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.

LG HFB-500 Solar Bluetooth Carkit

Update: the retail price will be NZ$199, and it will be available from Orb, Telecom and DS Wireless

LG_HFB500I can’t remember who it was, but an engineer talking about energy efficiency said recently “if you’re building something that will be in the sun – a pump, or a telephone exchange, or anything – it better damn well have solar panels on it.”

The windshield of your car is one such place that gets basically endless sunlight. LG have taken advantage of this with their solar-charging HFB-500 bluetooth handsfree kit. It comes with a transparent suction-cup holder so you can stick it on the windshield in a convenient place. I’ve used it for a couple of calls a day for a week, and have never once plugged it in. It just charges magically.

Compared with other bluetooth car kits I’ve tried, and the integrated kits in most GPS recievers, the HFB-500 is damn good. It just works. The speaker is nice and loud, and callers have reported a decent clear call from the other end. And this is coming from my noisy, old Nissan Sunny, cracking along at 100km/h on the motorway.

The controls are simple. One big button for call and hangup (and hold for voicedial if your phone supports it). One button on either side for volume control, and one button for power and pairing. Absolutely no issues pairing with my iPhone, and no issues with disconnection/reconnection when I come to and from the car.

The tech details:

  • Solar charging
  • Bluetooth Version 2.1
  • Multi Connection
  • Easy pairing
  • Noise Reduction
  • Echo Cancellation
  • Talk/Standby 15.5 hrs / 1.000 hrs
  • Speaker 36? / 1W (Normal)
  • Solar Charging 24mAh
  • Mute, Un-mute Function
  • Auto reconnect
  • Last Number Redial

I’m not sure of the price in New Zealand yet, but it retails for about US$80. Check out the importer’s site here.