LG’s 50PW450T is a remarkably affordable, 50-inch plasma TV with active shutter 3D technology. Its eye-popping value credentials are underlined by a built-in 3D transmitter and the fact that it ships with a pair of 3D specs, putting plenty of its more expensive rivals to shame.
The 50PW450 also squeezes in a Freeview HD tuner and a USB port capable of playing back photo, music and video files. DLNA streaming is not supported, though, and there is no online capability beyond whatever may be possible with the Freeview HD tuner in the future.
The 50PW450T’s resolution is 1,024 x 768 pixels, meanwhile, which makes it merely HD ready, rather than full HD.
If 50 inches is too large for you, LG also makes a 42-inch version, the 42PW450T. If you’d rather step up to a 3D LG plasma with a full HD native resolution, you’re looking at the PZ250T range, while if you want to add THX 3D certification you need to go up further to the PZ550 series.
The 50PW450T’s two chief assets are its active 3D playback and strikingly low price, but there are plenty of other things to get your teeth into.
For starters, the 50PW450T gives you a Freeview HD tuner where you might have only expected a standard-definition one. The screen also boasts 600Hz technology, delivered by a sub-field drive system that pulses each pixel repeatedly for each frame of the image in a bid to improve motion handling.
Heading into the 50PW450T’s onscreen menus uncovers a surprising amount of picture adjustment potential, too. The options are sufficiently extensive to secure the endorsement of the Independent Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), denoting the set as flexible enough to be set up by an engineer, should you wish to pay for this professional-grade calibration service.
If you select one of the ISF-labelled picture presets you open up an Expert calibration menu that contains such high-spec tweaks as two and 20-point IRE colour temperature adjustments, with the facility to adjust the values of the contrast and brightness of the red, green and blue colour components. There’s also a colour management system that enables you to adjust the saturation and tint of the red, green, blue, cyan, yellow and magenta colour elements.
Other features for helping you set up the TV’s pictures include a noise reduction system, some basic gamma presets, a black level booster and an edge enhancer. Most of these adjustments should be treated with kid gloves, though, as they can have a detrimental effect in unskilled hands.
The adequate, rather than spectacular, connections include three v1.4 HDMIs, a single USB port for playing back video, audio and photo files and an RS-232 jack for integrating the 50PW450T into a home control system.
All connections bar the composite video input, one of the HDMIs and the USB face straight out of the TV’s rear, which could be problematic if you’re thinking of hanging the set on a wall.
Design wise, while the bezel around the screen certainly isn’t fat, it is hardly thin by today’s standards and there’s a distinctly industrial edge to the set’s matt black finish (offset by a glossier outer trim) and angular lines. The build quality is robust to say the least, though.
The screen’s (non-full HD) 1,024 x 768-pixel resolution, meanwhile, is an odd piece of under-specification for a 50-inch TV capable of showing alternate-frame 3D.
The 50PW450T’s 3D pictures are a blurry, nausea-inducing disaster. Almost every shot is riddled with obvious, aggressive and consistent crosstalk interference, with glaring ‘double ghosts’ to either side of objects. Supposedly detailed backgrounds such as those in the forest in Tangled are completely out of focus, with hardly any sense of depth and zero sense of the sort of sharpness that active 3D was designed to deliver.
Although the crosstalk isn’t as bad when watching side-by-side broadcasts (as opposed to alternate frame Blu-rays), it’s still very much apparent, which means the 50PW450T is about as bad as Sony’s EX723 series and that’s saying something.
The 50PW450T does achieve a reasonable degree of brightness and colour richness for such an affordable 3D screen, but this counts for nothing when crosstalk ruins every shot.
Also, a slightly toned down version of the Vivid preset for 3D viewing (there is 3D preset as such) occasionally produces some obvious jumps in brightness even with dynamic contrast turned off.
The 50PW450T acquits itself better with standard-def 2D material, but colours look a bit muted and display striping and patching, rather than immaculately smooth blends. The lack of finesse can also leave skin tones looking plasticky and smooth.
The general tone of colours during standard-def viewing looks slightly unbalanced, too, with reds tending to dominate and the rest of the palette lacking dynamism.
Tinkering with the 50PW450T’s colour management facilities improves things to a degree, but never to the point where they look spot-on.
Another issue is noise. It’s common for plasma screens to look a bit ‘fizzy’, especially if you get up close to them, but the noise seems a little more aggressive than usual on the 50PW450T – especially over skin tones during camera pans. There’s also a trace of shimmering noise over fine detailing during standard-def viewing and, while the 50PW450T is decent at keeping standard-def images looking sharp as they’re upscaled to the screen’s HD ready resolution, it’s not particularly good at filtering out source noise.
