The LG 42LV550T's pictures are a classic game of two halves, in that it looks great with bright scenes, but slightly off with dark ones.
The problem with dark scenes is that while LG has provided a healthy number of tools aimed at getting a convincing black level response during dark scenes, there doesn't seem to be a combination of settings that delivers a totally satisfying final result.
Starting with the Local Dimming feature turned on, for instance, it quickly became apparent that even on the feature's least aggressive setting it causes obvious blocks of light to appear around bright objects when they're appearing against dark backgrounds. So naturally that feature was turned off right away.
However, turning this feature off caused quite a drop off in the depth of black that the LG 42LV550T's screen can resolve. Making sure the Dynamic contrast system was turned on to its lowest setting improved things a bit, although turning this any higher made the image look unstable, with frequent brightness jumps.
Setting the separate Black Level option to low is worth a try, too, but be warned that even on its least powerful setting this can cause shadow detail to be reduced during dark scenes.
Further complications find the provided Cinema preset failing to look at all convincing during dark scenes, with far too much low brightness detailing getting crushed out of the picture, and the appearance of subtle but undeniable backlight 'clouds' over parts of the picture if you're watching in a dark room.
However, the impact of the clouding is reduced almost to nothing if you're watching in a bright room, or if you're watching bright scenes.
In fact, with bright footage the LG 42LV550T is a highly accomplished performer.
Two things in particular stand out right away: sharpness and brightness. Regarding the former, HD material looks impressively detailed and crisp, especially as the set doesn't suffer badly at all with motion blur, even if you decide against using the TruMotion system.
As for the brightness, pictures look intensely dynamic, punchy and colour-rich, except during very dark scenes. In fact, the set's portrayal of bright parts of the picture is so enjoyably aggressive, it effectively hides the screen's black level shortcomings during shots where there's a bold mix of light and darks, leaving only predominantly dark scenes to reveal the black level issues noted earlier.
Colours are decently – perhaps totally – consistently natural in tone too, although the presets on offer all benefit from a little fine-tuning via the colour management features.
Also pleasing for an inexpensive TV is how well defined the colour blends are. There's no sign of the striping or patching noted with some of LG's really entry-level TVs, which helps pictures look more three-dimensional – without actually being 3D, of course!
With the set's motion processing, for most of the time you're probably best leaving it off, because the picture only suffers with a little motion blurring without it, and it can cause processing side effects, even in its lowest preset mode.
The only thing you might want to try – because this minimises unwanted side effects – is using a manual configuration, with the blur element turned way down and the judder element set to two or maybe three. Set the judder any higher and you'll find that film sources start to look unnaturally fluid.
The LG 42LV550T is a middling-to-good performer with standard-definition sources. Noise is reasonably suppressed during the upscaling process, but upscaled pictures don't ultimately look as sharp as they can on some rival sets.
A number of LG TVs this year have suffered quite excessively with input lag, making them unsuitable as gaming monitors. But the 42LV550T doesn't fare too badly, averaging 30ms over the course of 20 separate tests.
The lag actually shifted between a common level of 40ms and an occasional 6ms, but even the occasional 40ms maximum figure should only have a very minor impact on your gaming performance.