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LG OLEDB9PUA series review: All of the OLED awesomeness for somewhat less cash

Picture quality comparisons

17-lg-b9-oled-tv

Click the image above for picture settings, calibration and HDR notes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

OLED gonna OLED. With both HD SDR and 4K HDR sources, in bright rooms and dark, the LG B9 reproduced the perfect black levels and superb contrast, uniformity and off-angle viewing I've come to expect from all OLED TVs. 

The C9 was a tad better overall, however, with processing that did a slightly better job cleaning up some low-quality material and two advantages that could have to do with the samples I tested more than any difference between the B and C series themselves: somewhat higher light output and slightly better uniformity with test patterns. But they were so close that, once again, both deserved a "10" in image quality, the highest score I award. Meanwhile, the best LCDs I had on hand to test fell short overall, despite their superior light output.

Click the image at above right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Dim lighting: The B9 performed like a champ in the dark, beating all of the LCDs and looking as good as both of the OLEDs. Overall there were no major advantages of the 2019 OLEDs over last year's B8, however, and differences between the C9 and B9 were likewise vanishingly small.

Watching the Thor: Ragnarok Blu-ray disc the OLEDs' advantage over the LCDs came through best in dark areas. In the initial scene with Thor imprisoned in Surtur's lair, for example, the true blackness between the chains and in the background of the cave, led to more impactful contrast and a better image compared to the LCDs. The B9 also maintained all of the details in the shadows, keeping them from becoming crushed and impossible to discern. 

The OLEDs commanded a similar advantage in other dark scenes, for example Chapter 7 when Thor rides the chair to see the Grandmaster, where the initial starfield and the recesses of the infrastructure looked more realistic than the LCDs. In brighter scenes the main advantage was in the OLEDs' letterbox bars, which remained perfectly black while the ones on the LCDs lightened somewhat.

Bright lighting:  The 2019 B9 isn't as bright as the C9 I tested, and the couple-hundred nits difference in HDR was visible in side-by-side testing but didn't make a huge difference (see below). As usual, neither got as bright as the LCD-based models in our lineup, including the TCL 6 series.

Light output in nits

TV Brightest (SDR) Accurate color (SDR) Brightest (HDR) Accurate color (HDR)
Vizio PQ65-F1 (2018) 2,184 1,570 2,441 2,441
Sony XBR-65X950G (2019) 1,050 427 1,264 1,035
Samsung Q70R (2019) 1,006 592 953 767
TCL 65R617 (2018) 653 299 824 824
Vizio M658-G1 (2019) 633 400 608 531
LG C9 (2019) 451 339 851 762
LG C8 (2018) 393 252 792 792
LG B9 (2019) 374 283 628 558

New for 2019, LG OLEDs have a setting called Peak Brightness that boosts the light output for SDR sources in Cinema and Expert modes. The idea is to increase contrast for brighter viewing environments while maintaining the superior color accuracy of those modes. That setting accounts for the jump in the "Accurate color (SDR)" column between the 2018 C8 and the B9/C9. As with most TVs the brightest mode for HDR and SDR (Vivid on the B9) is horribly inaccurate. For the Accurate modes I used ISF Expert Bright (Peak Brightness: High) and Cinema HDR for SDR and HDR, respectively.

There's also a new AI Brightness feature that senses ambient lighting and adjusts the image automatically, including tweaking HDR tone mapping to bring up dark areas in bright rooms. I didn't test it for this review.

Overall, the OLED sets are still plenty bright enough for just about any viewing environment. Yes, they do get quite a bit dimmer than the LCDs when showing full-screen white -- think a hockey game, for example -- but even in those situations, they're hardly dim.

All of the OLED sets preserved black levels and reduced reflections very well -- better than Vizio and worse than the Samsung Q80R, whose handling of reflections is among the best I've ever seen.

Color accuracy: Before my standard calibration, the ISF Expert and Cinema modes modes were already super-accurate, and afterward they were even better. As usual OLED's superior black levels also slightly improved the perception of saturation compared to the LCDs, but in my tests all of the TVs were quite accurate, to the extent that differences wouldn't be noticeable beyond a side-by-side comparison.

Video processing: The C9 did show better processing than the B9, but I only saw the difference in lower-quality sources. I spent awhile hunting for processing-related differences between the two TVs with the excellent Ragnarok Blu-ray but didn't see anything worth noting. But when I checked out Game of Thrones' The Battle of Winterfell (aka The Long Night) episode, a source streamed from HBO Now and rife with compression artifacts, some C9 advantages emerged. 

The sky above Jorah (7:39) showed banding and blocks of discoloration on the B8 and B9 near black that weren't visible on the C9, for example, and during a pan over Winterfell (5:19), bands of color in the sky showed up. When I turned the Smooth Gradation setting up to High on the C9 they largely disappeared, but with the same setting on the B9 they remained much more visible. The setting did obscure details in some areas, however, such as a mountain behind a pan over the ranks of Unsullied, so it's a trade-off. And there were still plenty of artifacts and issues (again inherent in the source) that looked equally bad on both OLEDs -- evidently beyond the reach of the C9's processing.

