It's getting toward the spiky end of 2012, and save the surprise appearance of some OLEDs, we've seen most of the TVs that we expect to score highest in picture quality. This leaves us with televisions like the PA6500: not a dreadful plasma by any means, but one that still can't qualify for our recommendation.
LG's cheapest 1080p plasma does some things right, particularly colours, and some not so right, the worst being LCD-like black levels that lead to a less "present" picture. However, the 60-inch PA6500 is among the least-expensive TVs that you can buy at this size.
Let me invent a new term to describe the PA6500: it is a perfectly "livingroomable" television. That is to say that it won't stick out in an obnoxious way in your living area, or look so drab as to induce spontaneous comas. The frame is clad predominantly in glossy black, with a vaguely gun-metal wedge at the bottom. The swivelling stand has a businesslike appearance, and is a welcome change from stodgy rectangular ones.
The included remote control is surprisingly fully featured, with access to all the most commonly used functions: volume, channels and so on. Indeed, we had to double check that this was the correct remote, since it seemed too good for such a cheap TV.
The TV's menu system is similar to the rest of the line, with small, easy-to-read icons leading to a pleasant experience. Of course, it does without the smart TV aspects of the connected televisions, which greatly helps in the "simple" department.
Unlike the cheaper PA4500 and its 720p resolution, the PA6500 is a full HD, 1080p television. Apart from that, though, the set doesn't have many features when compared to more expensive devices. Additions like 3D and smart TV are far from ubiquitous at the moment, and you'll have to pay a bit more to enjoy them. But if you want free or inexpensive streaming content, then a cheaper streamer will serve you well.
The TV, like most plasmas these days, features 600Hz subfield driving, which refers to the rate at which the TV sends the picture to the screen, and is not actually related to 100Hz-type engines found on LCD TVs.
Like the PA4500 that precedes it in LG's line-up, the PA6500 includes plenty of tweaks, including ISF presets and 20-point greyscale adjustments. The TV also comes with a power-saving mode, although, like most such additions, it caps light output, which leads to a too-dim picture.
The LG features three HDMI ports, with two on the side and one on the rear, two component inputs, a composite connector, a single USB and a PC connection.
The PA6500 is essentially a 1080p version of the PA4500, and, as a result, its picture quality is very similar to that of the cheaper TVs. While black levels and shadow details are almost identical in performance, the two do differ in colour response. We would describe the PA4500's colour as more excitable, with richer skin tones and better colour saturation. On the other hand, the PA6500 was more muted, but arguably more accurate. One problem that we did find was that the PA6500 was the most susceptible of all the models in the line-up to image retention, as I'll detail shortly.
Plenty of better 60-inch sets are available, too, but they do cost more than this LG, making the 60PA6500 a potential bargain pick — but I'd still pay a couple of hundred more to avoid this TV's issues. Yes, the LG does look better than some LCDs that are up to twice the price, but even at this level it's not enough.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review, and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.
Dark scenes revealed the PA6500 as one of the lightest in the line-up. That's not to say that it's accurate, though; the TV's gamma curve doesn't adhere to our standard (2.2), and was a much lighter 1.8. Regardless, during the flyby of the Romulan mining ship in Star Trek, it was possible to pick out the shape of the passing ship — something that the other TVs weren't as successful at doing.
No matter how detailed the shadows, the picture looks less realistic without deep black levels to underpin it. The lighter black levels of the PA6500 did make the images look more indistinct overall, and even the PA4500 managed a smidgen more inkiness at times during playback.
Image retention — where the image sticks after playing highly contrasting material — is an issue with this TV, and it leads to ghostly images, particularly on black screens. It's not permanent burn-in, but we can't say whether the more serious burn-in is also an issue. There is no obvious anti-burn-in protection on this unit.
From the red cadet uniforms of the Star Trek crew to the lush, green landscapes of The Tree of Life, the PA6500 struggled a little in comparison to its competition. Colours were muted and sapped of the vitality shown by even the PA4500. Colours were less saturated than its lesser-priced brethren, but on the flipside they were more natural looking — particularly flesh tones.
The TV was able to complete the 24p compliance test, and it also showed few errors in the comparison during our 1080i scaling test. These tests indicate that the TV is able to handle both interlaced and HD sources well.
The PA6500 is also susceptible to solarising effects — where gradations of colours break up into bands. This is a plasma issue, particularly for budget models like the LG. At 24:20 during Tree of Life is a dawning sun, and the PA6500 broke this into bands, including one green one.
The PA6500 has a glossy screen that collects reflections — the mortal enemy of open blinds. That said, its screen also preserved contrast well. All told, the LG was actually a strong performer in the light, and this is one of its best characteristics.
Plasma is unlike LCD in that the resolution has a part in how much electricity it uses. While the 720p plasmas, like the LG PA4500, used surprisingly little power, the 1080p PA6500 uses what we were expecting. It drew 188 watts in calibrated mode, which is a little less than twice what a 720p plasma would.