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LG EG9600 series review: King of TVs comes at princely price

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If you've ever seen an OLED TV, it should come as no surprise that LG's EG9600 is the best-performing television I've ever tested. I called its predecessor -- the 55EC9300 , the first OLED TV I reviewed -- the "best TV ever" last year. The new, more expensive version is indeed even better.

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8.0

LG EG9600 series

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The Good

The LG EG9600 OLED TV's picture betters that of any LCD or plasma TV we've seen, with perfect black levels and exceedingly bright whites. It's equally adept in bright and dark rooms, showed accurate color, excellent uniformity and solid video processing, and looks better from off-angle than any LED LCD. The TV looks striking in person, with organic curves and an insane 0.25-inch depth on most of its body.

The Bad

The EG9600 is more expensive than pretty much any other TV of its size. Its video processing, screen uniformity and color accuracy aren't quite as impressive as the best TVs. The curved screen introduces some artifacts, and 3D is finicky. The TV lacks support for future HDR sources via HDMI.

The Bottom Line

The incredibly expensive OLED-powered LG EG9600 series delivers the best picture quality we've ever tested.

LG's 2015 OLED TV adds 4K resolution and a couple of other tweaks, but in my side-by-side comparison it looked very similar to the previous version, and better than any other TV in my comparison lineup, hands-down.

That's all because of OLED. Organic light-emitting diode displays have been commonplace in small phone screens for years, but they're still rare and expensive in TV-caliber sizes (only LG has managed to mass produce them). OLED TVs are fundamentally different from LCD TVs, the dominant type today, and deliver better image quality, mainly because they can produce a perfect shade of black that results in truly infinite contrast ratio. Watching an OLED TV next to an LCD in a dark home theater, the difference is profound.

So is the difference in price, and adding the extra resolution of 4K only drives up costs. The 1080p resolution 55EC9300, which LG will continue to produce throughout 2015, is currently about half the price of the exact same size TV with 4K resolution, the 55EG9600. Unless you plan to sit very close, or simply have more money than you know what to do with, you should get the 55EC9300 instead of the 4K version at 55 inches.

Today 55 inches is tiny by TV standards, however, and what home theater geeks like me really want is larger OLED. The 65-inch 65EC9600 doesn't disappoint, and its bigger screen makes all that OLED goodness even better. I really wish LG had decided to make a 1080p, 65-inch version, but company executives say that isn't in the cards. Too bad.

What is in the cards is a flat model in both 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, due later this year. I'm not a fan of the curve used by the EG9600 series and other TVs, but it doesn't ruin the image quality by any means. Neither does the lack of true support for HDR (high dynamic range, the next big advancement in video after 4K), although that might give pause to future-focused buyers with deep pockets. In the end, OLED drowns all doubt in a sea of perfect black. Now we just have to wait for the tide of price to fall.

Update July 7, 2015: Due to a price drop from $8,999 to $6,999 on the 65-inch size in the U.S., the Value rating on the EG9600 series has been changed from a "4" to a "5," increasing the overall rating to 8.0 and 4 stars. The review has not otherwise been modified.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch 65EG9600, but this review also applies to the 55-inch 55EG9600 series. Both have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Like most TVs CNET reviews, my review sample was provided by the manufacturer. The original sample LG sent developed an issue midway through the testing process, where a line of stuck pixels appeared down the middle of the screen and stayed there regardless of my efforts to remove it. LG replaced that review sample with a second one, but has yet to provide an explanation of what happened. I consider this incident a fluke, and any owner who saw it as early as I did could resort to the warranty, but still worth mentioning since it's something I've never experienced before.

Design

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Thin, curved and gorgeous, the LG EG9600 certainly looks the part of a ridiculously expensive TV. Its face is almost all picture; the frame between image and edge on my 65-inch sample measures a scant 0.4 inches.

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A sliver of silver around the rim is visible from the front, and the only other adornment to the TV itself is the illuminated LG logo set into a mirrored semicircle on the bottom. You can dim it or turn it off completely, and if you reach behind the logo you'll find a little joystick that provides volume and input control, as well as menu access.

