LG’s 2017 OLED TVs: Australian Review

LG’s 2017 OLED TVs: Australian Review
Image: Supplied

LG (currently) has the monopoly on OLED screens, and for good reason – the technology is notoriously expensive and difficult to engineer. But the results? Genuinely the closest you will get to a high-quality cinema experience in the home.

But after spending the night with LG’s latest OLED range, I’d say it’s even better.

What sets OLED apart is the way the screen is lit – and how it’s not. Each pixel is self-lighting, which means it also has the ability to simply switch off. The black you are seeing on the screen, at any point, frame by frame, is a legitimate absence of light.

OLED screens are capable of showing, literally, a billion colours. This is enhanced further by a partnership with Dolby (both vision, and audio), which it calls “Cinema HDR on your TV”.

“HDR has forced us to rethink what we mean by the colour palette,” Dolby’s VP of Future Technology, Pat Griffiths, told Gizmodo.

In Dolby cinemas (we only have Atmos for sound, not visual in Australia, unfortunately) Dolby’s laser projectors have a million to one contrast ratio. When projecting black, you can put your hand in front of the screen and it won’t cast a shadow – because it (tell me if this sounds familiar) turns those sections off. But it’s not just the blacks, it’s the colours, it’s the contrast. Dolby Vision enables the levels to be adjusted on a frame by frame basis if needed – but mostly it’s done scene by scene.

Active HDR is available for a range of formats – from Dolby Vision (frame by frame mastering, processed using the original dynamic metadata) to HDR10 (a single master, processed by inserting dynamic data with existing static metadata) and HLG (broadcast only with no metadata or mastering, processed by inserting dynamic data). In the case of SDR content, enhanced contrast ration means a “HDR effect” is recreated.

As for sound, Dolby Atmos strikes again. Every sound in Dolby Atmos exists as an individual object that can be placed anywhere in the room. Built-in speakers on the G7 and M7 models have front speakers on the bottom, to avoid the sound distortion that usually occurs with downward-facing speakers.

Just the bare stats, please

No, that’s not a typo. The 65-inch W7 OLED, the one that stole my heart on this fateful night, will set you and I back $13,499. Someone tell our Editor, Campbell Simpson, that I need a raise.

What’s it good at?

TL;DR version? Looking incredible, in every possible way. That includes the ability to be mounted to a window. Check this out.

The “wallpaper” model in particular, as the name suggests, is incredibly thin.

One of the most impressive qualities of OLED, and realistically its main selling point, is the way it displays black. Or rather, doesn’t.

The 2016 OLED models still have issues in darker scenes with grayscale, though. The 2017 models have addressed this partly by amping up the processing power, and partly by applying a “de-contour” filter that works to remove noisy areas and enhance the clarity of darker scenes. Inverse tone mapping is used to correct colour and enhance highlights, creating what LG have dubbed a “punch effect”. It works.

Conversely, bright scenes can be better dealt with by dimming individual pixels. You know that “halo” effect that occurs with LCD LED-lit screens during scenes like explosions? That’s not an issue on the OLED, because there’s no bleed of light into the surrounding pixels. If they need to be black, they simply switch off. Overall brightness has been improved, too – by upping the peak luminance by 25 per cent.

The OS is super easy to navigate. I’d say the simplest I’ve used. It basically treats every feature like a traditional channel. Netflix, Stan, Web Browser – and this is further helped along by the Smart Remote, that has programmable “hot keys” for fast access to your most commonly used channels. And you don’t need to type to search, there’s a mic in the remote you can just speak into. We’re yet to test it with thick Scottish accents like our Gizmodo overlord Mark Serrels’, but it worked well with my bogan one.

Oh, and this is also the first time I’ve seen a TV compatible with 360 video – controlling the vision with the remote. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time it’s been done, and it does it well.

Another feature that’s new to the OS is zoom recording – last year you could zoom in on Live TV, now you can record it as well – and it works like it says on the box.

What’s it not good at?

Straight up, affordability is an issue that’s hard to overlook. This will likely improve in years to come, when LG isn’t the only OLED manufacturer, but for now it’s a pretty hefty price for the average consumer.

Historically, OLEDs have been, for lack of a better term, pretty garbage at maintaining that impressive visual quality in brightly lit rooms, and at angles rather than straight on. There was also a slightly red tinge to the blacks at certain angles, especially in broad daylight. It was particularly obvious around the bezel.

The 2017 OLED models have a “Neutral Black” polariser added to the anti-reflection film in order to reduce this. And while it is a huge improvement, it’s not perfect. You’re still going to see some reflections, because, well, you’re not staring into the deep void of space.

Not all content will support Dolby Vision. A fair bit will be, though – of the streaming services available locally Amazon is on board as so is Netflix. Neil Hunt (Netflix’s Chief Product Officer) last week confirmed a commitment to create all new original content in Dolby Vision.

For now, you’ll only be able to watch Chef’s Table France, Hibana Spark, Knights of Sidonia, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Marco Polo, The OA, The Do-Over and The Ridiculous 6. Dolby also confirmed Warner Bros, Sony, Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount and Universal are all using Dolby Vision for home entertainment as well as cinematic releases.

Lacking a separate dedicated soundbar, the Dobly Atmos audio is not as impressive. I compared both, and the “sound from anywhere around your room” claim falls a little short. To obtain the full effect, you’re really going to need to use a sound system rather than rely on the buil-in speakers.

Should you buy one?

If it’s within your budget, yes, please, absolutely – and invite me over to join you on your next Netflix binge. In fact, you should buy Samsung’s latest QLED as well so we can do a side-by side comparison.

Seriously, though – having sat in front of this simply stunning television range for as long as I did watching Mad Max: Fury Road (explosions!), Gravity (space scenes are so good with OLED) and Beastmaster (I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, I’ll admit) it’s incredibly difficult not to completely fangirl over it.

The difference between OLED and Super UHD HDR10 is huge. Hell, even the difference between 2016 OLED and 2017 OLED is huge. Every issue has been addressed, and it’s really only a matter of time (and competition) before OLED becomes standard. LG isn’t focusing on UHD after this – it is putting all of it’s efforts into OLED because the quality difference is just so vast.

If having the best picture quality in a unit that looks gorgeous in the home is high on your list of importance features to look for in a new (investment level) TV, you really can’t go past it. You just might need to win Lotto to get one.