Review: LeEco uMax85 4K Ultra HDTV Is A Solid HDR, 3D Performer
For some, one of the primary benefits of getting a 4K Ultra HDTV is to enjoy sharp, clear high resolution images on the largest screen sizes they can afford.
LeEco has attempted to answer that desire by offering its 85-inch uMax85 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD TV at a surprisingly low $5,499 suggested retail price, with periodic sales dropping that under the $5,000 threshold at select times.
The huge set features a full-array back lighting system with 448 zones of local dimming. This affords greater local control of each of the zones across the LCD back plane, enabling the back light to be almost completely turned off when generating dark blacks, or boosted to generate bright whites and yellows when watching specular highlights in high dynamic range (HDR) content, without bleeding over into neighboring LED zones.
The result is a huge picture with inky black levels that don’t crush low-light details but still keep colors bright, natural and accurate. However, the peak highlights were only moderately bright for a 4K/HDR set of this size and price, and the lack of a color management system makes it difficult to fine tune color points, perfectly.
The uMax85 does not employ quantum dot technology, although LeEco has shown its next-generation uMaxQ85 model that is to expected to bring that capability in the future.
What you do get is a big moderately bright picture that we tested at surpassing 90 percent of the DCI/P3 color gamut, as advertised. With a picture this big, the eye can easily pick up the resolution benefits that the 4K 3840x2160p pixels (four times that of Full HD 1080) provide when viewing native 4K content.
Colors illuminated by spectral and specular highlights in HDR10 content are bright, vibrant and lifelike. The set automatically recognizes an incoming signal from an Ultra HD Blu-ray player or a streaming movie and switches the set into “HDR Mode”. Where available in streaming content, the uMax85 will play the alternative Dolby Vision HDR profile, and eventually that will be available via certain Ultra HD Blu-ray discs as well.
Read more of our review of the LeEco uMax85 after the jump:
Other features offered in the uMax85 are: quad-core CPU and GPU support for the TV’s Android TV platform, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of internal SSD storage, a 120 Hz native refresh rate and an on-board Harman Kardon sound system.
In its native China, LeEco is a major provider of streaming content services and sells hardware devices that can tap into that. In the United States, LeEco is offering its own streaming content service through its “Le” service store that is featured prominently on the home screen, in addition to supplying access to several of the major streaming providers. But the movie selection is heavily weighted with old B level features. For live TV, LeEco has also partnered with DirecTV to provide the DirecTV Now live over-the-top (OTT) streaming service through the smart TV platform. It even provides a three-month trial period for the service to uMax85 TV purchasers.
Alternatively, Sling TV is also available as an app selection for those interested in cutting the cord, or smashing the satellite dish, as the case may be. The LeEco smart TV functionality consists of something called Ecosystem User Interface (EUI) aggregation, which presents tailored content selections on the home screen alongside app selections and a live TV option. In addition to using the buttons on the remote, users can call up and activate selections via voice search over the built-in mic in the remote. For more streaming options, users can also use Google Cast to wirelessly “cast” additional services to the TV screen from supporting Android or iOS devices.
Users will find most of the major streaming service apps including: Hulu, Vudu, Google Play Movies, Netflix, and YouTube, but conspicuous by its absence is the app for Amazon Instant Video. The TV also lacks a built-in Web browser, so browsing to Amazon from the TV won’t be possible. That means users with an Amazon Prime account will need a secondary device like a linked-by-Google-Cast smartphone running the Amazon app, or a streaming media adapter like a Fire TV or Roku device to get access to Amazon streaming movies and TV programs.
Overall the smart TV experience has all of the basics, and the user interface is clean and relatively easy to navigate, yet it is a bit clunky to use for aforementioned specific unsupported apps. This imposes frustrating road blocks or second-screen detours, and some users will undoubtedly find themselves adding on a media adapter or game console to get those services.
LeEco puts a lot of emphasis on designing the look and feel of its products. The uMax85 is no exception. The set has a metal cabinet with a narrow chrome bezel and rounded gun metal gray back panel.
