The best way to select any TV is to see the shortlist of competitor’s TVs side-by-side – but walk into major retailers and that is generally impossible as TVs are grouped by brand, not size and specifications.
In fact, my confidential contact at JB Hi-Fi stated that, “Shoot-outs are no longer encouraged” meaning they don’t recommend an LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, TCL, Hisense etc., over another. Sales staff have been cautioned to first ascertain the buyer’s price bracket and size expectations and to then guide them to sets closely matching these needs – it's not about the picture!
Another fact is that most people don’t walk into a retail store and buy a 55-65” OLED (or larger) at prices from $4099-13,499 without having done a lot of research into the differences between display technologies and brands. This review deep dives into the LG OLED TV – for those who are considering it.
Each pixel is self-lighting — on-or-off — so there is perfect black and in LG TV they are each intelligently controlled and can show a billion colours. This is enhanced further by a partnership with Dolby (both vision, and audio), which it calls "Cinema HDR on your TV".
"HDR has forced us to rethink what we mean by the colour palette," Dolby's vice-president of Future Technology, Pat Griffis told iTWire in March.
Indeed, Dolby Vision is backwards compatible with HDR, HDR10 and more.–When you see real Dolby Vision content, a superset of HDR10/HLG, on an LG you will understand the difference.
LG has a good primer on OLED technology, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and WebOS 3.5 here.
To position LG’s 2017 range, let’s look at the models
- W7T (65”) wallpaper “on-glass” for wall mount only $13499 includes Atmos sound bar, Signature delivery and installation.
- G7T (65”) pedestal “on-glass” $9099.
- E7T (55/65”) pedestal “on-glass” $5199/7999.
- C7T (55/65”) pedestal $4099/6899.
As far as I can ascertain, the E7T, G7T and W7T use the same OLED “on-glass” panel, have Dolby Vision/HDR10, and Dolby Atmos. The difference is that the W7T is a single, wall-mount panel with an external electronics/connector breakout box and a separate Dolby Atmos sound bar as part of the kit.
The G7T has the electronics integrated into the Dolby Atmos “grill” and the E7T has the electronics integrated into the back lower portion of the panel. To me, the E7 is best suited to a separate Dolby Atmos sound bar.
Is the C7T the poor cousin? From what I can find, the difference is that it is not “on-glass” (it is on a different substrate material with electronics on the back and a bezel so it is slightly thicker), the audio output is 40W versus 60W, and it has a different remote controller – not in panel performance specifications, so it is the value option.
Out of the very big box
As a warning, the TV comes in a 1600 x 1015 x 175mm x 30.7kg carton. It is a two-man lift and professional delivery and installation is a must especially when you see all the vertical and horizontal shock sensors on the carton to protect the contents – if any are red, then you may reject the set.
The sound bar comes in an equally imposing 1266mm x 489mm x 356mm x 17.2kg carton containing a 5.7kg sound bar and a 7.6kg wireless Subwoofer.
The TV weighs 21.2kg and the stand another 1.9kg. You need a large area to unpack it as the 65” panel needs to lie flat on the carton to have the stand fitted. It can also be wall mounted using an OTW420B 300 x 200 wall mount. The sound bar comes with wall mount brackets to integrate to the TV.
A word of advice – make sure you have somewhere to store the two boxes if you ever envisage moving to another home.
For the moment, we will focus on the TV – the sound bar is a very easy addition later.
Once placed on the TV cabinet (or sideboard as it is 1461mm wide) simply plug in the TV aerial and power. As a smart TV, it will ask for an Internet connection – either wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi AC. On first use it will do a channel search, search for firmware updates, and set everything to factory defaults.
It has FreeViewPlus HbbTV and catch-up TV for most Australian channels. This also includes an electronic programme guide.
It has an Internet browser (very Opera like), Wi-Di/Miracast, and can be controlled from an Android or iOS smartphone app.
It also has four HDMI 2.0a 4K capable inputs (one is ARC – audio return channel) for use with a sound bar or AV amplifier, a component/composite RCA input (for older devices), 1 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0 ports, and a Digital Optical Audio output.
