Friday, September 05, 2014

Review: LG 60PB6900 60" 1080p 3D Plasma TV

I don't watch TV much, but I do play video games, and my son streams videos from Amazon Instant Video. My wife and I would watch more movies together if there was an easy way to watch movies without potentially disturbing our son after bedtime. It might be optimistic to think so, but I thought that if we had a separate TV in our bedroom after some remodeling work, we might be able to fulfill that last desire.

With Plasma TVs on the way out, I jumped on a recent Fry's deal to get the LG 60PB6900 3D Plasma TV for $699 and free shipping. While I didn't think that I would use the SmartTV features, one of the long standing complaints my wife had about the current setup was that the Playstation doesn't listen to IR commands, so you'd have to use the Playstation controller in order to turn the Playstation off, even if you could program the universal remote to talk to the playstation through the Nyko PS3 remote.

Plasma TVs have a reputation for having the highest picture quality. In reality, I'm red-green color blind, so it'd be tough for me to tell the difference. Nevertheless, apparently consumer reports rated the LG 60PB6900 the highest of any TV, tied with the Samsung PN60F8500. Since the latter costs over $2300 on Amazon, you can safely say that the LG represents good value. The comparable-in-price Samsung PN60F5300 comes without 3D or Smart TV features, and also has a reputation for buzzing as well as occasional "pink tint" panel issues.

Unboxing the TV and setting it up, it's hard to avoid going "Oh Wow, this is huge". The funny thing is that once the TV is on the wall, you get used to it pretty fast. The same thing happened with my wife and her Xperia Ultra Z. Her first impression was, "This is too big." By her second day, all the other phones just looked small. I'm pretty sure there's no real limit to how big screens can get: until they fill the size of your wall, you'd probably get used to however big they become.

One of the interesting things over the last 5 years is that digital audio outputs have really become the standard after being around for 20 years. That means that my RCA-driven  DRA-295 now needs a D to A converter before getting fed sound from the TV. Fortunately, you can get those fairly cheaply (like the basic one for $12.49, and you'll also need an optical cable), but they do add to the cable clutter in the entertainment system, and another source of power draw.

In any case, I won't review the picture quality, etc. You can geek out over that at AVSForum.com. I'll talk mostly about features that you're likely to try and use but those guys won't. For instance, the Smart TV apps. The interface is a mess. It took me a while to figure out that to get over to YouTube/Amazon Instant video, I should just push the blue button in the middle of the remote labeled "SMART". Once there, it was fairly straightforward to run the apps, enter your user name/password, and get things moving. Coming from the PS3, however, it amazes me how slow the Smart TV app is. I'm guessing the CPU/memory on these TV sets is rather lackluster, since they're not competing based on those specs. Worse, they're subject to occasional stutters and pauses. On occasion, Amazon Instant video will give up and return you to the main menu so you can redo your selection. Fortunately, Amazon Instant Video remembers where you were last, so this was not enough for me to give up on them, since it's nice not to have the PS3 running in addition to the TV, but also so I can program the universal remote so my wife has a prayer of using this thing.

YouTube pairs nicely with our tablets (both the Dell Venue 8 Pro and the Nexus 10 worked just fine), but behaves funny. One video started out looking like a SD video, and then the TV gradually buffered enough content that it suddenly looked like a HD video. Pretty weird. And god help you if you run two tablets at once throwing videos over to the TV. The poor TV gets pretty confused, and so do the tablets. Don't do that.

How about normal TV reception? It's pretty awful. I tried a bunch of local over-the-air channels on my crappy indoor antenna, and none of the channels look good. I have no idea whether this is because of my crappy indoor antenna, or because over-the-air just doesn't have enough bandwidth to put the HD into the HDTV.

Watching Blu-Rays? Amazing. It looks gorgeous. Basically, the PS3 is still the best media player you can find out there, and anything it does to your picture is just perfect. Even with the bigger screen I couldn't find any pixelation artifacts except by standing 2 feet from the TV with my glasses on trying to pixel-peep. Good stuff.

How about 3D. The set doesn't come with 3D glasses, but you can buy the cheap $16 Samsung 3D glasses and they will work with this set. I don't have any 3D movies (yet!) but fortunately, the PS3 had a few games that worked in 3D. I tried Super Stardust HD, Arkham City, and Killzone 3. The 3D looks good, but keep in mind that if you didn't like the game in 2D, you're not going to like it any better in 3D. I'm guessing that would apply to any 3D movies as well. If there are any 3D movies that you like feel free to tell me, since 3D-streaming is effectively still non-existent, and you pretty much have to buy 3D Blu Rays if you want to experience it.

Speaking of games, there's significant input lag with this TV (the display lag database shows it at around 71ms). This is not a great TV to play FPS on, though I'm such a poor FPS player that I might never notice. God of War, however, was fine with this TV as long as I turned on Game Mode.

All in all, for the price I paid (which $125 more than what I paid for the 42" LG 5 years ago), this is a pretty nice set. Recommended.
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