LED illumination and built-in multimedia functionality are very much the TV technologies of the moment. LG's 42-inch, 1080p 42LE7900 LCD TV with LED edge lights happens to support both, all wrapped up in a delightfully designed, ultra-slender body. This £1,100 TV even packs a built-in Freeview HD tuner. What's not to like?
Raw shelf appeal
The use of LED edge lights helps the 42LE7900 to achieve a thickness of only 34mm. LG has capitalised on the slim design with a sleek, one-layer fascia, and subtle but effective sculpting. The end result is a very handsome telly.
The 42LE7900 offers a good array of connections. Alongside its four HDMI ports, it's got Bluetooth mobile phone and headphone support, and two USB sockets, for playing back JPEG, MP3 and video files, including DivX HD footage. You can also take advantage of its Wi-Fi connectivity via an optional dongle.
Then there's the Ethernet port, which allows you to stream files from a DLNA PC, or go online via LG's Netcast platform. Sadly, Netcast is severely lacking in content compared to the best online TVs on the market. At the time of writing, only YouTube, Picasa and a basic weather app were accessible -- and YouTube and Picasa both routinely crashed during our testing. Still, Skype is coming soon, and hopefully further features will be added in the near future.
Lighting on the edge
The 42LE7900 offers a new spin on the LED-edge-lighting approach: local dimming. This works by allowing blocks of the lights around the TV's edge to be controlled individually, with 12 blocks supported on the 42LE7900. Thanks to this feature, it should be possible to enjoy very dynamic images, with higher-than-usual contrast.
The TV offers 100Hz processing, with other key features including a very good colour-management system, MPEG and standard noise-reduction options, and a well-calibrated gamma adjustment.
The 42LE7900 is another TV on the rapidly growing list of models endorsed by the independent Imaging Science Foundation. For a fee of around £200, you can get an ISF engineer to calibrate the TV's picture settings to perfection. If you don't want to pay that much, there's also a 'picture wizard' that will guide you through calibrating the TV yourself, using a selection of built-in test signals.
All images bright and beautiful?
The 42LE7900's pictures make a promising first impression. LG's usual rich and dynamic colours are driven by startlingly intense brightness for an LED-edge-lit TV. Colours look credible despite their vibrancy, and there's little striping in colour blends.
The set also excels with high-definition material, reproducing all the fine detail effortlessly. The on-board 100Hz system helps in this respect too, since it helps keep motion looking crisp and smear-free.
Video noise is well contained, even when watching standard-definition material that's been upscaled to the screen's 1080p resolution. Finally in the plus column, dark scenes contain a decent amount of shadow detail, appearing less hollow than they do on many LCD TVs.
Now, though, for the problems -- most of which centre around the 42LE7900's black levels. Firstly, dark scenes suffer from gentle grey clouding. There's also some inconsistency in the backlight, and contrast, as well as colour, diminishes sharply if you watch the TV from much of an angle.
The local-dimming system is actually something of a dud too, since, if it's active, it causes some quite obvious areas of backlight inconsistency whenever a predominantly dark scene has bright parts within it. The screen also tends to reflect ambient light.
The 42LE7900's sound is nothing to write home about, either. The speakers just about hold up with typical TV fare, but a lack of bass response leaves more dynamic soundtracks sounding one-dimensional and harsh.
There are times when the LG 42LE7900's pictures really impress, and it's certainly a good-looking telly. But the longer you live with the set, the more you'll notice its flaws, especially if you're into watching films.
Edited by Charles Kloet