The tit-for-tat screen tech war between the major TV vendors shows no sign of letting up. And with the unveiling by LG of the first two models in its NANO Full LED LEX8 range at the IFA show in Berlin, tensions between the TV superpowers seem certain to rise.
Given that both the 55-inch LEX8 and its 47-inch bro' are just 8.8mm thin, LG has taken large-screen thinema to an ever more eye-popping extreme. Prices aren't set yet, but it won't come cheap. We've recently spent some time with the extraordinary svelte 47-inch model and these are our first impressions.
Slimmest Full LED TV on the planet
If you're looking for a designer statement TV this LEX8 debutant ticks all the right boxes. Not only is it ridiculously thin, it's beautifully built and sports a bezel just 1.25cm wide. LG maintains this is the slimmest Full LED TV in the world, and we've no reason to argue. As an example of advanced engineering it borders on genius.
The key to its size is the development of new, smaller LEDs, deployed here in a full array. A thin film printed with minuscule dots sits in front of this to control light dispersion. Unlike the edge LED technique widely embraced elsewhere, this ensures even illumination from corner to corner without increasing the size of the set. It also creates an opportunity to dynamically dim for maximum contrast.
Unlike some other displays in the LG range, the LEX8 also has an anti-reflective screen that neutralises unwanted room reflections. This is a very welcome touch.
One consequence of the 47LEX8's Kate Moss silhouette is that the screen needs to be partnered with a separate media box. This has top-mounted, soft-touch controls and contains the tuner and connection farm, including an HDMI out to the screen.
NetCast to get a facelift
The feature spec is extensive. When it launches the screen will naturally offer access to LG's NetCast online portal. Currently, the company's online offerings fall a good way behind rival gateways from Sony and Samsung. LG's online walled garden is more like an untended window box. However, there is a chance that the company may soon power past the competition thanks to a deal it has struck with the coding mavericks at Plex.
Plex is a multimedia interface developed as an offshoot of XBMC, the open source, rich media platform that has a legion of fans on the internet. Plex creates a user interface replete with fan art and covers for music and movies alike. Currently it pulls metadata from IMDB and similar sources. When it migrates to LG's TVs 'sometime early next year' it will also be able to pull video services into the same environment.
We're keeping my fingers crossed that Plex makes it to the LEX8 – it would be a crying shame if it missed out. While the LEX8 is already fully DLNA compliant, the addition of Plex would be the icing on the cake.
Another nicety is the brand's Magic Motion zapper. This Wii-like remote pointer wins points for wacky simplicity.
Small LED bulbs mean huge dynamics
The LEX8 is also Active Shutter 3D compatible. Sequences from IMAX bikini beach blockbuster 'The Ultimate Wave Tahiti' were used to access the screen's 3D performance. This stunning short, shot on location with 3D cameras, includes a wealth of spectacular eye-popping sequences. The NANO LED set just ate it up. The diddy Infinia style frame is a great match for 3D content, as the material literally appears to be straining to escape the confines of the glass. The resulting sense of depth is exhilarating.
Colours pop, even wearing LG's 3D specs. And while the set's LEDs may be small, the screen dynamics are huge. Footage of high-speed skiing demonstrates crispy peak whites and great motion clarity.
We did note some issues with colour banding. Gradations tended to step rather blend. This is particularly noticeable across the gradating hues of a sunset. The demo images also had a slightly granular quality. Given the prototype nature of this early display, it's far too early to consider this a criticism. When the screens come to market we'll be able to take a closer look.
The NANO Full LED screens will debut in Korea in a few weeks, but don't expect to snap one up in the UK until after Christmas. Limited quantities may arrive before St Nick tumbles down your chimney, but this is, in reality, a 2011 launch.