LG 50PM9700 Plasma TV Review
This LG is one of the more affordable flagships around, but it's not without flaws.
LG doesn't get a lot of attention for its plasma TVs, likely because they don't make very many. Just as Phil Collins' back catalog is filled mostly with tunes about his first divorce, LG's 2012 smart TV lineup consists largely of LED models. Those interested in an LG plasma only have three choices—kind of like how Phil fans looking for deep social commentary got stuck with "Another Day in Paradise."
I may be a one-man cheering squad, but after spending some quality time with the 50PM9700 I started wondering why LG didn't put more emphasis on its plasma lineup. Sure, the 50PM9700's black levels were nowhere near as deep as on other plasmas, and the 3D was mediocre at best, but I was still impressed by the PM9700's fantastic motion performance and incredibly wide viewing angle. With those strengths, this LG plasma is a great choice for folks who want to invite people over to watch sports.
Despite the differing display technologies, the smart platform functions the same as any LED-equipped LG, which is a plus. But the real icing on this pixel cake is its price: The 50PM9700 has an MSRP of $1699, making it one of the cheaper options for a flagship television.
The PM9700 sports LG's modern design aesthetic.
The PM9700 is quite handsome. Its gunmetal color scheme and unique stand, which resembles the letter "M" or "W," depending on your perspective, is a refreshing take on the standard "black plastic rectangles" school of TV design.
While not as slim as an LED, the PM9700 is still pretty sleek, and thankfully dodges the stigma of the boxy plasma build. But I should mention that for all of its good looks and svelte profile, the PM9700 is still quite heavy: With the stand attached, this TV weighs over 60 lbs. Keep that in mind if you're planning to do a wall-mount installation.
Smart TV Features
LG's smart features are among the best.
Every setting and smart feature on the PM9700 is controlled with LG's Magic Remote, a "point and click" device which works much like Nintendo's Wiimote. If you want to change picture settings, you will be pointing and clicking. If you want to search for Creed music videos on the YouTube app, you just point and click. If all of this sounds daunting, rest assured: It isn't. The Magic Remote is accurate and intuitive, as long as you know how to point and click.
The home screen on LG's smart platform offers a serious amount of apps. Heavy hitters like Netflix, Hulu Plus, a YouTube app, and Skype are all available. There is even an app store on deck, though the wares on sale are of dubious usefulness. Smart TVs are still in their infancy, so the mere inclusion of an app store is definitely a positive. Until more developers figure out how to create truly useful apps, though, you will most likely have to stick to the video streaming ones.
The black levels are not plasma-worthy, but the motion performance will make other TVs envious.
No matter how well-designed a TV's smart platform is, it can't make up for shoddy picture quality. While the PM9700 has very solid picture quality overall, its poor contrast would have you believing otherwise. One of the reasons that plasma TVs are highly regarded in certain circles is because of their ability to display deep, convincing black levels. The PM9700's black levels, unfortunately, were worse than those on some bright LED televisions.
Luckily, LG's flagship plasma picked up the pace in some of our other tests. We observed commendable motion performance, and images—like quarterbacks and F1 cars—retained high detail while moving across the screen. LG also offers its own version of motion enhancement, called TruMotion. I didn't notice much of a difference with any of the TruMotion modes turned on, though, which is less an indictment of its effectiveness than a testament to the TV's already great baseline motion performance.
If you've got a tricky install in an oddly-shaped room, or if you like to invite over lots of people to watch TV, you should take note of the PM9700's amazing viewing angle. We found that it was nearly perfect, meaning that no matter where you sit, the image quality will still be acceptable.
The PM9700 stumbles in its efforts to provide a viable 3D experience.
I wouldn't recommend choosing a TV in LG's PM9700 series if you're planning on watching a lot of 3D content. At TelevisionInfo, we have written nothing but positive words about LG's 3D experience for its current crop of LED TVs, but the PM9700 is an entirely different animal.
Where LG's LED TVs use passive 3D technology, the PM9700 series televisions rely on active 3D. Both technologies can produce great 3D, but in this particular case, LG does not make use of active 3D well at all. The effect just lacked the depth and wow-factor present in LG's passive 3D TVs.
To add insult to injury, 3D glasses are not included with the PM9700. Whereas LG packages an astonishing six pairs of 3D glasses with its 3D-capable LED TVs, you'll need to shell out $50 each for the PM9700's active glasses.
The PM9700 is a worthwhile plasma TV, as long as you don't care about 3D.
I really enjoyed my time with the 50PM9700 (MSRP $1,699). LG’s smart features are a pleasure to use, thanks largely to the easy-to-use Magic Remote, and the excellent motion performance and screen uniformity were impressive, as well. The 50PM9700 even produces great audio with its internal speakers.
It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, though. The TV's color accuracy and consistency, while good, were not quite on the same level as those metrics on flagship plasmas from Samsung and Panasonic. The 3D experience was nothing special, either. While LG offers some of the best 3D on its LED TVs, the sold-separately active 3D glasses you need for the 50PM9700 aren't great, and the overall effect is just mediocre.
Would I still recommend this TV? Absolutely. It's an especially solid choice for sports fans who don't really care about contrast but need a wide viewing angle for parties, and top-notch motion performance for fast-paced action. LG's gotten a lot right on the 50PM9700, including its price: Its MSRP is $1,699, but it can be found for around $1,200 online. Compare that to the 51-inch Samsung E8000, which retails for about $1,700, and the 55-inch Panasonic VT50, which sells for around $2,250. With little fanfare, this LG plasma definitely offers a quiet bang for your buck.
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