Review: LG 65B9PUA 4K OLED TV Delivers Value
LG has released the entry series in the year’s 4K OLED TV line and after spending a few days with the 2019 65-inch 65B9PUA we’re pleased to report the company has another winner for you to consider buying this holiday season.
For a relative bargain — the street price for the 65-inch model was running about $2,195.99 as this was posted — LG’s latest entry 4K OLED TV continues to deliver fantastic picture quality with deep black levels, wide contrast range, and nicely accented bright specular highlights we’ve come to expect from organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology.
The picture quality in the B9 series is very similar to the other step-up LG OLED series models with only slight peak brightness and image processing performance and cosmetic differences, making this a nearly premium-level television at a great value. LG makes the B9 series available in two screen sizes — 55-($1,396.99 retail) and 65-($2,195.99) inches. Performance and features are identical in each.
As in prior years, the primary difference between the entry B9 4K OLED series and the other step-up series models like the C9 and E9 series is a more basic design (although there’s nothing cheap looking about this set) and the use of a lesser-powered A7 Gen. 2 processor compared to the A9 Gen 2 processor used in other LG 2019 4K OLED TV model classes.
The Strong Points
In addition to presenting a great standard dynamic range (SDR) and high dynamic range (HDR) picture, the 65B9 has impressive (for a flat-panel TV) on-board sound, supported by built-in Dolby Atmos surround sound. Even without a full complement of speakers, Dolby Atmos presents a nice wide sound stage from these tiny TV speakers.
Despite OLED’s inability to achieve the bright peak levels of high performing full array LED LCD TVs, HDR performance in this set is very good because it slides the brightness scale lower to nearly pure black as a starting point. In addition, the set supports baseline HDR10 profile as well as Technicolor Advancd HDR, Hybrid Log-Gamma (for live broadcasts) and dynamic Dolby Vision profiles. This is as complete a list of HDR profiles as you will find in the market — only the HDR10+ profile is missing and LG said the set’s tone mapping is more than up to handling the information in specially produced HDR10+ titles.
Another plus for any OLED screen is offering the widest viewing angles available in a consumer display. This makes these televisions ideal for anyone looking to wall mount their television. Almost everyone in the room will get the same great picture quality, regardless of the viewing angle to the screen.
Gamers should also find the B9 series televisions to be very responsive due to a low input lag that facilitates competitive play.
The Weak Points
The B9 series, as any TV, is not without flaws. The key weak points are the risk of image retention present in all OLED TV sets if not properly handled. Static images or constant onscreen news or stock ticker bars and station logo overlays can lead to permanent burn-in issues and should not be allowed to stay on screen for more than a few minutes at a time. When this is avoided image retention should not be problem. The television also has a glossy screen surface that can pick up distracting reflections and glare from the room when ambient lighting is left on during viewing. However, this has been reduced somewhat from prior years and was generally not a distraction to us under most conditions. In the rare event we noticed a problem, turning off the light switch was a simple and effective solution.
The B9 television does a nice job with upscaling lower resolution content but has some limitations in completely cleaning up artifact issues like color banding (or contouring) in backgrounds with subtle color/brightness transitions like skylines or underwater shots.
Like LCD TVs, OLED also has issues with motion judder which can be seen occasionally in movies, such as the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc version of The Revenant, when the camera pans across deep forest tree lines. Turning on the set’s motion compensation features will introduce issues with the soap opera effect that Hollywood directors urge us to avoid. But for live TV and sports, LG’s TruMotion settings can be adjusted to minimize the judder effect as well as motion blurring for a pleasant viewing experience of live video.
