Despite still having the best image quality of any affordable imaging technology, the plasma TV market continues to shrink each and every year. Panasonic may seem like the only company that produces plasma TVs anymore -- at least in any real quantity -- but LG is still pumping them out, albeit in less high-profile numbers.
While the LG PH6700 performs similarly to last year's flagship plasma, and is now the most expensive in the company's range, LG isn't marketing it as such. This is a midrange TV with decent performance and a bunch of bells and whistles to sweeten the...well...whatever kind of pot you put whistles into. (A kettle?) Buy this television and you get Smart TV, voice interaction, 3D (but no glasses), and cable box integration.
In picture quality it's on par with last year's LG PM9700 at a much cheaper price, but this television's main problem is the competition. Even last year the flagship PM9700 lagged behind the Panasonic ST50, and Panasonic's plasmas are now even better! As a result black levels are only average, while happily shadow detail and color accuracy is excellent.
Consistency is a virtue, and you get a bunch of useful extras for a budget price, but sadly this TV is trounced by all of the other plasmas in its price range. Nevertheless, the LG 60PH6700 offers a big screen for relatively little money and the cable integration and magic remote in particular may make it worthwhile.
Last year's LG LCDs were exquisite-looking televisions -- some of the most aesthetically pleasing TVs ever produced -- but the main problem was that these cosmetic decisions negatively affected image quality. However this wasn't as much of a problem for plasma, which actually had a performance bump in 2012. The design of this 2013 "flagship" is similar to the previous year's with a relatively slender black bezel, except this year it's chamfered inward like a photo frame. The plastic itself has a brushed appearance but it doesn't feel particularly premium.
Still, for the PH6700 to be half the price of the PM9700 the company must have had to cut some corners somewhere, right? Some may argue that's in the stand, which is two-tone but fairly unremarkable by 2013 standards, but you could also contend that the swiveling mechanism makes up for any utilitarianism in the cosmetic department.
The remote is either an upgrade or a downgrade from last year's "wand," depending on what you're looking for. The PH6700 comes with a version of LG's Motion Remote that looks more like a lollipop than the shoehorn that ships with the 9700. Most people will probably appreciate the pointing and scrolling capabilities afforded by this remote, but if you're a tweaker like myself you'll find the lack of dedicated controls like "Menu" frustrating. Worse for a remote that also has learning capability is that it misses DVR transport control (Play, Pause, Rewind, Fast-Forward...). While you're able to call up a virtual remote I'd much rather use a Harmony universal remote. But if you make less frequent use of the DVR, or have a simple setup that doesn't require a universal clicker, the coolness of LG's motion control might be worth the drawbacks.
The menu system is mostly unchanged from previous iterations though now it is translucent and is easy to navigate via the Magic Motion remote --- even if the scroll wheel still won't work here.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||Plasma||LED backlight||n/a|
|Screen finish||Glossy||Remote||Universal Motion|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||Active||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate(s)||60Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: Cable box control|
Though it's the best plasma in the 2013 lineup, the PH6700 is not a direct replacement for the PM9700, but it does rival it for features.
Yes, this television has Smart TV, and is "3D-ready" (glasses sold separately), which means it already bests the fairly spartan Panasonic S60 in features, but it does even better than that. The TV also features an upgraded Magic Motion remote with voice search and cable box integration. The LG uses a similar cable control system to the LA8600's -- the TV scatter-guns IR information into your living room and negates the need for a separate blaster.
Smart TV: LG didn't completely redesign its Smart TV interface for 2013, but it did make some improvements. The most ambitious is the addition of a system called On Now, integrating cable box control with a robust browse/search/suggestion engine that incorporates shows from your cable or satellite provider as well as traditional on-demand sources like Netflix. In most ways the system is even better than Samsung's own similar On TV offering.
The main Smart TV interface is pretty busy and icon-heavy, although I didn't mind much since the layout is clear enough and navigation via the motion remote is a cinch. A row of function shortcuts and apps lines the bottom below a series of "cards," three of which appear on the screen at once. The first card has an inset window showing a live view of what's playing on the current input, set above an equal-sized ad. Hey, at least there are no banner ads.
The remote control incorporates voice search and I found it was fairly quick to find content on both streaming services and off-air, even with my relatively thick Australian accent.
All of the main apps are on display here, including Netflix, Hulu Plus and YouTube, but the music apps are lacking, with no Pandora or Amazon. For a look at the all of the apps offered by the LG's Smart TV and its competitors, try here.
Picture settings: Like any LG TV worth its salt, the PH6700 is loaded with picture-tweaking capabilities. It comes with two ISF calibration modes in addition to the normal settings of Cinema, Standard, and so on. The LG has both a Color Management setting and a 20 point grayscale adjustment; however, based on last year's failed experiments with the 20-point and my CNET colleague David Katzmaier's lack of success recently I didn't use the 20-point system. See the picture settings forum post for more information, and click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.
Connectivity: Given that the PH6700 packs in so many features, it's hard to see what has been skimped upon in order to keep the price low, but one small answer is HDMI ports. While most flagships have four HDMI ports the PH6700 only has three, which is a little meager for a 60-inch television. You do get MHL capability for charging/mirroring tablets and smartphones though. Besides that there are just three USB ports, a hybrid composite/component input, optical digital audio, and Ethernet. Wireless Ethernet is also included.