimming, which allows you to turn off the local-dimming function. Frankly, I can't imagine why you'd pay more for this TV and not use the local-dimming feature, but the choice is yours.
Another option for those who don't wish to make picture adjustments on their own is LG's excellent Picture Wizard, an automatic setup tool that walks you through a basic picture calibration by showing a series of photos and letting you adjust brightness, contrast, color, tint and sharpness until they match "recommended" pictures. These settings are then applied to whichever inputs you choose and stored in the Expert 1 picture mode. Running through a Picture Wizard setup did not produce the exact numbers I got when using Video Essentials (DVD International) test patterns, but they weren't far off the mark.
Some of the 47LE8500's more advanced picture controls include an incremental color temperature dial, dynamic contrast and color, clear white, skin color, digital and MPEG noise reduction, a three-step gamma control, and two color gamut options (Standard and Wide). The Expert modes provide access to advanced options not available in the other preset modes, such as full white-balance adjustment, individual color management of all six color points, horizontal and vertical sharpness controls, additional color gamut options (EBU, SMPTE and BT709), an edge enhancer function and color filters to assist with setup.
LG's TruMotion technology does not actually produce a 240Hz refresh rate; rather, this TV has a 120Hz refresh rate, with a scanning backlight that creates a 240Hz effect. The goal of TruMotion is twofold: to reduce motion blur and to eliminate judder in film-based sources. Unlike some manufacturers that use separate functions to address each issue, TruMotion deals with both problems through a single menu option; however, this year's incarnation adds a new degree of flexibility to more precisely tailor the effect. In addition to the Low and High modes we've seen in previous LG models (both of which add a certain degree of motion interpolation, which creates smoother motion but changes the quality of film sources to make them look more like video), the TruMotion menu now includes a User mode in which you can adjust the Judder and Blur functions separately. This new option allows people (like me) who don't like the look of motion-interpolated film to turn down the Judder control while still using the Blur function to preserve detail in faster-moving scenes. (We'll discuss performance in the next section.)
The 47LE8500's audio setup menu includes five sound modes, plus bass, treble and balance controls. You can enable Infinite Sound to get simulated surround sound, while Clear Voice II brings up the level of vocals. The TV includes a generic Auto Volume function to help minimize volume discrepancies, but it lacks SRS TruVolume or Dolby Volume audio-leveling technology.
Finally, there's NetCast. You can launch LG's Web platform via a convenient button in the center of the remote. The main NetCast menu includes icons for Yahoo TV Widgets, Netflix, VUDU, YouTube, and Picasa, all of which are easy to set up and access. Press the remote's Widgets button to directly launch the Yahoo TV Widgets menu bar along the bottom of the screen, without interrupting playback of your primary source. Here, you can access sports, weather, news, and finance information, check your Twitter or Flickr account, and more. The 47LE8500 is also a DLNA-compliant media player; if you add the TV to your network and load the supplied software on your PC, you can stream media files.
When I review a THX-certified display, I begin by simply switching to the THX picture mode and evaluating its performance. In this case, I tried out both the THX Cinema and THX Bright Room modes in their respective viewing environments. I quickly dismissed the Bright Room mode, even for daytime viewing: Yes, it's brighter than the THX Cinema mode but not significantly so, and its overall contrast isn't nearly as good, resulting in a flatter image. The THX Cinema mode strikes a better balance between black level and brightness, producing an image with very good contrast and rich yet natural color. While I was generally satisfied with the THX Cinema mode's picture quality, I wanted a lower backlight setting for dark-room viewing (the THX Cinema mode is locked at 20 in a scale of 1 to 100), and I felt a few other controls would benefit from some fine-tuning. So, I switched over to the Expert modes and performed a more advanced setup. Since there are two Expert modes, I was able to calibrate one mode for a dark theater environment and another mode for daytime or bright-room viewing, and the resulting performance was really quite impressive.
One issue I had with the THX Cinema mode was that the image looked soft compared with the Expert modes. By default, the Edge Enhancer function is turned on in the Expert modes (I assume this mode is turned off in the THX modes, but you can't access the advanced picture menu to check). Normally, I would immediately turn off a control called Edge Enhancer because I don't consider edge enhancement to be a desirable quality. However, in this case, Edge Enhancer didn't introduce blatant halos or noise around edges, with test patterns or real-world content. Instead, it simply improved the visibility of fine details, such as individual hairs in a man's beard. (FYI: The sharpness controls will add edge enhancement if you turn them up too high and will noticeably soften the image if you turn them too low; they are best left right near the middle of the dial.) Overall, I was extremely pleased with the level of detail that the 47LE8500 presents. Blu-ray and HDTV sources were razor-sharp, and the TV's upconversion of standard-definition content was especially impressive.
