Pros Picture quality is fantastic
Magic remote is pretty great
3D looks pretty good
WIFI is easy to set up
Very thin bezel
Cons No Amazon app
Universal remote fails on controlling Tivo HD
Universal remote has no Playstation 3 support
Summary I will review this in categories according to the main features that LG promotes from this television, i.e. those that are on its main product page, along with any others that I feel are important, including one that as of writing nobody else has mentioned (NFC). Note that I may update this review from time to time and will always put the updates at the bottom with a big note. So let's dive in to the LG 55LA6900 3D Smart TV!Edit:
- Picture Quality: Simply put, the picture quality is fantastic. You're getting a 1080p 120Hz television, so you know that as of current standards, you've got the highest picture quality you can get with a very high refresh rate (there are higher now). Everything is crisp and clear now that I've got it set up the way I want it. That is to say, when I first turned the television on, I naturally looked for something interesting to watch that was on already; the best I could find was Austin Powers. I found that the screen kept getting fuzzy and losing its sharpness whenever any "action" happened, e.g. the opening dance scene. I went into the television's settings screen to the display settings and went through the whole customization mode, in which it ran the gamut of brightness, contrast, sharpness, etc. to get exactly what I wanted. Since then and coincidence or not, everything has been perfect. Your experience may be different. I have not had that fuzziness happen since I set it up. One of the interesting features you can turn on in the display settings screen is an eco mode, in which the screen will adjust its brightness according to ambient light. This is an energy-saving feature. I initially had this on, then one evening I was watching something and it suddenly got very dim and I had a hard time seeing anything. This was the eco mode adjusting the brightness to reflect the darker evening settings. I turned it off and everything was good again.
- Magic Remote: The magic remote is pretty great. It controls all the main functions of the television and can operate via arrows or via a virtual mouse (think of the Nintendo Wii). There is a center button that you use to click what you want. When you first turn on the remote, it will ask you to "register" it with the television, and after that you're good. You can un-register and re-register it if you need to for some reason. Batteries are included. The mouse will show up if you press the center button, but it'll go away after five seconds of inactivity. All you have to do is press the button or wave the remote from side to side and it'll show up again. This prevents you from having to have the mouse on the screen all the time. One thing that I noticed that was really annoying at first is that the mouse tends to really easily get disoriented. It'll be way skewed from where it's supposed to be. LG gives instructions for how to re-calibrate it; basically just set it down for a couple minutes and then pick it up again. Don't want to wait that long? Here's a trick I found: just drag the mouse to the side of the screen to re-calibrate it yourself. For example, if the mouse is skewed to the right from where you think it should be just "push" the mouse against the right side of the screen a bit and it'll reorient it to center when you move it back away from the side.
- Less Remotes: Yes, you can set the magic remote to control your different devices, including your cable box, your disc player, and your sound system. I do find it slightly easier to navigate my cable box with the regular remote, as I can then skip ahead or search numbers more easily, but in a pinch the magic remote still works okay. I have a Roku connected to the LG and I found that I can't connect that, as it asks for the manufacturer, and "Roku" is nowhere to be found. There is also a microphone function with the magic remote, in which you can speak into the remote and give it commands. I found that this was useless with apps, as "open Netflix" made it open a browser and search for Netflix, and similarly with YouTube.
- Content and Apps: By pressing the "SMART" button on the magic remote, you get taken to the smart (home) menu where you can see all your app options and access your inputs and settings (the input list and settings menu are, by default, in a horizontal bar along the bottom of the screen). The television continues playing on the left side as a picture-in-picture. The apps are clearly organized into openable windows and are in categories such as premium apps, games, 3D content, on now, etc. Note that if you open the input or settings, you'll still have the television playing on-screen. If you open any of the app windows, the television will be closed and you'll be taken to a full screen menu. Unless I'm missing something, I don't find the app selections to be all that wonderful. The premium apps are all pre-installed already, like Neflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, Picasa Web Albums, Facebook, etc. (but no Amazon Instant Video or HBO GO!!!!!!!), while regular apps and games have to be downloaded and installed from LG's smart app store (you've got about 1.6 gigabytes of hard drive space). Note that you WILL have to sign up for an LG account if you don't already have one in order to download new content. The Netflix app is good and works way better than the Roku one (which always gets stuck after every episode and won't advance). The YouTube app sucks. By default it opens up and shows you your suggestions based on your subscriptions, the same as the mobile or PC YouTube will do. However, *for the life of me I cannot figure out how to actually select any of the videos*. I click and click and they will not play. It's useless. The YouTube search function is marginally useful but is laborious.
I skimmed through the games and didn't really see anything good. On the box it shows Plants vs. Zombies and other fun-looking games, but I couldn't find them in games list on mine. It was a couple "name" games and then a bunch of obscure stuff that I'd never heard of and that had bad user reviews. There are 2D and 3D games available. There don't seem to be a wide variety of good apps available yet, either. They are mainly a bunch of stuff that nobody's ever heard of, unfortunately. The "on now" menu seems like a great way to narrow down what movies are playing on television with clear icons to select rather than scrolling through the regular cable menu, but as I found, this actually connects by default to SD resolution. I pay extra through Cox for an HD receiver, so if I want to view HD content I still have to manually switch channels to the HD version afterward. You do have the option to search for content through the "on now" menu, and there is also an on demand section. With these two combined, you have a huge wealth of content that you can pull in over WIFI. Unfortunately as I discovered, you still have to pay for all of it. Since it gives you a list of movies and stuff already, I figured these were free and would rotate content or something, like how HBO GO does with movies but with subscription included with the television. Made sense to me. I clicked one and found that it wanted me to pay $17.99 for one movie. Sorry, no thanks! There is a separate store for 3D video, and you can rent movies from there as well.
