If you have a gutsy gaming PC or even a next-gen console, or if you watch a lot of movies on Blu-ray, there's a very real reason to buy a 4K TV. Native-resolution Ultra HD content looks amazing, but upscaling tech is getting good enough to make Full HD video look pretty damn good as well. But it's not necessarily the most expensive and high-end 4K TVs that are interesting me most at the moment.
There's one particular display out now that hits the perfect compromise between size, price and quality. It's small enough to make for a great computer monitor, it's large enough to serve as the main TV in a small apartment, its display is of a high enough standard to make movie watching and gaming equally fun, and it's affordable enough for everyone to buy. LG's new 40-inch UB800T Ultra HD TV is just $949 at RRP — and you can find it even cheaper if you look around.
What Is It?
- Screen Size: 40-inch
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9 widescreen
- Resolution: 3840x2160
- Inputs: 3x HDMI 2.0, 2x USB 2.0, USB 3.0, composite, component A/V, Wi-Fi, Ethernet
- Outputs: 3.5mm analog audio, optical digital audio
- Smart TV: Yes
The $949 40UB800T is LG's cheapest Ultra HD TV. It's a 40-inch LED edge-lit LCD panel — that's 102 centimetres of screen real estate from corner to corner diagonally — with a 100Hz refresh rate. Being a UHD TV, it has a native resolution of 3840x2160 pixels, four times the pixel density of an equivalent 1080p Full HD screen.
In the photo at the top of this article, you'll see the LG 40UB800T in its natural environment — on my review desk, surrounded by some nice speakers, a gaming PC and a PS4. This is where it screams to be used — for some PC productivity courtesy of that high-res screen, some Ultra HD PC gaming, some PlayStation gaming, and the occasional Blu-ray. It's a screen that can serve perfectly well as a monitor for your computer and as a beautiful cinematic display.
Despite its low price and its low placement within LG's product lineup, the UB800T doesn't miss out on all the bells and whistles (a la the Panasonic A430A). You still get a Magic Remote, control via your smartphone on the LG TV Remote app, you still get integrated Wi-Fi and Smart TV and Miracast wireless display streaming.
As designs go, the UB800T doesn't stand out from the crowd of other low- to mid-range LG LED TVs. Its equally skinny top, left and right bezels are finished in a simple satin black plastic, while the slightly thicker lower bezel has an additional curved strip further down with a central LG logo on a slight bulge. The two legs on the extreme outer edge of the UB800T's chassis individually attach to the rear, with two Phillips screws connecting each foot to its vertical stem, which themselves attach to the TV with two screws each.
For external inputs and onboard outputs, the LG 40UB800T sits in the middle of the road. It has three HDCP 2.2-compatible HDMI 2.0 ports, capable of 3840x2160 pixels resolution at a 60Hz refresh rate, along with breakout inputs for both component and composite A/V. 3.5mm analog audio input is joined by SP/DIF optical audio output, and external media comes in courtesy of the aforementioned Wi-Fi or wired LAN port, or one of the two USB 2.0 or single USB 3.0 ports. Along with a digital TV antenna jack, of course.
What Is It Good At?
Being an Ultra HD TV, the LG 40UB800T looks just as good as you'd expect when it's fed a native 3840x2160 pixel video source through its HDMI 2.0 inputs. I started off extremely sceptical of the everyday advantages of 4K, but when you're displaying a 4K native video or computer game, it looks crisp. It's that same feeling of seeing a Retina display iPhone for the first time, making that jump from decent pixel density to insane levels. Resolution isn't even the most important aspect of a TV's picture quality — outright contrast, saturation, white balance and sharpness are arguably more important — but it certainly does help, and the 40UB800T has it in spades.
Similarly, a high quality 1080p video source — that is, a nice clean Blu-ray transfer like The Art Of Flight or Frozen or Samsara, or a new and visually gifted title for the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One like Destiny or even a PC game running at 1080p on a mid-range gaming machine rather than a high-end one — looks great when being displayed through the 40UB800T's internal upscaler. Said upscaler hits a good compromise between aggressive edge sharpening and smooth blurring to make sure that your Full HD sources look just right.
Whether you're supplying native 4K or upscaled video, the LCD panel of the LG 40UB800T is better than any sub-$1000 TV has any right to be. It's glossy, so you'll have to deal with incidental reflections if you're using it in daylight, but its static contrast ratio is good enough that you get deep blacks alongside appreciably bright whites, with an excellent range of gradation in between the two. Colours are vibrant without being completely overblown, although there's a slight bias towards a blue colour cast. Sharpness is a little high straight out of the box, but once you back it off a little you're presented with an image that genuinely looks good and that flatters the high quality content presented on it.t
The UB800T has a good amount of display adjustment hidden away in its straightforward onscreen menu system, too. You can fiddle with white balance, colour saturation, contrast, tint, brightness, sharpening, and the severity of the onboard 100Hz frame rate interpolation. Everything is straightforward, and there's a fair bit you can do to improve the 40UB800T's image if you so care to calibrate it. It looks good out of the box, of course, but if you're a stickler you can make some incremental improvements.
