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Review: LG PZ950

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LG PZ950 review

LG’s new top range plasma range is called PZ950 and comes with LG’s improved Smart TV interface, 3D, slim Borderless design and USB recording (in Europe). This is also the first 2011 LG plasma-TV to arrive in our testing lab and we are excited to see how it compares to Samsung and Panasonic’s new plasma TVs.

So, can PZ950 compete with Panasonic VT30 for the picture quality throne? And has LG improved 3D picture quality even further? FlatpanelsHD will find out in this in-depth review.

LG PZ950 is available in 50 and 60 inches called 50PZ950 and 60PZ950 in Europe and the US.

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Size:50" widescreen
Resolution:1920x1080
Response time:-
Contrast ratio:5,000,000:1
Brightness:1500 cd/m2
Color support:16,7 million colors
Signal processing: 8 for each color
Viewing angles (H/V):Angle Free
Dot pitch:
Panel type:Plasma TV
Wall mounting:
Swivel stand:
Dimensions (HxWxD): 72.0cm x 117.5cm x 4.9cm (without stand)
Weight28.9 kg
Built-in speakers:
Input formats: 480p/i, 576p/i, 720p, 1080i & 1080p (50, 60 & 24p)
Inputs
VGA
DVI (but possible to convert through HDMI)
Audio (type) (Audio in/out)
SCART (1 input)
S-video
Composite
Component
HDMI (4 inputs, 1 HDMI 1.4)
Other
Outputs
Audio (type) (1 output, headphones)
SCART
S/PDIF (optical)
Other
Tuners
Analogue
DVB-T (+DVB-T2)
DVB-T (MPEG4) (+DVB-T2)
DVB-C
DVB-C (MPEG4)
DVB-S
DVB-S (MPEG4)
Other

Price and retailer:

US retailerUK retailer


Our first impressions

LG PZ950 is slimmer and more elegant than ever. With PZ950 LG has managed to reach the same slim form factor as Samsung did with their plasma TVs a few years back and the Borderless design makes PZ950 a great looking TV.

LG PZ950 review
LG PZ950 review


On the front PZ950 has a plexiglass plate covering both plasma panel and bezel. Along the edge the bezel is transparent.

LG PZ950 review
LG PZ950 review


The stand is solid and allows users to turn the TV to the right and left.

LG PZ950 review
LG PZ950 review


Inputs are located on the back and we found two HDMI and two USB ports pointing to the side but unfortunately the rest of the inputs/outputs point out towards the wall. The Ethernet connector is easily taken care of with a USB Wi-Fi dongle but unfortunately there is no solution to the TV connector.

I heard no buzzing or fan noise from the TV.

Test tools

Our TV signal is DVB-S (satellite) from Canal Digital and DVB-T (terrestrial). We also have an analogue TV connection. Testing is done with the DVE (digital video essentials) and Peter Finzel test DVD. Testing is also done with DVD, TV, Blu-Ray and Media center/PC.

We use our own monitorTest. The software supports some of the traditional test patterns used to evaluate displays as well as some new and unique test patterns developed by the people here on FlatpanelsHD.

Sony PlayStation 3 is our Blu-Ray player.

All contrast measurements are based on the ANSI methodology.

Functionality

Below you see the remote control. It is not different from the 2010 model and it is similar to the remote control that came bundled with LW6500 that we tested recently.

LG PZ950 review
LG PZ950 review


I have to repeat what have been said before. It is not a particularly good remote control. Besides the large buttons it feels too light and is made entirely from plastic. One would expect a higher quality remote control from a high-end TV.

But PZ950 also comes with the Magic Motion remote control that gives a Wii-like experience. We have tried it before. See the video below for a demonstration.


Besides that PZ950 comes with Smart TV, DLNA and USB functionality. However, LG’s App Store is not online yet and will be included in a later firmware update so PZ950 is basically identical to LG LW6500 when it comes to multimedia and internet functionality. Therefore I suggest you read the functionality section in the LW6500 review here. I do not intend to repeat the Smart TV section here.

A new feature is USB recording (only available in Europe). This basically means that you can connect an external USB hard drive to start recording SD, HD and 3D from your TV channels. All content is encrypted so you cannot move it from the hard drive to your PC.
The recording function also allows you to plan future recording via the EPG.

It is easy to set up. You just connect a USB hard disc and the TV will ask you to format the disc. After that you can use the record button on the remote control or you can choose to pause or rewind.

Calibration settings
On the new LG TVs with Smart TV you need to enter the menus with the Home button and then head to the settings option on the screen. In the menus LG PZ950 has these picture setting options: contrast, brightness, sharpness, color, tint, and Eco mode.

