Review: LG Signature 65W7 4K UHD OLED TV Is The Best Yet
We keep saying this, but the rate by which flat-panel televisions based on organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology is evolving gets more astounding every year.
This week we had the chance to test the just-released LG Signature Series 65-inch W7 ( a.k.a.-“wallpaper”) TV and, frankly, it blew us away. The LG 65W7 presented the very best picture we’ve tested and sets a very high bar for other manufacturers to reach with their 2017 flagship TV introductions.
We thought last year’s models were impressive, but this year LG made remarkable advancements addressing some niggling problem areas: The 65W7 extended both color volume (the ability to present natural color shades over a wide range of brightness levels) and color gamut, the latter measured at 97.7 percent of the DCI-P3 color space recommendation for professional movie theaters. The set also removed an overall slight green tint to the screen to present an image that looks much closer to actual D65 daylight. In black level performance, the display brought out much finer detail in deeply shadowed areas of the image, and this is one of the biggest changes in this year’s OLED class.
For 2017, LG’s “Perfect Black” technology is, well.. more perfect. We measured the set at zero black level, even running motion targets designed to trick the display into maintaining the “OLED Light.” This is the self-emissive light OLEDs produce to present a picture. As mentioned, this was enhanced by the ability of the W7 to produce more levels of gray shading to bring out fine details in areas that were previously crushed (or engulfed) into the surrounding dark background.
The W7 also boosted peak luminance to a measured 902 nits – that’s 80 percent better than the 540 nits the Ultra HD Alliance established as a minimum expected for an “Ultra HD Premium” certified OLED television set.
More impressive is the fact that although the 65W7 has a relatively steep $7,999.99 UPP price, the company said that the exact same picture quality and performance should be found in all 2017 OLED TVs right down to the entry B7 series. That series is due out later in the year at a price to be announced. For comparison sake, the lowest priced 65-inch 2017 OLED TV announced so far is the LG OLED65C7, which is $3,500 less at $4,499.99, but you don’t get the slick two-piece “picture on wall” design or the special Dolby Atmos soundbar.
Read more of our review of the LG Signature Series 65W7 4K Ultra HDTV after the jump:
Faced this year by a competitor (Sony) preparing to bring an OLED TV to market, LG appears to have significantly stepped up its game by delivering a set that combines the world’s thinnest (4mm deep) large-sized TV screen with a Dolby Atmos-compliant soundbar that also houses most of the electronics and connections for the TV display.
From the design stand point, the LG Signature 65W7 is unique. The appearance is both beautiful and intriguing at the same time. For anyone in the market for a true conversation piece, this is it. The W7 series — which will be available in two sizes: the currently available 65-inch ($7,999.99) and a 77-inch coming in June at a $19,999.99 UPP — features a “less-is-more design” that strips away everything from the TV panel to present the beauty of on-screen images alone. This has been referred to informally as “wallpaper TV” — LG calls it a “picture-on-wall” design. The screen mounts to a wall using magnets and special ultra-thin bracket that keeps the panel almost flush with the mounting surface. The panel is somewhat flexible but can be damaged by bending it too far, so it should be handled with caution. The screen and soundbar are designed to connect to each other via a thin ribbon-style cable that can go over or behind the wall, but to meet local building and fire codes, any in-wall installations should run the cable through conduit shielding. A professional installation is recommended for most people and the TV itself will be available primarily from specialists and installers who can provide those services.
The Dolby Atmos-enabled 4.2-channel soundbar is designed to be placed on a tabletop or mounted to the wall about a foot or so below the screen. The bar houses the front-firing speakers that incorporate woofers to handle the low end. Elevating height channel speakers on the left and right ends of the soundbar can be triggered into position via the remote to emerge from within the bar to stand slightly atop the cabinet. Here the drivers direct sound waves forward and upward, reflecting off the ceiling and other surfaces. This serves to produce a sort of simulated rear surround effect along with reflected overhead channels to give moving on-screen objects a 3D tonal dimensionality for an immersive experience.
Objects like chirping birds sound as if they are above you in the room. The effect was significantly enhanced in the specially produced Dolby Atmos test material we were presented, but the effects were not as obvious in theatrically produced sample content.
We found the sound to be very good for a built-in (make that all-in-one) TV system, although the bass was more subdued than it would have been using a good floor-positioned subwoofer. As mentioned, we distinctly heard overhead channels, but the degree to which this comes across will be determined by the surrounding room. Height channels are impacted by both the distance to the ceiling and the degree of surface reflectivity. Despite its full sound and clear dialog, the overall experience was still well short of what you might expect from a home theater using a display of this caliber. We expect most installations will use an external surround sound system with a full 5.1- or 7.1-channel (or larger) speaker setup. The soundbar carrying the TV’s circuitry can then be hidden in a cabinet.
