The 42-inch 42LM660T is the first new 2012 model from LG I've had in for review. The sets in this year's line-up will be looking to make up ground lost to its intense rival Samsung, which is now the biggest TV manufacturer in the world.
Priced at around £1,150, let's see what it has to offer.
User interface and EPG
LG has once again given its user interface an overhaul. Its previous incarnation was one of the better ones out there, but this update puts it to shame with even slicker graphics with some impressive 3D effects. For example, the main home screen now shows three large panels across the top. These are populated with icons for the premium apps, videos from LG's online 3D Zone streaming service and thumbnails of videos that you've shared to the TV across a network from your computer, using DLNA or the Plex software. As you switch between them they swoop by with a nice 3D-style panning effect.
Similarly, when you go to switch inputs, the TV shows you a banner across the bottom of the screen, with large and detailed icons so you can see exactly which one you're choosing. The input list also now includes network devices, so you can select your networked PC as a source and then browse the videos contained on it, which is neat.
There are a couple of downsides, however. Although the electronic programme guide (EPG) has been upgraded to make the layout clearer, it lacks a video thumbnail window. When you call it up, you lose all video and sound from the channel you were watching.
Also, the menu system has so many options it can be daunting for the first-time user, especially as there are sometimes multiple ways of performing the same function. For example, apps can be accessed by pressing the Apps button on the remote, by selecting them on a banner at the bottom of the home screen, by entering the Premium menu from the home screen or through the app store. Phew.
On the whole though, once you get used to some of the quirks of navigating around the various menus, it's quite quick and pleasant to use.
Digital media and Internet features
This TV is nothing if not packed with online and networking features. It has LG's Smart TV platform onboard, so you get access to services like BBC iPlayer, Facebook and the Acetrax movie rental service. LG told me that Netflix and Lovefilm apps will be available by the end of the month. The apps are split into what LG terms 'Premium services', including iPlayer and Twitter, and the more general app store. In the latter, you'll find less essential offerings, such as apps for Star Magazine and movie reviews from The Daily Express, along with a host of simple games.
There really is boatloads of content here and although not all of it is worth downloading, there are enough quality services to place LG's platform near the front of the smart TV pack.
The TV does an excellent job streaming your own content from a desktop PC, laptop or NAS drive. On last year's TVs, you were forced to use the buggy Plex media streaming software on your PC. This model has both a Plex client built in and a standard DLNA mode, so if your NAS drive only has DLNA support, you can still stream videos, photos and music from it without needing to have a PC turned on. Format support was excellent too, especially on the video side. It played a whole host of files flawlessly, including HD MKV videos.
Design and connections
I've seen pretty much all the new TV designs for 2012 at various events. LG stood out during those previews. Seeing the 42LM660T at home for this review, nothing has changed. The set is an absolute stunner.
It's gobsmacking to see how LG has slimmed down the bezel. When the TV's turned off there's just a minuscule silver band visible, which runs around the outer edge of the display and is less than a millimetre thick. Switch the set on and you can see that there's actually a 1cm black bezel, but it's seamlessly integrated with the panel so it hardly spoils the overall effect. Also, because the set doesn't have a built-in camera, as some of the Samsung models do, there's no bulge at the top breaking up the clean lines.
I also really love the stand. It is very similar to the one Samsung has used on the UE55ES8000, which makes me think that both of these companies do the corporate equivalent of peering over the garden fence. But it's black rather than silver and I prefer its slightly more angular styling. As the main support struts are hidden behind the TV's chassis, at times it makes the panel look like it's floating on air.
If there is a fault in the design it's that the four side-mounted HDMI ports are a little too close to the left-hand edge of the set. If you don't bend your HDMI cables slightly, you'll see them overhanging the side of the TV. Aside from this gripe, connectivity options are spot on. There are three USB ports on the side-mounted panel. The rear panel offers a VGA input, as well as mini-jack plugs for component and composite ports that use short break-out cables. Naturally, as this set is a Smart TV, there's an Ethernet slot too, and LG has sensibly built in Wi-Fi.
