televisions

LG 50PN6500 Plasma TV Review

$829.99

LG's newest plasma TV falls victim to awful contrast.

Overview

We’ve seen our fair share of plasma heavyweights duke it out this year—Samsung’s F8500 and Panasonic’s VT60 are currently the two top-rated TVs on our site. We hear so much talk amongst TV enthusiasts about those two companies because they happen to be the last of a dying breed: plasma TV manufacturers.

Or are they?

Would you believe me if I told you that LG makes plasma TVs? Last year, it even had a flagship plasma display—the PM9700—to compete with its top-of-the-line LED. While LG has scaled down its plasma lineup considerably, it still has a few new models this year. At the top of the (mini) mountain is the PN6500, and although it lacks any smart or 3D features, a 50-inch model retails for just $829.99. Unfortunately, LG seems to have forgotten what makes a plasma TV desirable in the first place.

Design & Interface

Adequate design, plus a snazzy remote

It’s definitely not LG’s best-looking TV of the year, but at least the PN6500 has some style. You’ll see the relatively thin bezels, which appear to be brushed metal, but are really plastic. A sideways glance reveals that the PN6500 is actually quite thin, but don’t be fooled: This is one heavy TV. According to LG, our 50-inch review model weighs just shy of 60 pounds, but feels way heavier. Maybe gravity was being unkind to us.

A sideways glance reveals that the PN6500 is actually quite thin, but don’t be fooled: This is one heavy TV.
Connections are limited to just two HDMI inputs, a USB jack, a combination component/composite input, a digital audio output, and your standard RF input. Since the PN6500 is a budget-friendly model, this is to be expected.

We also expected a standard remote, as opposed to the Magic Remote that LG bundles with its higher-end displays. The company's take on a more “normal” remote is much smaller than ones from Panasonic and Samsung. Nothing felt cramped on it and the all the typical buttons (menu, mute, input, etc.) are all accounted for. Plus, it fits nicely in your pocket!

On the interface side of things, this is not the same menu you'll see on the company's smart TVs. What's offered on the LG PN6500 is a barebones menu system that looks a bit outdated, but functions very well. There are even advanced options included, like the ability to tweak the values of primary colors. Pretty nifty stuff, but don't go overboard—changing some of these options can really mess up the picture.

Picture Quality

Everything tested well, except contrast. That's kind of a problem.

Oh, boy. This is a tough one to dissect. Let’s start by saying the PN6500 produces a decent image, especially its colors. Red, green, and blue are accurate, and whites look almost perfect. The viewing angle on this LG is also one of its strengths—it’s incredibly wide!

Everything looks muted because of its pitiful contrast.
We need to talk about the PN6500’s contrast, though. One of the major benefits that plasma TVs offer are their deeper black levels. LG’s PN6500 challenges this notion; its black level is practically the worst we've ever seen on a plasma. And while it gets bright for a plasma display, it can’t counteract the damage that its poor black level brings.

How does this affect your TV-viewing life? A high contrast ratio means a more lifelike picture—you want this. As good as the PN6500’s colors are, everything looks muted because of its pitiful contrast. A dark black level makes a TV’s image pop. Even the great motion performance on this LG can’t make up for that.

The Finale

Poor contrast on a plasma TV is a no-no.

We wanted to love the LG PN6500. It has a lot going for it: good looks, accurate colors, an incredibly wide viewing angle, and terrific motion performance. But a terrible contrast ratio ruins the entire package. What’s worse, this is a plasma TV, which means it should have a rich, dark black level. The fact that it doesn’t is troublesome.

Why buy a plasma that doesn’t embody the technology's primary strengths?
LG’s LED displays usually have poor black levels and incredibly bright white levels to make up for them. Would you ever buy a sports car that accelerated slower than a hybrid? Probably not, so why buy a plasma that doesn’t embody the technology's primary strengths?