So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
LG 50PX5D Plasma
- Attractive Design, Wide array of inputs.
- Noise on grays, colour stepping, Colour reproduction problems.
The 50PX5D isn't the best Plasma on the market and has its problems but the image quality isn't completely terrible from a reasonable viewing distance.
Price$ 6,599.00 (AUD)
Walking through our test centre of late, you feel like The Incredible Shrinking Man with giant television sets looming over you, menacingly assaulting your senses. With 62 and 52 inch DLPs nearby, mocking the poor 50PX5D, it looks like a pipsqueak by comparison but as we all know, fifty inches is one hell of a TV set.
Similar to the LG 52SZ85R we reviewed earlier, a strong emphasis has been placed on sophisticated and attractive design for this TV. A simple concave rectangular base meets the panel as a piano black neck, a finish which extends to the bezel to draw attention to the image. The speakers are side mounted and silver in colour with a brushed silver border emblazoned with the panel features. The rear is a journey into convenience, with easy to reach inputs including two component inputs, one composite/S-Video input, a 15pin D-Sub Pc connector and support for HDMI.
Unpacking the set was a nightmare, simply due to its size, but there are some sacrifices you are prepared to make and a sore back is worth it if you get it kick back in front of 50 inches of plasmatic goodness. In general images looked fairly good when viewing free-to-air television signals. We were happy that the tuner in the 50PX5D supported both standard and high definition signals as well as analogue. Why anyone would actually watch analogue on a Plasma TV is beyond us, but if you want to, despite your self loathing, this set will let you do it.
We tested the speakers on the system and were quite taken aback by their quality. During our image tests we played back various films and are quite happy to report that the speakers performed quite well. We even pushed the volume to the pinnacle of ridiculous and found that they refused to distort, even during highly charged gunfights. Whatever problems this TV has, the sound is not one of them.
The LG also has a card reader in the right hand side of the unit which reads nine different types of cards to view your images on the screen. A very basic system, controlled from the remote, is used to scroll through your photos which are processed on screen using the LG XD engine which they claim makes the images look more vibrant and less pixilated. We found that this feature worked quite well and the images looked fabulous. Whether this is because we are expert photographers or because LG's technology worked well, we can't tell. We'd like to think it's the first one though.
We jumped into the testing, looking forward to seeing what this TV could do but our series of tests revealed various problems, most of which were a result of the comb filter and problems in rendering grays.
We connected the 50PX5D to our testing laptop via the 15pin D-sun connection to run out DisplayMate Video Edition tests. The first thing we noticed, even at the desktop is that the panel has serious issues attempting to separate colour elements. White text on a blue desktop looked overly pixilated and low on detail and resolution. The colour reproduction seemed fairly good but certainly not as good as many other TVs we have seen. We fired up DisplayMate and dove headfirst into the Geometry and Distortion tests. The panel passed all these tests without any problems but in the process of performing them when did notice quite a bit of ghosting on the mouse cursor. This is usually indicative of a slow response time from the panel in redrawing moving images.
Moving on to the Sharpness and Resolution tests we were dismayed to find a slew of problems, most of which were issues pertaining to fine detail drawing. In the Horizontal Line Resolution test pattern the pixels were randomly aligned and mis-registered in a mess of pixels, far removed from the source material. The Vertical resolution didn't have this problem though and we though this might just be a single aberration. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be. The Focus Matrix screens showed an incredible amount of severe noise in the gray full resolution test and minor noise in the 2/3 resolution pattern.
The Fine Resolution pattern is meant to have dark gray squares in it with vertical lines within the squares but in our tests, they appeared as gray squares filled with fluctuating noise. There was no evidence that the lines were ever there to begin with. It was quite an average and unfortunate result. Downtrodden, we moved on and found similar pixel draw problems in all the Moire line patterns in the horizontal, vertical and horizontal variants.
The only explanation we can give for this seems to be either a problem with the scaling technology or, and more likely, issues with the comb filter. Either way, as we discovered later in our tests, this affects image quality quite dramatically, especially when in motion.
We performed colour block tests and found the horizontal and vertical colour registration tests seemed fine with no problems but the mid range streaks tests showed heavy noise in the dark gray areas. As we mentioned earlier, this panel has issues drawing text. It seems to be a due to its problems drawing fine details. This problem was also evident when we ran our Colour Text tests. Most, if not all, the text had problems and ended up looking fairly pixilated with very little edge definition. This was most noticeable on red on green, green on magenta and green on white, where the colours were so badly drawn that they appeared to bleed into the background.
