A few thoughts by Ronald Epstein
I have been following 3D very closely for the past three years. I could easily make the claim that I was one of the first non-industry consumers to see a prototype of 3D television for the home thanks to the folks at Panasonic Hollywood Labs. Even back in 2007 the technology was already mostly perfected. From the moment I first laid my eyes on some wonderfully produced animated and live 3D content I knew that I had to have this technology in my home. The question became not "if" but "when" and at "what" cost.
The time of 3D displays for the home is here and now. Manufacturers such as Panasonic, Sony, LG, Toshiba, Samsung and Mitsubishi have all rolled out an assortment of LCD and Plasma displays this year. Samsung recently started a price war which has spiraled the cost of these displays steadily downward over the past few months. Now, when considering the purchase of a brand new LCD or Plasma display, you need only to pay a little more for 3D capability.
For those of you who have never experienced 3D in the home I am certain there is a huge amount of uncertainty as to how much entertainment value it adds. If you would accept the advice of someone like myself who has seen a lot of content over the years, I would say that going from 2D to 3D is as dramatic from black and white to color. The level of enjoyment in watching a film or documentary is dramatically enhanced for the sheer fact that the added picture depth adds realism that has never been experienced quite like this before. Make no mistake about it -- 3D is THAT incredible!
This was not the TV I wanted
I was about a month away from buying the Panasonic 65VT25. After all, I witnessed the birth of home 3D on Panasonic displays and this year the VT25 has been rated at the top of the display chain. However, be forewarned that buying that model comes at a premium. You get what you pay for. Despite the cost, I knew what I wanted and for the moment I thought I would end up owning a Panasonic.....
.....then something wonderful happened....
I attended a party at LG's booth during Cedia 2010 in September. They were giving away a prize package which included the LG display, blu-ray player, glasses and movies. I ended up winning the package. I have to be honest that as elated as I was, there was a bit of disappointment that I was perhaps downsizing from the Panasonic to the LG. In my mind, I felt as if quality would be compromised going towards a more budget friendly brand.
So let me get to the point in saying before I even get into my review that surprisingly, the LG 60PX950 is probably the best bang-for-the-buck 3D television in the market at this point. I am going to go out on a limb and say that the quality would probably satisfy those seeking the higher priced Panasonic displays at half the price. I will talk more about my reasons for stating this shortly.
The LG 60PX950 is of course a plasma display. You can immediately sense that by looking at the photo above and seeing the reflection it gives off. This is the downside of owning a plasma. In a brightly lit room with lots of windows the viewer will be plagued with reflection. If you foresee that being a problem then LCD or LED is for you. However, it's my opinion that plasmas offer better film-like picture, better black levels, and no matter what anyone else says -- offers the better 3D experience thanks to its refresh rates and better viewing angles. The LG 60PX950 is the very first THX CERTIFIED 3D display on the market. This means that the display had to go through rigorous tests and calibrations to meet THX standards. This is a primary reason for considering purchase which I will also talk more about momentarily.
Here is a photo of some of the accessories that come packaged with the LG including two remotes, one of which is a "Magic Wand" which acts very much like the Wii remotes in that you can control onscreen controls and included games with mere gestures. As you can see I have yet to even open the remote to try it. While out at Cedia the LG folks were very high about this remote urging me to try it with the embedded games. Also included is a WiFi dongle (which used to be sold separately) that plugs into the usb port and enables the LG to connect to your home network wirelessly. The standard remote features nice large-sized buttons and is backlit at the push of a button.
I did want to quickly show off this photo of the glass pedestal that rests beneath the screen. I was a little worried that with all its weight, the first difficult task I would have would be attaching the stand. Fortunately, right out of the box it's already attached and ready to be placed on a stand.
The 60PX950 boasts a highly intuitive menu that lets you access and adjust a wide range of picture and audio settings. The USB and Ethernet inputs allow you to display personal media content as well as connecting to NETCAST services that include Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Pandora Radio, Roxio Cinema Now and Yahoo Widgets. The moment I plugged in my ethernet cable the display instantly recognized it and a menu prompted me through an auto-connection process that had me up and running in mere seconds. I then went to the Widgets menu and set up a few personal widgets including FINANCE and WEATHER. You get a really thorough animated tutorial on how to set up and use widgets (or "snippets" as they are called) and they can easily be summoned or revoked using a single button on the remote.
OUTSTANDING 2D PICTURE QUALITY
I already stated that the LG 60PX950 would be a viable alternative to the Panasonic VT25 at half the price. I say that confidently because from my findings, this television boasts outstanding picture quality and black levels.
