LG G6 4K OLED TV Review
The best LG OLED yet gives the fledgling tech a fighting chance in the age of HDR
LG has been the only game in town for OLED TV production for the last few years, introducing bigger and better sets annually while continuing to slash prices on the exciting, emerging TV tech. The new "Signature" G6 Series is LG's latest and greatest in LG's 2016 lineup, and it's simply the best TV we've ever tested.
Is it a high-cost, videophile product like every other OLED on the market? Absolutely. But considering its posh design, incredible picture quality, and premium OLED pedigree, I think the 65-inch G6's $7,999 price is right. The $25,000 77-inch version? Not so much.
Unfortunately, even the smaller G6 is in high demand, and we couldn't get it into the lab. So I packed everything up and brought the lab to the NYC's Flatiron District for on-site testing and evaluation.
After a full day of hands-on time—using meters, signal generator, and calibration software brought from our lab—I feel confident that the G6 is the best LG OLED yet.
That's high praise, but it's deserved thanks to huge improvements to brightness, a sleek and innovative design, and compatibility with both HDR and Dolby Vision. This G6 may cost a pretty penny, but sometimes it's worth it to fly first class.
About the LG G6 Series
LG's flagship G6 4K OLED TV series is available in two big screen sizes: 65 and 77 inches. I spent about seven hours with the 65-inch G6 (OLED65G6P) on-site for LG's private event in NYC. LG's staff and engineers were on hand to field questions, but all the testing/calibrating was conducted in private.
LG "Signature" G6 Series
• 65-inch (LG OLED65G6P), MSRP: $7,999
• 77-inch (LG OLED77G6P), MSRP: $24,999
As it stands, the 65-inch is the more "reasonable" of the two G6 series TVs, and that's the one I tested. However, based on past experience with smaller and larger OLEDs, I'd expect the 77-inch G6's performance to be almost identical to the 65-inch.
Because each pixel on an OLED emits its own light, you don't see the usual size-based discrepancies like you do with LED LCD TVs. That said, some performance points (like 3D and audio quality) may differ sharply between the two. Everything else should be quite similar.
Here are the key specs for the 65- and 77-inch "Signature" G6 OLED TVs:
• OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) panel, RGBW method
• 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution
• Premium HDR compliant (at least 0.0005 nits minimum luminance, at least 540 nits maximum luminance)
• Capable of HDR10 playback
• Extended OLED color range approximating the DCI-P3 color space
• Passive 3D capable (glasses included)
• 4.2-channel 60W audio
• Four HDMI 2.2-capable inputs
• webOS 3.0 smart platform
What We Like
The LG G6 still produces the same perfect black levels OLED is known for.
If there's one thing OLED TVs are famed for, it's their perfectly dark shadow tones. This is because OLED panels are "emissive," meaning each cell or pixel produces its own light independently of the others. Unlike with LCD TVs, when a pixel is told to show "black," it simply shuts off. This gives OLEDs a sense of depth most LCD TVs can only dream of.
With the G6, I measured a black level of less than or equal to .001 nits, which is about as dark as it gets. Our meter can't actually provide accurate readings past the third decimal place, so it's unclear to us just how low it goes.
What does that mean when watching real content? I watched part of a Dolby Vision-graded episode of Marco Polo streaming off of Netflix in 4K, and noted that while the G6 (calibrated for Dolby Vision by LG's Neil Robinson) didn't boast the same super-bright vivacity as the Vizio Reference Series, the picture was eminently well-balanced. It won't blow your hair back, but if you appreciate expert picture quality you'll find a lot to love with the G6.
I also watched scenes from Mad Max: Fury Road on Samsung's new 4K/HDR10 Blu-ray player. While the TV's "standard" HDR10 mode still didn't offer up the same sheer luminance as the top LED LCD TVs have (and will) later in the year, the highlights were way brighter than we've seen with past OLEDs and the inky black shadow tones remained.
The LG G6 is way brighter than any OLED TVs before it.
While LG's made High Dynamic Range-capable 4K OLEDs before (last year's LG EF9500 and LG EG9600 series, specifically), the G6 is the first "premium" graded OLED TV on the market. That means it's capable of meeting the UHD Alliance's minimum requirements for a new certification called "Premium HDR."
