LG 84LM9600 LCD Ultra HDTV Page 2
I used an Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player for most of the bench and viewing tests here. Our video processing tests were performed, as always, with 480i, 1080i, or 1080p sources. The results include upconversion all the way to the set’s native 3840 x 2160. With this noted, the LG’s video processing was average. It failed the 2:2 SD test (many sets fail this) but did pass 2:2 HD. It failed the luma resolution test (1080p to 2160p), showing no lines on the highest-frequency vertical resolution pattern. But its performance on the HD MA (motion adaptive) test was arguably the best we’ve yet seen.
The set wouldn’t pass DTS or Dolby Digital audio in its full multichannel form from an external source at an HDMI input to the set’s TosLink digital output. The output you get from such a source is two-channel PCM. This limitation is common in the sets we’ve tested.
LG is one of the few manufacturers that use IPS (In-Plane Switching) LCD panels. These panels have one major benefit, superior (for LCD) off-axis viewing, and one significant downside, inferior contrast. Local dimming helps dramatically with the latter. As to the former, you can sit well off axis on this LG and still see a highly watchable picture, with little of the fading that’s obvious at as little as 20 degrees with most LCD sets. I checked out the LG at up to 45 degrees off center and saw nothing to complain about.
As mentioned earlier, you’ll want to use the LG’s local dimming on Low (maximum effect). In that setting, the black level is respectable though not state of the art. It’s comparable to a typical DLP projector, though noticeably lighter than the black depth offered by SXRD and LCOS projectors from, say, Sony and JVC (I chose projectors for comparison here because that’s the most common competition for a picture of this size).
When viewed in a darkened room (even a trace of room lighting will hide a less than perfect black level by reducing the overall contrast), the LG’s blacks, in the most difficult movie scenes, looked a bit grayish. Dark material never blended completely into the thin black screen frame, and the black bars on widescreen movies remained visible at all times.
Nevertheless, this was not distracting on most program material. Dark images with good internal contrast mostly looked fine—that is, when the blacks are mixed in with significant bright highlights, typical on most dark scenes.
But even with local dimming, the black uniformity wasn’t ideal. The sides and corners of the picture were lighter than the center. But this was tolerable on most material, and there was no sharply defined streaking at the top or bottom of the screen where the LED edge lighting is located.
There were white level uniformity issues, as well, with the brightness varying across the screen, resulting in well-defined horizontal and vertical bands on a full white field. This was not visible on most material but could be spotted on large swaths of bright white or color, such a clear blue sky—particularly when combined with a camera pan.
Nevertheless, most bright, colorful images looked superb on the 84LM9600. Post calibration, the color was spot-on visually and nearly so by measurement. Fleshtones were excellent, and apart from slightly oversaturated greens (rarely noticed on most sources), I had no complaints about the quality of the set’s color.
Likewise, the resolution on upconverted 1080p sources was hard to criticize. Early on in the testing, I thought I noticed just a bit of softness in some images. But comparisons to the same material played back on the only comparably large big-screen display currently available to us, a JVC DLA-X55R projector, showed little difference in visible detail. (This was not a side-by-side comparison; the two displays were at different locations. I used the JVC in its 2K mode, not its pseudo 4K setting. The screen was 96 inches wide versus the LG’s 73-inch width.)
I rarely spend significant time watching standard-definition (480i) DVDs these days, even though I still have several hundred in my collection. I did, however, watch parts of several well-transferred DVDs on the LG. Given that big screens never really favored DVDs (though we all thought they were amazing in 1997!), they all looked soft, though some looked better than others. And on one occasion, the set refused to lock onto 480i sources at all until I cycled it off and then on again. If you have a valued DVD collection, you might want to check out the LG to confirm that its DVD quality will satisfy you before you take the big plunge.
3D on Tap
By a significant margin, the most impressive thing about this LG, as with other 4K sets we’ve tested, is its 3D performance. It is, literally, spectacular. I’ve never seen 3D this good on any 2K set at home or (apart from sheer screen size) in any commercial 3D theater. The LG calibrated beautifully in 3D, after which its 3D color looked every bit as right and natural as it did in 2D.
The 3D resolution on the LG was similarly superb, with the sort of 3D detail that only 4K can deliver with passive glasses. And there was another plus as well. Passive 1080p 3D sets exhibit visible black lines across the screen, from top to bottom—likely an artifact of the special screen treatment required for passive-glasses 3D. Not here. The lines, if they exist at all, were not visible.
But it’s mainly the brightness on tap here that turns 3D from a slog through dark pictures into a compelling visual experience. I measured 19 foot-lamberts peak brightness through the 3D glasses. The blacks in 3D were at least comparable to the LG’s 2D blacks and perhaps even a bit better thanks to the dark 3D glasses.
All of the 3D Blu-rays I sampled—Despicable Me, Avatar, The Avengers, A Christmas Carol, and Oz the Great and Powerful—looked amazing, with no visible ghosting. I didn’t want to stop watching—a rarity for me on the dim 3D most HDTVs offer. If you’re a die-hard 3D fan, you’ll want to see this set. Even if it’s out of your price range, it will reset your expectations for state-of-the-art 3D.
My impressions of 4K so far, here and elsewhere, tell me that the jump from standard-definition DVD to high-definition Blu-ray, even if the latter is a mere 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, may have been far more significant in picture quality than the jump from 2K to native 4K is likely to be—at least on typical domestic sized sets.
But that’s still hard to say definitively at this point. Sources that provide true 4K Ultra HD resolution are still scarce. The only 4K material we had for this review was on a server that LG loaned to us—a total of less than 10 minutes of content.
Yes, that material did look superb. No question. And the LG did appear to do it justice. But without identical 2K versions of the 4K material on hand, and more of it, it was hard to judge just what benefits 4K offers that first-rate 2K does not—even on a set of this size, much less a smaller one. That, I’m afraid, is a question that awaits more 4K source material.
While its black level and uniformity issues gave pause considering the price, the LG 84LM9600 is, overall, a good performer. It’s a solid first 4K effort and did an impressive job with the limited 4K material available to us. And if you’re a 3D fan, you must at least check out this set to see just what your favorite 3D Blu-rays are capable of delivering. No 2K set we know of will do that.