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by
Ed Driscoll

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February 14, 2012 - 3:13 pm

While the PC has quickly become the de facto home entertainment center for many, there are still moments – such as the Super Bowl or when it’s time to view Lawrence of Arabia or Star Wars on the big, big (home) screen – when sitting down, leaning back, and spacing out in front of a big-screen TV is a welcome change of pace.

LG’s model number 55LK520 55-Inch LCD HDTV produces a knockout 1080p picture. With three HDMI inputs, it’s possible to connect a satellite or digital set-top box, a Blu-Ray player, and an Internet device such as a Roku box. For the home theater industry’s equivalent of “legacy devices,” there are also component and composite inputs. (There’s no S-video connection, curiously. This may be the first video product I’ve purchased in 25 years without one.)

The LG 55LK520 lacks 3D, but I can’t say I’m enamored with that concept, particularly since it involves wearing ’50s-style 3D glasses over my own. And it lacks an Internet hook-up, but that’s OK as well. I’d rather plug-in a device of my own to connect to the Web. (Besides, my DirecTV receiver, Blu-Ray player, and Roku box all have various Web capabilities.)

The unit shares the same IR codes as the LG BD670 Blu-Ray player we reviewed last month; that unit’s remote is capable of performing the basic functions of this TV, though not vice-versa. It’s sort of academic though, as likely most will use some sort of universal remote, such as Logitech’s Harmony 900 or a similar device.

Initially, I was surprised by how “processed” some DirecTV HD programming looked on the 55LK520. Movies that were clearly shot on 35mm had an almost “live TV” sort of look, with little or no film grain visible. But you quickly become used to it. When I mentioned in my review of the Blu-Ray player last month that you can read the Winston logo printed on the band of Martin Sheen’s cigarettes in Apocalypse Now, or praised the details of a vintage Pimm’s Cup bottle label in the Blu-Ray edition of Boardwalk Empire, this was the TV I was viewing them on.

I had purchased the LG 55LK520 to replace an eight year old JVC rear-projection HD set, and immediately found that there was one feature on the older unit that I missed — the ability to zoom an 4X3 image to fill the screen. In contrast, unless I missed an option, the 55LK520 was only capable of black bars around a 4X3 image. If you watch a lot of older movies, or non-HD programming on cable or satellite, this might be something to keep in mind.

Also, for those who wish to place the LG 55LK520 on a tabletop (as I did, placing the unit on the stand in the middle of my home theater cabinets where my older — and much heavier rear projection once sat) my find that the base that the 55LK520 rests on feels a little on the flimsy side. It can do the job, but I wish had built with a more robust feel. Also, for those who placed their older rear projection sets with the screen flush with the edge of their supporting cabinet, the base causes the LG TV to be recessed about five inches in, which may require some adjustments if you’re planning to place the unit inside of a home theater cabinet. For those who wish to mount the LG 55LK520 on their wall, the rear of the set contains the usual VESA mount.

One of the handiest features on the back is a Toslink digital audio output. For those with limited digital audio inputs on their home theater receivers, the LG 55LK520 will output the audio of whatever device is currently displaying on the screen, thus simplifying use of the set with an A/V receiver, and reducing the number of digital audio inputs the A/V receiver needs for your various components. This also makes it easier to use the LG 55LK520 as a switcher for HDMI inputs, which is particularly useful if your A/V receiver has a few years on it, and lacks these connections.

Incidentally, this is as good a place as any for a friendly reminder, which may be old hat for some, but if not:  if you’re doing your own installation, invest in a Brother P-Touch labeler or similar device and label your cables, putting the product the cable terminates in on the opposite end of the cable. Once you start building up a home theater with say, an A/V receiver, Blu-Ray player, Roku box, legacy equipment like a VCR, tape deck, CD player, etc, you risk finding yourself in a bewildering labyrinth of cables when you go to update your gear, or pull a device to send it to the repair shop. Having used masking tape, index file labels, and Crutchfield’s pre-printed cable labels,  the tough vinyl P-Touch so far are the only labels that I’ve seen that don’t become brittle and risk falling off over time, but any label is better than none.

Taking the Amazon Plunge

In his recent deconstruction of Best Buy’s looming financial woes in Forbes, business analyst Larry Downes wrote:

It’s not competition from Amazon that’s killing Best Buy here; Best Buy is doing most of the damage to itself.  But let’s compare the two to see how retailing–online or otherwise–is done correctly.

First, it’s hard to imagine anything so pathetic happening at Amazon, and even harder to imagine the company failing to own up to its errors.  Amazon does not take orders it cannot fill, and it does not wait until the last minute to cancel them without offering any kind of solution.

Amazon lives and breathes the customer’s point-of-view. It completely engineers its business practices, its systems, and its people to support it. When they make a mistake, they admit it and they fix it. Immediately. Once, when I had a problem with a new TV that turned out to be a manufacturing flaw, the company begged me to let them pick up the unit, send something else, and install it for me. That was more solution than I needed, let alone asked for.

It’s not just Amazon’s prices that are better, in other words.  Its customer service is superior in every way.  And unlike traditional retailers, it recognizes its own potential disadvantages and innovates ways to overcome them.  The company has no retail locations to pick up merchandise, but it ships instantly, often for free.  It has no on-site sales experts to answer questions, but the pages of its products are filled with videos, FAQs, and customer reviews and answers.

After reading that glowing report about Amazon and large consumer appliances, I decided to take the plunge myself, in part to serve as a guinea pig for articles such as this. What I found was that Amazon will arrange for the set this size to be delivered during a time window that you choose when ordering the TV. In my case, two delivery men dropped it off, uncrated the set, plugged it in, made sure it worked, and then left me to do the rest. While they didn’t do much beyond that, I didn’t need the help, as my wife and I could hoist the 72-pound LG 55LK520 up to its stand once we had prepped the home theater for it. And other than running out and buying a couple extra HDMI cables (which which Amazon also sells), hooking the LG 55LK520 up to my HD DirecTV box and other home theater components was relatively straightforward.

Currently selling at the time this review went live for just under $1000 on Amazon, and a bit more than that at Best Buy, the LG 55LK520 is an extremely capable LCD TV set. If it’s time to replace the TV in your den or home theater, and you’d like to get out by spending around a grand, you could do far worse.

 

Blogging since 2002, affiliated with PJM since 2005, where he is currently a columnist, San Jose Editor, and founder of PJM's Lifestyle blog. Over the past 15 years, Ed has contributed articles to National Review Online, the Weekly Standard.com, Right Wing News, the New Individualist, Blogcritics, Modernism, Videomaker, Servo, Audio/Video Interiors, Electronic House, PC World, Computer Music, Vintage Guitar, and Guitar World.
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