This specification (nerd alert!) requires a TV to meet one of two benchmarks:
• A black level lower than .0005 nits and a max brightness of at least 540 nits.
• A black level lower than 0.05 nits and a max brightness of at least 1000 nits.
"Nits" is just a unit of measurement to describe how bright a display is. For comparison your average iPhone will top out around 500 nits, making it slightly visible on a bright sunny day. Why on earth do we have two different benchmarks to figure out what a "premium" TV is? Because OLEDs don't get that bright, and LCD TVs don't get that dark.
In a nutshell, an OLED will qualify if it gets over 540 nits, while LCDs have to get twice as bright while keeping their black levels in check.
In the G6's case, it easily clears the 540 nit bar set by the standard. With a white box filling 10% of the screen in HDR mode we recorded peak brightness of about 800 nits—way brighter than past OLEDs. It's worth noting that this is only in HDR mode. If you are just watching non-HDR content that same box will hit around 290 nits in the ISF Dark mode, though even this is much brighter than other OLEDs we've tested.
The G6 is bright enough to do that, even if it doesn't get as bright as some of the newer LCD TVs, such as the stunning Vizio Reference Series. But the G6's black level will still give it a massive leg up, especially if you've got a dark home theater to put it in. And the good news is that a proper calibration still leaves you with a TV that handles that standard dynamic range content beautifully.
But even outside of HDR playback, the G6's increased luminance remains impressive. For example, last year's LG EF9500—our previous 10.0 TV—produced less than 100 nits of brightness when 90% or more of the screen was white. By comparison, the G6 still pumps out over 130 nits. While that might not sound like a huge difference in terms of pure numbers, it makes a notable difference during viewing, especially if the room isn't completely dark.
The LG G6 is still capable of very accurate color, and more vivacity than past OLEDs.
For the same reason they have great viewing angles, "emissive" displays like OLEDs are also capable of naturally saturated color production. While LED LCDs must either use enhanced phosphors or new quantum dot color enhancements, OLED color saturation is tied directly to how bright the cells can get—and as we've seen, the G6 is LG's brightest OLED TV yet.
It's also very clear from comparing the non-HDR10 and HDR10 copies of Mad Max that the TV's extra color extends beyond a simple boost to saturation, and includes non-peak colors (such as skin tones or the desert dunes), adding a palette and ruddiness that's missing from standard versions of the movie.
The LG G6 improves upon the major drawbacks of last year's OLEDs.
While stellar contrast, black levels, and color are what we look for in a high-quality TV (OLED or not), it's no big surprise that LG's $8,000 flagship does a bang-up job at the core aspects of picture quality. At this price, videophiles expect nothing less.
However, for all its strengths, OLED has always had some key weaknesses. Chief amongst these was a phenomenon called "vignetting," where the edges of the panel would appear considerably darker than the middle. I've found that vignetting usually clears up after 50-75 hours of use, but LG chose to iron out the issue anyway.
While I'm sure the G6 I reviewed wasn't new out of the box, it showed no signs of the vignetting problem. It wasn't perfectly free of traces of image retention, but any minor difference in uniformity were much less pronounced than in last year's sets—even when I went looking for it.
I spoke with LG's Chief Research Engineer, who explained that LG fixed the issue by making the edges brighter to compensate. Whether it works right out of the box or not, we're not sure, but it wasn't visible during content and there was no vignetting to speak of.
The other issue past OLEDs have had is properly displaying very dark, near black details. For example, shadow details just a little brighter than the TV's minimum, absolutely black level—such as the buttons on a black dress shirt—would actually be too dark to see most of the time.
However, LG's fix for vignetting also allowed it to improve the near-black problem, too. I didn't notice any major issues when watching content. It seems like an elegant solution all around, and one that goes hand-in-hand with the natural progression towards a brighter panel required by High Dynamic Range.
The LG G6 delivers one of the best OLED designs ever, and plenty of premium trimmings.
Last but not least, the G6 wouldn't be quite the TV that it is if it didn't have a truly groundbreaking design to go with its incredible picture quality. We covered this more extensive in our first look at the LG G6. While I definitely didn't get to spend as much time examining the TV's funky, transforming soundbar base this time around, the ultra-thin "Picture-on-glass" design is just as stunning as I remember.
