LG xxLW5600

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Product Description

Since CES, I've been hearing a lot of buzz over at Cleveland Plasma about a new, passive 3D TV from LG. "If you care about 3D, this is the TV to get," enthused Chris. Rather than the chunky and expensive active shutter glasses most of us are used to, the LG's passive glasses are like putting on a lightweight pair of sun glasses or driving glasses. There is no on/off switch to mess with, and no concern about breaking the infrared link and inadvertently turning off the glasses. That is refreshing. And looking at the LW5600, I'm glad to see LG has kept a semi matte screen rather than the mirror like surface that many manufacturers are offering. With the LG's ultra thin profile and trim bezel, there is much to like for those of us who appreciate a sleek and sophisticated appearance.

With the power off in a moderately bright room, the LG stays commendably dark for the most part. Reflections can still wash out large areas of the screen, though they are not sharply defined as on glossy screens. With the LG sitting right beside a Panasonic VT25 plasma and both sets powered down, the dark areas of the LG's screen were a very significant shade darker than the plasma's darkest areas. So, while care still has to be taken to avoid bright reflections, the LG's dark screen combined with it's blazing light output capability and separate ISF Day and Night modes means this TV is about as well suited to a typical, bright living room as you can get.

A potentially limiting factor with LED LCDs is poor off axis performance. Several times I have gone to a customer's house to calibrate a new LCD only to find that there is no good seat in the house, due either to the TV being mounted above a fireplace and not tilted down, or to having couches on either side of the TV but not in front of it. Despite the claims of "wide viewing angle" and "perfect color everywhere", unfortunately with some sets even just moving over one couch cushion from dead center can cause noticeable color and contrast washout. Thankfully, like most LG models I've seen recently, the LW5600 is much more tolerant of either side to side or up and down movement than most LED LCDs. The picture does start to deteriorate faster at diagonal angles, however, so if you are both above the screen and off to the side you will be treated to nice, pale faces and washed out blacks.

Before calibration:

Out of the box with no change in picture modes or adjustments, the LW5600's image looked a bit garish. Colors were vivid and exciting, but not at all lifelike. Bright objects in the picture looked somewhat highlighted, which made the image eye-catching but fatiguing. The picture was very bright; enough to make most home theater enthusiasts reach for a pair of sunglasses before settling down to watch TV. Pans seemed buttery smooth, which tends to rob movies of their filmlike feel. There appeared to be a lot of pop and contrast, and overall the image looked promising even though it was not very natural at all.

Switching the picture preset to either Cinema or one of the two ISF Expert modes brought about a big increase in picture quality. Gone was the garish, over enhanced look; in it's place was a more subdued but also more lifelike image. Colors, though not as vivid and exciting at first glance, looked more natural. However, dark objects in the picture tended to sink down in to a black blob, and pans were still overly smoothed. The opening scenes of The Dark Knight looked fairly impressive; skin tones were not offensive, and the image had a lot of pop and impact. Dark objects and missing shadow detail were the worst offenders. In moderately bright room lighting, contrast looked great.


Later that night, with the room now dark, I experimented with some picture settings in one of the ISF Expert modes. I found some easy changes that I preferred. After turning off Energy Savings, setting Aspect Ratio to Just Scan, and turning Tru Motion to the user setting (with De-Judder turned down), I then tried to get a handle on how the LED Local Dimming setting effected the picture. My previous experience with an LG edge lit zone dimming TV left me with the feeling that the local zone dimming, while somewhat helpful at times, was largely ineffective compared to full LED backlight local dimming. The LW5600, while still having an edge lit zone dimming backlight, seems to be significantly improved and fine tuned over that previous model. I felt that in most instances, with the LW5600's local dimming on high, black levels were very good. It seemed to be able to handle low brightness objects in the image well without significant blooming or black level compromise. The improvement in the contrast of dark images was startling. There was no question that, with darker images, turning the setting on high transformed the black levels and contrast from barely mediocre to very good. As I experimented with brighter objects, I could see black areas of the screen light up around the object. It reminded me of the auto iris feature in many projectors, only it was more effective because different regions of the picture were controlled independently. The down side to all this contrast goodness is that black bars on letterbox movies showed some fluctuation. On 2.40:1 movies, if there was a bright object in the lower left corner of the screen, then that quarter or so of the bottom black bar lightened. This effect was noticeable only in a dark room. I also saw that a black screen was not illuminated evenly, with cloudy areas throughout the screen. These could be serious flaws is you prefer to watch wide aspect ratio movies in a dark room. Thankfully, the side effects of the zone dimming disappeared for the most part when the room lighting was normal. I could still see the black bars fluctuate if I looked for it, but it wasn't distracting.