Otherwise processing between the two 2019 OLEDs was basically identical. The B9 passed my go-to 1080p/24 film cadence test from I Am Legend in Off, Clear and User (zero for De-Judder and 10 for De-Blur) TruMotion position. All three also delivered the TV's maximum motion resolution (600 lines) and correct film cadence. The Smooth settings and User De-Judder settings above 0 introduced some form of smoothing, or soap opera effect (Clear mode used to as well, but in 2019 it also handles 1080p/24 correctly in the Cinema and Expert modes).

The Samsungs and the Vizio with their true 120Hz refresh rates hit 1,200 lines of motion resolution, which might make them more appealing for sticklers who can't stand blurring. To my eye, however, the LGs remained perfectly sharp in motion with all the actual program material (as opposed to test patterns) I watched.

The mode that introduces black frame insertion, labeled OLED Motion, was mistakenly disabled by a recent software update. The setting is still available in the TruMotion menu on both by B9 and C9 review samples, but toggling it on either 2019 OLED has no visible effect. According to LG a software fix is in the works.

Gaming input lag has also been improved this year. The B9 was second only to the C9 with the lowest lag I've measured so far, at 13.67 and 13.7 milliseconds in game mode for 1080p and 4K HDR sources, respectively. That's better than the 2018 C8 by a solid margin, and tops the 2018 and 2019 Samsungs by less than a millisecond. If you can tell the difference, hats off to you. 

Uniformity and off-angle viewing: My B9 review sample was slightly less uniform in brightness than other recent OLEDs I've tested, including the C9 and B8. It showed slightly dimmer edges along the bottom sides, particularly the left, compared to the middle of the screen. The difference was only visible in dark full-field test patterns, however, and I didn't see it in any program material. 

The LCDs still showed worse uniformity than the B9, however, with slightly brighter and darker areas visible in the same patterns. And as usual the OLEDs, including the B9 were much better at maintaining fidelity from off-angle, when viewed from seats other than the sweet spot right in the middle of the screen, than any of the LCDs.

HDR and 4K video: As I've seen with every OLED TV, the B9 gave an excellent performance with the highest-quality 4K and HDR video. Comparing it side-by-side against the rest of the TVs in my lineup, it beat the Samsungs and the Vizio overall, as usual, and was very similar to the B8 and C9.

Looking closely, however, I did pick out some differences between the three LG OLEDs. As noted above the B9 measured dimmer than either of the other two. My go-to reference montage from the new Spears and Munsil 4K HDR benchmark showed slightly dimmer highlights in the sunrise (2:09) for example, which measured 119 nits on the C9 and 70 on the B9. Other spot measurements were closer, but the C9 always measured (and looked) just a bit brighter. Beyond highlights I also noticed a slight difference in the full-field white, such as the snowy fields (0:37).

Beyond brightness it was tough to spot any difference between the C9 and B9. In tough sky shots -- the sunset at 2:03 and the blue expanse above the satellite dish at 5:28 -- both showed fewer banding artifacts than the B8, for example, and color was likewise basically identical between the two. Fine details like the feathers on the bird close-ups (6:28) were likewise the same. And of course all three OLEDs nailed the high-contrast torture scenes like the nightime shot of the Ferris wheel and the montage of objects in front of black backgrounds. 

In comparison all of the LCDs showed lighter black levels and some blooming, or stray illumination around objects, which decreased their sense of realism. And in my lineup that realism extended to areas like those bird feathers, where side-by-side the OLEDs seemed to bring out just a bit more detail than the LCDs -- a consequence of their superior contrast, I'm guessing. All of LCDs did get brighter than the OLEDs, as usual, in both highlights and full-field scenes, but I wouldn't trade that brilliance for the incredible image of the OLEDs, including the B9.

I felt the same watching other content. The OLEDs' pitch-black letterbox bars and deep shadows in the Surtur scene from the Ragnarok 4K Blu-ray really improved the punch of Mjolnir and co., while the LCDs' brighter Bifrost and rendering of Asgard in the sunlight didn't move the needle of enjoyment as much. No display showed a big advantage in colors and detail in these scenes, however. Streaming the Amazon Prime Original Carnival Row in 4K HDR from Apple TV was a similar story: the OLEDs won the dark scenes handily and their dimmer highlights and skies weren't a major liability in bright scenes.

Geek box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.000 Good
Peak white luminance (SDR) 374 Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.21 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.44 Good
Dark gray error (30%) 0.29 Good
Bright gray error (80%) 0.32 Good
Avg. color checker error 0.78 Good
Avg. saturation sweeps error 0.83 Good
Avg. color error 0.94 Good
Red error 0.69 Good
Green error 0.40 Good
Blue error 1.19 Good
Cyan error 1.32 Good
Magenta error 1.26 Good
Yellow error 0.79 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 600 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 600 Average
Input lag (Game mode) 13.67 Good



HDR10

Black luminance (0%) 0.000 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 628 Poor
Gamut % UHDA/P3 (CIE 1976) 98.92 Good
Avg. color checker error 3.59 Average
Input lag (Game mode, 4K HDR) 13.77 Good

LG OLEDB9P CNET review cali... by David Katzmaier on Scribd

Update Dec 3, 2019: Added Editors' Choice award, 77-inch size.

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