60-Inch Plasma TV – LG 60PK950 – Review

Introduction

Just before a major sporting event is a great time to buy a new large screen high-definition plasma TV. The LG 60PK950 60″ TV arrived at my door for the 2010 World Cup. I needed to replace a Phillips 60″ TV which arrived for the 2006 World Cup. The LG is my second HDTV but first plasma HDTV. I had not seen it in the store; I’d just seen the advertising and read some reviews. The best price I found was at the Sears online store. I am writing this review as an owner who has used it every day for a few months. It’s a fairly long review because it’s a fairly expensive TV. Buyers may benefit from reading as much as possible to make an informed decision.

First Impression

My first thought after turning on the TV: “Wow, people look so lifelike – like they are in my living room!”

Size

It’s called a 60″ television, but that refers to the diagonal length. The actual size is about 55″ x 34.” The “frame” or trim all around the TV is black. It is not equally wide all the way round; it’s about 1.5″ on the sides and top but about 3″ at the bottom.

Depth

It is extremely thin at only about 3″ deep. That’s pretty impressive for a TV this large. It was a huge improvement from my 60″ Phillips which is about 2′ deep! It is therefore perfect for mounting on a wall, but the wall mount kit does not come with the TV. There is a set of sockets on the side as well as the back so you can neatly mount it and discretely hide wires.

Weight

Although the LG 60″ is very thin, it is very heavy. It really needs two people to move it. Two delivery men set it up for me quickly when it arrived. The large plasma screen is completely protected by a sheet of glass about 1/8″ thick. I first put the TV on a table but after only a few days there was a permanent dip in the middle because it’s so heavy.

Viewing Angles

Instead of permanently mounting it on a wall, I decided to use the stand that came with it. I wanted the option to adjust the angle to view the TV squarely from two different positions in my living room: straight in front (from an armchair) and off to one side (from a couch). The range of movement for the stand is limited to about 30 degrees but that was good enough for me. As you would expect with a plasma, the LG looks good from any angle. This makes it ideal for a large viewing audience in a bar or at home. It was a big upgrade from my Phillips when looking at it from the side, because the brightness and contrast remain the same instead of dropping much lower.

Glare

LG thinks its Protective Skin Glass (TM) is a big deal judging by how big those words are on the cardboard box in which it is packed. The surface is very shiny like glass so there’s a lot of glare and reflection if you watch the TV during the day. The payoff presumably is you don’t have to worry about damaging the plasma because it is always behind thick glass like a rare artifact in a museum. But you could buy good curtains to reduce the glare.

Contrast

LG makes a few different 60″ TVs with the difference being contrast. I got this one because it offers more contrast. It costs more but not a lot more. I considered the contrast ratio of 3,000,000:1 but decided to get the 5,000,000:1. However, now I’m not sure if I’ve really seen the benefit of the extra contrast. It may only be noticeable for certain movies or programs.

Color

The saturation of the color is beautiful. I immediately noticed the richness of the reds beyond anything I’d ever previously seen on a television. I didn’t notice any color problems nor any tonal defects. Nothing was too dark, too light, or lacking sufficient contrast.

Custom Color

You can change the color temperature quite easily from the Picture wizard. You move the sliders from 0 to 100. But there aren’t the amount of custom color controls for the level of precision you might expect for a high-end plasma TV.

Picture

There is a huge difference in screen quality between the different Picture options (Game, Off, Cinema, etc.), so you should test them all out when you first get it. What looks normal on one setting completely blows out the highlights in another setting. People’s skin tone gets really bright, unnatural, and weird.

Zoom

There are several picture ratios: 16:9, Just Scan, Set by Program, 4:3, Zoom and Cinema Zoom. The picture quality with Zoom of course is worse but it looked okay for HDTV programming; however it is not very good for non-HDTV shows. Zoom can look better than stretching because at least the proportions of the picture are more natural, even though everything gets cropped.

Unforgiving Quality

You may not notice people with bad skin until you get a plasma TV like the LG 60PK950. It is extremely unforgiving. Back when plasma was in its infancy, some famous women were reportedly upset with the new technology. Makeup artists had to pick up the slack, but they don’t cover everything. The sheer screen size of 60″ makes it difficult to miss acne scars, moles, bad shaving, etc. The screen gives them an unflattering sort of 3D look. Closeups can be shocking.

