LG RU-52SZ61D Review

To sum up, LG's RU-52SZ61D is a better-than average HD Capable display device.
To sum up, LG's RU-52SZ61D is a better-than average HD Capable display device.
To sum up, LG's RU-52SZ61D is a better-than average HD Capable display device.

Highs

  • Clear and consise images
  • expensive looking cabinet

Lows

  • Black levels could be a tad better
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Summary

To sum up, LG’s RU-52SZ61D is a better-than average HD Capable display device.  It is an HD Capable model, which to this reviewer’s mindset is more desirable these days than a fully integrated model with CableCARD.  Let’s face it; you’ll either going to add a satellite HD set-top box or a cable HD one.  So, why bother paying for tuning that you don’t want or need.  At a suggested retail price of $3,499 (probably less than $2,999 Street), it offers new DLP display technology, which is a worthy successor to the old-fashioned CRT picture tube.  It’s also housed in an attractive black cabinet that can sit on a base with storage, or it can be easily placed into a wall unit.  It has all of the right connections presently needed for any upscale Home Theater and then some.  The RU-52SZ61D (or its identical, but smaller 44-in. sibling – RU-44SZ61D) is strongly recommended for repeated viewings.

LG, who is one of the leading Korean CE manufacturers these days, has transformed itself from a commodity producer of inexpensive electronics products (Goldstar) into a high-tech innovator through its acquisition of Zenith Electronics.  Originally, LG stood for Lucky Goldstar.  Today, however, it has morphed into its “Life’s Good” moniker.  And, it certainly is for this forward-thinking CE company of the 21st century.  The days of cheap boomboxes and clock radios are gone in favor of cutting-edge cellular phones and high definition television products.  Utilizing Zenith’s entire R&D prowess in the development in Digital Television and HDTV, LG now offers a complete line of television display and set-top box HD models – one of which is their new RU-52SZ61D.

Introduction

The LG RU-52SZ61D is a 52-in widescreen HDTV monitor (sans HD tuner which is offered separately) featuring DLP technology, which is an acronym for Digital Light Processing.  Basically, DLP is a special type of display device that has been developed by Texas Instruments (TI), and acts as a new type of optical display engine placed onto a semiconductor chip and is used in both front and rear projection television sets instead of traditional CRTs (cathode ray tubes) with a high-density light source (light bulb).

The LG RU-52SZ610D includes twin NTSC television tuners (for regular TV broadcasts).  To receive high definition TV, simply add one of LG’s several HD receivers: LST-4200A (ATSC over-the-air HD + QAM Cable HD Tuners), LSS-3200A (ATSC & DirecTV HD satellite tuners), LST-3410A (ATSC tuner w/120GB hard-drive PVR), and LST-3510A (ATSC tuner + DVD Player).  For this evaluation, the RU-52SZ61D was tethered via DVI to its LSS-3200A STB (set-top box).

Consumer DLP presently uses a single-chip design, which means no convergence problems (like CRT Television) or phosphor burn in problems (like plasma displays).  DLP projectors have the capability of displaying images up to HD quality of 1,280 x 720 pixels for true 720p (p = progressive) native HD resolution or simply 1080i.  LG’s model RU-52SZ61D uses TI’s HD2+ chip that offers an HD resolution of 1280×720 or 720p.  TI’s HD-2+ optical semiconductor 16:9 chips use in excess of 1,300,000 digital microscopic mirrors (DMDs) that build a digital image by switching on/off more than 50,000 times a second via a digitally controlled light beam source.

LG RU-52SZ61D
LG’s RU-52SZ61D television looks more expensive than it really is

Features

Unlike many rear projection televisions today, the RU-52SZ61D is a tabletop model with a depth of approx. 15-inches, and weighs a mere about 80 lbs.  So, it can easily fit into many living/family room situations.  It can sit upon its optional base (KDR-52FB priced at $449.95) that features storage for up to four components on twin tempered-glass shelves, or on any base that can hold a 52-inch tabletop TV.  It is housed in a sleekly styled black cabinet featuring a brushed aluminum trim on the bottom.  The set gives the appearance of an expensive flat-screen display.

The RU-52SZ61D displays HD images at 720p, has a brightness level of 680 cd/m2, and a contrast ratio of 1000:1.  Its DLP light engine is proprietary, and it uses a 10-element lens system along with a 6-segment color wheel.  To help display HD images, the set employs progressive scan circuitry with 3/2 pull-down for the best images possible from all signals including HD and DVD players.

The RU-52SZ61D includes numerous convenience including the previously noted twin-tuner PIP.   Sound quality is rated at 30-watts total or 15-watts per channel.  There are twin bottom-mounted speakers.  Sound quality was fair from the set’s internal speakers, but it clearly cries out to be attached to an A/V Receiver to receive the full aural benefits of high definition.  On the other hand, the set can be used as one center channel speaker via the speaker input on the back of the set.  This may be desirable for some because a center channel cannot sit upon the narrow (1-in.) top frame.  Of course, the center channel speaker can be placed within the base, but it could take up an entire shelf within the base (thereby cutting down the storage potential of its two shelf base)

Connection was easy and straight-forward.  Since I currently have one source component using DVI (LG LSS-3200A DirecTV HD Receiver), it was attached directly to the separate DVI-DTV input.  Other video signals came into Component Video 1 (from my Pioneer Elite VSX-49TXi A/V Receiver).  In fact, there are two separate component video inputs (HD level) with their own analog audio inputs.  There’s also twin A/V inputs along with 1 S-Video input and 1 RGBHD-DTV input.  Lastly, the set includes a side-mounted (LH side) front panel A/V/S-Video inputs.

