LG 55LA8600 Review: Those Are Some Pricey Bells and Whistles

With increasingly stiff competition and the threat of 4K on the horizon, television manufacturers are throwing every idea and accessory into this year's flagship models. But do bells and whistles make a TV worth nearly three grand? In the case of LG's new paramount LED, the answer is a strong... maybe.

What Is It?

LG's 2013 flagship LED Smart TV model.

Who's It For?

People that don't want to spend too little on a top-of-the-line LED display.

Design

The LA8600 looks like it should be standing in the Jetson's living room. The 55-inch screen is wrapped in a nearly imperceptible aluminum bezel and sits atop a futuristic-looking "Magic Stand," as LG calls it, which lends a sense of weightlessness to the display. Connected with all of four screws, the display's delicate perch also inspires a constant sense of dread that the slightest tremor will send the set crashing to the floor.

LG's Magic Remote is equally futuristic in its design, looking more like a silver, misshapen phaser than a voice and gesture controlled television control. It's also the only remote you get with the TV unless you prefer to use the LG remote app (Android, iOS).

Using It

At just under 60 pounds, the LA8600 was a breeze to get out of the box and onto its stand—way easier than the rotund VT60 from June. The initial setup—connecting to the network, pairing the remote, etc—was fairly straightforward. The onboard Picture Wizard II does a bang-up job of calibrating the picture to the room, and if you want a more granular calibration with a THX optimizer or S&M, the LA8600 offers a range of output options you can tweak.

The Magic Remote takes a bit of getting used to but the learning curve is shallow, and I found it rather fun to use in spite of myself. It pulls double duty as pointer, scroll wheel, gesture wand, and voice remote. What's more, you can program it to control most every component device in your A/V cabinet, which is massively helpful. I set it up with my Sony Blu-Ray player and it worked; just really, really, (like "multi-second lag" really) slowly.

But for the native menu screens, the magic remote worked seamlessly. Flipping between calibration screens and scrolling along the ribbon menu was crisp and responsive, even if pointing and clicking a mouse at arms length takes a bit of getting used to.

Being the flagship model of the year, LG didn't pull any punches when it came to the LA8600's features. The system includes an integrated camera, a bevy of Smart TV features (Internet access, onboard apps, and streaming service access) run on a dual-core processor, and strong support for media sharing from mobile devices. You can stream content from a phone or tablet using WiDi, Miracast, MHL—even NFC.

The available smart apps aren't anything to really write home about. Outside of the mainstream apps like Skype, Puzzle Quest, and Weather Channel, they're generally forgettable. But LG does offer a surprisingly extensive catalog of them so you might just find something you want amidst the dregs.

The Best Part

Most aspects of the image quality were really outstanding. The LA8600 accurately reproduced bright colors. They aren't as vibrant and saturated as what you'd find on a similarly priced plasma or even a full-array backlit LED, but are solid for an edge-lit set and definitely superior to the Sharp 60LE. White levels were very impressive, almost searingly bright, but that came at the expense of black levels, which appeared more ashen than inky. I found that turning off the local dimming feature helped boost the blacks without washing out the whites. The 240Hz refresh rate also allowed for impressively fast motion tracking while keeping the soap opera effect to a minimum.

Overall, the image was crisp and clear, if just a little subdued.

Tragic Flaw

Just because the Magic Remote is pretty cool and easy to learn doesn't mean that it should be the only option. I ended up using the integrated calibration because trying to flip back and forth between remotes for the MR (for the TV) and Blu-Ray (for the calibration disc) was a nightmare. A single mis-pointed click on the MR would exit me entirely out of the TV's calibration menu, requiring me to navigate three screens back to it, and the onscreen pointer is not nearly accurate enough to ensure that didn't happen nearly a dozen times in the first ten minutes. Also, I kept finding myself contorting my wrists to nudge the onscreen pointer where it needed to go on account of that inaccuracy, though it resets easily enough by pointing the remote at the floor then back at the screen.

This Is Weird...

Unlike Samsung's 2013 flagship, the integrated camera on the LA8600 is only for Skyping, not gesture control. But then again, that's the whole point of the Magic Remote.

Test Notes

  • Available in both 55" and 60" sizes
  • Smart LG system includes standard Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, MLB.tv, Facebook, and Twitter access as well as apps
  • You get a 1 year subscription to Netflix for buying one

Should I Buy It?

The LA8600 isn't all that that different from LG's next highest-ranked LED set, the LA7400, in terms of features, save for the built-in camera. If you don't use your TV for Skype conferences on the daily, save yourself $500 and go with that instead. Samsung’s F7100 is a reasonable alternative and about a grand less to boot. That's not to say the LA8600 isn't an impressive television, it is. It just isn't $2600 impressive.

LG 55LA8600 Specs

  • Dimensions: 48.4 x 12.4 x 31.2 inches
  • Weight: 57.8 pounds
  • Display: Edge-lit LED
  • Connectivity: 4x HDMI, 3x USB, WiDi, Miracast, MHL, NFC, DLNA
  • Playback Support: DivX HD, JPEG, JPG, MPO, AC3, EAC3, HAAC, AAC, MPEG, MP3, PCM, DTS
  • Refresh: 240 Hz
  • 3D: Passive, comes with four pairs of glasses
  • Smart Features: App Store, LG Cloud, web browser, 3D content streaming, Smart Share
  • Price: $2000 at Amazon