LG Signature OLED65W7P OLED Ultra HDTV Review


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $8,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Jaw-dropping black level and contrast
Wide viewing angle
Thin, thin, thin. And light
Minus
Expensive
Must be wall-mounted

THE VERDICT
We could argue with the mandatory inclusion of an outboard soundbar, the lack of a stand-mount option, and a lower (but still perfectly satisfactory) peak brightness for HDR than the best of the LCD competition provides. But it’s hard to imagine that any other 65-inch Ultra HDTV in 2017 will offer overall superior performance, or a more impressive aesthetic, than the best LCD competition.

Dateline: March 2017. Along with several other bit-drenched members of the audio/video press, we’ve been brought to San Francisco for a day with LG. The events will include a briefing on the company’s Ultra HDTV lineup for 2017, a visit to Dolby headquarters for the latest pitch on Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR), and several hours of hands-on experience with the 65-inch OLED65W7P, the smaller of the two new 2017 OLED models in LG’s flagship Signature series. (A 77-inch version should be available later this year; no price had been announced as we went to press, but if that’s your ticket, bring money.)

Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of late winter weather, I spent a delightful 30 hours at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, waiting for a new connecting flight to San Francisco. Fortunately, I arrived in time to join Editor-in-Chief Rob Sabin for the hands-on session with the OLED65W7P.

Keep in mind that what you’ll read here is based on roughly five hours with the set—far less than the weeks I generally prefer in the privacy of my own facilities. If you wonder why we don’t provide this or that level of detail here, that’s why. We couldn’t test everything. And as I write, there’s no comprehensive owner’s manual available on LG’s website, which might have offered more in-depth information. But LG left us to work in privacy, and company representatives were available to answer questions if needed. We also had a good range of test equipment—some provided by LG, some brought to the event by us.

I also brought along several regular and Ultra HD Blu-rays. LG provided a limited range of Dolby Vision HDR material on a USB flash drive. (All UHD Blu-rays available as of March 2017 have been encoded in the HDR10 format only.)

As we’ve noted frequently, OLED TVs are very different from the LCD sets that occupy 99 percent of the current HDTV and Ultra HDTV landscape. Today, nearly all LCD TVs are called, confusingly, LED TVs. Technically speaking, they’re nothing of the sort. The pixels that produce the picture on such sets are LCDs. The LEDs perform the backlighting that’s required to illuminate the LCD pixels. OLEDs, however, both serve as the individual pixels and generate their own illumination. And they can be lit up or shut down quickly—fast enough to allow them to go dark when the signal demands it.

2017 Upgrades
LG noted several technical updates for their 2017 OLED sets. To begin, for all models they have added a “Neutral Black Polarizer” to the anti-reflection film on the front of the screen, said to both further reduce the effect of ambient light and remove a slight purplish tint that existed in previous models. In addition, and critically, a combination of some panel retooling and some work on the video processing has produced a much smoother transition from total black to the darkest grays. Prior till now, the smallest jump out of black took things too bright, but the finer transition in the new models means better near-black rendering of shadow details and fewer banding artifacts. Noise has been reduced in the dark areas of the image as well.

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At the other end of the luminance scale, while OLED displays remain inherently less bright than reference-level LED-backlit LCD sets, LG claims that their 2017 OLED TVs are 25 percent brighter than their 2016 models. Our measurements indicated that the improved HDR brightness over LG’s 65-inch OLED65E6P (a 2016 model that we reviewed in our February/March 2017 issue) was closer to 20 percent than 25 percent, though measured using an 18 percent white window; LG may claim more based on a different window size used for their measurements, and in any event, the set would likely be capable of higher peak brightness with smaller white areas as might be found in a highlight in actual content. Visually, I found this change, while certainly in the right direction, to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. But while higher peak brightness will still win in a quick showroom shootout, there’s a lot more than that to a great picture.

All of LG’s new Ultra HD sets are fully compatible with the two major forms of HDR: HDR10 (uses static metadata, which remains constant throughout the program) and Dolby Vision (uses dynamic metadata, altered as needed from scene to scene or even from shot to shot). Upgrades, when they become needed, are promised for two other HDR formats: Hybrid Log-Gamma, or HLG (no metadata, proposed for future HDR broadcasting where it offers advantages, particularly for on-the-fly material like sports), and Technicolor HDR (no metadata, and like HLG, more a future format than a current one).

In a new twist, for HDR10 (and, when it becomes available, HLG), the new LG sets perform their own frame-by-frame analysis to create and add an equivalent of dynamic HDR metadata into the source’s static (or, in the case of HLG, non-existent) metadata. LG is calling this Active HDR and argues that it improves highlight detection, contrast enhancement, color correction, grayscale performance, and color saturation. Since there appears to be no way to shut it off, there was no way for us to specifically test these claims. But for the first time, this approach is also applied to the sets’ HDR Effect mode intended to make standard dynamic range content look more like HDR, delivering a more convincing effect than we’ve seen for this mode in past models, which only pushed the TV into different picture settings without doing any analysis of the signal.

