Editor’s note: This review of the LG LE8500 series is based on our hands-on testing and evaluation of the 47-inch 47LE8500. According to the manufacturer, the image quality and features should be equivalent for each TV in this model line.
With its skinny profile and strong lineup of features, the LG Infinia LE8500 series TVs certainly qualify as chic, connected HDTVs. Slightly more than an inch thick, these full-array backlit LED TV pack a good collection of Internet services (including Netflix on Demand and Vudu) plus a full range of media playback tools, very good audio, and lots of accessible customization controls. Image quality, as gauged in our juried tests, was generally good to very good.
But all of that comes at a price—the 47-inch model, for example, costs about $2000, more than most competitors at the same size.
Judges generally awarded the LE8500 series high marks for color, brightness, and contrast; but it did less well in grading for detail and sharpness. It tended to do best with over-the-air TV content (such as a baseball game, Wheel of Fortune, and a vineyard scene), while struggling with the Phantom of the Opera DVD (some judges complained of a greenish cast and general darkness). Judges were also unenthusiastic about the image quality for our Blu-ray Disc movies (Mission Impossible III and The Dark Knight). And despite the set’s 240Hz refresh rate, it did not ace our motion tests. Judges observed some jerkiness in the diagonal panning clip and some artifacts in our jaggies test.
Still, the scores were middling at worst and generally hovered in the good to very good range. Perfectionists may demand better image quality, but most people will be satisfied, especially given the large selection of image-adjustment tools available, including a sophisticated ten-point white-balance control.
The slim LE8500 series takes style seriously. Its glass panel extends seamlessly over its narrow black bezel , terminating in a thin transparent edge. Unfortunately, the antenna/cable port faces down, making it harder for the user to screw in a coaxial cable than if the port faced out.
To LG’s credit, the other inputs are easy to reach. On the rear of the HDTV, you get three HDMI, two component, and one composite video, plus a VGA port for PC input, an ethernet port, an RS-232C port for service use, an analog audio input, an optical digital audio output (for use with home theater audio systems), and a port to use with specialized high-bandwidth wireless cable replacement gear.
The left edge of the set provides a fourth HDMI port, two USB ports, a port for either component or composite video, and a headphone jack. The set comes with a couple of ties and a cable holder to help with cable management, and you can swivel the set on its pedestal 20 degrees in either direction.
Several basic touch-button controls are available on the lower right bezel, including power on/off, an input toggle, an up/down volume and channel changer, and an on-screen menu toggle. The set’s power on/off indicator light and ambient light sensor are located farther to the right.
The Infinia LE8500 series TVs come with two remote controls: a standard remote, and a mini-remote for changing channels or inputs or adjusting volume. The standard remote is long and slender, but the buttons are fairly large, and you can flip a switch to backlight them. In addition to providing the usual TV controls and on-screen menu access, the remote has buttons for controlling SimpLink-compatible devices, which let you use one remote to control several HDMI-connected electronics.
You also get a Netcast button for accessing Internet functions, a Widgets button for Yahoo TV widgets, a QuickMenu button for bringing up a simple, wheel-shaped on-screen interface for common functions and adjustments, and context-sensitive colored buttons for various Internet and media playback functions.
LG’s well-designed main on-screen menus begin with two rows of large icons that cover major categories of controls (picture, channel lineup, audio, clock, parental controls, and the like) and also let you access the Internet functions and a handful of simple games (such as Sudoku and a Bejeweled clone) built into the set’s firmware. LG provides simple explanations for controls, of which there are many, especially for image adjustment. But anyone can use the picture presets, which include a couple of THX-certified modes.
LG’s Simple Manual (an abridged, on-screen version of the lengthy (204-page) PDF that you get on CD) is helpful, since the longer documentation covers a dozen or so different LG HDTV models, with illustrations that aren’t always accurate for this set. In print, LG provides a rudimentary setup guide that doesn’t come close to covering all of the set’s capabilities. A printed sheet of information addresses A/V pros who use a special service port to make adjustments.
The Internet features are a major selling point for this set, and LG executes most of them very well. You can log in to your Flickr account to view your photos, and YouTube support is great, allowing you to to stop and resume playback with your remote, for example. The set also supports Picasa, Vudu, and Yahoo Widgets. I tested the set with an ethernet hookup to a DSL router; LG also offers an optional USB Wi-Fi dongle to plug into one of the USB ports on the side, for connecting to wireless home networks.
This TV lets you play music and video, and it can display still images on a flash drive inserted into one of its USB ports or from a DLNA-compliant media server. An on-screen media player lets you control playback, select background music for slideshows, and so on. LG provides detailed lists of supported codecs in its PDF manual. You can register the LE8500 as a DivX device, after which it can play DivX-protected content.
The audio system was a joy to hear. The surround sound for the Phantom of the Opera Blu-ray Disc, played on a PlayStation 3, was loud and convincing (though the bass tones were a bit weak). It doesn’t match a true home-theater system, but it’s a credible substitute. Like most high-end HDTVs, the LE8500 provides several preset audio modes (standard, music, cinema, sports and game), as well as features for making speech more distinct and for leveling out overall volume as you watch (so that an ad, for example, doesn’t come in much louder than the rest of the programming).
This HDTV’s power consumption meets Energy Star 4 standards. In our tests, the 47-inch 47LE8500 averaged 76 watts when turned on and 0 when turned off. The set has an energy reduction button that you can use to lower consumption of electricity by dimming the picture.
Overall, there’s plenty to like in this full-featured set. But it is pricey. Among competing models in the same size category, the Samsung C650 series earned better marks (despite having inferior-looking specs on paper) and delivered even more Internet features—at a price of just $1100.