The remote is also attractively styled with minimal command buttons and a metal body that feels substantial in the hand and resists damage from accidental drops.
The set is large, measuring 75-inches wide, 46-inches tall and 2.4 inches deep without stand.
The TV is well packaged for shipping, with a mammoth box that weighs 149 pounds with set enclosed.
The stand, which is supplied with the TV, consists of a pair of matching chrome metal feet that mount to the TV through screws on back of the set. The feet are positioned at the far left and right sides of the display.
The TV can be wall mounted but a heavy-duty wall mount will be required. Unless you know your local building codes and have a team to help lift and position the set, it’s highly recommended that you seek out professional installation services for such applications.
The uMax85 handles 4K Ultra HD and HDR content very well, although it lacks the full 1,000 nit brightness levels required by the Ultra HDTV Alliance for “Premium” certification. We tested the set at 672 nits of peak brightness measuring with a 10 percent D65 white window pattern. Curiously, the brightness ramped up to 740 nits using a 25 percent window, and back down to 500.7 and 433.5 nits, measuring in a 50 percent and 100 percent window patterns, respectively. What this means is specular highlights aren’t quite as eye-squinting as they are on competitive sets like Samsung’s Q9 QLED models or even their 2016 KS9800 predecessors, although the levels aren’t too far off the peak brightness levels of LG’s 2017 4K Ultra HD OLED models.
Where the set stands out is in black-level handling. The uMax85 registered 0.0059 nits measuring in a center black target of 10 concentric circles of gray getting brighter with each successive ramp up from the center out. Measuring center black on an all-black screen with 10 percent white windows in each of the four corners to hold off the auto back light limiter, the uMax85 registered 0 nits – pure black.
Dark area details were visible without the heavy crushing seen in cheaper full-array LED TVs and edge-lit models with dimming features, but they weren’t as detailed or black as LG’s 2017 OLED TVs.
Using full-array back lighting with local dimming, the set did an excellent job of containing brightness without leaking into adjacent LED zones. It also didn’t show any light bleeding into letter-boxed bars at the top and bottom of movies with 1.78.1 aspect ratios, as we’ve seen under certain conditions on Samsung’s Q9 QLED TVs.
Comparing USB-thumb-drive fed clips of the Dolby Vision version of Pan with the HDR10 Blu-ray Disc version, both samples were comparably excellent. The uMax85 presented bright yellow and white specular highlights that were literally bright enough to hurt the eye in parts. The Dolby Vision version appeared to have somewhat deeper yellow color tones in highlights but both versions were very good. Some detail was, however, missing in the HDR10 content in bright highlights like faces illuminated by sunlight. However, blacks were impressively dark while maintaining perceivable texture details in shadowed areas of the picture.
3D For Thee
Lovers of 3D movies will be delighted to see that the LeEco uMax85 is one of the last 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD TVs on the market that still supports active-shutter 3D technology. LeEco includes a pair of such glasses with the set. The 1080p 3D images lose about an f-stop of brightness with the glasses on, and colors are muted slightly, but otherwise images were sharp and dynamic.
Viewing the 3D Blu-ray version of Avatar, we were quickly immersed into a blue ethereal world where floating jellyfish-like creatures appeared to float out of the screen and into the viewing room.
Much of the 3D effect can be controlled with adjustments in the settings menu for side-by-side or up-and-down produced 3D content. Alternatively an auto setting is offered along with custom depth and back light controls. Back light allowed us to slightly boost the diminished brightness caused by the glasses for a better overall image, while the depth adjustment allowed us to fine tune just the right amount of 3D effect for maximum comfort/realism. This feature is a welcome addition for anyone with a collection of 3D Blu-ray Discs they wish to enjoy on a very large-format screen. Remember that even LG, which had superb passive 3D in select OLED and LED-LCD models, has dropped the feature from the 2017 OLED lineup, making this one of your last opportunities to cash in on a 3D 4K UHD display.
