LG has a proud tradition of making more effort than most to cater for the specific quirks of the UK's TV marketplace. For instance, it was the first brand in the UK to launch TVs with built-in Freeview recorders.
It's no surprise, therefore, to find that LG is the first brand to react to the demise of Panasonic's exclusive freesat TV deal. But, at around £1,100, can LG's first freesat set, the 42-inch 42LF7700 LCD TV with a 1080p resolution, really compete with Panasonic's already established and critically acclaimed freesat range?
Although not as attention-grabbing as some of LG's recent showboating TV designs, the 42LF7700 is still seriously attractive -- all drippingly opulent gloss black and minimalist lines.
It's also decently connected for a TV with both Freesat and freeview tuners built in, thanks to three HDMIs, a USB port able to play back JPEG and MP3 files, and a dedicated D-Sub PC jack. There's even an Ethernet port to support as-yet-unspecified future Freesat functionality -- kicking off, we suspect, with the BBC's iPlayer.
The 42LF7700's freesat tuner isn't its only significant feature. You also get LG's TruMotion 100Hz video-processing system; a special processing mode optimised for 24p Blu-ray playback; LG's XD Engine processor; and enough general colour, noise and contrast-management tricks to keep a professional installer happy.
The 42LF7700's pictures sure know how to make an entrance too. Right away, we were struck by the exceptional intensity of the screen's colours, with colour-rich fare like the Blu-ray of computer-animated movie Ratatouille exploding off the screen.
The core brightness underpinning these ultra-dynamic pictures is impressive, making this TV an option even if your living room is perennially drenched in sunlight. The instant appeal of the pictures is further enhanced by their sharpness with high-definition content. Edges look crisp but unforced, detail levels easily reveal key HD elements like facial pores and clothing textures, and, thanks to the 100Hz system, motion isn't badly affected at all by the blurring problem common to LCD TVs.
Rounding off a hugely watchable performance are some of the most natural colour tones LG has produced, impressively noiseless freesat and Freeview standard-definition pictures, an enjoyably well-rounded and potent audio performance from the set's 'invisible' speakers, and some initially engaging black levels.
While the 42LF7700's black levels might be initially engaging, longer viewing with tricky dark film scenes, like any of the external sequences in 30 Days of Night on Blu-ray, reveals clear evidence of clouding over the darkest corners. As usual, this makes dark images feel slightly flat, and hides background detailing.
We also urge caution with the TV's 100Hz processing engine. If you set it higher than its 'low' mode, it can cause fairly obvious processing artefacts.
One last issue with the set's pictures is that, while standard-definition images look impressively free of noise, this strength comes at the expense of sharpness.
We also didn't get on particularly well with the 42LF7700's freesat electronic programme guide. All the information is there and the presentation is cute, but navigating through the channels and programmes is a sluggish experience, and some aspects of the layout could be more intuitive.
If you're looking for the last word in picture quality, Panasonic's freesat plasma TVs still definitely have the edge over LG's freesat debutante. But that doesn't make the LG 42LF7700 a bad TV by any means. In fact, it's a rather good one, especially once you take its aggressively low price into account.
Edited by Charles Kloet