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Adding to the futuristic feel is the trademark thinness of OLED. The top half of the TV measures 0.25 inch thick -- pretty amazing, but still not quite as slim as Sony's XBR-X900C at 0.2 inch. As usual the need to house electronics, a power supply and inputs necessitates a thicker bulge, so the bottom half of the EG9600 widens to about 2 inches. Sans stand, the 65-incher weighs a feathery 44.1 pounds, while the 55-incher tips the scales at 33.7.

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If you'd like to wall-mount the EG9600 series, you'll need to buy a special wall bracket, model OTW150 ($99). Unlike most TVs it doesn't work with standard VESA mounting kits.

Otherwise you'll use the included stand, a solid-feeling affair with a silver base curved to match the TV. The OCD part of me was annoyed that the stand's curve takes a slightly more aggressive radius than that of the TV. A transparent chunk of acrylic supports the TV itself. The overall effect is less "floaty" than many TV stands, and lacks the beautiful organic sweep of the 55EC9300. For whatever reason LG decided to color the back and the non-detachable power cord of the EG9600 white.

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The latest version of LG's Magic Remote is bigger and better than its predecessors. It's medium as opposed to small, and its motion control felt more precise than ever in my hand. The system was very responsive, and as usual I really loved having a scroll wheel for blowing through lists or quickly scanning Web pages. There are a lot more buttons than before, including a numeric keypad and a much-appreciated settings key, so the lack of illumination is annoying. I also don't love the layout -- in particular I kept hitting "3D" when I wanted settings -- but overall it's very good.

Features

Key features

Display technology: OLEDLED backlight:N/A
Screen shape: CurvedResolution:4K
Screen finish: GlossyRefresh rate:120Hz
Smart TV: Web OS 2.0Remote:Motion
3D technology: Passive3D glasses included:2 pairs

OLED is much closer to the late lamented plasma than to LED LCD ( SUHD or otherwise). Where LCD relies on a backlight shining through a liquid crystal panel to create the picture, with OLED and plasma each individual sub-pixel is responsible for creating illumination. That's why OLED and plasma are known as "emissive" and LED LCD as "transmissive" displays, and a big reason why OLED's picture quality is so good.

For picture quality buffs OLED is the ultimate display technology, but it's not perfect. In addition to unresolved questions of brightness reduction over time (LG claims a 30,000 hour lifespan, for what it's worth), OLED is more subject to burn-in than LED LCD. The manual reads: "If a fixed image displays on the TV for a long period of time, it will...become a permanent disfigurement on the screen. This...burn-in is not covered by the warranty." It advises owners to avoid displaying 4:3 aspect ratio images and other fixed images for longer than an hour at a time. I didn't actually "test" burn-in in my review sample, but it didn't seem to retain static images as badly as plasmas I've tested in the past.

We've written plenty more about OLED in the past, so I won't rehash it all here. Check out the links at the left if you're interested in further details.

Aside from its display technology the other major feature is 4K resolution. As we mentioned above the company is not going to build 1,080p OLED TVs larger than 55 inches, going all-in with 4K. The higher resolution adds cost -- significantly more so than on an LCD TV -- and a 65-inch 1,080p OLED would surely please videophiles who don't own private islands, but for now the 65EG9600 is the least expensive so-sized OLED.

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The visible benefits of 4K resolution might be minute with 2D material, but they should provide a big improvement with passive 3D (sadly, on this TV that's not the case; see below). LG includes two pairs of passive glasses with the 65EG9600, which seems a bit stingy for a TV this expensive.

The 65EG9600 has a curved screen, of which we're not big fans. If you feel the same way, you'll be happy to know that LG says it will launch 55-inch and 65-inch flat OLED TVs later in 2015. And for those of you reading this as you ride your Learjet to your island, there's also a 77-inch flexible OLED in the offing.