Although this is a full-array LED-LCD TV, at the end of the day it is an LCD TV with a VA panel. That means off-angle viewing is not great. Contrast and color performance both drop off significantly before reaching 30 degrees off center axis. Similarly, the picture quality drops off when viewing the screen from high or low angles, as would be the case when mounting the set at a high point on a wall, requiring viewers to look up at the screen. However, the large screen surface array helps to cut down the angle problem somewhat depending on the room size and the average viewing distance to the screen, and the issue can be improved by tilting the set out from the top. Still, any placement of the screen should be kept as close to eye level as possible.
The uMax85 handles colors well in 4K/HDR content, offering a wide gamut of 95.7 percent of the Digital Cinema Initiative’s P3 color space. Better than 90 percent is required for UHDA “Premium” certification.
When set to the Rec. 709 color space, the uMax85 came close to hitting the key targets, even without color management system controls available for fine tuning.
The uMax85’s bright specular highlights and color range are nicely presented in the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of The Revenant, where bright and rich glowing yellow campfires standout against the stark dark backdrop of the deep woods setting.
Colors in the red costume of the lead character in Deadpool were bright and saturated. Flesh tones and colors were also punchier and more realistic in the Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Patriots Day than they appear on the standard Blu-ray version.
Black levels are impressively deep and inky in the space sequences from The Martian, thanks to the benefits of the full-array LED back lighting. We also didn’t see any evidence of overt haloing around bright circular objects and logos against uniform color backdrops.
Where the uMax85 has some issues is in image processing. On some day-to-day HD and SD content transmitted by broadcast, cable and satellite services, we occasionally found images to look washed out and soft of focus. Image noise was visible and banding artifacts were apparent in some underwater scenes and images of bright objects against solid-colored backgrounds. Much of this has to do with the large screen size, as lower-resolution images are blown up to expose all of the warts and blemishes that tend to be hidden on smaller sets. This could be an issue for some, as most of the content being viewed at any given time will come from such sources. We also noticed obvious digital block noise in low-light scenes on HD broadcasts from certain Showtime and HBO movie content via DirecTV, as the large screen exposed some of the limitations of the satellite service’s digital compression.
However, upscaling of 1080p material, particularly from Blu-ray Disc and even some streamed content, to 4K Ultra HD was very good. Images were sharp, clear and colorful without added or embellished artifacts from the normal 1080p native presentation. With the noise reduction on medium, the uMax85 handled very difficult low-light noise in the opening ocean cave sequences of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End excellently. Background noise present from the original camera work was minimized without becoming a distraction while desired film grain was maintained from the original film stock.
The uMax85 has a game mode, which turns off much of the set’s processing circuitry to enable reducing input lag from gaming consoles. Measuring with the game mode on, using a 1080p @ 60 Hz 4:4:4 signal, we tested the lag time at 46.6 ms, which is good for a 4K UHD TV of this screen size. Game mode is not available when the TV is fed an HDR signal.
The uMax85 offers a 120 Hz native rate panel, which is as good as it gets today. Hence, motion blurring wasn’t a big issue for us, even with the motion handling system switched off. The set does present slight image judder in sequences like camera pans across backgrounds with vertically aligned patterns or structures, and this can be dialed back with a medium motion setting. However, that’s about as far as we could take it before noticing distracting soap opera effect (SOE) on film-based content, like movies. We found turning the motion handling to off for live video-based content like sports, and a medium setting for movies worked best.
Overall the motion issue was better than LeEco’s Super4 X-series models, that have native 60 Hz panels, but not as good as on higher-end Sony or Samsung set.
If you don’t plan on performing a calibration or will have one done professionally, this won’t be an issue, but for those tweakers with the proper tools, the calibration process on this TV is difficult to say the least.