517lgbigs.side.jpgFeatures
LG has stopped making curved TVs. But the decidedly flat 65W7P is something different entirely. Dubbed a “wallpaper” TV, it is immediately recognizable by the screen’s astonishing thinness (about 3.8mm, or 0.15 inch) and the fact that the screen must be wall-mounted; no stand is provided or available. To mount the 16.8-pound screen, you first secure a (provided) steel plate to a flat wall. Two round discs protruding from the plate slip into recessed holes at the top of the screen, which, along with magnets embedded in the screen’s rear surface, keep it suspended and tight to the wall. To impress your friends, you can literally peel either of the lower corners of the flexible screen right off the wall and let it snap back into place! With the screen and mounting hardware combined, the front of the screen fits a mere 4mm out from the wall

One disadvantage to this setup is that there’s no way to rotate the screen to aim it at an off-center viewing seat, as you might do with a rotatable stand or a more conventional (though far deeper) wall mount. That said, OLED TVs (unlike many LCD sets) retain their picture quality from virtually any viewing position, on or off center.

Of course, the screen needs additional video circuitry to operate—not to mention a power supply, a place for source connections, and accompanying speakers. So, the 65W7P comes with an outboard soundbar that contains all that. It links to the set via a thin, flat ribbon cable, which carries the processed picture signal and power to the screen. The soundbar gets placed on some sort of surface beneath the screen, so the cable must be run inside the wall or otherwise hidden within a surface-mounted wire channel of some sort. Be advised that the cable, according to trade reports, will not pass most electrical codes for an in-wall run without the addition of conduit. Presumably, if you’re paying for an $8,000 wall-mounted TV, you’ll be engaging an installer who can perform the required tasks.

The soundbar is said to be Atmos-capable, but not in the traditional sense you might think. LG calls it a 4.2 system, designating four main-channel speakers and two integrated subwoofers, but none of the speakers discretely and solely reproduce Atmos height effects. Two upfiring speaker pods, one each at the left and right of the bar, do mechanically rise when the TV is powered up. (I half expected a miniature Princess Leia to pop out of one of them, pleading, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”) These combine with a single forward-firing driver for each channel and the two bass drivers. Multichannel Atmos soundtracks are interpreted by the Dolby renderer inside, and the forward- and upfiring drivers are tasked with some mixture of channel content to deliver an Atmos-like effect. In San Francisco, Dolby demo’d the bar for the press at their own headquarters and declared the OLED65W7P to be the first TV to include Dolby Atmos sound. While that’s something of a stretch by enthusiast standards, the soundbar did produce a wide, full sound—better than that of any flatscreen TV I’ve heard, but certainly nothing like what a full-tilt, discrete Atmos system can do.

All of the HDMI inputs (four are provided) are HDMI 2.0a with HDCP 2.2, and they can decode Ultra HD sources using either the HEVC (H.265) or VP9 video compression codec. While H.265 is used almost universally on Ultra HD Blu-rays, some streaming content uses VP9. LG no longer supports 3D, which will be a disappointment for some fans, since the company’s passive-glasses rendering of the format was often impressive. But it appears that all of the major TV makers have now dropped 3D.

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For the most part, the OLED65W7P offers the same video controls that populated LG’s 2016 sets. There’s an assortment of picture modes—though for standard dynamic range (SDR), LG recommended sticking with either the Cinema mode or the one we used, ISF Expert (Dark Room). These offer the widest range of setup adjustments.

With HDR10 content, a brief “HDR” bug flashes in the upper right-hand corner of the picture and five HDR10 picture modes are made available. The option we used was HDR Cinema, which provided a wide range of adjustments, including White Balance controls and a color management system (CMS). A Dolby Vision source also briefly displays a Dolby Vision bug in the corner of the screen. Here, you get three different picture modes: Movie Dark (User), Movie Bright (User), and Vivid. The first two have full CMS adjustments but only several fixed Color Temperature selections, with no adjustable White Balance controls. 

LG’s Magic Remote (shaped more like a standard wand remote here than the rounded, pointed design of year’s past) wirelessly controls an onscreen cursor that you position by moving the remote until the cursor is on the desired adjustment. We didn’t notice significant amounts of the cursor drift that, for me, plagued earlier versions of this remote, but our time with the set was perhaps too short for this to become evident. We also didn’t have time to mess with the remote’s voice-activation feature.

LG is now up to webOS 3.5 in smart TV features (last year’s sets were webOS 3.0). Since our main goal was to check out the set’s basic performance, we had no time to explore these features. But the basic interface, with a horizontal scrolling bar that provides access to your favorite streaming services and the set’s input selections remains the same. The set can do all of the usual activities expected of a smart TV, such as wireless streaming from the most popular sites and playback of videos, photos, and music from your home network or its USB media player.

COMPANY INFO
LG
(800) 243-0000
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COMMENTS
trynberg's picture

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the review. Does this set actually have better picture quality than the less expensive 2017 LG sets or is the price mostly due to form factor?