LG 50PK750 Plasma HDTV Review

LG 50PK750 Plasma HDTV Review

This fine LG plasma TV is part of LG's high-end Infinia group. This 50-inch screen uses LG's Dual XD Engine and 600Hz Max Sub Field Driving technology and is thin for a plasma TV. In addition, this set is "wireless 1080p ready" and can link to your home network via a wired connection

LG_50PK750_plasma_HDTV_review_beauty.gifLG caught my eye last year with their lineup of HDTVs, especially the 50-inch, 50PK750 reviewed here. The industrial design of the 50PK750 plasma television is clean and very modern. The glass front piece covers the entire front portion of the television, eliminating the raised bezel found on most units. The glass panel extends about a quarter inch past the edges of the television body. The only items on the front panel noticeable from any distance are the LG logo at the center of the bottom and a power indicator light on the bottom right portion of the panel that changes from red in standby to blue when in use. Touch buttons for basic controls are also on the bottom portion of the bezel but they are nearly invisible unless you are right in front of the TV.

Additional Resources
• Read more plasma HDTV reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.
• Explore Blu-ray player pairing options in our Blu-ray Player Review section.
• Boost the sound from the LG 50PK750 by exploring our Soundbar Review section.

So is the LG 50PK750 just another pretty face? It does not matter to me, nor I suspect to most of your reading this, if the television has an attractive industrial design if its performance capabilities or feature set do not measure up. As part of LG's Infinia series and LG's top, non-3D plasma, the $1,400 50PK750 is fairly well loaded. The specifications provided by LG for the 50PK750 include 1080p resolution capable of receiving 1080p/24 fps signals; 3,000,000:1 dynamic contrast, brightness capability of 1500 cd/m2, a 100,000-hour life span, 600Hz Sub-field driving and a pair of two-way speakers driven by 10 Watts each. More interesting is the lengthy features list which includes: THX certification, ISF calibration modes, Image Sticking Minimization, Protective Skin Glass (which reduces the depth between the layers of glass by 70 percent thereby reducing glare and double images caused by reflections), Dual XD engine (LGs video processor), Wireless ready, DLNA capability and NetCast. NetCast is LG's Internet connectivity package, which includes Vudu, Netflix, YouTube, Yahoo Widgets, Picasa and more.

The Hookup
I installed the base assembly that comes with the 50PK750. Installation was a simple matter of laying the TV down and installing a few screws to connect the base to the TV itself. Once connected the base allows for the TV to be manually rotated. I did not install the optional wi-fi dongle or wireless media receiver kit. Nonetheless, the wireless media kit deserves mention. The kit retails for under $400 and accepts 1080p signals for wireless transmission. This is a boon for those who cannot easily run new wires to their televisions. Other vendors sell wireless HDMI transmission kits for a $1,000 but with the LG you can get this functionality for much less.

Connectivity options are aplenty with four HDMI 1.3 ports and two component, composite and USB inputs. There are also RF (for internal ATSC, NTSC and Clear-QAM tuners), and PC (no S-video) inputs present. Other connectivity includes RS-232 and Ethernet although the RS-232 is for service connections only, not control. For this review I made all my connections with HDMI, Component video and Ethernet cables.

I began my review with an Oppo Digital BDP-83SE and also used a BDP-95, which was received just as I was finishing my evaluation. Connections were made directly between the source and the television with Kimber HDMI cables. For comparison purposes I also used my Marantz VP-11S2 which projects onto a 100-inch diagonal Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 100 screen.

After setting up NetCast and casual viewing for a few days I began experimenting with the LG's settings. There are three AV modes, which set both audio and video settings, plus nine video modes including multiple THX and ISF modes. ISF modes allow for numerous advanced calibration options which should allow the pickiest calibrator to get the set dialed in to their satisfaction. The THX Cinema mode was my favorite mode straight out of the box. There are also a variety of sound modes, although I suspect that most users will forego the television's built-in speakers in favor of more substantial external speakers.

The 50PK750 comes with LG's 'Picture Wizard' which is a system that guides the user in basic calibration. The wizard helped some, but I wanted to further refine the picture so I ran some calibration tools from the new Disney WOW disc. I can easily recommend this disc to anyone who is new to calibration and wants to improve the performance level of their television. The interface could be clunky at times and the instructions repetitive for those who have used other calibration discs but it is extremely self explanatory and easy to use, making it a good choice for those new to video calibration. After running through the WOW disc my settings were slightly different than with using the Picture Wizard and for the better. I should note that the aspect ratio setting "Just Scan" eliminated overscan with 16:9 images and was my preferred setting. It is important to note this, especially if you are using HDMI connected sources as the unit defaults to its "16:9" which does not provide accurate pixel mapping on any of the test patterns I tried.

Performance
I began by playing with the NetCast capabilities, as the older plasma that I own does not have this capability so I was excited to check it out. The first time I used the widgets the television took a bit of time to load settings, during which I was unable to access any other input. The widgets and Netflix were what I used the most. The widgets were easy to use and provided quick, easy access to limited information. I preferred the Netflix interface on my PS3 but I could quickly get used to LG's implementation and never had any difficulty watching videos. Needless to say, the video quality did not test the 50PK750's limits but it was watchable for catching up on old television shows or very casual movie viewing.

Read more about the performance of the LG 50PK750 plasma on Page 2.
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Before jumping into movies, I got my test discs out, beginning with
Silicon Optic's HQV DVD. I first watched the disc with the Oppo set to
output native resolution, and then watched the clips again with the
Oppo doing the scaling to 1080p. The 50PK750's scaling performance was
comparable to the Oppo on the jaggies test patterns, although with back
to back comparisons of other video clips I found the Oppo's scaling to
be slightly cleaner in this regard.

