LG 55LM6700 LED/LCD HDTV Reviewed

LG_55LM6700_3D_LED_HDTV_review_art.jpgAlthough the LG buzz at CES focused primarily on the 55-inch OLED TV and 84-inch 4K HDTV, LG also introduced a ton of new LCD and plasma TVs. The vast majority of this year’s LCDs utilize LED lighting, including the new LM6700 Series. This mid-level series uses the Edge LED Plus lighting system that places the LEDs around the edge of the TV and employs local dimming to more precisely tailor the screen brightness to the content being displayed. The LM6700 Series also features passive 3D capability with six pairs of glasses, ISF calibration, TruMotion 120Hz technology, the Smart TV Web platform with built-in WiFi, DLNA media streaming, the motion-controlled Magic Remote, and the attractive new Cinema Screen design. It lacks the Full LED backlighting, 240Hz (or higher) processing, THX certification, and voice recognition that you’ll find in higher-end series like the LM8600 and LM9600. The LM6700 Series includes screen sizes of 47 and 55 inches; the 55-inch 55LM6700 that we reviewed carries an MSRP of $2,299.99.

Additional Resources
• Read more 3D HDTV reviews by HometTheaterReview.com’s staff.
• See similar products in our LED HDTV Review section.
• Explore AV Receivers and Blu-ray Players to pair with the LG 55LM6700.

Setup and Features
LG’s new Cinema Screen design includes a single-pane front face with no raised bezel and only about 5mm of black border around the screen’s perimeter. The cabinet sports a brushed silver border, with a matching, swiveling, L-shaped stand. The 55LM6700’s depth is about 1.3 inches, except along the bottom where the two down-firing speakers add another half inch or so. The TV weighs about 47 pounds without the stand.

The Magic Remote allows you to navigate the TV’s menu system using an onscreen pointer that you control by waving the remote, a la the Nintendo Wii system; higher-end models incorporate a new voice-control element that is not offered here. The Magic Remote also has a few physical buttons, including a scroll wheel and navigation arrows that allow you to move through the menus without motion control, if you prefer.

The 55LM6700’s input panel includes four HDMI, one component and one composite (both use a mini-jack with a supplied breakout cable), one PC, and one RF input to access the internal ATSC and Clear-QAM tuners. All four HDMI inputs are side-facing for easy access, as are the three USB ports that support media playback. An Ethernet port is available if you prefer a wired network connection to the built-in 802.11n WiFi module.

LG_55LM6700_3D_LED_HDTV_review_profile.jpgFor a mid-level TV, the 55LM6700 offers a nice assortment of picture adjustments, including ISF calibration tools with two Expert picture modes. The Cinema picture mode provides a good base from which to make further adjustments, but I ultimately went with the Expert modes–calibrating one for daytime viewing and one for nighttime viewing. Advanced adjustments include: 2-point and 20-point white-balance controls; individual color management of all six color points; Super Resolution; five color gamuts; three gamma presets; noise reduction; and more. You can manually adjust the TV’s light output through the 100-step backlight control, or you can enable automatic backlight adjustment based on room lighting (through the Energy Saving settings). LG’s Picture Wizard II is available to walk you through an automatic calibration procedure that produces solid results. Of course, I went with a manual calibration using test patterns, but Picture Wizard is a nice tool for the novice to create a better-looking image. Interestingly, the menu lacks TruMotion 120Hz adjustments, such as the ability to turn the function on/off and select a standard/smooth mode for judder reduction. The TV has six aspect-ratio options, including a Just Scan mode to display 1080i/1080p images with no overscan. In the 3D realm, you get a whole new set of picture modes to work with and have access to all of the same adjustments I just listed. Plus, you can manually adjust the 3D depth and viewpoint and swap the left/right images. You can enable 2D-to-3D conversion and select from several preset 3D modes (Standard, Sport, Cinema and Extreme).

The benefit of local dimming in an LED-based TV is that it allows the different LED zones to adjust their brightness independently of one another to suit the content on the screen. Bright areas of the screen can remain bright, while darker areas can have deeper blacks. The one potential drawback is that, the fewer LED zones there are, the less precise the effect is, which can result in a glow around bright objects. For instance, if you’re looking at an image of a bright moon in a dark sky, you’ll potentially see brightness bleeding into the dark areas around the moon, creating the glowing effect. To address this, LG includes four options for its LED local dimming: Off, Low, Medium, and High. The Low/Medium/High settings let you tweak the “aggressiveness”; by design, the Low setting won’t produce as deep a black but will minimize the glow effect, while the High setting produces the deepest black and the most glow (we’ll discuss actual performance in the next section). Turn off the LED local dimming, and the lighting system will behave like that of an always-on backlight (i.e., the black level is nowhere near as good).

The audio setup menu includes seven sound modes, with a User setting that includes a five-band equalizer. A virtual surround mode is available, as is a generic Auto Volume function to minimize volume discrepancies. LG’s Clear Voice II function brings up the level of vocals to make them easier to hear, while Sound Optimizer adjusts the output based on the TV’s placement on a wall or stand. The speakers have above-average dynamic ability for TV speakers, and the sound quality isn’t as thin and nasally as you often get, although it doesn’t have much meat to it.

