Pros: The PRICE, thin frame/bezel, thin depth/thickness, beautiful HD contrast, picture quality, 600hz.
Cons: Energy consumption.
This review is an in depth review of the LG 50PA5500, a 1080p HD TV with 50” screen, Truslim frame, and 600hz refresh rate.
First, to give a basis of my review for some less experienced with HD TV’s, I will say that there are two levels of critiquing an HD TV, the level that matters to most common individuals shopping for a TV that factor in cost vs quality and therefore overall “return on investment”, and the all out tech savvy individuals that care about the most particular of details related to the HD TV market and what makes for the best of the best only in terms of physical structure, and most importantly to them, picture quality. This review is catered towards the general public who cares about overall best “bang for the buck”, not videophiles/audiophiles/technophiles. I won't get into too many technophile level details, but what I will try to do is break it down based on what most normal purchasers would care about shopping in this price range while referencing technical points. My review will factor in price as one of the variables for this TV set.
Next, this review is being written with the prior knowledge that there are currently three basic technologies that are available to the HD market, with camps that argue and offer support/facts of each respective technology. These are LCD, Plasma, and LED backlit/sidelit LCD (to be generalized as LED moving forward). I will forgo most of the technical arguments and counterpoints that are used for each camp and simply generalize some with the “most accepted” arguments to date. That in mind, most HD experts today agree that best picture, size, etc. are offered only in two categories, LED and Plasma. For in depth details and links to substantiating arguments, please Google Geoffery Morrison from CNET for a good start into this often heated debate. Not factoring in price, let’s just say that there are many pros and cons to LED vs Plasma, with most parties leaning slightly towards the LED camp these days. This argument will for the most part tackle how this TV’s stacks up to the often assumed best of the segment LED market. Keep in mind, while this TV is priced much lower than most of the LED market including their low end crop, it is actually considered a “high end” plasma TV.
Now that you know what the basis of my pros/cons of the LG 50” 1080p Plasma (600hz) with the truslim bezel, I will give advice for the early purchaser to get to a more level playing ground. When you first buy this TV, it is very important that you turn off a “from the factory” preset. The problem with this TV in store models is usually, the demo model keeps the store setting which is dubbed "Energy Saver" mode. The TV has a light sensor on the top that adjusts the TV picture brightness based on the amount of light in the room. The problem is, even when it is pitch black in the room, the setting makes the TV too dim, not giving you the true rich picture it can achieve. TURN THIS SETTING OFF AS SOON AS YOU GET THE TV. It is a garbage novelty setting not worth using. If you want to tinker, choose one of the "Expert" tinker options in the settings menu. Otherwise, just choose "Standard" picture, and 99% of people shopping this segment will enjoy the picture. Also, bump up the brightness to 60% for most people. But above and beyond all else, turn off the "Energy Saver" mode.
This TV should be shopped for individuals that want a combination of things out of their purchase. First, they want a large HD TV, great true HD picture quality, thin overall TV, and best price. This TV will appeal to those that wants the best overall in several categories, ie, best “bang for the buck”. Below are seven key categories the review takes into consideration, with a final Price/Bottom line summation that wraps everything up.
Picture Quality / Clarity: The picture is very nice for this price range. It is truly 1080p HD quality that pops out with EXCELLENT frame rate (no motion blurs which is common with larger TVs and slow frame rates). This makes watching sports and action scenes great. For reference, HD picture quality is determined by pixel density, quantity, etc., however, it is perceived by how crisp the picture looks. Here, you get very crisp pictures that compete with any other high end TV in this segment. Additionally, you get the benefit of the 600hz frame rate, a pro you will not find in the LED market as it is not an attainable frame rate currently with LED technology.
Color: The colors on this set are very nice, extremely rich and vibrant, assuming you followed my directions to turn off the Energy Saver mode from above. Even at Standard levels, HD movies will pop out to compare with much more expensive TV's. I find that this TV will give you about 99% of the color/picture ability of a similar sized "high end/quality" LED TV, especially on movies like Disney and Pixar films. It falls a little short on more real life reproductions. Again, this is comparing it to only the high end LED segment, not the lower end. Compared to low end LED TV’s, it is actually has given a better picture.
