LG has been threatening to make a great plasma TV for quite a few generations now. And the 50in 50PK790 is in most ways the closest the brand has ever come to achieving this greatness. Yet frustratingly, it still doesn’t quite get there, due to one really strange flaw.
We could tell you about this flaw right away, of course. But this would be a bit unfair. For the TV also gets a lot of things right, and so once you know about all the good stuff, it’s possible the flaw I’m talking about might not put you off at least considering buying a 50PK790. Especially as the flaw might not actually be permanent.
Right, this is all getting far too mysterious and cryptic. So let’s get down to the more straightforward reviewing business.
The 50PK790 gets off to a great start by doing what the Korean brands seem to do better than anyone else: looking great. For starters, it sticks out a mere 53mm or so round the back - startlingly slim for a 50in plasma TV. Plus it boasts a sleek finish, bold lines, and the single-layer fascia (where the bezel and screen exist in the same plane) that’s now become a trademark of LG’s ‘posher’ televisions.
One little concern I’d have about this design is the way the top sheet sticks out beyond the main bezel edges, making the TV a little uncomfortable to hold and easily breakable during installation. But of course, these issues only apply when you first get the TV home. Once it’s up and running, you won’t have to worry about them again.
Given how slim and thus wall-friendly the 50PK790 is, it might have been nice if LG had positioned all of its connections with a sideways orientation, a la Samsung’s UE50C8000, rather than having them sticking straight out of the TV’s rear. But at least the connections provided are impressively plentiful.
Four HDMIs get the ball rolling in fairly predictable fashion, but it’s the various multimedia options that really catch my eye. There’s an Ethernet port, for instance, which can do triple duty as 1) the means to use future interactive services delivered by Freeview HD (for yes, it’s another LG TV with a built-in Freeview HD tuner); 2) a means to access files on a DLNA PC; and 3) a connection to LG’s burgeoning new online NetCast service.
I might as well say here that NetCast is currently a limited affair, with just the Picasa online photo album site, YouTube and AccuWeather sites available at the time of writing. But hopefully services such as Skype and maybe a few more video streaming sources will be added to the platform - via free downloaded updates - soon.
The 50PK790 has a USB port to its name, too, through which you can play JPEG photos, MP3 music files and even DivX HD video. Or else use it to make the TV 'wireless' via an optional USB Wi-Fi dongle.
The 50PK790’s most innovative connection, though, is one you can’t actually see: Bluetooth. This lets the TV wirelessly stream in photos and music from Bluetooth enabled phones, or send audio wirelessly to a pair of Bluetooth headphones.