Remote and webOS 3.5
The LG 65W7 features a familiar looking elongated Magic Remote and Magic Link that let viewers instantly access favorite services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video by pressing an easy-to-find hot key. The remote also includes a mic to accept voice commands to perform content searches.
This year the remote is designed to interact with LG’s slick webOS 3.5 smart TV system, which will intuitively find and label source inputs upon set up and learn favorite channels (from broadcast, pay-TV and over the top) and programs to make recommendations. The graphical user interface (GUI) has changed very little from last year, offering a scrolling ribbon of programming and source selections overlaying the picture at the bottom of the home-screen.
New this year is 360-degree Virtual Reality support. Connecting the TV to a mobile phone or PC with a USB cable will enable seeing 360-videos on the big screen. Also added this year is the free Channel Plus service powered by XUMO that integrates more than 70 free streaming digital channels with sports and news from national broadcast networks including: Fox Sports, Newsy, Sports Illustrated, Time, Bloomberg, People, Funny or Die, Fail Army and more into existing over-the-air TV channel options.
LG has also included a gallery feature that lets users turn their OLED “picture-on-wall” TVs into a piece of still art by presenting a selection of popular paintings and photographs. (Users can display their own artwork and photos as well). This transforms the TV into a virtual framed painting that adds ambience to the room when the TV is not playing a video source.
LG’s webOS 3.5 carries most of the popular 4K Ultra HD and HDR-supporting OTT streaming services, topped off by Netflix and Amazon. We found viewing over-the-top 4K streaming channels presented images with HDR quite well, although bandwidth limitations and Netflix’s adaptive bit rate streaming system often kept full 4K resolution from coming through for several minutes. Despite this, the service’s on-screen metering indicated the image was delivering HDR even though the resolution was obviously nowhere close to 4K at the time. This year LG is the only manufacturer to announce support of four HDR formats (HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG and Advanced HDR by Technicolor). LG said its webOS 3.5 platform is ready to support each of these different formats when or if they begin to be offered by various streaming service or on devices connected via the HDMI inputs. Meanwhile, we couldn’t test or even find any high-frame rate (HFR) content that Netflix has said it will make available for suitable displays, starting with OLED TVs, but we remain eager to see it when it arrives.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for getting an LG OLED TV this year is the ability to get support for the four leading HDR formats, the most immediately important of which are HDR10 (static) and Dolby Vision (active metadata). Any HDR-supporting TV today should be able to present HDR10, which is the mandatory standard for Ultra HD Blu-ray. The W7 handles this beautifully. Watching segments of the Ultra HD Blu-ray version of “The Revenant,” we could clearly discern fine detail in dark shadowed areas of the forest floor while in the same frame the bright yellow/orange flames of a raging campfire seemed to leap out of the screen causing the eye to squint at the boost in brightness.
The set also took full advantage of the color volume benefits provided by the active metadata attributes of Dolby Vision. This format provides a discernible difference in color shading (color volume) within bright specular highlights as well as the greater color accuracy afforded by a system designed to allow scene-to-scene color grading changes. Colors within samples of the animated Dolby Vision feature “The Secret Life of Pets” were rich and nuanced enabling us to see the texture of fur in a bright white rabbit’s coat that was seemingly glowing from the boosted brightness highlights.
At the low end of the contrast range, the W7’s ability to provide perfect black presented outer space scenes from the HDR10 version of “The Martian” with some of the deepest inky blacks we’ve seen on a TV screen since CRTs went away.
From the standpoint of color temperature, white balance, color management, and gamma, the W7’s default out of the box settings were as close to perfect as we’ve ever seen. In HDR mode, we set the picture mode to Cinema, and measured a color gamut of 97.7 percent of the DCI-P3 color space. Color points were only slightly off the targets, but not far off enough to have any discernible effect on real world content. The TV’s HDR Mode automatically engages when an HDR signal is detected. This pins the Contrast and OLED Light levels to max, so there isn’t a lot of room to make corrections higher, but as we said, these settings enabled us to measure a peak brightness level of 902 nits.
Our test model was supplied to us by LG, which brought us and reviewers from a range of other AV enthusiast publications out to a test facility to help expedite the review process and to reduce the high risk and cost of shipping these delicate displays all around the world.
Full disclosure: LG told us the test models we used were specially adjusted so that the actual peak brightness capability of the technology could be measured. LG’s OLED displays gradually ramp up brightness starting from about 570 nits (measuring in a 10 percent white window) by a few nits every 3 to 5 seconds. We got the display to 902 nits in about 10 minutes after measuring in a 10 percent white (D65) window. This caused a faint negative image of the rectangular 10 percent window pattern to be retained on the screen and was visible for some time in certain content, especially a full gray screen uniformity test. An LG engineer told us that OLED models for market consumption will be shipped with peak brightness limiters that start ramping down peak luminance after a two-minute period to prevent the image retention effect. The retained image pattern generally clears up after the TV has been turned off for several hours.
