LG LM5800 3DTV
Normally I don’t like reviewing so called “big ticket” items but in this case I’m going to make an exception because this specific television deserves a review to put all other reviews in their place.
To Smart or not to Smart TV?
I’ve read left right and center about the LG LM5800 (55LM5800 in this case as I’ll be reviewing the 55″ version) and most reviews are skewed towards the negative. From the reviewer complaining that the glasses are flimsy, to the reviewer complaining that the TV isn’t truly 120hz (it’s not, but that’s not the point) and that it just interleaves two 60 hz images, and then there’s the peep that complains it has a lack of Wi-Fi support (boo -whoo…) and isn’t a Smart TV and that all televisions in 2012 should be Smart TV enabled with Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Vimeo and their respective moms.
I for one, actually have a HUGE problem with Smart TVs which also affects many streaming set-top boxes that are “Smart” enabled. Boxes, like punningly named D-Link’s Boxee-Box, Asus’s infamous (and boring) oPlay series and other such devices: All of them with the possible exception of the cripplingly locked down Apple TV suffer from a blatant and horrible lack of firmware updates with the frustrating result of rendering them completely useless within about a year or so.
Case and point the Boxee-Box, which I triumphantly reviewed here not so long ago but that has been relegated to the craigslist files because Netflix was hit and miss at best, most of the “channels” weren’t working anymore as the sites they were hosted on either moved to HTML5, migrated to a “more recent” version of the ever-morphing (but exponentially nakeder and nakeder) Adobe Flash Player or simply changed their URLs.
All of that and still no firmware/software updates from D-Link causing great ire to a lot of Boxee forum users.
My solution was to take a bunch of old PC parts I had lying around, a Core2Duo E8400 CPU, an ASUS mATX motherboard, an nVidia 470GTX video card, an ASUS Xonar sound card with SPDIF out and an old 500W PSU from Antec. Stuff all these parts in a Cooler Master 343 mATX case, and make myself an HTPC.
Then for good measure add a 45$ Visiontek Candyboard (w/touchpad in lieu of a mousey thingy…) backlit mini-keyboard and a Logitech F710 wireless gamepad, install XBMC, Steam and of course Google Chrome and voila’: A perfectly updatable mini-HTPC that is small enough to be tucked between the couch and the wall, but powerful enough to run all the aforementioned software, Netflix and probably more!
Back to the TV then. The LG 55LM5800 is a fine television and frankly, had it cost 2000$ like the recommended street price from LG is, I wouldn’t have taken a second look at it.
The TV still is 1080p and features the passive LG Cinema 3D system, passive of course means cheap glasses, a pack of 5 costs about 30$ in a retail store but cheaper packages can be had online.
It lacks 240hz, has no Smart TV capabilities and the only network interface on it (an Ethernet plug) is used for DLNA certified local streaming and for the eventual firmware updates.
It has 3 HDMI connectors, one component, the usual RF (coax), analog RGB, and a USB input. Also on the back panel is an optical SPDIF output. It has 200×200 VESA mounts for the obvious reasons (one does not leave a thin/flat TV screen on furniture, one mounts it to a wall) and has an edge lit LED backlit 55″ screen. It’s very thin and quite light. In my case it was lighter than the aging 42″ JVC Genessa it replaced and I had to MacGuyver the VESA backplate in order to make it fit which was easily, elegantly, and mostly solidly done with metal extensions. The mount has no problems holding up a larger, but lighter television.
The Shopping process
My shopping went as follows, I began by looking at my budget which I wanted to keep sub-1500$, then I looked online and finally once I narrowed it down to 3-4 televisions I went to a store that had all of them in stock in order to compare them side by side.
I picked Sears.
To be brutally honest, I hadn’t planned to purchase a 3D television mostly because all of the 46″+ sized ones I was looking at were about 500$ over-budget.
I looked at the Sony 50 KDL-50EX645, the Toshiba 50L5200U and finally the highly-rated Samsung 6000 series, all of which are web-enabled or so called “Smart TVs.”
