In the past year, LG has shown that it has some impressive design chops — especially with the weird but pretty Scarlet. Meanwhile, the 50PG79ED takes its style cues from the 42-inch 42PG60UD and features a "bezel-less" design with a single piece of glass stretching from side to side.
The bottom of the "bezel" is quite striking, though subtle, with a faint blue mimicking the "blue" range of Scarlet TVs. Underneath this is the TV's swivel base, which is a handy addition, and around the back is a refreshing lack of blue or red just a grey back panel. We've never been keen on designer finishes no one will see.
The remote itself is unremarkable, and is the same that came with the earlier LG 47LY3DE DVR model. It's backlit, piano black (of course) and also relatively straightforward to use.
Features-wise, the LG is also similar to the company's 47LY3DE, and includes a 160GB drive and dual HD tuners. The unit also supports the freely-available seven-day EPG, though it was initially reticent to download the data.
The 50-inch panel itself is a full 1,920x1,080 resolution, features an anti-reflective coating, and a contrast ratio of 30,000:1. Though the manual doesn't mention it at all, the television features a 100Hz mode. It's turned on by default, and acts more like the 100Hz mode from CRT televisions, and so there is no way to turn it off. Additionally, the telly will support 24p via its Cinema mode.
If you're looking for a TV that will support USB media then this is one to consider, and while it won't do movie files it will do JPEGs and MP3s.
The LG offers a number of different connection options: the rear panel supports two HDMI, two component, and one composite connection, in addition to a VGA port for PC. On the side is a further HDMI connector, composite, S-Video and a USB 2.0 port. The LG can display photos and play MP3s from external USB drives and memory sticks.
We really appreciate that LG is looking out for the customer with the provision of two separate user picture modes as this allows a higher degree of customisation than you'll find on most sets.
Like other recent LG televisions, the 50PG79ED features an "invisible" speaker system tuned by hi-fi eccentric Mark Levinson — instead of using dedicated woofers, this system converts the entire bezel into a speaker.
As evidenced by its relationship with Levinson, the company is trying very hard to improve the quality of its products and still provide value for money. And in the LG 50PG79ED, the company has succeeded at both. This is a very accomplished television, and is at last able to rub shoulders with its plasma competitor Panasonic for pure picture quality.
We were particularly impressed by the plasma's ability to reproduce colours — particularly gradients, where one colour blends into another such as in sunsets or smoke. Even our current plasma favourite, the Panasonic TH-42PZ800A had troubles with this.
Detail and movement are also well handled, and the TV performed well in both synthetic tests and real-world disc tests. The LG is equally comfortable with standard-definition and high-definition content, and the on-board tuners are quite good as well.
If you're looking for absolute blacks though, there are better models out there — including the current crop of LED-backlit LCDs from Sony and Samsung, but we'd say it's up there with plasmas such as 2006's Pioneer 5000EX.
If we had any gripes it would be in the integration of the PVR — it's not the best on the market, but as a value-add it's quite good. TiVo and Foxtel both offer more features and are easier to use, especially when navigating through available programs. For example, while you can record you can't pick a show and watch it via the guide — you need to quit out and channel change. Most PVRs, however, will let you do this. Recording quality was good, but some of the shows we lined up didn't record for some unknown reason.