LG 42SL9000 television
The good thing about LG TVs is that the company has a firm grasp of what consumers want to be able to do. In the case of the LG SL9000 that involves Bluetooth connectivity, a bag full of HDMI and SCART sockets plus an all important USB port, which will play back JPEG, MP3, MP4, MPEG, AVI, MKV and DivX in HD amongst the more important file formats. The only thing missing is an Ethernet cable but then getting videos or pictures to the set is easy enough without it.
The panel itself is certainly pretty enough. The SL9000 is part of LG's Borderless range, aiming to marry design up with functionality and you certainly feel like you're getting both here without paying over the odds for either. Borderless is perhaps a bit of a fabrication given that the picture is set inside a 2-inch wide black frame, but it's the single sheet of glass they both sit behind to which LG is referring. Definitions aside though, it does make the set modern and minimalist, and able to be free of a heavy bezel.
Despite the sleek looks, the panel still holds a series of control buttons running neatly up the side, meaning if you happen to lose the remotes it is not quite as disastrous as with some other TVs. That said, two excellent controllers - one basic, the other full featured - come in the package. To misplace one would be careless, two and it might be time to have a word with yourself.
As with the remotes, the on-screen menus are a real joy to use. They offer not only an incredibly clear and straightforward navigation, but also feature enough options to keep the expert playing with slider controls until dawn. At the same time, there's an excellent idiot-proof way of getting the look just the way you want it with picture wizard offering a series of calibration tests to optimise for your taste and environment.
It even saves your preferences in such a way that you can't cock everything up, and for pure family-friendly use you can also rename all the inputs to whatever you like, making the Xbox, DVD, etc, all easier to find. There's also an eco-saving mode which allows you to choose what level of environmental concern you'd like to exhibit and the intelligent sensor performs well in selecting the appropriate level of brightness for the task.
Probably the only issue on this side of things is with the EPG which could be better. The SL9000 has a Freeview tuner built in and with all the channels available, it's not so easy, at a glance, to work out where in the schedule you are and what's on next. Too many grey bars packed too close together in too similar shades. Worse though is that when flicking from channel to channel you're never presented with the important info at hand - i.e., what this program is, how much of it is left and what's on after. It's a little irritating to have to go back to the guide each time to find out.
Out of the box the TV is an effortless set-up. Tuning and updating is effortless with all the ports well placed apart from perhaps the headphone jack which requires an extra long cable to reach right around the back. The swivel stand is simple and sturdy and the minute you fire the screen up you'll be impressed by the picture. It offers strong if not top-notch HD images, very punchy colours and the 100Hz frame rate only lets you down on a few occasions. We'd still recommend sports fans opt for 200Hz technology.
The LED side-lighting is a great feature giving decent black levels if not quite the stunners you'd want for darker films. To be picky, there's also the slightest hint of light bleed at the edge of the frame where the LEDs are housed, but the only time you'll notice is when film credits roll, otherwise it's really not an issue.
The only real caveat we have to offer with this TV is on the audio side. Tests from external sources - a Blu-ray player and Xbox both via HDMI 1.3 - often resulted in the sound being out of sync with the video. The problem may have been unique to this particular set but either way it was resolved once the Clear Voice and other audio technology was switched off. Otherwise, the speakers themselves were good given the constraints of a flat screen. The legendary Mark Levinson playing his part once again.
The LG SL9000 is an excellent blend of style and performance. Too often with an LED TV you end up paying the Earth without really getting the performance bang for your hard earned buck. This set offers a tasteful, non-ostentatious design. It's very slim without being a size zero, offers fantastic usability and a solid, if not mind-blowing picture.
The sound syncing was a frustration and it's a shame to have to switch off all the audio technology to get it fixed while watching from external sources, but otherwise the experience of this TV is top notch. We've not read about this issue with these sets anywhere else, so the advice would be to buy one in good faith but be sure to test it out within 14 days of purchase in case there is any problem with your model.