Review: LGE9 4K OLED TV Dazzles With Design, Clarity
LG’s 2019 4K OLED TV lineup offers a range of impressive performers for sound and picture quality, but its 65E9, reviewed here, is one of the best looking televisions we’ve seen, both on and off.
The 2019 LG E9 series is the second to top-of-the-line LG 4K OLED TV series available. It’s picture quality will be similar to models in the C9 and W9 series (the rollable R9 didn’t make it this year) but its floating-screen cosmetic design is quite special.
LG, through its LG Display subsidiary, remains the leader in the organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology, offering the world’s only source of WRGB-based OLED screens, which other TV manufacturers must purchase to make their own OLED TV models.
This gives LG Electronics built-in advantages in producing its lineups of OLED televisions year after year. Recently, other TV makers in the OLED game (like Sony in the U.S.) have been giving LG Electronics a run for its money in picture and sound quality performance through avanced picture processing technologies that enhance the innate attributes of OLED technology.
In 2019, LG’s step-up 4K OLED TV series the C9, E9 and W9 each incorporate LG’s latest and most powerful Alpha 9 II processing chip, which impressed us with its ability to clean up artifacts like color banding and edge jaggies, even from upscaled lower resolution HD and Full HD images. Even motion blurring is significantly minimized in this year’s higher-end LG OLED classes.
This is on top of the inherent qualities of the self-emitting OLED panels that can present perfect black along with excellent black screen uniformity. The OLED screen also provides the widest viewing angles on the market without loss of contrast or color. Another improved attribute in E9 (and other 2019 step-up LG OLED classes) is very minimal input lag along with support for G-Sync gaming connectivity. This provides highly responsive video game play with reliably clear and consistent visuals when connected to supported gaming PCs.
For those looking for top-level performance features ensuring a set will not become obsolete for at least the next few years, LG’s step-up 4K OLED TVs stand at the top of the market. LG includes a nice suite of HDMI 2.1-specified features in each of the HDMI inputs (four in total, one of which supports ARC and e-ARC), built-in Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound pass-through (on top of the Atmos decoder built in), and passthrough of the supported HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG and Technicolor Advanced HDR profiles.
LG said it feels the tone mapping built into its sets are at least as good or equal to the benefits provided by the HDR10+ profile, which is therefore not supported as an addition HDR profile.
LG’s webOS smart TV platform also provides an excellent experience for video streaming, in adition to supporting the most popular AI voice control platforms including Alexa and Google Assistant. We found the television was easy to setup and use, and the included Magic Remote operated not only the television but connected source components with aplomb.
OLED is an excellent display technology for picture quality, but it does have some limitations to be considered. The screens are sensitive to image retention from static images left up too long. When handled properly this should never be an issue in most home-based real world viewing scenarios, but for anyone who leaves video game screens standing static for hours or tunes to one news station with static channel logos or ticker bars for most of the day, “burned in” ghost images can result when changing channels. In severe cases this can be permanent, so some caution in use is advised.
OLED technology also lacks the ability to achieve the same high level of brightness seen in some more advanced 4K HDR LED-LCD TVs. We tested the LG 65E9 with a peak sustained HDR luminance of 733 nits in a 10% D65 white window pattern, which is excellent for OLED displays. (For comparison, the threshold level for premium LED LCD displays is 1000 nits). This means specular highlights in HDR images might lack some of the 3D qualities and dynamics that they have on brighter displays. But we find that when balanced against a perfect black level, as these sets produce, the specular highlights standout significantly. The technology also presents a nice wide P3 color gamut, with hues that look richer and more vibrant than on many LCD panels. This is due to the nearly infinite black base level.
The biggest differences between the 2019 C9, E9 and W9 is in design styling. Picture quality for each model is similar since each of the step-up OLED models employs LG’s excellent A9 II processing chip. (As pointed out in our earlier review of the 2019 entry LG 65B9 4K OLED TV, that model class has a somewhat less powerful processing chip, so image quality is not quite as good as we saw on the 65E9).
The E9 series is distinguished by a back-mounted glass panel which carries the front-facing OLED screen. The transparent glass backing extends to the mounting surface (in table top placements) leaving about 1.25 inches of transparent glass below a 1-inch gloss black base trim. Above that bass trim and bordering the interior surface of the other three sides of the screen as well is a .25 inch gloss black bezel trim. The OLED panel depth with the glass backing runs about .25 inches deep for 20 inches down from the top of the screen. At that point the depth in the back of the set expands to 1.75 inches to account for circuitry, power supply and other components.