Blacks / Whites: This is in a separate category because this is where some of the most heated debates occur between tech savvy videophiles. This is because this black level reproduction is what gives most people discernible “contrast”. For most years previous, Plasma was considered to be the top of the market segment for creating “inky true blacks” based on the inherent benefits of Plasma technology vs. LED. However, as of recent (late 2011 to 2012), the high end LED market has been able to catch up and by pure specs alone, have been able to equal and in a few cases, surpass Plasma black production abilities. Again, this is only true of a few sets as of the writing of this review. So, in most cases, Plasma can still be considered one of the best in terms of black production levels. In regards to this specific TV, the blacks can be adjusted on this TV to near pure black and it is a fantastic black level HD TV. This will get you about 95% of the black of a high end current LED, and about 1000 times better than any LCD on the market (the last stat is a little exaggerated, but you get the point, there is no comparison as that technology is unable to compete). However, one con I did notice is that whites fall short vs a very good LED. You notice this on things like T-Mobile Commercials where most of the screen is bright white with a person in the middle in bright colors. The whites are good, but they aren’t a strong point with this TV as they don’t get to that “bright as daylight” pure white some elite LED’s can. Basically, the colors on this TV are fantastic and deserve raves, but it isn’t segment leading in white production.
Sound: The sound isn't great, but decent and about average for a thin flat panel. If you are an audiophile, you will be disappointed. Average customers might make due. It isn't as bad as some TV's though, most thin flat panels have horrible sound. You have to fit the speakers somewhere. In general, this TV is on par with segment and what to expect regarding sound quality. If you are coming from an older thicker TV, be prepared, you will probably experience worse sound. However, comparing to other similar TVs of this segment, it is what you should expect.
Thinness: This TV is thin. Very thin. Both in terms of the depth, and the bezel (front edge around screen/frame). The front bezel isn't as thin as the Samsung smart TV series, but probably in the top three TV's I saw on display for bezel size. This is very nice and should be appreciated in a TV this size. Additionally, the TV is very thin in thickness. Also, the layered thickness means that when it hangs on the wall, it looks thinner than it is. While there are thinner LEDs out there measuring well under one inch in most parts, you get 90% of the thinness for 50% of the price. Honestly, for the price, you won't find thinner. Another reason to address the thinness of this TV is because one of the key selling points to LED TV’s is that most sidelit LED sets can achieve a thinness that other technologys can’t. As a testament to this Plasma set is that it is probably the thinnest Plasma set that I’m aware of on the market and looks like a high end LED set because of it.
Plasma pros vs cons: I have had both LCD and Plasmas. My old Plasma had some burn in issues, although never bad ones, and usually, they disappear. The concern with this TV is, the picture is so huge, if you were to have burn in, it would be very noticeable (imagine a 10" ESPN symbol every time you turned your TV on). However, so far, I haven't noticed any burn in after a month of use. The manual says it is fine with being on a still image for up to 1 hour. So far, I believe them. Also, this TV has yet to get very hot, unlike my older Plasma. Honestly, most people assume the TV is an LED based on how bright the colors are and how thin the TV is. I haven't noticed any of the cons of old Plasmas except that LEDs are marginally better in black/white reproductions as mentioned above. If you are coming from an LCD, however, this TV will blow your mind away.
Energy use: This TV will not get as good power ratings as an LED even though it advertises it will, because in order to get competitive pictures with an LED, you must turn off the "Energy Saver" mode. However, it still does better than older TVs. LEDs can just make brighter pictures with less power. Despite this, based on price differences between this TV and a similarly specked LED, you will never experience the price savings of energy consumption that you save in overall price of the LED TV, I promise you. This TV advertises EPA rating of $21/yr operating costs while most LED's in this price range is about $18/yr. With the Energy Saver off, I'm guessing $35/yr based on percentage increase the brightness bar went up, but again, this is a pure guestimate. EPA only suggests a 30% savings between this technology vs LED, so it would be even less of a savings per year. Either way, even if it was $50/yr, it would take you over a decade to make up the difference with a similarly sized LED and the price it demands.
Price/Bottom line: You can't beat the picture quality of this TV and the size, thickness, etc. when compared to what you pay. I got this TV on sale at BJ's for $600. Average price online and in stores is between $650-800. The next closest LED with similar picture, thickness, and screen size was about $1200. I did find an LED from a lesser brand for only $800, but it was 46" and MUCH thicker, probably about four inches thick. If you aren't a technophile, then buy this TV, it is money well spent. It gives you an enormous TV for the price of a quality LED that is 2/3’s of the size. The picture is truly great and can compete with most of the LED’s in the market minus only the few elite available. These will cost you well over a thousand. Overall, I am very pleased with my purchase and would recommend it to anybody shopping the HD TV market who cares about making a great purchase but is willing to make some very (VERY) small sacrifices. Don’t let the “Plasma technology” and price fool you, this TV can compete, and in some comparisons, beat the LED TV’s it is being sold against. Despite paying half the price, you are only making a miniscule sacrifice, and in some instances, you are not making any sacrifice.