LG 65UF9500 LCD Ultra HDTV Review Page 2

In more critical 1080p Blu-ray viewing, I was consistently pleased. Draft Day, an Ivan Reitman drama that follows an NFL general manager as he ticks down the hours preceding the annual player draft, was an overlooked sleeper last year in more ways than one. Put aside for a moment the unprecedented full cooperation of the NFL that resulted in a (so it’s said) realistic and entertaining look at a side of the sport that we never see. Put aside, too, the wonderful cast and the suspenseful, clock-driven story. Beyond all that, this movie just looks marvelous. And the solid production values benefit from an excellent Blu-ray transfer, which provides beautiful, well-lit interior and exterior shots that include subtly different fleshtones, natural-wood and green-field surfaces, and recognizable team colors in the clothing and décor. It’s great fodder for checking color accuracy, detail, and contrast in scenes of middle-to-high average brightness.

In the opening scene, Cleveland Browns GM Sonny Weaver (Kevin Costner) dresses in the morning in white-shirt business attire and then stands beside a white Camaro being driven off by his girlfriend/co-worker Ali (Jennifer Garner). I was struck by the lack of any tint toward blue or red in both his shirt and the car’s body—a good sign that the set was well dialed in to the neutral D65 white point and held there at different brightness levels. Later on, in the many close-ups of Sonny’s and Ali’s faces as they intimately discuss the day’s events in various locations (and lighting) around the Browns’ home office, it remained easy to discern the difference between Costner’s tanned, ruddy complexion and Garner’s fairer, smoother skin. Ditto among the wide variety of fleshtones offered by the rest of the team’s staff, including that of the head coach, played by a pale-skinned Denis Leary.

In another scene, we get a long look at a row of natural oak cubbies in the Browns’ locker room, each garnished with a hanging orange helmet on a hook—not orange-red, as some sets might push it, but true orange. Likewise, shots taken in the Seattle Seahawks facilities reproduced the familiar logo treatment of navy blue, fluorescent green, and gray. And the neon façade of Radio City Music Hall, the site of the NFL Draft and a building I’ve walked by literally hundreds of times during both day and night, also looked true.

Draft Day further proved good for testing the LG’s Wide color gamut setting. We recommend watching content in its native gamut, which means Rec. 709 today, lest the set’s derived “upmix” turn things cartoonish and inaccurate. But on a few scenes that involved reproduction of red, I got a little taste of what an expanded gamut might look like when we get real P3 content and TVs that can properly recoginze it. In one of those scenes, Sonny calls the coach of the University of Wisconsin football team and catches him on the practice field, donning his red team cap. I hadn’t realized this red was leaning too heavily toward orange until I flipped on the Wide gamut option, which dramatically shifted it to a deeper and clearly more natural red that I verified later (as best I could via Web images on my computer) as probably being the more accurate. However, when I returned to the locker room scene mentioned earlier, the Wide gamut setting pushed the Browns’ helmets away from their natural orange and into red territory, and it turned a previously readable red neon Exit sign in the background into a glowing red spotlight. I ultimately left gamut at its Standard setting, but I’m juiced now to see what happens when we get UHD content that can tell our displays exactly where and when to use these expanded color capabilities.

The calibrated set also displayed what I’d call good highlight brightness until I started playing with the Dynamic Contrast settings, which seemed to make the Ultra Luminance capabilities more obvious. Setting this control to High or Medium noticeably boosted the highlights, adding an attractive punch to the picture and some richness to blacks and letterbox bars in subdued (not dark) ambient light viewing. However, as with other dynamic contrast schemes I’ve seen, it did so at the loss of some shadow detail and introduced modest blooming on facial highlights that could make those areas look a little pasty. The Low setting tempered these effects but didn’t boost the highlights nearly as much as the other settings did. I ultimately left Dynamic Contrast off for my evaluations, but less critical viewers might find the extra punch worth the sacrifice.

Speaking of blacks and shadow detail, it was no surprise to me that, together, those performance traits turned out to be the LG’s Achilles’ heel. Local dimming for any edge-lit backlight is very tricky, though we’ve seen some excellent executions in late-generation LCD sets that can greatly minimize halo effects while optimizing overall black levels. On the default Medium local dimming setting that I eventually stayed with for most content, this one worked well enough with mid-to-high-brightness scenes viewed in darkness or modest ambient light. Extraction of shadow detail was generally excellent, too. But the LG had trouble delivering deep blacks on dark scenes, and it displayed more haloing and inconsistent backlighting around bright objects on dark backgrounds than I’ve seen with top-end LCD sets. I ran my reference Panasonic ST60 plasma (a display technology with self-emitting pixels) alongside the 65UF9500, displaying the same content for most of my Blu-ray demos. On the active (non-letterbox) portion of the image, the LG went punch for punch through Draft Day, and even much of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, an overall dark movie. But the classic torture scenes in Potter (chapter 11) revealed the set’s relatively poor native blacks, and letterbox bars were consistently more visible than I’d prefer, sometimes displaying stray backlight streaking on certain scenes.

On the plus side, detailed 1080p images from Draft Day and other discs scaled up crisply and cleanly to 4K on the set’s screen, with no obvious ringing or jaggy artifacts. I also looked at two native 4K movies downloaded to Sony’s FMP-X10 hard drive player and checked them against their Blu-ray counterparts, using matched calibrations on the HDMI 1 and 2 inputs and my Oppo BDP-103 delivering the BD version a few seconds ahead of the 4K to facilitate switching. From 9 feet away, the 4K version of The Patriot showed a subtle but definitely noticeable improvement in detail on longer shots (less so on close-ups), and it clearly delivered a more natural and convincing rendition of film grain that made the image look, well, more film-like. Differences were much harder to detect on the recently remastered Lawrence of Arabia, which was scanned in from the original assets at 8K and mastered at both 4K and 1080p for the two versions I was viewing here. Perhaps the benefit of moving to a 4K ecosystem is as much about the extra detail picked up in the capture of native 4K content as it is about the extra pixels in the viewing screen.

The LG came with two pair of passive polarized glasses, but its 3D rendition proved to be a disappointment. My 3D demos of discs—including Transformers: Age of Extinction, Coraline, and Avatar—looked engagingly bright and detailed, but minor to moderate ghosting was apparent in most scenes, despite adjustments to the set’s 3D controls. I could dial in any individual scene if I froze the image, but no one combination of settings (including Auto) sufficiently eliminated the crosstalk distortion.

Prime Perspective
As reviewed here, LG’s Prime series gets a lot of things right, including accurate out-of-box color on its ISF presets, an extraordinarily wide viewing window, an excellent user interface and smart TV platform, and solid build quality with classy industrial design. At the $2,800 list and street price it carried as we went to press in early October, the 65UF9500 is also a good value for a 65-inch TV of this quality. No, it won’t deliver the deep blacks with challenging dark-room content that you can get from today’s very best LCD Ultra HDTVs (or LG’s own OLEDs), and, as noted, it doesn’t offer the future-readiness for coded HDR or wide-gamut content being claimed by some models. But neither does it carry an uber-high price tag. If you’re in the market today for a finely crafted big-screen TV for day-to-day viewing that makes a great impression on the vast majority of content you can toss at it, all for an attractive price, the 65UF9500 should be on your short list.

LG Electronics

jnemesh's picture

For a similar price I would MUCH rather have the "SUHD" Samsung UN65JS8500. Better color, HDR, and hardware upgradable...just in case Hollywood isn't happy with HDCP 2.2 and goes to something different.