Back in June, after deciding (and trying in my home) that the Samsung LN46A650 and LN46A550 wouldn’t work well for my setup, due to their glossy and semi-glossy/matte screens, respectively, I decided to try out LG once again. The following article will detail the various issues that I experienced over the past few months.
My initial HD experience was thanks to LG (and an open box discount and coupon at Best Buy), back in 2006. I purchased the LG 30FS4D, a 30” 1080i tube HDTV and was excited to have my very own HD set. There was some kind of weird stuttering frame-rate issue that was present when a source was connected to the TV via Composite or S-Video, so after several months of mostly enjoying the set, I decided it was time to move on. Fast forward a few more HDTV experiences to June 2008 (I’ll write more about my other HD experiences in another post).
On June 12, 2008, I ordered a 47LG50, a 47”, 1080p, 5ms, LCD TV by LG. The reason I went for this brand was because LG is one of the few manufacturers that still use a full matte screen, which I enjoy most out of the three main screen types. After nearly two weeks, the TV arrived. After initial inspection and all that, everything seemed ok at first. However, I (and some friends) noticed that HD didn’t seem as crisp as it did on my older model Samsung LN-S4095D. I messed with settings all over the place, but things still didn’t look quite ‘HD’. Xbox 360 games, connected via HDMI, looked outstanding, however. I was pretty stoked on that aspect, though still not sure why digital cable (also connected through HDMI) looked kind of blah. The next step after the initial wow factor was to sit down and play a game. The game I was working on at the time was Splinter Cell: Double Agent for regular Xbox (connected via Component).
Even from the first boot, I noticed that the graphics appeared ‘fuzzy’ and that the movement was not very smooth. After I played for just a few minutes, I noticed that there was tons of smearing (ghosting as it’s written on many sites). This smearing basically occurs when you have light that is introduced to dark. For example, let’s say you have a dark room with one lamp on. As the camera pans across, you will easily notice that the light will start to blend in with the dark, creating a purple/bluish streak or smear across the screen, until the dark area has been left behind. You can imagine how awful that looks, especially in a game like Splinter Cell, where the light/dark plays such an important role in the game.
Here’s a video of the issue:
Distraught, I tried to find out more about the problem. I posed questions on AVSForum.com, but found no help. I decided to go to a local store to purchase another 47LG50, just to see if that original set was defective. Unfortunately, the same problem appeared in exactly the same manner. Frustrated, I took that set back and got yet another one, just to verify that the first two sets were not defective. As expected, by then, the very same problem was there!
At this point, I had tried other sources – DVD, Cable Box, other game systems. After quite a bit of testing, the conclusion I came up with was this: Anything connected via Component, Composite, and/or S-Video was prone to this ghosting problem. If a source was connected via HDMI, then no problems seemed to exist. Apparently, something was very wrong with LG’s analog to digital conversion. I do not know the technical terms, but there is obviously some problem internally with this conversion. If it’s not clear already, please understand that while most of my testing and the video clip are of a video game, the ghosting/smearing issue is present with any source connected as I describe above.
I first emailed LG’s tech support and was given one of the worst responses ever, “First off, how close are you sitting to this television while viewing or game playing? You should be no closer than 11 3/4 feet away from this unit. Check this distance before having service attempted on your TV.” What a ridiculous response, like I’m sitting an inch away from the TV or something. Or, conversely, maybe I should have sat outside and tried to view the TV from a great distance, then I would not have seen any problems. Good advice, LG!
I then called LG and was eventually referred to one of their service centers. The LG set was taken in for observation. A few days later, the repair tech called to say he reproduced the problem and was surprised to see just how bad the ghosting issue was (he reproduced the problem on a Cable Box connected through Component). He said he would replace the main board and power board, on this brand new TV. Even after the parts were replaced and the set returned to me, the problem was still present. The repair tech said he’d never seen such a problem and that I could call on him, should I need any professional to speak on the problem.
I was still stuck with one TV, stunned by problems that just shouldn’t exist on current LCDs and bummed that I couldn’t return it because I got it online. I decided that it was time to escalate this issue, so (on July 15) I contacted the Better Business Bureau. At first, LG’s representative tried to diminish the issue and it seemed like things were not going to work very well. However, over the next couple months, I persisted and kept hammering them with details on the how, what, when, and so on. Eventually, they asked to see my video clip, so it could be forwarded to their technicians. After a short wait, LG emailed, asking for a copy of my receipt (I had asked for a full refund from LG directly). I sent that in and waited just a little longer.
LG had called a left a message, extending an offer of upgrading to the Scarlet (47LG60). Although I wasn’t/am not sold on 120hz technology yet, I thought about it. Since the Scarlet lacked S-Video, which I use for some things, I thought that maybe the model above (47LG70) might be a suitable replacement. The LG70 and Scarlet have very similar internal workings, so I felt that any potential issues with the 70 series would apply to the Scarlet as well. Skeptical of LG as a whole, I decided to go to Fry’s and pick up this 47LG70, for testing purposes. I figured that a more advanced, 120hz model surely wouldn’t have the same type of technology as the 47LG50.
Wrong I was! I hooked it up and recreated similar conditions and discovered that this set had the exact same ghosting issue. As was true with the other LG TVs, changing the various settings made little to no change. Keep in mind that my older Samsung never had such issues (plus I didn’t have to mess with any settings, if I didn’t want to), even though it’s 2 years older and ‘technologically inferior’. At any rate, that TV went back to Fry’s the very same day.
One aspect that was disturbing, but not surprising, about all this was how the representative on the phone fielded my question about what was wrong with all these LGs. I wanted to know what their technicians found wrong because, surely, if they were willing to offer me a more expensive model, they were acknowledging a problem (or, more likely, wanted to shut me up). The representative would not admit there was a problem, of course, and cited the corporate language of “..a less than 2% return rate..” nonsense. I firmly believe that this 2008 generation of LGs have an inherent flaw with how they process and convert analog (Component, Composite, S-Video) to Digital, which would explain why HDMI (all Digital) has no problem).
In the end, after my TV was picked up and I signed a form to verify the refund (they call it a ‘buyback’), I got my check (on October 22). Now that the money is deposited, the case is closed. However, I would hate for someone to have a similar experience, so that is why I write this.
If you are looking for a new HDTV, I would highly recommend avoiding LG at all costs. I think they should recall their whole line of 2008 TVs, but the ratio of people who notice it versus those who actually complain must be completely disproportionate. Beyond that, I’m sure many people will either not notice it or will simply regard ghosting as a common issue. It’s a shame that such poor quality exists, but I must go with the cliché and recommend the higher quality brands, like Samsung, Sony, and Sharp. The big 3 all have their own issues (not many major problems that I’ve read about for Samsung, sparkles with Sony, banding with Sharp), so do read up on them first. I haven’t had a chance to try out Toshiba or other ‘mid-level’ brands, so I can’t comment on them.
Ultimately, even reading every post on AVSForum.com can’t completely inform you. I’d highly recommend buying a TV at a local store to try it out – places like Best Buy, Circuit City, and Frys allow you 30 days to return it for any reason, for a full refund. Additionally, if you have any issues like dead/stuck pixels or backlight uniformity problems or whatever, you can always exchange until you get a good set. Buying online can save money, but most places won’t let you return. The exception is Amazon.com (direct, not through their Marketplace sellers), which will allow for a similar return/exchange policy as a local store would.