LG touts the 40UB800T as a gaming display, and they couldn't be more right. Stick it in its Game mode, which disables the majority of the image processing — but that crucially doesn't ruin the Ultra HD upscaling — and you'll get a TV with very low input lag. It's perfectly capable when it comes to twitch gaming on console and on PC, which was one of my biggest concerns before actually receiving one and testing it out. Laggy inputs can ruin a TV for gamers, and I am so pleased to report that the 40UB800T is a good performer in this respect.
This is a $949 TV. No, in fact, it's cheaper than that; I've seen it for sub-$800 street prices with just a cursory Google search, which is just crazy. Wait for Christmas sales and you might even find it cheaper. For less than $800, you get the most pixel-dense — and therefore most detailed — Ultra HD TV on the market, with integrated Smart TV features and Wi-Fi and a swathe of picture adjustment options. It's wasted on regular ol' broadcast digital TV; it excels with a high quality Blu-ray or next-gen console game like Destiny or an even more graphically blessed game like Far Cry 4 on PC.
What Is It Not Good At?
Being one of LG's cheapest TVs, and its cheapest Ultra HD TV by a pretty significant margin, the 40UB800T doesn't have the most recent of LG's Smart TV interfaces. It misses out on the beautiful WebOS TV GUI with all its multitasking and bright block colours and great range of integrated apps. Instead, you get the old NetCast 4.5 interface that gives you YouTube and a Web browser and all the standard gubbins, but that's about it.
That's a pity, because that inclusion of WebOS TV — although it would likely require a more powerful processor and would drive the price up — would honestly make this the perfect sub-$1000 TV in my book. Don't get me wrong, it's still at the top of my list, but it could be better. Similarly, it doesn't have 3D, and it doesn't have Dual Play (not that I'm a fan of that last one). Another caveat is that you don't actually get the regular ol' candybar remote control any more, only the Magic Motion Voice remote.
As with almost every edge-lit LED TV that I've seen, from the budget of the sub-$1000 UB800T up to much more premium $3000+ models, this display has some small incidence of torchlighting, where the LEDs at the screen's edge are slightly brighter than the reflected light towards the centre of the panel. To be honest, on my sample, it really was pretty minor, and you can't expect the world for the UB800T's genuinely bargain basement price, but the fact remains that you will get a more consistent image with an OLED or plasma or LED-backlit LCD TV.
The TV's speakers are adequate, but they aren't spectacular. They aren't necessarily a negative, but they aren't as excessively impressive for the price you pay as the 40-inch display. If you want good sound, you should hook up a pair of quality stereo speakers through the optical or analog audio outputs or invest in a good surround sound system. They have decent but unnoteworthy treble and not a great deal of bass — just fine for TV and occasional bouts of PS4, but you'll want something better for movies.
This is the most minor of gripes, because I really do like them, but the fact that the UB800T's feet have two segments — both a ball and a heel, if you catch my drift — makes the TV a little harder to push towards the absolute back of a desk or entertainment unit. You can't slide it back further than the rearmost part of its rear foot, and as such you can't push it flush with a wall. To be honest, I'm getting picky because there's really not that much that the 40UB800T does wrong, especially for the price you'll pay for it.
Should You Buy It?
The $949 LG 40UB800T, which actually started life with a $1149 price tag attached to it, can be found for less than $800 if you take a few seconds to do a quick Google price search. That's an amazing price for the panel that you're getting, for the quality of the Ultra HD display and its colour reproduction and its adjustability. It's a truly up-to-date TV, apart from its decent but not groundbreaking Smart TV features and a few notable but relatively unimportant omissions.
What impresses me most is just how no-bullshit this TV is. It has an impressively detailed 110dpi 3840x2160 pixel resolution but doesn't make a song and dance about it; it has most of the visual features of significantly more expensive TVs available to adjust if you so desire but looks perfectly fine straight out of the box. You can use its Smart features or leave them entirely alone and pretend it's an oversized PC monitor. What it is is versatile.
There is the occasional rare moment in this job where you come across a genuinely exciting piece of technology. The LG UB800T is one of those devices — it just gets things right, but you don't have to spend excessively for the privilege. I'll admit I've been excited about this 40-inch display since it was first introduced, because I'm actually in the market for a screen that can serve double duty as a PC gaming monitor and for playing PS4. But the 40UB800T impressed me, and continues to impress me as I write about it.
I'm going to buy one. That's just about the strongest endorsement I can give.