HDR and wide color gamut: Among high-end TVs this year one big differentiator is whether the set is capable of displaying next-generation content, for example 4K Blu-ray, that utilizes high dynamic range (HDR) and/or a wide color gamut. The LG 65EG9600, unlike the most expensive 2015 LCD TVs from Samsung, Sony, Vizio and Panasonic, is not currently HDR-capable. One reason is that it can't get as bright as those LED LCDs. At CES LG Display showed a HDR OLED TV capable of higher light output than this model, but it was just a prototype and the company didn't say when a consumer version would hit the market. Check out the video below for more.

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Watch this: LG's OLED HDR: the next generation of the best TV ever

That said, the EG9600 and other LG TVs "will get an update to enable HDR later this year (date is still undetermined) but it will be compatible with streaming content only, as the physical connection is not upgradable," according to an LG rep. In other words, while you will be able to connect a 4K Blu-ray player to the EG9600, it won't be able to deliver HDR since the TV will not be upgradeable to support HDMI 2.0a. It will handle HDR streams from Netflix and Amazon, however; the latter available according to LG.

As for wide color gamut, the EG9600 does fairly well. According to my measurements of the Wide color space, it's capable of delivering 87.9 percent of DCI/P3 color, thought to be the successor to the high-def color space. That's a bit less than the Samsung UN65JS8500 (90.5 percent of P3), but closer than I would have thought given Samsung's claims about SUHD. The only other TVs I've measured so far are Samsung's 65JU7100 (82.1 percent) and the LG 55EC9300 (89.3 percent).

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Smart TV: Equipped with LG's newest iteration of Web OS, version 2.0, the 65EG9600 delivers a very good smart TV experience. I haven't played with Samsung's Tizen system enough to know which one I like better, but I do prefer Web OS 2.0 to what I've seen of Android TV (available on Sony and Sharp 2015 sets) so far, mainly because it's more customizable. Roku TV is still my favorite.

The biggest improvement over the original version of Web OS is speed. The new interface is markedly snappier, even with the menus' bouncy happy animations, and I had no complaints about responsiveness, even in the deep settings menus. It's worth mentioning that owners of LG's 2014 sets will get an unprecedented upgrade to version 2.0 later this year, although their TVs won't be quite as responsive as true 2015 models.

Otherwise little has changed. Motion control is available in all of the menus and many of the apps, making it relatively easy to select items. I also appreciated the unique screen capture function. Hitting the Home button on the remote brings up a band of diagonally aligned "cards," overlaying the lower third of whatever program or app you're watching at the moment. Other systems take a similar approach, but LG's icon band is both prettier and friendlier.

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Unlike with Android TV you can customize and reorder the main interface to populate it with your favorite apps. Netflix and Pandora get cards, of course, but HDMI 1 and 2 do as well, along with the Web browser and local media available from USB or DLNA (WebOS also supports Plex). Click to the left of the main band and a history of the last few apps and other functions used appears. To the right reside the additional apps and functions you can launch and/or add to the main band in the middle.

The updated "LG Content Store" is much better-organized than before, with categories for movies, TV shows 3D, apps and games, and "premium" apps (nine major ones, including Netflix and Amazon but also Go Pro, an LG partner). Choosing a movie or TV show and hitting "watch now" shows you a list of services that offer it, such as Vudu and Amazon, but as with search, Netflix and Hulu Plus are omitted. The myriad other apps are categorized, but unfortunately not searchable.

The system has most major apps, with the exception of HBO Go and Showtime Anytime, and in general Samsung and especially Roku offer a wider selection. As a Rhapsody user I was excited to see that app, but it proved slow and error-prone. The Web browser is decent and the motion remote greatly eases navigation and typing with the onscreen keyboard easier. Still, you'll want to use your phone, tablet, or PC browser first.

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Voice search seems as accurate most such systems but if you're like me you'll abandon it after a few failures at recognition, which are inevitable. The search results screen (whether from voice or text) breaks out YouTube and Internet separately, and when it gets a direct hit on a TV show or movie, it surfaces hits from Amazon Instant as well as Vudu. Unfortunately, results from Netflix and Hulu Plus don't show up, and the Amazon results are imperfect. A "Dora the Explorer" search I tried (for my daughters, I swear!) only showed me one episode immediately, and I had to hit the obscurely named "Detail Info" button to see more options, which appeared on a poorly designed page with episode numbers instead of easily accessible descriptions. Once again, Roku's universal search wins handily, and Android TV is better, too.

