Price (RRP): $8999
OLED TVs are now straightening out. The first couple of generations of relatively accessible OLED TVs featured curved screens, but now LG has added flat models. Coming in Ultra High Definition resolution and both 55 and 65 inch screen sizes, LG’s EF950T range includes the webOS operating system and, on the picture quality front, support for HDR – High Dynamic Range – video.
LG provided the larger model – the 65EF950T, all 164 centimetres of it – for review (on my premises, rather than its own, unlike last year). Aside from the flatness and the HDR, there wasn’t much that was new since last year. Given that last year I called the 55EG960T ‘the best TV I have ever reviewed’, it starts from a promising base.
I prefer flat. Curved screens can look very attractive from a furnishings point of view, but they provide a more distorted picture to viewers who are watching from an angle. So for me, flat is very welcome indeed. Yet as handsome furniture goes, the 65EF950T is still a thing of beauty.
That’s thanks to the minimalist design. Not only minimalist in styling, but in bulk.
The TV presents itself as an unmarred piece of glass, with no bezel protruding forward of the glass surface. The picture reaches to 10.5mm from the edge of the TV body on all four sides. The bottom (except for the protruding LG name plate) and top are the same width as the sides. At the edge, protecting the glass, is a metal strip around 1mm wide.
Aside from the stand, that’s it. The rising section of the stand is transparent perspex, so it also tends towards understatement.
The panel itself is so, so, so thin!
I measured 6mm (LG says 5.8mm), or less than a quarter inch, as though it were just a sheet of thick glass. And not only at the edges: this glass panel is all that there is of the TV for its entire the top half.
The bottom half the rear swells out at the middle to reach the full screen depth of 51mm, necessary of course for the connections and wall mounting points. The rear is finished in white: plastic for the deeper half, but with a glossy diamond-shaped crosshatch for the top half. The finish is beautiful.
The OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) panel uses LG’s four sub-pixel system, with each pixel being constituted by red, green, blue and white elements. Blue remains the weak point of OLED, but LG is able to boost blues thanks to the addition of the white sub-pixel.
There are the usual inputs, including a USB 3.0 socket for attaching a hard drive which can be used for recording TV programs and couple of extra 2.0s for plugging in flash memory or a HID (Human Interface Device – known to mortals as mouse and keyboard). As it happens, you can also record broadcast TV to the modest amount (there was 4GB free on the review TV) of built in memory.
All three HDMI inputs conform to the latest HDMI 2.0 standard, support expanded colour specifications and support the latest HDCP copy protection system, so they’ll work with UHD Blu-ray when it appears.
There’s one digital TV tuner (so no recording one while watching another live station), while the four speakers are mounted in the wider section at the rear and fire downwards. The sound is ‘Designed by Harman/Kardon’, but I’ll ease the suspense by disclosing right here that they sound just like TV speakers, which makes them great for watching the news.
The TV supports 3D and comes with a couple of pairs of 3D glasses. These are ‘passive’ models – polarised lenses, no batteries required – so you can acquire more inexpensively if you want.
This is a smart TV and uses LG’s webOS Operating System, with performance of this boosted by the use of a quad core processor.
Meanwhile, the remote control is RF wireless, so no need to point. You’ll probably want to, though, since selecting smart functions involves moving an on-screen arrow by means of moving the remote. This is easy to master with just a little practice. The remote includes many of the keys omitted from the usual smart remote, such as numbers, input selection and so on.
A word about HDR: HDR in TVs is only loosely related to the traditional use of the term, which involved compositing photos taken with different exposure settings so as to capture better details in both the bright and dark ends of the scene.
With TVs, High Dynamic Range is to some extent concerned with stretching the boundaries of how bright and how dark the panel can go, and also with providing finer brightness graduations within those boundaries.
In broadcast TV, DVD and Blu-ray, colour has been defined in 8 bits, which gives each colour 256 levels (at best, it’s a bit more complicated). That might seem like plenty, but it turns out that these aren’t quite enough to allow graduated colours to blend seamlessly into one another, particular in scenes which are mostly red, green or blue. This is particularly noticeable on single colour darkish sections of the picture, like the evening sky.
Often there can be visible bands, like a paint-by-the-numbers picture. Ultra High Definition Blu-ray will be bringing with it HDR encoding, so that ten bits are used instead for 1024 levels for each colour, which means 64 times more colours altogether.