Black level response is solid. While there’s more greyness over black shades than you’ll see on the best plasmas the 50PW450T delivers dark scenes more convincingly than the vast majority of LCD TVs. There’s more shadow detailing, and plasma’s self-emissive nature precludes the sort of light level inconsistencies that plague edge LED-backlit screens.
It’s also very refreshing to find that, unlike an LCD TV, the set’s contrast and colour saturation doesn’t reduce in the slightest if viewed from a wide angle. On the down side, the hard-finished plasma panel reflects more light than a typical liquid crystal display.
The 50PW450T is a very enjoyable watch where hi-def 2D content is concerned. With Blu-ray films, for instance, colours are more accurate, vibrant and subtly rendered, dot noise levels drop off and you really start to appreciate the screen’s lack of motion blur (versus LCD) and film-friendly contrast range.
Pictures, while not quite as sharp as those you’d see on a good quality full HD screen, are crisper and more detailed than expected.
There’s a little judder with 24p Blu-ray playback and this can be exaggerated by momentary traces of the dotting noise during panning shots. There’s also a slightly imprecise look to areas of very fine detail that’s probably a result of the downscaling the screen has to apply to full HD sources, but the 50PW450T is a thoroughly enjoyable HD watch overall.
A final negative point is that input lag comes in at a depressingly high figure of 100ms, which is enough to compromise gaming performance.
The 50PW450T puts its ultra-robust chassis to decent use where audio is concerned. Voices are believable and well rounded, the all-important mid-range is open and dynamic and trebles are handled cleanly and without harshness – until, at least, you get up to some serious volume levels.
Bass levels don’t achieve much rumble, but the mid-range is wide enough to hide this shortcoming.
Had the 50PW450T been a halfway decent 3D performer, its £900 price would have been a serious bargain. After all, Samsung’s PS51D6900 51-inch 3D plasma, for instance, costs the best part of £400 more.
Unfortunately, its 3D pictures are unwatchably bad, which makes it merely a fair-to-middling 50-inch 2D TV that compares unfavourably to Panasonic’s excellent and only £150 more expensive P50G30.
Ease of use
The 50PW450T enjoys one of the best operating systems you’ll ever find on a budget TV. Particularly outstanding are its onscreen menus, which make exceptional use of big, colourful (but never gratuitous) graphics, exceptionally legible text and a generally logical organisation to make using the 50PW450T more or less foolproof.
The remote control is excellent for such an affordable TV too, combining a slender, comfortable, well-balanced shape with sensibly organised buttons. These provide direct, single-press access to plenty of key features, and emphasise the most important buttons so that they fall to hand easily.
The way the set’s most complex set-up tools only open up if you first choose one of the screen’s ISF picture presets, as noted earlier, further illustrates the 50PW450T’s ability to match different levels of sophistication to the right level of technical ability.
The only major gripe we’ve got with the 50PW450T when it comes to ease of use concerns its instructions manual. For a start this arrives on CD rather than in paper form, meaning it’s inconvenient to use unless you’ve got a laptop or happen to have a PC that sits near the TV. We’re all in favour of trying to cut down on paper, but this feels like a step too far.
Much worse than the lack of a paper manual, though, is the fact that the manual is one of those ‘one manual suits all’ generic affairs that covers a number of models rather than just focusing on the series you’ve actually just bought. This means that you can spend more time trying to figure out which parts of the manual are relevant to the 50PW450T than just getting straight down to learning your way round your new screen.
The 50PW450T’s combination of 3D playback, 50-inch screen and £900 price tag is certainly eye-catching.
Its ISF endorsement, multimedia support and 2D performance are also attractive, but 3D pictures are ruined by a level of crosstalk interference that is shocking for a plasma TV.
The 50PW450T can’t even make a case for itself as a budget big-screen gaming monitor on account of its hefty input lag and only deserves consideration on its 2D merits alone.
The 50PW450T’s price looks remarkably low for a 50-inch active 3D TV and build quality is exemplary. The range of picture tweaks is remarkable for a budget set and contrast, sharpness and colour performance is better than expected, at least when watching HD.
The screen isn’t full HD and it sometimes shows. Standard-def pictures tend to look pretty unsophisticated too and the lack of any online capability is a pity, if hardly a surprise. Input lag makes it a problematic gaming screen, but everything else pales into insignificance beside the awfulness of its 3D pictures.
The 50PW450T might have brought 3D to the masses but, sadly, the only thing it’s likely to achieve in 3D terms is putting an already sceptical public off the whole idea.
The 50PW450T’s 2D performance is a little rudimentary but ultimately enjoyable, at least with HD sources, but its input lag ruins any gaming monitor potential.