At last LG has released an uncurved OLED TV model — and oh what a TV it is. The initial OLED TV releases were curved primarily (almost entirely indeed) for marketing reasons — clearly the curved models stood out as a premium product. But OLED screen technology stands out from the LCD-LED pack in other ways as well... as we’ll see with this, theTV.
Just because it isn’t curved doesn’t mean that it isn’t stylish. The 65EF950T is as close as a TV has ever managed to being just a sheet of glass. Indeed, the top half of this 164cm screen looks just like that: a 6mm thick slab of glass — no swelling, no bezel, with only a millimetre or so of the metal wrapped around its edge as viewed from the front. The bottom does swell out to around 50mm thick in order to accommodate the electronics and so forth.
All this is possible because, we must recall, OLED pixels generate their own light, so there is no need for any kind of lighting array (or mirrors for edge lighting) behind the panel.
The picture doesn’t go all the way to the edges, though. There’s a touch over a centimetre of additional glass around the picture, including at the bottom. The speakers are mounted in the section at the rear.
The TV has the usual connections, including three HDMI inputs and three USB sockets, including one USB 3.0 suitable to use with a hard-disk which can then record TV programming (note, however, that the TV has only one tuner). The LG can also record a little to its internal memory, but the 4GB provided isn’t much to play with.
The smart stuff is built around LG’s webOS interface and its ‘Magic’ smart remote control. This operates as LG’s TVs have for a few years: you move the remote and a pointer moves on the screen so that you can select things. It is, so far, the best smart remote on the market. LG has enhanced it with the inclusion of number keys and an input selector, so the things you most need from an old-fashioned remote are at hand. The TV does work with a standard LG IR remote as well if you have one handy. I should note that the OS is version 2.0, not the 3.0 that is on LG’s latest premium LCD TVs. The differences between 1.0 and 2.0 were minor, so it’s likely the same with 2.0 to 3.0, but it would be nice for a new TV to come with the latest OS. A quad-core processor keeps performance snappy.
The other reason this TV stands out is because it supports HDR (High Dynamic Range) content. And it does this with a different approach to the other HDR-capable TVs coming out this year.
HDR (see other articles in this issue of Sound+Image) is about two things: boundaries, and graduations of light. In the real world, actual dark is much darker than can be displayed on most TVs, and bright is enormously brighter than can be displayed by any TV. Those are the boundaries, and TV makers are working on extending towards them.
Most companies are working on the top boundary — making displays which can go brighter. But LG’s OLED TVs are unique in that they have attacked the bottom boundary: they can go full black at the pixel level. Mathematically that means an infinite contrast ratio — of course it would mean that even if maximum brightness was truly feeble. Fortunately, that’s not the case, with the screen offering a bold, bright and colourful picture.
The second and perhaps more important thing about HDR is the matter of graduations. Current Blu-ray and DVD technology uses eight bits to define brightness (and eight bits for each colour, although it’s complicated by using component rather than RGB video for encoding). That translates to 256 levels. It is for that reason that sometimes you can see distinct colour bands in a dark sky in the evening, as presented even on Blu-ray. These represent the closest levels that blues can be to each other for that system, and they are not close enough to merge seamlessly.
HDR 10 is the standard adopted by the Blu-ray Disc Association for UHD Blu-ray, and this encodes at 10 bits, or 1024 levels. That’s probably enough to eliminate banding, and to enhance subtle detail, especially in dark scenes, which are crushed into black under the 8-bit regime. But this TV doesn’t support the 12-bit Dolby Vision option for HDR (see our Dolby interview), as do some other LG OLED models.
So what the 65EF950T offers on the HDR front is perfection on the bottom boundary, reasonable performance on the top boundary, and with the introduction of UHD Blu-ray and other HDR content (from Netflix, for example), smoother colour graduations and improved detail in between.
Setting up the TV was easy, possibly even fun given the cartoon penguin motif employed throughout. Following the wizard should have anyone up and running in five minutes.
We invariably find, even on the most premium of TVs, that the default settings for the picture need a few tweaks. Here’s our guide to getting the best from this LG 65EF950T.
First, wind the ‘Sharpness’ control down to zero. This smoothes the picture. (The sharpness control was on by default even when playing UHD material!)
Also, there is a particularly silly default aspect ratio of 16:9 when playing 1080p material. That employs a bit of overscan, scaling up the picture slightly and thereby surrendering the preferred 1:1 pixel mapping (actually, 1:4 on a 4K set) from input to screen. You’ll have to go into the set-up menu to fix this, but it’s easy enough — just change the aspect ratio to ‘Just Scan’. This change sticks, so you’ll only have to do it the once for each input. On UHD signals ‘Just Scan’ was chosen automatically.
The only remaining change was to bump up the ‘Contrast’ control from 95 to 100. On test patterns, full white was distinctly darker than ‘whiter than white’. That adjustment fixed that.
The end result of those changes was the glorious picture we’ve come to expect of an LG OLED TV.
Those done, we enjoyed the glorious picture we’ve come to expect of an LG OLED TV. Actually, it did a respectable job even with free-to-air SD TV, pretty impressive given the sheer size of the screen, and a very nice job indeed on HDTV movies.
