(Pocket-lint) - The LG UB950V brings a double dose of excitement, offering ultra-high definition (UHD) resolution, otherwise known as 4K, in addition to LG's webOS user interface. The large resolution is matched by large screen sizes, as the UB950V is available in 65- or 55-inch panels.
This is one of a number of models offering the new user interface in LG's line-up. While 4K content might be scarce at the moment - some shows on Netflix are available - it's going to see a boom in the coming years, so is certainly something you should be considering for your next TV purchase.
The 55UB950V model sits next to the UB850V and the only real difference between these sets is the inclusion of a subwoofer on the 950V. That means that this set is designed to be a standalone model - if you're planning to instantly connect to an existing sound system then you might want to save yourself a few hundred pounds and opt for the UB850V instead.
Simple but striking design
In terms of design, the UB950V has a nice slim bezel framing the display. It's a simple black border, but with a chromed finish around the edges. The back is a plastic panel, which among other things, houses the subwoofer towards the top, with stereo front-firing speakers running across the bottom of the display.
There's a metal stand that's easily affixed if you're not going to wall-mount this sizable TV set. It's an aluminium stand that's rather wide so you'll need about 90cm width to accommodate it. It also offers no swivel, so it's very much a case of getting it just so in your room.
There are two ranks of connections on the rear, with the major HDMI connections running down the left, conveniently placed for access if you need to change your connected devices around once the TV is mounted on the wall.
We like the relative simplicity of the design, as well as the inclusion of the discreet button sitting under the front edge, common to a number of LG's TVs. It means that without the controller you can turn your TV on and switch inputs with a quick touch, or more likely, just switch it off.
Smartly connected, smartly controlled
When it comes to connections, the UB950V is well specified. You have all the connections you'd expect, including four HDMI, one of which is HDMI 2.0, ready for any 4K devices you want to connect in the future. There are three HDMI 1.4 for everything else, each labelled for suggested use.
There are also three USB, one of which is USB 3.0, designed for you to hook up your external hard drive. You'll find the usual selection of audio connections, as well as a LAN port for a network connection.
In addition this TV has Wi-Fi. We opted for the wired connection which is our preference for media devices as it cuts out some of a vagaries of using a wireless network. You'll want to hook the TV up to the internet, even if you don't plan to use any of the smart features, as we've found that software updates are rather frequent.
You get two remotes with the UB950V too. There's a conventional remote, as well as the Magic Remote. There's nothing hugely different about these remotes over previous iterations or what you'll find elsewhere.
We used the Magic Remote exclusively and found it easy enough to handle, although you're using motion to move a pointer around the screen and clicking on what you want, which takes some getting used to. Some features are exclusive to the Magic Remote so it's worth sticking with.
You also get voice control, if you want it, and there's the option to connect a camera, for Skype, for example. This is an optional extra that will cost you around £70.
webOS: redefining the user interface
The real breath of fresh air comes from the webOS user interface (UI) that LG has put into place on many of its 2014 televisions. This really does knock the socks off many rivals. The fact that it's webOS probably doesn't mean much to most (unless you were a big fan of the Palm Pre), the real point of significance is that it is smart, slick and very fluid to use.
From the bright and engaging setup pages, through to the ranging cards across the bottom of the homescreen, the LG's interface is lovely. Rather than presenting a boring hierarchical grids of icons, it's easy to select what you want to see, and when.
There's a full smart TV offering here that centres around the card-based homepage that allows you pick what you want. It makes the UI of your set-top box look rather archaic, as on the LG, it overlays what you're watching, rather than pushing it into a tiny corner preview window.
There's a hole in the catch-up TV offering for the UK, however, as there's no ITV Player or 4oD, only BBC iPlayer and Demand 5. That's a slight drawback, as we can't help feeling that if you don't offer all the catch-up services, then there's almost no point in offering any, as users will just look elsewhere for the complete collection - like from a separate box.
More positive, however, is support for Netflix's 4K offering. That's down the HEVC support, which is the codec that's used for streaming its 4K content. If you have the bandwidth, then you can at least make use of those pixels on offer. Unlike firing up Netflix on an external device like the Xbox One, using the LG's native app you will get the best it can offer.
Talking of external sources, the UB950V wants to take control over external TV inputs, so if you choose to connect this TV to a cable or satellite box, it will want to assume control and present you with something of its own TV guide. It's a convenient universal remote setup, although it only works with the Magic Remote and the control is rather limited.
