televisions

LG 39LB5600 LED TV Review

An affordable mid-range TV that trades its lack of smart features for an enticing price tag

$399.99 MSRP
Buy now at Amazon
39 in.
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It's a crowded year for affordable, mid-range HDTVs, and LG is very much in the mix. The LG 39LB5600 (MSRP $399.99) is a modest, 1080p television that makes up for its lack of features with an attractive price tag.

Unfortunately, the 39-inch LB5600 (also available in 32- and 42-inch models) is a lackluster performer. While most of its flaws can be mitigated with professional calibration, we can't see consumers going the distance for a $400 mid-range TV.

Poor out-of-the-box performance coupled with a complete lack of smart features mean the LB5600 is only a great choice for bargain hunters.

Looks & Experience

Svelte simplicity

If you're not careful, you might mistake the LB5600 with another entry in LG's 2014 mid-range lineup. The company has outfitted a number of these LED TVs with similar design features, but considering their good looks, we're not complaining.

The panel, which sports a silver-colored trim, rests atop two wide-set feet that elegantly hold the TV a few inches above its surface. It's refreshing to see a manufacturer dress up even the cheaper models with such unique design elements. Alas, the remote control is as basic as they come, though it works just fine.

All of the LB5600's connection ports are located on the back of the panel. You'll find most of the usual suspects here, but nothing out of the ordinary: two HDMI ports, shared component/composite inputs, RS-232, a digital audio output, and a coaxial jack. You're not going to find an ethernet port on the back of the LB5600 or WiFi connectivity in its menu software since this TV lacks smart features.

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The Picture

Out-of-the-box woes

We consider televisions to be, at their core, art reproduction machines. Healthy televisions reproduce a director or video game designer's vision, and color is their primary instrument. If the color doesn't translate accurately, you are not experiencing a piece of art the way it was intended.

Unfortunately, the LB5600's suffers from the same symptoms that plague most TVs on the market today: Low-, mid-, and high-range televisions can't seem to shake their blues. Scenes appear cooler than they should, gray tones (like Gandalf's beard) are tinged with teal, and white just doesn't look right.

If you're hoping to gather friends and family around this TV, you might want to hold off. Due to a narrow viewing angle, the amount of real estate people can occupy in front of the LB5600 while still getting an uncompromised picture is mighty small. If you find yourself shunted to the side, the contrast ratio will appear to take a big hit.

The question consumers have to ask themselves is whether it's worth it to spend the time and money calibrating a $400 TV.

If we factored its calibrated performance into our final scores, the LB5600 would have fared much better: After some tender loving calibration, the LB5600 really starts to look like a middleweight prizefighter. The question consumers have to ask themselves is whether it's worth it to spend the time and money calibrating a $400 TV.

For my own calibration results and the rest of the hard data, check out the Science page.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the LG 39LB5600, take a look at these other televisions.

The Verdict

Calibrate your expectations

Depending on your needs, the LG 39LB5600 could make a fitting choice for your living room or bedroom. If you've already got a gaming console or Blu-ray player equipped with smart features, and (more importantly) if you don't mind a merely passable picture quality, the LB5600 has a price tag worthy of consideration.

However, if you're looking to maximize your dollar in the picture department and size isn't a priority, the Samsung UN32H5203 is significantly cheaper and packs a mightier punch out-of-the-box.

If basic smart TV features are a must, Sony's KDL-40W600B might serve you better. It's available online for a little under $100 more than the LB5600, but its performance is stellar and it ships with a handful of smart capabilities.

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