LG has dramatically upped the ante with its latest range of slim-screens. The 42LE4900 is a beauty. Pencil thin, thanks to an Edge LED backlit display, and weighing just 14.5kg, the TV has been designed to turn heads, and that’s even before the bright red standby lamp powers up. The set looks like it should cost twice as much.
The specification is also temptingly generous. In addition to its Freeview HD tuner, LG now offers an extensive selection of online IPTV content and promises easy local media streaming across your home network. That’s all your key boxes ticked from the get-go.
Plug-ability is good. This screen has three rear-placed HDMIs, Scart, Ethernet, a digital audio optical output, Component input with matching phono audio, PC input and RS232 service port. Mounted on the left is a fourth HDMI input, secondary Component input (via a supplied adaptor), two USB ports, headphone jack and a CI slot.
Interestingly, LG also places a set of user controls on the right-hand edge of the screen, a practice no longer commonplace. Useful if you lose the control down the back of the sofa, we suppose.
The user interface is also rather nice. You can explore from a main, squared interface or dial features via a Quick menu. The programme guide is equally easy to negotiate. To help you make the most of your new panel, a well-designed Picture Wizard offers a helping hand with basic image calibration. While you’ll almost certainly need to return to these settings to fine tune, this jargon-free routine provides a good launch pad.
The screen has customisable ISF calibration settings which offer access to more picture parameters than the TV’s regular controls, including Dynamic Contrast, Skin Colour adjustment, Noise reduction, gamma control and black/white level control. Once you complete the initial Picture Wizard, this is saved to the ISF Expert 1 setting.
To prevent the screen overscanning, we would advise you also select the Just Scan mode from the aspect ratio menu.
Other controls include edge enhancement and Colour Gamut. The latter is unusual in that it enables you to force colour reproduction to mimic EBU and SMPTE standards, or allow you to take advantage of the wider colour fidelity afforded by the LED backlight for gaming or photography.
While the LG 42LE4900 may lack the THX “cure-all” preset offered further up the range, it would seem to have everything else going for it. The slight stumbling block, however, is picture performance. While Edge LED lighting has allowed LG to shave depth to just under 30mm, the screen pays a high price when it comes to black level consistency. The set has very overt hot spots in each corner of the screen, plus random splotches caused by the wave guide designed to distribute illumination.
To be frank, this isn’t so noticeable during general viewing, but with mission critical content like movies your peepers are drawn to those corners like zombies to brains.
We also felt there was a significant issue with motion picture resolution. LG has a very effective frame rate tool called TruMotion, which dramatically improves the definition of moving content, however it’s not employed in the brand’s LE models. It’s on the step-up LD range. Without it, images which are sharp when static, smudge like Alice Cooper’s mascara during movement. This robs the image of snap and texture and contributes to that strange LCD viewing effect wherein backgrounds can appear very clear while moving foreground characters seem decidedly non-HD.
You can engage Real Cinema anti-judder processing, but it doesn’t prevent picture blur.
Curiously, on most screens the sharpness control is best turned down for absolute picture clarity; we noted that this LG actually needs the Sharpness setting to be edged up toward 60.
The LE4900’s audio performance is little more than average, not least because it’s next to impossible to create rounded sound from tiny, space constricted drivers. There’s a choice of presets (Standard, Music, Cinema, Sport or Game), as well as Infinite Sound mock-surround. Just don’t expect too much.
We were more impressed with the screen’s ability to stream media across our network and from USB flash drives. LG has been a pioneer with media streaming in its Blu-ray player range, and it’s nice to see this access supported here. The LE4900 successfully played the majority of our test files.
LG supplies a wireless dongle with its optional wireless media box, but frankly it’s a lot less fuss just to connect to a wired network. Once connected, LG will immediately recognise NAS and PC sources, allowing you to stream a wide variety of files.
LG has taken its time coming up with an IPTV offering of note. For the best part of the year it offered UK viewers YouTube, Picasa and AccuWeather. However, new firmware has brought nine new services into the fold, including BBC iPlayer, Acetrax, Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter and Vtuner. This makes LG’s content portal as attractive as that from Sony and Samsung. And there’s every indication that there’s more in store.
This is because LG has invested heavily in Plex, the multimedia platform borne out of XBCM and a favourite of Apple owners. It’s scheduled to come to the brand’s screens early 2011 and potentially could rocket LG into pole position when it comes to media streaming and IPTV (let’s assume that this set will be firmware upgradable).
The LG 42LE4900 appears to offer a lot of screen for a relatively modest amount of cash. It is stylishly designed and offers a raft of features certain to make any prospective buyer’s heart beat faster, including a Freeview HD tuner, generous IPTV content and accommodating DLNA-compliant media streaming. Its picture performance though is less compelling. Poor motion resolution robs the screen of high-def sparkle on anything other than static images.