You know the score. You have your eye on a new TV set, partly because your current television had, er, someone live-pause it on a shot of Gabby Logan for an hour meaning there’s some incriminating burn-in stuck there, and partly because if you want to watch Netflix on your current set you have to do it via your Xbox 360 like some kind of caveman. After all, hey - what IS this, the first half of 2012? Get with the times!
So, you find a likely model available at the retailer of your choice. You check that the number of HDMI slots on it roughly matches up with the number of things you want to plug into it, and then seek out an online review.
“BLEH BLEH BLEH CONTRAST RATIO BLEH BLEH INKY BLACKS BLEH BLEH TRUMOTION CLEAR PLUS 600MhZ BLEH DISCREPANCY ACROSS DISPLAY BLEH DELTA E 3.4 BLUGH BLAGH BLAGHGH”
Before you can ponder whether an average discrepancy across display of 13% is a good average discrepancy across display, you’ll probably be nursing a headache.
Someone needs to write a hardware review of the rest of us.
And that someone is us.
MODEL: LG 42LM660T
PRICE: ABOUT £700 FROM RICHER SOUNDS, WITH A FREE BLU-RAY PLAYER THROWN IN THAT DOESN’T SEEM TO BE MENTIONED ON THEIR WEBSITE SO WHICH MAKES FOR A NICE SURPRISE WHEN THEY PASS IT TO YOU AT THE TILL
HOW MANY HDMI SLOTS DOES IT HAVE? Four.
IS IT FREEVIEW OR FREESAT? It has Freeview HD built in.
DO I NEED TO GET A STUPID WIFI DONGLE IF I WANT TO AVOID A NETWORK CABLE SNAKING ACROSS MY LIVING ROOM? Nope, Wifi is built into the set, and it’s pleasingly simple to get ‘talking’ to your internet connection too.
HOW MANY Hz MCI IS THE MOTION PROCESSING? Buh?
ONLY JOKING. IS THE EPG NICE? Oh, very.
Look at that. It glides discreetly onto your screen whilst fading in, too.
HEY, DOES IT DO 3D? It does. It uses passive 3D, which basically means you can use the 3D glasses you ‘forgot’ to hand back in after watching Toy Story 3 at the cinema instead of those stupidly expensive headache-y ones you need for some 3D sets. You do get 5 pairs of 3D glasses free with the set too, though some of them are in comically garish colours.
WHAT DOES THE 3D EFFECT LOOK LIKE? IS IT GOOD? Judge for yourself. Here’s a shot of the 3D swimming with the 3D glasses held over our iPod Touch camera lens.
OH, YOU. In reality, they work pretty well depending on what you’re watching. For most of the Olympic events the effect is pretty negligible (apart from when the camera pans across shots of the crowd, where it works brilliantly). It works more effectively on 3D CGI films, which (shh) you could just procure from the internet and watch from a USB memory stick. Or, y’know, pay Rupert Murdoch about £60 a month to get access to Sky’s 3D channel. But of course, one of those two options is Very Wrong and Should Be Avoided.
TSK. ANYWAY, BACK TO THE EPG. WHAT ABOUT THE PROGRAMME INFORMATION BAR? It’s also very pretty.
WHAT ABOUT SEEING WHAT’S ON NEXT? ON SKY, YOU CAN SEE UP TO TWELVE HOURS AHEAD WITHOUT HAVING TO LOAD THE TV GUIDE, BUT MOST FREEVIEW BOXES ONLY LET YOU SEE THE NEXT PROGRAMME. IS THAT THE CASE HERE? Far from it. The on-screen EPG happily lets you see future programmes up to seven days in advance. Seven days!
PRETTY IMPRESSIVE. IF ONLY FREEVIEW PVR BOXES COULD DO THAT. Aah, plug an external HDD into one of the USB ports here, and this television magically becomes a PVR. And you can even view your scheduled recordings on a lovely calendar-based screen:
Though sadly, you can’t record directly to USB memory sticks as far as we know.
NEXT IMPORTANT QUESTION: HOW NICE IS THE SUBTITLES FONT? Functional.
HOW EASY IS IT TO SWITCH BETWEEN FREEVIEW, GAMES CONSOLES, SATELLITE TV BOXES AND SUCH? A bit annoying. There’s no ‘AV’ button on the remote – instead you have to use ‘select input’ and pick your option from a slightly clumsy menu. Counter-intuitively, HDMI devices are placed on the list after things like “AV1” (i.e. SCART), which makes things take longer than you’d like. Though the box does helpfully shift any ports that don’t have anything plugged into them to the far end of the list.
CAN YOU BUNG A LOAD OF POP VIDEOS ON A USB STICK AND USE IT AS A KIND OF CUSTOM-TAILORED MUSIC CHANNEL? MAN, THAT WOULD TOTALLY BE SUH-WEEET. Yes, you can. It even autoplays the next video after one has finished, and happily plays 720P and 1080P videos you’ve nabbed from YouTube. It’s so nearly perfect for this, the only downside is that there’s no option to shuffle the order videos are played in – you’ll have to watch them in alphabetical order.
