LG's top-of-the-line 2012 TV, the 55LM9600, features extraordinary style, excellent picture quality and some cutting-edge new technology.
Excellent picture quality
Very good network content including "2nd Display"
Excellent 3D crosstalk rejection
Great "Magic Motion" remote interface
No analog audio output for use with external sound system
Subjectively smaller 3D picture due to need to sit farther away
2012 seems to be the year in which LG has completely left behind any legacy of its Lucky Goldstar days. With the 55LM9600 — and to be fair, several of its lesser models — it shows that its TVs are, at least, as good as anything available from anyone else.
This TV has the lot: but the first and most obvious thing that strikes the eye is its styling. At the top and the sides, the distance between the edge of the visible picture and the edge of the body is just 6 millimetres. The narrow piece of curved aluminium is barely wide enough to be termed a bezel. So narrow is this, that I figure it explains why this TV is a touch thicker than LG's lower models: 38.4mm compared to their 33.1mm. In terms of looks, that's a trade-off well worth making.
A metal-look stand completes the picture, seemingly dissociated by its shape. Unlike some such stands, the TV can swivel.
Of course, this 55-inch (140cm) full high-definition model provides 3D. It uses the "passive" Film Pattern Retarder system for this. The upside of this system is that the glasses are light and cheap — they weigh just 13 grams a pair, and you get four pairs with the TV — and the crosstalk rejection is excellent.
The downside is — regardless of what you might hear from certain quarters — they have lower resolution in 3D mode than active TVs. We'll see later what that means in practice.
The TV packs LG's full range of networking capabilities and in addition to a conventional IR remote, you get an upgraded version of its RF-linked "Magic Motion" remote. The upgrade adds a microphone.
There was very little to separate this TV from the AU$1200 cheaper 55LM7600 when it came to picture quality, both in 2D and 3D. Most of the default settings were very close to optimal. The exceptions were the Sharpness control, which was set to 25 (change this to 0 for a noticeable better picture) and the aspect ratio. Change this from "16:9" to "Just Scan" when you're watching Blu-ray or HDTV. Instead of scaling the picture, this just maps each incoming pixel, from the digital source to the matching display pixel.
It's also worthwhile in normal viewing to switch on the "Eco" mode (this is off by default). This varies the Edge LED light level according to room light ambience. If you have your room lights down, the picture will be darker, and consequently screen blacks will be deeper. LG specifies this as a six star TV on its energy rating label. We made it as seven stars.
As for 3D, the Werner Bloos static test pattern showed that there was no visible black from one eye leaking into a white field, viewed by the other eye. The other way around, the leakage was around 15 per cent, which seemed plenty to produce subjective freedom from crosstalk, entirely. No crosstalk gives a basis for brilliant 3D.
But, you must sit further away from the screen than you need to with an active 3D display because of the reduced resolution. It is prone to display jaggies, if you sit too close. LG recommends 2.8 metres for this TV (compared to active brands recommending 2.0 metres for the same sized TV). Even at this range, we found that, on occasion, elements of the picture had strange artefacts due to the reduced resolution. We'd suggest over three metres.
There is quite a bit of commonality across the various premium brands of TVs when it comes to online additional content and network capabilities, and this TV covers basically everything that the other brands do as well — not counting some of their brand-sponsored content, but adding some of its own LG-specific stuff. Principally, you get a bunch of 3D online clips and short documentaries to show off your TV. Beware, on my 6Mbps Internet connection, even the lower resolution ones of these were choppy.
The iOS (and Android — not tested) "LG Magic" remote control app is the same as that used for the lesser models, but with this TV added one particularly cool feature: whatever was showing on the TV screen could be reflected, via your network, to display in a window provided by the remote. Not super high-quality and with a close to three second delay, it was nonetheless fun to have this option.
Once again, the Magic Motion remote was a pleasure. It made rapid access to the hundreds of albums and artists of network music easy to access. You can even grab a position marker on a bar, and drag yourself quickly through hundreds of folder names. As we've said previously, this is the way of the future for controlling TVs.
What might also be the way of the future is voice recognition. You press a button on the Magic Motion remote, talk into it and Dragon software converts it to text. This operated surprisingly fast, presumably due to the dual-core processor the TV employs.
But its usefulness is, really, still very much in the future. So far, you can use this only to enter search terms into the web search engine and into the TV's content search engine. This seems to be a lot of technology for limited application.
Even if you never use the voice recognition software, or any of the TV's extra goodies, the LG 55LM9600 is a large TV with a great picture, amazingly good styling and the complete catalogue of network extras.