- Easy to set up
- Stunning picture quality
- Vibrant colours
- Dull standard definition
- Screen input lag
- Flat sounds
- Review Price: £1314.00
- LCD with LED lighting
- Includes Freeview HD
- PC capable
- Ethernet port
- Two USB ports
With the high number at the end of the 47LE8900’s name immediately alerting us to its location in the upper reaches of LG’s current TV range, we were surprised to find that it doesn’t support any 3D capabilities – passive or active. You can’t even add 3D via an upgrade kit.
But funnily enough, this ends up actually making us feel more wholeheartedly positive about the set than we have with any LG TV before. We’ll talk about this reasoning later, but right away you only have to look at the price we’ve found for the TV to see the first reason its lack of 3D doesn’t trouble us: under £1,350 really isn’t a bad price at all for a 47in TV with the 47LE8900’s level of specification.
That specification is led out by the screen’s use of direct LED lighting, where the LEDs sit behind the screen rather than round it edges. Experience has shown that this type of lighting tends to produce consistently the best picture quality the LCD world has to offer – especially when, as in the 47LE8900’s case, it’s accompanied by local dimming. This finds clusters of the LED lights having their light output controlled individually, with a predictably profound impact on contrast.
Given the direct LED tech, the 47LE8900’s design comes as a pleasant surprise. For it’s remarkably slim; barely 35mm at its thickest point. This makes it a rival in depth terms for most edge LED models.
The bezel around the screen is strikingly slender too, and looks mightily attractive in its chic black, high-gloss finish, offset by a transparent outer trim. Obviously many people will be tempted to place a TV this slender on their wall, but we actually loved its stand, especially the transparent ‘neck’ that attaches it to the TV.
The 47LE8900’s connections mostly live up to the set’s glamorous looks and quality-driven spec. This is especially true with its multimedia capabilities, delivered via a combination of a D-Sub PC port, a couple of USB slots, and an Ethernet port.
The USB ports can do two things: play photo, music or video files (with DivX HD among the supported codecs); or add Wi-Fi to the TV via an optional USB dongle.
The Ethernet port has no less than three uses. First, it provides mandatory support for a built-in Freeview HD tuner. Second, it lets you access files on DLNA ready PCs. And finally, it lets you explore LG’s NetCast ringfenced online content.
Sadly the only content on there at the time of writing was a fairly flimsy weather forecasting service, a version of YouTube optimised for use with a TV remote, and the Picasa photo storage/viewing site. This makes NetCast feel more than a little half-hearted, and clearly falls miles short of the more fully developed online services now offered by many of LG’s main rivals. Here’s hoping LG will add more content to the platform in the very near future.
Wi-Fi access to a PC or NetCast isn’t actually the 47LE8900’s only ‘invisible’ connection. For it also supports Bluetooth connection with suitable headphones or mobile phones. And you can even stream your HD sources – with full 1080p video – into the TV wirelessly if you cough up £250 or so for LG’s optional Wireless AV Kit. Straightforward AV jacks, meanwhile, are dominated by a healthy four HDMIs.
Setting up the 47LE8900 is a pleasure, no matter how far you want to take things. By which we mean that techophobes who only usually delve reluctantly into in-depth picture set up systems will be left smiling by the set’s outstandingly well-presented and organised onscreen menus. Especially as there’s a Picture Wizard option that guides you through simple picture calibration steps with a series of test images.
People looking for really in-depth calibration, though, are also amply catered for courtesy of a remarkably extensive suite of fine tuning options – including, most importantly, a fulsome colour calibration system, gamma adjustments, and greyscale control. Not surprisingly with so many tweaks available, the 47LE8900 is endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF). The set is also endorsed by independent quality assurance outfit THX, resulting in a very well conceived THX mode among the set’s presets.
Final 47LE8900 specs we should mention are a vast claimed contrast ratio of 9,000,000:1 and 200Hz ‘TruMotion’ video processing.