In the other block tests we found very few problems. There was a slight amount of noise in low cyan and dark yellow but they weren't too bad. The grayscale bars and the 256 level intensity ramp showed the limitations of the panel when drawing dark grays with noise in the darker registers in both tests. This unit is rated as having a 10,000:1 contrast ratio but these tests don't seem to confirm that figure since it has such problems with dark colours. In our component/HDMI tests we also found evidence of an average contrast ratio, something we didn't quite expect.
We ran three tests for both the HDMI and Component connections for this panel. The first was the lobby scene from "The Matrix" (scene 29) chosen for its green tint as well as fast moving action and high quality sound. The second series of tests were based on the T-Rex attack from "Jurassic Park" (scene 11) which was chosen as it is set at night and has quite a few of darker elements interspersed with skin tones and lighting changes. The third test is still the pattern tests offered by our Digital Video Essentials DVD.
We tested this scene via a HDMI connection first and the result was disappointing. The image was filed with noise and the colours were not uniform. In HDMI the panel had real problems dealing with the green tint in the scene often replacing with large blocks of magenta tint moving awkwardly in patterns resembling digital artifacts. This is particularly noticeable on skin tones which also suffer from colour stepping and lack of detail and definition. As the pillars begin it explode in the firefight we felt the debris was rendered quite well in HDMI but the magenta/green shifting was so incredibly unattractive, that we couldn't wait to start our next test. Watching the same scene via Component was better in some respects and worse in others. The noise issue worsened and the stepping was reduced slightly but the magenta/green shifting and digital artifacts were dramatically reduced and almost non-existent. They were, however, replaced by unsightly pixilation on fine details, in particular the pillar debris.
Just like The Matrix, we noticed quite annoying colour stepping the minute we connected via HDMI. However, it was mainly restricted to dark areas of the image and not as severe in flesh tones. We watched the pebbled skin of the T-Rex closely to see how well the panel rendered high detail and found that the skin was actually rather well detailed despite being enveloped in dark colours. The flashlight careening through the scene at times was rather well rendered by the panel and had clear separation from the darker elements in the scene. Overall, the biggest problem we found was easily the image noise, which was rather severe.
In component the problems were almost identical except the noise was even worse. The flashlight didn't fair as well as in HDMI and tended to look pixilated. In fact, many elements that were good in the HDMI tests looked slightly pixilated in the component tests. The colour stepping was slightly better in the darker areas via component but the flesh tones seemed to be curiously worse. The poor skin of the T-rex suffered the worst with quite a loss of definition and an increase in pixilation. In fact, the image quality via component tended to look far less attractive, especially for a TV at this price point.
Digital Video Essentials
The grayscale block tests showed noise in all grays which worsened the darker their intensity. This was consistent in both HDMI and component but more noticeable in the later. Black on white block tests turned out rather well but the SMPTE colour bars showed severe noise in dark grays and colour bleeding on the edges of green and magenta. The grayscale block tests, as you may have guessed, were an evil haven for an army of noise.
After all our tests the final conclusion is that this panel, despite its advertised 10,000:1 contrast ratio, cant actually draw gray very well at all. Since gray is the largest element used by these units to determine shades of colour in an image, this abundance of noise carries forward into the moving images quite a bit and when combined with the combing filter problems, the overall image quality is average. We have seen far worse Plasmas come through our test centre and from a comfortable viewing distance this one isn't horrible but it certainly isn't on par with other plasmas in this price range.
The last point we feel needs to be addressed is the problem of image persistence. Similar to burn-in, image persistence is when the image that has just been shown on the screen stays on the screen as a faint ghost of itself long after the image has gone. This is caused by the phosphorous layer not discharging the image once it has stopped receiving a reaction from the plasma. In most plasma sets we have seen this has been a problem, but in this set, LG have ingeniously included and removal option which blasts the screen in a completely white image, which negates the effect.
If you are in the market for a 50 inch plasma television, there are far better ones on the market that will be a better purchase. This TV looks very pretty from a design standpoint and has reasonable image quality but it could be better and some of its problems are rather appalling.
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