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Hands-on with LG’s 84 inch 4K Ultra Definition TV

By Leigh D. Stark | 4:37 pm 11/10/2012

While Samsung and Sharp have both unveiled Full HD 1080p big screens this year, the real attention is going to the next generation of high resolution screens, and Sony and LG are the first two with these displays. We spent some time with Sony’s a few weeks ago, and now it’s LG’s turn.

For two hours this week, GadgetGuy sat down and pushed different discs through the gigantic display that LG is touting.

This week, the company officially announced its availability, heading to 30 select stores across the country on November 19 , coming in at a recommended retail price of $15,999, much lower than the expected price for Sony’s, which is expected to fetch approximately $24,999.

Both use the same 84 inch 4K panel produced by LG, but are obviously separated by different designs, operating systems, backlighting, motion engines, interpolation systems, and more.

When we played with Sony’s, we were checking out content supplied by that company, but here in LG’s, we were encouraged to bring our own supply of material.

Now, two hours isn’t nearly enough time with a TV, let alone one that leaps ahead of Full HD in the way these TVs do, but hopefully we can work out exactly if this is worth the $15,999, or if you should just stick with a big screen 1080p TV.

3D TV

For the past year, LG has dedicated itself to passive 3D, ditching the once popular active shutter technology for something closer to what’s used in cinemas, and making it easier for anyone to find a pair of glasses and watch.

One of the downsides of this technology is that passive 3D has been stuck in 720p HD on 1080p screens, not the 1080p Full HD that everyone sort of expects.

But here in the 4K UDTV, 1080p passive 3D is possible, and we’ve tested it with “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs,” one of the better 3D discs out there.

Switching the motion enhancing technology off, you find that 3D imagery can look noticeably clearer here, especially when you’re talking about a screen that measures 84 inches diagonally.

Even LG’s own 3D  samples – including the K-pop music video “Mr. Simple” by Super Junior – shows the technology off well, throwing clocks, bubbles, rose petals and more in your face, with a quality that looks fantastic in high definition and beyond.

Right now, there are at least ten to twenty movies in 3D available in Australia, all of which play back in 1080p and are all suitable for use here. Whether they’re good or not is subjective, but this 84 inch screen can certainly make them pop in three dimensions.

Full HD Blu-ray discs

Next up, we tried some Blu-ray titles, because that’s going to be the area where people get the most use out of a 4K TV.

While we’ve been told for years that Full HD is the highest quality there was, 4K is four times what Full HD is, hence the new “Ultra Definition TV” or UDTV term.

In technical terms, the difference can be related to megapixels in cameras, with Full HD representing two megapixels, and 4K UDTV representing eight megapixels. That’s a literal interpretation, mind you, as 1080p is roughly two megapixels and 4K is eight, proving that the new technology really is four times the resolution of the older one.

Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” was the first disc for us to try, and it showed us that the 84 inch LG UDTV was capable of some reasonable detail in the blacks. While our collector’s edition copy of the film doesn’t feel as remastered as it probably should, and you can see the noise and grain from the film quite easily, this disc gave us the opportunity to test out the Super Resolution upscaling in all its glory.

Turn it on and push the sharpening up, and you’ll find heavy white edges that almost give off an obvious glow to every piece of detail in the movie. That’s too much for us, and we found that it works best in this test when you pull the sharpening down to roughly a quarter of what it can pump out, sharpening the image just enough, while retaining some softness.

Switching over to the opening scene of “Star Trek,” we gave Super Resolution another chance, and found that with it switched off, the image seemed slightly blurry as the LG TV blew the 1080p image up four times to 4K, while having the upscaling on sharpened it up, but increased the grain and noise slightly. Overall, the image was more than watchable, and looked excellent for this new movie on this massive screen.

We certainly wouldn’t complain.

The last flick we gave a test run was Pixar’s “Wall-E” which unsurprisingly looked amazing, even though it was being upscaled for the screen.

Computer animation is usually better and more forgiving when it comes to being upscaled, and our test scene of Wall-E flying through space as he makes his way to the Axiom looked absolutely stunning on this set.

