The LA7400 Series falls in the middle of LG's 2013 TV line, below such premium options as the 55EA9800 OLED TV and the LM9600/LA9700 Ultra HD offerings. Still, the LA7400 Series comes fully loaded with many of LG's top-shelf performance technologies and features. The series includes screen sizes of 60, 55, and 47 inches; LG sent us a sample of the 55-inch 55LA7400. This 1080p LCD TV uses LG's LED Plus lighting system that places the LEDs around the edge of the TV and employs local dimming to more precisely tailor the screen brightness to the content being displayed. The 55LA7400 also offers TruMotion 240Hz technology to reduce motion blur and film judder, as well as ISF Expert picture modes. The 55LA7400 is a passive 3D TV, with four pairs of glasses included. LG's Smart TV Web platform is here, with built-in WiFi, DLNA media streaming, and the motion-controlled Magic Remote with voice recognition and universal control capability. The 55LA7400 carries an MSRP of $2,299.99.
Setup and Features
The 55LA7400 has a sleek, petite form factor with a single-pane front face and only about 5mm of black border around the screen's perimeter. A silver accent strip runs around the frame's edge. The matching silver stand is made of plastic that looks and feels cheaper than the stands that accompany recent Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic TVs I've reviewed. The stand has a unique swivel mechanism on its underside that allows the whole set to swivel at once, but the amount of swivel seems limited compared with a traditional design. The cabinet depth is only about one inch, except along the bottom, where the two down-firing speakers and subwoofer add another two inches to the overall depth. The TV weighs about 44 pounds without the stand.
The 55LA7400's connection panel includes three HDMI inputs, one shared component/composite input, and one RF input to access the internal ATSC and Clear-QAM tuners. There's no dedicated PC input. All three HDMI inputs are side-facing for easy access; one supports ARC, and another supports MHL devices. Optical digital audio and headphone outputs are located on the backside. Three USB ports are available for media playback and the addition of peripherals like a USB camera and/or keyboard. (The more expensive LA8600 Series adds a built-in camera; as best I can tell, the addition of the camera and a fourth HDMI input are the only differences between it and the LA7400.) An Ethernet port is available for a wired network connection, or you can use the built-in 802.11n WiFi module.
The motion-controlled Magic Remote is the only remote included in the package, and it communicates with the TV over Bluetooth. The small, curvy remote includes hard buttons for power, volume, channel, mute, 3D, quick menu, back, and directional arrows. A scroll wheel in the center of the directional arrows also serves as the enter/OK key when you press it. To "wake up" the Magic Remote's motion control, you have to give the remote a little shake from side to side. Then you can simply point and click on the menu options displayed on the screen. I found the responsiveness of the motion control to be good with both my left and right hands, and it makes onscreen text entry much faster, since you can just point at each letter you want. If you tire of waving the magic wand, you can always use the remote's directional arrows for navigation instead. The Magic Remote has a built-in microphone; press the mic button and speak into the remote to launch commands and perform searches (more on this in a moment). LG also offers a free iOS/Android control app called "LG TV Remote" that includes a virtual keyboard for text entry, as well as a touchpad that will move the motion pointer around the screen to mimic the Magic Remote's motion control. The remote app also has second-screen support to watch video from the TV on your mobile device, but it does not work if you're using an HDMI connection from your source to the TV (it only works for component, composite, and RF video signals).
The 55LA7400 includes all of the advanced picture adjustments we like to see. You get seven picture modes, including two ISF Expert modes and a Cinema mode. Advanced adjustments include two-point and 20-point white-balance controls, individual color management of all six color points, Super Resolution, five color gamuts, three gamma presets, and noise reduction. LG's Picture Wizard II is available to walk you through an automatic setup procedure to adjust basic controls like brightness, contrast, color, tint, and sharpness. The TruMotion 240Hz setup menu includes options for Off, Smooth, Clear, Clear Plus, and a User mode that allows you to individually adjust the blur and judder settings. Finally, there's a menu option for LED Local Dimming, in which you can adjust the aggressiveness of the control, with options for Low, Medium, High, and Off. We'll discuss performance in the next section.
In the 3D realm, you get a whole new set of picture modes to work with and have access to all of the same adjustments I just listed. Additionally, you can manually adjust the 3D depth and viewpoint and swap the left/right images. 2D-to-3D conversion is also available on this model.
The audio setup menu includes six sound modes, with a User setting that includes a five-band equalizer. A virtual surround mode is available, as is a generic Auto Volume function to minimize volume discrepancies. LG's Clear Voice II function brings up the level of vocals to make them easier to hear, while Sound Optimizer adjusts the output based on the TV's placement on a wall or stand. AV Sync is available. LG's decision to add a little more cabinet depth for the speakers and subwoofer pays off, as this TV is able to produce fuller, more dynamic audio than many of the uber-thin panels now on the market.