Freeze Frame

When you freeze a frame the good news is it doesn’t quickly dim, black out, or start a screensaver like some plasma TVs. This lets you enjoy the frame as a picture for a while like it’s a beautiful painting in your living room. But after a few minutes, the LG will automatically lower the contrast. It’s not a huge drop to barely visible levels. Thus you need to be careful about pausing to avoid the plasma screen getting burn damage.

Sound

Overall the sound quality is okay, but I didn’t find it to be impressive like the picture. The bass could be stronger; even at the maximum setting of 100, I wanted a deeper bass. Some buyers will definitely want to use their own sound system with this TV. Be sure to test different sound settings from the Options menu when you first get it, especially Clear Voice, which eliminates a lot of background noise. I noticed the improvement immediately and made it the permanent setting.

Mute

When you hit the Mute button on the remote, there’s a quick oversized graphic on the TV to confirm it, which really isn’t necessary. The Mute message lingers too long, but at least it doesn’t keep the word “Mute” on the screen all the time like an old 60″ Phillips! When it’s on Mute and you hit the remote to lower the volume, it immediately cancels the mute, which isn’t ideal when you’d set the volume high, and want to lower it without waking up the neighbors. Mute should be independent of the Volume Up/Down settings. Even when you have it on Mute and change the picture setting (e.g., from Cinema to Sport), for some weird reason it also cancels mute. That’s a design flaw.

Intelligent Sensor

I thought there must be something wrong with my new TV when I first got it, because the brightness kept changing every few minutes while I was watching soccer matches at the World Cup. I had started watching the games before reading the entire manual. But before I called Technical Support, I went online and discovered it was the “Intelligent Sensor.” I hadn’t realized Intelligent Sensor was the default setting. This technology adjusts the brightness depending on the light level in the room or what it thinks is the ideal setting. I found this clever idea rather annoying and turned it off. It’s a bit jarring and distracting. LG needs to figure out how to make brightness levels transition gradually so you don’t notice the shift.

Power Consumption

The LG is wise and modern in the number of options it provides users to reduce energy. Plasma TVs can use a tremendous amount of energy, but the LG offers several different settings, including: Minimum, Medium, Maximum, and Off. You can quickly change the power level from the remote using the green energy button at the top left corner. The lower the setting, the less bright the picture. Depending on what you are used to seeing, you may be perfectly content with a lower level. It was similar to my old TV’s brightness and contrast levels. But even if you are used to more brightness and contrast, you might find you can get used to a lower setting after a while. One of the best features is it lets you completely turn off the screen in three seconds, which I find is perfect when I want to listen to music broadcast over cable. It saves the screen and saves energy.

Heat

Although it’s thin don’t think for a minute it will stay cool. It radiates heat on normal settings fairly quickly like a portable heater. I noticed the room temperature difference in the summer. But you can easily reduce the heat by lowering the power level as noted above.

Remote

The remote is too cheaply designed for a high-end plasma TV. It’s not the best companion. You would expect more from LG–an expensive TV deserves a high-quality remote. The button positions are not very intuitive and the remote’s edges are slightly sharp. It does have a backlighting button, but it shuts off automatically too quickly.

Power Consumption

The LG is wise and modern in the number of options it provides users to reduce energy. Plasma TVs can use a tremendous amount of energy, but the LG offers several different settings, including: Minimum, Medium, Maximum, and Off. You can quickly change the power level from the remote using the green energy button at the top left corner. The lower the setting, the less bright the picture. Depending on what you are used to seeing, you may be perfectly content with a lower level. It was similar to my old TV’s brightness and contrast levels. But even if you are used to more brightness and contrast, you might find you can get used to a lower setting after a while. One of the best features is it lets you completely turn off the screen in three seconds, which I find is perfect when I want to listen to music broadcast over cable. It saves the screen and saves energy.

Heat

Although it’s thin don’t think for a minute it will stay cool. It radiates heat on normal settings fairly quickly like a portable heater. I noticed the room temperature difference in the summer. But you can easily reduce the heat by lowering the power level as noted above.

Remote

The remote is too cheaply designed for a high-end plasma TV. It’s not the best companion. You would expect more from LG–an expensive TV deserves a high-quality remote. The button positions are not very intuitive and the remote’s edges are slightly sharp. It does have a backlighting button, but it shuts off automatically too quickly.