The benefit of a full-array LED backlight system with local dimming is that the individual LED zones can respond dynamically to the image being displayed on the screen. The LEDs can dim or shut themselves off as needed to produce deeper blacks. Unlike a traditional LCD with an always-on fluorescent backlight, a local-dimming LED model is not forced to limit its overall light output to render a better black, which allows it to have better overall contrast. The 47LE8500 is no exception. Even with the backlight set to its minimum, this TV still had respectable light output and exceptional contrast. Its black level is among the best I've seen in an LCD, and its ability to render fine black detail was excellent. The potential drawback to a local-dimming display is that, because the LEDs are not a 1:1 ratio with the number of pixels, the lighting effect can be imprecise, creating a glow around edges. With the 47LE8500, LG has cut down on that glow considerably; I occasionally saw a hint of glow around logos or bleeding into the black sidebars, but it was not significant enough to detract from the viewing experience.
In the color realm, the BT709 color gamut looked the most accurate, but even the Standard mode did a nice job serving up rich color without veering too far off the mark. The green fields of MLB and World Cup soccer looked natural, as opposed to the neon quality we so often see. Likewise, the Warm color temperature mode in the Expert setup menu looked fairly neutral across the board. Whites and blacks appeared to be a little cool, but there were no significant fluctuations. Skintones had a natural quality, with no red push. As I mentioned, the Expert modes give you access to all the controls you'd need to do a full calibration of the color temp and color points, which can result in an even more accurate picture.
When it comes to deinterlacing 480i and 1080i film sources, the 47LE8500 passed most of my test-disc and real-world demos. The TV's Real Cinema function needs to be enabled for it to accurately detect the 3:2 cadence in 60Hz film-based sources. With 1080i, it passed all of the tests on the HD HQV Benchmark Blu-ray disc (Silicon Optix), and it also cleanly rendered my test scenes from Mission Impossible III (Paramount Home Video) and Ghost Rider (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray. I didn't notice any blatant jaggies or other artifacts with 1080i HDTV sources, either. With standard-definition sources, the 47LE8500 passed the film test on the HQV Benchmark DVD (Silicon Optix) and did a great job with my favorite torture test, the Coliseum flyover in chapter 12 of Gladiator (DreamWorks Home Entertainment). It couldn't quite handle the challenging window blinds in chapter four of The Bourne Identity (Universal Home Video): It would lose the cadence, find it, then lose it again, but it still did a better job than many TVs I test. In other processing news, digital noise is one of my pet peeves, and I'm happy to report that the 47LE8500 renders a very clean image, with no need to enable the noise-reduction controls. I saw virtually no noise in backgrounds or light-to-dark transitions.
LG's TruMotion technology effectively reduces motion blur. With resolution patterns from the FPD Software Group demo disc, I saw a fairly typical amount of LCD blur when TruMotion was off. Enabling TruMotion resulted in much clearer patterns. With the User mode's Blur option set to its maximum, the 47LE8500 showed exceptional clarity even in the HD 1080 resolution bar. As for the de-judder function, the Low mode does a solid job of reducing film judder in DVD and Blu-ray sources without making the picture look too artificial, and it performed more reliably with my DirecTV signal (less smearing and stuttering) than most de-judder technologies I test. If you like the smoothing effects of motion interpolation, you will probably be pleased with LG's implementation. If you don't, the User mode allows you to tailor the control to get the blur-reduction benefits without the artificial smoothing, but this mode did not perform reliably in my review sample. Each time I turned on the TV or switched discs in my Blu-ray player, the User mode would suddenly perform more like the High mode, adding motion interpolation even when Judder was set to zero. I had to turn off TruMotion and turn it back on to get the User mode to behave appropriately; so, while this option is nice in theory, it does not yet work as well as those TVs that offer truly separate blur and de-judder functions. I have said with previous LG TV reviews that I'd like to see the company add TruMotion to the Quick Menu so that you can more easily enable or disable it, depending on the type of content.
Read The High Points, The Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2
LG's Full LED Slim design certainly has its benefits in both black-level performance and form factor, but I also saw issues that I haven't seen with other full-array LED-based models. A lack of brightness uniformity is an issue usually associated with edge-lit LED models. In certain circumstances where the 47LE8500's LEDs did not shut themselves off--such as fade-to-black transitions between scenes or during NetCast menu navigation--the corners of all-black or dark-grey screens were clearly brighter than the center. Whereas these problems are constant in an edge-lit model and affect black-level performance, the 47LE8500's uniformity issue was not apparent in the darker demo scenes that I viewed; again, it was mainly visible during transitions.
The bigger cause for concern involves a backlight artifact in which I could sometimes see subtle lines or bands in the background of the image. It almost looks like you can see traces of the backlight grid, which is perhaps an effect of the slim architecture. The artifact wasn't ever-present, appearing primarily in slower motion sequences--especially slow-moving vertical pans. It was also fairly subtle. At first, I had trouble pinpointing the problem. I knew something looked slightly off, but it took close inspection to realize exactly what I was seeing. As my husband and I watched a recorded episode of "V," I asked him to tell me if he saw anything odd. Even when he was looking for a problem, he couldn't see it with brighter HDTV content. However, we then watched a demo scene from chapter six of Flags of Our Fathers (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) in which several men sit on the ship's deck on a dark, foggy evening. The uneven bands in the grey background were apparent to both of us.