If there were a competition to see how many high-end features you could cram into a budget 32-inch TV, surely LG would win with the 32LD490. Although it costs only £330 or so, the 32LD490 manages to squeeze in a 1080p panel, a Freeview HD tuner, support for Internet streaming services like BBC iPlayer, and a USB socket for digital-media playback. Is this LCD TV really the bargain it appears to be?
Not a total minger
LG's higher-end models are known for their stylish designs. Given its price, it's understandable that the 32LD490 can't quite compete with those models in the style stakes.
The TV's chassis is completely finished in glossy black, apart from a small silver LG logo on the front. As the set uses traditional CCFL backlighting rather than LEDs, it's relatively bulbous, measuring about 74mm deep. If you're not thinking of wall-mounting the 32LD490, this probably won't be a big deal, however. The chassis feels quite solid and well-built, and its lack of showy styling means it doesn't draw too much attention to itself when it's sitting inactive in the corner of a room.
The budget nature of the set also shows slightly when it comes to the range of connections on offer. Whereas most mid-range TVs now offer four HDMI ports, this one makes do with three instead. At least LG has sensibly side-mounted one of these for easy access. You still get a set of component inputs, along with a Scart socket and a VGA connector. More exciting is the presence of a USB port and an Ethernet socket.
The USB port can be used to play back photos, videos or music via memory sticks or hard drives. It supports a broad range of formats, including the popular MKV.
The Ethernet port can be used to stream media from a PC, but it also gives you access to LG's Netcast system. In the past, Netcast has proved quite poor, but LG has now upgraded it and added new services, like Facebook and Twitter, along with the Acetrax movie-rental service and BBC iPlayer. These services are all well-presented and easy to use. To get this level of functionality in a TV that costs less than £400 is a major bonus.
As with all of LG's current TVs, this set's menu system is hard to fault. It's beautifully presented, with large graphical icons and liberal use of colour. It also offers in-depth control over picture settings, and can be professionally calibrated by an Imaging Science Foundation engineer for about £200, although, given the low price of the TV, we doubt anyone will have this done.
LG has also managed to ram in a Freeview HD tuner. That means you'll find high-definition channels from the BBC, ITV and others nestled among the standard-definition channels in the set's attractive and easy-to-use electronic programme guide.
Perfectly passable pictures
Unlike budget rivals such as the Panasonic Viera TX-L32X20B, the 32LD490 boasts a 1080p panel, so it's able to show every pixel of detail in HD broadcasts and Blu-ray movies. Indeed, HD pictures look impressively sharp. Although some of the presets can overdo the colours, a spot of tweaking will produce warm and pleasing tones.
You have to expect some weaknesses in such a cheap set, though. For example, black levels aren't nearly as deep as they are on LG's higher-end models, so darker scenes in movies often have a slight greyish tinge to them. That said, this isn't overly distracting and it's an issue that's common to many budget sets. Also, the TV lacks 100Hz processing, so motion blur raises its ugly head occasionally, but, again, it's not a deal-breaker.
Otherwise, the set does a decent job. Standard-definition channels, for example, look very watchable. They neither look as soft or as noisy as they do on many of the 32LD490's rivals.
The 32LD490's audio is also surprisingly good. Its relatively fat chassis helps it to produce meatier bass than more expensive LED TVs, which helps to ensure that dialogue sounds strong and full-bodied.
The LG 32LD490 is difficult to fault. Its pictures may not be quite as slick as those produced by pricier sets, but they're still perfectly watchable. Add in the set's huge range of features and you've got something of a bargain on your hands.
Edited by Charles Kloet