LG 50PY3D Review: Not Perfect, but a Pleasing Plasma

The first 50-inch plasma television from LG to feature a 1080p-resolution screen, the 50PY3D turned in mixed performance on my lab tests, but I found its picture quality to be very pleasing once properly configured.

The main problem is with standard-definition (SD) video sources; quality depends on which of the TV's several picture mode presets is used. Some modes overly soften fine details, while others deliver some of the best SD video processing I've seen.

The glossy black frame incorporates a couple of slick design touches, including a display centered along the bottom edge that shows which video input is selected or which channel is currently tuned. Immediately to the right of the display is a set of touch-sensitive controls that are visible only when in use; they are stylish but proved to be a magnet for fingerprints. Integrated side-mounted speakers give the set a wide stance for a 50-inch screen. The crescent-shaped swivel stand provides 40 degrees of travel (20 degrees both left and right).

The 50PY3D offers a native screen resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels progressively scanned (1080p). Overscan is an issue, though; the set expands the picture a bit too much and loses some of the viewable image along the edges. All the HD component video sources sacrificed 6.5 percent of the video picture regardless of menu setting, and SD video was overscanned by 7.5 percent-ideally, this shouldn't exceed 1 or 2 percent.

Like all HDTVs, the 50PY3D provides several picture presets that can be used to optimize picture quality easily for varying room environments. The set's "mild" picture preset came closest to matching standards used in broadcast TV and cinema production. I found its colors slightly oversaturated, but uniformly so. This preset negatively affected standard-definition (SD) picture quality by softening the picture so much that fine details were lost. This problem was less severe with HD video sources, but here I found that objects with curved edges were prone to jagged-edge artifacts.

The set, however, easily handled two scenarios that have historically been challenging for plasma sets: displaying fine color gradients without introducing banding artifacts, and minimizing the appearance of video noise in extremely dark scenes.

The LG 50PY3D doesn’t produce the brightest whites or the darkest black levels, but it does offer some of the best SD video processing I’ve seen from an HDTV-if you can forgive the overscan. With the lights dimmed low and an HD movie rolling, the set's detailed picture and room-filling sound may well wake you to forget its few flaws.

LG 50PY3D Review
Price range: $2,999.95
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