In the advanced menu you can control: Dynamic Contrast, Noise reduction, Super resolution, Gamma, Black Level, Film mode, Color Gamut, Edge enhancer, Color Temperature, and xvYCC. Lastly, PZ950 has both 2 point RGB settings an 10 point RGB settings.

You can also choose from these picture modes: Standard, Vivid, Cinema, Game, THX Cinema, THX Bright Room, Expert1 and Expert2.

Energy consumption

Compare power consumption measurements on different TVs and monitors with our interactive power consumption applet here.

Below I have measured energy consumption on the 50-inch LG PZ950.

Standby0.1 W0.1 W
SD+HD223 W153 W
3D235 W235 W


After calibration I measured power consumption to 153 Watt. That is around 20 W lower than on Panasonic VT30 but higher than 50-inch LCD/LED models.

I have also included a measurement of the 3D energy consumption. In the 3D mode the backlight is often maxed out to compensate for the reduction in light from the 3D glasses. Therefore the 3D mode also typically consumes more energy.

Calibration on LG PZ950

Below you can see an out-of-box measurement on LG PZ950 in the Standard picture preset without Eco mode.

LG PZ950 review


The graph says this:

The number on the left is the delta value. Delta is a difference between two factors; here it’s the difference between the measured color on the panel and the actual color that is our target.

  • A delta value lower that 2 results in a visible deviation from the actual color.
  • A delta value over 4 or 5 results in wrong colors.
  • A delta value between 1 and 2 results in precise but not perfect colors.
  • A delta value lower than one results in almost perfect colors. The target is 0.
  • Everything between 0 and 1 is barely visible to the human eye.

    Out of box picture quality is not great but his was expected. Gamma rises from 1.9 in the bright shades to 2.9 in the dark shades meaning that bright colors are too bright and dark colors are too dark. As you can see in the graph to the right color deviations are also too significant.

    I measured the color temperature to average 8392 Kelvin, which is too high, meaning that pictures are too bluish and cold. Brightness was measured to 174 cd/m2 which is quite high for a plasma TV and higher than on Panasonic’s VT30. This is great news for people seeking a plasma TV to use in a brightly lit room.

    I now changed to the THX mode on PZ950 and took a new measurement. Actually PZ950 has two THX modes, one for dark rooms (THX Cinema) and one for bright rooms (THX Bright Room). The measurements below are taken in the THX Bright Room preset.

    LG PZ950 review


    The THX preset gave us good picture characteristics with only minor color deviations. We have seen very good results from THX presets on both Panasonic plasma TVs and LG plasma TVs in the past so this came as no big surprise.

    Gamma is close to our 2.2 target, but too low in the bright range. The color temperature was measured to 5973 Kelvin, which is around 500 Kelvin too low, meaning that picture are slightly too reddish and warm. That also means that the THX preset on PZ950 is not as accurate as on Panasonic VT30 – but still quite good.

    Also, the THX Cinema mode is not as accurate as the THX Bright Room preset. I have not included my measurement here but to sum it up LG has increased gamma in the dark end of the curve, crushing details in the dark areas of the screen. This is not what we expect from a THX mode. We have seen better results from THX presets on previous LG plasma TVs.

    I now performed a calibration to improve picture quality on PZ950. To do that one needs to switch to the Expert 1 or Expert 2 presets that come with ISF calibration options. Here’s my result.

    LG PZ950 review


    The expert presets did not provide us with a very good starting point for calibration and I wish I could use the THX Bright Mode preset as a starting point instead. Therefore I also needed to make some changes that are explained in a moment.

    But after calibration I managed to get a more accurate color temperature and reduce color deviations a bit. I never managed to get perfect gamma but I did not take advantage of the advanced 10 point RGB settings in the menu simply because it makes no sense to share these settings. These settings need to be calibrated individually on each TV.

    One needs to utilize the 10 point RGB settings to improve color accuracy further, and I suggest that users go with the calibrated settings below or the THX Bright Mode preset if they do not plan to make a complete calibration on PZ950. The calibrated result is fairly good but took some effort.

    Below you see my calibrated settings.


    Picture preset:Expert1
    Contrast85
    Brightness49
    H Sharpness:50
    V Sharpness:50
    Color:50
    Tint0
    Dynamic ContrastOff
    Noise ReductionOff
    Super resolutionOff
    GammaLow
    Black levelLow
    Film modeOff
    Color gamutStandard
    Edge enhancerOff
    xvYCCAuto
    Color filterOff
    Color temperatureWarm
    RGB Method2 points
    R contrast 0
    G contrast-3
    B contrast2
    R brightness4
    G brightness-14
    B brightness11
    Eco modeOff


    I had to lower gamma to “low” in order to improve gamma according to our 2.2 target value. I also had to change contrast and brightness to improve gamma.

