LG UH8500 Series HDR LED TV Review
An awesome bright room TV, but it won't satisfy serious videophiles.
About the LG 65UH8500
The 65UH8500 is the 65-inch model in LG's UH8500 series. This is the model we viewed and tested in our labs, and though we expect almost identical performance between all sizes in the UH8500 series, this review applies exactly to this size.
About the LG 60UH8500
The 60UH8500 is the 60-inch model in LG's UH8500 series. We tested the 65-inch model in our labs, but we expect almost identical performance between all sizes in the UH8500 series. The conclusions below apply to this model as well.
About the LG 75UH8500
The 75UH8500 is the 75-inch model in LG's UH8500 series. We tested the 65-inch model in our labs, but we expect almost identical performance between all sizes in the UH8500 series. The conclusions below apply to this model as well, however because it is quite a bit larger than the model we tested their may be some difference in backlight/dimming performance.
About the LG 55UH8500
The 55UH8500 is the 55-inch model in LG's UH8500 series. We tested the 65-inch model in our labs, but we expect almost identical performance between all sizes in the UH8500 series. The conclusions below apply to this model as well. However, the smaller size may make 4K content harder to appreciate from a resolution standpoint.
If you've been keeping track of the priciest, fanciest TVs since last year, you've probably heard of Samsung's SUHD TVs, which the company insists does not stand for "Super UHD."
Doing its best to help confuse the heck out of everyone, LG has this year introduced a line of premium, HDR-ready 4K LED TVs called—you guessed it—Super UHD. Outside of the company's premium OLED models, the Super UHD models are LG's top of the line.
The UH8500 Series (starting at $1,399) offers four Super UHD TVs with the webOS 3.0 smart platform, 4K resolution, and the company's "HDR Super" designation, which supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats for High Dynamic Range. The UH8500 TVs also boast expanded color and IPS panels with wide viewing angles.
While HDR looks awesome here, the TV's core hardware—meaning edge lighting, an IPS panel, and fairly coarse backlight dimming—mean it suffers from very shallow contrast, and can only get so bright during HDR footage. Simply put, there are better performing, non-HDR sets for cheaper. Unless you're dead set on having both HDR formats in one TV, you might want to shop around a little more.
About the UH8500 Series
LG's UH8500 Series is available in four screen sizes:
• 55-inch (55UH8500), $1,399
• 60-inch (60UH8500), $1,799
• 65-inch (65UH8500), $1,999
• 75-inch (75UH8500), $3,499
The 55-, 60-, and 65-inch UH8500 TVs are around the same size, with the 75-inch shoving the price up notably at its $3,500 price point. However, outside of price and size, the five TVs are identical in terms of core specs, and we expect very similar performance between the four TVs.
That said, because they're all edge-lit LED models, I also expect the smaller sizes to generally look a bit better than than the 75-inch model. Here are the key specs for the UH8500 series:
• 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution
• Support for HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats (High Dynamic Range)
• "Quantum Display" enhanced color (note: not quantum dots)
• IPS (In-Plane Switching) type LCD panels
• Edge-lit (LED) backlight
• Passive 3D playback
• webOS 3.0 smart platform
• harman/kardon speaker system
• Magic Remote included
• 3 x HDMI (HDCP 2.2), 3 x USB
As you can see, the UH8500 Super UHD models are packed with as many premium picture quality upgrades as LG can manage. On paper, they seem to be a great option if you don't want to pay the higher price for a high-end OLED or FALD (full-array local dimming) LCD but still want the option for High Dynamic Range, 4K resolution, and the enhanced contrast/color the UH8500 Series boasts.
I spent about a week with the 65-inch UH8500 (LG 65UH8500), which we received on-loan from LG, watching content and performing our standard battery of standards. The TV was given a full factory reset and 24 hours of break-in time prior to review and evaluation.
What We Like
You're going to love this one before you ever even power it on.
The UH8500 is simply a great-looking, minimalist kind of TV. It's wrapped head-to-toe in smooth, silver highlights from the razor-straight bezels to the curved stand. This design isn't groundbreaking, but it's definitely easier on the eyes than a lot of the black plastic busters out there.
