For proof positive, look no further than the LG 65UH9500, the company's non-OLED 4K flagship for 2016. Though the company is obviously focused primarily on its OLED sets, the new UH9500 represents a serious effort to keep up with its rivals' best LCDs.
Think of it as a second-tier flagship. The UH9500 (MSRP yet to be announced) is a serious TV for viewers who are really serious about picture quality.
Right now, we don't know everything about this 65-inch UHD TV, but in both a private demonstration and on the CES show floor it proved impressive, to say the least.
Big, flat, and silver
Ladies and gentlemen, it's a CES miracle: a flat flagship TV! The only curve in sight is in the UH9500's stand, which contrasts nicely against the wafer-thin panel.
And when I say wafer-thin, I mean it—the UH9500's 65-inch panel almost disappears when viewed from the side. That thinness is easily its most striking feature. It's certainly a step up from last year's UF9500, which was an attractive TV in its own right.
It would appear as if silver is the color of choice for LG this year, since most of the TVs in the manufacturer's 2016 lineup are a brushed gunmetal color.
An emphasis on minimalism
This year, LG's approach to design places an emphasis on simplicity and form; these are products that, according to LG, are "inspired by essence." In terms of its TV lineup, this philosophy manifests in a distinct lack of "busyness"—these TVs have clean lines and a minimal amount of seams and ports.
The UH9500's stand is a medium-sized, curved bar that matches the color of the bezel. Like many of LG's 2015 TVs, the UH9500's bezel is narrow as can be. This is one of my favorite aspects of the LG offerings I reviewed last year; because there's not a lot of real estate surrounding the screen, the picture takes center stage.
If you take a look 'round back, you'll notice... nothing. Lots and lots of nothing. Most of this TV's ports are tucked away out of sight, leaving nothing but an attractive slab of brushed metal. Beneath that is a white compartment that houses all of the UH9500's components.
I've got to hand it to LG's TV designers: They set out to make a TV that married form and function without any aesthetic clutter, and they've succeeded. That is, of course, provided the design doesn't change significantly between now and when the UH9500 actually ships.
It ain't OLED, but it looks damn good.
TV makers are notoriously cagey when it comes to dishing on specs at trade shows, but there's plenty that we can deduce about the UH9500 based on its build.
For instance, the sheer thinness of the TV indicates that its panel is edge-lit. Edge-lit panels aren't the cream of the crop, but we've seen some high-end edge-lit TVs pull off excellent contrast and uniformity.
From the looks of it, the UH9500 seems to have avoided some of the usual pitfalls associated with edge-lit designs. For one thing, the black levels looked surprisingly deep—not an easy task when placed shoulder-to-shoulder with OLEDs. It certainly helped that the demo on display was specifically designed to illustrate the UH9500's contrast, but even taking the handpicked content into account, the picture was impressive.
Another thing that tends to hold edge-lit LCDs back is their oft-narrow viewing angles. If you're the type of person who wants to stick a big screen in your living room, it might be kind of a bummer when your house guests can't crowd around it and equally enjoy the same picture quality.
Thankfully, from what I was able to make out on the show floor, the UH9500's IPS panel sports a decent viewing angle. I didn't notice an immediate drop-off in contrast simply because I moved a couple of feet to the right or the left of head-on. We won't know how good the angles are until we get the UH9500 into our labs for testing, but to the naked eye, it seemed to comport itself well.
One reason why the UH9500 goes beyond previous LEDs is the inclusion of LG's "HDR Plus." Essentially, LG combined basic 4K High Dynamic Range technology with its own color-enhancement software. According to LG, the UH9500 hits over 90% of the DCI-P3 color space.
The UH9500 is also equipped with something called "True Black Control," which LG promises will enrich black levels and enhance detail. The end result is an HDR picture that isn't quite OLED-level, but still phenomenal in its own right.
Here's the bottom line: In general, 4K TVs look damn good, especially when they're playing proper UHD content intended to showcase their strengths. That said, I approached the UH9500 actively looking for the usual edge-lit LCD issues, but walked away impressed. It'll take a more thorough examination before we can know for sure, but after two viewings we've got high hopes.
A souped-up 4K LED
In truth, it's tough to give TVs at CES—even ones we get to see privately, off the show floor—anything more than a cursory examination. And even though we've seen just about every high-end TV on the market, eye-testing only gets us so far.
What I can say after my time with the UH9500 is that it seems to perform like a flagship TV ought to perform, even if there's almost no chance it'll match up to LG's premier OLED sets.
Still, the UH9500 looks remarkably good for an edge-lit LCD, especially when playing newer UHD content that pushes it to its limits. The inclusion of webOS 3.0 and HDR Plus, plus the TV's handsome design, catapults the 65-inch UH9500 towards the top of the "2016 TV's to look out for" list.
While it's certainly not going to be cheap, we expect it'll be significantly more affordable than LG's 2016 OLEDs simply by virtue of being an LCD. For shoppers ready to make the leap to 4K but balking at the price of 4K OLEDs, the 65-inch UH9500 is shaping up to be an appealing alternative.
Meet the testers
Senior Staff Writer@Reviewed
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.See all of Michael Desjardin's reviews
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