The TV comes with two remote controls. The standard one is similar to those LG has been using over the past two years. It's long and reasonably narrow with large, chunky buttons that have a nice amount of travel. It's easy to feel when you've properly hit a button or when you've skimmed the edge of it and need to press it again. One minor annoyance is that it doesn't have a backlight.
LG tried out its motion controller remote with its high-end TVs last year and it must have liked the results because it's included here as standard. The motion controller takes some getting used to. It's like controlling your TV with a mouse. A cursor appears on the screen when you pick it up. You move the cursor around by waving the remote in the air, and when you're hovering over a menu, you press a button in the middle of the remote to select it. It also has a scroll wheel for zipping through menus.
Once you get used to it it's actually quite handy, especially for typing in web addresses in the browser or selecting apps in the Smart TV menu.
In the past I've sent some of LG's TVs to stand on the naughty step for having poor audio quality. Thankfully, there's no need to wag the finger at this model as LG has learned from past mistakes. Although this TV has a supremely thin chassis that measures just 32mm deep at the top and middle, it bulges out by an extra 20mm at the bottom to accommodate larger down-firing speakers.
It's just the tonic for this set's sonics, as the TV has noticeably more bass-end kick than last year's models. This, combined with tight mid-range performance, makes the audio much meatier and better balanced.
2D picture quality
It's clear from the moment you switch this set on that it's a very accomplished performer in the picture department. Flick to one of the quite accurate picture preset modes and it's obvious that it's capable of delivering the sort of deep and inky black levels we'd usually associate with the best plasma screens. As long as you keep the backlight setting turned down slightly, very little of the backlight bleeding that affected many of last year's LG models is visible.
There's a warmth and naturalness to the colours that's really quite surprising too, and this helps to make movies on Blu-ray look exceptionally rich and engaging. Furthermore, HD images have exemplary levels of sharpness, with every skin pore or blade of grass reproduced with shocking crispness.
It's not perfect, however. Standard-definition channels on Freeview aren't as sympathetically dealt with as they are on some other manufacturers' TVs. As a result, you have to be quite careful with the picture settings for standard-definition material or pictures can look overly noisy. To get the very best black levels, you have to turn down the backlight quite a lot, and this does lead to a slight loss of detail in darker sections of a picture, stealing the subtlety from scenes in noir-ish thrillers.
3D picture quality
Like all of LG's LED TVs, this one uses passive rather than active 3D technology. Passive 3D employs a polarising filter in front of the screen to send every second line of the display to a different eye when you're wearing the passive 3D specs. Each eye only receives half the resolution that you'd get from a Full HD active 3D TV, but due to the way our brains process image information, it looks more like three-quarters of a Full HD frame. The difference in resolution can be seen if you sit very close to the screen, but from a normal viewing distance, it's much more difficult to tell. Most people will still find that HD movies on 3D Blu-ray look very crisp on this model.
The passive technology has other benefits. Glasses are as cheap as chips. You get four in the box, but extra pairs only cost around £2 each. Even the specs you get at the cinema will work with this screen. There's no flicker either, and the glasses don't dim the image as much as active specs do. Crosstalk -- or ghosting -- is almost non-existent, although if you view the set from a vertical angle of more than 15 degrees or so, the 3D image does start to break up. It's best to mount this TV at a height where its centre is roughly in the middle of your line of sight.
Overall, the combination of the cheap 3D specs, bright pictures and excellent sense of depth makes this a top-notch 3D option, especially for those who want to watch 3D movies or TV shows with the family or a big group of mates.
I'm hugely impressed by the 42LM660T. Its no-bezel design makes it one of the best-looking TVs around and it also sports a lavish assortment of Internet and multimedia features. Let's not forgot its pristine HD images and excellent passive 3D support either.
Only its slightly noisy standard-definition performance and a tinchy loss of detail in darker scenes hold it back from achieving top marks.