Slide Show

There are a few USB ports for standard memory sticks. The ports on the side of the TV are easiest to use. The picture quality of the slide show is surprisingly gorgeous. A half-decent photo off a modern digital camera shows up on the plasma screen at the same quality level as HD programs. The resolution is so high you can easily read text on clear images. You can adjust the slide show speed to Slow, Medium, or Fast. You can also change the setting to Full Screen. It lets you start the slide show from any image; just use the arrow keys to scan through the thumbnails and then hit Enter.

YouTube and Picasa

The 60PK950 lets you watch YouTube videos and see Picasa pictures. Just hit the NetCast button on the remote.

Viewing Distance

First-time large screen TV buyers should be aware that distance can make a big difference. There are charts online which tell you the best distance for the screen size. I’ve tested different distances and notice that a program can be much more absorbing, not to mention better to see, when you’re closer to the screen. This is not just because of the distance but also the clarity of the picture and the degree to which it fills your field of vision. You should certainly consider the issue of distance before you permanently mount the plasma on a wall. One chart says 94″ (just less than 8′) is the optimal distance for a 60″ TV with 1080i. I usually watch from 12′ away and don’t feel the need to move closer.

Quirks and problems

Slide show

The picture load speed is dependent on image size. Smaller file sizes load quickly and larger files slowly. That’s fine if all files are about the same size, but not very good when they vary. Each slide should appear at the same speed no matter what file size. When you turn off the slide show and cycle pictures individually, it gives you too much information (file name, date, dimensions, and size). Users don’t want that unless they’re on a computer. The file management info disappears automatically after a few seconds, but it shouldn’t appear in the first place. The default slide show speed setting is Fast; it should be Medium. After you watch a slide show, and turn the TV off, but then return to the slide show, you see it has saved your place so you can start up right where you left off, but it reset your slide show speed. The pause button on the remote doesn’t pause slide shows.

Music format

The LG lets you play music from your USB drive just like it lets you view pictures, so I tried to play some of my m4a files that were in my iTunes folder. But it wouldn’t accept them. It may only accept mp3 files.

Static line

The top or bottom of the TV occasionally shows a line of “static.” It is similar to what you sometimes see on old VCR video recordings. I didn’t see this on my previous HDTV, so I assume it’s only on the LG. It’s annoying but fortunately it’s rare; I’ve only seen it about once a week. Sometimes it’s just a single commercial; but at other times it’s an entire program. When I want to see the program, I’ll zoom in to cut off the top edge. It seems LG didn’t crop the top properly, or the video editors of some shows or commercials didn’t do complete cropping, and the Plasma isn’t forgiving.

Blu-Ray Player

A regular DVD player won’t give the quality of Blu-Ray. Blu-Ray is HD and the perfect partner for HDTV. I have a Sony Blu-Ray player and it’s fantastic for watching the famous BBC nature series.

HDTV Video Recorder
A regular DVD recorder or VCR won’t look very good on the 60PK950 even if you record a show that was broadcast in HD. One option is a PVR (Personal Video Recorder) or equivalent; it is a hard drive which records HD programs in HD so when you play them back you see them in crystal clear HD.

Grounding

My LG wasn’t grounded. It’s annoying when you get a brand new large high-definition plasma TV, expecting a perfect visual experience, only to see faint purple bands rising all the time from the bottom to the top of the screen! And the bonus is a background hum. This isn’t a defect by LG. It’s a common TV grounding problem. There are different ways to solve it. One is to get your cable provider to ground the TV; another way is to buy a cheap Dayton VIT-1 Isolation Transformer from Parts Express, which reduces the problem by 80%. There’s another trick to deal with the last 20% of the A/V imperfections.

Box

LG says you have to keep the huge cardboard box it comes in for the first month in case you need to return it, so make sure you have enough storage space. The box is a lot bigger than the 60″ TV.

Conclusion

The LG 60PK950 60″ TV is a very impressive piece of technology. It had the Wow Factor when I first tried it, and I still love the TV a few months later. The picture is very sharp and the sound is okay. The remote isn’t great and there are occasional annoying issues, but you easily forget them when you are enjoying a rich visual experience. Sporting events look spectacular and nature programs are stunning. Cartoon graphics are very sharp. Movies are out of this world. Everybody in the family can thoroughly enjoy the LG 60PK950 60″ TV.

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