LG 50PK750 Plasma HDTV Review

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LG 50PK750 Plasma HDTV Review

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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.


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.

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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