Review: LG 65SJ9500 4K `Nano Cell’ TV Offers Bright HDR Performance At A Bargain
Although LG Electronics is making its premium 4K Ultra HDTV reputation as the world’s preeminent supplier of large-screen OLED displays, the introduction of the 65SJ9500 Super UHD LED-LCD TV with Nano Cell technology makes clear it’s not ready to give up the high-end of the LED LCD TV category.
The LG 65SJ9500, which was being promoted at $1,897.99 as this was posted, is the top series in LG’s 2017 lineup of “Super UHD LED-LCD TVs.” LG has positioned this class as a more affordable alternative to rival Premium Ultra HD LCD TVs like Samsung’s QN65Q9F ($3,498) 4K QLED model and Sony’s XBR65X930E ($2,798). Although not quite up to the picture performance level of those models, it nevertheless offers very strong picture performance for the price.
We measured the LG 65SJ9500 in HDR mode with peak luminance surpassing 1,000 nits and black levels below 0.05 nits, putting it within the acceptable range for Ultra HD Alliance “Ultra HD Premium” certification.
In real-world tests using Ultra HD Blu-ray images with Dolby Vision and HDR10 content, specular highlights were noticeably brighter than the surrounding background with greater visible color detail, a wide measured color gamut surpassing 90 percent of the DCI-P3 recommendation, and wide dynamic range.
In calibrated SDR/Rec. 709 mode we found overall picture quality of this edge-lit LED-LCD TV to be bright with noticeably deep black levels, and nice natural-looking colors. 4K UHD resolution was very sharp and clear, as was most content upscaled with LG’s 4K upscaler.
Where the 65SJ9500 had issues was with some crushing of shadow detail and slight blooming in bright whites in certain conditions running standard dynamic range material.
Also, we noticed haloing and white light bleeding into solid-black backgrounds when a white target or lettering appeared against a solid black test pattern. As with Samsung’s 2017 QLED TVs, we found black level quality held up better in rooms with some degree of ambient light than it did in totally dark rooms.
Motion handling overall was pretty good for an edge-lit LED LCD TV, although we saw some issues with judder in sweeping camera pans.
Read more of our review of the LG 65SJ9500 4K Super UHD LED-LCD TV after the jump:
The LG 65SJ9500 presents a striking ultra-thin screen design for a LED-LCD TV. In fact, the design is very reminiscent of LG’s OLED 9500 series 4K OLED models from two years ago. The top two-thirds of the panel measures a scant quarter inch deep. Approximately 16 inches down from the top, the depth of the screen expands two inches to accommodate the set’s circuity. The section of the back of the set is made of slightly rounded white plastic, while the ultra-thin top portion of the screen has a chrome-like appearance. From the front, a chrome outer bezel is accented with a half-inch black border that frames the inside face of the picture.
You can either mount the set on the wall, using an optional mount, or place the TV on a table or credenza top using the supplied stand. Like last year’s Super UHD models, the 65SJ9500 offers a very attractive center-positioned silver, half horse-shoe shaped base that matches the outer frame of the screen. The LCD panel is supported on the base by a matching vertical riser. We found the overall appearance to be very upscale.
The biggest difference between the SJ9500 and last year’s series is the addition of what LG calls its “Nano Cell technology.”
Instead of heavy-metal based quantum dots, LG said it developed a non-metallic material composed of uniformly sized spherical nanoparticles that are optimized to absorb light. This material is applied to the color filter in an LCD and can affect picture quality at the molecular level. The benefits are said to include a wider color gamut with particular advantages in the red spectrum, where tones appear to be more natural–especially when viewing content with HDR–than last year’s Super UHD models.
The technology also works with LG’s In-Plane Switching (IPS) LCD panel technology to expand viewing angles before contrast and colors begin to fade. While an improvement for wide angles over VA panel technology, the benefit still does not match the range seen in OLED or plasma TV technologies, but it has a slightly better viewing angle than 2017 QLEDs. Even with Nano Cell technology, we noticed a somewhat weaker overall contrast in images with a lot of white in the background, than certain VA-panel models viewed from dead center. This is common in IPS displays, and a tradeoff that needs to be considered based your normal viewing positions.
