It’s not enough to have a big screen, and this year LG’s 4K TVs are about more colours, fast operation, and sharp visuals. Does it succeed?
Last year LG redid its whole TV control system, introducing a new operating system called WebOS. A marked improvement over the proprietary system previously used by LG, this sits on top of a Linux kernel (the low-level guts of the OS). This year it has been tweaked and is now called WebOS 2.0. Running on a quad core CPU, it is now the swift performer deserved by this TV, for the 65UF950T is from LG’s premium UltraHD line of TVs.
There are three models in the UF950T range, with a 55 inch one priced at $4,699 and a mighty 79 incher placed at $12,999. This 65 inch TV ($6,499) has a 163.9cm diagonal across which are spread its 3,840 by 2,160 pixels of resolution.
I must dwell on this panel for a moment.
In the last couple of years TV manufacturers seem to have largely abandoned the ‘thinnest panel’ race, perhaps because it’s very difficult to be thinner than LG’s OLED models.
But not this one. Nominally the panel is 60mm thick, but at the top and the sides for about 200mm in from the edges the panel is a touch under 9mm thick. This really is a super slim panel, and it looks it. Unusually, the rear is finished in an attractive patterned white, so that one wouldn’t be ashamed to have it positioned such that it is visible.
The stand is quite wide. If bench mounted the bench needs to be a bit over a metre wide. Standard wall mounting bolt holes are provided as well.
There are four HDMI inputs, all rated to handle full ultra high definition signals at up to 60 hertz. Two of them support the new HDCP 2.2 content protection standard and so should be fully compatible with future UHD Blu-ray players. There is legacy support for analogue audio and video inputs via adaptor cables, and of course Ethernet and WiFi (with support up to 802.11ac) connectivity, plus three USB sockets.
One of the USB sockets supports the USB 3.0 standard, and is designed for use with a hard disk drive for recording TV. This is made a great deal more useful than is usual for TVs thanks to the inclusion of two TV tuners. That allows one to record while you’re watching anything you like on the other. Even without the hard disk, a program or two can be recorded using the 16GB of internal memory, but the hard disk is required to pause live TV.
The TV supports 3D using LG’s passive system. Four sets of lightweight 3D eyewear are provided and, being passive, there’s no need for charging or replacing batteries. The TV also supports LG’s ‘Dual Play’ system which reformats top and bottom split screen games into two full screens, viewable solely by their respective players. The optional Dual Play eyewear needs to be purchased to use this.
LG has included 200 hertz processing for the picture and includes a new feature called ‘ColourPrime’. This allows a wider colour gamut, 20% larger than previously available. Normally I wouldn’t be excited about such a thing, but with UHD Blu-ray promising a wider colour gamut than existing technologies, this could be very useful.
Also included is Ultra Luminance Technology which allows the panel to control brightness separately in different areas for improved contrast.
Only one remote control is provided: an improved Magic Remote Voice. The advanced features are controlled simply by moving the remote to control an on-screen pointer in the same way as recent LG Smart TVs, and is as easy to use as them. But the remote has been upsized a little and it now contains quite a few extra keys – including a numeric keypad, EPG, Setup and the four colour keys for controlling such things as FreeView+. That makes it far more usable for many who remain uncomfortable with newfangled pointing devices.
Installing the TV is easy, although a little care should be exercised. The thinness of the panel at the edges gave me the feeling that it could be all too easily cracked.
As is usual, the TV guides one through connecting to the network and tuning in the local digital TV stations.
I spent a fair bit of time with last year’s LG TVs and one enormous improvement this year has been with the responsiveness, presumably due to both WebOS 2.0 and the quad core processor. Everything ran snappily. Even switching on was fairly quick, with a TV picture and sound appearing in less than six seconds. The ‘Home’ key brought up the menu – a row of semi-animated icons across the bottom of the screen – instantly, even if the TV had only just been turned on.
It supports FreeView+ of course, and thanks to the power of the processor this worked effectively and reasonably swiftly to allow a backwards-in-time EPG and catch-up TV.
