Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
LG LG 50PB2DR
- Integrated 250GB DVR, exceptional HD performance, attractive design
- Some pixelation for SD images, PC mode could've been better
The LG 50PB2DR, with integrated DVR, is an excellent Plasma panel capable of producing incredible HD images, but it falters slightly in SD and PC performance.
Price$ 4,999.00 (AUD)
The LG 50PB2DR is a 50in plasma TV with a built-in 250GB Digital Video Recorder (DVR) and a native resolution of 1366x768 pixels. Using the integrated HDTV tuner you can watch, record, pause or rewind both standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) TV without having to use an external set-top box or PVR. An all-in-one solution, this unit is a remarkable idea and it's been implemented rather well. In our testing, the DVR performed brilliantly and the overall image quality was exceptional. In our tests, the HD and SD performance was excellent, but we discovered a few image quality issues in the PC connection mode.
DVR and HDTV
Integrated DVR functionality for today's big-screen TVs is a nice idea and LG has implemented it well in this unit. With the touch of a button you can access the dedicated DVR menu and easily schedule recordings, watch previously recorded programs or look at the channel guide. The DVR also allows for time-shifting, so you can pause or rewind live TV programs. This is handy if you want to watch an 'instant replay' of a live TV scene, and it's also useful if you get interrupted during an interesting show and want to pause it so that you don't miss any of the action. When you pause live TV, the unit starts to store the program you're watching in a temporary buffer on its 250GB hard drive. It doesn't actually store the program permanently, so you can't access it whenever you want. If you want to play back a show at a later time, you have to record it by either using the scheduler, or by simply pressing the 'record' button at any time while you're watching TV. Scheduling a recording is extremely simple and involves telling the DVR what time and which channel the program is on. You can set it to record the program as a once-off event, or as a recurring daily, weekly or monthly event. The 250GB hard drive will let you record up to 40 hours of HDTV programs or 100 hours of SDTV. Because the TV has an analog tuner, in addition to the digital TV tuner, you can still watch another channel while recording a digital one. Likewise, the TV has picture-in-picture (PIP), so that you can follow a sporting event in one corner of your screen while watching another program in the main area of the screen, for example. We had no problems with the DVR function at all. In future models, we'd love to see an Ethernet port or a wireless network adapter for Internet access and the ability to use IceGuide for scheduling recordings. Currently, the TV networks only provide 'now' and 'next' schedule information. With IceGuide you can see the entire schedule and simply click on any listing you want to record or watch, without having to set a timer.
High definition (720p, 1080i)
To test the HD capabilities of the unit, we connected an Xbox 360 to test both gaming and HD Video performance. For the gaming tests we ran Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 at 720p and found the image quality to be exceptional. The only problem we found was some over-sharpening, which we were able to remove by reducing the sharpness level using the on-screen display (OSD). We performed HD Video tests using 720p videos downloaded from the Xbox Live service and didn't find any image quality problems there either.
At 1080i, we viewed the Empire State Building scene from King Kong on HD-DVD. Once again the panel excelled with absolutely stunning images and no discolouration, noise, pixelation, over-sharpness or contrast stepping.
If you're looking for a 50in plasma to view HD content, this unit is one of the better Plasma TVs we've reviewed at this price point.
Standard definition (576i)
In SD, we found a handful of image quality problems. We ran a series of three tests using the Digital Video Essentials (DVE) and Philips CE 2006 Demo DVDs as well as the lobby scene from The Matrix DVD.
The Digital Video Essentials (DVE) and Philips CE 2006 tests are both still-image tests designed to check the standard definition capabilities at a fundamental level. In DVE, we found minor noise in the low grey colours during our greyscale block test. We didn't find any problems in the black on white contrast test nor in any of the colour tests. There were no discolourations in the greyscale tests and the blend along the greyscale was excellent. In the Philips tests we didn't find any over-saturation in any of the colour tests and we there wasn't any contrast stepping. There was a minor level of over-sharpening but, we were able to correct this by turning down the sharpness level using the on-screen display (OSD).
The lobby scene from The Matrix revealed some problems that weren't experienced in our HD tests. The noise found in the DVE test manifested in the motion test as noise in dark areas of the image. The curved edges and diagonal lines in the clip were noticeably pixelated. This pixelation also extended to parts of the debris and some smoke and particle effects in the scene. However, even though this pixelation was noticeable, it wasn't distracting enough to completely write off the unit as an SD device. On the whole, the image quality was quite good - it just wasn't perfect.
PC (VGA D-Sub)
We connected a PC to the D-Sub port and tested the PC performance using DisplayMate Video Edition at a desktop resolution of 1280x768. DisplayMate is a program designed specifically to test the strengths and weaknesses of flat panel display devices. The PC mode was another area where the panel struggled a little. The first and most noticeable problem we discovered was that the entire image was slightly cropped down the far right of the screen. This cropping was only minor but was still a problem, nonetheless, and something noteworthy. We attempted to compensate for this using the various preset aspect ratio settings, but to no avail. Unfortunately, the unit only supported a maximum resolution of 1280x768, which meant that all images being produced by the PC were subject to scaling when displayed on screen. As such, we found vertical banding in the resolution tests, which was a product of the panel taking the 1280 lines of vertical data from the PC and fitting it into its native 1366 lines. However, as much as this banding is a problem, it really shouldn't make a massive impact on regular PC use, unless you are using a program heavy in vertical lines. Attaching this panel to a home theatre PC shouldn't be a problem as the image quality was quite good overall.
Design and speakers
The 50PB2DR is an attractive unit with a piano-black bezel and stand and with side-mounted speakers, which produce excellent sound, even at high volumes, without distortion. Between the bezel and the stand there's a small LCD panel, which displays simple information like the input mode or the TV channel you're watching. This is a small addition, but it looks quite attractive and is suited to the aesthetic of the unit. The rear of the unit has two HDMI, two component, two composite and one D-Sub connector. This is a good all-round selection of inputs.
We were quite taken aback by the quality of the HD images that the LG 50PB2DR was able to produce. Even though the SD and PC modes could have been better, the overall quality of this unit is top-notch. Those looking to play HD games, or watch HD-DVD or Blu-Ray films, will certainly enjoy this unit and the integrated DVR is a great feature that will certainly be used to excess.
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