This year's Smart TV interface retains the same basic look as in years past, but LG has added some new functions and improved others. The Home Page consists of different panels that group similar services together. There's a panel for Premium apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, CinemaNow, MGo, Crackle, and Skype. The 3D World panel is dedicated to 3D content. Smart World takes you to the LG app store to add more services. Game World groups all your gaming apps together. My Interests allows you to customize a news feed based on subjects you care about. Smart Share is where you can access personal media via USB, DLNA, LG's Cloud Player, or even using Near Field Communication with a mobile device (the 55LA7400's package includes an NFC tag that you can adhere to the TV, and LG offers a "Tag On" app for your NFC-compatible smartphone). I had no trouble streaming media content from my MacBook using PLEX, and from a Samsung tablet using AllShare.
The final panel is called "On Now." Similar to Samsung's new "On TV" feature that I discussed in my review of the UN55F8000 (link tk), LG's "On Now" panel gives content recommendations from the various video-on-demand Web services, but it can also show recommendations for what's playing through your cable/satellite/OTA service. Through the On Now setup menu, you can tell LG what service provider you use to get programming info, and you can very easily program the Magic Remote to control your cable/satellite set-top box, as well as a few other source components. Whereas the Samsung system requires an IR extender cable to control your set-top box, LG sends control commands to the box using RF without the need for any additional cable connection. Because the Magic Remote has so few hard buttons on it, a lot of your advanced channel-tuning and DVR commands must be accessed through the 55LA7400's onscreen Quick Menu, which takes some getting used to in the beginning. Since the LG TV can access your programming guide, you can also do advanced searches using the remote's Voice Mate voice recognition. Hit the remote's microphone button and ask what football games or news shows are on now, and you'll get an onscreen list showing the requested content. In this respect, the LG search system worked just as well as Samsung's in finding and recommending content. In fact, in my particular case, the LG system worked better. The Samsung On TV system had the wrong channel numbers for Dish Network, so it would often take me to the wrong channel. LG had the right info in place for Dish Network, so the process worked better. All in all, the LG Smart TV service is well-executed and as fully featured as you could want, although I did feel that Samsung's platform was cleaner, faster, and a bit more intuitive to navigate.
Other features include a Web browser that is somewhat slow to load pages; it supports Flash, but video playback was very choppy. You can wirelessly connect mobile devices directly to the TV via WiFi Direct and use Miracast/Intel WiDi to view the screen of compatible PCs and mobile devices. Dual Play is available for gamers - when you aren't using the 3D technology to watch 3D content, you can use it to view a full-screen 2D image while playing compatible split-screen video games. This function requires special glasses (F310DP).
Read about the performance of the LG 55LA7400 LED/LCD HDTV on Page 2.
I began my evaluation of the 55LA7400 by measuring the out-of-the-box performance of several picture modes: Standard, Cinema, and ISF Expert 1. Not surprisingly, the Standard mode was pretty far off the reference standards in both grayscale (Delta Error of 16.63) and color points. The Cinema and ISF modes were much closer to the target numbers and were actually almost identical in their performance, except that the Cinema mode is a little brighter out of the box. With no adjustment, these modes already had a grayscale Delta Error just under three (an error under three is considered imperceptible to the human eye; see our "How We Evaluate and Measure HDTVs" article for more details). The average color temp was about 6,370 Kelvin (6,500 K is the standard), and three of the six color points (green, cyan, and yellow) were already under the DE3 target. The red, blue, and magenta color points fell around the five-to-six Delta Error range - close enough to reference standards that most people would find them acceptable. Calibration is not an absolute necessity here, but I was able to improve some of the results by doing a more advanced adjustment of the ISF Expert 1 picture mode. The color temperature average improved to 6,525 K, and the color balance was better across most of the range, although my adjustments created a wider variance at the darkest and brightest ends of the spectrum, which I was unable to correct. I was actually able to get all six color points under DE3 simply by properly adjusting the color and tint controls using Digital Video Essentials patterns, but then I fine-tuned the points even further using the TV's advanced color management system. The 2.2 gamma setting measured too light, about 2.12 before and after calibration. I preferred using the 2.4 setting. All in all, the 55LA7400's post-calibration results were very good - not quite as accurate as the best performers I've tested this year, but still good for a mid-priced TV.
The inclusion of LED Local Dimming is designed to help improve the 55LA7400's black level and screen uniformity. Even with LED Local Dimming enabled, however, the black level was only average when compared with the higher-end reference TVs I had on hand: the Samsung UN55F8000 LCD and Panasonic TC-P60VT60 plasma. I could achieve fairly deep blacks only by turning the backlight all the way down, which resulted in an unwatchably dim picture. At a brightness level comparable to that of the other TVs, the LG's black level was clearly lighter, and the image simply lacked that higher level of depth and richness that you get from having better overall contrast, especially with darker film content in a dark room. The High and Medium LED Local Dimming settings produced a lot of glow/halo around bright objects, so I opted for the Low setting, which produced less glow, but also allowed the screen to stay illuminated more often in dark scenes, revealing a lack of brightness uniformity. There were no significant light bleeds from the screen's edges, and the overall uniformity was certainly better than you'll often get from an edge-lit LED/LCD that has no local dimming at all, but it's not as good as you'll find from the top performers.