We suspect that those who subscribe to Sky or Virgin Media will probably stick to those respective company's default experiences, and stick to the stock remote with all the function controls.
As beautiful as the interface is, it's not enough on its own to sell you a TV, unless you're not planning on connecting anything to it and the smart TV functions encompass everything you need. With the likes of games consoles - we hooked up the Xbox One - and Virgin Media, Sky or YouView offering plenty of services of their own, there's likely to be plenty of duplication in what you're offered.
However, there is a plentiful array of apps, ranging from garbage to things you'll actually want to install, and it was great to find the likes of Blinkbox, again bringing more content options.
With that said, much of the appeal of the LG 55UB950V will come down to performance. At 55-inches, any ultra-high definition content you do have will look stunning (although it's highly unlikely you will have any 3840 x 2160 resolution yet), but you're well served for Full HD (1920 x 1080) content too, which is all the more common.
The detail is obviously going to be a strength, although there's only so many times you can watch House of Cards in 4K from Netflix. The likely source of 4K content will be from cameras or smartphones, but you'll have to check format support if this is your main aim as some downloaded 4K content won't play.
It's well worth running through the TV's picture wizard as one of the first things you do, as the default settings are rather poor and don't do the display justice. The settings are too harsh for the average user, even after selecting home use rather than shop floor use.
One of the biggest irritations was fairly drastic changes to the contrast in low-light scenes. Watching Downton Abbey, with its great atmospheric low-light shots, the screen changed as the scene switched from one character to another, which is annoying to say the least.
You can turn it all off to improve the situation, but it's in these dark scenes that the UB950V's biggest weakness lies. It's great at delivering punchy colours, but handling the darks and blacks is less impressive and falls behind some of what we've seen from Samsung and Sony 4K sets.
Fortunately the picture wizard will let you get around a lot of this helping you pick the settings that work for you. There are a range of presets (that can all be customised) as well as two slots for your ISF Expert calibration, so you could, for example, do one setup for those blacked-out movie watching nights, and one for the rest the time.
It takes some time to get the UB950V humming along nicely. You'll want to engage the TruMotion to cut down on some of that pan judder you'll get on your Blu-rays and we found a medium setting worked nicely, keeping cityscape pans smooth. The noise reduction is less effective, losing detail and resulting in some unnatural visuals, like faces appearing to smear with movement.
To some extent, it's a labour of love to get this display to look how you want it to, whereas some we've seen need very little tinkering. In short, you don't quite get the wow factor out of the box that you might get elsewhere and handling darker scenes feels slightly compromised.
There's passive 3D, however, which means cheaper 3D glasses and you'll be able to use the type you're given in the cinema - and there are two in the box. We found the 3D performance to be good, although it can appear a little uneven.
We love the size and punch that this display brings to gaming. Forza Horizon 2, delivered at 1080p on the Xbox One, looks luxurious with the colours really impressing. Blu-ray performance at Full HD is solid without too much noise. Standard definition content looks reasonable, but at this size and upscaled, you'll definitely want to be switching to any HD channels you have for the best overall experience.
We mentioned that the 55UB950V has a subwoofer, so has a 2.1 sound setup, making it a mark above your average TV (the 4K Sony X9005 aside). If you want a clutter-free setup, then you'll get some good quality sound from the UB950V, better than most other screens.
The subwoofer adds some needed depth, bringing richness to the audio that it often lacking. As a result this TV doesn't sound tinny. But connecting a sound system will deliver much better results and we suspect that those looking for a big screen experience will want the big sound to match it.
The LG UB950V has plenty to offer as a 55-inch ultra-high definition TV. The price has fallen from over £2000 at launch to the more appealing £1599 from many retailers - and you can take a couple of hundred off that if you opt for the UB850V and lose the integrated subwoofer.
The biggest downside to the 950V is the contrast and handling of low-light scenes. That's likely to be a turn off for diehard movie fans (and fans of Die Hard we'd hasten to add), but that's not to say there's no appeal to this set.
As a daily television we've found the smart functions are wonderfully executed, while the punchy and bright delivery of colours means there's plenty to be excited about. The webOS interface is best in class, the slim-bezel design is a strong aesthetic and most of the time the performance is excellent.
If you're looking to dive into 4K then the LG 55UB950V will let you without stepping into the higher price brackets, so long as you're happy to accept some small compromises along the way.