Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
Flat-panel TVs are slim and sleek, but in the real world a lot of that style is lost when there's a DVD player and a cable box next to the TV, with a nest of wires in the back. The LG 32LG40 takes care of at least part of the problem, with a built-in, slot-loading DVD player that's nicely hidden in the side of TV. This 32-inch LCD also features extensive picture control options, which contribute to its accurate color and natural-looking picture. We would have appreciated deeper black levels--the competing Sony KDL-32M400 and Vizio VO32L get darker--but overall we still preferred the image quality on the 32LG40. With street prices dipping as low as $700, the 32LG40 is actually a pretty good buy for those willing to spend a little extra for the convenience of a built-in DVD player and don't mind the slightly lighter blacks.
If you want your TV to stand out a little in the room, the 32LG40's design is for you. The bezel surrounding the screen is glossy black, and along the bottom there's a thick strip of deep red plastic, similar to Samsung's "Touch of Color" design. In the lower right-hand corner is a light that glows blue when the TV is on and red when it's off--luckily you can turn it off in the setup menu. The set sits on top of a circular swivel stand, with a distinctively skinny stem that connects to the TV. It certainly won't fit in every room, but if you're looking for something different (and it fits your décor), the 32LG40 may be the way to go.
LG's remote looks decent from afar, but is disappointing in actual use. We found the cluster of similar buttons around the cursor control difficult to differentiate without constantly having to look down at them. A little illumination would have gone a long way. We were also really annoyed that LG neglected to include a dedicated button to toggle between aspect ratio settings, instead including a "Simplink" key for compatible HDMI-connected gear that most people will never use. And if you use the built-in DVD player frequently, you'll have to struggle with the tiny playback controls at the bottom of the remote. The remote can command three other pieces of equipment beyond the television itself.
The standout feature of the 32LG40 is its built-in DVD player. While we're generally not huge fans of "combo" products, this actually makes a lot of sense, especially for a bedroom set where you may not want a clunky separate DVD player. DVD playback is conveniently controlled by the same remote as the TV, although, as mentioned before, the small DVD-centric buttons feel like an afterthought.
Like other 2008 LG HDTVs, this LCD features tons of picture adjustments in seven different picture modes, all of which remember settings independently per input. If you're counting, that's 63 total "slots" over the set's nine sources, for a range of adjustability that should satisfy even the tweakiest of viewers. We also liked that all of the main picture modes indicate whether they're at default or custom settings with the presence or absence of "(User)" printed after the mode name.
The two Expert modes allow even more adjustment, starting with the most comprehensive color temperature control we've tested. It moves beyond the three presets with both 2-point and 10-point adjustment options. The latter lets calibrators really hone in on the D65 standard and create a more linear grayscale than would otherwise be possible. Expert also adds a full color-management system for tuning the primary and secondary color points, again a boon for careful calibrators. A raft of other adjustments is available, too, such as gamma and noise reduction.
The 32LG40 includes a healthy five manual aspect ratio modes and a sixth that detects incoming content and attempts to adjust aspect automatically. LG chose to call its zero-overscan mode Just Scan, just like Samsung, and we'd recommend using this mode with HD content unless you notice interference along the extreme edges of the screen, which can occur on some cable and satellite feeds.
Like many new HDTVs, the 32LG40 offers a choice of "home" or "store" upon initial setup; selecting "home" is supposed to cut down on energy consumption, but according to our Juice Box results, it didn't tame power consumption very much in the default setting.
Connectivity on the 32LG40 is mostly comprehensive. The back panel includes a pair of HDMI inputs, a PC input, a component-video input, one AV input with composite and S-Video, an analog audio output, and an optical digital audio output. The side panel adds a third HDMI input as well as another AV input with composite video. We would have liked a second component video input, but that's becoming rarer on smaller LCDs, and is less of a big deal on this model since you won't need to connect a DVD player.