LG is always among the best in the picture settings department, and we loved having two Expert modes with the full gamut of adjustments--although we prefer the color management system used by Samsung, and we feel the 20-point IRE adjustment is excessive; 10 points is enough in our book. LG's picture settings menus, while extensive, are also annoying to navigate since they require so much scrolling during adjustment, and the motion remote isn't any help here. Finally, we wish the two THX modes (Day and Night) allowed some adjustment the way they do on Panasonic's plasmas.
We appreciated that four modes' worth of adjustable picture controls, including simulated 3D options, were available for the major services we tested (Netflix, Vudu, and Amazon--the last sans 3D). The Expert modes were not, however.
|HDMI inputs||4 side||Component video inputs||2 back|
|Composite video input(s)||1 back, 1 side||VGA-style PC input(s)||1|
|USB port||2 side||Ethernet (LAN) port||Yes|
|Other: RS-232 port|
Unlike the slim Samsung and Panasonic plasmas, the LG has a set of honest-to-goodness multicolored RCA jacks that don't require breakout cables. Users of the Wi-Fi dongle might want a third USB port, but we doubt it. The RS-232 is available for connection to custom installation systems like Crestron or AMX.
With its light black levels, the PZ950 series is the only plasma TV we've tested this year that didn't score an 8 or higher in this category. That said, it's still a very good performer, with excellent color, the ability to handle 1080p/24, and all of the usual uniformity advantages over LCD.
Prior to any adjustment THX Cinema proved the most accurate setting on the PX950, although it still suffered from a minus-green grayscale. As with previous LG plasmas, grayscale calibration was frustrating due to variation from measurement to measurement, interactivity between controls and mislabeled settings. While we were able to dial in some improvements over THX, we couldn't achieve the kind of accuracy and consistency we've seen on other sets with multipoint controls, such as LG's LCDs and Samsung's plasmas. LG's CMS was also inferior to Samsung's, limiting the amount of improvement we could render to color points and saturation (especially blue).
For our image quality tests we enlisted "Unknown" on Blu-ray using the TVs below. Note that our 2011 comparison plasmas have been aged as part of CNET's long-term testing; we'll be performing the same aging on the LG PZ950, but in the meantime it's worth noting that our review sample had logged 230 hours at the time of review and calibration.
|Comparison models (details)|
|LG 50PX950||50-inch plasma|
|Panasonic TC-P50ST30||50 inch plasma (2,077 hours)|
|Samsung PN59D7000||59-inch plasma (888 hours)|
|Panasonic TC-P55VT30||55-inch plasma (1,497 hours)|
|LG 47LW5600||47-inch LED with edge-lit local dimming|
|Sony XBR-55HX929||55-inch LED with full-array local dimming|
|Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference)||50-inch plasma|
Black level: The LG plasma showed the worst (lightest) shade of black among the TVs in our lineup aside from the PX950, which measured and appeared identical in terms of black level. We noticed the LG's more washed-out black most in areas like letterbox bars and dark scenes, such as the nighttime taxi in chapter 3 (23:18). The difference was quite obvious, even when looking at the next-lightest sets; the Samsung D7000 and LG LW5600 were both clearly superior in this department, and the others even more so. The LG plasmas lacked the crispness and pop of the other sets in mixed scenes, although as usual brighter scenes made the black-level and contrast differences less apparent.
Shadow detail was very good on the PZ950, with no loss of detail near black--something that can't be said of the D7000 or LW5600--as well as no excessive lightening, as we saw near-black on the VT30. The caveat is that shadows and dark areas on the LG plasma appeared lighter, and thus less realistic, compared with the other displays.
Color accuracy: Despite some flaws, the PZ950 performed very well in this category, outdoing both Panasonics with its post-calibration Expert settings, yet falling short of the Samsung. We saw evidence during a tight shot of January Jones' face in chapter 2, for example (19:10), where her face looked quite natural and very close to the D7000, the LW5600, the Sony and the Kuro, without the golden, slightly greenish tones of the VT30 or the less saturated look of the ST30. Colors did seem a bit more washed-out at times on the PZ950, however, as a result of its lighter black levels.
Near-black measured better on the PZ950 compared with the bluish tinge of the LEDs, although the LG plasmas' lighter black levels made discolorations in shadows and deeper black areas a bit more obvious than on the other plasmas. That said, the PZ950 still had one of the most neutral grayscales at low light levels in our lineup.
Video processing: The LG handled 1080p/24 sources well, delivering the proper film cadence according to our tests. We don't consider its somewhat lower motion resolution score an issue, since we didn't see any evidence of blurring during program material.
Like past LG plasmas, the PZ950 did tend to retain afterimages more noticeably than the Samsung or the Panasonics in our lineup, but as usual they disappeared quickly and we don't consider burn-in any more of a problem on this plasma TV than others.
Bright lighting: Bright-room picture quality on the PZ950 was worse overall than on any of the other sets aside from the PZ950 from last year. The LGs didn't reduce the brightness of reflections nor preserve black levels as well as any of the others in our lineup.
3D: The PZ950 wasn't a bad 3D performer but fell short of the picture quality of all of the active models save the Sony LED and the PX950. We still preferred its image to the passive LW5600, mainly due to latter's jagged edge artifacts and somewhat softer picture.
We checked out "Tron: Legacy" for our 3D test and substituted the Samsung UN55D800 for the 2D-only Kuro. We didn't perform a 3D calibration, instead relying on the best picture preset (THX 3D Cinema).
Crosstalk was worse on the PZ950 than on any of the other 2011 sets, showing the telltale ghost image around difficult areas like the pattern on the floor of the dressing room in chapter 5 (28:25) and the stripes on Quorra's suit in chapter 9 (1:04:00). That said, the PZ950's crosstalk did not worsen as we moved off-angle, as it did on the LCD sets (especially the passive LW5600).
We also noticed something none of the other 3D TVs showed: a moiré effect where faint concentric rings of varying brightness and color appeared in the image as we moved off-angle. They stabilized, but remained visible, when we stopped moving, so we assume they're caused by some kind of interaction between the glasses and screen.
Comparing the THX settings of the VT30 and the PZ950 by eye, we definitely preferred the Panasonic. The LG's THX crushed black detail, and while it did show better black levels, the tradeoff wasn't worth it. Skin tones and colors on the two were similar, however. Of course we could adjust the Panasonic's THX setting but not the LG's, although the latter has picture settings in other modes (including full control of 3D via Expert) that should allow significant improvement over THX.
As expected, the LG PZ950 couldn't get nearly as bright as the LCDs with 3D material, especially the passive LW5600. This isn't an issue unless you have a very bright room, however; in most lighting situations the light output of plasmas like the PZ950 in 3D is sufficient.
Power consumption: Again as we'd expect, the PZ950 is no power miser, costing a few bucks more per year than 50-inch Panasonics, although it is significantly more efficient than last year's LG. The default Standard picture mode on the PZ950 measures relatively bright at about 40 Fl with the room lighting sensor off, which accounts for its higher power use than the default modes of the way-too-dim Panasonics.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0219||Poor|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.3064/0.3156||Average|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3138/0.3321||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3125/0.3296||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6625||Average|
|After avg. color temp.||6503||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||0.2121||Good|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||1.9142||Average|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||0.7704||Good|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2197/0.3213||Average|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3236/0.1638||Average|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4164/0.5039||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i De-interlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||600||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||600||Average|
|PC input resolution (VGA)||1,920x1,080||Good|
|LG 50PZ950||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||269.05||247.55||137.64|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.25||0.23||0.13|
|Cost per year||$59.03||$54.32||$30.22|
|Score (considering size)||Poor|
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