Sitting a metre or two back, there’s certainly nothing wrong with running 1080p content through this screen, and we were quite happy with what we saw here.

DVD

Most of us have a pretty vast DVD collection, and while we’re gradually updating it to the better quality of Full HD, there are still loads of DVDs sold daily for things that either won’t really gain anything at the higher resolution or help people save a buck or two.

TV shows are a great example of this, with Blu-rays from TV shows costing as much as $20 or $30 more than their DVD counterparts, and in many of these, the higher definition video may not bring anything.

With that in mind, we brought with Luc Besson’s “The Fifth Element” and the first season of BBC’s “The Office” to see what this older format looks like on the big 4K screen.

On or off, Super Resolution didn't make much difference with DVDs.

The results aren’t amazing, with lots of jagged diagonal lines, obvious over-sharpening, and some blur. None of this is all that surprising, especially given the amount of upscaling going on here, with 4K being over ten times the resolution DVD has to work with.

In “The Fifth Element,” 3D effects looked more like models, and noise  and softness were both obvious. ‘

The original British series “The Office” was obviously not designed for either the resolution or scale on offer, but it gave us an indication as to what TV would look like, and while it wasn’t amazing, it was certainly watchable.

Interestingly, the Super Resolution interpolation technology doesn’t seem to make a difference with DVDs, and whether we switched it on or off, it still looked the same.

Sitting at least a metre back, you’re still not getting the best experience ever, but it’s certainly watchable, even if it’s not anywhere near the best representation of what an 84-inch 4K TV is capable of.

Web browsing, YouTube and online video

Ever since their introduction in 2011, Smart TVs have been the next big thing, next to that whole 3D thing, of course, and here on the 84 inch UDTV from LG, you can surf the web with a massive screen.

Like the flagship LG TVs we saw this year, the hub and web browser are still here, allowing you to type in the name of your site using an on-screen keyboard, or search Google using the voice control on the magic remote, which works a treat provided you speak clearly.

Surfing the web is obviously very big here, and it’s quite easy to read various websites sitting around a metre back.

With still information on screen, we took this opportunity to get up close and personal with the screen, capturing some of the eight million pixels with our digital microscope, showing just how much clarity there was on this set.

Over on the side of YouTube and online video, quite a bit of this content even manages to look just as good a DVD playback, possibly even better.

Of course, it depends on the source you’re watching from, but some of the high definition YouTube videos we watched, as well as content streamed from LG’s hub looked excellent.

None of it was quite the super amazing ultra high def material you may expect for a 4K TV, but it looked good nonetheless, and proved that online content could look great on such a big screen.

4K and the future

We’ve said it before, but there’s virtually no readily available 4K content yet, outside the three small movies that cost an arm and a leg to buy.

You can order one, if you like, with “TimeScapes” in 4K for either $100 on a USB stick or $300 on a hard drive. That’s not cheap, especially for a movie you’ve never seen that just shows off what your TV can do.

But regular movies – Hollywood blockbusters and the like – are not available for your 4K TV. Not yet, anyway.

One of the problems here is there’s no delivery mechanism, with Blu-ray not really ready to support the massive 200-300GB movie sizes, and internet connections and download caps not quite at the point where streaming 4K is logical.

Maybe when the National Broadband Network arrives, but only then.

Verdict

Until someone finds a way to deliver more movies in Ultra Definition video, you won’t find much in a resolution designed for the 84 inch TV, so you’ll want to stick to your 1080p Full HD Blu-ray discs and video games.

While two hours is hardly enough time to form a review, we can say that the 84 inch TV from LG is pretty impressive, and if you’re after the biggest screen you can find and a technology that shows a massive window in the future, you can’t really go beyond this.

We can’t say that this will be necessarily be the best screen for your current collection, and you may get better results with a readily available 74 or 80 inch Full HD TV, but if you have to be at the forefront of tech, than the $16,000 price and early adopter fee shouldn’t scare you off too much.

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