But it really came into its own with Blu-ray. (Only Blu-ray? We’ll get to that shortly.) The TV mapped each incoming pixel sensitively to four display pixels, taking account of adjacent incoming pixels to smooth edges inconspicuously in the way that only a proper UHD display can do. The result was sharp and smooth, rather like real life.
While on the subject of free-to-air TV: the TV should store the free-to-air EPG when it’s switched off, instead of having to be populated anew each time it’s switched on.
The blacks were absolutely perfect. Regardless of any bright areas on the screen, the black sections were completely black since the pixels were switched off entirely. It was almost eerie watching in a completely dark room, as sections of the screen could utterly disappear into the dark as other sections were still showing an image. This is where OLED is so wonderful.
A really good LCD with localised LED backlighting can sometimes give this impression, but the localisation is necessarily coarse. With this TV the OLED display is so closely bonded with the front glass that there is virtually no light scatter from the lit pixels, so there is not even a glow around the bright elements, other than that introduced by the human eye itself.
The TV includes a motion-smoothing interpolator, of course. The default ‘Clear’ setting I thought was just a touch too glossy, with a little distortion hovering on the edge of perception. The other preset (other than ‘Off’) was ‘Smooth’, and this was even stronger and more distorted. But there’s also a ‘User’ setting. Choosing this and setting ‘De-Blur’ to 0 and ‘De-Judder’ to 3 was a nice compromise, taking the edge off the worst judder, thereby improving visibility during moving scenes, without adding significant gloss or any visible distortion.
When it came to 3D, the results were better than average, but about on a par for LG UHD TVs, with some ghosting for parts of the image near the tops and bottoms of the screen. LG’s passive system seems less effective in UHD than full-HD. Still, it was quite effective and engaging. (We’d love to see active 3D on OLED — the incredibly fast pixel switching time would provide excellent results.)
But how about 4K and, in particular, HDR? Well, UHD Blu-ray isn’t quite here yet, so I had to rely on some HDR-encoded video clips provided by LG on USB. These had clearly been created with a view to showing off both the sharpness of UHD and the clarity of HDR, especially in scenes with dazzlingly bright highlights in the midst of gloomy backgrounds. And this it did to great effect. It was amazing, switching my focus away from gleaming gold to very dark browns and greys that, for the first time ever, were just as detailed and rich as the bright parts of the image. Likewise, figures silhouetted against a bright background were fully detailed, even though dark. This was brilliant, and convinces me (and no doubt cinematographers) that HDR is the real thing: a technological improvement that, with HDR content, provides a clearly visible step up in picture quality.
LG’s webOS operating system operated snappily and well. There are lots of apps you can install (with 4GB of space for them), most free. These included plenty of free video streaming sources, plus paid ones such as Netflix, Bigpond Movies and Stan. The TV supports UHD and HDR content from Netflix, if your internet bandwidth is high enough. (Mine is, sadly, nowhere near sufficient.)
There were no catch-up apps for the three commercial stations, and what you get through FreeviewPlus will depend where you live —we tested this TV in Canberra, where local commercial stations are technically different companies that do not have their own catch-up services. However ABC iView and SBS On Demand were both available as standalone apps and via Freeview Plus (which worked with reasonable swiftness, thanks to the powerful processor).
The unit can act as a DLNA player and renderer (i.e. you can use apps to send network content to it), although for some reason it would not play LG’s own UHD test clips over the network (it was fine with full-HD). It supported Miracast from my Android devices and, occasionally, WiDi from my computer (always problematic in my environment for some reason). When it comes to smart stuff, this TV is extremely satisfying.
The TV does not support automatic lip-sync adjustments, so you’ll need to dial a figure into the AV receiver yourself. Remember, this is not the switching time for pixels; OLED does that fast, 0.002 milliseconds, or about two orders of magnitude faster than LCD TVs. Rather we’re talking the delay between when the TV receives a picture frame as an input, and when it actually displays the picture, the delay induced by the digital processing performed on the signal to ready it for display.
In standard picture mode, the delay was 130 milliseconds. In ‘Game’ picture mode — this switches off much of the processing to allow less lag in the display — it was 54 milliseconds.
The LG 65EF950T is our favourite TV on the market — at the moment. We should note that LG’s $10,499 E6 (‘Flagship 4K OLED’) and $11,999 G6 (‘Flagship OLED, LG Signature Brand’) are promised before the end of June, with even brighter whites and Dolby Vision (the higher specification HDR). So if it’s absolute ultimate OLED you’re after…
LG Electronics 65EF950T OLED UHDTV
Tested with firmware: 04.20.65
Display technology: flat OLED panel
Screen size: 163.9cm
Native aspect ratio: 16:9
Native resolution: 3,840 x 2,160
Brightness: Not stated
Contrast ratio: Infinite
Inputs: 3 x HDMI, 1 x composite video, 1 x component video, 1 x stereo audio, 3 x USB, 1 x Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 1 x aerial
Outputs: 1 x optical digital audio, 1 x 3.5mm headphone/analogue audio
Audio: Harman Kardon designed 4 speakers, 2 way, 20W total power
Included accessories: Tabletop stand, ‘Magic’ remote control, 2 x 3D glasses, cable adaptors
Energy rating: 5.5 stars, 386kWh per year
Dimensions without/with stand (whd): 1450 x 842 x 51mm/1450 x 885 x 238mm
Weight without/with stand: 21.2/25.8kg
Warranty: One year
Product page: LG Electronics