You can connect up to four devices like a set-top box (Foxtel), games console, 4K Blu-ray or DVD player, and the sound bar (which also connects by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Digital Optical out).
The sound bar (reviewed later) also has 2 x HDMI 2.0a ports (one input and one output), Digital Optical audio input, 3.5mm audio input, Lan port, Wi-Fi AC, and Bluetooth.
USB input will play almost any audio, still, or video content up to HVEC 4K – there may be some DRM issues, but it is fine with any original content.
I make the copious connectivity point because the days of using a separate AV amp with HDMI switching and 2.1, 5.1, or 7.1 speakers seem numbered.
Luckily we had a five-year-old Sony Bravia 55” HD (1920 x 1080p) TV to use as a comparison with the LG OLED (3840 x 2160p). The Sony had, without a doubt, the best LED/LCD picture quality at that time. It still suits our needs admirably.
Side-by-side, initially on normal TV broadcasts (that are in 576i or in 720 or 1080i/p for HD channels) the image difference was noticeable, but not huge.
Let’s just say that OLED blacks were perfect, details were crisper and clearer, colours were both more natural yet punchier, but overall the Sony stood up well against the OLED. If all you intend to do is watch TV and up to 1080p content then almost any TV will perform acceptably.
4K “home” video and stills (shot on a smartphone)
Next, we used a Windows 10 PC with an AMD Radeon 4K video card set up as a media centre. It defaulted to a 4K, 2160p image on the LG and 1080p on the Sony. A range of 4K video content was tested and the quality gap widened – the LG showed details not evident on the Sony, but there was still no Dolby Vision or Atmos sound to make a huge difference.
We used an Xbox One S with a 4K Blu-ray, HDR player, sadly not yet Dolby Atmos enabled (the firmware update is coming). This is where the difference was like chalk and cheese – the LG 4K OLED was “captivating” in every respect – colour, depth, brightness, white balance, and realism.
Regrettably, I did not have an LG UP970, 4K Blu-ray, Dolby Vision, 5.1.4 Atmos player ($599) and I suspect, no I know, the image quality would have been even better. Dolby Vision, however, is not yet fully enabled on this device and a firmware update in “Q3, 2017” will be required.
Netflix streaming – 4K, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos
Netflix will stream a 4K movie with HDR/Dolby Vision and Atmos – you need at least a guaranteed speed of 25Mbps (not ADSL 2+ but 50/50Mbps NBN or 100Mbps/256Kbps HFC). A 120-minute movie will consume around 25-30GB. Note that Netflix uses HVEC compression so this is never as good as playing from a 4K Blu-ray which has a typical two-hour movie size of from 50 to 90GB.
I have an HFC connection and the LG WebOS 3.5 interface with Netflix was flawless – easy to use and intuitive. But even at a compressed size, I would burn my 500GB data per month up in less than 10 movies – most use Netflix for 1080p (25% of the data size) content anyway.
Upscaling – could be the game changer
Upscaling uses algorithms to take each pixel and add a copy to either side, above, below etc., filling in the blanks of the higher resolution as needed and smoothens, sharpens or changes the contrast of the pixels to make it look better. It improves the apparent, not real definition.
The higher the resolution of the original native content, the better upscaling will look. In most cases, a one-step upscale e.g. 480i to 720i, 720p to 1080p, or 1080p (HD) to 2048 x 1080p (2K) is about the best most scalers can handle.
Going from 1920 x 1080p to 3840/4096 x 2160 (4K) can be challenging and some TVs do it better. LG is one of these as it has individual control of pixels and light outputs (pixel level dimming) whereas LCD typically has a very small number of dimming zones and cannot achieve that precise contrast control.
I tried a variety of content from 480i (Twilight Zone black and white shot), 720p (Star Trek colour original), 1080p (Star Trek DS9 colour), and a range of HD DVD 1080p movies.
In the 480i Twilight Zone, the black and white were crisper – less pixellation of straight lines on the OLED than the 1080p Sony but image quality was little different. Upscaling 480i to 1080 or 4K is a huge ask!
