When LG revealed the pricing and availability of the 65EC9700 during the CEDIA EXPO in Denver, I got my first look at this TV under the mixed lighting of the company's expo booth. While I can't say for certain until we get it into the lab, I'm willing to bet that it's one of the most formidable displays in the world right now.
Motion artifacts? Sure. But you can't see them.
As a panel technology, OLED (Organic LED) has a lot going for it. Much like a plasma TV, OLED pixels turn on and off individually from one another, lending them never-before-seen luminance and black level combinations. Likewise, they're capable of incredibly saturated, vibrant color that puts almost any TV before 1998 to shame. But that's not what's new here—it's the introduction of 4K resolution that's exciting.
The 65-inch EC9700 boasts the same great black levels and color fidelity we now expect from OLED TVs, but on a stage that's 3,840 x 2,160 pixels wide. I stood about a foot-and-a-half from the screen, and couldn't make out the presence of pixels, one huge advantage of 4K resolution.
OLED isn't perfect, though. One notable drawback—forgive us, but this gets really geeky for a minute—is a function called auto brightness limiting (ABL), in which luminance drops in negative correlation as more of the screen is filled with light. While ABL is a necessary evil for these kinds of displays, I didn't notice aggressive dimming or brightening as the EC9700 changed from scene to scene. While this might have been careful content selection on LG's part, I'm hoping the engineers have developed an approach to ABL that complements when human eyes see luminance shifts.
Like other OLEDs, the 65-inch EC9700 boasts terrific viewing from every angle. Because the OLED panel is much closer to the screen than in LCD TVs, it's a much more effusive light engine. This means you can watch from huge off-angles—almost perpendicular—and still get a reliably good picture quality.
If there's been a thorn in OLED's paw so far, it's been an inability to smoothly render motion sequences. In that regard, plasma TVs have a leg-up on regular Full HD OLED TVs—but now that 4K OLED is here, it's a new ballgame. Curiously, the 65EC9700 still wields a 60 Hz refresh rate, so from a technical standpoint it makes no improvements upon motion performance. Because it's 4K, however, the pixels are so small that most motion artifacts are simply invisible unless you're really searching for them (which I was). With 75% smaller pixels, the EC9700's motion artifacts are 75% less visible.
Last but certainly not least, the EC9700 boasts a native color space that's wider than traditional HDTV color. In fact, the added color saturation is the natural emission of the EC9700's colored phosphors, so there's nothing artificial about its color palette. Sweeping scenes of the grand canyon, for instance, impressed me with the richness of reds, oranges, and yellows. When I turned the extra color off, the traditional color looked flat and almost lifeless by comparison.
Thin. Curved. What's new?
As far as OLED looks go, the 65-inch EC9700 doesn't break any molds. It's still insanely thin at its edges and subtly curved, with utility elements like ports and controls hidden on the back of the panel. The EC9700 does, at least, offer up a new stand: a wide metallic oval that balances the panel while dominating minimal surface space.
Ports options include four HDMI inputs, three USB, an RS-232c control jack, optical audio out, and composite/component/coaxial connections for older devices or cable/antenna hookups. Speakers hidden within the lower quarter of the screen provide four-channel 40-watt audio. Though I didn't get a chance to listen to the EC9700 on the show floor, this is roughly twice the speaker power of most TVs.
I flipped briefly through the EC9700's menu software, and while I wasn't surprised by what I found, I wasn't disappointed either. The TV still wields LG's impressive webOS platform, and the menu software contains all of the usual picture modes and adjustments we've come to expect. I didn't spy controls for color management or white balance, but I'm sure they'll make it into the final version.
Stand aside Halloween, October has a new holiday
When the 65-inch EC9700 hits the US market next month, it's going to cause a buzz. If you're a videophile, home theater lover, or just a fan of moving pictures on big screens, the onset of 4K OLED displays should have you very excited. OLED TVs are already the coming kings of home theaters everywhere—the addition of 4K resolution pushes them over the top. Previously distracting motion artifacts are much, much harder to perceive, which means we're ever closer to eliminating OLED's final picture quality hurdle.
Throw in the laudable webOS platform, and the $9,999 price tag is a little easier to swallow, but it's still a ridiculous amount of money for most people. On the other hand, the price of last year's OLEDs dropped over 50% in less than a year, so there's definitely hope for a more affordable future.
Meet the tester
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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