Review: LG 65EF9500 Puts Flat-Screen Back In OLED TV
When it was introduced to the market a few weeks ago, LG’s EF9500 series of flat-screen 4K UHD OLED TVs answered the bell for a lot of videophiles who love the black levels, thin form factor and all-around incredible performance of organic light emitting diode (OLED) display technology, but didn’t care for that curved screen.
The LG 65EF9500 comes through by not only offering a flat-screen version of the previous curved-screen EG9600 series sets, it also improves performance in a few important areas – namely screen uniformity is better (not perfect) and the picture is brighter, which is a plus for the TV’s ability to handle high dynamic range (HDR).
This TV also has HDMI 2.0a inputs, meaning it will accept HDR metadata from specially produced movies that are starting to be delivered both via streaming apps and from external devices like forthcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray players. The EG9600 did not have HDMI 2.0a inputs and can only play HDR content that is streamed into the TV over the Internet.
In short, the $4,997.99 LG65EF9500 and its 55-inch sibling both produce some of the most incredible pictures we’ve seen in a consumer TV this year. The virtually razor-thin top half of the screen provides a form factor that helps mount the set close to flush against a wall with an optional bracket.
Most importantly, the diminished off-angle viewing that plagues LCD sets is gone with this model, allowing you to see the same rich, high contrast images from virtually any angle, just like we once enjoyed with plasma screens.
For more of our review of the LG 65EF9500 click on the jump:
Black Is Back
The biggest benefit of getting an OLED TV is the deep, dark black level it can achieve, producing virtually immeasurable levels of black, or “infinite black” as LG likes to call it. This helps to deepen color saturation and make the overall image appear more real to the eye, without the washed out hazy look often found in dark scenes on LED LCD TVs. Scenes showing the inky deep black of deep space in the Full HD version of Gravity were free of any light leakage that leaves the same black back drop cloudy looking in some LED LCD implementations.
Color Me Impressed
The second reason to get a TV of this caliber is for the way it’s going to handle content produced in a wide color gamut that exceeds the color space of the Rec-709 standard we’ve been seeing in the high definition standard. Judging by how well this set handles standard Rec-709 material out of the box, it should be very exciting to see what it’s going to do once Hollywood starts delivering content produced with the wider color gamut this set supports. It already does a very good job with the few HDR-supporting titles we have now.
The 65EF9500 covers almost 90 percent of the DCI-P3 color space and matched up pretty closely with the Rec-709 color points even before calibration. Colors on regular programming appear rich, natural and not over saturated.
The 65EF9500 offers all of the tools for a complete calibration, including a wide selection of picture adjustment settings with a nice color management system, although the color controls tend to be more interactive with each other than we typically find on LED LCD TVs, making for a bit more work. The set also supplies two- and 10-point white balance adjustment; wide and normal color gamut settings; and a complement of high and low white balance color settings.
Adjusting the TV using my X-rite I1Pro 2 meter, DVDO iScan Duo pattern generator, and CalMAN software, I measured a highly accurate color balance, an average gray-scale Delta Error of just 1.9408 (an error under three is considered imperceptible to the human eye), and an average gamma of 2.21 (I used 2.2 as the target). HD color gamut was excellent with a DeltaE 2000 error average measuring 2.56 (a value of 3.0 or less is considered ideal.)
Predictably, the set measured well for dark detail representation and beautifully saturated color.
Thin By Design
Before even turning on the 65EF9500, the TV presents a striking ultra-thin screen design. The top half of the panel measures just a quarter inch deep. Approximately 16 inches down from the top, the depth of the screen expands an inch and a quarter to accommodate the set’s circuity. The chrome outer bezel is accented with a half-inch black border that frames the inside face of the screen. The rear of the TV cabinet is slightly rounded and white in color, which makes a nice match with many of the walls on which the TV will hang.