This is because the picture setting controls use an on-screen graphic dial surrounded by a shadow mask that overtakes two-thirds of the screen from the right side inward, including the center point where colorimeters and spectroradiometers must be pointed to take accurate readings. This means there is no way of leaving the control on screen for continuous live adjustments. Each adjustment must be made one click at a time, backing out six steps to clear the screen in between each adjustment before taking the next reading. So on and so forth until the proper balance is achieved. The process is torturous and time consuming, and in urgent need of a redesign.
Although the uMax85 offers controls for 2- and 10-point white balance, it lacks a separate color management system (CMS), making it difficult to fine tune color accuracy on the standard CIE 1931 color chart for SDR/Rec. 709. LeEco does include a color control with adjustments for saturation, hue and color temperature, but without CMS this is a laborious and almost futile process.
Similarly, the TV doesn’t provide access to color adjustments, or much of anything else, in HDR Mode. What you see is pretty much what you get. That said, the TV color accuracy is close to hitting all of the wide gamut target points with the baked-in factory settings, so the picture quality stands up well in live viewing.
Curiously, when watching regular SDR/Rec. 709 content with the set in Movie Mode and a Warm color temperature setting selected, the default back light setting is maxed at 100, requiring the contrast to be dialed back to 36 from the default 50. Brightness was then adjusted to 51 to achieve the 43 ft. lamberts we recommend for viewing SDR/Rec. 709 in dim lighting. Typically, the back light is dialed back to balance the peak brightness for the room conditions, but we found doing so threw off gamma balance and caused the contrast performance to clip at peak white.
All in all, the settings out of the box for color and white balance after dialing in movie mode presented a nice image in a dimly lit viewing environment.
The uMax85 has source inputs in an L-shaped recessed area on the back of the set. On one side of the L are two HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 ports, each of which must be manually set to 4K/60p when 4K/HDR sources are to be connected. Above these are a USB 2.0 port and a USB 3.0 port. A 3.5mm aux audio input is also positioned nearby. A third HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 port (also must be manually set to 4K/60p when using such sources) along with an Ethernet port, VGA video connector; 3.5mm audio input, an optical audio output, and an antenna/cable connector run horizontally facing down along the connecting line of the L-shaped recessed area. The power connector input is posited on the opposite (left) side of the TV. Another USB 3.0 port sits facing up on the top edge of the bezel, where an optional web camera could be connected.
All in all, three HDMI ports is very limited for a television of this size and might necessitate the use of an AV receiver or an HDMI switcher when multiple HDMI source devices are required.
The uMax85 has a built-in Harman Kardon sound system with Dolby Digital decoding. Dialog was clear and understandable, although the system lacks the depth and punch of a subwoofer. The overall sound was somewhat boxy and narrow for movie viewing. In short, most people spending this much on a TV will likely opt for an outboard soundbar or home theater system to complete the immersive experience.
Overall, LeEco’s uMax85 4K Ultra HD HDR TV is an impressive looking very large-screen display with nice 4K Ultra HD/HDR picture performance, excellent black levels and solid Full HD 1080p upconversion. It is also one of the last bastions of flat-panel 3D TV for the home. All considered, the uMax85 is a fantastic bargain for 4K Ultra HDTV of this size, feature set, and performance level. That said, we would still like to see the addition of a full color management system for proper picture calibration, reworked on-screen control settings to facilitate more interactive calibration on the fly, a boost in peak luminance to 1,000 nits, improved brightness for HDR with better handling of clipping with peak white levels, and better image processing of 720p and lower resolution images.
LeEco has said it is working on a new version of the uMax85 that will add quantum dot technology. This should assist in color handling and peak HDR brightness, which is something purchasers might want to consider waiting for, but the pricing is likely to be considerably steeper when it arrives. Still, this is a beautiful and huge television set. It offers terrific 4K Ultra/HDR pictures that bring the movie theater experience home. We recommend the uMax85 for anyone in need of a very large-screen HDR television who can’t afford the large step up to a comparably sized Sony or Samsung 4K Ultra HDTV.
The uMax85 full-array 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD TV used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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