(Pocket-lint) - For many serious AV fans - the sort of people who still own or sigh wistfully over the loss of Pioneer or Panasonic plasma TVs - OLED technology has long looked like the answer to their post-plasma TV prayers. The LG 950V (or LG EF9500 as it's known in the US) is the company's first affordable(ish) flat 4K OLED panel, following-up the already excellent curved 960V from earlier this year.
As with plasma, each and every pixel in an OLED TV's screen can produce its own individual light and colour output, rather than having to share an external light source as happens with LCD TVs. This pixel-level degree of light control clearly has the potential to deliver levels of contrast and shadow detail it's hard to imagine current LCD technologies ever managing to rival. We've already seen enough OLED screens in action to know for certain that the technology effortlessly handles the dark picture parts other technologies cannot reach.
So why hasn't every serious AV fan already got an OLED TV? First, difficulties with mass producing OLED screens has kept pricing high. Second, the OLED TVs we've seen so far have all adopted curved screens - a design choice which many AV enthusiasts understandably don't seem to have warmed to.
Enter the LG 65EF950V, a 65-inch OLED TV with all all-important flat screen and it might just be the answer to every AV enthusiast's dreams. And it's just £4,999.
It's pretty much impossible given the current lack of more independently produced HDR content to know for sure how likely future commercial HDR content might be to expose the 65EF950V's brightness limitations. Which means that the only thing we can say for absolute certain is that when it comes to the sources widely available today, LG's flat OLED debutante spends the vast majority of its time producing pictures more flat-out beautiful than anything we've seen before.
However, LG's unrivalled confidence and investment in OLED technology is finally paying off. For while there are limits to the LG950V's capabilities that you need to try and stay within where possible, the combination of LG's strongest OLED picture quality yet with a controversy-free flat screen shape and a ground-breakingly low price makes it an AV force to be reckoned with. This is the most convincing proof yet that OLED is surely still destined to play a large role in the future of the gogglebox.
LG 65EF950V 4K OLED
- Pictures are dominated by incredible contrast and gorgeous 4K UHD clarity
- WebOS smart TV interface is a work of genius
- The sensational thinness of the OLED screen never gets old
- It’s great to finally get your hands on LG’s OLED tech in a flat screen format!
- Some strange dimming at the left and right edges of the screen
- Usually class-leading black levels can suddenly take a major hit when the screen is driven hard
- Certainly isn’t cheap by the standards of 65-inch UHD TVs generally (though for an OLED model it’s not bad!)
LG flat 4K OLED TV review: It is cheap, honest
Obviously the use of the word "just" back there will seem laughable to some. But the truth is that £5K really is a groundbreaking price for such a large 4K OLED panel, bringing the joys of OLED technology to within around £500 of Samsung's flagship 65-inch LCD TV for 2015, the recently tested (but curved) UE65JS9500.
The 65EF950V isn't technically the first flat OLED that LG has made, but the 55EM9700 from 2013 cost a mind-bending £10,000. The move away from that price point of old and the curved panel approach of the newer 960V actually seems better suited to the mind-boggling screen thinness OLED technology makes possible, making the appearance of 65-inches of 4K pictures on a chassis that's not even 5mm deep look even more physics-defying than usual.
While its thinness is undoubtedly its star aesthetic attraction, added glamour comes from a glossy white rear panel and a transparent desktop stand "neck" that further enhances the sensation you're watching pictures that are somehow materialising out of thin air.
LG EF9500 review: Connections and webOS
Tucked away in a slightly more bulbous section occupying the lower third or so of the 65EF950V's rear is a Harman Kardon-designed speaker system along with a fulsome set of connections that includes four HDMI (2.0, upgradable to 2.0a), three USB (one is 3.0), and both wired and wireless network connections.
Accessing content via all of these potential sources - along with your smart devices via Bluetooth if that suits - brings you into contact with LG's latest webOS 2.0 interface. Which is just fine, since webOS 2.0's excellent design, customisability and understanding of what most TV viewers want easy access to means it remains our favourite TV interface.
Joining the 65EF950V's flat screen OLED charms is 3D playback using LG's flicker-free passive system and, for the first time on an OLED TV, High Dynamic Range (HDR) support. This extends to both external HDR sources like the upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray format and streamed sources like the already available streams of Mozart In The Jungle on Amazon Prime.