High definition pop videos do look gorgeous on it, mind. And you can skip straight to your favourite bits if you’re too impatient just to wait two minutes.
WHAT ABOUT THINGS LIKE iPLAYER? DON’T NEW-FANGLED TELLIES DO iPLAYER NOW? I WANT TO KNOW ABOUT iPLAYER. It does do iPlayer. Very, very well, in fact. Having tried the Freesat version of iPlayer, we’d expected it to be very limited, but we were – not for the first time in our lives – wrong.
Everything moves around nice and quickly, there are plenty of options to find just what you want – including the handy option to browse by day of broadcast and channel that you find in the web version of iPlayer.
And when you select a programme, you get a beautifully designed splash screen displaying information about the programme you’re about to view, as well as (in many cases) the option to view in HD or with subtitles.
It gets even better, too. This version of iPlayer even includes full functionality for BBC Radio programmes – a feature we’d never have expected to be included. Huge props to the BBC’s Digital Radiophonic Workshop for all this.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER ONLINE VIDEO OPTIONS? Your best best is Media Link. Now, this does involve having to install Plex software on your computer – something we were a bit reluctant to do Happily, it seems to generally work well, though it can be a little temperamental at times. But – providing it works properly – does mean you can view films stored on your PC on your proper telly without any wires or anything. It’s witchcraft, we tells ya!
I BET IT LOOKS RUBBISH, THOUGH. A BUNCH OF FILENAMES ON A BATTLESHIP GREY SCREEN. BOOOO. You are wrong. So wrong.
HOLY CRAP, THAT LOOKS NICE. The Plex software grabs all the images for you too, you won’t need to painstakingly rename your files or go on a Google Images spree beforehand. And 3D movies viewed over Media Link work as you’d like them to.
DOES IT EVEN HANDLE SUBTITLED FOREIGN FILMS? Yep, subtitles embedded in .mkv files work fine, and can be turned off if you don’t want them. With a nice font, too. Admittedly, it can be hard to read, but you can change the colour and size of the subtitled font.
WHAT ELSE DOES MEDIA LINK DO? It can also suck content from streaming sources, so if someone has written a plugin for it, you get get it to do it. Such as clips from Seinfeld, or features that are missing from the set by default, such as 4OD.
WHAT DOES THE TV GUIDE LOOK LIKE? Quite nice, if not too spectacular.
SO, HOW ABOUT NETFLIX? Available on a recent firmware upgrade. It works as well as you could hope,really. So, yay for that. We can’t vouch for Lovefilm just yet, as we haven’t troubled our arses participating in their free trial just yet.
WHAT OF YOUTUBE? Not handled brilliantly. If you want to watch stuff from your own playlists, you need to log in – using an overcomplicated code-based method – each time, and even then you pretty much have to watch things that the YouTube app wants to let you watch. Could be better.
A pity, as the interface it has is clear and attractive. Pretty limited in what you can do with it, but it’s another nice way to watch some 3D content.
IS THERE A WEB BROWSER ON IT? BECAUSE HAVING TO READ THINGS ON A TELLY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROOM IS THE STUFF OF DREAMS, ISN’T IT? Ooh, such sarcasm. Yes, there’s a web browser, and it can be navigated using the additional Wiimote-style remote control pointer.
I BET THERE’S NO BLOODY FLASH IN THE BROWSER, THOUGH. STUPID BROWSERS ON THINGS THAT AREN’T COMPUTERS. I HATE THEM. You are bang wrong. The browser here does include Flash.
See? It can stutter a bit when a lot is going on, but still. A B+ for effort.
ALL LOOKS PRETTY GOOD. HAVE LG TAKEN THE STEP OF FORCING SOMETHING ESOERIC AND LARGELY USELESS TO WESTERN AUDIENCES INTO THE ‘MY APPS’ MENU, THEN SET UP THE FIRMWARE SO IT CANNOT BE REMOVED? What do you think?
K-POP? WELL, MAYBE THAT’S JUST A CATCH-ALL TERM FOR A GENERAL MUSIC CHANNEL?
OH. OKAY. WHAT OTHER APPS ARE THERE? Well, loads. The set comes with about 400MB of memory free to shove more gubbins into, and you can pick and choose from the in-built iTunes App Store-style, um, app store.
ALL PRETTY NICE, THEN. Yes.
HEYY… HANG ON. ARE YOU USING THIS UPDATE IN THE HOPE THAT IAN LG, CEO OF LG ELECTRONICS WILL READ IT AND GIVE YOU A FULL REBATE ON THE NEW TELLY YOU’VE JUST BOUGHT EVEN THOUGH YOU PROBABLY CAN’T AFFORD IT, AND THAT MOST OF THE FEATURES YOU’VE DESCRIBED ARE PROBABLY ON MOST NEW TV SETS ANYWAY? Don’t know what you mean.
So, that’s the LG 42LM660T. A really nice telly.