LG Infinia 50PZ950 Plasma HDTV Review: Big and Beautiful, but a Bit Complicated
At a Glance
LG's Infinia 50PZ950 is an attractive 50-inch plasma set with good picture quality, plenty of Internet options, and excellent 3D graphics. Its only disadvantage is that navigating through its hundreds of apps and options can be a bit tricky.
Listed at $1700 (though Amazon currently sells the set for $1200), our review model has a 50-inch 1080p plasma screen surrounded by a thin black bezel. This HDTV lacks some features you might expect in a high-end model, such as built-in Wi-Fi (it does ship with an LG Wi-Fi dongle, however), but it does support both the manufacturer's new LG Smart TV connected TV platform and its app store.
Design and Peripherals
Like the Sony Bravia 46HX820, the Infinia 50PZ950 sports a thin black bezel that helps give it a "bezel-less" look. A sheet of glass extends across the screen to the edges of the bezel; as a result, when the HDTV is turned off, the set almost seems to lack a bezel altogether. In the 50PZ950's case, however, the blank screen is much lighter gray than the bezel, so the effect isn't perfect. A superthin strip of clear glass surrounds the bezel.
The set sits on a rectangular swivel stand that curves upward, so it resembles a little hill on your TV stand. At the bottom of the screen is a small LG logo, as well as touch buttons (power, input, home, enter, volume up/down, and channel up/down) along the right side. You'll also see some dancing blue lights in the bottom corner that appear only momentarily when you turn the TV on or off.
Many of the 50PZ950's ports are located on the back of the set, with only a few on the side (running parallel to the screen). All of the HDMI ports are on the side, though--a convenience for people who want to wall-mount their set. Four HDMI ports occupy the side, along with two USB2.0 ports and an AV port. On the back of the TV, running perpendicular to the screen, are an ethernet port, a remote control-in, a PC connection, an optical audio-out, a serial port, another AV port, two component ports, and an antenna/cable hookup. All of the ports are situated on the left side of the television.
The Infinia 50PZ950 comes with a wealth of peripherals, including the Wi-Fi USB dongle, a pair of active shutter glasses, and two remote controls: a regular, backlit remote, and LG's new Magic Motion remote. The latter is a wand-shaped remote equipped with only a few buttons--power, home, volume up/down, channel up/down, mute, enter, and a directional pad. The Magic Motion remote supports gestures such as flicking, rotating, and pointing, and works reasonably well. It reminds me of Nintendo's Wii controller, but it isn't as accurate.
The standard remote is thin, light, and comfortable to hold--and it looks a lot like previous LG remotes we've seen. It has large numbers, several convenient buttons at the top (such as 'Energy Saving', 'AV Mode', 'Input', and 'TV'), a directional pad surrounded by dedicated buttons ('Home', 'Quick Menu', 'Info', and so on), and media playback buttons. The standard remote also has a welcome but somewhat weak backlight.
Internet-Connected TV, Basic Setup, and Onscreen Menus
The Infinia 50PZ950 can access the company's Internet-connected LG Smart TV platform. LG Smart TV contains a Web browser for accessing the Internet directly, plus several preinstalled apps, including Cinema Now, Facebook, Hulu Plus, MLB.tv, Netflix, Twitter, and YouTube. You can find and download additional apps from LG's app store. The Magic Motion remote comes in especially handy with LG Smart TV--it's a treat to be able to point and click in apps, rather than having to use a joypad to move a "mouse" across the screen step-by-step. In case you still long for a keyboard, LG offers a free QWERTY keyboard app that you can download for your iPhone or Android device.
LG's initial setup wizard is quick and perhaps a little too simple. It covers channel setup and nothing else. You can't even connect to the Internet until you plug in an ethernet cord or open your Wi-Fi dongle; perhaps that's why LG skips all the extras. Once you're set up, the onscreen menus are easy to navigate, though a bit busy. Hitting the Home button on the standard remote brings up a list of apps across the bottom of the screen, as well as two columns of apps on the right side, with the picture relegated to a box on the left.
A simpler menu system features (for the most part) basic settings such as picture and audio mode. To get to this menu system, you press the "Q.MENU" (for "Quick Menu") button on the remote. This menu is much better-laid-out, and it appears unassumingly across the bottom of the screen. You can use the Quick Menu to scan for channels or change your Picture or Audio mode. If you want to make detailed changes to your picture or audio, however, you'll still have to go through the Home menu.
To get to the main setup menu, you must open the Home menu and select Setup. Here you can change real picture settings--such as brightness, contrast, sharpness, color, tint, and color temperature--and advanced settings. You can also adjust your 3D settings, balance your speakers, adjust your bass or treble, and find all of the usual parental lock controls and miscellaneous options.
In our jury testing, the Infinia 50PZ950 scored fairly well. All of our testers agreed that the set had consistently good picture quality in both 720p and 1080i "over the air" transport streams. The 50PZ950 also did a good job of DVD upconversion--though in our Phantom of the Opera scenes, colors and skin tones sometimes looked slightly off. The television scored poorly in our motion test for diagonal panning, as the picture looked very blurry while moving across the screen. On the other hand, it scored pretty well in our horizontal-panning motion test.
The 50PZ950 supports active-shutter 3D, and ships with a pair of active-shutter glasses. The glasses are fairly comfortable and not too dark, though they may give you a headache if you wear them while other lights are on in the room. The 50PZ950 looked very good in 3D, with plenty of picture depth, and fast-moving scenes displayed fairly smoothly. If you press the Q.MENU button while watching a 3D picture, you can access the 3D menu, where you can adjust the picture size, picture depth, 3D viewpoint, and picture balance, and switch L/R to R/L (useful for different 3D media formats).
Audio on the Infinia 50PZ950 sounded quite good as well. The maximum volume is very loud, and the system's virtual surround-sound option does an adequate job of replicating real surround sound. The sound occasionally lacks depth, but it's scarcely noticeable. Among the few audio presets are Music, Cinema, Sport, and Game.
The LG Infinia 50PZ950 is a good-looking 1080pHDTV with pretty good picture quality. The LG Smart TV platform, Magic Motion remote, and optional iOS/Android QWERTY keyboard app make this television tempting for people who want to do more than just watch TV. For people who aren't looking for additional options, however, the TV may be too complicated--the menus can be overwhelming, and the initial setup guide is barely there.