I often measure gadgetry in terms of ambivalence. It’s a depressing reminder of how far I have come since the days of buying everything I wanted to review. Every package was carefully researched, and would be shredded within moments of arriving on my doorstep. There were tears of frustration when it didn’t measure up to the promise, followed by Trademe trepidation to see how much the “rental” would cost me. These days I get so many offers of devices to review – and packages that turn up unbidden – that sometimes I can barely muster the interest to open the box.
Based on this psychological framework, understand this: I have physical anxiety at the thought of having to return the 42″ LG SL90 I’m reviewing. It’s gorgeous. At a little less than 30mm deep, it’s easily the thinnest LCD TV I’ve ever used. When powered off, I’m reminded of a Clarke-esque monolith. While not truly “borderless” like the literature claims, the seamless glass front panel hides the bezel, and the huge 3,000,000:1 contrast ratio means you barely see the bezel against a black background. I’d be quite happy to have the 42SL90QD sitting as an inert sculpture in my lounge.
And then I turned it on.
I’m not a colour guru or gamut mentalist: I just call it as I see it. And I saw deep blacks and awesome contrast. My gut-feel test is whether I can see good skin tone on humans while still having good contrast. On my workaday Sony V-series, I either get washed-out backgrounds or too-dark faces. The SL90 was brilliant in this respect: natural skin tones in evening and night scenes without having to de-contrast. Given that the SL90 is edge-lit (apparently not as good as local-dimming back-lit sets), the contrast and deep blacks are excellent.
After dealing with some abominable TV user interfaces, I thought Sony’s TV menu structure was about as good as it got. LG is better. The menu text is large and readable, and iconography helps to guide you to the right location. The set has a built-in Freeview tuner, and the electronic program guide was up to the regular Freeview standard, including in-line viewing of the current program while you browse the guide. I’m still waiting for this feature from SkyTV.
The SL90 has an inviting USB port, just waiting for a stickfull of media. I wasn’t hugely excited about this because I’ve seen some shocking implementations of USB photo and video in some TV sets recently. Thankfully, LG appear to have got it right: I put some photos and a DivX video (home video of course, it’s against the law in New Zealand to convert a DVD to DivX), on a spare 4GB USB stick and stuck it in the slot. After a moment, the TV prompted me to browse pictures or videos. A few clicks on the remote later and I was watching a DivX video. Very nice.
The set also has Bluetooth, but I’m at a loss to understand what it is for. I presume you could use a Bluetooth headset or headphones if you had one available. Having never watched a TV with headphones on, I’m not one to judge this feature. Perhaps it’s fantastic for people who have gigantic TVs in their bedroom and Bluetooth headphones?
It’s not cheap at NZ$4399, but seems like good value for an excellent TV that doubles as an objet d’art. Get one from your local electronics emporium.