As for color gamut performance, we measured the LG 65SJ9500 at 91.8 percent (pre-calibrated) of the DCI-P3 color space recommended for professional movie theater projectors. Comparatively, the Samsung Q8C produces 99 percent (pre-calibrated) of the P3 color gamut.
As a note to those who follow such details: the SJ9500 television series does not use LG’s RGBW LCD panel technology, which adds a white sub-pixel to the red, green and blue sub-pixels at intervals across the screen. This is done in some lower-end LG 4K UHD LED-LCD TV series to lower costs and improve brightness or reduce power consumption (depending on the application). Some believe RGBW technology does not produce the correct number of RGB sub-pixels across the screen to constitute true 4K Ultra HD resolution. However, LG disputes that assessment.
High Dynamic Range
LG’s IPS edge-lit LED system with “LED Local Dimming” technology does a nice job creating blacks that look rich and dark from multiple angles. We measured 0.00938 nits using a 0 nit black center target with 10 percent white window patterns in each corner of the screen to trick the LED edge lighting system into staying lit. However, in a dark room running a target of white lettering on an all-black screen we observed some haloing around the image and light bleeding into the unlit portions above and below the object. The condition was reduced somewhat when viewing in a moderately-well lit environment.
Despite this, the 65SJ9500 can produce a nice, bright picture. We tested the TV using a series of motion HDR test patterns and a SpectraCal Calman HDR evaluation workflow developed by Florian Freidrich. This showed peak brightness of 1,054 nits measuring in a 10 percent white window pattern; 591 nits using a 25 percent white window pattern; 508 nits running a 50 percent white window pattern and 424.5 nits in a 100 percent white screen.
Pre-Calibrated P3 Color Gamut Using SpectraCal Calman HDR Workflow developed by Florian Freidrich.
LG 2017 Super UHD TVs are compatible with three HDR profiles — generic HDR10, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). We are still waiting for some HLG content, but it appears likely this system will be supported by at least a few cable and satellite TV services shortly.
When playing the Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Transformers: The Last Knight we found the Oppo UDP-203 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player and LG 65SJ9500 automatically defaulted to Dolby Vision HDR mode. HDR images were noticeably brighter and more colorful, with moments of bright specular highlights standing out against the surrounding background. Elements like flames from rocket engines were bright with a realistic-looking rich yellow-orange hue.
Comparing the Transformers: The Last Knight running Dolby Vision HDR on the LG 65SJ9500 against the same movie running HDR10 HDR on the Samsung QN65Q8C, we felt the Dolby Vision version presented slightly brighter specular highlights with somewhat finer details scene to scene, although the differences were subtle.
For black level in HDR10 material, we found the LG 65SJ9500 did a very good job at presenting deep, rich blacks with clearly visible shadow detail, even with areas with bright specular highlights in the same frame. A good example of this is seen in the deep space sequences of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Alien Covenant. Here, bright images of a bright blue holographic video transmission from an intercepted distress beacon glowed against the dark shadowy background of the spaceship’s helm, showing us details like textures and lines in inky black corners of the room. Shots in outer space showed an eye-squinting white sun against the solid black of space behind it.
However, here, we also noticed some haloing off of a sun, which generated enough unwanted light to bleed through into the surrounding picture, spilling into the black letterbox band at the top of the frame. The condition was visible in both a lit and unlit viewing room, although it was diminished somewhat with the lights in the room turned up.
The LG 65SJ9500 was a pleasure to calibrate for white balance and Rec. 709 color management with 4K UHD and Full HD 1080p SDR content, which will represent the bulk of content viewed on this set until 4K HDR libraries build up.
SpectraCal Calman Workflow
SpectraCal Calman workflow for SDR.
LG’s color management system provides adjustments for Saturation, Tint, and Luminance for each of the Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow shades. We were able to get the display to cover 98.8 percent of the Rec. 709 color points with only a slight drop-off in Cyan and Blue. But most of the Delta E 2000 error readings averaged below 2, which is virtually imperceptible. The LG 65SJ9500 appeared to handle color volume well, with super bright colored elements like rifle targeting lasers and LED’s on the console of the spaceship in Alien Covenant producing intensely bright, saturated greens and blues, respectively.
