LG 47LA860W review
An excellent television with passive 3D and many high-end features, but we wish it had more catch-up TV services
Review Date: 12 Sep 2013
Price when reviewed: £1,299
Reviewed By: Tom Morgan
For this review we tested the 47in model in the LA860W range, but it's also available in 60in (60LA860W), 55in (55LA860W) and 42in (42LA860W) screen sizes. All models have identical specifications except for their dimensions and power usage. We're confident that image quality will be practically identical across the range.
LG may already be looking to the future with its 4K TVs, such as the but that doesn't mean it has forgotten about Full HD. The LA860W is LG’s high-end TV for 2013, and the 47LA860W reviewed here is the 47in model. It has a comprehensive set of features and it looks gorgeous. Indeed, the 47LA860W has barely a few millimetres either side supporting the display panel. Plus, its stand’s brushed metal appearance made the screen look as if it were floating when the lights were dimmed in our labs. There are castors built into the stand to let you swivel the screen, but you can't tilt it.
There are plenty of ports at the back of the set, including four HDMI ports (which support MHL output), SCART, component and composite video, two USB ports and a faster USB3 port. It also has a digital optical audio output and a 3.5mm headphone jack, plus an Ethernet port and a Common Interface slot. Finally, Freeview HD and satellite TV tuners complete the selection, although Freesat isn't fully supported so you'll have to painstakingly tune the set in order to get these channels.
There's even a comprehensive selection of wireless connections. As well as built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi, the LA860W has Wi-Fi Direct, Miracast and Intel's WiDi wireless display technologies, plus DLNA compatibility. This means you can connect a compatible laptop to use the TV as an external display, stream video from a NAS or PC and connect a smartphone or tablet, even if you aren't in range of a wireless router. This has to be the best-connected TV in 2013.
Once connected, you can use the standard remote control or the Magic Wand remote control to navigate the pin-sharp user interface. The fonts look great and the icons have been rendered at Full HD resolution, giving it a sleek, modern feel compared to some of the competition. With the Magic Wand, you can control an onscreen pointer just as you would with a Wii remote, and this makes it far easier to browse web pages using the built-in web browser, or quickly choose something from a screen full of app icons.
Catch-up TV is currently limited to BBC iPlayer, but you get a wider choice of on-demand films from services such as Netflix, LoveFilm and Blinkbox. There are also dedicated Facebook and Twitter apps, a 3D portal containing trailers and short films, and an app store filled with games and smaller apps. You can also use Skype, as the TV has a built-in webcam that pops out from the top of the set.
The LA860W’s user interface feels much more responsive than last year's models, with almost no waiting time to open menus or load apps.
The LA860W copes very well with standard-definition broadcasts, thanks to some subtle noise reduction that removed compression artefacts without smoothing out what little detail is left in the image. Naturally, HD channels look sharper, with extra detail and much less compression noise.
Blu-ray footage looks even better when played on the LA860W thanks to some excellent black levels, but you must calibrate the TV first. Out of the box, scenes were too bright for our dark test room, with most blacks appearing grey instead. Using the ISF Night preset as a base, we lowered the brightness significantly and tweaked the contrast. Local backlight dimming was best left on the low setting to avoid any unwanted backlight clouding during partially lit scenes. Admittedly, we only noticed this during the fast-paced space battles of Star Trek.
The LA860W isn’t plasma quality and it can't quite match the full-array dimming systems of more expensive Sony sets, but the 860W is still among the best if you make the effort to calibrate it to your room. There’s an extensive range of image quality options, from the standard brightness, colour, contrast and sharpness sliders to 20-point white balance, gamma control and multiple noise reduction toggles.
3D AND AUDIO
The LA860W is a passive 3D TV. This means 3D glasses don’t cost much (roughly £3 per pair, should the six bundled pairs prove insufficient) and there's absolutely no screen flicker. Although you lose some resolution in comparison to active 3D sets, we thought the LA860W’s depth effects were convincing.
Despite the LA860W’s svelte dimensions, its speakers produced a surprising amount of bass. Speech always sounded clear, but we felt volume was lacking when the virtual surround mode was turned on. The speakers are fine for TV programmes, but we’d use a set of external speakers to listen to music and game soundtracks.
The 47in LA860W is reasonably priced for a flagship TV. It has just about every feature you could hope to find, lots of picture settings and fantastic image quality. Although you don't get the same comprehensive catch-up TV services as you do with Samsung TVs, and Panasonic's plasma sets still have the edge when it comes to rich black images, you certainly won't be disappointed with the 47LA860W. What really sets it apart is it use of passive 3D, which we prefer as its easier on the eyes and better for family viewing thanks to the cheap glasses. If this appeals to you then it's easily a rival for other top brands.
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