If there's anything to complain about from a design perspective, it's that the included "Magic Remote" controller doesn't match. It's perfectly functional, but the cheap black plastic of this year's redesigned remote just doesn't mesh with the hyper-smooth silvery air the UH8500 exudes.
The audio quality here is above average.
For the last couple years, LG has partnered up with harmon/kardan when manufacturing speaker sets for their LED and OLED TVs. The UH8500 may be as thin as the next edge-lit TV, but it does indeed sound better than the average set.
While watching both Mad Max and San Andreas on 4K Blu-ray, I noticed bassier details standing out quite a bit more compared to standard TV speakers. The kick of a gun firing or the crunch of a car crashing down a mountainside had a little more kick than they usually do. It wasn't surround sound or even soundbar quality, but it was better.
Overall, the UH8500 delivers a bright, crisp, colorful picture.
The UH8500's "Super UHD" moniker implies that it steps beyond standard 4K resolution performance, and it's true. LG's commitment to IPS panel types pays dividends for this series: The UH8500 delivers a beautifully bright, color-rich picture whether it's playing SDR or HDR content.
In SDR mode, the UH8500 can easily hit over 300 nits while displaying bright speculars. In fact, even in the ISF Expert (Dark Room) picture mode, the TV easily output over 200 nits of brightness when tested using the standard ANSI checkerboard contrast pattern. I measured bright spots on-screen while the TV was in HDR mode and found peaks between 320 and 550 nits.
So while the UH8500 isn't nearly as bright as some of the "premium certified," 1000-nit specified flagship models this year, it's definitely got some punching power in terms of luminance.
Feel free to spread out: these horizontal viewing angles are solid.
While it doesn't boast the year's best-ever black levels (more on that in the next section), the UH8500's IPS panel has one big advantage: viewing angle!
IPS (In-Plane Switching) style LCD panels communicate light both forward and laterally better than their VA-style brethren. This means it's easier to spread out around the UH8500 and still get the bright, colorful picture you crave. I measured a total viewing angle of about 50°, which means from 10 feet away you can sit about four feet in either direction off-center and still get good viewing.
HDR 4K Blu-ray content looks awesome—once you get it working.
After setting up the UH8500 and jumping through all the app update hoops, I plugged in our Samsung KBD-8500 4K/HDR Blu-ray player to watch Mad Max: Fury Road. The process was a bit tedious, however, and prompted an even larger update once I enabled the deep color settings for HDMI 1.
However, after a bit of tinkering, I finally got the movie going, and it looked excellent. Highlights were bright and detailed, the dark areas of the screen were satisfyingly shadowy, and color received a notable boost. While the UH8500 isn't as bright as some of the other LED-based HDR TVs I've tested (nor is it as dark), it does enough by way of color and contrast to make HDR look good.
With calibration, the UH8500 can look like a much pricier set.
The UH8500 tested well in its out of the box ISF Expert modes, showing off high color accuracy, color-free grayscale/neutral tones, and proper luminance allocation (gamma) in accordance with the BT.1886 regulation for standard dynamic range.
While its out-of-the-box settings aren't perfect, the UH8500 thankfully delivers the extensive control set necessary to calibrate it to almost perfect levels of performance. As usual, LG includes a gamma selection control, 2- and 10-point white balance controls (with separate luminance adjustment), and a fully fleshed-out CMS for color tuning.
webOS 3.0 is still a great option for smart features.
As usual, LG's webOS platform is a delight to use. The neat, horizontal wedges along the screen and pre-installed apps combine with the Magic Remote's on-screen cursor to make for a fun, simple smart TV experience.
I checked my stats in Overwatch on the browser (which looks great thanks to the 4K resolution), watched 4K/UHD content on Netflix, and played a "TV billiards" video game all within the first hour of turning the TV on. My only complaint? Your TV is way too good at banking shots, LG.
What We Don't Like
The UH8500 TVs only have three HDMI 2.0 inputs.
While it's a small thing to complain about, I know some readers will have an issue if they aren't aware. Especially if you're going for the bigger 75-inch UH8500, and to some degree even the 65-inch model, the inclusion of only three HDMI inputs feels like an oversight.
