LCD TVs with LED backlights are many things, but cheap isn't usually one of them. We think, however, that the 42-inch, 1080p LG 42LE4900 represents pretty spectacular value for money, at around £600. This TV clearly isn't aimed at the very high-end market, but it offers a good selection of features for a really reasonable price. We can see it selling well too, because a 42-inch screen is a good size for most homes.
Basic but pleasant design
In terms of plugging stuff into this TV, the options are decent. There are four HDMI inputs, a couple of USB connectors and the usual component, composite and Scart sockets.
As you'd imagine, a slender, infrared remote is included, and we found it very pleasant to hold and use. The TV also responds quickly to commands, offering up lovely, user-friendly menus that look really modern, as befits such a hi-tech piece of kit.
The TV itself is super-slim and easy on the eye. It's not the most awesome TV we've seen in terms of design, but it looks smart and well judged, and will fit into any living room without a problem.
LG hasn't included catch-up TV services like iPlayer and LoveFilm on this TV, which somewhat limits its Internet functionality. The usual YouTube and Picasa support is, however, included. We aren't sure how useful these services are to most people, and we'd rather see premium video content instead, but it's possible that some folk will find these features entertaining.
To use the Internet services, you'll need to connect the TV to the Web using the wired Ethernet port at the back of the set. This TV has no wireless option.
Resistant to tuning in digital TV
When the TV was connected to the aerial via our PVR, it wouldn't tune in the digital channels. Plugging our aerial cable directly into the TV resolved this problem, and then plugging the PVR back in between the aerial and the telly caused no further problems.
We can't explain why this happened. Usually a TV would either have enough signal strength to tune in channels or not, but we've never seen a TV have enough signal to display channels, but refuse to tune them. If you encounter a problem tuning your TV, then connect it to the aerial without any extra devices in the way, and you should be okay.
Slim isn't always best
Like most thin LCD TVs, the 42LE4900 uses LEDs as its backlight source. These are placed along the sides of the LCD panel, and their light diffused across the panel's back.
Like all TVs that use this system, the 42LE4900 has some problems. The backlight is clearly brighter in the corners than in the middle of the screen. During most viewing, you won't notice this, but it's undesirable nevertheless. You might also notice that, if you move your head beyond the optimal viewing area, the image looks less natural. Again, this probably won't bother most people, but it's worth remembering.
Digital media playback
Like many TVs now, the 42LE4900 can accept USB devices containing video, photos and music. Codec support is very limited, though, and you won't be seeing any high-definition support for MPEG-4. That said, the DivX and MPEG-4 playback capability is useful enough from time to time. We used it to catch up on a TV show we'd stored as a standard-definition DVD rip, and it meant that we didn't need to faff about getting a DVD out of its box, firing up a player and sitting through all those copyright warnings.
This capability is probably only of interest to a minority, but it's sure to help someone out sooner or later, so we're pleased to see it included. There is, however, a problem with playback that means the TV is unable to stretch a file to fill the entire screen. This is only a minor problem but, as none of the TV aspect-ratio settings work in media-playback mode, you can't fix it.
For the most part, the 42LE4900's picture quality is super. Hi-def pictures look terrific and the image is wonderfully vivid and colourful. Detail is good not only with HD material, but also with SD content from Freeview or external sources.
The built-in Freeview HD tuner is also a great feature. The picture can be superb, but its quality is dependent on the broadcaster's signal. Check out shows like Luther or Sherlock to see HD at its best, and watch an episode of Doctors to witness high definition at its most mediocre.
The backlight isn't perfect, but we find that edge-mounted LEDs rarely are. Sit dead-on and you'll get the best picture. From an angle, you're more likely to see a blue tint to the image. If you're looking for the deepest blacks and most uniform backlight, you're not going to get them with the 42LE4900, but we don't want to put you off, because the picture for day-to-day viewing is great.
We noticed that, with some material, the 42LE4900 got its picture processing wrong. Watching the end of Deal or No Deal, we experienced a juddery, almost film-like effect when the 'coming next' bar appeared at the bottom of the screen. This happened each time the bar appeared -- over multiple airings -- so it's fair to assume that something about it is making the TV struggle. It's far from a deal-breaker, but it does prove that LG's picture processing isn't flawless.
The 42LE4900's audio is strange. It's quite clear, and we could make out dialogue easily, but it still didn't sound as we thought it should. There's a hollow effect with some TV shows, and the low-end response isn't up to much either.
But televisions' sound is rarely worth celebrating, and we'd happily live with the 42LE4900's audio when it comes to normal, broadcast TV. For movies and sports, we'd use an external AV system to deliver a proper audio experience.
The LG 42LE4900 is a good TV. We have a few minor complaints but nothing that would stop us recommending it. We also think the price is more than fair for a Freeview HD TV of this size, with such likeable image quality.
Edited by Charles Kloet