In table top placements the supplied mounting base has substantial heft to give the screen a solid and sturdy foundation. This keeps the screen very well anchored, although the thinness of the OLED screen does result in slight screen wobble when gently pushed. We don’t see this offering much risk in toppling, as long as the table top mounting surface itself is sturdy.
The back of the TV is gloss gray-black finish on the top half and a textured finish on the bottom. This matches up well with the gloss black elements on the font of the set. The 65E9 can be wall mounted with a minimal gap between the wall and the display, and the very wide viewing angle makes this one of the best selections for such applications. Whether wall mounted or placed on a table top, this is one of the best looking television designs we’ve seen this year.
LG’s 2019 OLED TVs are said to support many of the features of the new HDMI 2.1 specification on all four HDMI outputs on the set. These supported elements include: e-ARC, which brings a wider bandwidth for more advanced sound codecs, advanced lip-sync correction and better compatibility between devices; 4K/60Hz and 1080p/120Hz handling; and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), which automatically switches the TV into game mode when a connected Xbox One X console is detected (PlayStation 4 does not support it). Other connections on the set include: 3 USB; 1 digital optical output; 1 3.5mm analog audio output; 1 Ethernet port; 1 composite input (with supplied adapter); and 1 (ATSC 1) ant/cable input.
We found the the picture quality viewing 4K HDR movies to be excellent on the LG 65E9. The set produces nice inky blacks while preseving most of the intended shadow detail in images we sampled. The pixel-level control afforded by the self-emitting OLED light produced very accurate color and luminance levels. Measurements were taken after AutoCal calibration in Portrait Display’s CalMan software with the television’s picture mode set to “Cinema HDR,” Gamma set to “2.2” and Color Temperature set to “W2.”
As mentioned, we tested the LG 65E9 with a peak sustained HDR luminance of 733 nits in a 10% D65 white window pattern, which is excellent for OLED displays. Specular highlights in HDR images were sufficiently bright to stand out from the surrounding background and provide 3D qualities.
Specular highlights from the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of The Revenant dazzled with brightness, detail and color better than we’ve seen on many other displays. Image clarity in the deep forest scenes was also as brilliant as we’ve seen it on a 4K screen.
Unlike most LED-LCD TVs, the LG 65E9 4K OLED TV didn’t produce any distracting haloing or blooming around white objects on dark or black backgrounds, and the perfect black in the letterbox border areas of the screen remained that way throughout the movie without bleed through or flashlighting, common in many edge-lit and less-capable local dimming LED-LCD TVs.
LG has added a new dynamic tone-mapping algorithm, called “Dynamic Tone-mapping 2” that does a nice job preserving details in the brightest segments of the image surpassing the capabilities of the set. The technology adjusts the brightness along the PQ EOTF curve and controls how the levels roll off at the peak brightness limits of the set.
Again calling on “AI” technology, LG has also implemented an AI Brightness feature that adjusts brightness in the TV according to the ambient light levels in the room. LG’s system works with HDR10 and HLG-based HDR content. A separate system developed by Dolby is employed for Dolby Vision content. When AI Brightness is active it reads the ambient light levels and adjusts tone mapping to boost the picture brightness to the appropriate level for the viewing conditions, preserving shadow details and other areas of the picture that are typically crushed or washed out.
The 65E9 has excellent color handling in both SDR and HDR. In HDR we measured a wide color gamut of 97% of the DCI-P3 recommendation. The PQ-EOTF followed the recommended pattern very closely before rolling off at the TV’s peak brightness level.
Colors were vivid and rich with both SDR and HDR content.
Deep space HDR scenes from the streamed 4K/HDR 10 version of “The Avengers: Endgame” were brilliantly vibrant and bright with neon-like purples from instrument panel lights, and bright reflected highlights in the pupils of the characters’ eyes from inside the dimly lit spaceship cabin.
Uniformity and Screen Glare
The LG 65E9 had excellent black and gray-screen uniformity. We didn’t observe any distracting dirty screen effect or blotching in motion pans. Black screens were uniformly black from corner to corner.
Some screen reflections were present viewing in a lit room, but this was minimized and not overly distracting viewing real world content.
The TruMotion function on the 65E9 does an exceptional job handling motion clarity in sports and live action video, but resulting judder makes it best switched to off for movie viewing.