- Wireless Sharing and NFC: LG gives you the ability to share content amongst your television, your PC, your tablet, and your phone, at least in theory. The instructions for how to do this are not very good and it is confusing. LG gives you a "tag on" sticker that works for NFC. If you don't know what NFC is, it stands for "near field communication" and allows you to share content wirelessly between mobile devices by putting them close to each other or tapping them. Apple does not use it in their devices. Google started implementing it into Android with version 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, and it was first available in wide use on the Galaxy Nexus. Samsung made a big deal about it their ads for the Galaxy S3 (remember the ads in movie theaters with that guy saying to snap a photo of the movie screen and then share it with people who weren't fast enough? That's NFC). With the tag on sticker you just put it onto a non-metal area. I stuck it onto the plastic on the bottom back of the television. You then hold your device up to the sticker (note that at least in the Galaxy Nexus the NFC chip is in the battery, so you MUST have an original battery and not a third-party one) and it'll install a couple LG apps (about 11-12 megabytes total). Once you install them and get it up and running and paired with your television, in theory you can tap your phone to the sticker and it'll automatically open the video that's playing on the television on your phone and turn your phone into a remote. That means you can walk throughout your house and still see what's playing on the tv, as well as have basically full functionality and access to channel, volume, apps, etc. (everything you'd have from the magic remote, basically). I can't testify to how well this works, as evidently the Galaxy Nexus doesn't support second screen functionality, so I can control everything else, I just can't see the content on my phone. I can't figure out how to use any of the other content sharing functionality. You have to download software from the LG website to use it with your PC, but I can't install it. I get an error midway through the installation and it aborts. Oh well. You can also use a direct connection to connect your devices to the television.
- 3D: The 3D looks pretty good. I've never been a big proponent of it, I think it's a major gimmick and a fad, but it looks good. I've found that you need to be at a good viewing height and angle for optimal effect. The television comes with four 3D plastic glasses that are nothing special but work fine. They at least aren't cardboard! There is a button on the magic remote that allows you to turn 3D on while you're watching regular content, i.e. to convert from 2D to 3D. This is a subtle difference. To be honest, I wouldn't even know it's in "3D" unless I put the glasses on. It still looks 2D. But if you put the glasses on it is a clearer difference. Actual 3D content is different and absolutely requires glasses unless you want to feel like you're drunk while watching it.
- Built-in WIFI: The WIFI is easy to set up. You just go to the settings screen and go to network connection (actually I think it prompts you the first time you turn the television on anyway) and it'll find your network. Just put in the password and you're good to go. I have found that on occasion it'll take a good 5-10 seconds to find my network sometimes after turning the television on, but most of the time it's already connected when the television starts up.
- Audio: The television comes with 2.1 sound and it does sound good. You can have it adjust automatically for whatever content you're playing or just leave it to a standard level. I have no real complaints with the sound.
- Miscellaneous: Some other random thoughts. 1) The packing was a little difficult. I recommend having two people. I unpacked it myself and am surprised I didn't drop the thing. Not only is it packed very tightly into the bottom when you're trying to pull it out of the box, but the thing weighs a ton. I mean really, it's a brick. I had serious difficulty picking this thing up on my own. On top of that, it has a very thin bezel. This is good because it maximizes your screen and makes it appear even bigger, but at the same time you are stuck grabbing directly onto the screen to pull it out of the box. Thankfully I did not damage it. 2) It comes with a stand that you can easily screw on to the back. 3) There is a web browser included, so you can surf the internet on your television. I haven't used this a whole lot but it seems to work like a normal browser. Note that it defaults to Bing for the search engine, so if you prefer Google or Yahoo then go to the settings menu and change it. One awesome thing is that you can turn on a function to have the television keep playing picture-in-picture while you're browsing. 4) I wish LG hadn't made everything so proprietary. The good thing about Android is that it's open source and can be manipulated however you want if you know what you're doing; unfortunately in cases like this you get stuck with all these LG-specific app menus with mostly unfamiliar content, when what would be great is if I could access my normal Android stuff as well. I understand stuff has to be optimized for the television, though.
Overall I would highly recommend this television. It has its kinks and quirks and bugs that could be fixed, and hopefully future software updates will improve on those. When I bought my first television, I went against the "smart TV" thing and just got a regular one. I stand by that decision. I think it's useful to have it on this one, but it needs some updates and bug fixes to reach its full functionality. If you're in the same boat and are stuck between getting a regular television or paying hundreds extra for a smart one, if you're really having to think about it, I'd just go for the regular one. But if having a smart television means that much to you, this may be a good option. Once LG irons out some bugs and adds some actual useful apps, this has the potential to be a pretty powerful entertainment unit.
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Thanks for reading!
Updated on Dec 2, 2013
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