While currently there's really only a couple of cases where you'd even need an HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2-compatible, such as for a 4K Blu-ray player, that's going to change quickly. Both Microsoft and Sony have announced more powerful versions of their respective Xbox One and PlayStation 4 video game consoles that support at least 4K, and in some cases HDR output, as well as 4K Blu-ray playback.
The UH8500 has poor overall contrast and black levels.
While HDR playback understandably puts a heavy emphasis on luminance (brightness)—often expressed in "nits" these days—as well as expanded and more vivid color saturation, black (minimum luminance) level and overall contrast are still very important to overall picture quality.
Considering that the UH8500 is an edge-lit display and uses an IPS panel, I went into the review not expecting great black levels. Unfortunately, my expectations proved to be true. At its best, the UH8500 exhibited a black level of 0.086 (on an unrealistically advantageous 90% black window) and, at its worst, 0.23 against the standard ANSI checkerboard.
The UH8500 exhibits some bad uniformity/dirty screen effect.
Something I couldn't help notice repeatedly was whenever the screen displayed a middle to low ABL (average brightness level), the dimmer LEDs behind the screen didn't always exhibit flawless uniformity.
Especially during the early desert travel scenes in Mad Max where large portions of the screen are blue sky, I noticed an aberration in the backlight/phosphor coating usually called "dirty screen effect," or DSE. While it was admittedly very mild, the result is patches or streaks of vertical space that are slightly darker than other areas, which (once you're aware of it) can be a bit distracting.
This isn't an uncommon problem with edge-lit LED TVs, however, but it's worth noting that it was visible even when watching the "HDR Bright" mode, where the LEDs are considerably brighter than the average TV during such a scene. This was also a fresh, out-of-the-box assessment, and is an issue that's known to improve dramatically as the TV's phosphors even out.
The UH8500's motion processing during Blu-rays could be better.
Like most modern, premium TVs, the UH8500 has a 120 Hz refresh rate, enabling it to play 4K at 60 Hz and to come equipped with motion assistance like de-blur, de-judder, and backlight scanning. Typically, 120 Hz TVs like the UH8500 handle Blu-ray content better than their 60 Hz counterparts.
However, while watching an HDR Blu-ray, I couldn't help notice considerable blurring and lack of smoothness from this TV. It wasn't egregious, but it bothered me enough that I jumped into the menu to try out the motion assistance modes. I also noticed judder during horizontal panning while watching House of Cards in 4K. Frank Underwood demands to be seen clearly!
The good news is that you can alleviate excess blur via the TV's motion modes, but the pre-set modes are also a little aggressive, resulting in an overly smooth appearance at times. The motion assistance menu, called "TruMotion," contains settings for Smooth, Clear, Clear Plus, and User. I had the most luck with User, adjusting de-blur and de-judder separately.
The UH8500 has an okay backlight dimming system, but doesn't compare to FALD models.
Before the buzz of 4K and HDR, the big thing for LED TVs was "full-array local dimming," a Direct LED backlight with separate, controllable zones that could dim down when displaying shadows and brighten up when displaying highlights.
The UH8500 is an edge-lit model, as I've said, so while I appreciate that it has dimming options (called "LED Local Dimming" in the Picture Options menu), it doesn't stack up against more granular models with full-array local dimming.
On dark screens, the Magic Remote's cursor lights up very large swathes of the screen, and overall the dimming only does so much to boost the UH8500's black level and contrast. That said, it's still better to leave it on than turn it off, unless you're super picky about the occasional halo around bright objects on black backdrops.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—if you're more interested in High Dynamic Range than perfect dark-room performance.
There's no denying that the UH8500 is a great bright-room TV. It's amply bright and provides flashbang color saturation, especially in its HDR Bright Room or HDR Vivid modes. While it isn't as bright or colorful as the year's $6,000 flagship sets, it's also much more affordable.
Because it uses an IPS panel, the UH8500 is a great choice for families or larger groups of viewers to spread out around it. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the black levels/shadow performance to really pack a punch on movie night or in a dim room.
That said, if you've been drooling over the wide color gamut and high dynamic range of newer HDR-compatible sets, the UH8500 is a great choice. It's a sleek-looking TV with good smart features and the HDR10/Dolby Vision compatibility to make it ready for the content of the future, and we think it's priced very fairly for all it offers.
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