The LG's scaling resulted in
slightly more noise than the Oppo, but again this probably would not be
noticeable outside of back to back comparisons. This is an extremely
good performance as the Oppo BDP-83SE has been my reference player and
offers excellent video performance. When watching Blu-ray test discs in
1080p resolution via a HDMI connection I found the 50PK750 to provide
sharp, detailed images absent of artifacts. In comparing the Blu-ray
images between the LG and my Marantz projector / Stewart screen
combination, I found the projector combination to be slightly sharper,
providing a better sense of depth but other areas to be comparable with
the differences likely due to calibration settings.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Blu-ray, Buena Vista Home
Entertainment), demonstrated both the 50PK750's strong points as well
as its Achilles heel. I found the picture to be extremely sharp and
detailed with a good sense of depth on the better lit scenes. Colors
were natural and there was no smearing. But when the picture was
darker, the details could get lost. For example, in an early scene
where Davey Jones is playing the piano, Jones' face and tentacles were
extremely well detailed and drew the viewer into the picture. When the
focus of the shot was the interior of the ship or some of the black
carved emblems, the lack of deep blacks obscured some of the details.
The scene with the ship on the horizon of the sea and starlit sky
looked perfectly fine but I later found that some of the darker details
were again obscured by the black level.

When comparing the same scenes
to my Marantz projector/ Stewart screen combination in a light
controlled room, the projection system reached farther into the darker
scenes providing more detail and a greater sense of depth. However, if
I were to watch the LG first, without the comparison viewing, it is
likely that I would have never missed the additional detail. As with
audio, even more important than the limit points of a piece's
performance is how the product does up to that point. For example, a
small speaker is not going to reproduce deep bass but can still be a
great speaker if it does a good job with the frequencies it can
reproduce. With the LG, it couldn't reach the deepest blacks, which
impacts its overall contrast ratio, but it did a very good job with
colors, video processing and detail. Its sins were primarily that of
omission rather than inclusion of artifacts or various distortions.

My viewing impressions were confirmed when watching Transformers:
Revenge of the Fallen (Blu-ray, Paramount). This movie has many
brightly lit scenes with colorful, angular shapes of the various
machines. The colors were bright and vibrant without being artificial.
There was a good amount of detail so long as the scene was brightly
lit. Where portions of the scene were in shadow some of the details
became murky, although most viewers wouldn't know that there was
additional detail that they were missing as the amount is relatively
small.

Lastly, I tested the 50PK750's performance with standard definition
DVDs courtesy of Michael Mann's Heat (Warner Home Video). I had the
Oppo output the signal via 480i over component, 480p over HDMI and then
1080p over HDMI. Comparing the 480 component and HDMI feeds; the
difference was not as big as I expected it to be but the HDMI feed was
slightly cleaner with less video noise. The LG did a good job scaling
the 480p to 1080p; scaling artifacts were noticeable only occasionally
when viewing very closely and did not interfere with normal viewing.
The Oppo's scaler did an even better job. The biggest difference was
with moving objects; still images were slightly sharper through the
Oppo's scaler but the difference was very minimal with these images.
(Review of the Oppo BDP-95 coming soon.)

Competition and Comparison
The Panasonic TC-P50G25
would be one of the closer competitors to this LG. From a pure
industrial design, aesthetic viewpoint I prefer the LG but
performance-wise there are some tradeoffs between the two units. The
Panasonic is likely to be sharper with deeper blacks and the LG is
likely to have better colors and video processing.

For more on plasma televisions please visit Home Theater Review's
plasma HDTV page
to
read the latest in plasma news and reviews.

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The Downside
The biggest downside of the LG 50PK750 was its black level. It doesn't
really match the output of sets like Panasonic's current 2D and 3D
plasmas or the standard set by the now-defunct Pioneer Kuro sets.

The beautiful and shiny front panel had less glare than I feared it
might but glare may still be an issue if there is a light source in
just the wrong position in the room, otherwise glare was not a problem
for me.

There are a couple of features that one might miss. Integrators may
miss a RS-232 control port. If you were planning on using the LG's
internal speakers, the lack of SRS or Dolby volume is a bit
disappointing although LG's Clear Voice II and Infinite Sound
technologies provide more than adequate sound for casual TV viewing.

Conclusion
The LG 50PK750 is a beautiful, full featured HDTV. Its wireless media
option will be a lifesaver in some installations, saving hundreds of
dollars over competitive wireless HDMI systems. The LG's graceful,
modern industrial design will make for an attractive feature in
contemporary interiors when the unit is off. More importantly, its
video performance, with the exception of black levels, is quite good.
For those viewers who plan to install the television in a well lit
room, the black level issue will be minimized. If you are planning on
installing the television in a dark, light controlled room you may want
to give the television a test view in a dark room before purchasing.

If you are looking for a new television and do not need 3D
capability
, the LG 50PK750 deserves your attention. The television has
a complete feature set with a good Picture Wizard for setup; multiple,
customizable viewing modes and most useful, NetCast. Picture quality
may not provide the last word in contrast or black levels but the
colors and video processing were very good making for a very good
picture overall.

Additional Resources
• Read more plasma HDTV reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.
• Explore Blu-ray player pairing options in our Blu-ray Player Review section.
• Boost the sound from the LG 50PK750 by exploring our Soundbar Review section.

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