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Hands-on(ish) with LG's 4K TV

We take an early poke at the world's first shipping 4K LCD TV, LG's 84LM9600.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

In a small room away from the main convention center at the CEDIA Expo, LG showed off its upcoming 84-inch 4K LCD, the LG 84LM9600.

I got a close-up look at the new ultraresolution panel, got a lot of questions answered, and got a rough idea what we can expect when it starts shipping next month.

Curious? I was too.

1st 4K TV impressions
Let me say up front, I'm a vocal critic of 4K. You might not have guessed this from my previous articles, "Why 4K TVs are stupid" and "Why 4K TVs are stupid (still)."

For those of you who read the articles, I'm very specific in my complaint about 4K TVs: it's that in the sizes most people buy, and at the distances most people sit from a TV, 1080p is largely unnecessary, making 4K ridiculous overkill.

But 84 inches is not a "normal" size. At that size, it's far more likely you'd be able to see the added resolution with 4K.

However, at the demo, LG wasn't showing any 4K material. Instead it showed upconverted 1080p content, which, let's be honest, is going to be the vast majority of the content this TV will get throughout its life. Unfortunately, with this early prototype, the scaling wasn't great.

Also, we saw significant edge enhancement that might have been in the source, but without access to the menus (we were denied, when we asked), we don't know if this was in the TV. So without 4K material, and without knowing the source, and without final programming of the scaler, I'm not going to make a judgment on picture quality.

However (No. 2), I did get to see the Sony 4K, which is also 84 inches, and is also passive 3D. You can read CNET's take on the Sony XBR-84X900 here or my take at HDGuru.com.

A few questions answered
During LG's event, fellow journalist David Birch-Jones asked the question on everyone's mind: LG, Sony, JVC, and others have all announced 3,820x2,160-pixel-resolution, 84-inch, passive 3D LCDs. Who, and it's likely just one company, is making this panel?

LG's representative was adamant the company does not and will not discuss panel sourcing. He did add, "All I can say about our panel is that we make it."

Best non-answer answer ever.

On the question about 4K in smaller sizes (which I'd find useless), LG's thought is "bigger, not smaller." I found that interesting. TVs larger than 84-inches? Personally I think you should not buy a jumbo LCD TV, but buy a projector instead. Larger sizes can't help but drive the price down of smaller TVs, so it can't hurt. LG also said the company feels 4K is necessary for TVs over 65 inches. A coincidence that 65 inches is the largest non-4K TV LG currently sells?

The 84LM9600 will accept a 4K signal, so even if the internal scaler doesn't get sorted out, there are other devices on the market right now that you can use to scale video to 4K to watch on this TV. Plus, it allows one of the few endless sources of 4K right now: an HTPC.

What about 3D, 4K content, OLED?
At 6 feet, Sony's recommended distance, you can just barely make out the interlaced lines when viewing through the passive 3D glasses (Note: we didn't see 3D content, but the glasses were there for some reason). At 10 feet, you couldn't see the lines, but at that distance, the additional detail with 4K might be less noticeable.

One last point on 4K content. 4K TVs are often derided for the lack of 4K content. I think there are many issues to consider with 4K TVs, but content isn't the biggest one. It's a tiny one. When HDTVs started shipping, there was basically no content. We had years of HDTVs where the only HD content was over-the-air, or a couple of HD channels on cable. Blu-ray came out over half a decade after the first HDTVs. LG feels hardware will drive content, and I agree. Yes, early adopters will get mostly upconverted 1080p, but that's what being an early adopter is all about.

Oh, and according to LG, OLED is still on track to be available this year in the U.S. market. Now that I'm excited about.

The 84LM9600 from LG is shipping this month, and will be available in October for $19,999.99. Check your couch cushions.

Got a question for Geoff? Click "Geoffrey Morrison" below, then click the E-mail link in the upper right to e-mail, wait for it...Geoffrey Morrison! If it's witty, amusing, and/or a good question, you may just see it in a post just like this one. No, I won't tell you what TV to buy. Yes, I'll probably truncate and/or clean up your e-mail. You can also send me a message on Twitter: @TechWriterGeoff.