As mentioned, high dynamic range is very well presented by the B9 series. Colors are incredible rich and vibrant, thanks to the nearly perfect black these screens present. Black level was so low, in fact, that our Portrait Displays C6 colorimeter would only measure zero nits on a black center target, although more sensitive spectroradiometers would likely measure a scant amount of brightness at or below the 0.0005 nits specified for Ultra HD Alliance “Premium” OLED HDR TV requirements. OLED technology produces very deep black because it uses a self-emissive light source that can completely turn off light at the pixel level. However, the limitations of the set’s brightness performance does produce a slight degree of crushing in shadow details, but not enough to take away any necessary information from the screen.
We measured peak white brightness at 536.56 nits (close enough to the 540 nits specified for Ultra HD Premium certification by the UHD Alliance) under typical settings for viewing. The display was set to HDR Cinema (user) picture mode with the OLED Light and Contrast settings at 100 and Brightness at 50. This was sufficent to produce noticeably brighter specular highlights with visible detail and colors present.
The set’s peak brightness level is not quite as high as some of LG’s other step-up OLED model series, or even the best LED LCD TVs. But in actually 4K HDR viewing this is hardly noticeable.
High dynamic range images of underwater life from the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of the BBC’s Blue Planet II were brilliantly rich and vibrant without being over saturated after calibration. Bright highlights, like the burning red light of head-worn lamps on beach combing specialists trying to save Leatherback sea turtles laying their eggs, stood out from the surrounding dimly light twilight giving the picture a true-to-life 3D effect.
LG nicely designs the television to briefly flag when HDR and the name of the profile when an incoming HDR signals begins playback. This takes the guesswork out of determining whether or not the picture you are watching is actually in the right mode. Of course, when HDR is displayed this well its pretty easy to tell with the eye alone.
The LG 65B9PUA has a very wide and accurate color gamut range. Using Portrait Display’s CalMan calibration software we measured the display’s HDR performance covering 99.26% of UHDA-P3 1976 uv coverage (in a BT.2020 container). Colors were satisfyingly rich, deep and accurate in both HDR and BT.709 standard dynamic range.
What really impressed us was how well the LG 65B9PUA handled SDR images, which will be a majority of what most people will continue to be watching for some time to come yet. LG uses its AI picture quality technology to upscale lower-resolution 1080 and 720p pictures to fill all of the additional 4K pixels on the screen. This is performed with minimal duplication of artifacts making images sharp and clear.
Viewing SD content from DVDs and older cable TV programs does show off the limitations in the original source material, including film grain and low light noise. Noise and film grain were present when viewing the DVD version of The Wizard of OZ, although much of that is content related. The new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of the film gets rid of some this while preserving the film grain details of the original picture. But LG’s noise reduction technology overall does a very good job of keeping this from distracting the immersive effect of the story when watching from typical seating distances.
One of the benefits of OLED technology is the ability to produce the thinnest panel depth in the business and the B9 continues to take advantage of it. The panel measures just a hair over 1/8th-inch deep at the top and around the sides of the screen. In the back of the screen, the depth expands by 1.5 inches halfway down to the bottom of the screen to accommodate the electronics and inputs of the TV. LG makes a thin wall mount available to place the screen almost flush against the mounting surface, but this thick portion will make for a slight gap between the wall and the thin portion of the screen.
LG uses an ultra-thin black bezel trim around the screen that blends in almost invisibly with the deep black of letter-boxed onscreen bars when watching most movies. The back of the thin parts of the screen is a smooth semi-gloss gray plastic.
For those who want to place the TV on a credenza or piece of AV furniture, the pedestal-style stand screws into the back of the set. This is a center positioned pedestal made of plastic that ramps downward from the front of the screen 4.5 inches. This can make it tricky to place a soundbar in front of the screen without about 8 inches of clearance. Otherwise, the soundbar will have to balance on top of this sloped footing and might block a small portion of viewing area at the bottom.
The stand provides a sturdy platform although the screen does have a slight wobble when gently nudged, but this shouldn’t be a problem for most applications.
