The 47-inch 47LM960V is LG's top-of-the-range TV -- at least until it gets its OLED EM960V models out the door later in the year.
Priced at around £2,200, it'll make a serious dent in your bank balance, but it majors on heavy-hitting features including direct rather than edge backlighting, passive 3D support and more network services than National Rail. But does it justify the price?
User interface and EPG
LG has rejigged the user interface since last year's TVs, adding extra graphical fireworks while also changing the layout of the home screen. These graphic niceties are welcome and they really do help to set this TV apart from the competition. There are plenty of likeable touches including a cool 3D panning effect used on the home screen when you switch between windows.
I have to say though that I didn't find the new home screen layout all that intuitive. It looks a little messy to begin with as it bombards you with an awful lot of information in one go. But as soon as you've worked out the slightly kooky logic behind the layout, you soon get used to it. From then on in it's quite quick to navigate.
The new home screen is split into sections. Across the top are four separate window panes for premium apps, videos from the LG 3D online streaming service, apps from the LG Smart World app store, and finally, content you're sharing from your PC to the TV via Smart Share.
Beneath this is a shortcut banner that's labelled as 'My Apps'. It includes not just shortcuts to selected apps, but also icons for the settings menu, input list, electronic programme guide (EPG) and the set's user guide.
Part of the confusion arises because you can access some features in multiple ways. For example, you can stream your own videos to the TV via the video icon in this bar, by selecting them from the Smart Share window at the top of the screen, or by choosing the DLNA server name from the input list menu (DLNA servers are listed as inputs, just like Scart sockets and HDMI ports). It's clever, but none of this is particularly well explained in the manual, so instead you're left to work it out for yourself.
What I do like though is the Picture Wizard II guide that can be found in the settings menu. It helps you set up the TV to get the best picture quality, is very easy to follow and produces good results, unlike similar set-up wizards on other TVs I've used.
This model's EPG is hit and miss though. The layout is clean and welcoming, and it's easy to set up favourite channel lists. However, when you call it up, it completely blanks out all video and audio from the channel you're watching. It doesn't overlay on top of the video feed or have a video thumbnail window like the best EPGs do.
Like all of LG's higher-end TVs that will be released this year, it comes with two remotes. The first is a standard zapper, similar to the remote that LG has been using on pretty much all its tellies over the last two years. It's long and thin, but the layout is good and the buttons are firm and responsive.
The second remote is a wand-style controller. It's similar to the Wii remote. When you move it about it controls an onscreen cursor. Initially it feels odd to use as it's a little like controlling a TV with a mouse. Once you've grown accustomed to it the motion controller is a lot faster to use for stuff like selecting apps or inputting text. You can simply point it at the item you want to select, rather than click across multiple rows of apps or letters, as you would with a standard remote.
Digital media and Internet features
As you may have noted from my description of this TV's new home screen, LG has actually split out its Smart TV apps into two categories. In the premium apps menu you'll find the big hitters such as BBC iPlayer, Acetrax, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. On my review model, Netflix and Lovefilm apps weren't available, but LG says that these will be added before the end of the month.
Other content has been shuffled off to the LG Smart World section. Here you'll find a mix of games, news and entertainment services. Across these two hubs, the line-up of apps available is pretty impressive, putting LG broadly on a par with Samsung as leaders in the smart TV pack.
This model has a full web browser. Unlike the browsers on most TVs, this one supports Adobe Flash, so you can use it to watch the video reviews on CNET UK, for example. Annoyingly, there doesn't seem to be a way to make Flash videos play in full screen though.
The TV's handling of digital media is top notch. It has personal video recorder features, so if you plug a USB drive into one of the ports, you can record TV shows or schedule recordings via the EPG.
Last year LG forced people into using the buggy Plex software if they wanted to stream content to its premium tellies. This year you get the choice of Plex or any DLNA server. It means you can use the TV to stream videos, music and photos from NAS drives, so you don't always have to have your PC switched on to serve media to the telly.
File format support is very good. It worked fine with DivX, Xvid and MKV files, including high-definition files, and it also down-mixes surround sound audio to stereo for output via the TV's speakers.
Design and connections
This TV's design is a corker, largely due to its almost non-existent bezel. The 42LM660T has a similar look, but the screen starts about a centimetre in from the silver band that runs around the outer edge on it. On this model, the screen runs right up to this band, so the bezel is a mere 4mm wide. The stand is very attractive too -- its design makes the TV look like it's floating on air when viewed from the front.
As befits a high-end set, the 47LM960V isn't found wanting with connections. On the back you'll find both an RF input along with an F-connector for hooking up a dish, as this model has both a Freeview HD tuner and a high-definition satellite tuner. Sadly, the latter isn't a Freesat HD tuner but a generic HD satellite tuner.
