The picture quality of the LD520 series fell short of competing LCDs like the Samsung LNC630 and, although it wasn't directly compared in our lineup, the Sony KDL-EX500. Weaknesses included subpar uniformity and black levels, along with artifact-prone dejudder processing. We did appreciate the calibration controls' ability to dial in accurate color, as well as the matte screen and proper handling of 1080p/24.
In the best default picture setting, labeled Cinema, the LD520 evinced a blue-tinged picture even in the warmest color temperature mode, along with a relatively dark average gamma (2.26 overall, versus a 2.2 target) and inaccurate secondary colors of cyan and magenta. With the help of the excellent picture controls in Expert mode, however, our calibration achieved a nearly perfect grayscale, superb, linear gamma (2.19), and spot-on primary and secondary color points and balance.
For our image quality tests we used "The Blind Side" on Blu-ray along with the following lineup.
|Comparison models (details)|
|Samsung LN46C630||46-inch LCD|
|Vizio E470VL||47-inch LCD|
|Panasonic TC-P46S2||46-inch plasma|
|Samsung UN46C6500||46-inch edge-lit LED|
|Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference)||50-inch plasma|
Black level: The LD520 tied the Vizio as the worst performer in our lineup, producing a visibly lighter shade of black than any of the others. The difference, as usual, was most obvious in darker scenes, such as Chapter 5 when the family picks up Michael walking home at night. The patches of sky above the house, the spaces between the trees, and other lightless voids appeared relatively bright and unrealistic.
In Chapter 25, when Michael revisits his home projects, the apartment building behind his head and the details in his shirt were more visible than on the Samsung C630, but more obscured than we saw on the Vizio or our reference. Of course the realism of the shadows was also hampered by the lighter black levels.
Color accuracy: After calibration color accuracy proved the LG's strongest suit, as evinced by the natural-looking skin tones of S.J and Leigh Anne in Chapter 13. Neither looked too golden/greenish as we saw on the S2 plasma, nor as slightly pale-looking as seen on the Samsungs--the LG came as close as the also-excellent Vizio to the skin tones seen on our reference. Colors looked less saturated and impactful overall, however, which stems once again from the LG's subpar black levels, but primary colors and color balance were spot on.
As with the other LCDs in our comparison, the LG failed to produce a realistic color in very dark areas and black, which tended toward extreme blue. Again we noted similar performance to the Vizio; the blue tinge was worse than on the Samsung C630.
Video processing: The LD520 gets the same system as step-up 2010 LG LCDs, which allows further customization of dejudder or "smoothing," as well as the antiblur effect of the TV's TruMotion processing. Labeled User and consisting of sliders labeled Judder and Blur, it's similar to the system we liked so much on the Samsung C630, but doesn't work as well.
We're not fans in general of smoothing effects, which tend to make film look more like video--and we strongly prefer the (typically 24-frame, filmlike) look the director intended. That's why we like to dial down the smoothing effect or preferably eliminate it entirely when watching movies. With Samsung's system on the C630 we can get the combination of no smoothing along with full-motion resolution, but with LG's we have to turn off dejudder completely (which hampers motion resolution; see below) to get smoothing-free 1080p/24 images.
Dialing down smoothing (by reducing the Judder slider, which really should be renamed "dejudder," to "0") unfortunately causes the LG to improperly handle the 1080p/24 cadence--basically treating it with the 2:3 pull-down process, exactly like a standard 60Hz TV. As a result we could see the characteristic hitching, stuttering effect in our favorite test for cadence, the shot over the aircraft carrier Intrepid from "I Am Legend." Many of the other TVs showed the correct, smoother yet still filmlike cadence characteristic of 24-frame film.
When we turned TruMotion off, however, the scene was produced with the proper cadence of film: not to smooth or too juddery, just like on the other TVs that handled 1080p/24 well.
We also compared how each set handled smoothing when it was engaged, and in the LG's case (in Low mode) we saw a few more artifacts--such as halos and breakup around fast-moving objects--than on the Samsung or the Vizio when they were set to their equivalent modes. We were a bit disappointed to see that the Judder slider in User was pretty coarse; we didn't notice much difference between 1 or higher settings. For fans of smoothing, the LD520 is not the best choice among 120Hz TVs.
In our motion resolution tests, the LD520 scored between 500 and 700 lines--good for a 120Hz LCD--with TruMotion engaged (the result fluctuated more than normal, which explains the wider range). Turning it off dropped the result down to between 300 and 400 lines, and reducing the Custom Judder Reduction setting to less than 10 reduced these numbers accordingly. As usual with such tests, we had a difficult time detecting any real-world differences in blurring between any of the settings.
Uniformity: The LG had the worst uniformity of the bunch, falling short of even the edge-lit Samsung UNC6500 in this area. The main culprit on our review sample was light leakage along the top of the screen, which showed up in dark scenes like the night sky during Chapter 5 of "Blind Side" (and was especially obvious in letterbox bars found on other movies). We assume this issue will vary on different samples, but on ours it was pretty bad.
Off-angle viewing with the LG was also worse than the other displays, aside from the Vizio, which was essentially tied. We noted significant loss of black levels and noticeable color shift when we moved to either side. By way of comparison, the Panasonic S2 plasma was essentially perfect in both off-angle performance and screen uniformity.
Bright lighting: The LD520 has a matte screen, which serves it well in bright rooms where lights, windows, and bright objects cause reflections. Such objects appeared dimmer and much less distinct, and thus less distracting, than they did on the glossy UNC6500, for example. The LD520 also trounced the lowly Panasonic S2 at maintaining black-level fidelity under the lights. Overall it turned in the same very good performance as the similarly matte Samsung C630 and Vizio in this category.
Standard-definition: The LG performed well with standard-def sources. It delivered every line of the DVD format, and details appeared relatively sharp. Jaggies were minimal. Noise reduction performed well to clean up lower-quality sources, and 2:3 pull-down kicked in quickly and accurately.
PC: Via VGA the LG handled all 1,920x1,080-pixel lines, although text and other fine objects appeared a bit softer than they should be. Via HDMI PC performance was excellent, as expected.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7645/7447||Poor|
|After color temp||6554/6510||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||871||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||52||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.635/0.33||Good|
|Color of green||0.294/0.599||Good|
|Color of blue||0.146/0.058||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the LG LD520 series, but we did test the 47-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the LG 47LD520.