You can either mount the set on the wall, using an optional OLED mount that has been specially designed to keep the TV as close as possible to the mounting surface, or you can use the supplied table-top stand offering a silver base that matches the outer frame of the screen. The screen is supported on the base by a transparent vertical riser. This clever design not only makes the picture appear to hover above the stand, it allows placing set-top boxes and Blu-ray players on the table behind the TV without blocking the IR-remote control command signals.
The EF9500 can be operated with physical controls on the TV and via the supplied Magic Remote (more on this later). Inputs include three HDMI ports (with support for HDR-friendly HDMI 2.0a). This is a little meager for a TV of this price, when some TVs costing half as much have at least four. The HDMI No. 2 input supports audio return channel (ARC) so you can hook up a sound bar and operate it with the TV’s remote. Other inputs include: three USB 3.0/2.0 ports, shared component/composite inputs, a coaxial antenna input, an Ethernet input, optical audio output, mini headphone output and an RS-232c control port.
Very Smart TV
LG’s webOS 2.0 system is one of the easiest to set-up and- use smart TV platforms in the industry. Upon turning on the TV LG presents its cartoon bird that walks users through each step of the set-up and network connection process. The exercise is quick, painless and works without a hitch. The system is powered by a quad-core processor that speeds up app loading, and keeps commands smooth and responsive. Most importantly, it helps users to quickly switch between input sources using a dedicated button. This aids in quickly running through favorite apps and channels on the scrolling app ribbon that runs across the bottom of the screen.
To operate the TV, LG includes its updated Magic Remote that provides Nintendo Wii-like cursor control for the webOS interface. The remote offers the option of switching into air-mouse mode by sensing motion of the remote. This triggers a large pink on-screen cursor to appear and float freely around the screen, where ever the remote is pointed. The remote uses an RF link that eliminates the need for line of sight to the TV. If you don’t like the feel of an air mouse, you can toggle the remote into conventional mode, moving command highlighting up and down the menu selections by manipulating the central arrow keys.
This version of the Magic Remote adds numeric buttons to quickly punch in a favorite channel. The extra buttons slightly elongate the design from last year’s more compact version, but it retains a comfortable- to hold and-operate form factor.
High Dynamic Range
One of the key reasons to invest in a television of this quality today is to get the ability to see next-generation 4K Ultra HD content produced with HDR. As we’ve been saying for the past year, this broadens the range of light from absolute black (which only these new OLEDs have yet achieved) gradually increasing in brightness one step at a time up to 15 camera f-stops of bright light. One of the knocks against OLED displays has been their inability to produce the brightness levels of quantum dot LED LCD TVs, but the EF9500 is no slouch on brightness.
With the OLED lighting, contrast and brightness controls maxed out, we measured this TV emitting an eye-squinting 133.7 foot lamberts (458 nits) of brightness, which matches well with some of edge-lit LED LCD models, though some full-array LED models, like the Samsung 65JS9500 can achieve levels approaching 1,000 nits. Whether or not OLED TVs can achieve the brightness of LED TVs, they can still produce the full range of contrast in HDR by starting at the lowest level of black and working up, where LED sets must start at their brightest level and work down to the lowest level of black they can achieve.
We found the 65EF9500 to present the Amazon 4K UHD/HDR productions of “Mozart In The Jungle” and “Red Oaks” very well. The EF9500 was able to display a more satisfying HDR image of dark overall scenes in the streamed “Mozart In The Jungle” than did Samsung’s UN65JS9000 edge-lit LED LCD TV we recently tested, although the OLED’s black levels with this program were not as strong as they appear in other material, suggesting that the way the program was produced had something to do with it.
As with the Samsung TV, the HDR images of Red Oaks were very colorful, rich and bright. As more content is produced in HDR it should be interesting to watch how these various displays perform, especially when we get Ultra HD Blu-ray players affording much higher bit rates and lower image noise.
