We thought there was something brewing when Sky chose LG as its “official partner” for 3DTVs last year - after the Korean giant released a single “passive” 3D screen for the Sky 3D channel’s launch. And with the arrival of this, one of dozens of new passive (or, as LG calls it, “Cinema 3D”) screens, we now know we were right about the coming 3D format war.
It’s here, but it’s a format war with a difference - it doesn’t make any difference which one you buy into. The choice is between an “active” and a “passive” 3D, but crucially both work with 3D Blu-ray, Sky’s 3D channel, Virgin’s Eurosport 3D channel and the upcoming debut broadcasts on the BBC HD channel.
The difference can be summarised thus: active sets send a Full HD image to each eye, so show more detail from 3D Blu-ray (it downscales Sky 3D), but depend on using heavy active (hence the name) 3D glasses that cost £100 each, are often heavy and uncomfortable. Some also experience a lot of flicker while watching an active 3DTV.
The 47LW550T takes a different route to 3D. A passive LED TV that uses LG’s FPR (film patterned retarder) polarised 3D tech, it only displays a half-HD image to each eye, but to do so requires cinema-style 3D glasses that cost less than £2 (if you sit on them, so what?). There are seven - yup, seven - supplied with the 47LW550T, which should tickle the interests of parents. As a plus, all 3DTV channels broadcast a half-HD signal (known as side-by-side 3D), so anyone after a panel for 3D sports will find the 47LW550T a good match.
Finally, passive sets like the 47LW550T supposedly don’t feature any flicker or crosstalk, and so it (almost) proves. Completely clean and appearing to this reviewers eyes as a 720p-or-thereabouts image (we did notice a few soft and broken edges), the 3D images we got from Avatar did lack the absolute star quality we’ve seen on Panasonic’s VT30 “active 3D” plasmas, but they are much easier to watch for long periods, especially in daylight where active 3D glasses can be susceptible to reflections and accentuated flicker.
If nothing else the glasses are about a thousand times more comfortable, with the bonus - when compared to Active 3D LED/LCD TVs only - that you can lie down, sit back or watch at an odd angle (essential if you have a comfy sofa!) without messing-up the 3D image (this doesn’t apply to 3D plasmas, by the way). We did notice the odd bit of crosstalk - ghosted images - but not very often on a screen we’d rate as just about big enough to become suitably immersed in the 3D image.
The men’s final from Roland Garros on Eurosport 3D looked superb, though Nadal vs Federer did have a game-like quality to it. Close-ups are very impressive, but as soon as the ball goes across the net and away from the viewer, the impact drops away to nothing. Overall, we’d rate Cinema 3D as so much easier to watch, but it doesn't make the same impact as the more precise active 3DTV system.
Away from 3D the 47LW550T uses an Edge LED backlight, hides a Freeview HD tuner, 100Hz and the latest generation of LG’s online content hub, Smart TV.
Smart TV features the holy trio of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and adds BBC iPlayer, something that helps it be genuinely engaging. Sadly there’s no Wi-Fi built-in.
2D pictures from Freeview HD and Blu-ray are well saturated and colourful, with plenty of Full HD detail and some decent contrast in a detailed image that’s marred only by some blotching in the corners, and on the lower half, of the panel. It’s only noticeable in dark images, but it’s definitely there.
On the plus side, the upscaling of YouTube fare is absolutely brilliant, and looks the equal of Freeview channels, which themselves look immaculate. On a screen this size that’s no mean feat.
There’s also a fine iPhone app (LGTV Remote) that offers swipe control and an on-screen replication of the actual remote control. It doesn’t work on BBC iPlayer widget, unfortunately, but its Wiimote-style use of a cursor on the screen at last brings PC-like operation to a TV in a user-friendly way. LG also sells a Magic Motion remote if you’ve not got a smartphone.
Also available in 42 and 55-inch sizes, the LW550T Series is book ended by the LW450U and LW650T ranges of Cinema 3D tellies in the UK, with the ultra high-end LW950T out in late summer.
A slight lack of detail persuades us that those after a 3DTV primarily for movies - and who don’t have huge numbers of children in tow - should invest in a 50-inch+ active 3D set. Those after sports on Sky, Virgin, Freesat and Freeview should look no further. At its core a darn good 2D set boasting superb 2D Blu-ray, excellent upscaling, a brilliant online dimension, great iPhone app and a silky smooth user interface, this engaging TV has loads to play with; this is one TV that will keep both gadget lovers and non-techie users thoroughly entertained.