The LG 55LA6910 Smart LED TV is the inevitable addition to its 2013 repertoire. The Smart TV competes directly with Samsung's similar 55" Smart TV offering that I had reviewed last month. It has virtually the same feature set, give or take a few, and it's very nearly identically priced as well. It's a no brainer then that the LG smart TV will be compared to its Korean rival. Blood will be drawn and there will be only one victor. Or maybe there will be two--with each one catering to a different need. That would be my cue to stop overly dramatising the smart TV war and get on to something that I am more competent at - reviewing stuff.
Like its rival and TVs costing over the two lakh rupee mark, the LG 55LA is pleasing to look at. This is one huge chunk of the LCD motherglass that's been framed delicately with a rather inconspicuous chrome bezel, which pretty much resembles a knife edge running across the entire length and breadth of the TV. Only a relatively thick brushed steel section of the bezel runs across the bottom lip that's accentuated with a backlit LG logo at the centre. The perceived fragility of the TV is contrasted by the stand that is too chunky and large for my liking. Overall, though, the TV looks gorgeous nonetheless.
The TV looks quite good with the delicate bezel design
The build quality seems impeccable if you look at the fit and finish levels of the chassis. However, the stand produces quite a bit of wobble. Then there's also the problem of slightly conspicuous backlight bleed, the cause of which can range from panel fit issues to lack of uniformity in the backlight diffuser. Although the glossy panel is good news for colour fidelity, I noticed that it was prone to quite a bit of glare. The Samsung fared much better in this regard. The viewing angles, however, of this IPS panel were decidedly better than its Korean nemesis.
The remote control is pretty slick and well designed. It has large, chunky buttons that vary in shape and size and are well segregated. Operating the TV from afar, therefore, is intuitive and hassle free. The TV, unlike the Samsung bears basic controls at the rear in case you lose the remote. Make that two actually, because LG throws in a fancier remote incorporating motion control capability and a minimal set of buttons. The lack of buttons isn't a hindrance at all because the on-screen cursor moves around mimicking your gestures like a mouse, while opening up the missing functions with the means of intuitive OSD prompts.
The LG 55LA skimps with just three HDMI outputs, which is unlike Samsung's four. While this isn't a deal breaker, it's still pretty poor for a TV at this price, where the target demographic is expected to have an HDMI-equipped PC, Blu-ray player, set-top box, and a console. The rest of the connectivity options are pretty standard with Ethernet/Wi-Fi capability, one each of component and composite inputs, in addition to RF, optical, and 3.5mm audio ports as well. You also get three USB ports for connecting flash and hard drives. The audio output is rated at 24 watt and is pumped through a pair of stereo speakers at the bottom and one large radiator at the rear. The audio quality isn't anywhere near spectacular, but the large rear speaker provides a decent amount of bass that isn't exactly tight and accurate.
The TV is slim as expected
The TV's picture settings default in the typical showroom torchlight mode. The overall image quality improved a lot after basic visual calibration, but it wasn't anything spectacular nevertheless. Things improved much after calibrating the LG 55LA with the Datacolor Spyder colorimeter. The TV's contrast gradient performance was pretty good, with only the red and blue bands merging at the brightest levels. The sharpness needs only a slight adjustment and is perfect at a setting of "6". Gamma is bang on, while the white saturation performance is quite good, because the TV wasn't able to distinguish between only the last two (254 and 255) shades of white. The black levels were decent but not comparable to that of the Samsung. The TV couldn't distinguish between the first three tints of black at all. The greyscale gradient, however, was quite disappointing with a lot of banding and colour cast visible.
Although the LG panel cannot hold a candle to the similarly-priced Samsung, the difference is too marginal to affect perceived real-world performance. Not unless you do a side-by-side comparison. This was evident in the Blu-rays that I tested. The black levels were sufficiently detailed, if not downright excellent, in movies such as Aliens, The Descent, and Pandorum. I couldn't notice much black crush; at least, not by the standards of LCD televisions. Switching micro dimming on and off, however, didn't make much perceivable difference to the dark scenes. That also means there wasn't much of the annoying halo around the brighter elements in the darker scenes. The colours looked pretty vivid and life-like in Blu-rays such as Zombieland, Resident Evil: Extinction, and Shaun of the Dead.
The response time was adequate enough for fast games such as Need for Speed: Shift, whereas the larger size made everything from Far Cry 3 to Mirror's Edge absolutely satisfying. The LG LA55's lively colour reproduction and smooth enough motion makes it well suited for gaming. I particularly enjoyed the 3D rendition of the IMAX Space Station Blu-ray mainly due to the stable and flicker free nature of the polarised passive technology that LG has embraced. The only grouse is that unlike the active LCD shutter technology employed in the Samsung, the viewing angle is limited across the vertical axis. However, this shouldn't be an issue if you elevate the TV at the right height.
Just three HDMI ports is a shame at this price
The smart TV aspect in the LG is significantly better than the Samsung. I say this despite the fact that the TV lacks Samsung's gimmicks such as motion control and quad-core processor, but there's a good reason for that. The Samsung had frame rate issues despite the hardware, whereas the motion control feature isn't anything more than a novelty one would show off to guests. The LG, on the other hand, has a fluid and well-designed UI that runs smoothly without packing impressive hardware. At the end of the day, the actual performance is what matters. Major apps such as YouTube, Skype, and Facebook make their presence felt, and are actually well designed and usable unlike the Samsung. Local apps such as NDTV also exist to cater to India-specific needs. The TV has the regular smart TV bells and whistles such as voice recognition and screen sharing with mobile devices. However, what impressed me the most was the TV's ability to record cable programming onto any USB storage device. The media player is slick and it managed to play pretty much every video file format I threw at it. It still cannot match Samsung's ability to play FLAC files though.
At a sticker price of Rs 2,10,000, the LG 55LA6910 Smart LED TV is priced at par with the Samsung UA55F7500BR. It may not be equal with the Samsung in terms of picture quality, but it has better 3D capability and clever features that actually add value to the package. The smart TV component is quite well done and is actually a delight to use thanks to an excellent mouse-esque remote control. The verdict is pretty clear then - if it's picture quality you seek, give this one a miss. However, if you 're looking for a competent large-screen TV with a good smart TV package and great 3D, you're better off with the LG.