(As published in TED mag@zine in 2016-07)
Before I begin, let’s start with the interesting history of the LG’s name. Back in 1958, the company was founded under the name Goldstar. This name was used all the way to the 1995 when Goldstar merged with Lucky Chemical, forming the name Lucky Goldstar, or LG to be short. After many corporate restructuring, the “Goldstar” part of Lucky Goldstar no longer exists. However, because of the brand recognition of “LG”, the name is kept but now LG does not stand for anything and with added slogan of “Life’s Good”.
I’ve never been a big fan of LG, actually. Yes their products are good for the money, but I’m not into “good for the money”. I need the products to actually be very good. Lucky for me, LG took my challenge and offered me the 55UH8500 Super UHD TV to be reviewed. From the specifications stand point, this TV has a great potential to be amazing. This TV is filled with features to the brim. Edgelit local dimming to produce the blackest level of black possible from an edgelit TV set, 4,000 Nits maximum brightness with Dolby Vision HDR technology, Quantum Dot LED system for a more accurate colour reproduction. IPS panel for the widest viewing angle possible from an LED edgelit display, near-P3 wide colour gamut, and 10-bit panel for the reproduction of billions of colours (instead of the regular 16 million on a regular 8-bit panel).
So how does it deliver the goods?
Let’s start with the assembly of the TV itself. I have assembled more than 40 TVs in the past year alone. To this date, LG wins the ease of assembly hands down. There is no need to open any manual. Every part of the stand assembly, screws, etc, was clearly labelled. I got the TV sitting on its own pedestal within less than 5 minutes. This is, bar none, the easiest TV to install. The quality of the pedestal is exemplary too. Made of extruded aluminum, it was solid, not a single wobble when all the inputs and outputs were plugged in with my heavy gauge HDMI cables. It was perfection. I haven’t seen this type of perfection in assembling the pedestal since the last time I assembled a Pioneer Elite plasma TV and that was more than 6 years ago!
Moving on to the TV’s initial setup
The initial setup was actually fun with childlike (but not childish) animation, an LG penguin guided me every step of the way. Almost everything ran smoothly with the exception of the web connectivity. Trying both wired and wireless connection, I can see the TV was connected to my local area network but cannot see beyond my LAN. As usual, I did what a techie guy always do when encountered with a problem like this: unplug the TV and re-plug the power. Et Voilà ! The Internet connection works like a charm. I continued on with downloading every firmware and software updates I could find for this TV before I started doing anything at all. Within 10 minutes, I got the TV up and running with all the latest firmware and software updates installed. (Sony take note: spending 5 minutes just for the initial startup and another 40 minutes to update the TV’s firmware is not acceptable.) One surprising find, the TV’s HDMI CEC was turned Off (the way it is supposed to be) as opposed to defaulting to On as every other TV manufacturers do.
On with the calibration!
Very surprisingly, right out of the box, this TV is acceptable to my eyes when the preset is set to ISF Dark Room with a Delta E at merely 2.4 with a Gamma value at 2.0. Of course calibration is still needed just like any TV on the planet, but at least I can just set the TV picture setting to ISF Dark Room preset and should I choose to postpone my calibration by a day or two, my eyes will still be able to survive without any pain and suffering. After calibration, however, the accuracy went to an extremely respectable 0.24 with Gamma value of a dead-accurate 2.2
While HDR and Wide Colour Gamut content are still relatively scarce, I used my Samsung UBD-K8500 UHD Blu-ray Disc player as a source for Wide Colour Gamut and I also included Netflix HDR content to test the HDR capability in real life. While the colour gamut is definitely wider than a regular 4K TV, it can only reach around 90% of DCI P3 colour gamut which translates to merely 70% of REC 2020 colour gamut being used as part of UHD Blu-ray specifications. As there is yet any consumer display (or projector) which can do a full REC 2020 colour gamut, it didn’t surprise me a bit that the display cannot do a full REC 2020. It is, however, a small let down that the TV can not do 100% DCI P3 Colour Gamut as, thus far, all UHD BD titles that have been released and announced to be released will have a full DCI P3 Colour Gamut.