Admittedly all three looked fantastic at the store, but so did the LG 55LM5800. The Sony had a weird shape because Sony have fitted the speakers downwards at the bottom of the bezel but it still would have been my second choice behind the Samsung had the 3D not tipped the scales in the LG’s favor.
I procrastinated a little, checked online reviews on my
smart super phone and as aforementioned in the first paragraphs of this review I was a little disappointed in them, but the evidence was there in front of me. 3D wasn’t all that important to me but I still looked at the rest, size vs picture quality when compared to the other three.
Sure, the Samsung’s picture seemed slightly better but only marginally noticeable, and then again only because it was right next to the LG. In fact had someone blocked out the brands and conducted some kind of blind test (which would have been odd considering these are TVs…) I’d have been hard pressed to tell the difference. The Sony seemed to have better whites and slightly better sound, it also has Wi-Fi but again, as I mentioned earlier in the review network connectivity wasn’t important for me because: HTPC…
Finally, I looked at the price: All three TVs were similarly priced at 1200$ for 50″, the LG was the same price but here I had a 55″ 3D TV, looking at me with sad puppy eyes: “Pick me… pick me…” it said from its shelf.
How could I say no?
I didn’t regret it. I’ve only had the television for a week and to be honest it’s not without its quirks. For instance, the television does all the heavy lifting when displaying 3D which is great, but getting there is a bit of a pain.
I acquired a couple of BluRay movies and documentaries, all of which are encoded in the SBS (side by side) format. Once you start the movie with XBMC the television displays the images side by side so you have to press the obvious 3D button on the remote, then select which version of 3D it needs to be decoding and then OK, then, for good measure LG force you to press another, fourth button to confirm this is what you really, really, REALLY want.
That’s more key-presses than to confirm a destructive Microsoft Windows update. I suspect that at first someone at LG thought of putting two locks which required two separate keys to be turned simultaneously on two separate remotes located at two different geographical locations, but decided against it because of the GPS tagging/tracking implications…
Resuming normal 2D mode is even more tedious (and perplexing) because you cannot simply press 3D to toggle it to the “off” setting no, you must press 3D, enter the 3D display setting and select 2D.
That’s like having to enter your new car’s maintenance mode to select the PARK position on the automatic transmission.
And you’d think (expect really) that after having done it once, the television would remember this setting and simply allow you to hit that 3D button and switch to SBS 3D mode and You’d be wrong.
Each time you must go through the same pain, I know it sounds petty but if you’re going through the trouble of making a separate 3D button, complete with a separate 3D setting on a TV, why not make it easy to use?
All in all the picture quality is great, the screen is matte enough that it doesn’t reflect your naked image as you watch Pokemon “al-fresco” sitting on your leather couch, but reflective enough to enhance the contrast. The viewing angle is almost 180°, frankly there is an infinitesimal difference in hue when you move to the side but again it’s hardly noticeable.
The 3D quality on the movies and documentaries varied from good (The Planets Imax), to spectacular (Avatar 3D) although Avatar 3D had the same effect on me as it did at the movies in 2009: A headache. Rio 3D had no such effect so I blame the extra depth James Cameron built into his movie couple with the two and a half hours of intense 3D. Overall the Avatar 3D experience was similar to the movies with the obvious differences that even a 55″ screen is much smaller than a movie theater, that there is no giant head blocking half your view (hence the term, blockhead) and that the sound is slightly better.
It has a feature that can take any HD 2D broadcast like a non-3D bluray or a sportscast and turn it into 3D, this feature is hit or miss as I’ve found it doesn’t always actually work. It’s nice to have but it’ll have to be tested to figure out what the actual requirements for the initial broadcast are. I can already tell you it does not work with streamed Divx files, Netflix or YouTube.
All that for 1200$ you’ll say?
Yes, well… er… Did I mention the television was 700$ off when I purchased it? It’s now back to it’s full price of 2000$, at which I wouldn’t have given it a second look.
*also available in 42″ at BestBuy