Out of the box the first thing I did was do a quick calibration using the Disney WOW disc. Surprisingly, the numbers, in standard user mode, were very close to the settings out of the box. However, it didn't take long until I switched over to THX CINEMA MODE which gave a noticeably warmer and more natural picture at the cost of a bit of brightness reduction which may bother some individuals in lighter rooms. Fortunately THX BRIGHT ROOM solves that problem but at the cost of washing out colors. There are many different picture settings to play around with here including VIVID, SPORT and GAME but I find the THX CINEMA MODE to be perfect in my room which is totally darkened.
Really, folks, you will be amazed by the colors and overall quality of presentation. I don't know if "glossy" is the best term to use for describing the picture, but it really has a brilliant crisp glossy look. The other day I popped in the Blu-ray of The Sound of Music and was marveling at the deep black levels in the nun's uniforms. For me, black levels are one of the most important factors in deciding upon a display. It is what gives the picture texture. I am proud to say that the LG has nice inky black levels that won't disappoint.
OUTSTANDING 3D QUALITY
The LG 60PX950 does not come bundled with 3D glasses. You need to purchase the AG-S100 glasses which retail at the time of this review at about $80 apiece. There have been many good things said about these glasses when compared to others such as the ones bundled with the Panasonic. First, the glasses feature a solid arm piece with no spaces to allow for ambient light to seep in. Secondly, the batteries contained in the temples are completely rechargeable via a tiny usb plug that can be charged directly from a USB input on the display.
The fact that this is currently the only THX CERTIFIED 3D DISPLAY on the market should tell you right off the bat that 3D settings should be optimal out of the box. They were.
The first disc I watched was Imax Under The Sea 3D which currently is included with the purchase of the 50 and 60 PX950 via a mail-in coupon.
I could not be more pleased with the quality of the 3D presentation. Here I was watching brilliantly colorful underwater images with separation and depth. My favorite sequence happens during chapter 3 when a potato cod fish swims straight out of frame and situates itself in mid-air just inches away from your nose. This is the perfect demo for the first-time 3D viewer as it effectively demonstrates objects that leap out of the screen. However, if you want something that looks even more amazing, but far more natural, I would heartily recommend any of the Image Imax discs that include Grand Canyon Adventure or Wild Ocean. I sampled Grand Canyon Adventure and found it to be a more pleasing 3D experience overall. It certainly looks as if it's one of those showcase produced titles that played heavily on IMAX screens years ago. The quality of the production is outstanding. I felt as if it had much more pronounced background and foreground separation which combined with an ultra-crisp picture resolution it just made you sit back and say "WOW!"
Let me stop for a second and talk about the user end of the 3D experience. People don't like wearing the glasses. I am not going to lie here and say that even though the AG-S100 glasses are slightly more streamlined than some of the earlier models, they are still aren't a little heavy. When I sit and watch these presentations I am fully aware that there is weight on my nose. Does it become uncomfortable? Slightly. Also, I noticed that after lengthy viewing you sometimes feel as if your eyes are becoming cross. There can be moments where you feel your eyes being pulled together. Is it worth the slight discomfort for the entertainment value? Absolutely!
Despite any comfort problems (and they are slight) I can sit and watch this stuff for hours. When you first start watching 3D content you are going to want an arsenal of different titles at your disposal. You are not going to want to stop watching this stuff. Your friends are going to come over and be amazed. On the LG 60PX950 the 3D content is rendered beautifully. I can see why the THX CERTIFICATION became the selling point here. The picture quality, the dynamic colors, and the lack of crosstalk make this an unbeatable 3D experience. If there is any downside in picture quality it would probably be a bit of brightness loss. I know the brightness levels on the Panasonics are purposely jacked up in order to compensate for the loss. That might be one of the advantages of going with that brand. Being in a totally darkened room, I really don't see any major loss with the diminished brightness level. Those in a brightened room may think otherwise.
There is one major annoyance that I am uncertain can be fixed. Every time you start to play a 3D title a box comes up telling you to pair your glasses. That box remains up over the playing content for at least 25 seconds. Then a second box appears that warns you about the effects of watching prolonged 3D content and advises you to take a rest every few minutes. If someone figures out how to disable these advisories I will be forever grateful.
I will say this again. This was not the display I had my heart set on. However, now that I own it, I am not a bit disappointed.
If you are in the market for a 3D plasma I would certainly strive for the Panasonic VT25 series for the fact that it is so highly rated and reviewed. However, I think that reviews are just starting to surface for the LG 950 series which happens to be at the very top of their line of plasmas. I believe people are slowly discovering that there is a cheaper alternative out there that will give them similar picture and performance of the crowning displays. In fact, I think the LG 60PX950 is a crowning display thanks to the fact that company obviously strived for exceptional performance levels by applying for THX certification.
There are a lot of things I have not yet played with yet. I wanted to refrain from advertising this as a full review because quite honestly, it will take me weeks to explore all the things this display offers. However, on the surface, the LG 60PX950 gets my highest recommendation.