Last year LG introduced its Alpha9 picture processor. This year it has a second generation, the Alpha9 Gen 2 picture processor. This is the engine for all the heavy-duty scaling and preparation of the signal for display. Amongst other things, it performs motion smoothing. That involves creating new frames in the sequence of video. These frames are sort of interpolations of existing frames. Inserting them between the signal frames makes motion smoother. There are two levels of this, along with a “User” setting, which allows one to set both “Judder” reduction and “de-blurring”.
LG says that the Alpha9 Gen 2 “uses AI Deep Learning to analyse what you’re watching and listening to, from whatever source, and optimise it for your viewing pleasure”. I’m not sure how AI helps here. TVs have been doing some of this stuff without the benefit of AI for more than two decades. Perhaps the LG OLED65C9 TV does it better.
I know that the TV has a 165.1cm diagonal because the LG OLED65C9 TV includes some so-called AI features. In particular, there’s LG’s own ThinQ AI functionality, and Google Assistant. I just held down the microphone button on the remote control and said “how many centimetres is 65 inches”. The answer popped up on the screen. I won’t go into that too much because I wrote about it here in some depth a few months ago. Go check it out.
LG says that it is also bringing Amazon Alexa control capabilities to the TV around the middle of the year.
The LG smart stuff works well. WebOS is a real operating system, based on the Linux kernel. Its first version was originally intended for portable smart devices then being developed by Palm. Remember that? The Palm Pilot? Anyway, LG first launched TVs using WebOS back in 2014. It was pretty good at the start and has improved since.
There are useful apps built in, including Netflix and Amazon Prime (each with a dedicated key on the remote), a Stan app and the ability to stream audio, video and photo material from DLNA. The LG OLED65C9 TV’s up there with the best of them with all this, except for Chromecast, which it doesn’t support. That shouldn’t be a worry for most Android phone owners, which use Miracast. Or for most Windows notebooks, which also work with Miracast. With those, you can “cast” their screen and sound directly to the TV. But if you have a Google Pixel phone, tough. Google only implements Chromecast on its phones, and blocks the use of Miracast so thoroughly, you have to root the phone to use a Miracast app.
The LG OLED65C9 TV has four HDMI inputs. All four support the current highest UltraHD standards. Plus, there are USB sockets from which media can be played, dual band Wi-Fi and Ethernet. One of the USB sockets is USB3.0. You can plug a hard drive into that and use it as a PVR or pause live TV. I wasn’t in a position to test any of those, except for a HDMI input. LG had the TV connected to a Telstra Wi-Fi dongle so that I could check out Netflix. Unfortunately, the 4GX speed was only 3.0Mbps, so 4K Netflix was out of the question.
LG also had the TV connected to its latest and greatest soundbar, the LG SL10YG. That’s a Dolby Atmos unit, with upwards-firing speakers in addition to the front-firing ones, along with a wirelessly-connected subwoofer. Since the connection was via HDMI, the TV and soundbar were using an Audio Return Channel (ARC) connection. This worked quite well. The only real wrinkle was the usual one: input selection.
You see, I’d brought my own UltraHD Blu-ray player along so that I could test the TV with some specific discs for various aspects of picture performance. I plugged this into HDMI 1 on the soundbar. It was in turn plugged into HDMI 2 on the TV (in my experience, LG always uses HDMI 2 as its ARC connection). Whenever I did something like hit the Netflix button on the remote, the soundbar would change to receiving audio from the TV. But then, to go back to the Blu-ray player, I’d have to fiddle with remotes for both devices.
Initially, that was. Then I worked out the routine. The WebOS 4.5 interface has improved things. As usual, hitting the “Home” key brings up a ribbon of options across the bottom of the screen, easily selected using the pointer. (They can also be rearranged to suit your preferences.) One of the left-most ones is “Recents”. Hover the arrow over that and a new ribbon appears above it, showing thumbnails of things you’ve recently done. I could choose HDMI 2 and return to the Blu-ray player. But even this only worked some of the time. It seemed that the soundbar was reluctant to return from ARC mode.
Then there was the AI stuff. I could tell the TV to change inputs, and it would do so promptly. Or to bring up picture settings. And it would do it. That’s the ThinQ part of it rather than the Google Assistant part of it. But when I’d tell it to mute the sound, it would respond “The function is not available on the device connected to HDMI ARC”. Likewise, for changing the volume.
That’s the problem with ARC. If something goes wrong, you don’t know which end is the problem.
Feed this TV with a good signal, and you will get stunningly good results. For example, LG had a 4K clip of a section of a Newcastle vs Penrith NRL match on a USB stick. Seriously, the picture was shockingly good. The colour was bold, and the clarity incapable of being surpassed. It wasn’t clear whether the video was 2160p or 2160i (at 50 hertz, either way), but there was no trouble in following the movement of the ball.
Black levels and scenes the UltraHD Blu-rays I took with me? At least as good as anything I’ve seen, and perhaps a little better. I turned down the room lights to zero and dwelt in the glorious colour and blackness that was presented by the LG OLED65C9. And winced a little at the relative brightness of the highlights. If these TVs ever do make it to the 10,000 nits envisaged by HDR and Dolby Vision, we might need sunglasses to watch movies.
Look, there are certain models of TV that will go significantly brighter than an LG OLED. If you do all your viewing in a well-lit room, you won’t find this TV deficient in any way, but you might find some of those others able to deliver something bolder and brighter.