4K streaming apps: I checked out 4K streaming on the built-inNetflix and Amazon apps and they worked as expected, although as I've seen in the past, getting an actual 4K stream from Amazon isn't easy. As usual I didn't see a massive image quality improvement over those services' HD streams, and in previous tests I've performed, neither 4K streaming services' image quality could quite match the best 1080p Blu-rays. And of course content is scarce, although Netflix in particular deserved credit for continuing to release many of its original series, like "Daredevil," in 4K. Unlike Samsung and Vizio, LG currently lacks the UltraFlix app.

New for this year LG's YouTube app is capable of delivering videos in 4K resolution. Unfortunately the app -- unlike the YouTube website -- doesn't indicate what resolution the video is streaming in, so it's tough to know what you're really watching. I checked out a few of the 4K videos there, including "Honey Bees" and "Beauty of Nature," and they looked sharp enough.

I also tried a quick experiment using Florian Fredrich's 4K resolution pattern. Streaming via LG's YouTube app it didn't deliver the full resolution, but for whatever reason it did look slightly better than the same pattern streamed via the Nvidia Shield's 4K YouTube app. Only when I downloaded the video and played it back from a local file (using the Shield) did it deliver the full resolution of 4K. No surprise: streaming isn't as sharp as downloaded local files, even in 4K.

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Picture settings: LG offers plenty of presets and lots of tweaks for calibrators, particularly in the Expert 1 and Expert 2 settings banks. The main determinant of light output is an OLED LIGHT setting, similar to a backlight control on an LCD TV. The set also offers a few dejudder/smoothing presets and a custom mode that allows you to dial in as much or as little blur and/or soap opera effect as you desire. Two-point and 20-point grayscale, a full color management system and selectable gamma (including BT.1886) round out the calibrators' toolbox.

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Connectivity: I was frankly surprised to see only three HDMI inputs on the white backside of the 65EG9600 when most medium- and high-end TVs today have at least four. It's not a deal breaker by any means, but in my opinion a $7,000 TV should have at least four HDMI inputs. At least they're all equipped with HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. As we mentioned above, the EG9600 will not be upgradable to support HDMI 2.0a.

There's also a setting called Ultra HD Deep Color. It allows HDMI inputs 1 and 2 to accept 4K/60 signals at 4:4:4 and 4:2:2 chroma subsampling rates, and 10 bits. Sources with that level of color are very rare so I didn't test the feature for this review, but it could be useful in the future.

Other connections include three USB ports (one of which is version 3.0), an analog AV input with composite video, another with component-video; an optical digital audio output, an Ethernet jack, a headphone output, and a RS-232 connection for custom installation systems.

Picture quality

I've spent my career as a TV reviewer touting the importance of contrast ratio, and it's what makes OLED TVs like the EG9600 superior to all others, including the best plasma TVs of yore. It's so important, in fact, that while LG's OLED falls a bit short of its current competition in other areas, such as color, screen uniformity and video processing, its significantly superior contrast gives it a better picture overall.

I haven't yet compared it against the very best models of 2015, namely Samsung's JS9500 , Sony's XBR-X940C/X930C, Panasonic's CX850 and Vizio's Reference series , but I'd be surprised if those LCD-based TVs could measure up to this OLED.

Yes, I wish this particular OLED was flat instead of curved, but in practice the slight distortions introduced by the curved screen aren't noticeable on a day-to-day basis. In some ways the curve can help reduce reflections, but videophiles like me still prefer our TVs flat.

Uniformity and bright room performance are great for the most part, and better than LCD TVs, but they're not perfect. Its 3D is a disaster, unfortunately, but I doubt most viewers care. And as usual with 4K you can't really tell the difference unless you're sitting very close. None of those issues spoil the EG9600's superb picture.