The 65EF9500 delivered excellent off-axis viewing reminiscent of plasma TVs, while blowing away virtually every LED LCD TV on the market. Viewing angels approaching 180 degrees are possible with this TV without loss of contrast or color performance, where you’re lucky to move a couple of steps off center with most LED LCD models before the image begins to degrade. Vertical angle viewing from above or below screen is similarly excellent, making this the perfect display technology for wall-mounting applications, and with a flat screen, this model is even better. In addition, the screen also did an admirable job of limiting reflections from overhead lights or objects in front of the screen.
If there can be a negative from having a screen that shows off high resolution as well as this model does, it’s that it makes picture artifacts, such as low-bit-rate high-compression blocking and mosquito noise, more noticeable. This is particularly the case in streamed low-resolution SD material. The on-board upscaling of SD content delivered by broadcast, satellite and cable services is serviceable, but the shortcomings are very evident when content is highly compressed. Viewing SD material such as the documentary TV series “The Celts” via Amazon Instant Video, produced images with significant blocking artifacts and mushy looking facial details. On the plus side, the problems aren’t nearly as evident with upconverted Full HD or HD programming, which makes up the majority of content produced today. This set does a very good job with live broadcast 1080i and 720p material, such as live sports and news broadcasts you receive over the air or via cable or satellite services. But old analog TV programs are noticeably weak. The TV has a native 120Hz refresh rate, but unlike plasma TV technology, motion artifacts, such as object blurring is also evident in some content, though not to the extent of many LCD LED TVs. The TV also demonstrated some issues with judder in some sequences, but it seemed to handle banding issues well in several torture tests of the sun on the horizon.
The 65EF9500 showed solid picture uniformity on a gray screen, but did show some uneven blotching along the left and right edges of the screen along with some vertical banding across the frame width when displaying a dark static background with some menus, but the effect was not apparent viewing regular video content.
Like plasma TVs that preceded them, early OLED TVs were prone to some image retention issues. This is where a bright logo, such as a network icon, or stock ticker bar that has been left static on screen for many hours or even minutes remains behind as a ghostly outline when switching to another channel. LG has developed technology that now prevents this condition or greatly mitigates the effect, and some simple tests we performed didn’t turn up any concerning problems with this model.
3D If You Want It
For those who love 3D TV, the 65EF9500 delivers outstanding 3D in Full HD quality. The TV’s passive 3D technology enables the use of lightweight, unpowered polarized glasses that split the screen resolution between each eye, allowing the brain to put together what it perceives as a full-resolution 3D picture. The two pairs of polarized glasses provided with the review set yield 3D imagery that appeared bright and detailed with a minimum of crosstalk.
Sound for the 65EF9500 features a very strong on-board system developed under the direction of acoustic engineers at harman/kardon. The set offers clear, bright upfront dialog and surprisingly full sounding music and surrounding audio for an on-board TV audio system. Still, it’s no substitute for a good sound bar or multi-channel surround sound system.
Value For The Price
The performance of the 65EF9500 doesn’t come cheap. This is still a very new technology and at 65-inches it’s pretty amazing that LG is able to offer this set at the current $4,997.99, considering a 55-inch Full HD version launched at a whopping $15,000 a couple of years ago. Let’s not forget that the first plasma TVs were offered at thousands of dollars, and then you were lucky to get HD and a screen free of dead pixels.
The LG 65EF9500 continues the evolution of this very important display technology, which I expect in the near future will be as prevalent across the industry as LED LCD TV is today. Currently, only LG has the ability to produce this technology at an affordable price on a mass scale, but clearly it’s the target all manufacturers are looking to reach. The curved screens were kind of cool at the outset for presenting a different looking package from the conventional rectangular box, but it appears a large segment of the U.S. public, any way, prefers flat panel TVs that are actually flat, and the EF9500 delivers. The set has some picture processing issues, but the black levels, wide viewing angles and excellent color performance make this TV one of the top models to get this year.
Disclosure: Review sample was obtained as manufacturer’s loan.
By Greg Tarr
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