Prior to this, we found white, gray and black screen uniformity to be very good with very little darkened or smudged areas. Only a slight degree of perceivable pink shift was seen when looking from left to right on a white ramp pattern, but this was a significant improvement from 2016’s panels that exhibited a more pronounced green shift using the same test material.
One area of the W7 that really impressed us was how improved LG’s OLEDs have become at upscaling lower resolution content to fill the additional pixels on the 4K screen. With a TV this good, extra clarity can be a blessing and a curse because the boost in detail handling can present quadrupled image detail along with quadrupled image artifacts. When not filtered out sufficiently, those artifacts are multiplied to make images look blurry or smudgy, particularly in faces from SD content sources, like DVDs and older analog broadcast TV programs. We used a favorite torture test – the opening ocean cave sequences in the standard Blu-ray edition of “Pirates of Caribbean: At World’s End.” The low-light filmed scenes in the movie are loaded with background noise and film grain. When the upscaling system is bad on a TV, this noise dances around like crazy distracting the viewer from the main subjects in the dimly lit scene. The processing in the LG 65W7 managed to remove much of the noise while keeping the natural film grain without muting colors or making wanted edge detail look too soft. Very nice.
As anyone who has been watching OLED TVs for a while now can attest, motion artifacts aren’t limited to LCD TVs. Similar problems plague OLED technology as well, causing blurring of fast moving objects in an image and judder within smooth pans of matrixed line structures, like stadium seating and building brick work. LG has developed a “TruMotion” system for handling this, with several settings including off and custom. We weren’t bothered much by motion blurring but we noticed a lot of judder across a wide variety of content. Using the custom settings, I found I could significantly drive down judder but this boosted the Soap Opera Effect significantly, making even filmed images look like overly sharp live video. This is going to be a trade-off that viewers will need to assess for themselves to find the right compromise between acceptable judder and acceptable Soap Opera Effect. This reviewer would adjust the custom setting for the type of content being viewed. This includes maxing out the de-blur setting and setting de-judder midway for live sports events, news programs, etc. with the TruMotion processing turned off entirely for most movie and scripted television content.
One of the best reasons to buy an OLED TV is to get the benefit of picture quality that stands up when viewed from almost any angle. Most LED back-lit LCD TVs on the market begin to lose color and contrast performance with each successive step to the right or left of dead center. The color and contrast of an OLED TV continues to look very good from almost any seating position in the room, meaning you can have a Super Bowl party and not have to worry about who gets the sweet spot. This hasn’t changed in the 2017 models, and makes an OLED TV the best display technology choice when you plan to mount a television at an elevated position on a wall.
One limitation in virtually all TVs announced for 2017 will be a generally expected inability to upgrade to the newly announced HDMI 2.1 specification. Among a number of benefits this new interface will bring is better inter-brand and inter-device compatibility with fewer handshake issues. It will also have greater bandwidth to handle more of the latest and greatest audio formats over the new enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) including object-based audio (Dolby Atmos and DTS:X). The HDMI 2.1 spec has not been formally published yet, but an LG executive told us that the 2017 LG OLED and LCD models are not expected to be upgradeable to HDMI 2.1. That new standard is not likely to begin to appear before next year.
All of LG’s 2017 OLED TVs will come with basically the same input package as last year. As mentioned, on the W7 models all inputs are placed on the back of the soundbar section of the set. These include: 4 HDMI 2.0a ports with HDCP 2.2 content management capable of supporting 4K and HDR metadata; 3 USB ports; Ethernet (LAN) port; 1 set of component video inputs/shared with composite input, 1 optical digital audio output; RF (antenna) input and a remote (RS-232) port. In other model series, these inputs will be found on the back of the set.
With each successive year, LG ‘s OLED TV assortment continues to hit it out of the park in picture performance, design and Wow appeal. The 2017 flagship W7 series is no exception. It’s the best television we’ve ever tested and on that level alone it gets our highest rating. The major downside with the set is its high price, and $7,999.99 for the 65-inch and $19,999.99 for the 77-inch is a lot to spend today on a television set. Fortunately, LG has four other series that all have the same advertised picture-performance attributes and technologies for considerably less. You’ll have to decide which cosmetic design package is right for you. But you’ve got to admit, having a “wallpaper TV” is about as cool as TV gets today.
LG brought us to a test site in San Francisco for a full hands-on analysis of the LG 65W7 without supervised direction or influence. We tested the model with standard CalMan for Business calibration software using a Murideo Fresco Six-G test pattern generator and X-Rite i1Pro with HDR colorimeter. Test discs and test patterns were our own, including for HDR analysis, the “Samsung HDR 10 Reference Disc” developed by Florian Friedrich and played on a Samsung K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
By Greg Tarr
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