Many of the 2019 LG 4K TVs are equipped with the company’s latest version 4.5 of the webOS platform. Among the standout new features is “AI Preview” that adds a content row to the on-screen user interface at the bottom of the screen. Selections are made using the supplied “Magic Remote” that continues to offer a very slick air-mouse-like free-floating cursor option. When the cursor is moved to one of several popular apps–including Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube–a content row pops up with icons for movie or program recommendations.
The webOS 4.5 platform supports many of the most popular streaming apps including: HBO, Hulu, Sling TV, Disney+ and others. It also supports operation of compatible home automation devices (Home IoT Devices) via LG’s ThinkQ platform. Users can also control both the television and remote-controlled IoT devices via voice commands from Amazon’s Alexa (available via an app installation), Google Assistant and LG’s own ThinQ Voice system.
LG also recently updated the televisions to support Apple’s AirPlay 2 and HomeKit to its 2019 TVs. (It also includes the new Apple TV+ app). Among other things, with AirPlay 2 users have access to even more streaming services from an iPhone or iPad relayed wirelessly to the TV screen.
In fact, artificial intelligence (AI) is a big component of the LG smart TV offering as well as picture and sound optimization this year.
LG’s new “AI” features also include “AI Recommendations” that provide tips for content and feature the use of the AI Picture and “AI sound” systems. Viewers are given advise based on their viewing habits.
Meanwhile, the 2019 Home Dashboard allows connecting to and controlling ThinQ and OCF compatible smart home devices from the TV screen.
As mentioned, LG continues to offer its Magic Remote with premium OLED TVs. We’ve found this to be one of best remotes in the industry. It’s fun to use, responsive and buttons and the central control wheel are well laid for simple, intuitive operation. The remote is also based on both Bluetooth and IR, offering flexibility of use with other connected components.
Dedicated fast-access buttons are offered for Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, along with a “Movies” button that calls up a screen with movie title recommendations from supported app partners including: Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, Fandango Now, Disney+, Crackle and others. On the page, users can perform a text search to find a particular movie title or list of available movies with a favorite actor.
The remote also includes a mic and mic trigger button to input voice commands for searches and other tasks.
We found the speakers for the on-board sound system to be quite good for a built-in system with limited speaker size and less-than ideal location. Frankly, in this price class, we expect most people will opt to add on a high quality soundbar, full home theater system or, conveniently, a set of WiSA-enabled wireless speakers that continue to be supported by the television.
By adding on optional WiSA wireless speakers from supporting third-party manufacturers, owners of the 65E9 can easily build a 5.1-channel surround sound experience without having to add an AV receiver. A WiSA dongle provides the signal output. Several manufacturers are already selling WiSA compatible speakers that can be connected to LG TVs in up to 5.1-channel surround sound. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any WiSA-ready speakers to test this out.
As in past years, LG includes built-in Dolby Atmos object-based audio decoding. This helps to expand the sound stage from the built-in speakers, but the technology is best appreciated via a full multi-channel 3D audio system with height channels and a good subwoofer(s).
As mentioned, LG also includes its AI Sound technology, which also helps to boost the overall listening experience from the onboard speakers. AI Sound adapts the sound to the type of content being played. Like Dolby Atmos, AI Sound tends to widen the sound stage somewhat from the narrow and boxy sound of small TV speakers. This is especially beneficial in presenting clear dialog. Its OK for music listening coming from background soundtracks on TV programs and movies but it’s no substitute for a good hi-fidelity home theater system or advanced soundbar.
The 65E9 is an excellent gaming display with very fast response time and very low 13 ms input lag from 1080/60p and 4K SDR and HDR titles. This year, LG has upgraded its premium 4K OLED and 8K OLED TVs to support G-Sync capability. This allows playing video games from G-Sync-supporting gaming PCs without the flicker, tearing or stuttering that sometimes results on TV screens. LG does not support AMD’s competing FreeSync system at this time. The TV also supports Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), currently from Xbox One X consoles.
The LG 65E9 4K OLED TV ranks as one of the best if not the best 4K OLED television we’ve tested this year. The picture quality is outstanding, smart TV functionality is both useful and functional without the clunkiness of many cheaper systems. LG’s package of HDMI 2.1 features and supported HDR and surround sound formats leave out few of the top bells and whistles one could ask for. About the only thing missing is a solution for tuning in the new ATSC 3.0 “NextGen TV” broadcast signals that will begin to be transmitted around the country shortly. But no one’s offering that this year and we expected tuner dongles will begin to appear soon as a compatibility bridge.
Therefore, the LG 65E9 gets a strong HD Guru recommended buy rating and five out of five hearts.
The LG 65E9 used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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