The TV’s picture quality needs to be considered in three parts. First there’s the sources of today: broadcast TV and various external sources such as PVRs and Blu-ray players. For the most part the performance with all these was excellent, magnificent even.
Although there was a moment at the beginning where something seemed wrong. It turned out that the ‘Sharpness’ control was up in the default picture setting, turning even Blu-ray material into a rather grainy mess. Reducing this setting to zero delivered a smooth and attractive picture.
LG uses something called a 6-Step Upscaler to convert HD and SD content to UHD for display. I’m not sure how many steps other makers use, but this did the trick, delivering a stable and appropriately sharp picture in all cases.
The black levels were generally quite good, but there was a touch of unevenness in broad areas of blackness, thanks to inconsistent backlighting, when viewed in a darkened room. That aside, the picture was natural in colour, and rich where required.
The second thing to check out is was ultra high definition content, of which I’ve accumulated a reasonable collection. I was able to play these on the TV via USB, the network, and HDMI (through a UHD video source). If you’re on a fast Internet connection (25Mbps at an absolute minimum) then you can also enjoy UHD from Netflix. My Internet offers less than a quarter of that speed so I was stuck with what I had.
That was enough to again demonstrate the glories of UHD on a 65 inch TV. Once you get to this size the increased detail becomes clear, dazzling even. All my clips ran perfectly, with smooth graduations of colour across the skin of models, bright and bold colours on flowers and signs, and exceptional sharpness.
The third aspect of picture performance was with a couple of UHD clips that LG provided. These are probably the closest to the forthcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray format, using the same high efficiency video coding (HEVC) it will use, with a wide colour gamut.
Switching between ‘Standard’ and ‘Wide’ colour gamut in the picture settings yielded a much richer, deeper result with the latter setting.
Accurate? Who knows when the content is unfamiliar. There was no doubt, though, that the results were impressive.
The responsiveness of the WebOS 2.0 was kind of thrilling, after having spent quite a bit of time with the previous version waiting for it to do stuff. Even newly loaded apps seemed to start up instantly. The voice control was also snappy, and was very good and interpreting my mumblings.
And it was seriously easy to use. I pressed the ‘Voice’ on the remote and said ‘Start web browser’, and within a second, there it was on the TV screen. A few seconds with only the pointer and the voice control and I had gadgetguy.com.au up on the screen. You can also change channels and do much more with voice control.
The TV does not have a camera built in. I was thinking that that might be an optional extra for plugging into one of the USB sockets, but I’m not sure it would be of much use. There didn’t seem to be a Skype app. Nor Twitter or Facebook, either, which are more or less standard in Smart TVs.
That said, you can use the latter two via the web browser fairly efficiently. There are plenty of other apps for streaming Internet content (including, in addition to NetFlix, YouTube, QuickFlix and Bigpond Movies).
You can also stream local media from USB or your network. This worked well with all my test videos, including MKV material delivered from network attached storage. I was able to cast the screen from a couple of different Android devices to the TV, plus share videos from the same devices.
Photos – JPEG of course, plus PNG and BMP formats are supported – were delivered at the maximum resolution possible by the 8 megapixel display, not down-sampled somewhere along the way as happened with the first generation of UHD TVs.
The streaming audio formats are a touch restricted compared to today’s norms: MP3, WMA, OGG, WMA, DTS and Dolby Digital, but not FLAC or the Apple-friendly ALAC. The iTunes-style AAC format isn’t mentioned in the specifications, but is supported.
The Harman Kardon designed audio system proved to be more than a simple branding exercise. Somehow the LG and HK combo has managed to induce a panel TV to produce surprisingly listenable sound, a step above the spoken word competence normally available from TVs. It even managed to produce hints of relatively deep bass. The trick is in part in having the downwards firing speakers shooting into the angled skirt of the stand which reflects the sound out into the room. Presumably it is less fine sounding when wall-mounted.
LG’s years of development seem to have come to proper fruition with the 65UF950T TV. With a large, high quality picture, decent sound, excellent control and great facilities, this one is definitely worth a look.