In regards to LG’s Smart TV service, this model lacks the new dual-core processors that you’ll find in the step-up LM8600 and LM9600, which allow for multi-tasking (or the ability to have multiple apps open at the same time). This year’s Smart TV interface is customizable, with an Edit tool that lets you rearrange apps. The Smart TV Home Page shows the primary source in a small window in the upper left portion of the screen; I personally would prefer a larger source window. In the center of the screen, you’ll find the list of Premium apps, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, CinemaNow, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. On the right is the new 3D World service that lets you choose from an assortment of 3D clips. Scroll over to page two of the Smart TV interface, and you’ll find the LG Smart World menu that contains all of your free/purchased apps, as well as the Smart Share menu where you can browse content from a connected USB device or connected computer/server. The 55LM6700 has 128 megabytes on onboard memory to download new apps; once the memory is full, you must either delete apps or save them to a USB drive. As for media streaming from a computer, LG supports DLNA and the PLEX system that requires you to add PLEX software to your computer. PLEX now offers Mac-compatible software, so I was able to test this function; I found the PLEX system to be very easy to set up on my Mac, and the streaming function worked reliably. The 55LM6700 has a Web browser that now supports Flash and HTML 5, and the new WiFi Screen Share function lets you share content between the TV and a mobile device directly over WiFi, without the need for a router (I did not have a compatible device to test this function). LG’s Smart Search will search across the various Smart TV services to find content; for instance, I typed in “Winnie the Pooh” and it searched the different streaming VOD services, the Web in general, and my connected USB/DLNA devices to find matching content.

Finally, the 55LM6700 sports a new feature called Dual Play for gamers. When you aren’t using the 3D technology to watch 3D content, you can use it to view a full-screen 2D image while playing a split-screen video game. This function requires special glasses (AG-F310DP) that direct a different full-screen image to each player.

I began my tests as I usually do–by evaluating the TV’s black level, brightness, and contrast. At the minimum backlight setting, the 55LM6700’s black level is incredibly deep–too bad the picture is also unwatchably dim for film content. Regardless of which LED setting you choose, the local dimming doesn’t appear to be very aggressive in making bright areas bright when the black level is low, so you have to decide how much brightness you want versus how much black level you’re willing to sacrifice. For movie watching in a dark room, I found that a backlight setting of about 30 (out of 100) struck a solid balance between the two elements.

Read more about the performance of the LG 55LM6700 on Page 2.

LG_55LM6700_3D_LED_HDTV_review_front.jpgIn addition to my usual arsenal of DVD/BD demo scenes, I watched the 2D version of Hugo on Blu-ray; and, although the black level wasn’t quite as deep as the best panels I’ve tested, the 55LM6700 did a nice job rendering the film’s complexities. I felt that the 55LM6700’s default gamma setting of 2.2 was too dark for my tastes, obscuring some of the finest black details and flattening out the brighter portions of dark scenes. LG only provides three gamma choices (1.9, 2.2, 2.4), and the lighter 1.9 setting produced better results, both in black detail and brightness. Because LED Plus isn’t overly aggressive, the glowing effect wasn’t a big concern, even at the High LED setting. I occasionally saw a hint of glow around white text against a black background, but it was not a significant issue. Screen uniformity was average; with an all-black screen, I noticed a few spots that were brighter than the rest, but they weren’t blatant enough to interfere with the viewing of real-world content (although the higher you push the backlight, the more obvious they will become). When I moved to daytime viewing of HDTV sources, I set the backlight a lot higher, up around 85 percent. At this level, the TV was amply bright to deliver a vibrant image with HDTV and sports content in a medium to dark room.

The 55LM6700 offers natural, pleasing color. The Warm color temperature is perhaps a tad cooler than reference, and the image has a slightly reddish hue–more so with darker signals. That said, there don’t appear to be any excessive deviations in color temperature, and skin tones looked generally neutral. The color points also look close to accurate, with the exception that red has a bit too much orange in it. If you find these traits objectionable, the advanced white balance and color management tools can help to dial in a more accurate picture, or you can have an ISF-certified technician calibrate it for you.

The 55LM6700 performs admirably in the upconversion department, rendering a nice amount of detail with 480i sources (even without Super Resolution engaged) and passing most of my 480i/1080i deinterlacing/processing tests. It stumbled a bit with the two real-world demo scenes from the Bourne Identity DVD (the dock arrival in chapter two and the blinds in chapter four), producing some moiré; but, for the most part, jaggies and other artifacts were kept to a minimum. The 55LM6700 serves up a clean image, with very little digital noise and smooth transitions from light to ark (especially compared with the Panasonic ST50 plasma I just reviewed). I did not see any unwanted color shifting in the mid-grays of my demo scenes from Ladder 49 and Flags of Our Fathers. The 55LM6700’s viewing angle holds up fairly well for an LCD; the picture does lose brightness when you move off-axis, but image saturation (even with darker sources) holds up better than many LCDs I’ve tested.