Of course, aside from the marvellously thin panels, the most wonderful thing about OLED is its, as LG calls it, ‘infinite’ contrast ratio.
The reason for that is that, uniquely amongst TV panel technologies, OLED can go full black on a pixel by pixel basis. Contrast ratio is calculated by dividing the maximum brightness level by the minimum brightness level. When the latter is zero, the result is undefined, but, in popular parlance, infinite.
And, as expected, this TV delivered exactly that: superb blacks.
Using test patterns with a full black screen, except for one smallish white circle, all that was visible was the circle. The rest of the screen wasn’t dark grey. It was utterly black.
Initially I thought that the slight glow around the edges of the circle was a little light being diffused by the glass over the display elements, but I placed a mask over the circle and it soon turned out that it was merely my eyes adding this slight halo, so great was the contrast.
Well, that covers the extremes. We can expect future HDR displays to stretch the bright end further, but ninety percent of the battle has been to get the blacks right, and this TV does that.
So what about the middle? For that you need HDR content with that ten bit encoding.
Since UHD Blu-ray is not yet available, I was somewhat in the hands of LG. It provided a USB stick with three short UHD, HDR demo clips. These were encoded in HEVC (H.265), the codec to be used in UHD Blu-ray.
These were jaw-droppingly astonishing.
I have lots of 4K clips, most shot under bright sunlight in order to maximise the sharpness of the picture during filming/videoing. These clips had been shot to demonstrate the capabilities of HDR, with dark subjects against brightly sunlit scenery, with every detail of the shadowed subject still clearly visible!
There was a dark, Medieval interior, with a crowned king glorious in glowing detail, while I could still inspect the darkness around him and see all the things that would normally be hidden in darkness.
Or would have been pushed forward in the exposure, resulting in the crushing of the detail on the king.
At a recent product briefing, LG made the point that this kind of improved detail can increase the perception of picture resolution. Perhaps. But what I had here was both UHD and HDR. The results are stunning.
Hurry up UHD Blu-ray!
The other aspects of the TV’s performance were also strong. It converted SD and HD TV interlaced video quite well. It has a decent motion interpolation system for smoothing video, with minimal noise produced, although the ‘Clear’ setting was a touch too glossy for my taste.
The TV tuner did its job reliably, and the FreeView Plus EPG is supported, along with the catchup apps. The one real weakness was that the normal free-to-air EPG isn’t retained when the TV is switched off. So if you just want to plonk down in front of the TV and inspect the EPG, you’re going to have cycle slowly through the five channels first to allow the EPG to be fully populated with entries.
The smart stuff was excellent. I think LG might be the best on this front as well, thanks to the effective pointer and the ability to re-arrange the icons to one’s preference, putting the most commonly used ones on the front page.
The first version of webOS, a couple of years ago, worked well, but there were occasional pauses as new bits of code were loaded into memory, and it could take ten to fifteen seconds to become available when the TV was first switched on.
The current version, supported by a much faster processor, was available almost as soon as the TV was turned on, and was almost always just about instantaneous in action. The only time it got noticeably tardy was when I was streaming that 4K, HDR video from USB. Then it became really slow.
There are stacks of apps, including for subscription streaming services such as Stan, Bigpond Movies, Google Play Movies, and Netflix (if we ever get decent Internet, then some 4K and HDR content should one day be available from the latter). There are some basic games, lots of free specialised video streams, YouTube and a web browser, amongst all kinds of other stuff. Most of the apps are free, but there are a few paid ones (in the roughly $1 to $10 range).
You can use voice recognition to enter search terms into the browser, or just to control the TV (eg. ‘Channel 5’ works fine, as does ‘Netflix’).
The TV can also be fed music, video and photos via your network, either as a DLNA player (it manages the streaming) or as a DLNA renderer (you use your smart phone to send DLNA media to it). There are apps available for your smart phone. One is a stylish, fairly basic, remote control, but there’s also a rather niftier Magic Remote app which controls the on screen pointer just like the usual smart remote.
So, the LG 65EF950T offers a truly superb picture, with black levels and a dynamic range that none – seriously, none! – of the competition can match. When coupled with UHD Blu-ray, this is going to life home entertainment to a whole new quality level.