LG 65EG9600 4K OLED TV Review
Like a pure-bred, it's pricy, flashy, and a bit eccentric—but this 4K OLED looks awesome.
The LG 65EG9600 (MSRP $8,999) is a complex and interesting TV. 4K resolution aside, there's a mix of awesome-looking picture quality and befuddling quirks here, but pretty much all of it's wrapped up in the basic functionality of a new technology like OLED, rather than attributable to the specifics of LG's hardware and software.
In either case, taken at surface value the EG9600 looks straight-up awesome. Colors are super-vivid, bright, and accurate; contrast is best-in-class, hands down; and viewing angles are equally unrivaled. By most standards, this TV is the créme-de-la-créme of picture quality in 2015, and checks off the basics of picture quality—dynamic range, color fidelity, and resolution—with a big permanent marker.
On the other hand, it's not without some eccentricities, especially when it comes to out-of-the-box presentation and break-in period.
Calibrating an OLED is always an interesting experience, 4K or not. Like the EC9700 before it, the 65EG9600 tested with highly accurate colors/grayscale tones, a wide viewing angle, and massive contrast out of the box. I tested color accuracy (versus Rec.709 and DCI P3 standards) and measured against a standard 2.2 gamma and the newer (more difficult) BT.1886 standard.
And there's good news for you perfectionists! With a bit of patience and the right know-how, it isn't too difficult to calibrate the EG9600 to the traditional 40 fL/BT.1886 (~2.4 gamma) dark room standard. There is a trick to it, however, involving utilizing the proper APL while setting peak brightness, and setting LG's target luminance (in 20-pt) to the right parameter.
But, end of the day, all of the calibration controls (CMS, 2/20 pt grayscale, gamma slider) appear to work as they should—which hasn't always been the case in the past.
Below, you'll find LG's defaults for the ISF Expert 1 mode (left) and my final calibration settings (right). Note that the specifics of CMS/20-pt grayscale have been left out this time around—with a panel as sensitive as OLED, you likely won't get anywhere near the same result as me with the same settings.
Contrast ratio (a measure of the distance between a TV's brightest/darkest luminance production) is where OLEDs blow everything else out of the water. While LG's OLED TVs continue to fluctuate in brightness from model to model—the EG9600 being dimmer than the EC9700, but brighter than the EC9300—every OLED delivers stellar contrast that's miles ahead of their LED/LCD counterparts.
Measuring the defaults in ISF Expert 1 mode against a standard ANSI checkerboard pattern, I measured the usual OLED black level of 0.001 cd/m2 (the minimum reading on our LS-100 meter, and below the threshold of daytime vision) and a reference white of 132.10 cd/m2, which is plenty bright considering the ABL limitations imposed by the ANSI pattern (roughly 50% of the screen is lit).
It's worth mentioning that, while displaying smaller reference patterns (such as a 10% APL pattern), the EG9600 hit much higher luminance levels by default, reaching to 227.30 cd/m2 on a 10% window—and dropping to 99.26 cd/m2 on a 90% window. While this level of brightness limiting might be a bit much for very picky viewers, it's still improved compared to last year's EC9700 in terms of how visible it is during regular content scene shifts.
Another strong area for OLED TVs, viewing angle refers to how far from center you can watch the screen and get a good picture. We measure this by comparing contrast at 10° increments to the TV's head-on value. When the screen contrast drops below 50% of its original value, we consider that the extent of the TV's viewing angle.
Oddly, while the EG9600 performed very well here taken amongst all TV types, it actually offers up a slightly less flexible viewing cone than the previous OLEDs I've tested, all of which boasted ~180° (±89°) viewing angles. The EG9600 tested with a total viewing angle of 162°, or ±81° from the center to either side of the screen. This is still a terrific result, however.
Color accuracy is another area where the EG9600 performed slightly worse than last year's EC9700, though again by a small enough margin that it's almost negligible. As usual, the default color settings adhere to the Rec.709/HDTV color standards, and with no small degree of accuracy.
Where the EG9600 errs a bit is in its production of the blue primary: Blue is naturally a bit over-saturated and under-luminous. Using the TV's on-board CMS (Color Management System), I was able to make small improvements to the primary and secondary colors.
DCI-P3 Color Accuracy
The EG9600 is also capable of an "expanded" color setting, that takes advantage of the natural saturation/hue produced by the TV's OLED cells. This color space is more saturated (especially in green) than the default HDTV color space, but doesn't quite meet the requirements for DCI-P3, the likely candidate for upcoming Wide Color Gamut options in UHD Phase 2.
Grayscale & RGB Balance
Another area of excellence for the EG9600, "grayscale" refers to a TV's neutral tones such as gray, white, and black (to some extent). Because TVs use an additive color model, combining their three primary colors to produce grayscale elements, it can be easy for grayscale tones across different luminance steps to contain error. This error is measured in a collective called DeltaE (or dE), where a dE of 3 or less is considered ideal.
In the ISF Expert 1 picture mode, the EG9600 performed well right out of the box. I measured a total dE of 3.81, which isn't within the 3 or less ideal, but is a very good result for an uncalibrated TV. Using the TV's 2- and 20-point grayscale controls, I was able to reduce the dE to 0.78, which is well within the "visibly perfect" range.
Below are the individual results for the TV's primary color emphases within the grayscale, before and after calibration:
Gamma is an area where OLED TVs have struggled since their onset. Gamma is the measurement of luminance intervals between steps as a TV transitions from zero luminance (0 IRE) to maximum reference luminance (100 IRE). Typical gamma standards include 2.2, 2.3, and 2.4 for TVs—though in very bright rooms, 2.0 and 1.8 are sometimes utilized, too.
Out of the box, the EG9600 delivered an almost perfect 2.2 (normative lighting) gamma curve, but ended with 2.18 due to what appears to be an improperly set target luminance within the 20-pt white balance setting. During calibration, I was able to get the EG9600 very close to the BT.1886 HDTV gamma standard (since 2011). I ended with a mostly flat gamma of about 2.38.
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