LG B7 Series TV Review
LG's entry-level OLED puts luxury within reach
OLED TVs represent the best the TV industry has to offer, but until recently, the prospect of actually forking over the cash for one was a tall order.
Thanks to a substantial price drop, OLED has never been a viable option for more people than it is right now. It’s still quite pricey, but it’s no longer comically pricey. Leading the pack is the LG B7 Series (available at Amazon for $1,596.99), the 2017 entry-level OLED series from pretty much the only manufacturer going all-in on the dazzling technology.
So, what does an entry-level OLED get you in 2017? The B7 Series are 4K/UHD TVs that not only support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, but meet those standards brilliantly. Thanks to the wonders of OLED, users will enjoy dizzying contrast ratios, perfect black levels, and stunning color reproduction.
As far as OLEDs go, the B7 series isn't perfect, but it's pretty darn close. If you're looking to jump into the world of 4K OLED for a significantly less hair-raising price than what we've seen in the past, the B7 Series is your best opportunity yet.
About the LG B7 Series (2017)
The 2017 LG B7 series is available in two screen sizes:
· 55-inch (LG OLED55B7A), $1,799.99
· 65-inch (LG OLED65B7A), $2,799.99
Our review sample is the 55-inch B7, though we expect the performance to be largely the same regardless of screen size. Before testing the B7, we let it warm up over the course of several days with a scrolling color bar pattern.
Here’s the B7 series at a glance:
· 4K/UHD resolution (3840x2160)
· HDR10 and Dolby Vision support
· webOS 3.5 smart platform
· 4x HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 ports
· DTS-HD audio decoding
Both the 55- and the 65-inch B7 feature LG’s “blade slim” panels, which are roughly the width of an iPhone at its thinnest points.
What we like about the B7 Series
One of the main benefits of OLED panels is their ability to illuminate without the aid of an edge-light or back-light. This means that manufacturers are free to design remarkably thin panels, and no company has succeeded more in this regard than LG.
The B7 Series' panels are preposterously slim. Aesthetically speaking, it's gorgeous. From a practicality standpoint, it allows the panel to mount closer to a wall than just about any other non-OLED TV on the market. That said, the part of the TV that houses the actual hardware is a bit chunky compared to the super-slim panel.
The TV's stand is equally refined, featuring a silver slate that connects to the back of the panel with a translucent, crystal-like piece of high-quality plastic. From the top down, the LG B7 resembles a stealth bomber: elegant and razor-thin with minimal bulk.
Since each of an OLED's pixels illuminate and switch off independently of one another, the B7 is able to achieve the perfect black levels we've come to associate with OLED displays. In SDR, the B7 Series doesn't get that bright (I measured an SDR peak brightness of around 250-300 nits, depending on content), but with perfect black levels, the lack of searing brightness is not an issue.
It's hard to describe in words why an OLED's staggering contrast is so desirable, but once you've had the pleasure of seeing it first hand, anything else pales in comparison. Deep black levels improve just about every aspect of a TV's picture: colors look richer and details look sharper. It's the reason OLED TVs are so revered, and the B7 Series demonstrates it well.
Fantastic HDR performance
The LG B7 doesn't get nearly as bright as some of its HDR-enabled competitors, but it doesn't really need to since its black levels are essentially perfect. Watching HDR content on the B7—whether it's an ultra-HD Blu-ray or Netflix—is a joy. I measured small, concentrated areas of brightness at upwards of 670 nits with minimal fall-off error.
And although the B7 doesn't quite hit the new "expanded color" gamut points as well as the higher-end LG C7 Series, the B7's picture is still rich, well-saturated and a treat to behold. The TV's standard dynamic range (SDR) color performance is near-perfect, however, so most shows and movies will look equally as flawless until HDR becomes a factor.
Highly accommodating viewing angles means no one misses any of the action.
A 55- or 65-inch TV ought to be able to hold up at off-center angles, otherwise viewing parties are going to be kind of a drag for most of the people in the room. Fortunately, the B7 delivers the sort of extra-wide viewing "cone" we've come to expect from OLED TVs.
Contrast will eventually begin to suffer if you move about four feet away from a head-on angle, but considering how narrow the viewing angles of modern edge-lit TVs tend to be, it's not something to worry about. The B7 is a TV experience worth sharing with a room full of friends and family.
What we don't like about the B7 Series
HDR and 60 Hz signals don't play well with each other
Even LG's top-of-the-line OLED TVs aren't immune to imperfection, and the B7 Series appears to suffer from an issue we've seen in previous LG OLEDs: The TV struggles with HDR content playing back at a 60 Hz signal.
In fact, the only way for us to test the B7's HDR chops was to send the TV a 30 Hz signal. We've reached out to LG for some clarification on the matter and will certainly update this review when the time comes, but for now, it looks to be a similar issue to the one reported earlier this year from frustrated gamers wondering why they couldn't play video games at 60 Hz without serious input lag or screen-tearing.
If you were hoping to stream content or play some PS4 games at 60 Hz, you might want to hold out for more updates. LG was quick to address similar HDR/60 Hz signal problems on last year's LG B6, but these software updates introduced new bugs while fixing old bugs.
Despite how excited we are for an OLED price drop, the cost is still prohibitive for most.
While we've certainly seen TV tech come and go throughout the years (miss you, plasma), OLED displays are probably here to stay. They just make too much sense—they're impossibly thin, flexible, and are better-equipped to perform at a high level than edge- and even back-lit displays.
But despite these clear advantages, OLED panels remain expensive and complicated, at least compared to their LED contemporaries. The cost of production, unfortunately, makes its way to you—the consumer.
So, although we're thrilled every year when the price tag of these TVs creep down a little further, there's still a bouncer outside of the OLED club, and he's not letting just anyone in.
Should you buy it?
Yes—if you've been thinking about getting an OLED for a while but want to save some cash, now's the time.
The B7 Series is every bit as good as one would expect an entry-level OLED in 2017 to be. Its black levels are unparalleled, its colors are on-point, and its total viewing angle is wider than anything we've tested since the last OLED TV came through our lab. From a design standpoint, you'd also be hard-pressed to find a better looking TV, too.
Sure, you could spring for the slightly more posh C7 series, but the differences are so minor that they're probably not worth the extra $300-$400.
The 55-inch B7 Series starts at around $1,800 (though we've already seen it on sale for around $1,600), and yeah, that's not exactly cheap—especially since the cost of an entry-level OLED is only going to keep coming down in the future. That said, if you want to start living your best HDR life now, the B7 is the most affordable way to do it.
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