To calibrate this DLP set for optimal picture playback, I used a special DVD entitled Digital Video Essentials by Joe Kane Productions.  This special disc allows you to correctly set contrast, brightness, black levels, color, sharpness, and gray scale among other video settings.  It also educates about different signals received, and helps set-up your audio system also (if need be).  Set-up was relatively easy, but you have to remember that aspect ratio, and image quality for this DTV is controlled via the LSS-3200A.  The on-screen menus are clear and concise, you always have to remember that (except for DVD), all video signals are coming from the LSS-3200A.

While the supplied remote (black on illuminated keys) is very similar to their LSS-3200A (gray & silver – no illumination), it has a few major differences.  While the black background on the remote makes it easy to read the white lettering in normal daylight, the illumination (that lights up the keys) doesn’t help much in a darkened room.  What do I mean?  Except for the keypad, which has numbers on the keys themselves, none of the other keys do.  So, essentially, you’ll need to memorize the location of each function beforehand.  So, while all keys are illuminated, the only useful keys in the dark are the numeric keypad and the cursor keys.  It is a universal remote that will control set-top boxes, VCR and DVD players also.

Evaluation

Well, it’s the first major DLP offering for LG, and I have to admit that they’ve done a decent job.  Image quality is quite good!  And, for them, it is certainly the right choice.  Right now, LG is hemming their bets by offering both Micro Display DLP and LCD rear projection models.  Personally, I prefer DLP as it an exciting new technology offering picture quality on-par with the best rear projection CRT sets out there.  .

HDTV images from CBS and ABC were simply above reproach from my over-the-air HD antenna in NY.  HD offers unparallel image quality to begin with.  CBS shows like C. S. I.: Crime Scene Investigation, or Cold Case, for example, looked especially realistic and gritty with newly found clarity.  On ABC, shows like “ALIAS,” and NYPD Blue show off HD content to the fullest offering clarity ten times that of standard TV.  The 2004 Summer Olympics in HD on NBC via DirecTV HD’s Ch.84 (even though delayed 24-hours) conveyed an especially realistic appearance of the Games.  Events like swimming and diving make you watch out for splashes.  On the satellite front, HD-Net is always is my first choice to watch HD images because there is such a variety of programming from sporting events to concerts (like Gloria Estafan’s Unwrapped) to older TV shows shot in HD (like The Agency) to numerous travelogues like Across America.  DiscoveryHD continues to show travelogues and nature programs in HD, which look simply stunning!  All I can say is that they looked especially compelling on LG’s RU-52SZ61D.  Of course, films on HBO-HD (like Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones or Minority Report) and Showtime HD’s original series Jeremiah or Dead Like Me looked especially compelling also.

Another test for any new HDTV is how they display images from a high-end progressive scan DVD player.  For this evaluation, I used my one of my current reference players – the Pioneer Elite DV-47Ai using progressive scan HD-level component video inputs.    Images produced were very natural and life-like.  Different types of programming was watched to get a good feel as to how different films looked on this television display ranging from restored classics like “Yankee Doodle Dandy” to “1776” and “Casablanca” to more recently released films such as “Bad Boys 2” to “The Butterfly Effect,” to “The Bourne Identity-Special Ed.,” and “Spiderman – Special Ed. (SuperBit).   Whether the images were in black & white from the 1940s or 21st century color, the images displayed were crisp and stunning offering a wide palate of colors or shades of gray.  Each looked as good as the best 35mm film copy showing very little color noise or image artifacts.  Of course, like most Micro Display televisions today, the blacks could be a notch or two darker.  However, this is an inherent problem with all light-engine televisions, but it should not be a detractor.  It should be noted that it was not as objectionable as some light-engine sets currently in the marketplace especially rear projection LCD models from a major Japanese company (Sony).

Conclusion

To sum up, LG’s RU-52SZ61D is a better-than average HD Capable display device.  It is an HD Capable model, which to this reviewer’s mindset is more desirable these days than a fully integrated model with CableCARD.  Let’s face it; you’ll either going to add a satellite HD set-top box or a cable HD one.  So, why bother paying for tuning that you don’t want or need.  At a suggested retail price of $3,499 (probably less than $2,999 Street), it offers new DLP display technology, which is a worthy successor to the old-fashioned CRT picture tube.  It’s also housed in an attractive black cabinet that can sit on a base with storage, or it can be easily placed into a wall unit.  It has all of the right connections presently needed for any upscale Home Theater and then some.  The RU-52SZ61D (or its identical, but smaller 44-in. sibling – RU-44SZ61D) is strongly recommended for repeated viewings.