In the case of the 720p Star Trek the gap widened and it was visibly superior on the LG compared to the Sony, but again by not that much to be a compelling reason to switch.
In the case of 1080p Star Trek DS9, while the Sony has native 1080p and looked great, the LG’s upscaling was excellent – it adds more realism as well as greater colour, clarity and contrast.
You can safely surmise that the LG OLED panel will have better looking upscaled content over LCD panels.
There is a 360° VR content play feature yet to be enabled.
Summary of picture quality
At 480i, 576i or even 1080p TV the picture quality difference between LCD and OLED is not so great that it is a compelling must buy device – unless money is not an issue.
At 1080p Blu-ray/DVD and the difference begins to widen where you notice increased clarity, better blacks and colour as well as great upscaling.
At 2180p (no HDR) the differences are amazing and the LG proposition kicks in.
At 2180p, Dolby Vision (HRD10/Netflix) — currently the best streaming quality you can get but the list of titles is still much too small — OLED really shines.
I have yet to see 4K, UHD, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos except at an LG demonstration where it was magnificent.
WebOS and Magic Remote
A smart TV uses an operating system – this uses WebOS 3.5 (based on Linux and first developed by Palm and later HP). The US WebOS 3.5 US site shows more about this and is here.
It was the first to receive UL 2900-1 CAP (Cybersecurity Assurance Program) certification. This covers protection against malware and vulnerabilities. It also examines how the user’s private information is protected.
It has a familiar “content” ribbon interface along the bottom of the screen and will hook up to a set-top box and many other devices, automatically recognising them, and in some cases using the new Magic Remote to control them.
There is a range of installable apps in the LG Store (look under each category at the top of the page) to extend functionality. There are audio and video content managers (Google Play, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Stan), games, and some utilities (like Plex and RDP).
Most other settings appear in a vertical bar on the right covering picture, audio, TV channels, and more – each has on-screen help making it easy to decide if you want to change something. Overall, the default settings are perfect – as they should be.
These days, TV operating systems come down to Samsung’s Tizen, Android TV, Panasonic (uses a version of Firefox) and proprietary systems from each manufacturer – most loosely based on Linux. I would rate LG WebOS 3.5 as a stable, easy to use, fully featured system, perhaps slightly outflanked in the “smart home” area by Samsung.
The Magic Remote on this model (and the G7T and W7T) is a new slimline remote with an on-screen pink teardrop cursor. It can do voice search and commands.
A Bluetooth (Logitech) or USB keyboard and mouse can be added, as can an Xbox and PlayStation 3 controller.
It has a Dolby Atmos decoder and a 60W sound bar in its base. Atmos is all about feeling the sound – up to 128 different sound objects can be isolated and placed and moved anywhere in a 3D environment. An aircraft (sound object) could start behind you in the distance and fly closer and over you – objects can be placed anywhere and reflect the real-world sound. By separating out main objects from background “noise”, you can hear the stream babbling down the hill while hearing someone speak clearly at its side.
The reality is that the integrated sound does an OK job for TV and movies in normal sized lounge rooms. It has six selectable sound modes (Standard, Cinema, Clear Voice III, Cricket, Music, Game) that boost, bass, mid-range, or treble and for most TV, standard or Clear Voice is best.
Switching to Cinema mode gives more of an Atmos feel, but it is not quite enough. The SJ9 Atmos 5.1.2 sound bar at $1699 makes a world of difference.
This has 500W RMS of 5.1.2 sound (compared to the 60W in the TV).
Each of the SJ9’s seven main speakers — 2 x left, 2 x right; 1 x centre, 2 x top-firing Atmos speakers have 43W totalling 301W — the wireless subwoofer has 200W. Each speaker is coupled to a Class D amplifier. That is an awesome system!
Connectivity is via 2 x HDMI 2.0a (one input and one output), 3.5mm audio, Digital Optical, Lan, Wi-Fi AC and LG Sound Sync.
