This week I had the pleasure of getting together with Chris from Cleveland Plasma to evaluate one of LG's new 3D capable displays. LG's 55" LX6500 is a sleek, extremely thin LCD utilizing an edgelit LED backlight with local dimming. I got a first look at the LX6500 at LG's CEDIA exhibit a week prior to the review. I was not able to test the 3D capabilities of the LX6500 at the time of the review, though I had sampled it with true 3D content at CEDIA and had no complaints.
The LX6500 sports four HDMI 1.4a inputs, with three on the back and one on the side. It's NetCast internet connectivity includes access from content providers such as Netflix, CinemaNow, Vudu, YouTube, Yahoo Widgets, Picasa, and others. If you want to go wireless, an optional WiFi adapter is available; and the LX6500 is capable of receiving a wireless 1080P signal with the addition of an external transmitter box and receiver.
The LX6500's screen diffused reflections more than a typical glossy screen, although not to the extent of the LG LH90's matte screen. With the set turned off, it did a very good job of keeping the screen dark with the lights on. In addition, it's extremely high light output capability means that the image will be able to cut through high ambient light and still be easily visible. However, direct reflections were smeared over a larger area than on most glossy screens, while at the same time being more distinct and visible than on a matte screen. As long it is positioned so that bright light from lamps or windows are kept to the side of the screen rather than behind the viewer, I believe it will work well in a typical bright living room.
LG's LED Plus backlight with local dimming keeps the profile slim and the power consumption low, although the 16 dimming zones in the review set's 55" screen are far coarser than last year's LH90 or other full LED local dimming sets. With local dimming turned on, different quadrants of the screen will dim or lighten based on the program material that is actually displayed in that general area. The zones without content are never totally extinguished, though; they are merely dimmed. This local dimming action improves the contrast ratio and darkens the black level. I was reminded of Sony's Advanced Auto Iris feature on their SXRD displays, because it electronically boosted dark images while reducing blacks. That combines to increase the perceived contrast ratio in dark scenes without sacrificing shadow detail. However, the black bars at the top and bottom of a 2.35:1 movie tended to pulsate somewhat from dark to light gray, especially in dark scenes. Since the backlight is around the edge of the screen, central objects in the image will cause the zones above and below or to the sides of the image to light up. It is not a rapid strobe effect; rather, it's more like how washout from the side of a flashlight's direct beam lightens certain areas of a dark room as the flashlight is swept back and forth. I believe the LX6500's local dimming brings enough improvement to outweigh this side effect, although it has the potential to be distracting. Measured in a dark room with a Chroma5 colorimeter and exposure time set to maximum, blacks improved from a light gray .072 footlamberts with local dimming off to a dark gray .008 fL with local dimming on. With LD on, the LX6500's blacks were only slightly lighter than a nearby Panasonic VT25. Full on/off contrast ratio improved from 570:1 with LD off to an excellent 5231:1 with LD on. The ANSI checkerboard contrast measured around 570:1, and the local dimming did not significantly change that reading.
Edge lit screens tend to have problems with uniformity; and with a black screen, there was an area near the top left corner that was a lighter shade of gray. However, with brighter images the LX6500's screen looked very uniform.
Another weakness of LCD displays, regardless of their use of LED technology, is degradation of the image off to the sides or past the top and bottom of the screen. Some sets can be so bad in this regard that merely moving from the center cushion of a three seat couch to one of the end cushions will cause the color and contrast to wash out. I was very impressed with how well the LX6500's color and contrast held up off to the sides; at angles far beyond where most competing displays would be showing the "three P's" (pale, pasty people), the LX6500 still looked quite natural. Only with test patterns was I able to see that the whites looked a little off-white when I moved to the sides. While moving directly above or below or side to side had little effect on the image, Rock Band guitarists beware: moving diagonally (up and to the side or down and to the side) caused much more degradation.
The sound from the built in speakers was mediocre, with an emphasized and peaky midrange and low volume capability. However, that was with the default sound settings, so it is possible that better tonality could be coaxed from it.Before calibration:
I put on some familiar demo material to see how the different picture presets looked. Standard mode looked plenty bright, with hot, vibrant color. However, I also noticed significant pumping, and dark objects in the image sunk down into black. I also noticed quite a bit of graininess in the image, and saw fleeting glimpses of motion blockiness. Standard mode, while not to my liking, would tend to catch the eye in a brighter room and show a vibrant (though far from accurate) image.
