LG SL90 Review: Skinny 42″ Full HD LCD TV

Update: a commenter has pointed out that the 47″ version seems to have a known electrical noise that might bother some people in quiet rooms. I didn’t notice it in the 42″, but it’s something to check carefully before you buy.

LG SL90 FrontI 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.

LG SL90 Side ViewThere’s more:

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.

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  1. Phhht! What? Just the one USB port? 😉 I bought a Samsung LCD recently, not knowing much about them, but lucked out and it has 2 USB ports and 4 HDMI. Fanbloodytastic for looking at photos. Back to the good ol’ days of slideshows! Those new thin LED LCDs are pretty cool though.

  2. I can understand why you were a bit anxious about returning it after review 🙂 Love the divx feature in it.. TV’s are so feature rich these days.

  3. I just purchased the 47 inch version. It all works as desired apart from a rather ugly intermittent electrical hum coming from the rear of the screen. Hope my retailer can get this sorted quick smart, else I’m not going to be a fanboy of LG for very long.

  4. Hmmm… the plot thickens… just discovered a CNet Asia’s review (http://asia.cnet.com/reviews/home_av/tvs/0,39037585,45070770p,00.htm) that mentions the buzzing noise coming from the SL90 and gives it a negative mark.

    A technician has confirmed he thought the noise was unsatisfactory, so the shop has replaced it with their floor model but it too has the same problem!!! Will be interesting to see what LG come back with. If you’re considering buying this model, check it out in a quiet environment (which most stores do not provide). Change the Picture Quality settings and listen for the hum.

  5. That’s damn interesting Phil. Is it just the 47 inch version that has the issue? I didn’t notice anything in the 42″.

    I’ll add a note to the review and see if LG PR has anything to say.

    Thanks heaps for the feedback.

  6. We’ve only spent our hard earned dollars on the 47 inch, so am unable comment on the 42. Christmas is upon us, so I doubt we’ll get any feedback before the new year.

    We really like the SL90, but the “mosquito” in the room has to go!!

  7. Hey Ben,

    Have received our replacement LG SL-90 47″ and I can confirm that the buzzing noise we were experiencing in the original set is no longer there. The story I’ve been given was this was a problem with the first batch into the county – however that may just be hearsay. Anyway, am now happy with our LG purchase.

  8. I have the 42″ SL90. However whilst the picture is great, I’m concerned about the speakers distorting when volume is set over 60/100. This seems more obvious with talking/dialogue. Has anyone esle experienced this? I would hate to think that a home theatre was a necessity, after spending a considerable amount on a good tv.

  9. I have a 42SL90QD. I am disapointed with bluetooth feature.
    I can only send pictures to it with very low resolution.
    And, my nokia n97 is disconnected every time I try to play any music through the TV.
    Also, my samsung bluetooth headset (WEP700) is not even found by the TV.
    I tryied in other TV’s in the store, and the same happened.

  10. if anything goes wrong with there tvs after warranty they will not fix them you will be lift holding the can be very careful buying lg in new zealand regardless of our consumer laws.

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