Black level: If you've never seen OLED in action before, and you care about video quality, certain scenes can come as a revelation. The EG9600 can achieve the same perfect black as the EC9300--they appear visually identical in terms of black level--and thus infinite contrast that makes many images appear significantly better and more realistic than on any of the other TVs I've seen, including the ones in this lineup.

One of my new favorite demonstration Blu-rays is "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For," which offers almost as much black level and contrast as it does sex and violence. The inky quality of the LGs' OLED screens came through very well in black and near-dark areas, and simply looked better than the others. The opening shot of Marv falling through the glass against a pitch-black background was all it took to set the OLEDs apart in my dark room; not even the plasma or the Sony (the lineup's best LCD in terms of black level) could compete, and the blacks on the Samsung SUHD and the Vizio looked positively cloudy in comparison. In scene after scene in that movie and other content, the power of those perfect blacks came through as epic, ultra-punchy contrast.

As usual I equalized light output to level the playing field in a dark-room comparison, but all of the TVs in my lineup can get much brighter. The problem with LCD TVs is that black levels also brighten, and "blooming" (see below) intensifies in local-dimming sets, when you increase the backlight control to get more light. With OLED, cranking light output doesn't spoil those perfect blacks, so plenty more contrast can be on tap if you need it -- a great thing for bright room viewing or if you're the kind of person who craves extra-bright images.

One disadvantage both LED TVs share, however, is slightly worse shadow detail. The leather jacket of Marv as he contemplates the corpse in the intro, for example, and the clouds behind his head, appeared just a bit crushed of detail compared to the other sets. The difference wasn't major, and shadows still looked more realistic on the OLEDs thanks to their deeper blacks, but it is worth noting.

I also checked out the black level torture test "Gravity," especially Chapter 2, where Ryan tumbles out into space. Faint details again looked a bit worse; some of the stars were obscured on the EG9600 compared with those on the LCDs and the plasma, but conversely they were more visible than on the 55EC9300. Despite this disadvantage in shadow detail, the inky blacks made the OLEDs look better overall than any of the other sets in this scene too.

LED LCDs' best black-level weapon is local dimming, which helps a lot, but can result in blooming, where the bright areas of an image bleed into the black background, creating a sort of cloud ffect. It varies in intensity but some sets, like the Sony, suffer worse in many scenes than others. One glaring example from Sin City occurs during the pool scene in Chapter 6 (32:47), where the naked double-Eva is surrounded by a faint halo on the Sony and Vizio, both full-array local dimming TVs. OLED and plasma do not suffer from blooming.

It's not a real-world demonstration, but one of the best examples of OLED's superiority in terms of contrast and uniformity/lack of blooming came when I simply paused the Blu-ray on a black screen during the intro. The PS3's play/pause indicator in the lower right remained illuminated while the rest of the screen was supposed to be completely black. The brightness of "black" varied enough in my dark room that I took a few measurements using my handheld light meter (for the numbers below, lower is better).

On the plasma that "black" looked brightest overall, a very dark gray uniform gray that measured 0.003 footlamberts (fL, a measure of light level or luminance) across the whole screen. The next-brightest gray to my eye was the JS8500 but its uniformity was worse; "black" was markedly brighter on the bottom center (0.008) than the top (0.001) of the screen, especially near that illuminated logo (0.013). The Vizio's screen was third-brightest overall, showing the same pattern as the JS8500 albeit much less extreme: 0.006 near the logo, but 0.001 in most other areas. The Sony's aggressive dimming showed the brightest logo-adjacent "black" at 0.016 but also the second-darkest remainder of the screen; my meter read "0.000" fL in most places I measured, and the screen mostly looked completely black aside from the halo of brighter black -- the blooming -- surrounding the pause logo.

And then there's OLED. On both LG sets' screens neither my eyes nor my meter could see any light at all aside from the sharp, distinct, white pause logo surrounded up to its very edge by absolute black. Now that's what I'm talking about.

I could go on, but that's probably enough for this section.

Color accuracy: Compared to the best TVs on the market the LG EG9300 is somewhat less-accurate in terms of color, but it's still extremely good. Grayscale and color errors according to my measurements were all very good, despite the spike in the chart below (see the picture settings and calibration link above for an explanation).