LG 65EF950V 4K TV review: Flat-out brilliance
As soon as you start watching the 65EF950V the move to a flat screen environment feels completely natural and long overdue. We're not implying with this statement that curved TVs are without merit or don't suit some people's tastes and needs, but there's just no denying that it's great to have at least the option of enjoying OLED's qualities without having to worry about the off-axis geometry issues and on-screen reflection distortions that curved screens can cause.
Also incredibly impactful right from the off is the 65EF950V's stunning black level response. Dark movie scenes on LG's OLED hero show black colours of such inky depth and naturalism that they make even the very best LCD TVs look washed out by comparison.
Making the depth and richness of its black colours look even more incredible - and we do mean incredible - is the fact that almost perfectly dark pixels are able to reside side-by-side with pixels showing bright whites or vibrant colours. This gives dark scenes an almost infinite sense of contrast, while scenes containing a mix of light and dark enjoy a magically luminous quality that helps them look much more lifelike than they do on any LCD screen.
LG flat 4K OLED TV review: Colour, meet resolution
Having such profound blackness to build on helps the 65EF950V's colours look beautifully rich and bold. Everything from the ultra-vibrant saturations of animated movies to the much subtler, more naturalistic tones of live action films and outdoor sports broadcasts look ultra-vibrant but also natural and unforced.
It's great to see, too, the way LG's colour processing combines with the ability of each OLED pixel to do its own thing in light and colour terms to deliver enough tonal subtleties to fully unlock the 65EF950V's 4K UHD resolution. In fact, the 65EF950V makes some of our UHD demo content, particularly shots containing a strong mix of dark and bright material, look better than it's ever looked before.
The sense of wonder raised by the 65EF950V's pictures so far initially goes up another gear with our first glimpse of its handling of HDR content. LG supplied a couple of 4K HDR clips on a USB stick that look almost otherworldly in their beauty. The 65EF950V's already intense contrast performance is stretched even further, with brighter peaks among the inky blacks, and even more subtlety in shadow and colour detailing.
LG EF9500 review: A different kind of HDR
It's important to stress that the 65EF950V's HDR images don't deliver as much brightness as those of Samsung's JS9500 TVs. But thanks to their ability to reach so deep into the black end of the brightness spectrum they still look like HDR - just a different flavour of HDR.
Add in some beautifully clean, detailed, natural 3D images and a much more potent soundstage than you would expect from such a skinny TV and there are times when the 65EF950V toys with TV perfection. Over time, though, you do start to notice a few little issues.
First, during some scenes - especially very bright or monotone ones - you sometimes become aware of a curious reduction in brightness at the screen's left and right edges. Why this should happen with a screen made up of self-emissive pictures is hard to fathom, but happen it certainly does. Fortunately you can greatly limit the obviousness of its appearance by keeping the screen's brightness reasonably low.
LG 950V 4K OLED review: Know your limits
This solution, too, helps limit the other issue we spotted with the 65EF950V: a sudden and quite aggressive drop-off in the screen's previously spectacular black level response if you push the screen's brightness beyond a certain point. Up to around the TV's 50 brightness setting the black levels are generally exemplary; just a couple of steps higher, though, they slip into levels of greyness worse than you'd expect to see from a below par LCD TV.
Obviously the answer to this is to not push the 65EF950V's brightness to a point where the black levels go awry. It's not quite that simple, though, for if you reduce brightness to a point where the grey surge hardly appears at all dark scenes you can start to lose a bit of shadow detail.
Plus when the TV detects you're watching HDR content it deliberately restricts the available picture adjustments, so that there's not much you can do if some particularly aggressive HDR content pushes the screen's brightness beyond its comfort zone. And actually, during our tests it turned out that our other HDR sources - Amazon's Mozart In The Jungle streams and a couple of movie clips provided by Samsung that we presume had been optimised to suit that brand's 65JS9500 - quite often seemed to push LG's OLED ground-breaker beyond its comfort zone.
While there are limits to the LG950V's capabilities that you need to try and stay within where possible, the combination of LG's strongest OLED picture quality yet with a controversy-free flat screen shape and a ground-breakingly low price makes it an AV force to be reckoned with.