The B9 offers a nice selection of i/o ports on the left hand side (facing from the front) of the back of television including four HDMI ports supporting many of the features in the new HDMI 2.1 specification. This includes the new eARC system that will bring much greater bandwidth than the old audio return channel (ARC) format while optimizing lip-sync and more effectively supporting device handshaking between the display and eARC support sources. Issues of device conflicts that plagued the old HDMI-ARC and HDMI-CEC formats should be greatly reduced using the new eARC format.
Other connections include 3 USB; 1 digital optical audio ouput; analog audio ouput via a 3.5mm mini jack; 1 composite video input; 1 RF cable/tuner input; 1 RS-232 control port and 1 Ethernet port.
The LG OLED B9 has a nice low input lag for a highly responsive experience. The new HDMI inputs support the Auto Low Latency Modem (ALLM) platform that engages the set’s Game Mode automatically when a supporting signal is identified for optimal results. In Game Mode, we measured lag time of 1080/60p and 4K/60p input signals at a very good 13.8 ms.
As in the past, LG equips most of its smart TVs with its own webOS platform. This brings access to LG’s app store allowing selection of a very large selection of streaming entertainment apps, including many of the most popular ones that come pre-installed on the television. If something’s missing, the B9 allows casting streamed video to the TV screen from a smartphone or tablet.
LG also includes its AI ThinQ system that turns the TV into a control hub for compatible smart-home devices like lighting control or smart kitchen appliances. The platform also has been upgraded and enhanced this year to support voice commands from most of the major platforms including Amazon Works with Alexa for use with Alexa smart speakers, and built-in Google Assistant. LG also adds its own voice control format for various TV control settings.
LG also adds support through a firmware update for Apple AirPlay 2 wireless streaming from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. The TV will also support mobile-to-TV wireless mirroring with Miracast enabled phones and tablets, and offers remote TV control through free downloadable apps for iOS and Android devices.
To operate most of the television’s onscreen menu controls and smart TV functions, LG supplies its “Magic Remote,” which remains one of the best in the business. The Magic Remote has changed little from past years, still using an air-mouse style cursor that allows the user to point the remote at desired selection on screen button to execute a command. A dedicated button on the remote permits quick access to a list of suggested popular movies either in theaters now and available for advanced purchase or slightly older fare streaming now through eight streaming apps from LG partners including Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, Fandango Now, Google Play, Crackle and Netflix. Each title is listed with an icon for the various streaming app services where it can be found.
LG also equips the Magic Remote with fast-access buttons for Netflix and Amazon Prime.
As mentioned above, the LG 65B9 offers respectable onboard sound output, offering nice loud sound before distortion kicks in, while dialog is center posioned, clear and understandable in all of the material we tested. The TV has a 2.2 speaker system (10 watts x 2, plus 10 watts x 2 for woofers). It also supports Bluetooth wireless audio streaming to a compatible speaker or headphones. The TV supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based surround sound. When streaming supporting movies from the TVs apps, Dolby Atmos audio can be sent to the TV’s speakers or to an A/V receiver via the HDMI/ARC output. Although the sound is generally good, it’s no substitute for a good soundbar or full multi-channel home theater surround system. It is still recommended for getting the most immersive experience.
For the money and performance, the LG 65B9PUA is one of our favorite 4K Ultra HD televisions of the year. The picture quality in SDR and HDR alike is striking and colorful. Specular highlights are bright and detailed after calibration and the smart TV platform is both easy to use and loaded with the latest high-tech features. In this price class, purchasers will have to option of contending 4K OLED TVs from Sony, and while these are very good performers in their own right, they won’t likely match the value price point that the B9 will ultimately hit during key promotional periods. For those looking for very bright, colorful and reflection-free pictures, Samsung offers contenders in the 65Q80R ($1,497.99 street price) and 65Q90R ($2,797.99 street price) series, but these don’t quite achieve the nearly pure black reproduction of the OLED models. So shoppers will have to decide whether they like higher peak brightness or deeper black reproduction.
We therefore award the LG 65B9PUA five out of five hearts.
The LG 65B9PUA used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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