Colors, gamma, and grayscale all calibrated very well. White field uniformity was very good, and 1080i/p resolution was full and strong. The 2 step and 10 step white balance adjustments now work together, so the process can be easier. Because of the way the local dimming works at low light levels, I turned it off when doing the 10 step fine tuning, then I turned it back on after that was complete.

Black level with local dimming on high, medium, or low was too low for the Chroma5 Enhanced meter to measure, which means it was well below .01 fL. With local dimming off, it measured a poor .0786 fL. This is a result of the type of panel used by LG, and is a tradeoff between blacks and off axis viewing quality.

The modified ANSI contrast ratio, measured at the center of the screen position only, was 691:1. The edge lit local dimming has the least impact at the center of the screen, especially with a bright ANSI checkerboard being displayed, so the ANSI contrast number is getting no help from the local dimming. Real program material will fare better, though it will be variable.

After calibration:

Wow! The DVE restaurant scene, calibrated to 49 fL light output and viewed in moderate lighting, looked fantastic! Whites looked purer than before, and dimensionality was great; there was a very good sense of depth and pop. Flesh tones looked good; they were pretty good before calibration, and they were now even more refined. Shadow detail, though noticeably improved, is still a bit on the dark side of neutral; though that could possibly have been improved with an additional tweak of the 10 point adjustment. Pans and motion now looked very good.
The Dark Knight continued to impress; colors really were just right, and the image had very good impact. I noticed no motion artifacts. I found nothing at all to complain about in the first scene; for once the critic in me was quieted. When the movie switched aspect ratios, I could see a bit of black bar fluctuation. It was not enough to be distracting to me in this lighting, though as mentioned previously it is more noticeable in a totally dark room.
There were some scenes in the DVE montage that showed how impressive the LG's blacks and contrast could look. While it wasn't foolproof, in most scenes the local dimming was doing a good job of making the blacks appear quite dark.

3D performance:

I'm actually pretty impressed with how this set handles 2D to 3D conversion! Now, I've seen 2D to 3D conversion on Samsungs, both LED LCD and plasma, and when I did I thought, "Wow, that's interesting. Hmmm. Pretty weird..."
It does still look kinda fake, probably because it is. But somehow it's a lot less offensive than I remember.
It's fairly mild, so things don't look like they're going to reach out and grab you. But it does add a pleasant layer of depth.
There's no way I'd want to watch everything this way. But it's fun once in a while, and it's a lot better than I remember on the others.
One thing, though; when putting the glasses on, especially up close, the line structure of the picture is visible. I don't remember seeing that on the Samsungs. It reminds me of seeing scan lines on a CRT.

Using Cinema mode and looking at true 3D content on 3Net via DirecTV, i can say this is overall the most pleasant 3D experience I've had, though I still wouldn't want too much of it.
The glasses are a real pleasure. No headache or weird feelings from wearing them, and replacements or extras are super cheap.
I'd say the biggest difference between this and something like the VT25 would be the LG's incredible brightness. I have not seen 3Net on any other TV, though I sampled Avatar and some other movies on a VT25 a couple weeks ago. I had done a thorough 3D calibration on the VT25, complete with fixing the glasses over the meter. On the LG, I just used uncalibrated Cinema mode, so the LG is at a disadvantage. From what I remember, the VT25's 3D looked more fluid, with very natural fleshtones. However, the LG has a more vibrant, punchy picture, and it's 3D effect seems stronger. On every 3D system I've tried, I still see a certain blurring, unfocused, or double image at times, especially on objects that are supposed to be coming out of the screen toward me. I am not sure why. This was no exception. The scan line effect is noticeable but not particularly bothersome.
This is the way to go for 3D fun!


I am impressed with how the LW5600's local dimming has been refined. This is a fantastic TV for brighter rooms, and for people who prefer to watch TV with the lights on. If you like to watch wide aspect ratio movies in dark rooms and/or you tend to obsess over things, this TV isn't for you. But in it's element, it's hard to beat.

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