LG 55LH90 LED HDTV Reviewed

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LG_55LH90-LED-HDTV-review.gifWith the LH90 Series, LG makes its first foray into LED backlighting, as opposed to the fluorescent (CCFL) backlight used in a traditional LCD TV. The 55LH90 uses a full array of LED backlights behind the screen (compared with the new crop of LED TVs that only place LEDs around the edges of the panel), and it employs local-dimming technology, which means the LEDs respond dynamically to the content on the screen and can shut themselves off to create a deeper black level when necessary.

LED technology isn't the only feature in the 55LH90's repertoire. This 55-inch, 1080p panel also offers THX certification and TruMotion 240Hz technology, as well as LG's Intelligent Sensor picture mode, USB playback of digital files, a ton of picture adjustments, a new automatic calibration tool and the Invisible Speaker System. The two things that are missing, which you can find in other LG televisions, are wireless HD video transmission and LG's NetCast Entertainment platform, which gives you access to Web-based services. The 55LH90's MSRP is $3,000.

Additional Resources
• Read a review of a sister product, the LG 47LH40 LCD HDTV.
• Read many more reviews of LED HDTVs from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Learn where to buy the LG 55LH90 LED HDTV.

The Hookup
The 55LH90 boasts an attractive design: The high-gloss-black cabinet includes a clear acrylic tapered edge that subtly but effectively enhances the overall look. The Invisible Speaker System incorporates speaker actuators into the screen itself, so there are no obvious speakers along the bottom or sides. The TV comes with a rounded swiveling base that has a matching black finish and silver accent. Frankly, the swiveling mechanism made me a bit nervous, as the large 55-inch screen just didn't seem entirely stable; you'll probably want to mount this panel in a more secure fashion, especially if you've got little ones in the house. The supplied remote control has a clean layout, with full backlighting; it lacks dedicated input buttons, but the TV automatically senses which inputs are active and places those inputs at the front of the list when you hit the remote's Input button. The remote also features a button called Q.Menu (for Quick Menu) that 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.

This TV comes with a comprehensive set of video inputs, including four HDMI, two component video, one RGB and one RF input to access the internal ATSC and Clear-QAM tuners. The HDMI inputs accept both 1080p/24 and 1080p/60 signals, and one is located on the side panel for easy access. Also on the side panel is a USB port that allows for quick firmware updates and supports playback of movie, photo and music files. There's no Ethernet port for Web connectivity, and the TV lacks a program guide and picture-in-picture functionality. Unlike some higher-end panels, the 55LH90 has an RS-232 port to integrate the TV into an advanced control system.

The 55LH90 has an extensive array of picture adjustments, beginning with three preset AV modes (THX Cinema, Sport and Game) that automatically set both the picture and sound parameters to suit the type of source content you're watching. The remote's AV Mode button allows you to scroll easily through the choices; I left the AV Mode set to off so that I could make manual adjustments. In the Picture set-up menu, there are a whopping nine picture modes, including an Intelligent Sensor mode that automatically adjusts the image quality based on the room's ambient light, as determined by a front-panel sensor. Since this is a THX-certified display, it also features a THX picture mode that theoretically should offer the optimal settings to make this panel look its best. I would soon discover that's not really the case, but more on that in a moment. Unfortunately, unlike Panasonic's THX-certified plasmas, LG doesn't allow you to make changes to the picture adjustments when the TV is in THX mode, nor can you even access the advanced menu to see how certain parameters have been configured. Should you choose this mode, you lose access to a lot of desirable picture adjustments that are available in the Expert 1 and Expert 2 picture modes, including the TruMotion 240Hz and Real Cinema set-up options, noise reduction, color gamut, gamma, full white-balance adjustment and individual color management of all six color points. If you plan to have this display calibrated, or at least use an advanced set-up disc like Digital Video Essentials (DVD International), the Expert modes are definitely the way to go.

For those who don't plan to get the TV calibrated, LG has added a fantastic feature called Picture Wizard, an automatic set-up tool that walks you through a basic picture calibration by showing a series of photos and letting you adjust brightness, contrast, color, tint, sharpness and backlight until they match the "recommended" picture. The results don't produce the exact settings I got when using Digital Video Essentials; I made minor corrections to the color and sharpness controls, but otherwise was satisfied with the settings. It's a great tool to encourage people to make their picture look better without requiring advanced set-up knowledge. I especially like the fact that Picture Wizard shows people what edge enhancement looks like (an artificial sharpening of edges) and encourages them to get rid of it. Ironically, this TV has an Edge Enhancer function that's turned on by default and locked in high mode for most of the picture modes, with the exception of the Expert modes. (If you use Picture Wizard, it saves your settings in the Expert 1 mode.) The 55LH90 also offers horizontal and vertical sharpness adjustment in some of the picture modes. If you set these too high, edge enhancement is clearly noticeable; however, if you set them too low, the picture grows noticeably soft. So you want to strike a good balance.

In regards to LG's TruMotion 240Hz technology, the 55LH90 does not actually have a 240Hz refresh rate; rather, it 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 of these issues individually, TruMotion deals with both problems using a single menu option, with off, low and high settings. TruMotion uses motion interpolation, which means it interpolates information from the existing frames to create new frames and produce 120Hz. Motion interpolation produces a smoothing effect that makes film sources look more like video, and the low and high TruMotion settings offer varying degrees of smoothness. LG also includes a Real Cinema mode that, according to the manual, shows 24p Blu-ray content at 48Hz if TruMotion is off and 120Hz (5:5 pulldown) if TruMotion is on, both of which should reduce judder, compared with the typical 3:2 pulldown process in a 60Hz display. (If you select the THX picture mode, you cannot access the TruMotion or Real Cinema set-up menus. Real Cinema is turned on, and TruMotion is turned off, which should give you a clue as to what THX thinks of motion interpolation.)

The 55LH90 has an Energy Saving function that cuts the panel's backlight brightness to limit power consumption. The Energy Saving mode includes off, minimum, medium and maximum settings, as well as an auto mode that adjusts the backlight according to the room's ambient light (using the same sensor employed for the Intelligent Sensor mode) and a Screen Off mode that allows you to shut down the video when you're only listening to audio.

Speaking of audio, the Audio set-up menu includes LG's Clear Voice II function, which does a nice job of bringing up the level of vocals to make them more easily discernable. You also get five sound modes, plus bass, treble and balance controls and SRS TruSurround XT processing.

To evaluate the 55LH90's performance, I compared it with my reference display, the Samsung LN-T4681F, a first-generation LED-based TV that earned high praise from many, myself included.

Click to Page 2 for The High Points, The Low Points and The Conclusion.

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