HDR is also slightly problematic. The TV claims to be compatible with Dolby Vision HDR, which means it’s supposed to be able to produce 4,000 Nits of brightness. While this set can do HDR 10 standard with no problem whatsoever (which requires to produce 1,000 Nits of brightness); for some reasons, I cannot push the peak brightness more than around HDR 10 specifications. Bear in mind, however, that this is only problematic from a specifications stand-point. While watching real-life content, I prefer less dynamic range than the HDR 10 can offer. On my projector, I only set the dynamic range to be at 400 Nits range. Beyond that, I feel like my eyes are being burned by the content I’m watching.
Let’s watch a movie…or two…or more!
All the technical specifications mean absolutely nothing if the real-life display performance is not up to snuff. So allow me to do a point-by-point commentary on the display based on my viewing lifestyle.
Viewing Angle: by using an IPS panel, the viewing angle of the LG 55UH8500 is exemplary. I did not perceive any colour shift until I’m sitting in my massage chair which is about 70 degrees of axis. This makes the total effective viewing angle to be at 140 degrees. Most TVs, including the display originally sitting on my pedestal, only have a total of 70 degrees off axis (35 degrees on each side).
Uniformity: unlike too many edge-lit TVs of the past, the LG 55UH8500 had a near-perfect uniformity in both white and grey (grey being extremely difficult). It is still noticeable when I ran a test pattern of 50% grey and 90% white, but in real-life applications, I can only see the imperfections in medium-paced panning and that’s also because my eyes are trained to pick out any imperfections of any display.
Black level: as this TV has local dimming, the areas that are not supposed to be lit can be turned off. However, since, the display is not a Full Array Local Dimming (and using edge lit array at the top and the bottom of the screen, when there is a single object on the screen, you will see a light streak running from the top to the bottom of the screen. It is very seldom that anybody will encounter this, but it is something worth mentioning for the fans of horror movies and space science fiction movies where the scenes tend to be mostly dark with only a little bit of objects here and there. This problem is very visible in total darkness. Add a little bit of ambient light, you would be hard pressed to see this anomaly. On the other hand, the exclusion of Full Array Local Dimming also disallows this TV to be viewed in complete darkness, as the streaks will be very visible which in return makes the black level to be not totally black. By no means, the points I wrote previously are to be considered as a big detriment to this TV. There are so many other TVs that are a whole lot worse in rendering blacks than this TV.
Firmware Updates: within the first 2 weeks I had this TV, I’ve done two firmware upgrades and multitudes of apps updates (three updates on Netflix alone). The process were swift and much faster than any other TVs I have encountered thus far. If I want to nitpick, I just wish that when there is a firmware and/or apps updates, they can all be done automatically. Yes the firmware upgrades were done automatically (there was an option to choose that), but the app updates are a tad more annoying. I had to go to each app individually and then update each app individually. Again the process was very quick and painless, but why should anybody go to every single app and update them individually. Also on the Netflix app, every time I updated the app, I had to re-enter my username and password again. But as I mentioned, I’m nitpicking.
Moving on to the sound: the LG 55UH8500 boasts Harman/Kardon-designed sound system which initially worried me as my Mercedes GLA250 Harman/Kardon happens to be the worst “premium” sound system I’ve ever experienced in any car I’ve ever owned. I’m pleasantly surprised, however, by the quality of the built in sound system of this TV. It is far from audiophile quality, of course, but I would score it a solid 6… a very good score as most TVs only receive scores between 3-4 in most cases.
All in all, the LG 55UH8500 is a more than capable TV with great preset colour accuracy that best any TV’s I’ve ever tested on the market. It is not perfect, but I would give a solid 8/10 score anytime for this offering from LG.
Suggested retail price: $2,999.99 (as published in 2016-07)
Limited warranty period: 1 year, parts & labor
Manufacturer/distributor: LG Canada, Tél.: 1.888.542.2623, www.lg.com/ca_en