If you’ve just downed a great porterhouse steak, why have ultra-expensive Kobe beef for dessert? Because you can. That’s how we felt when LG’s new 55-inch LH90 LED LCD HDTV arrived after just reviewing a similarly-featured Toshiba Regza HDTV – an excellent but pricey television. Although HDTVs may have similar specs like this pair, there are always differences – some small, some huge. We quickly fired up this big boy to see if it was worth the asking price.
Features and Design
For the most part, LG displays are attractive. This is to be expected from a company that makes refrigerators and washing machines look sleek and sophisticated, on top of its generally good-looking cell phones. This 55-inch HDTV seems even bigger than the usual big screen set because of its extra-wide bezel, with rounded edges and blue accent. It’s reminiscent of Samsung’s Touch of Color design, but a bit more subtle. The good news for shoppers of big-screen HDTVs is the fact that there are more options for your décor—and that’s important since a 55-inch TV will definitely make its presence known in any room. Still, there’s no way of getting away from the fact this is one big piece of glass. It measures 54.1 inches wide, 35.1 tall and 4.2 deep without the stand. The HDTV weighs 78.3 pounds without the swivel stand, 90 with.
The front looks very clean, with subtle logos. Along the bottom edge is the remote sensor and a power indicator that glows red in standby, white with power on. It has an invisible speaker system in the lower portion, with bottom-firing speakers. LG pulled out all the stops with this set and had famed audio engineer Mark Levinson design the system. It also supports SRS TruSurround XT.
The lower right side has controls you’ll never use (channel up, down and so on) unless you misplace the remote. On the left are HDMI, A/V and USB inputs for camcorders and game systems. They’re not quite on the edge, making them slightly harder to reach than the side inputs on other sets. Even so, it’s far from a deal breaker. The rear holds the main jack pack, with three additional HDMI, two sets of component ins, two composite and a VGA PC input. This should handle most of your toys, but we were disappointed by the lack of SD card slot or an Ethernet connection. Expensive, top-tier HDTVs should have these in 2009. The rear has a gloss black finish with an embossed LG logo, which shows the company’s attention to overall design detail.
What’s In The Carton
This is one big TV, so have a friend nearby to help put it in place. It comes attached to a swivel stand making it easy to angle into position for the best results. Along with the set is an AC power cord, a cleaning cloth, a 24-page getting started guide and a CD-ROM with a complete owner’s manual, you also get a straightforward candy-bar-shaped remote. We consistently squawk about the basic remotes supplied by top-tier manufacturers, and this one is no exception. At least it has a glossy finish to match the upscale feel of this television. The layout is simple, however, and it’s backlit.
After connecting a FiOS cable box and a Panasonic BD player, it was time to see whether our dessert could match the main course.
Performance and Use
The LH90 series is about as good as it gets for LG LCD HDTVs. Like the Toshiba Regza 46SV970, it has an advanced full-array LED backlighting system that delivers a dynamic contrast ratio of 2 million to one. As we reported in the Toshiba review, this number is also similar to Panasonic’s better plasma sets. LED lighting cuts the quality gap between LCDs and plasmas, so you’ll see much blacker blacks, crisper whites and more accurate colors without the annoying screen door effect of less expensive LCD HDTVs. Check any of them out at your local retailer’s flat panel wall and you’ll instantly see how much better they are than other LCD sets, and how close they are to plasma (our long-time favorite display technology).
Also like the Toshiba, the LG has TruMotion 240Hz scanning, which displays 240 scenes per second by combining 120Hz technology with scanning backlight (Toshiba calls it ClearScan 240). This all but eliminates any of the action blur that’s so noticeable on less-expensive LCD HDTVs, which typically use 60Hz frame rates. You can’t miss it watching sports on cheapo LCD displays, but now it’s a non-issue if you spend the bucks for a set like this, or one with a 120Hz rating.
The LG 55LH90 is also a THX Certified Display, which is like a techie Good Housekeeping seal. In this case, the engineers at THX check 400 data points, measuring device performance and the video processor to see how it handles HD and SD content. The Toshiba doesn’t get a THX stamp, and neither does it offer the ISFccc mode for pros to come to your house and tweak the LG set to ISF standards.
All these certifications and geek options are great, but how does this $3,200 HDTV work with a real live cable box and Blu-ray disks? After connecting the two sources via HDMI we settled in for a series of viewing sessions to find out.
As indicated by the ISFccc capability, the LH90 offers a wide variety of picture parameters that can be adjusted by a hired technician, or on your own. We’re not uber purists, so unless the dealer gives you a video tune up as part of the price, we suggest you let your eyes and fingers handle the task. Then again, you can simply choose one of settings offered via the simple menu system. We did most of our viewing in standard mode and THX Cinema, since we preferred those options. The set even has a picture wizard that walks you through the tweaking process, before saving the results in one of two slots. You can play with these to your heart’s content, or simply use the factory options. We suggest avoiding vivid unless you plan on using sunglasses when you watch. Ouch.
We watched a wide variety of channels from our FiOS box – sans sunglasses – with the set mirroring the content broadcast. The LH90 handled NASCAR races on ESPN HD with ease, as well as baseball highlights, with nary a streak or comet-tail in sight. Sheryl Crowe in concert on Palladia looked terrific, as did HBO movies, Smithsonian HD, you name it. You’ll be quite happy with the results, and then some.
Next it was time for BD disks. The Dark Knight is a favorite for checking out black levels, detail and overall color accuracy. The Joker’s face was right on the money, while car chases and explosions made us feel as if we were back in the Cineplex. We used the THX Cinema mode with the room lights down and cinema sound which kicks in the SRS TruSurround audio. As always, a sound bar or 5.1-channel system should accompany a picture this good but the results were more than acceptable. We also gave the new Watchmen disk a spin, and the LH90 handled it very well. During the opening scenes, as the Comedian flies through the window, the fine details of shattered glass were as crisp as could be. Dr. Manhattan looked fantastic, and overall the graphic novel simply came to life. A movie buff couldn’t ask for more.
The LG 55LH90 is one impressive HDTV – it has a stylish design and delivers a world-class picture. The quality gap between good plasmas and LCD HDTVs with full array backlighting has narrowed tremendously. Unfortunately, the price gap is still cavernous. A 54-inch Panasonic TC-54G10 THX Certified Display goes for $1,600 at a legit online retailer, while the LG tips scales at $2,700. You can buy an awful lot of BD discs for that cash, along with a dynamite player. Granted, it’s not a total apples-to-apples comparison, but until prices drop for the new generation of LED HDTVs, plasma keeps the winning edge. Just as we did for Toshiba, we give LG engineers kudos for designing and building a world-class 1080P HDTV. We just wish the price weren’t so high.
- Beautiful 1080p picture
- Deep black levels, fine color accuracy
- Plenty of picture tweaks, ISFccc capable
- Attractive styling
- No SD slot
- No Ethernet connection
- Remote should be better