Editors' note: This review also takes into account a subrating of 5 for Value.
Despite the generally poor reviews and financial fallout associated with Google TV over the past 18 months, Google has made good on at least one promise to deliver more hardware to the marketplace. That hardware is the LG G2 series. Fresh from a name change (it was formerly the "LMG620 series") and a paring down (a second series, the LMG860, was scrapped) it represents the only actual television since 2010's disappointing Sony GT1 to support the Google TV platform.
While the rejiggered interface -- part Google and part LG -- is welcome, I still wish the Google ecosystem came with a better TV. The picture quality of the Sony was OK but, despite superior specifications, the G2 is actually worse. Black levels are some of the poorest I've seen this side of TCL, yet the 55-inch G2 is $500 more expensive than my current favorite TV, the Panasonic ST50. The LG's exterior design is striking and the QWERTY remote is the current "best in show" in terms of usability, but that can't save the LG G2 from being an also-ran to all but the most hard-core of Google geeks.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 47-inch LG 47G2, but this review also applies to the 55-inch model. The two sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
The arena of TV design is a place where an intense rivalry between the two Korean TV manufacturers, LG and Samsung, has been fought out. Samsung has maintained the upper hand for a while, and despite the occasional eyepopper such as the Scarlet, LG's TVs have lagged a little in the looks department. This year it's different. The 2012 range is, to my mind at least, one of the most attractive on the market, with the ribbon stand in particular being very eye-catching.
Yet despite its appearance in the photos, there isn't any metal in the bezel or stand. It's all brushed plastic, but it will fool most people. The look of the G2 is striking in person, and though the mix of two-tone chrome and brushed aluminum can look tacky in a dark room, in a brighter room it looks great.
The non-Google LM6200 has a similar design, but its bezel is gunmetal instead of silver in color and could prove more versatile domestically. The TV appears to float above the ribbon stand although it actually attaches to it high and at the rear.
LG has chosen a hybrid Google/LG home screen that aims to incorporate the best of both systems. Unsurprisingly, it looks a lot like the all-new 2012 LG interface with some tweaks, though the menu system is the major departure -- and a major weak point.
The TV interface is based on the Android Honeycomb interface, and while this means some apps are transferrable between the TV and your tablet, it also means some common functions are buried in nests of menus. For example, to get into the picture settings menu you need to press three different buttons (including the Smart TV menu) a total of five times and navigate submenus using the Magic Motion remote. This is ridiculous -- most TVs require one or two button presses -- and it's a problem shared with the Sony GT1. My suggestion to the engineers at Google is to work more closely with the people who have been creating these interfaces for years, and to themselves concentrate on advanced features such as search integration. Still, a TV should also get the basics right.
Vizio and Samsung unveiled QWERTY keyboard remotes last year, and since Samsung nixed its flipper this year in favor of a touch-heavy version, it's now up to LG to continue the charge. Unlike the minimalist Magic Motion remote that ships with LG's other sets, the wider Google TV remote features several more buttons on the front and a QWERTY keyboard on the flip side. It's light in the hand and intuitive to use -- the motion sensitivity works much better than the Sony GT1's thumb pad, for example -- but I wish it had dedicated Input and Settings buttons.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|Screen finish||Glossy||Remote||QWERTY Magic Motion|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||Passive||3D glasses included||4 pairs|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: Universal voice search|
The major feature and, to be honest, the only reason to even consider this TV, is to get Google's Smart TV platform (see below). The feature set is otherwise midrange-basic, with 120Hz and an edge-lit LED backlight that lacks LG's LED+ local dimming (more info). That feature, the effects of which we liked on last year's LW5600, starts with the LM6700 series this year.
The G2 boasts passive 3D like most of the LG's models this year, complete with four pairs of new-look glasses. Sadly, LG has ditched its matte finish on most sets this year, going with what it calls "semigloss." I call it "glossy."
Smart TV: With the Honeycomb interface the TV now supports umpteen Android apps, though the range of apps that are useful on a TV isn't as comprehensive as on most other Smart TV systems, or even on LG's non-Google models. While the G2 has Netflix and Pandora, for example, it lacks apps for Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video (the latter works only via the browser). If you're willing to keep a PC running all the time you can install Plex to get access to services such as Spotify and DLNA streaming, but I'd prefer dedicated apps.
We've seen Google TV 3.0 on the Logitech Revue and the Sony GT1 TV and were underwhelmed by it. The LG debuts a hybrid interface I haven't seen before: the Google TV ticker overlaid on the regular LG Smart TV landing page. And you know what? It mostly works. The reason is because both the components are easily configurable and it doesn't push its own apps in quite the same way that Samsung's new interface seems to. That said, there are fewer quality apps to be had.