    Besides that I utilized RGB (red, green, blue) settings to improve color accuracy but I did not take advantage of the 10 point RGB setting options that are available. With these advanced RGB one should be able to improve things even further.

    Picture quality on LG PZ950

    In this section I go through picture quality with the calibrated settings.

    LG PZ950 with Borderless design has a plexiglass front - so expects reflections. LG has tried to lower the degree of reflections by incorporated a new filter. The filter takes care of light coming from the top of the screen, such as ceiling light, and the filter is different from the one used by Samsung and Panasonic on their plasma TVs. From the top pictures on PZ950 not only get darker, they also look extremely fuzzy.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    In my opinion the filter on Panasonic VT30 is better but I generally like this new filter on PZ950. It is definitely better than previous anti-reflective filters on LG’s plasma TVs. In the calibration section we also measured a higher-than-average brightness level on PZ950 compared to competing plasma TVs and this helps PZ950 to perform better in brightly lit rooms.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    Color gradation on PZ950 is not impressive but slightly better than on Panasonic VT30. I saw some “bands” in our gradient tests, which means that color banding might also occur in practical use. PZ950 has some trouble distinguishing all the dark colors from each other, as well as some of the semi-dark colors.

    One thing I noticed, however, is that PZ950 has significantly less plasma noise (dithering noise) than Panasonic VT30. Colors (and therefore pictures in general) look more “calm” and I felt that PZ950 gave a more pleasant viewing experience when sitting very close to the TV (most people move closer when gaming). I also saw the benefit of the lower level of dithering noise in practical use and it is definitely a plus in my book.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    SD picture quality is generally good based on better than average scaling and picture processing. Detailing is high and PZ950 also has great motion resolution.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    HD picture quality naturally looked great and PZ950 gave us impressive detailing and motion resolution. Color reproduction is fairly good but I did see some color banding on PZ950 at times. The low level of plasma noise ensures smooth and vibrant pictures.

    However, I quickly noticed that black appeared to be weak, which made some movie scenes look dull and far less intense compared to for example Panasonic VT30 or Panasonic GT30. I will measure black levels in a second but I am convinced that PZ950 is not in the best league here.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    Before I do that I want to talk about response time. Response time on PZ950 is very fast and ranks in the absolute top of TVs today. I also saw very little phosphor trailing and I am quite impressed with LG’s improvements in this area.

    I actually think that PZ950 is a notch better than Panasonic VT30 here. It has lower phosphor trailing and I saw no pixel noise around moving objects (we saw that on VT30). That also means that PZ950 is faster than the LCD/LED flagship models.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    Input lag was measured to 30-35 ms, making PZ950 a fine TV for gaming purposes such as console gaming.

    PZ950 unfortunately has some retention and I saw it more than once. It disappears very quickly again but it is there and it is worse than on Panasonic’s plasma TVs and also worse than on Samsung’s 2010 plasma TVs. Below I have taken a picture showing a white pause logo that staying like this for 1-2 minutes after 15-20 minutes.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    That’s a shame.

    Below I have measured black level and contrast.

    Black level0.09 cd/m20.09 cd/m2
    Brightness174 cd/m2130 cd/m2
    Contrast ratio1933:11444:1
    Contrast ratio +/- 50


    After calibration I measured black level to 0.09 cd/m2, which is not very impressive for a plasma TV. In comparison Panasonic VT30 gave us 0.02 cd/m2 and Samsung’s 2010 top range plasma TV C8000/C7000 gave us 0.06 cd/m2 black, which is not very impressive either. It is also significantly lower than on Panasonic GT30.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    The weak black level has an effect in practical use and PZ950 has a greyish black tone instead of those inky blacks that we enjoy on some of the best performing TVs in this area. I am disappointed to see that LG has actually shifted to reverse gear compared to their 2010 PK950 model that we measured to 0.04 cd/m2 black.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    Shadow detailing on PZ950 is great on the other hand. I was able to distinguish pretty much every tone of dark grey from black, which ensures a high level of detailing in dark movie scenes and games. We also noticed less plasma noise in the dark areas compared to VT30.

    Below I have examined the LG PZ950 a completely dark room to see if it has clouding, backlight bleeding or floating black issues.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    Our PZ950 sample had no issues.

