Amidst IFA 2008 madness in Berlin, yesterday I spent an interesting evening with George Mead, LG's head of marketing, and several other technology bloggers at Craven Cottage (home to Fulham FC)
We were shown a few of LG's LCD TVs coming to the UK this autumn. On looks and features alone, LG should have no problems increasing their market share in the UK, but of course it has a lot to do with marketing and brand perception too.
Successor to the Scarlet launched a few months ago, this 42 incher (42LG6100) is the world's thinnest LCD TV with digital tuner integrated, at just 45mm thin. Yes, the Sony BRAVIA ZX1 is a thinner display but it has a separate tuner, as does the Sharp AQUOS ZX1.
Not surprisingly, it's red backed, with LG's unique power "button" design.
Other specs include 50,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, 5ms response time, 100Hz TruMotion for smoother video, 10-bit colour reproduction, digital tuner, 3:2 and 2:2 pull down modes plus 24p Real Cinema mode. It also has two 10W speakers, SRS TruSurround XT, and Clear Voice for drawing out dialogue.
It has four HDMI ports (three rear, one side) plus a host of other ports, and features LG's Intelligent Sensor, which allows the TV to automatically control brightness, contrast, and other visual settings depending on the ambient light in the room.
The Slimline Scarlet is already available in the UK, retailing for somewhere around the £850 mark.
The LG LG7000 is probably the first TV to include built-in Bluetooth functionality. While a number of other TVs (including LGs) include USB ports and card readers for getting digital content from other sources onto the screen, this new feature means it's very easy for mobile phone, smartphone, and some PC users to directly "beam" content to the TV via Bluetooth.
It also works in reverse, allowing Bluetooth compatible headsets to be paired to the TV, allowing either private listening without the need for wires, or assistance for those with a hearing impairment.
Other features include full 1080p HD, LG's invisible speaker system specially tuned by Mark Levinson, Intelligent Sensor, 100Hz TruMotion, Clear Voice, 15,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, 10-bit colour, 5ms response time, two 10W speakers, and four HDMI ports.
This is one of LG's top-of-range TVs, and so includes most of their latest technologies too. The invisible speaker system not only ensures that the TV looks good, but also utilises the frame of the TV itself to increase the area of sound projection.
Available from September in 32, 37, 42, 47, and 52-inch sizes.
Based on LG's market research which suggests that many consumers want more all-in-one solutions, the LG4000 comes with a built-in, slot loading DVD player. Available with a 32-inch screen, it's more of an entry level TV for those getting into high definition.
Featuring a 1,366 x 768 resolution panel, it'll happily handle 720p and scaled 1080p content, as well as upscaling DVDs to 720p, and reading DivX from discs. It has as 50,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, 8-bit colour reproduction, 8ms response time, two 10W speakers, and five sound status modes.
While not as sophisticated as the higher-end models, it's no slouch, and carries the same scarlet branding and invisible speaker technology of its bigger brothers.
Should be available from around September/October time.
LG and the Environment
We spent some time talking through the various technologies, including LG's commitment to the environment.
A large number of its TVs, including these models, have passed the stringent requirements for certification by the Energy Saving Trust.
I raised the point that, over the past few years, most flat-panel TV manufacturers have removed "power off" buttons, meaning it's only possible to put the TV into standby mode, without yanking the plug out.
George said that it was certainly an issue LG is looking at, despite the fact that their TVs consume a fraction of power (well under 1W) in standby mode. It would also help to alleviate sleepless nights from over-exuberant LEDs on electrical equipment! From next year, new LG TVs will include a "proper" power button, even though, apparently, it's quite difficult to manufacture for LCD panels.
LG's new User Interface
These are some of the first TVs to include LG's new on-screen graphical user interface, which is much more akin to modern mobile phone or desktop icons.
Nice features include the ability to "name" ports (such as HDMI1, HDMI2, etc.) with the type of equipment connected (satellite, PC, games console, etc.).
Advanced features are easily accessible, should they be required, yet functions such as Intelligent Sensor mean that the casual user who just wants to watch TV without getting bogged down by settings can do just that.
LG as a brand
Being heavily involved in the tech industry, I'm very familiar with LG's products, but the same can't be said of Joe Public.
In Korea, it's a different story, with LG having around 45% market share, vying with Samsung for first place.
Here, LG loses out to names that have a better brand perception, despite the fact that LG's technology and design is up there with the best.
It's also interesting to note that LG remains near-impartial when it comes to LCD versus plasma, because they manufacture both.
It's going to be interesting to see how LG moves with new developments that we've been seeing this year at CES and IFA, like developments in LED back and side lighting, OLED, and such. It's fairly clear that the company will continue to innovate, whatever the trends in TV technology.