LG 55LW980T review

We loved the LG 47LX9900 for its design and 2D picture quality. We also really liked the LG Cinema 3D 47LW550T when it comes to watching 3D movies, so could a television that merges the two together be the best TV LG has ever made?

We're about to find out, because the 55LW980T is a screen designed to merge both 2D picture quality, with jaw-dropping 3D. Which we're hoping will make this a set ideal for home cinema fans. 

Design

The LG 55LW980T is designed to be thin, to be sleek, and to be as minimal as possible. And that it is. The television is just 27.5mm thick (the LX9900 was 31mm) and the bezel is virtually non existent (17mm) with the glass design going to the full edge of the display rather than a thick black bezel as found on most televisions including the one in your lounge right now.

There is an edge of course, just not one that you’ll need to notice or pay much attention to.

The 55LW980T or its smaller brother, the 47-inch 36LW980T, can be stand mounted or fixed directly on to a wall. The stand is simple, but functional, with some movement to help you get a better left and right angle. You can’t change the vertical positioning however.

Around the back there are a plethora of connections; four HDMI, two USB with DivX Plus / HD playback, a PCMIA card slot, component in, antenna in, optical audio out, RGB in, RGB out, LAN, and phono connection options too. There is also Wi-Fi connectivity as standard saving you having to worry about an extra wire and the proximity of your router to your TV for Internet connectivity.

All the HDMI ports face the side making it easy once you’ve positioned your TV on the wall to manage said connections especially those USB slots.

Touch sensitive power, volume and other selection buttons are found on the front, but disappear from view when the TV is on. You won’t notice them, nor are they distracting.

Online

The days of a TV just being a TV are long gone, and LG acknowledge this with a dedicated home on the TV for apps, games and other bits and bobs.

Smart TV features the holy trinity of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. It also adds BBC iPlayer, something that helps it be genuinely engaging, alongside a bucket of other apps including a 3D video zone, Sudoku and content from AceTrax, the HIT Entertainment channel, Box Office 365, the Cartoon Network, iConcerts and Daily Motion.

Everything is controlled, including the basic web browser, via the accompanying remote or an iPad or iPhone app. Those expecting to get the company’s Magic Wand Wii Remote style remote shouldn’t, it isn’t included in the box, although you can spend an additional £50 to get it if you want. Having had one in our home for around six months now, and it never coming out of the draw, we honestly wouldn’t bother.

The iPad app is, however, worth the effort, especially if you plan on surfing the web - you get a keyboard for typing into the browser for starters.

As you would expect the BBC iPlayer works a treat. Whether you’ll venture into Google pictures app, Picasa, is another question.

Watching TV

Navigating the TV begins at "Home", which is made up of six pop-up icons presented along the bottom of the screen. Choose "TV guide" to display a simple, high-res, 8-day EPG for Freeview HD, which floats over the current channel and shows schedules for 2 hours over five channels - and in a highly readable, large, font.

Other shortcuts reach an inputs screen, which only shows live devices - such as an attached Blu-ray player and a USB stick in either of this set’s two USB slots. NetCast takes you to LG’s nice-looking online content portal. and then there's "MyMedia", which accesses digital files via either USB or Wi-Fi. Every single test file of ours played quickly and stably, including DivX HD and WMV HD files.

2D screen quality

Working to improve the screen technology over its 2010 flagship, the LX9900, LG has also used Nano Full LED technology that creates brighter, clearer and smoother pictures.

What does that actually mean in non-marketing gobbledygook? Well the main tech used here is direct LED lighting behind the panel. This gives the set more backight control, which should enable it to produce much better black levels. It does this by only lighting up certain areas of the screen, rather than pushing light from the edges of the screen. 

The TV sports an IPS panel. For those without a degree in television technology, that's a technology that allows the TV to be viewed from a wide range of viewing angles. This is great if you don't watch TV sitting directly in front of the screen. A 400Hz processing mode will help keep flicker to a minimum and ensure that motion looks as smooth as possible - as long as you pick the right settings, something that isn't all that hard. 

Both the 2D and 3D images are very good indeed. For 2D we tested it with a number of different sources and footage including Frozen Planet in HD via Sky HD, Tron on Blu-ray, and Uncharted 3 on the PS3.

We were impressed in all cases with the TV, it copes exceptionally well with the blacks and bright colours of Tron, and the fast-moving action in Uncharted 3 (video game) and the whites and blues in Frozen Planet.

3D image quality

While the industry continues to argue over active versus passive glasses, LG has stuck its neck on the line and opted for the later. This TV uses the company’s Cinema 3D technology, which uses passive glasses to produce a 3D image.

That’s a marked change from the LX9900, which used active glasses, but we think it's the best move.

Having used both at home, passive is certainly easier on the eyes and easier to get glasses for - your local cinema for one - even though purists will cry that the resolution isn’t as good. And, it has to be said, from a technological point of view, they're right. 

The difference can be summarised thus: active sets send a Full HD image to each eye, so show more detail from 3D Blu-ray. Those TVs depend on using heavy, active (hence the name), 3D glasses that cost £50 each, are often uncomfortable and need to be regularly charged.

Passive, however, halves the resolution. In theory, this means you aren't gertting an image that's as sharp as from an active set, but you really aren’t going to notice, unless you really look closely. In the end, the comfort and cost of passive glasses is a big deal, especially for families.

In the box you get seven pairs of specs, yes seven, to get you started and as they only really cost 50p not £50 it’s easy to bulk up if they are damaged or you are having a party. Critically, you can still watch all 3D content, including 3D Blu-ray, Sky’s 3D channel - passive is Sky's choice of 3D tech anyway - Virgin’s Eurosport 3D channel, PlayStation and Xbox 360 3D games and more.

For 3D we tested it with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Meerkats via Sky 3D, Avatar on Blu-ray 3D, and Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary on the Xbox 360.

When we tested the LX 9900 we loved the 2D screen quality, but felt a bit let down by the 3D offering. Here, that isn’t the case, with all our 3D content performing as well as the 2D content. Sit in the wrong place in your living room and you’ll notice plenty of ghosting, but sit in a normal, head on, position and you’ll be fine. If you are wall mounting make sure you angle the TV down towards your eye line for best results.

Gamers will also be able to benefit from dual-screen mode that, combined with special glasses, will allow two players to both enjoy full screen gaming on the LW980T at the same time. Sadly we weren’t given access to those glasses for this review.

Sound

Sounds good enough. There's enough power to get you by, but we suspect that if you’ve just laid out £2500 for a brand new 55-inch television you are going to have a sound system to match. LG makes its own system to match the design, or you can check out the hundreds of different options out there on the market instead.

Verdict

The LG 55LW980T is one of the televisions of the year for us, with a great picture quality for both 2D and 3D.

If that isn’t enough, and it seems that these days it isn’t, this LG TV makes sure that it has gone a long way in making itself future proof with wireless internet connectivity, four HDMI slots, DLNA and USB offerings, as well as an iPad / iPhone remote control to boot.