LG 42LF5600 LED TV Review
This LG boasts a number of strengths and an elegant design, but lacks good black levels.
The LG 42LF5600 (MSRP $499) is a midsize Full HD (1080p) option from LG, and it's about as frills-free as TVs come these days. Essentially, this is the 2015 version of LG's LB5600 from last year, and it doesn't deviate much from the older model's simple design and interface.
Unfortunately, the 42-inch LF5600 also doesn't improve much upon the drawbacks we discovered during testing of last year's model. While it's fine for bright rooms, shallow contrast and luminous black levels make it difficult for this TV to look its best in more demanding dim or dark theater lighting. The proprietary LG IPS panel delivers solid color and grayscale accuracy and more than enough brightness for well-lit rooms, but it lacks the flexibility for darker environments.
At this price, the 42-inch LF5600 is not a bad value if you're aiming to set it up in a room with lots of lights or windows, but if you need something with better contrast performance in the same price range, there are better options out there. Consider checking out Sharp's 43-inch LE653U ($379 online) or Samsung's 40-inch J5500 ($499 online).
The LF5600 series is available in two screen sizes
LG's LF5600 series is available in 32-inch (model: LG 32LF5600, MSRP: $379) and 42-inch (model: LG 42LF5600, MSRP $499) sizes. Both TVs feature Full HD (1080p) resolution and 60 Hz refresh rates, as well as identical design, coloration, audio/video ports, and remote controls.
Users can expect very similar performance between the two sizes in the LF5600 series. Our 42-inch test unit was purchased new from Amazon retail.
Hardware & Software
This TV sports a minimal design and a very wide stance.
The 42-inch LF5600 follows the trend of LG's entry-level and midrange options from this year and last year, delivering a sleek, minimal appearance and a simple charcoal finish that should look good in a wide variety of rooms.
The panel and bezels are attractively thin, and rest upon two pointed feet (instead of the usual rectangular pedestal). Like with other LG TVs, users should double-check that their TV stand or surface is wide enough for this TV to rest upon; you'll need a stand that's at least 39 inches wide.
The TV's rear casing is a smooth charcoal-colored plastic that gives way to both side- and rear-oriented audio/video ports. You'll find an average amount of port flexibility for an entry-level TV, including two HDMI inputs, a single USB 2.0 port, digital (optical) audio out, shared component/composite jacks, RF (coaxial) input, and an RS-232C control port. Videophiles might find themselves missing the added flexibility provided by three or four HDMI inputs, but it's nothing an HDMI switcher can't fix. It's worth pointing out that while the RS-232C jack looks a lot like a standard headphone jack, it definitely isn't one.
Included with the TV is a simple infrared remote control. The remote's rounded black plastic and medium weight lend it an air of durability, and it's packed edge-to-edge with buttons for a huge variety of functions. Highlights include volume/channel rockers, play/pause buttons, and a full number pad. There are some redundant buttons, too—for example, the "q. menu," "picture," and "sound" keys all bring you to the same quick-access menu.
The menu layout here is just as simple as the TV's appearance, but as usual LG stuffs it full of advanced calibration controls and lots of useful features. The picture menu allows for a wide variety of picture modes (Vivid, Standard, APS, Cinema, Game, Expert1, and Expert2) as well as a gamma selector, 2/20 point white balance controls, and a full CMS (Color Management System). These controls are always valuable to picture perfectionists, and doubly so on a budget TV like this one where calibration can eke out every ounce of performance.
Other than the ability to play back photos, videos, and music on a connected USB storage device, that's all she wrote. You won't find any smart features or 3D functionality here—just a screen and lots of ways to customize it.
This LG does plenty of things right, but it lacks the flexibility for movie night.
Amongst affordable LED TVs, the 42-inch LF5600 has plenty to boast about. Testing revealed a strong performance profile, including clean, color-free grayscale shades, reliable color accuracy, a wide horizontal viewing angle, and very bright highlights. Ultimately, this TV boasts a flashy, vivid picture that makes content like cartoons, news, sports, and video games look excellent—especially in a well-lit environment.
The LF5600 is not the best choice for dim or dark lighting, however. While it offers plenty of brightness, its overall contrast is poor due to very luminous shadow tones. Testing corroborated this, but it's very easy to see with the naked eye when you're watching film content: "Near" black elements—like line details on Batman's utility belt—fade in shadows and are washed out, making it hard to make out details. The best option is crank up the TV's gamma setting (from the 2.2 default) in order to brighten up shadow and midtones a bit, but this makes for rather unsatisfying dark-room viewing.
Of course, this isn't a huge problem if you aren't watching movie or film content with lots of dark, shadowy scenes, but it does mean some serious flexibility problems for this TV. Regardless of price, resolution, backlight type, or any other basic feature, the best TVs should be able to perform optimally in both bright and dim environments.
Picky viewers may also take a bit of issue with the LF5600's motion performance. Since it utilizes a 60 Hz panel, this TV may exhibit occasional blurring during fast-action content like sports, and will limit the frames per second on very twitchy PC games. Otherwise, it reliably reproduces motion during most broadcasts and Blu-rays, which tend to play back at 24 or 30 Hz.
Finally, we were disappointed with this TV's backlight uniformity. When watching in the dark, the top and bottom edges of the screen exhibit flashlighting (backlight bleed) that's especially evident during shadowy content or when letterbox (16:9) black bars are on the screen. This (again) won't be very visible if you're watching with ambient lights on, but is quite visible in the dark.
For more information on the LF5600's lab results, check out the Science Page.
Not a bad TV for the price if you've got a bright living room.
The LG 42LF5600 is a great performer in many areas—the IPS panel type delivers wide viewing angles, good color production, clean neutral tones, and plenty of peak brightness. Most content looks spot-on as long as you're watching in a somewhat well-lit room.
If you decide to shut off the lights for movie night, however, you may be disappointed by this TV's shadow production, which is more luminous than we'd like—especially if you're already used to better black levels.
This lack of viewing flexibility is the LF5600's biggest flaw. While it's not a bad deal on paper, it's bested by similarly priced models that can function more optimally in a wider variety of viewing conditions.
Contrast is a huge keystone of good picture quality, so if you're really set on getting day and night-time use out of your new TV, consider checking out similarly sized options like Sony's new R510C series. That model tested with equal color accuracy and brightness, but is also able to produce the kind of deep shadow tones that videophiles yearn for.
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