Watching the largely black-and-white "Sin City," the EG9600 did show a slightly greener cast to white and gray areas than the other sets in my lineup, but it wasn't bad by any means, and not the kind of think I'd notice outside of a side-by-side lineup. When I put up a grayscale pattern for visual reference the difference was much less obvious, and the LG wasn't any less accurate than other TVs in my lineup.

For a more realistic look at color I turned to the lush tones of "Samsara," one of the best-looking discs I've ever seen. The bright colors looked great on the EG9600, from the gold and yellow costumes and heavily painted faces of the Balinese Legong dancers, to the green of the lush landscape around the orange Bagan temples in Myanmar. Near-black was also very accurate. In truth all of these calibrated TVs deliver exceedingly good color, but in many scenes OLED's extra contrast did lend a bit more saturation and impressiveness.

The EG9600 also performed very well on advanced color tests, scoring average Delta errors of 1.34 for saturation and 2.26 for the color checker (anything less than three is considered below the threshold of perception). Luminance color error was also negligible. Thanks to Chris Heinonen of Reference Home Theater and The Wirecutter for letting me use his CalMan workflow, which made those measurements possible.

Video processing: The EG9600 is solid in this category but it still falls short of the better high-end LCD TVs. It is capable of delivering correct 1080p/24 film cadence, but like the EC9300 before it, the EG9600 introduced too much judder in some scenes using the default "Off" TruMotion setting.

Slow-speed pans didn't show the issue but once the camera movement became more rapid, the extra judder and jumpiness became somewhat jarring. My nominal test for film cadence, the medium-speed pan over the Intrepid from "I Am Legend," looked generally fine, although looking closely it was very slightly jerkier than the other displays.

As with the EC9300 "Skyfall," with its more frenetic camera movement, revealed the issue on the EG9600. As the camera sweeps across the abandoned lot in Chapter 17, for example (1:17:17), the facade of the building judders strongly, and the derelict bicycle and pole in the foreground appear similarly too jumpy. The pan across the stone gate at the entry to Skyfall manor (1:47:30) also appeared a bit jumpier than the other sets, albeit to a lesser extent.

Fortunately the User setting works well to ameliorate the issue. I adjusted the de-judder and found the "2" setting the best compromise; while "3" and higher introduced unacceptable smoothing, while "1" and "0" were slightly too jerky. When I originally tested the EC9300 I noticed uneven stutter in User mode, but it wasn't evident on the EG9600. So for most material (including 4K/24; see below) I'd recommend going with User at 2 de-judder.

A secondary benefit to using User is improved motion resolution--the set achieved 600 lines in the Custom setting with "de-blurring" at 10, more than double what it hit with TruMotion Off. That said, maximum motion resolution was lower than any of the other sets, mainly because all current OLED TVs use sample and hold technology without the kinds of backlight flashing and other augmentations employed by high-end LCDs. At the end of the day 600 is plenty and I actually have a tough time seeing any blurring even with TruMotion turned off, so this isn't a major issue in my opinion.

In the EC9300 review I mentioned slightly more noise visible in some scenes, but checking those again on the EG9600 it wasn't an issue. It also seems like the EC9300 appeared a bit less noisy itself than before, perhaps as a result of one of the many firmware updates that have occurred since that review.

The EG9600 did seem to do some weird things in some test patterns, for example creating random hieroglyphs around the menus on a resolution pattern from my signal generator, or dropping jaggies into fine lines that later disappeared, or seeming to add very slight edge enhancement at times, so I suspect LG is engaging some kind of not-helpful processing that can't be disabled. But since I saw almost no evidence of these issues in program material, and they were pretty esoteric in general, I don't consider it a big deal.

Input lag was on the happy end of Average territory at 49.5ms in Game mode. I measured 59.5ms in Expert mode, which is a modest increase compared to the jump on the EC9300.

