May 29 2007





This would be the first Plasma TV I'm reviewing so don't take my words as a definitive review. I wouldn't consider myself a pro or a novice. My standards are probably stricter than most people when it comes to expectations of how a TV should perform. This TV is a loan from a friend for the sole purpose of writing this review. So let's get started.

The LG 50PC5D is a fifty inch Plasma TV for 2007. It's a 720p display. Here are it's main specs:

Why would someone elect to buy a Plasma as opposed to an LCD some of you may ask. The simple answer is that Plasmas are known to produce darker blacks than LCDs resulting in a much richer picture quality. LCDs on the other hand are prone to light bleeds which produces grayish blacks as a result. Reaching true black is important to many especially to those with theater-like environments or simply watching in a darkened environment. This LG passed with flying colors. Of course if your viewing environment tends to be lit up like during the day then, achieving true black may not be as promising. Ambient light will grey-out the blacks to some degree no matter how good the Plasma TV is. After all, the Plasma screen itself is grey to begin with when powered-off.

This Plasma has what LG calls CLEAR FILTER PRO applied to the screen. It's suppose to minimize glare in bright environments and improve color reproduction. It didn't help me any in my bright living room space.

Plasmas also have greater viewing angles. Nothing annoys me more than having to stay directly centered with the TV in order to get the best picture quality. LCDs have a tendency to shift color when viewed off center. They are improving on this and some LCD TVs I've seen perform better than others in this regard, but definitely not quite on par with Plasmas.

I've had the 50PC5D set for a few days now and have collected its strengths and weaknesses. To test its HD performance I connected the Cox cable directly to the set. The tuner is QAM capable so it can decode any HD through cable. Fortunately, Cox didn't block the HD channels and I was able to get the network channels(CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, etl.). Overall, HD performance was good. Details were definitely there and sharp. I flipped back and forth between HD and SD and the difference is remarkable. Although, SD performance is pathetically poor to start with as I'll discuss later on.

Watching primetime HD both in 720p and 1080i was great. I found myself staring at the details on the clothing or the hairs of people rather than the show itself at times. I suppose that's to be expected until I become jaded by all this HD goodness. Certain HD shows did show a little bit of color banding. Others may call it posterization or false contouring. LG claims their Extreme Contour Compensation technology minimizes color contour noise for natural color transitions. Evidently it's not perfect in HD and definitely not working in SD if you ask me. To be fair, some of the HD content did look like they were in SD and up-sampled to HD or simply had high compression applied to them. Considering how some HD shows were better than others makes me believe the TV station or Cox is at fault here.

LG's Plasma uses a 10 Bit Color Processor to produce billions of colors. I would have thought that's plenty of colors to eliminate the color banding I experienced. If I remember correctly from a few years ago regarding LCD monitors, tech gurus were saying 8 Bit panels were the best and 16.7 million colors is more than enough for what the human eye can resolve. Apparently, 10 Bits is not enough with Plasmas. Samsung uses 18 Bits on their flagship displays. Pioneer uses only 10 Bits and many regard their Plasmas to be very good. So who knows.

Dot-crawl was present despite having a 3D Comb Filter. Dot-crawl are those moving checker patterns near high-contrast borders. They look like dots moving along borders.

As I alluded to earlier, SD performance was horrible. Many have complained, regardless of brand, how their Plasma TV is great in HD but lackluster in SD. I can now attest to that. A regular SD TV performs better than this LG Plasma when it comes to SD video. The picture quality was fuzzy and with color banding. It was like the picture was an oil painting. May be not that severe, but definitely not what I expected. I've seen what a good SD tuner can produce and LG failed on this one.

Compression artifacts were easily evident. I preferred regular TV when viewing SD video. It could be the fact that the low resolution of regular TVs can hide some of the compression artifacts and other oddities of SD video. It's a shame how an overpriced HDTV set can be crippled with old technology.

If you frequent online forums dedicated to HDTVs you'll soon come across a topic that stands above the rest. The one thing many are afraid of when going with a Plasma TV is the dreaded burn-in or image retention susceptibility of Plasma screens. What it is is the tendency of Plasma screens to retain an image of what was displayed on-screen even after the TV has been turned off. Manufacturers discourage consumers from displaying still images on their Plasmas for long periods of time in order to minimize image retention. They also discourage viewing 4:3 videos with black borders for long periods of time. Many sets even employ some anti burn-in mechanisms that is suppose to minimize the problem. Some people recommend turning down Contrast and Brightness for the first couple hundred hours you watch TV for proper conditioning. I find that to be ridiculous.

I, myself didn't believe this was such a problem as many people make it out to be. I've had plenty of CRT monitors and TVs for years and none of them suffered from image retention. Since Plasmas use the same phosphor technology as CRTs I didn't expect them to be any more or less susceptible to it.

Sure enough, I too have witnessed image retention. It isn't as bad as I thought. As simple as viewing the TV menu for a few seconds was enough to leave a ghostly image of the menu. The image retention is grayish in color, blurry and only visible in a blackened background. Under normal TV viewing the image retention I saw was practically invisible. Keep in mind depending on the length a still image stays on the screen the retention length will vary. My friend watches MSNBC all day and their logo is still visible days after.

It's the nature of the beast. With that said, this set does have three options to counter the effects of image retention. It's under the ISM(Image Sticking Minimization) menu. Orbiter moves the image around I suspect. Inverter inverts the video so it looks like a negative. Then there's the White Wash that simply floods the screen white. Ultimately, their objective is to even-out the phosphors so they age evenly. When one part of the screen is always lit up that section of the screen will age the phosphors more than the other part of the screen where it's always dark.

Plasmas do get warmer than regular TVs. This LG uses a fan(s) to cool itself. It's a two speed automatic according to the specs and no user configurable settings are available in the menu. The fan is not visible but I can hear it from the back. It's not loud and inaudible from normal viewing distance. The glass itself emanates some heat.

The remote control is simplistic and has all the buttons you would expect with the addition of quick menu access buttons hidden under a sliding cover. Component selection buttons light up when pressed. It's nothing fancy. Channel flipping is slow with a one second delay.

Build quality of the LG 50PC5D is good. My set came with one dead pixel but indecipherable a couple of feet away. It's a good looking TV with a glossy black bezel. It weighs a hefty 86.6 lbs. The stand is wide and seems sturdy enough to support all the weight. It does support VESA compatible wall mounts. I tremble to think this thing hanging on my wall.

Overall, HD picture quality was good and SD picture quality was poor. Having not owned any other Plasma TV it's hard to judge how worst or better this TV is from other models or manufacturer. The Samsung HP-T5054 and HP-T5064 is something to consider if you're looking for something in this price range. I wish I have them for comparison.