LG Infinia 50PX950 3D Plasma HDTV Page 3
I have no complaints about the LG’s resolution, either. Brad Pitt’s acne scars in his Seven Years in Tibet closeups have never been more visible on a screen of this size. And the tiniest details in Toy Story 3 were clearly visible—from the textures in the backgrounds to every shard of ground-up metal in the film’s stunning climax.
The LG’s blacks were problematic. I know we constantly point out that plasmas can best LCDs in the reproduction of blacks and shadow detail. But not here. The LG’s performance in this area was far less impressive than we’ve seen from new Panasonic and Samsung plasmas. Dark scenes looked distinctly grayish, and the black bars on 4:3 programs or 2.35:1 movies were well short of pulling a disappearing act in a darkened room. The blacks aren’t distracting once you get above the darkest scenes, and room lighting can obscure their shortcomings. Most movies have their share of dark passages, and some films use darkness as a style point, such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The LG didn’t handle these well at all.
Into the Deep
The LG can handle any of the current 3D standards. It also has a 2D-to-3D conversion mode. A button on the main remote calls up a menu that switches between the different 3D options. For 3D on Blu-ray, the set senses the standard Blu-ray Frame Sequential 3D format and switches to it automatically. If it doesn’t, you can call up this menu and switch to it manually. There’s also a Setting Left/Right menu option that reverses the left- and right-eye images. You’ll know if you need it; the 3D effect with reversed eye images looks very peculiar.
In the ways that will matter to most users, the LG’s 3D performance is excellent. Did I see occasional ghosting? Yes. Ghosts occur when, for example, the left eyepiece of the 3D glasses opens before the previous image for the right eye has completely faded from the screen. While plasmas are relatively resistant to this 3D flaw, I saw them fairly often in two of the seven 3D discs I watched—The Polar Express and, in particular, A Christmas Carol.
But that was minor, and the 3D effects easily matched what we’ve seen from other 3D displays. After calibration, the THX 3D Cinema mode far and away reproduced the most accurate color. But it was also fairly dim. After a few minutes, the eye adjusts to lower brightness surprisingly well. I found that the Standard mode had very poor color. This was more measurable than visible—particularly on the animated fare that makes up most of the current 3D source material. Still, it was more compelling because of its brighter images.
Fortunately, as set up above and even with its color issues in the brighter Standard mode, the LG’s 3D was convincing. Open Season popped convincingly, and Monsters vs. Aliens, by now a 3D warhorse, never appeared dim. While the Standard mode color was wrong, it erred on the excessively blue side, an error that most viewers are accustomed to. It never looked truly bluish—or even wrong—on either animated 3D fare or the very limited live-action 3D clips we have. For most of you, the compelling 3D may swamp such considerations—at least for now.
If you use the Standard mode, you’ll want to turn off all the Dynamic Brightness, Dynamic Color, and other doohickeys. You can’t do this in the 3D Standard mode because the menus are limited. But if you go to the 2D Standard mode and make the right adjustments, those changes will carry over into the 3D Standard mode, even when they are locked out there. One major annoyance was that most of the time when I cued up a 3D disc (but not always), the menus defaulted to Vivid. I had to manually switch to the mode I wanted.
The challenge of providing a fully satisfying 3D brightness level together with good basic 3D performance, including color, remains an issue with most consumer sets, and plasmas are at a disadvantage. I wish that LG had provided a full set of 3D color calibration controls for its brighter Standard 3D mode, rather than the single multi-step color calibration controls it currently offers—a control that’s woefully inadequate for the task. Or that THX had managed to squeeze more brightness out of its 3D mode without adverse side effects. Nevertheless, I believe that most buyers will be perfectly happy with the LG’s 3D performance, whichever mode they choose.
The LG Infinia 50PX950’s mediocre black level is a deep river to cross. If this is a critical parameter for you—as it is for me—this might not be your set. In particular, if you own a late-model Pioneer KURO and are thinking about a replacement for a move up to 3D, you won’t be happy with the 50PX950. But its price is certainly competitive. If the deal is right, and this set’s single significant shortcoming doesn’t bother you, there’s still a lot to like in its superb color, excellent resolution, and solid 3D performance.