4K sources: 4K material is still scarce enough that I didn't spend nearly as much time testing it as I did 1080p, but it's getting more common. I enjoyed a variety of 4K clips from numerous sources, including YouTube downloads, 4K demo boxes and files (primarily supplied by TV makers) and streaming (see above), and in general the 65EG9600 looked superb.

I used a 4K distribution amplifier to compare it directly against the other 4K sets in the lineup and again it beat the others handily, primarily thanks to superior contrast and pop. Its uniformity advantages were noticeable as well.

With one 4K sequence, during " Timescapes" around the 8:14 mark as the camera tracks the flight of a pelican against the sunset, I did notice the LG's motion issues again. With TruMotion Off, the background moved haltingly, to the extent that I'd notice even if the other three sets, with their smooth rendering of the scene, weren't there to compare. The LG's User setting and de-judder at 2 seemed like the best compromise, although it still introduced a bit too much smoothing.

I also checked out a variety of 4K test patterns from both my DVDo test pattern generator and courtesy of Florian Friedrich (www.quality.tv) and the LG OLED looked as good as the other sets in our lineup in most areas. In a couple of Florian's most challenging tests I did notice some differences, for example in the pixel phase, phase modulation and zone plate tests on a couple of the TVs.

The one area where the LG fell short of the Samsung SUHD was in the moving text test, where the quickest scrolling line of showed artifacts and some breakup no matter which TruMotion setting I tried. In the default Standard setting, on the other hand, the Samsung was very clean. This kind of difference would be difficult to spot in program material, and of course requires you to turn dejudder (smoothing) to appreciate; with smoothing turned off, all of the sets looked very similar on this test.

Uniformity: The image across the EG9600's screen is more uniform than on any LCD, especially ones subject to blooming from local dimming, but for some reason it's not as perfect as plasma. The same goes for its ability to maintain fidelity from off-angle.

With gray field test patterns I noticed a few issues. The most obvious was vignetting, where the edges of the screen appeared darker than the middle. The issue was most noticeable in mid-dark patterns, and did vary per picture settings, so I doubt it's related directly to the curve. I also noticed brightness variations in full-field gray patterns near black.

Shifting to program material as usual mitigated most of the issues, but didn't eliminate them. For instance, I saw irregularities 37 seconds into "Sin City," where both OLEDs showed very faint striations just above black. The vignetting was also noticeable in some scenes, for example the near-dark time lapses in "Timescape" and "Samsara," and when I looked closely it showed up in other places. That said, it was only evident when I looked for it, and not anywhere near as annoying to me as the flashlighting and blooming on many LCD sets.

Seen from off-angle the LG's image was worlds better than the LCDs, with no loss of black-level fidelity. I did notice shifts in color in white fields, however, from both vertical and horizontal off-axis positions, but again not nearly as drastic as on the LCDs.

It's also worth noting one benefit of 4K resolution compared to the 55EC9300. Sitting closer than about four feet from its 55-inch 1080p screen could reveal the visible pixel grid, more so than on a 1080p LCD (the fill factor of its pixels is lower). On the 4K EG9600, pixel structure is invisible unless you put your nose right up to the screen. This isn't a factor at normal seating distances.

Bright lighting: The EG9600 was the best TV in my lineup in bright-room situations too. Its screen finish does a great job of maintaining black levels, and among the other glossy screens it actually deadened reflections the most, including the EC9300 -- although reflections were still brighter than on the matte screen Vizio. It also put out substantially more light than the plasma, and a bit more than the 55EC9300.

As I mentioned above the 65EG9600 isn't quite as bright as the most powerful LED LCDs, but it's still plenty bright. According to my measurements with window patterns, performed in each TVs' brightest picture mode, it's the third-brightest TV in the lineup, falling short of only the Sony and Vizio, which both have full-array backlights. It surpassed the light output of both Samsungs (plasma and SUHD) as well as the smaller 1080p OLED.

Window patterns, which place a white rectangle (the "window") amid a black surround, are the most realistic measure of light output, but full-screen patterns, which fill the entire screen with white, provide another valuable data point. Because of power supply constraints, plasma and OLED TVs cannot get as bright with a full screen as their LED LCD counterparts. Two of the LED LCDs in my lineup maintained more or less the same light output regardless of whether I measured a full or window pattern; the third, the Sony, was dimmer with a full screen but still searingly bright. Meanwhile the plasma and OLEDs lost between 65 to 75 percent of their brightness when going from window to full brightness patterns.

