Is the LG 65EG9600 Really the World's Best TV?

How ignoring a key TV feature may have affected the result

The LG 65EG9600 is a truly brilliant TV with today's content. But what about tomorrow's?.

As just reported by Home Cinema Expert Robert Silva, the results of the annual Value Electronics TV shootout have been announced. And the winner this year - as voted by a selection of journalists, calibration specialists and attendees at the CE Week show - is the LG 65EG9600 OLED TV. But did the voters get it right?

Before giving my own thoughts on the subject, Value Electronics certainly deserves commending for rounding up the best of the best with the four TVs it included in its shoot out. The Panasonic TC-65CX850U, Samsung UN78JS9500, Sony XBR-75X940C and LG 65EG9600 are all stunning TVs in their own different ways - and I’m happy to say I intend to post reviews of all of them on in the very near future! I’ve already posted a review of the Samsung UN78JS9500’s smaller sibling, the 65-inch UN65JS9500.

As for the final result, overall I am not surprised that the LG OLED won the day based on the picture formats available today. I do, though, think the results lose a little of their usefulness by not taking the imminent future into account. To explain…

Respect where it's due

First, let’s give the LG 65EG9600 its due. In many ways this 4K OLED TV delivers brilliantly on the promise OLED technology has shown at electronics shows across the world for years now. Particularly stunning is the black level depth and sense of contrast made possible by OLED’s self-emissive nature, where each individual pixel can produce its own light. Almost perfectly deep black colours can sit right alongside punchy whites and bright colours without so much as a trace of light bleed between the two - something just not possible with LCD TVs, which use external light sources. 

With a distant shot of Hogwarts at night in the Harry Potter films, for instance, the lights in the school’s swindows glow with a beautifully natural, wonderfully bright lustre on the OLED, whereas on even the best LCD TVs the window lights look relatively muted and flattened as they have to compromise their brightness to accommodate the surrounding darkness.

OLED’s self-transmissive nature also means it outguns all of its rivals in this group test when it comes to viewing angles, as its pictures retain their colour and contrast even if you watch them from an angle of almost 90 degrees.

Great black levels usually lead to great colours, so again it’s no great surprise that many voters - though interestingly not the calibration experts - picked the OLED TV as delivering the best colours.

Even OLED isn't perfect

With these and other strengths taken into account then yes, with today’s sources the 65EG9600 delivers the most jaw-droppingly good pictures the flat TV world has ever seen. That’s not to say it’s perfect, though, and there are areas where at least one of its rivals in the shootout may have been able to usurp it if the Value Electronics’ test procedures had taken a slightly broader view.

For starters, while the 65EG9600 does deliver unprecedented black levels if you get its brightness and ‘OLED light’ settings just right, the picture can start to look strangely washed out if you push the brightness high. This can also cause the image to suddenly suffer with inexplicable brightness ‘banding’ across the screen (this may be what led to Samsung’s set unexpectedly scoring higher than the OLED when it came to backlight uniformity). 

On the other hand, if you keep the OLED’s brightness too low then you start to lose shadow detail. This means, in essence, that the 65EG9600 is both limited in how far you can push its brightness versus the punchier appearance of all the other three sets in the shoot out, and limited in how extensively it can be calibrated to cope with different room conditions. This is likely why it didn’t fair as well with the calibration voters as the other featured sets - especially the Samsung.

Innovation isn't just OLED

The Samsung set uses a combination of new Nano Crystal (derived from Quantum Dot) technology to deliver a greatly expanded colour range, as well as a new Super Bright LED design to deliver much more brightness than any LCD - or OLED - before. These twin innovations mean calibrators have arguably unprecedented flexibility to play with (at least by LCD standards) when trying to optimise pictures.

I’d also personally argue that the Sony 75X940C’s colour response - the set uses the brand’s proprietary wide colour gamut ‘Triluminos’ technology - is fantastically dynamic, though perhaps in a way that’s more suited to the picture technologies of tomorrow than today’s picture standards.

Which brings me to my main point about why the Value Electronics shootout on this occasion may not have gone far enough to be entirely fair. 

Introducing HDR

At pretty much exactly the same time that Value Electronics was revealing the LG65EG9600 as its winner, Amazon was announcing the launch of the world’s first High Dynamic Range (HDR) TV streaming service (full story here). Which can only currently be played through Samsung’s SUHD TVs - including the UN78JS9500. 

Also, as detailed here, Fox Home Entertainment recently announced the imminent launch of a quartet of HDR movies on the M.Go platform. Again only downloadable through Samsung’s SUHD TVs. 

And in a few short months we’ll finally be able to get our hands on the shiny new UHD Blu-ray format - complete with HDR support that the Samsung SUHD TVs will be able to handle.

In other words, if you’re really serious about TV picture quality and you’re thinking about buying a new set, you really can’t ignore HDR (which is explained here). Especially as all the HDR experiences I’ve had to date have been nothing short of spectacularly good.

What this means for me is that HDR should have been included in the Value Electronics shoot out. Samsung has demo clips of Life Of Pi and Exodus: Gods And Kings that it’s used extensively in HDR demos, and which it also supplied on USB drives for my tests. So it would have been easy to include these HDR clips in the shoot out - maybe running alongside the current Blu-ray versions of the same clips on the other TVs. Had this happened and the voters had been given the chance to see the UN78JS9500 running 'all out', with the full potential of its unique brightness and colour range unlocked by HDR, my own HDR experiences to date make me wonder if the results of the shootout may have been different.

HDR for all

It’s important to add here that the non-Samsung TVs used in the Value Electronics shootout are also all going to be getting HDR compatibility via firmware updates later in the year. However, in the case of the LG OLED this HDR compatibility will apparently only include streamed sources, not the new UHD Blu-rays, and in the case of the Panasonic and Sony TVs there are questions over how truly able - in terms of brightness, at least - these screens are to deliver HDR's full expression. For while Samsung’s SUHD TVs seem to have been built from the ground up with HDR in mind, the HDR compatibility feels potentially rather ‘bolted on’ with the other sets.

To be fair to the Value Electronics shootout, as I suggested earlier, based on the non-HDR sources widely available right now I too would probably have picked the LG OLED TV as the year’s best TV. It really is incredible with ‘today’s’ content once you’ve got it set up right. I can also understand why it may have been thought unfair to let the Samsung set show HDR content now when its rivals will only be able to do so later in the year.

However, for me any fair TV shootout should have all the contenders set up to deliver the absolute best pictures they’re capable of at the time the test is being held. And not running the Samsung set in HDR mode meant that the Korean manufacturer’s set wasn't allowed to show off anything close to its maximum potential.