Movie mode, on the other hand, looked remarkably lifelike; though contrast looked weak. Movie's relaxed, stable image was satisfying in a dark room. Shadow detail was better, and the color looked pretty natural except for a very slight off-white tone. The image had a good sense of depth, and textures were smooth and grain free. Pans had the "soap opera" look, and the image sometimes blocked up a little during motion. Movie mode's measurements are shown in attachment #1. The only thing that dismayed me about the picture in movie mode was the poor blacks and contrast; but I took a peek at the picture adjustments, and local dimming was turned off by default.
If you can't afford to get your set professionally calibrated, you can get a good image on the LX6500 by doing the following:
* put it in movie mode and, starting with the default settings, turn local dimming on
* bump up the brightness a couple clicks
* adjust the backlight to your room's lighting conditions
* go to the 2 point white balance adjustment; reduce the red gain and increase the blue gain.
One of the LX6500's most important features is the ISFccc picture mode. Quoting LG's glossary: ISFccc stands for the Imaging Science Foundation certified calibration control. This refers to TVs that contain the detailed calibration controls necessary for professional certification by the Imaging Science Foundation. The goal is to achieve performance parameters such as accurate color temperature, gray scale tracking as well as other performance parameters that are optimized for varying viewing conditions. The resulting ISF "day" and "night" modes will then be accessible by the user to experience the best their LG HDTV has to offer.
The ISF picture modes include an optional 10 point white balance/gamma adjustment and a partial CMS adjustment with brightness and hue for each primary and secondary color.
There is a selection for wide, standard, EBU, SMPTE, or BT709 color space. Surprisingly, there was no measured or visible difference between wide or standard, and the other selections just introduced varying amounts of red deficiencies in the color luminance. The SMPTE preset showed the strongest amount of red deficiency.
The defeatable edge enhancement had more effect than the same control in LG's LH90. I turned it off at first, but after viewing some video I found I preferred the picture with it set to low. The low setting sharpened the picture a bit without causing too much over enhancement.
The 240 Hz processing has separate adjustments for judder and blur reduction in steps from 0 to 10. I found that with judder it was pretty much all or nothing, with 0 showing normal film judder and 1 through 10 eliminating the judder and giving a somewhat too smooth look to pans.
The LX6500 showed full resolution in a 1080i film based moving resolution pattern, and it displayed 1080P/24 material properly.
I found the LX6500's ISF modes to be a pleasure to calibrate, though it would be beneficial to make sure your ISF or THX calibrator has plenty of experience with recent LG displays.
The resulting measurements after calibrating ISF Night mode are shown in attachment #2. This shows superb performance, with very tight gray scale tracking, nearly perfect gamma, and very low color error.After calibration:
When I was finished, I put in my familiar demo material from the DVE Blu Ray and The Dark Knight Blu Ray, viewed in both 1080i and 1080P/24.
The LX6500's color after calibration is absolutely incredible. Flesh tones looked very natural, with the right amount of ruddiness in faces but no chronic sunburn. Blond hair looked real, with no hint of greenish tinge. Whites looked pure, and there was no hint of the slight off-white tinge that was apparent in movie mode before calibration. Color intensity was spot on; the inside of the bank at the beginning of The Dark Knight looked the proper richness, and the robber's masks seemed to pop out of the screen.
The image was very smooth, with no added textures and a soft, yet detailed look. The picture was stable, and shadow detail was excellent. Dark images did not sink into a black blob. The high light output capability let bright scenes come through with power.
It reminded me somewhat of an E-Book reader with an electronic paper display; very easy on the eyes, and just exciting enough not to look bland. With the edge enhancement on low, resolution and detail looked great.
However, the LX6500's sole weakness became apparent when The Dark Knight transitioned to the first dark, letterboxed scene. "Pop" is just not one of this set's strong points in high contrast or dark scenes. Though the local dimming helps, it is not nearly as effective as that of the full LED sets like LG's Infinia LE8500. Also, the varying brightness of the letterbox bars described above came into play. These issues will be much more apparent when watching dark, letterbox movies in a light controlled room than when watching sports or regular TV.
Whether the LX6500's contrast will be an issue for you will depend on your viewing habits. I found most aspects of the picture to be very seductive. For TV lovers with bright living rooms who want 3D capability in a beautifully designed and versatile set, the LX6500 is a strong contender.
LG 55LX6500 bef cinema.pdf 174.546875k . file
LG 55LX6500 after ISF night.pdf 167.837890625k . file