- Review Date: 7/24/2013
- Bottom line: The LG LA8600 series of HDTVs offers beautiful aesthetics, sharp 2D and 3D imagery, and rich color reproduction at a premium price. You get lots of features with this series, some of which are of questionable value.
- Pros: Great picture quality. Gorgeous bezel-free design. Feature-rich. Good 3D imagery.
- Cons: Pricey. Tricky remote. Motion and voice features are sketchy.
Never let it be said that LG doesn't know how to make a fashion statement. Not only is their 55LA8600 LED backlit HDTV one of the sharpest-looking 55-inch LCD sets to grace the labs, it's a solid performer and loaded with features, although one or two of those features are not quite ready for primetime. As always, you'll pay big bucks for a top-of-the-line HDTV ($2,699.99 list), but if you want a big-screen set that offers all the latest technologies, including a 240Hz refresh rate, passive 3D, and a wealth of Web services, the LA8600 deserves a spot on your short list, right alongside our Editors' Choice plasma screen, the Samsung PN60F8500.
Design and Features
The 55LA8600 uses a so-called bezel-free design on the top and sides that gives the impression of a floating screen. However, the LA8600 isn't completely bezel-less; there is a thin (0.7-inch) glossy black bezel at the bottom edge of the panel done up in a glossy black finish and sporting a small LG logo. A band of textured metal trim around the cabinet's perimeter completes the look. While visually stunning, the 55-inch panel is susceptible to damage due to the lack of bezel support on the edges, so be careful when un-boxing this beauty.
Edge-mounted LED backlighting allows for a slim (1.3-inch) cabinet that juts out a bit at the bottom to accommodate a pair of down-firing 12-watt speakers that, aided by a rear-mounted subwoofer, deliver loud audio with a good amount of bass response for HDTV speakers. The 51-pound cabinet comes with a u-shaped stand featuring a unique swivel mechanism that actually swivels the entire stand rather than the just the cabinet. Of course, you can use the VESA-compliant mounting holes to hang the set on a wall.
There's no shortage of I/O ports here. On the left side, facing outward, are four HDMI ports and three USB ports, one of which supports the speedy USB 3.0 standard. Down-facing ports include shared component/composite AV jacks, an optical digital audio output, a LAN port, an antenna/cable jack, and a headphone/external speaker output. On the right side of the cabinet are Volume and Channel Up/Down, Settings, Select, Input, and Power buttons.
A flip-up camera and microphone array sits at the top of the cabinet, behind the screen. It can be used for Skyping as well as for gesture and voice commands. As with the Samsung PN60F8500, you have to enunciate voice commands clearly and slowly in order for them to be recognized. The voice search feature worked well enough, but it's much quicker to just change the channel and raise or lower the volume level using the remote. Likewise, the motion gesture feature is supposed to let you use your hands to turn the set on and off, raise and lower the volume, and change channels, but we were unable to get this feature to function at all. The camera was able to take somewhat blurry video and grainy stills, but is clearly intended more for video chat than recording.
Instead of a conventional, button-filled flat remote, the 55LA8600 uses the motion-sensing LG Magic Remote. The 5-inch remote is very similar to the one that ships with the LG 55LM6700, only this time around it has a shiny silver finish and sports a built-in microphone (for voice recognition) and Microphone button. It also has a 3D, Channel and Volume Up/Down, and Mute buttons, and a scroll wheel surrounded by a four-way directional pad. The Magic Remote can be used as a pointing device, similar to an air mouse, to navigate the menus, change settings, and select Web apps, but it takes some getting used to. For example, the on-screen cursor tends to stray off course quite often and can result in accidental menu selections if you're not paying close attention. After 15 minutes or so I got the hang of the remote, but like the PN60F8600's touchpad remote, it can have a frustrating learning curve if you're not patient.
The LA8600 is equipped for wired and wireless networking, and its catalog of Web apps is impressive. Streaming video apps include Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, YouTube, MLB.com, CinemaNow, Crackle, and Skype. There's also a Game World channel loaded with 2D and 3D games and LG's Smart World portal, which includes hundreds of paid and free movies, TV shows, games, and lifestyle and education apps. You can also access videos, photos, and other content stored in the LG Cloud, which requires a membership.
Picture settings abound. There are seven picture presets including Vivid, Standard, Eco, Cinema, Game, and two professional calibration (ISF Expert) modes that offer extensive picture adjustments in addition to the usual assortment of picture settings. In ISF mode professionals can calibrate the set using the White Balance, CMS (Color Management System), Color Filter, and Expert Pattern options. The menu system also offers several TruMotion (de-judder) settings, as well as Black Level, Local Dimming, and Audio presets.
To test peak brightness, black level, and color accuracy we use a Klein K10-A colorimeter, SpectraCal's CalMAN 5 software, and the DisplayMate diagnostic utility. The LA8600's peak brightness topped out at 259.12 cd/m2, which is decent but not quite as bright as the Panasonic TC-L55ET60 (304.34 cd/m2). However, the panel produced a relatively dark black level of 0.027 cd/m2 for a strong contrast ratio of 9,597:1. In comparison, the plasma screen Samsung PN60F8500 reached a black level of 0.0054 cd/m2 for remarkable 55,779:1 contrast ratio .
Out-of-the-box color accuracy was good, although reds ran a little hot, as shown in the CIE chromaticity chart above (the inside of each box represents the ideal color coordinates for its corresponding color). Fortunately, the warm reds do not result in any tinting or an oversaturated picture. Viewing angles are good but not perfect; the panel dims slightly when viewed from a side angle of around 80 degrees (off-center).
Image quality on the 1920-by-1080 panel was superb. Underwater scenes from the movie Piranha on Blu-ray appeared sharp with good shadow detail, and the picture was squeaky clean with no noticeable background noise. Motion blur was also non-existent, so there's no reason to crank up the TruMotion de-judder settings.
The LA8600 uses passive 3D, and comes with four sets of glasses. The panel provided good 3D depth without sacrificing background detail or luminance, and the lightweight glasses were comfortable. The 3D imagery in Sharks 3D on Blu-ray was convincing; in fact, a colleague remarked that he felt like he was watching the movie from the inside of a fish tank. As with nearly every passive 3D HDTV we've tested, the LA8600 does exhibit a trace of crosstalk when viewed from an extreme side angle, but the artifacts are not blatant enough to be considered an issue.
In Standard mode, the LA8600 consumed 106 watts of power during testing, which is on par with the Panasonic TC-L55ET60 (100 watts). With Eco mode enabled it used only 68 watts, while the ET60 used required 79 watts. With the Picture Mode set to Cinema, the LA8600 consumed 81 watts of power. The Samsung PN60F8500 consumed three times as much power for only five inches more diagonal screen size thanks to its plasma panel, eating 320 watts with Eco mode set to low.
Outstanding HD picture quality, solid 3D, and copious features are all characteristics of any flagship HDTV line, and the LG 55LA8600 doesn't disappoint. It may not get as bright as the more affordable Panasonic TC-L55ET60 and its picture isn't quite as stellar as the Editors' Choice Samsung PN60F8500, but it does produce dark blacks and accurate colors, is one of sharpest looking HDTVs around, and consumes much less power. Granted, neither are exactly affordable, but top-of-the-line HDTVs rarely (if ever) are. You may have to invest in a little training time to take full advantage of the remote and voice recognition feature, but these are minor annoyances, not deal breakers. If your budget doesn't allow for a $2,800 expenditure, our Editors' Choice for mid-range big-screen LCD HDTV, the Panasonic TC-L55ET60, is a stellar performer with a much more palatable price tag.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.