    3D picture quality on LG PZ950

    We used the PlayStation 3 and a 3D Blu-ray player to test 3D movies and 3D games.

    I won’t say too much about 3D in general and what you should expect but instead refer to our Panasonic VT25 / VT20 review for a general 3D introduction.

    In this test I want to examine 3D depth, 3D picture quality, 3D crosstalk and finally include a small comparison to some of the other 3DTVs on the market.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    We measured a higher light output on LG PZ950 compared to Panasonic VT30 and Panasonic GT30, which ensures better daytime 3D picture quality. Light output on PZ950 is still lower than on 3D LCD/LED TVs, however.

    I moved on to examine crosstalk and PZ950 performed quite well. I did notice crosstalk in high contrast scenes and PZ950 is not 100 % on par with Panasonic VT30 or Panasonic GT30 here. In Avatar I saw some crosstalk in a few jungle scenes and I also spotted it a few times in gaming.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    However, 3D depth and 3D picture quality in general is great. I enjoyed watching 3D content on PZ950 and another big plus is the fact that PZ950 has a 3D THX preset to ensure accurate picture quality even in 3D mode.

    Despite some minor crosstalk PZ950 is a great performer in 3D. It is better than all of the 3D LCD/LED models out there including Samsung D8000 and Sony EX720 but not 100 % on par with Panasonic VT30 or Panasonic GT30.

    PC and Media Center

    The TV supports 1:1 pixel mapping. In order to achieve 1:1 pixel mapping you need to select the aspect ratio called “Just Scan" in the picture settings menu on PZ950.

    Viewing angles

    The viewing angles are very wide and we did not see any significant change in color intensity or contrast from wide angles. LG has also moved the glass layers inside the plasma panel very close to each other, thus eliminating that mirror effect that caused white text to reflect inside the screen on older plasma TVs. Below you can see the viewing angles on PZ950.

    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    LG PZ950 review
    LG PZ950 review


    The panel gets darker from the top because of the filter.

    Sound quality

    The speakers are not impressive but better than average. Bass is lacking but mid tones are good. LG has incorporated a Clear Voices function but even without this activated I had no trouble hearing voices in movies.

    For movies, games and music I recommend separate speakers.

    Conclusion

    PZ950 features LG’s complete Smart TV interface with Apps (coming later), a web browser, USB recording (in Europe) and DLNA. LG’s Smart TV platform is very promising and we said in our LW6500 review that it is one of the best at the moment, competing with Samsung’s Smart TV platform. PZ950 also has a much slimmer and elegant design based on LG’s Borderless design philosophy. Unfortunately most inputs are still placed on the back of the TV making it hard to wall mount PZ950.

    PZ950 comes with good picture quality and THX modes. Unfortunately the THX modes were not 100 % accurate on our sample, and gamma was not stable. But we managed to get pretty accurate colors, which made PZ950 perform very well overall. We saw very little phosphor trailing and response time is also extremely fast and probably the fastest we have seen so far from a plasma TV. PZ950 also has less dithering noise than most plasma TVs today and a quite effective anti-reflective filter.

    On the other hand black depth on PZ950 was disappointing and LG has actually taken a step backwards in this area, falling well behind Panasonic’s 2011 plasma TVs such as Panasonic GT30. Because of this dark movie scenes lack intensity. PZ950 also has image retention issues. It probably has something to do with the new phosphor in PZ950 that – on the other hand - enables much higher light output and 3D. The higher light output in the 3D mode is a plus if you mainly watch 3D during the daytime and 3D picture quality on PZ950 is also very good in general, and just a few steps behind Panasonic VT30.

    All in all LG PZ950 is a good performer but it has some drawbacks; retention and weak black levels being the most conspicuous. However, if you are looking for a great TV for overall TV use - with very promising Smart TV features - PZ950 is definitely worth considering. It sells at a much lower price than for example Panasonic’s high-end Plasma TVs and if you can live with the shortcomings I feel that you are buying a great plasma TV with PZ950.

    Price and retailer:

    US retailerUK retailer


    Picture qualityBlack levelsLiving room
    Response timeRetentionHome Cinema
    Smart TV platformSmart TV lacks content
    Low dithering noiseInputs pointing out towards wall
    3D picture qualityNot crosstalk-free
    Very low phosphor trailingTHX presets not 100 % accurate


    Subscribe to our Newsletter, RSS feed or twitter to receive notice when new reviews are online. We’ll soon publish our Sharp LE830, Panasonic G30, Sony HX820 and Eizo SX2762W reviews as well.

    LG PZ950 debate

    For questions and comments please visits this thread in our forums: LG PZ950 debate




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