Packing a standard Freeview tuner, the LG 42LH3000 can be picked up online for around £500, which makes it one of the cheapest 42-inch, 1080p LCD TVs available from a big-name manufacturer. LG will have had to make some compromises to offer the set at such a low asking price, but has it managed to avoid aversely affecting the picture quality?
Beauty on a budget
One thing's for sure -- the 42LH3000 doesn't betray its budget origins when it comes to its design. The shiny black finish looks very classy and is pleasantly complemented by a silver line that runs across the bottom of the screen. This line is only interrupted by a large power light that glows subtly when you switch the set on and off.
To set the TV up with your array of AV kit, you'll need to dive around the back where most of the connections are located. Unfortunately, what's on offer is rather disappointing. Although the 42LH3000 has two Scart sockets, a PC input and component connections, there are only two HDMI ports on the rear, with another mounted on the side for easy access. Most of the TVs we've had in recently sport four HDMI ports, so the 42LH3000 is behind the pack in this regard.
The set's menu system is a pleasant surprise, however, as its makes liberal use of large, colourful icons, and has a logical layout that makes it easy to find your way around. Once you've tuned the Freeview channels, you'll also find that the electronic programme guide is quite colourful and speedily navigated. Channel changes don't take too long either, but we were slightly annoyed that LG has placed the 'guide' and 'info' buttons at the bottom of the remote, since you have to shift the remote in your hand to reach them.
The 42LH3000 has a standard Freeview tuner so, if you want to access high-definition channels, you'll need to invest in an external set-top box. It'll be worth the investment, however, as the 42LH3000 really excels when it's working with high-definition signals. The sharpness of pictures from BBC HD, fed via a Sky HD box, was very impressive and, although the TV's black levels are some way off the best we've seen, they're still better than you might expect at this price level.
Initially, colour accuracy was disappointing, but this turned out to be the fault of the TV's overly aggressive picture presets. Once we'd used the set's 'picture wizard', which includes handy calibration test cards, the 42LH3000 actually proved very capable at producing rich and natural colour tones.
The TV isn't as impressive when working with standard-definition pictures, however. Even with the less heavily compressed BBC channels on Freeview, pictures can sometimes look rather noisy, and the set's XD picture engine isn't as good at sharpening up standard-definition material as the likes of the Sony Bravia KDL-40V5810. The result is that broadcasts sometimes look rather on the soft side.
For a flat-screen TV, the 42LH3000's speakers produce surprisingly full-bodied sound, with more kick in the bass frequencies than you'd expect. This means the set can make a convincing stab at rendering the sound of explosions and car crashes in action movies. We also liked the Clear Voice 2 feature, which boosts dialogue over background sounds, so it's easier to hear.
The LG 42LH3000's failings are most obvious when it's displaying standard-definition material, such as channels on Freeview. But its standard-definition performance isn't exactly bad, especially considering the set's low price tag, and we also think its impressive audio quality and the crispness of its HD output go a long way towards making up for this issue.
Edited by Charles Kloet