Finally, I switched over to 3D content and donned a pair of the lightweight, comfortable 3D glasses (did I mention that six pairs are included!). Because this is a passive 3D display, the 3D picture doesn’t lose as much brightness as an active-shutter system, and flicker was not a concern. Both with DirecTV 3D and Blu-ray 3D, the image was very bright–notably brighter than that of the active Panasonic 3D plasma I had in-house. Color was natural albeit a bit muted, and image depth was good after I tweaked the Depth Adjustment to suit my taste (3D adjustments are tricky because the GUI stays on top of the screen). When sitting directly in front of the TV, I didn’t see any crosstalk, even in chapter 13 of Monsters vs. Aliens where I almost always see some. When I moved about 45 degrees off-axis, ghosting did become more apparent, although still not excessive. Regarding detail, the debate continues as to whether or not the passive approach is full HD, since your eyes stitch together the two 540-line images to create 1080. All I can tell you is what I’ve observed in my direct comparisons between active and passive models: The better active 3DTVs produce a crisper, sharper picture, especially with DirecTV 3D content. I can see the horizontal line structure created by the passive polarization process, especially in large patches of solid color (like the white snow of Ice Age 3), and diagonals simply aren’t as clean and smooth. On the flip side, the passive 3D experience is more relaxed and comfortable, which is important when you’re talking about watching a two-hour-plus movie.

Low Points
I had the opportunity to compare the 55LM6700 with two other new 55-inch panels: the more expensive Samsung UN55ES8000 LED/LCD and the less expensive Panasonic TC-P55ST50 plasma. The LG wasn’t as successful as either of those models in producing deep blacks and bright objects simultaneously within the same scene. In other words, its contrast wasn’t as good, so the image looked a bit flatter. Even when the LG was set at a high backlight level to produce a bright image, the small elements within a scene were usually dimmer on this TV than on the other two models, and HD images weren’t quite as crisp and detailed. Not surprisingly, the plasma had better screen uniformity and viewing angles than both LCDs.

As I said above, the 55LM6700 was amply bright for a medium to dark room, but this TV doesn’t have the extremely high light output I’ve seen from other LCDs. Also, the screen is quite reflective and doesn’t do a great job of rejecting ambient light to improve contrast in a bright room. When I placed the TV beside a window in my family room, the incoming sunlight washed out the picture, and room reflections were very obvious and distracting, even with brighter HDTV content. As a result, this LCD isn’t the best fit for a really bright room, and you should be mindful of where you place it in relation to light sources.

The lack of TruMotion adjustments was a surprise, given my experience with previous LG models that included high, low, and off modes and sometimes a User mode in which you could independently adjust the judder and blur functions. According to LG, the 55LM6700 uses only black-frame insertion to go from 60Hz to 120Hz. It lacks the ability to interpolate frames, which is why you can’t engage any type of de-judder technology–this isn’t a huge loss for me since I’m not a fan of the smoothing effect. However, some people really like it. The bigger concern for me is that, despite the use of black-frame insertion, the 55LM6700 still did a poor job with all of the motion-blur tests on the FPD Benchmark Software BD. So, if you’re sensitive to motion blur, then this is not the TV for you.

LG_55LM6700_3D_LED_HDTV_review_angled.jpgFinally, I’m not fond of the Magic Remote. Even the slightest movement of the remote makes the pointer appear on the screen, and I often had trouble landing the pointer on its mark, even when I slowed down the speed in the setup menu. I’m left-handed, and the motion control was less precise in my left hand than my right. I also found the onscreen menus to be a bit laborious to navigate. For both of these reasons, I preferred using LG’s new 2012 iPhone control app, “LG Magic.” The app provides a virtual keyboard for quicker text input, and it provides more direct access to the various tools, be they apps, audio/video setup options, the Web browser, etc. With the iPhone app, I was still able to use the onscreen pointer; however, instead of motion control, I could control it using the iPhone’s touchpad, which was more precise and efficient.

Competition and Comparison
You can compare the LG 55LM6700 to its competition by reading our reviews of the Panasonic TC-P55ST50, the Toshiba 47TL515U, and the Sony KDL-46EX720. Check out the write-ups on all of our 3D HDTVs here.

For a mid-level model in LG’s TV line, the 55LM6700 offers solid performance and an excellent assortment of features. Its picture quality doesn’t have that extra level of richness, detail, and depth that characterize the best displays, but this is a good fit for someone who’s looking for an all-purpose display for everyday TV, movie, and game content, in the 2D and 3D realms. With a street price around $1,700, the 55LM6700 represents a good value in the LED/LCD camp for this screen size and features package; a similarly equipped plasma can cost less, but then you have to factor in the cost of all those active-shutter 3D glasses…if you plan to use the 3D function, that is.

Additional Resources
• Read more 3D HDTV reviews by HometTheaterReview.com’s staff.
• See similar products in our LED HDTV Review section.
• Explore AV Receivers and Blu-ray Players to pair with the LG 55LM6700.