It is quite a long unit, but not too high at 1200mm x 58mm x 145mm and sits nicely in front of the TV. The Wi-Fi connected subwoofer is and attractive “black” box at 332mm high and 296mm square. All it requires is 240V power.
You can optionally add LG Sound Link rear speakers to make it a 7.1.2 system, but at present LG is not selling these in Australia. In any case, the current Atmos decoder is 5.1.2.
I have been sceptical of sound bars but experience with this and the Samsung Atmos have changed my opinion.
- Left to right separation is superb – good directionality sitting three to five metres from the sound bar. I venture that the rear speakers are not necessary.
- Directionality is superb. You can tell where sounds are coming from courtesy of the centre speaker and the L/R separation.
- Depth/projection is superb. At three to five metres away you can hear sounds in front and to the sides – the sound comes from outside the speakers.
- Atmos (when you can get content) does allow you to feel the sound. I hooked up a ZTE Axon 7 smartphone with Dolby Atmos and some sample content and it was amazing – birds singing overhead, waterfalls in the distance, voices from around and behind.
But it’s the overall functionality that impresses.
- Hi-Res Music decoding FLAC (Up to 192kHz), AIFF, ALAC is standard.
- Music formats include OGG (Up to 48kHz), WAV, MP3, WMA, AAC (iTunes)
- Music upscaling up to 192kHz/24-bit
- 5 x sound types - Adaptive Sound Control, Standard, Music, Bass Blast, Movie and simple sound EQ for treble, bass (both -5/+5dB) and subwoofer (-15/+6dB).
- Chrome Cast compatible (Pandora, Google Play Music, NPR and TuneIn).
- Bluetooth Music streaming (Wide range of clients like Spotify controlled from the iOS or Android app).
- Multi-room streaming (not tested but it uses LG MusicFlow speakers and appears to use other standard Wi-Fi speakers – some, like the Sonos may require a bridge unit).
- Remote control (also controlled by Magic Remote).
Equally impressive is the 72-page owner’s manual, but all you need to scan is the short user guide.
I used an HDMI ARC connection for the test as it is the only one that supports Atmos content to the TV. I also tested Optical, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – all worked well. The TV controlled the power on and off. Make sure you have HDMI cables that support 2.0a standard – I had one older rogue one that gave me trouble until I realised and replaced it.
The MusicFlow app found the Windows10 media PC and the WD MyCloud on the network and enabled content streaming from both – it has network file discovery capability. It will also list compatible internet music streaming sources.
How does it sound?
I use a 7.1 Pioneer AV amp and Jamo bookshelf speakers and subwoofer. It provides great sound but lacks Atmos.
Atmos is unlike anything you have heard so that is a start. It has great bass, great sound (and five profiles) and copious volume with low THD. Directionality and separation are perfect for a large lounge room. In one word – magnificent.
LG’s 2017 OLED TVs — whether it is a C7T, E7T, G7T or W7T — have upped the ante and have stunning images, Dolby Vision (a superset of HDR), Dolby Atmos, superb build and great overall functionality and usability.
Any of the range – 55 or 65” – will please and give you a good 10 years of service before you buy a replacement. By then, we will probably have VR or holo TV – who knows?
If you are looking for a bargain don’t overlook the 2016 OLED 4K UHD range either – you can pick up a 55 or 65” curved or flat C/B6T (recommended price $4199/6799) from around 20% off ticketed price with a little bargaining at major retaillers.
TV reviewers need to organise a class action against LG for ruining their appreciation of all other TVs. Once you experience LG OLED (and perhaps the new Sony and Panasonic’s take using LG panels) you simply cannot go back.
This review has avoided comparisons to Samsung’s QLED (which is not OLED – just a variation of LED/LCD using different sized Nanoparticles to create colour). It is great, certainly the best of the LCD TV group and it has a place in the premium TV group.
Each technology and brand has its strengths. LG’s is absolute 4K picture quality that only Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos can provide with suitable content.
Samsung’s is the burgeoning Samsung Tizen smart home ecosystem it is creating including robotic vacuum cleaners, appliances, and more.