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The LG 32LN530B (MSRP $349.99) is an entry-level LCD from the South Korean manufacturer formerly known as Lucky-Goldstar, and presently known as the the country's premier producer of LCD panels.
At 32 inches, our test sample is neither packing a huge screen, nor a ton o' pixels at a native resolution of only 720p. However, save for a few bold budget models, $350 is not too steep an asking price for a 32-inch 2013 LCD—assuming that it provides a picture quality up to modern standards.
The LN530B is not a powerhouse performer, but for the price delivers decent picture quality. Its biggest drawback is in contrast performance: While this LCD gets decently bright, it produces mediocre black levels. Even so, it's still a good choice for a dorm or kitchen TV.
This lilliputian LG would capture anyone's imagination—if it had been the first flat panel ever made. Dressed head-to-toe in a glossy black plastic, its design is entirely run-of-the-mill for 2013. Even still, its appearance does stand out from the crowd: Compared to budget bin LCDs from off-brand names, the LN530B is arguably just a little more smooth, sleek, and attractive.
But not by much. This LG sports modest, half-inch bezels and an equally thin-edged panel balanced atop a flat, grained stand that widens as it tapers from front to back. The neck holds the panel a few inches aloft from the base, leaving a moderate space between the two.
'Round back, you'll find the TV's on-set controls and connectivity ports. The 32LN530B only allows for a paltry two HDMI inputs, located on the TV's left side when facing it, so your high-definition connection options are somewhat limited. There's also a USB port for software updates or playback of files on an external device. Everything else is standard: shared component/composite, RF jack, optical audio out, and a service port.
Finally, the LN530B ships with a standard infrared remote. Most of LG's 2013 brood include the company's Magic Remote, but the clicker that accompanies this entry-level unit is nay so fancy. Picture your basic, mid-size black plastic remote stuffed with buttons, and you've got a good idea of how it works.
For an entry-level unit, the 32LN530B is quite complex. Like most of the 2013 LGs we've reviewed this year, its Settings menu includes a complex array of options for customizing the way the TV looks, sounds, and operates. You won't find any smart content, 3D, or voice commands here, but the TV is quite customizable for being as cheap as it is. Unfortunately, this complexity is not necessarily useful to the average consumer.
To fully take advantage of the complex picture adjustments availed by the LN530B, you'd need to be a trained calibrator. Like the $4,000 Panasonic ZT60, the LN530B offers users the option to manually adjust the television's gamma correction, 2- and 10-point grayscale values, and individual hue, saturation, and brightness levels for the TV's CMS (Color Management System). These are fully fleshed-out calibration controls—not the kind of thing most people are going to know how to use, or at the very least have the equipment to make educated adjustments.
For LG's higher-end TVs, these well-labeled sub-systems are a very welcome addition to the menu. They make hiring a calibrator (or D.I.Y'ing) much, much quicker than having to punch in a secret code as in years past. However, the LN530B—especially the 720p, 32-inch model—is definitively not high-end. No sane videophile would buy this as the centerpiece of a home theater, and who's going to hire a calibrator to tweak this TV when the TV itself costs less than the calibration? Granted, LG has simply implemented them into the mainboard of their OSD, which is an innocent enough action. Outside of these extensive calibration controls, however, the LN530B doesn't do much else.
The one "extraneous" feature you'll find here is the ability to play back photos and music from a USB storage device—but we're appalled when a modern TV can't do that, so really, this par-for-the-course addition is nothing to get excited about.
The 32LN530B is a $350 LCD that has only one job to do: Produce a high-quality picture. While it's definitely an entry-level set, we still expect certain facets of modern picture quality to be met. Unfortunately, the LN530B has a big problem with its dynamic range (or contrast ratio), keeping it from true greatness.
First, though, it deserves a modicum of praise for producing a very accurate color gamut. International standards dictate that TVs should produce colors that are of a certain hue and saturation, and the LN530B vigilantly adheres to this standard. Its reds, blues, and greens (among other things) are spot-on, almost perfect. Unfortunately, it errs in its white balance, struggling to produce a white of a single consistent correlated color temperature across the board.
This means that, for the most part, content you watch looks accurately colored, and rich in hue. Subtler picture elements such as gray-on-black and lines within complex patterns will vary in consistency, however. Fortunately, the LN530B follows a beautifully gentle gamma correction curve, allocating plenty of detail to the rich, shadowy content that sets TVs apart from other displays.
The LN530B also handles motion-intensive content quite well. During our test process, it exhibited little blurring, and none of the color or shape trailing common to sample-and-hold based LCD technology. While I don't flat out recommend it for gaming, I could see it as a great sports TV.
Its big drawback, however, is that it does not produce ample contrast between the brightest and darkest elements on screen. While this TV certainly gets bright enough for a standard room, its luminous blacks take away from the value of theater-style viewing; dim, or dark room watching simply isn't enjoyable, as the blacks produced are much lighter than real black.
A narrow contrast ratio and a poor black level mar this TV's ability to produce a truly compelling picture. For daytime soaps, news, cartoons—it's great. As expected, though, this entry-level unit is not up to the task of matching the year's best TVs.
The LG 32LN530B is an interesting television. It has more calibration controls and tweakable options than many mid-tier and even high-end TVs, but at its size is likely never going to be calibrated outside of a professional testing environment. Destined for guest rooms, dorms, garages, and kitchen counters, the $350 LN530B is decidedly a workhorse kind of product.
On the upside, it does work, and quite well—just not as well as we were hoping. Expect a handsome, if simple design and easy setup. The LN530B will flourish in brighter rooms, producing a crisp, colorful 720p picture. If it could produce a deeper black level or gather more contrast efficacy in some way, it would have a much better score. As a secondary display, though, I think $350 is a fair price (but look for a deal anyway).
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