The LG 65SJ9500 has four HDMI inputs supporting 4K Ultra HD/60fps video and HDR metadata. One the HDMI ports includes Audio Return Channel (ARC) capability. Another input supports composite video. Analog RCA connections are made via a special cable adapter. Three USB ports are available as well as an optical digital audio out, an Ethernet port, built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking; DLNA support to access digital files stored elsewhere on a home network and video casting screen mirroring from a mobile device.
The LG 65SJ9500 has one of the better smart TV systems, using the company’s webOS 3.5 platform. This includes a selection of the most popular streaming apps, including 4K streaming of select programs from Netflix, Amazon, Vudu (with an ample selection of Dolby Vision content), UltraFlix, YouTube, and others. A press of the home-screen button on the Magic Remote calls up a scrolling ribbon of apps and source selections at the bottom of the screen from where users can choose to install their favorite services and sources. The process is intuitively easy with a snappy response.
To operate the TV, LG includes its Magic Remote that controls selections for the webOS interface. Users toggle through onscreen selections with the center-located up, down, right, left arrow control and central thumb wheel button that you press to execute actions. The remote offers a Magic Link that allows linking multiple devices for universal control through the Magic Remote.
This version of the Magic Remote keeps the numeric buttons which are used to quickly punch in a favorite channel and adds quick access buttons for Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. The current version is also a little smaller than last year’s, but it retains the comfortable- to hold and-operate form factor. This is one of the best remote control designs on the market.
The television uses a 120Hz native refresh rate LCD panel along with LG’s TruMotion motion-smoothing circuity which combined do an acceptable job for most content. We preferred to set the system to “User” with “De-Blur” turned up full to 10, and “De-Judder” set to 6,
The 65SJ9500 delivered excellent off-axis viewing for an LCD TV because this is using IPS technology. The Nano Cell technology helps to boost contrast and black level on the IPS screen to some extent, although not to the same degree as OLED televisions. This technology is acceptable for wall mounted applications, but the picture will degrade slightly at very high and low angles.
The LG 65SJ9500’s uniformity was good on a gray screen, but we did notice some uneven smudging along the left and right edges of the frame and some vertical banding from side to side. In real-world viewing, we didn’t find these elements distracting.
LG’s upscaling system does a very nice job with Full HD 1080p material. Images were as rich, clear and detailed as they are on a high-performing native Full HD 1080p, without any added artifacts. The set also did an admirable job with upconverted DVD material. Images from the DVD version of the George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh were relatively clear and colorful for SD material with less noticeable background noise from the line-multiplied film grain than we’ve seen on some other 4K television models.
Where the LG65SJ9500 excels is in its onboard 60-Watt total 2.2-channel Harman Kardon developed sound system, which presents surprisingly deep clean bass for a flat-panel television. The sound coming from the built-in speakers is a little narrow compared to a good soundbar or 5.1-channel sound system, but we were impressed with the quality of music the set delivered. The DVD or the Concert for Bangladesh was as bright, clear and full as some low- to mid-range soundbars we’ve heard. Dialog from movies and television programs was similarly clear and easy to understand.
The LG 65SJ9500 is an impressive 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD TV, and as this was posted, it is available at a very reasonable $1,897.99, which is $1,600 less than Samsung’s flagship QN65Q9F. Understand that the picture quality in this model is not as dark and rich in color as LG’s 2017 4K Ultra HD OLED TVs. We would also give the edge to Samsung’s QLED TVs for better overall motion compensation, contrast, and black level, but these come at a higher price. We were impressed by how bright this edge-lit LED TV gets, and the Nano Cell technology did a nice job of getting the TV to present a Premium-caliber color gamut. If you are looking for a top-performing 65-inch 4K LED LCD TV for under $2,000, this is a recommended buy.
We, therefore, give the LG 65SJ9500 four out of five hearts.
The LG 65SJ9500 used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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