While most other manufacturers are pushing active 3D systems, LG is sticking resolutely to its passive 3D technology and is gradually winning over many converts. For the uninitiated, passive systems use the type of polarised glasses you would get in the cinema as opposed to active shutter glasses, which alternately control the light in each lens via electronics to create a perception of depth. A major appeal of passive systems is that the glasses are so cheap in comparison to those for active sets.
The 42LW650T packs in much more than just passive 3D support, though, as it includes great media streaming and internet features, as well as LED local dimming that helps to improve black level perofrmance. This attractive looking set will leave your wallet around £850 lighter.
User interface and electronic programme guide
If there are two companies that have done a lot to modernise the look of the menu systems on their TVs, it's LG and Samsung. LG in particular has made great strides over the last couple of years, and the results are reflected in the gorgeous menus you find on this TV. They're packed full of slick and colourful icons, neat animations and other cool graphics effects.
All the TV's main features can be access just by pushing the home button on the remote, which takes you to a centralised screen where you can adjust the TV's settings, load up various Internet apps, use the media streaming features and more.
There are also buttons on the remote to take you directly to stuff like the picture settings, so you don't always have to start from the home screen when you just want to change the picture preset, for example.
The EPG follows the lead of the menus and also has a crisp and modern look. It uses a pretty traditional horizontal layout, with channel names listed down the left-hand side and upcoming programmes shown on a timeline running left to right.
It only shows five channels at a time, so it could use the available space more efficiently, but the large font used to display the programming guide means that you don't have to squint to read it.
Digital media and Internet features
Of course, one of the main reasons why LG has decided to adopt this home screen approach to its menu system is that this set adopts its Smart TV system. This includes a pretty large range of apps. Some of these are essential, including a neat implementation of BBC iPlayer that lets you stream shows in both standard and high definition. YouTube and Dailymotion are also supported, as well as a whole host of other internet video services such as Acetrax for on-demand movie rentals.
You also get apps for social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, although these can be sluggish to use. If you've got a smartphone you'll probably still check it for Facebook updates rather than using the app that's included here.
The TV can also access LG's app store, where you'll find a load of weird and wonderful offerings, ranging from weather and news apps to simple games that you can install and uninstall from the set as you wish. There's a fair amount of junk in the app store, but as the vast majority of the apps are free you can also just uninstall them if you don't like them.
Along with the internet video services, LG has added a full web browser. Like the social networking apps, navigation can be slow and torturous using the remote, and there's no Flash support, so you can't use it to view most sites with video. However, it does render pages nicely, so it may come in handy.
This set's digital media support is relatively nifty too. You can either play content from USB keys or hard drives plugged into one of its two USB ports. Alternatively you can stream content across a network using an Ethernet port. Playing media from a USB keys is a piece of cake and the file format support is very good; it dealt with everything we chucked at it including high-definition MKV files.
Network streaming is more problematic though. This is because LG has teamed up with the people who produce the Plex media server software for PCs and Macs. The reasoning behind this is sensible: Plex scans the media files held on your computer and then serves them out to your TV via a much more sophisticated-looking interface that includes stuff like movie poster art, lists of actors and plot summaries.
The Plex software seems to be still quite buggy and it took some faffing about to get the TV to communicate with our PC. More annoyingly, LG appears to have dropped support for standard DLNA servers, so if you've got a DNLA server built into a NAS drive, for example, this TV can't see it. It didn't work with our Iomega Home Media Network drive, for example, even though previous LG sets worked like a charm with this drive's onboard DNLA server. So unfortunately it's a case of one step forward, two steps back.
Design and connections
Sadly this TV lacks the Infinia single-sheet-of-glass design that LG uses on many of its high-end sets. Instead this model looks more like a traditional set with a slight step up between the edge of the screen and the bezel. It's still an attractive-looking TV thanks to its piano black finish and the transparent lip that frames the edge of the bezel.
