Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
The LG 50PG60 is the second of two HDTVs we've reviewed with THX display certification, and it proves that even the three letters formerly associated with George Lucas can't guarantee picture quality parity. The first such THX-certified TV, Panasonic's TH-50PZ800U, impressed us in just about every way, and the 50PG60 just doesn't quite measure up. Its blacks are a bit less black and its color a bit less accurate, and the inability to adjust the THX mode makes those ills difficult to address. The 50PG60 can still produces a commendable picture, and for people who like to tweak beyond a single picture preset, it certainly has plenty of settings. Finally we'd be remiss in not mentioning the 50PG60's gorgeous styling. Although people looking for plasma perfection will probably choose something else, the 50PG60 still presents an attractive package and is easily highest-performance LG display we've tested.
Externally the LG 50PG60 cuts an elegant figure that's completely at odds with the company's ostentatious "Scarlet" models, such as the 47LG60. The big plasma is fronted by a single pane of glass, behind which appear the screen and the black border around it. Below the screen is a simple angled-back horizontal strip, accented only by the chrome arc of the power switch on the left side. The sides are edged in metallic silver that matches the pedestal on the swivel stand, which is shaped in its own arc mirroring the power switch. In our opinion the LG 50PG60 is one of the best looking flat-panel TVs of the year.
With stand, the 50-inch plasma measures 48.6 inches wide by 33.4 inches high by 14.3 inches deep and weighs 100.7 pounds. Remove the stand for wall-mounting purposes and the panel itself measures 48.6 inches by 31.2 inches by 3.1 inches and weighs 91.9 pounds.
LG's remote is disappointing especially for such an otherwise well-designed HDTV. 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. The remote can command three other pieces of equipment beyond the television itself.
The company has completely overhauled its menu system from last year, and the changes are mostly for the better. The stark black-on-light-gray menus are legible and large, and we liked that the input menu, which is arranged horizontally, grouped active inputs near the left where they were easy to select quickly. We would have liked to see text explanations accompany menu items, and navigating the extensive Expert menu (see below) can be quite tedious, but overall we liked the simple arrangement. We also appreciated the Quick Menu, which allows control of aspect ratio, picture presets, and other options without having to deal with the full menu system.
THX display certification is the LG 50PG60's claim to fame, and it basically means that this TV has passed that company's series of standards for a variety of picture quality areas, including contrast ratio, color accuracy, video processing and others. Nowhere does THX outline its exact standards--company representatives told us that doing so would be giving away their "secret sauce"--but at least the certification allows the PG60 to claim superiority and tout an appropriately named picture mode. Check out Performance for more details.
Said picture mode is the only one of the 50PG60's that cannot be adjusted. Like other 2008 LG HDTVs, this plasma features oodles of picture adjustments in other modes, all six of which remember settings independently per input. If you're counting, that's 66 total "slots" over the set's 11 inputs, 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 a more comprehensive color temperature control than any HDTV we've tested, moving beyond the three presets with both 2-point and 10-point adjustment options. The latter allows calibrators to really home 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 are available too, the most important of which includes gamma and noise reduction. See below for our complete picture settings.
The 50PG60 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 ad satellite feeds.
LG threw in a variety of settings to combat potential burn-in, such as an all-white screen, an inversion mode that shows colors in reverse, and a pixel orbiter that slowly shifts the entire image around the screen. We also appreciated the three levels of power saving, which limit light output to cut down on the plasmas thirst for electricity. Check out the Juice Box below for our results testing the highest power saver setting.