Review: LG 55LA8600 LCD TV

While OLED and massive 4K TVs are on offer from LG this year, its bread-and-butter remains the LCD TV with LED backlighting. The top of the line up this year in this range is the LA8600 series. There are two models available: the 55 and 60 inch versions. Here I have a look at the ‘smaller’ one of the pair.

Features

Fifty five inches comes to 139cm, which is a very large screen. Full HD resolution is on offer, and a reasonably thin border of 10mm around three sides of the picture. The panel is only a hair (literally) over 34mm thick and the stand conforms to the modern ideal of a smoothly curved sweep of metal. It can nonetheless swivel thanks to little wheels underneath the stand.

The panel offers LG’s passive 3D, in which you surrender a little vertical resolution (only with 3D, mind) for virtually ghost-free 3D picture performance, and lightweight eyewear that needs no batteries.

The TV has four HDMI inputs, plus three USB sockets. One of these is USB 3.0, so you can fit a fast hard drive for multimedia playback or the recording of live TV. The TV can actually record a modest amount of live broadcasts to its inbuilt memory (although this is shared with the Smart TV apps, so there’s a trade-off to be made there).

One other connection of note is that the TV now has a 3.5mm analog audio output again, re-instated after its removal last year. That opens to the TV to the use of a wider range of external speakers, should you wish to connect them.

The TV is super smart, with a dual core processor to run it. One of the bugbears of some smart TVs is that they offer high-end computer style functions … without the high-end computer processor to make it move along at a reasonable clip.

I’m pretty used to a lower level Smart LG TV from last year, and while its functions are quite usable, the responsiveness of this one for the most part makes it a pleasure to use.

LG provides some streaming content via the internet, but there’s also the ABC and SBS TV catch-\up services, YouTube, and Bigpond TV. You can watch pay-per-view movies from Bigpond movies as well (Bigpond content is unmetered if that company is your ISP).

There are games, a wide range of apps, social media apps, and even some pay-per-view 3D video content available for streaming (you need pretty fast internet to make that work smoothly).

The organisation of the enormous range of content could be improved a little. LG’s ‘Premium’ category provides a neat shortcut to the TV’s most compelling apps, but it’s not always the first place you’ll look if accustomed to searching for content by genre.

For example, the excellent internet radio app vTuner is sits in Premium alongside the free AFL Game Analyser and Skype (this uses the built-in camera, which slides up to the top of the TV), and pay-stuff like Bigpond movies.

Performance

In addition to a regular IR remote control, the third generation of Magic Motion remote is supplied with this TV.

It is an improvement even on last year’s, which was itself very good. Which means that this TV has the best out-of-the-box remote control presently available.

You move the remote and the arrow on the screen moves in response. It is fast to select stuff, and remarkably precise. The only complaint I had was that it sometimes took a stern shake to get it to wake up.

Still, ‘better than the rest’ doesn’t mean perfect. If you’re doing text-heavy smart TV stuff – say, using the web browser or twittering or Facebooking – then you’d do better plugging a mouse and keyboard combo (a wireless one, preferably) into one of the USB sockets. With those the unit became a quite decent web-based terminal.

The Magic Motion remote includes a microphone for issuing voice commands to the TV and it does a reasonable job of understanding words.

It doesn’t strictly control the TV, so you can’t say things like ‘channel up’. It is for use with the Search function and entering search words into the internet search feature. I could say things like ‘ABC TV’, which yielded results for several ABC-related things in the search box (including a Bing internet search), but not the actual ABC free-to-air channels.

Given that the voice recognition was fairly good, it’s a pity it only worked on a word by word basis, so it wasn’t much good at entering text into comment boxes and such.

Again, for significant amounts of text entry, go for a keyboard.

In addition to Skype, the built-in camera (it slides up to peer over the top of the screen) can be used for some motion control (that is, you wave your hands and the TV responds), but this was limited in operation.

You can change TV channels and the volume and inputs, but it cannot be used on the Smart function screens. Which is bit of a pity because it worked reliably, except only for a wait of a couple of seconds for it to bring up the onscreen indicator once you’ve raised your hand to the necessary position.

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