It's skinny as a rake too, measuring just 30mm deep, so it'll look great in your room no matter whether you choose to wall mount it or have it perched on its stand. LG has even come up with a new look for this set's pedestal stand that's more angular and aggressive, and it's a design change that gets a thumbs-up from us.
Most 42-inch sets are going to be used in the main room rather than a secondary room like a bedroom or kitchen, so they need to come with a good selection of ports. Thankfully this model isn't found wanting in this department. On a panel at the side, LG has mounted four HDMI sockets, including one with an audio return channel so you can feed HDMI audio to an external amp.
As this model's chassis is so slim, the scart connection is made via a short adaptor cable. Other ports include a set of component inputs, a VGA connector and an optical digital audio out. For internet and digital media playback you get two USB ports and an Ethernet socket. Wi-fi is available via an optional dongle that plugs into one of the USB ports.
The 42LW650T is a surprise when it comes to audio. Usually, these super-slim LEDs suffer in the sound department because they use such small speakers. This model actually produces pretty decent audio quality. It does lack rumble in the bass department -- it's no match for Panasonic's recent sets in this regard -- but dialogue sits nicely in the audio mix and even music channels don't sound too bad.
Like most of LG's current models, this one includes the Clear Voice II system. This boosts the mid-range audio frequencies to help dialogue stand out from the rest of a TV show or movie's background audio. It actually does a pretty good job; we found that it was especially useful at night when we were watching the set with the sound turned down slightly.
3D picture quality
As with all of LG's other LED TVs, this one uses Passive 3D technology. There's something of a battle going on between active and passive sets; the truth is that both technologies have their strengths and weaknesses. We're gradually starting to think that LG's passive approach is the smarter option for those who want to share the 3D experience with others, especially as LG's sets have been getting stronger and stronger on the 3D picture front.
The main advantage of the passive approach is that because all the technology is in the display, the glasses are ridiculously cheap to buy in comparison to active spex. LG supplies seven pairs with this model and extra pairs only cost around £2 each. The glasses are very light and comfortable to wear, and they don't suffer from the flicker that you get on active sets when there's ambient light near the screen. As a result, they're less fatiguing on your eyes.
The other clear advantage of the passive system here is that there's very little image doubling -- or crosstalk as it's known -- visible on 3D images. Combined with the 42LW650T's very high brightness levels, this really helps add to the sense of depth that you get from its 3D pictures.
The weakness of the passive approach is that because it feeds every second line of the 3D image to each eye, the resolution isn't as high as the full-HD approach of active systems. From a normal viewing distance, 3D images on this TV still look fairly sharp and it's only really on diagonal edges or circular objects that you can see some jagged edges caused by the half-resolution approach.
The bottom line on the active versus passive front is that if you're looking for a 42-incher that can deliver engrossing 3D pictures without costing you a fortune in 3D glasses, then the passive 42LW650T is an excellent option.
2D picture quality
The 42LW650T is a more than competent performer when it comes to 2D pictures. The LED backlighting helps colours to almost jump out of the screen at you. They really do look fantastically vivid, without taking on an unnatural sheen. The back light dimming also helps the TV to achieve deep back levels that are more than comparable to those that you'll see from a top-grade plasma.
Standard definition channels on Freeview are also nicely upscaled, with the set adding in just the right levels of extra sharpness and managing to avoid making the images look smeary or noisy.
There are a couple of slight niggles: with the True Motion processing engaged, even at the lowest level, you can sometimes see flickering on the edges of moving objects in the frame, while turning it off completely shows up a slight motion blur; also, sometimes darker scenes can seem somewhat hollow, as the set isn't always the best at teasing out shadow detail. These are fairly minor complaints, as the overall picture quality is first rate.
It's difficult not to be impressed by the 42LW650T. It offers stunning 3D pictures and seven pairs of glasses means friends and family won't be left out in the cold when you want to enjoy the footy in 3D. Thankfully, the 2D performance is also top notch and it comes rocking excellent internet and media streaming features. In short, it's another cracking TV from LG.