Let’s kick of the performance section of this review by saying right away why the 47LE8900’s lack of 3D actually makes our job easier. As regular readers will know, we’ve had problems with both LG’s active (alternate frame) and passive (side by side) 3D TVs, based on fairly high levels of crosstalk with the former and depth perception issues with the latter. So not having to take these problems into account with the 47LE8900 allows us to talk exclusively about its excellent 2D pictures.
As usual with TVs that employ direct LED lighting with local dimming, the 47LE8900’s contrast performance is truly stellar. Within a single image frame you can find exceptionally deep black colours, really punchy bright whites and a veritable cornucopia of dynamic, rich colours.
It’s a contrast performance, in fact, which actually delivers more visceral impact than even the best plasma TVs out there. Longer term viewing makes you aware of some slight missing detail in dark areas versus what you would expect to see on, say, a Panasonic G20, V20 or VT20 plasma TV. But we suspect many people will find this a small price to pay for the sheer punch the 47LE8900 delivers.
Direct LED sets with local dimming can produce some pretty overt haloing, where auras of light appeared around bright objects – at least when they appeared against dark backgrounds. But while you can occasionally see a slight general mistiness with scenes containing an extreme mix of bright and dark, in general the 47LE8900 contains the issue very well. The only time it becomes a real problem is if you have to watch the set from a wide angle. So try and avoid this.
We’ve already noted that the 47LE8900’s colours are exceptionally vibrant and bright, even during generally dark shots. But crucially they’re also remarkably natural and subtle in tone and blend, avoiding the slightly overblown, one-dimensional appearance sometimes noted with LG’s standard CCFL and edge LED sets.
This fact makes calibration of the TV immensely rewarding, and can end up with a palette that’s pretty much spot on with the industry-accepted D65 standard. As we’ve said before, we don’t hold by the general slavish obsession with hitting this standard, as we believe it takes personal preference, taste and room conditions out of the equation too much. But if you want D65, then the 47LE8900 gets mighty close to it.
The 47LE8900 also does a very fine job of presenting the extra crispness and detailing we expect and love with our HD sources. This is helped in no small way by a good natural response time from the screen, which found us troubled only rarely by significant amounts of motion blur.
There’s judder at times, but it’s not bad and actually, with movies at least, is arguably quite natural in creating a ‘cinematic’ feel. Plus you can get round the judder almost completely if you use the 47LE8900’s 200Hz TruMotion system. We personally tended not to use this processing as it generates a few processing artefacts. But we’d certainly recommend that you give it a go, at least, to see how you get on with it. Horses for courses and all that.
Despite a few small, generally avoidable issues, the 47LE8900 really is a fantastic way of watching HD sources, be they TV shows or Blu-ray films. A fact which sadly throws into stark relief the set’s slightly mundane standard definition efforts. DVDs look decent, but if you step down the quality scale to a typical Freeview broadcast, the set’s scaling processing doesn’t do a particularly great job of either removing source noise or adding detail and sharpness. At least standard def colours still look believable and rich, though, which certainly isn’t always the case with LCD TVs.
One other issue we should point out to console gamers is that the screen suffers a little input lag. This is especially the case using some of the picture presets – including, oddly, the THX one. But the provided Game picture preset felt absolutely fine for solo gaming, and only marginally disadvantageous while trying to shoot the crap out of annoying American pre-teens online with ”Call of Duty”.
While LG is to be heartily congratulated for managing to squeeze direct LED lighting into such an elegantly slim TV and then using it to produce some outstanding picture quality, the Korean brand hasn’t quite been able to escape the usual audio problems associated with most very slim TVs. The soundstage holds up OK during undemanding typical daytime TV programming, but the far heavier demands of an action drama or Hollywood action blockbuster reveal a pretty brittle situation in terms of power and dynamic range, which can leave rowdy scenes sounding flat and uninvolving.
So long as you can feed the 47LE8900 a reasonably HD-rich diet, it’s capable of some really quite stunning picture quality for what is, in the circumstances, a very reasonable price. Sound and standard def pictures could be better, but overall it’s a great option for anyone happy to duck out of the whole 3D debate.
Score in detail
Image Quality 9
Sound Quality 7
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