On the flip side, the 55LA7400 is capable of a lot of light output for bright-room viewing. At its default settings, the Standard picture mode puts out over 100 ft-L. In the more accurate picture modes, this TV wasn't quite as bright as the insanely bright Samsung UN55F8000, but it was close, faring better than the Sony XBR-55X900A UHD TV and much better than the Panasonic VT60/ST60 plasma TVs. I calibrated the ISF Expert 2 mode for bright-room viewing and measured a maximum brightness of about 85 ft-L. That brightness, combined with the TV's good color balance, color temp, and color points, resulted in a very attractive, engaging picture with brighter HDTV and sports content. The 55LA7400's screen did a good job rejecting ambient light to produce better image saturation during the day.
The 55LA7400's high light output was also a perk with 3D content. This is a passive 3D display that carries the usual strengths and weaknesses of the passive approach. On the plus side, the passive glasses allow for a brighter 3D image and a very comfortable viewing experience, with no potentially bothersome flicker. Crosstalk is virtually nonexistent, as long as you don't place the TV too high on your wall. The bottom of the screen should be no higher than eye level, or else you will start to see a lot of crosstalk in 3D images. Also, the horizontal line structure that's created by the passive 3D approach will be evident if you sit too close to the screen.
In the video-processing arena, the 55LA7400 passed all of 480i/1080i tests on the HQV Benchmark and Spears and Munsil test discs; however, the TV did not do as well with my real-world demo scenes from the Gladiator (DreamWorks) and Bourne Identity (Universal) DVDs, producing a bit of jaggies and moiré in these difficult scenes. The TV offers up a good amount of detail with SD and HD sources - on par with the plasma TVs, but not as razor-sharp as the Samsung UN55F8000. Neither the Super Resolution nor the Edge Enhancer function seemed to offer much improvement in apparent sharpness. The 55LA7400's picture is clean with very little digital noise, and TruMotion does a good job improving motion resolution. The Clear Plus TruMotion setting offered the best motion resolution, producing clean lines all the way to HD1080 in my FPD test pattern. However, the Smooth, Clear, and Clear Plus modes all use a fair amount of frame interpolation to get rid of film judder, which produces that overly smooth soap-opera look with film sources. I don't like this effect, so I went with the User mode, setting the de-judder control to zero and the de-blur control to maximum. This setting successfully improved motion resolution without changing the quality of film sources.
As I discussed above, the 55LA7400 can't compete with the higher-end TVs (be they plasma or LCD) in the areas of black level, contrast, and screen uniformity, although its performance is still a step above many edge-lit models that don't offer local dimming at all. Viewing angle is on par with other LCDs but not as good as plasma; bright scenes hold up well at wider angles, but the black level will rise even higher in dark scenes to further hurt contrast.
The LG screen is fairly reflective - just as reflective as the screen on the Samsung UN55F8000, and it produced similar rainbow/polarization issues when I placed my floor-standing lamp directly behind the seating area. In addition to being able to see the lamp's reflection, I also saw little rainbow artifacts in the screen when the lamp was turned on. You therefore need to be mindful about where you position the TV in relation to room lighting.
The Magic Remote takes some getting used to. At first, I really missed the standard IR remote and its many dedicated buttons. However, as I explored the LG menu structure and grew more accustomed to how everything works together, I got used to the remote. Even though the Magic Remote controlled my Dish Network Hopper effectively, its lack of dedicated transport controls made it difficult to completely give up my Dish remote in favor of the Magic Remote for DVR use. I'd also like to see more buttons added to the iOS/Android control app; there's really no reason to limit the number of buttons so much in a virtual layout. I appreciate the control apps that offer a screen that mimics the full button layout of the standard-issue TV remote. As is so often the case, the control app's virtual keyboard does not work within some services, such as Netflix and YouTube.
Competition and Comparison
Although LG lists the 55LA7400's selling price as $2,299.99 on its website, the TV is currently sold through retailers like Amazon and Best Buy for about $1,500 to $1,700. For comparison with the other TVs mentioned in this review, Samsung's top-shelf 55-inch UN55F8000 sells for about $2,500, while Panasonic's 55-inch TC-P55VT60 sells for $2,300. Closer competitors, price-wise, would be the Samsung UN55F7100 (about $1,700 street), which has a similar feature set but lacks the local dimming, and the Panasonic TC-P55ST60 ($1,350 street), which offers much better dark-room performance but isn't as bright for daytime use. Other competitors include the Vizio M551D-A2R ($1,100) and the Sharp LC-60LE755U ($1,500 street).
The LG 55LA7400 would make a great all-purpose TV for a more casual viewing environment. It can't quite keep pace with the best of the best in the areas of black level and screen uniformity, so it's not the ideal choice for those who plan to watch a lot of movies in a dark room. On the other hand, it's a great fit for a living room or family room where it will get a lot of daytime use for HDTV, sports, and gaming. LG's Smart TV platform has evolved into one of the more robust offerings on the market; it provides access to a lot of desirable Web apps, and it gives you plenty of ways to intuitively incorporate other source components and mobile devices to create a single entertainment hub.