What We Don't Like
If HDR is a moving target, the G6 is in danger of falling behind.
I loved the time I spent testing and viewing the G6. It's a gorgeous TV inside and out. But the more I spoke with Dolby and LG staff about the process of calibrating for Dolby Vision, the more I realized just how subtle and "traditional" the G6 really is. Especially compared to the super-bright, arresting LED HDR TVs I've seen, the G6 seemed quite reserved.
Part of the issue is that HDR content—especially Dolby Vision—tries to achieve a "golden reference," which essentially figures out what the TV is capable of and adjusts to compensate for differences in brightness and color depth. And while the G6 meets Premium HDR specifications, its playback of Dolby Vision content wasn't nearly as vivid as other TVs I've seen. I was almost disappointed.
While it can head above 700 nits for pinpoint highlights, the G6 is still an OLED, ultimately limited in its peak full-panel brightness due to a process called ABL (Auto Brightness Limiting). As we outlined above, this is why the TV's max brightness drops significantly once more than 10% of the screen is lit up. As a result, it can't do what the Vizio Reference Series does—producing 500, 600, or 700 nits across wide swaths of the screen.
Is this a bad thing? No. But while the G6 absolutely owns the Iron Throne by today's standards, HDR is coming and could upset the balance.
The webOS 3.0 platform is great, but it doesn't feel worthy of this TV.
We love LG's bubbly, friendly webOS platform. It's a colorful, zippy experience that changed the entire smart TV game when it launched in 2014. But is it the best solution for something as elegant and fancy as the G6? I'm not sure.
I used webOS a little bit during my time with the TV, changing inputs or booting up the Reviewed.com 4K Netflix account. Everything ran smoothly, but after spending some time with Vizio's second-screen reliant 2016 P Series just a couple weeks ago, I have to wonder if webOS 3.0 will feel ancient in a year or two if more manufacturers jump on the Google Cast bandwagon.
Buyers certainly won't mind the inclusion of webOS 3.0, but it just doesn't feel much different than the last two iterations.
The LG G6 will frustrate serious gamers.
Current OLEDs are still using the tips and tricks banged out by their LED LCD forebears when it comes to motion performance: frame interpolation, "sample-and-hold," and motion compensation. In this way, OLEDs don't separate themselves from LED TVs the way that they do in other areas.
Is the G6 on the level with other premium TVs in terms of motion performance? Absolutely. But it's worth noting if you've been picky about OLED motion in the past, the G6 doesn't seem to have made massive strides forward, either.
I also measured the input lag in the Game picture mode and got 34.4 ms. That's not an amazing result, but that's with a 1080p output that's upscaled to 4K—the same as you'll get with a PS4 or Xbox One.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—if you like champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
The 65-inch LG G6 (OLED65G6P) boasts a ridiculously good 4K/UHD picture that meets all the premium standards for HDR10 and is matched with an innovative design that is the perfect capstone to a top-shelf home theater. As a plus it's also Dolby Vision compatible, but HDR or not the G6 is downright spellbinding.
LG has clearly spent time ironing out whatever flaws previous OLEDs have had, and even the pickiest videophiles will find a lot to love about LG's new flagship. Without a doubt, this is one of the most impressive TVs we've ever seen.
That doesn't mean it's 100% perfect, though. As close as it comes, the G6 also can't help that—while perfect for the content of today—this TV was born right on the cusp of High Dynamic Range. There's a very real chance that TVs in 2017 and 2018 will easily surpass it, with brighter highlights, just as deep blacks, and far more vivacious color. But then, unless a deluge of HDR-compatible content sweeps the market that quickly, buyers interested in the G6 can rest easy that it's probably the best TV we'll see this year, and it's easily the best OLED we've seen yet.
Lastly, even if you can only window shop for this masterful machine, consider that LG's other 2016 OLEDs are guaranteed to be priced more affordably. In fact, the other 2016 OLED TVs should differ from the G6 in secondary specs like 3D and design only, and may offer practically identical performance. Until then, the LG G6 is as good as it gets—period.
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