After a channel scan it simply grabs every available channel, leaving you with a jumbled mix of English and foreign language services. Also the EPG doesn't populate on UK channels such as BBC and ITV. Nevertheless, if you want to use it with a foreign pay TV service in conjunction with the TV's CAM slot, it might be of interest.
This model comes with four HDMI ports, which are all side-mounted, as well as component inputs, a VGA port, composite input and three USB ports. Thankfully, like a lot of the 2012 TVs from other manufacturers, this one has built-in Wi-Fi, so you don't have to mess around with cables to get the smart TV and media streaming features up and running. However, if you do have a wired point near where your TV sits, there is an Ethernet port that can be used instead.
The audio quality of today's LED screens varies enormously, but most of them have a tendency to sound thin and brittle because their small speakers simply don't have the oomph to kick out much bass. Some of LG's older TVs were guilty of this, but like the 42LM660T I looked at recently, the 47LM960V has very good audio, considering the slimness of its chassis.
This is partly due to a small subwoofer integrated into the rear of the TV that helps it out enormously with low frequency effects in action movies. It also works a treat for adding a meatier bottom-end for music. The set has a good breadth in the mid-range and crisp treble response, which helps it to deliver solid dialogue that's tightly anchored to the centre of the soundstage.
If you like your dialogue pushed even further to the front of the soundstage, the Clear Voice II effect does an excellent job of making voices sound much louder than the rest of the audio mix. This can be useful if you're watching the TV with the volume turned down low late at night.
2D picture quality
The 47LM960V uses direct LED backlighting or Nano Full LED, as LG likes to call it. This differs from the usual edge backlighting in that a grid of LED lights are positioned behind the display so they can be individually dimmed to deepen the TV's black levels.
When one of these dimming zones is showing a darker part of the image, the backlights in that section are turned down to increase the black level. Meanwhile, in brighter areas of the image, the backlight can be raised to increase the intensity of whiter areas of the picture. This set has a total of 24 dimming zones, which isn't all that many compared with some other local dimming sets I've seen.
LG has done a pretty good job of masking this, as the TV doesn't suffer anywhere near as much from problems of haloing and blooming as its previous direct LED displays. These flaws used to happen when there was a bright object shown against a dark background. Light seemed to bleed into the dark area of the picture, creating a halo around the brighter object. The improvements in this area are partly a result of LG being much more conservative with the amount that it dims and brightens the various zones. Even with the dimming mode set to high, the effect is quite subtle.
Nevertheless, the dimming does help deliver deep black levels, especially once you've adjusted the backlight setting down a tad from the default setting. In fact, unlike some of LG's previous premium models, this set does a good job of delivering more graduations when displaying images with lots of darker shadow detail. This in turn helps its pictures to look far richer and deeper.
Colours are strong too, especially on HD material where this set really impresses with its beautifully warm and realistic hues. It's certainly not lacking in brightness either -- an area where it really scores over strong plasma displays such as Panasonic's TX-P42ST50B, which is inherently less bright.
Detailing is pin-sharp too. Thanks to the speed of the panel and the set's excellent motion processing, there's very little blur or judder visible. But you do need to turn the motion processing off when watching movies, otherwise the set makes them look too artificially smooth, even on the less aggressive settings.
There are a couple of other slight weaknesses. Colour and contrast performance isn't quite as good on standard-definition feeds as it is on HD video sources. Also it doesn't upscale standard-definition TV channels as well as some competitors, so normal TV fare can look a little soft.
3D picture quality
As with all of LG's LED screens, this model uses passive 3D technology. There is a reduction in resolution on passive 3D displays, as only every second line of the display is delivered to each eye. However, there are a number of benefits too. The glasses are super-cheap, they're light and comfortable to wear and they don't flicker. LG includes five pairs of passive specs in the box, so enough for a normal-sized family or a group of mates to watch a 3D movie together.
While you can see the line structure if you sit close to the TV due to the passive 3D filter, from a normal viewing distance it's much more difficult to make it out and images retain a lot of sharpness. You can only really see some contouring on spherical objects -- even then it isn't all that distracting. The 3D images are also brighter and punchier than those you get with a lot of active screens, as the passive glasses don't dim the image as much.
Overall, I've got to say I was highly impressed with this model's 3D performance and I think the cheap glasses will be a major draw for families who want to be able to watch 3D movies together without shelling out a small fortune for active eyewear.
Included in the box you'll also find two pairs of dual play glasses. These use the TV's 3D polarisation filter to turn spilt-screen games into two independent full-screen images for each player, which is cool. It works very well indeed, but the resolution drop you get with the passive system is a tad more noticeable using this feature.
The LG 47LM960V is a seriously attractive TV on a whole host of levels. Yes, it looks absolutely gorgeous due to its near-invisible bezel, but it also produces excellent pictures with both 2D and 3D content. It even manages to put a good show in on the sonic front. The smart TV and media streaming features are also excellent. The only real stumbling block is the sky-high price tag.