Is this loss with brighter material a big deal? Not in my book. Even if you watch nothing but hockey and downhill skiing -- two examples of real content where the screen is mostly filled with white--you won't notice much or any dimness unless you have an LED LCD side-by-side for comparison. OLED is still brighter than the brightest plasma and brighter than many LED LCDs, and has plenty of horsepower for even the brightest rooms.

The curved screen of the LG generally helped reduce reflections compared to flat screens. A flat TV "catches" more of the surrounding reflections, increasing the chance that a particularly bright object -- like a window or a lamp -- is reflected back to the viewer. The curved LG misses more of those reflections. On the other hand it can actually increase the apparent size of reflected objects it does catch, for example a bright shirt worn by a viewer, stretching them into funhouse mirror shape.

3D: In as much as I care about 3D ( not much), I actually had very high hopes for the EG9600. In the past I've found 4K resolution with passive 3D an excellent use for all those extra pixels, eliminating the resolution loss inherent in passive 3D with a 1080p screen.

Unfortunately 3D on the EG9600 is finicky: it's highly dependent on viewing distance and angle, and if you sit too close or view the screen from too high or too low then crosstalk--that ghostly double image that's the bugaboo of stereoscopic 3D--can be very obvious. I found it much easier to "see" such crosstalk on the EG9600 than on other TVs I've reviewed that use passive 3D, and in fact lack of crosstalk is one of the big advantages passive typically enjoys over active. Not so on the EG9600, at least from too close.

From my standard seating distance of about 8 feet I saw crosstalk in pretty much every scene from "Hugo," my standard 3D test disc. It was evident in the GK Films logo at the beginning, to the suit of Méliès, to the hand of Hugo as he reaches toward the toy mouse. My first thought was that perhaps reducing light output would do the trick, but it didn't.

Only when I moved back to around 10 feet did the crosstalk start to disappear, and then only in the middle of the screen; it was still evident along the edges (that's likely because the edges of the screen are more off-angle than the middle). At 12 feet or 13 feet it was gone completely, at least as long as I kept my eyes pretty much level with the middle of the screen. If I changed my vertical viewing angle much, to watch the screen from higher or lower, the crosstalk reappeared. I've seen these kinds of issues before on passive 3D TVs, but never as noticeable.

I'm guessing OLED's higher contrast makes crosstalk more visible, and perhaps it also has something to do with how the screen is structured compared to LCD. Of course, the larger screen of the 65-inch OLED creates more extreme angles than the smaller 55-inch set from the same distances, and indeed I had to sit a lot closer to that TV to see similar crosstalk problems.

As long as I watched from the middle angle and not too close, the 3D experience on the EG9600 was excellent. It doesn't suffer the kind of visible line structure evident on the 1080p EC9300, and yes, passive 3D allows its brightness to shine through for greater pop (especially against that perfect black backdrop) than the active-3D-equipped LCDs.

The irony is that the resolution/line structure issues of passive 3D on a 1080p TV disappear if you move further back, so to appreciate the advantage of passive 3D on a 4K screen you need to sit relatively close. Doing so on the EG9600 severely compromises its 3D performance.

Updated June 30. Thanks to Chris Heinonen for the suggestion to try changing my seating distance.

Geek Box

Test ResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.67Poor
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 3.582Average
Dark gray error (20%) 6.101Poor
Bright gray error (70%) 0.905Good
Avg. color error 1.279Good
Red error 0.299Good
Green error 1.299Good
Blue error 1.664Good
Cyan error 1.633Good
Magenta error 1.175Good
Yellow error 1.601Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 300Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 600Average
Input lag (Game mode) 49.5Average

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How we test TVs

lg-65eg9600-04.jpg
8.0

LG EG9600 series

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Score Breakdown

Design 10Features 9Performance 10Value 5