LG 50PZ950 3D/Smart TV plasma display

Teardown: LG 50PZ950 3D/Smart plasma TV display

This issue we get to grips (and beyond) with the latest in smart TV technology.

LG's new interactive display is packed with features, but may have a limited shelf life. The 50PZ950 50in 3DTV plasma is both a flagship product and an outlier from the Korean electronics giant. It showcases the company's Smart TV interactive services handsomely and is part of the first wave of high-quality, mid-market priced (typically £1,000 in the UK) PX950T 3D displays.

It also has LG's innovative Magic Motion remote control wand, which does away with most of the confusing buttons on a typical handset and instead uses a Wii-like point-and-click interface (the handset is now bundled with new purchases, but was an optional extra at the time of this teardown).

However, the 3D system used requires more expensive 'active' viewing glasses. This September saw LG begin to put a great deal of marketing behind cheaper passive glasses in conjunction with LCD and LED displays. The PZ950 was one of LG's main launches at the International CES in January 2011.

Hardware

The display is part of LG's large-format Infinia line. The version under review as part of this IHS iSuppli teardown had a 600Hz refresh rate (all specifications here are for the US version) with a 'TruBlack' filter over the plasma display to create deeper black levels which help achieve an overall 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio.

Overall component count was 4,365 (excluding box contents) and 1,475 of those reside on the main printed circuit board.

The hardware driving the product's interactive services is a Broadcom Full HD Connected DTV system-on-chip, here the 40nm-fabricated BCM35230.

The main features of this device include a MIPS Technologies dual-core CPU and GPU running at more than 1,400 DMIPS; video processing up to 120Hz with frame rate conversion, de-interlacing and super resolution; integrated wireless connectivity and support for worldwide broadcast standards; and decoder support for, among others, OpenGL ES 2.0 and Adobe Flash.

The SoC also incorporates the Freespace MotionEngine embedded platform from Hillcrest Labs that reads the output from the wand remote. The UK edition is also bundled with Freeview reception. Supporting memory is supplied by Samsung (2x2Gb SDRAM) and Toshiba (8Gb of NAND flash storage).

Software

Apart from the 3D capability, the Smart TV features on the PZ950 are what differentiate it from rival products.

As packaged for the UK, Smart TV boasts such services as a bespoke version of BBC iPlayer, an ITN news channel, a Cartoon Network mini-channel and gateways to rental/subscription providers such as Acetrax, Blinkbox, Box Office 365, Viewster and Woomi. There are then a range of LG-offered apps and social media widgets such as Twitter and Facebook as well as an onboard Web browser.

In many respects, this is a pretty familiar line-up to the interactive TV segment which places more importance on the point-and-click Magic Motion interface and the improved picture quality offered by plasma. LG's remote, however, is a very appealing device.

3D

Major UK broadcasters are providing an increasing amount of 3D and LG is supporting its products through a marketing partnership with Sky.

In addition, the 3D offered by the PZ950 has achieved the higher-end THX certification which gives it an extra advantage in wooing more serious home cinema consumers

However, as noted above, the company has now started a major push on 3D for LCD and LED products and it seems inevitable that this will affect PZ950 sales.

The plasma screen currently comes bundled with a single pair of active glasses. Additional pairs cost anything between £45 and £65. By contrast, the LG LED displays offered as part of the company's Cinema3D promotion come bundled with seven pairs of £2 passive glasses out of the box.

It should be noted that MagicMotion-equipped LED TVs are yet to debut in the UK. These are likely to be limited to LG's incoming range of 'Nano LED' displays unveiled at IFA in Germany earlier this year and set to be introduced during 2012.

The 'standard' LED LG650T is currently available in screen sizes between 47in and 55in (broadly comparable to the plasma alternative) for between £800 and £1,400.

With LG's passive technology getting good reviews, and with LED subject to a far more aggressive price reduction curve than plasma, the PZ950's broad appeal may be limited.

IHS iSuppli is nonetheless currently looking at lifetime shipments of about eight million units for the plasma display. *

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