Only last week we looked at and were almost impressed by the first of LG’s new Infinia plasma models: the 50PK790. So we thought we’d give the brand the chance to address the one or two issues we had with that screen as soon as possible, in the form of the 50PK990: LG’s current flagship 50in plasma TV.
Given how soon it’s appearing after the 50PK790 review, the most sensible place to start assessing the 50PK990 is to spot how it differs from its cheaper sibling.
There’s a small aesthetic difference, to start with; a vaguely bluish tone in the extreme edges of the bezel and rather nice desktop stand, versus a vaguely greenish tone in the PK790 series. The bottom line, though, is that both TVs, with their slender bezels and ‘one-layer’ fascias, are equally gorgeous.
Rather more significant is the fact that the 50PK990 ships with an LG USB Wi-Fi dongle included, whereas you can only make the 50PK790 'wireless' if you purchase the dongle separately.
Easily the most significant difference, though, is the 50PK990’s use within its screen of a proprietary ‘TruBlack’ filter, designed to block glare and reflections on the screen in a bid to boost contrast, which explains the higher 5,000,000:1 quoted contrast too.
So far as we can tell, the rest of the 50PK990’s spec looks bang in line with that of the 50PK790. Which means it also has 600Hz processing for more stable, colour-rich plasma pictures; approval from George Lucas’s THX organisation (including two THX-calibrated presets); and enough adjustment flexibility to earn an endorsement from the independent Imaging Science Foundation. Again, this is supported by two ‘ISF Expert’ picture presets, which a Foundation expert can use to store separate night and day modes.
If you’d rather have a stab at calibrating the TV yourself, meanwhile, you could do worse than start out with a built-in Picture Wizard tool, which leads you through a series of decently designed and simply explained test signals.
This friendly touch can actually be felt throughout the 50PK990’s operating system, which finds a weighty, thoughtfully laid out and backlit remote control joining forces with one of the most appealingly graphics-heavy and attractive onscreen menus the TV world currently has to offer.
There doesn’t seem much point going through all the different picture fine-tuning tools again in this 50PK990 review when we covered them in some detail in the 50PK790 review. So here we’ll just restrict ourselves to mentioning a pretty sophisticated colour management system, and a variety of colour and contrast boosters.
One little issue to raise here that might affect people in borderline digital TV reception areas is that the 50PK990’s tuner doesn’t appear exceptionally sensitive. We have an adjustable gain system on our aerial feed so that we can test how well tuners hold up to weak signal reception, and the LG failed to pick up all of the usual digital TV suspects even with the signal strength reduced only a little.
We were also disappointed to note that LG’s NetCast online service still only comprises Accuweather.com, YouTube and Picasa - especially as YouTube and Picasa still stubbornly failed to work properly with our usually fine 2MB connection.