LG 2017 OLED Hands-On Review

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to go hands-on with the updated 2017 OLED TVs from LG. While this isn’t a full review of the new TVs, I couldn’t test apps well because of slow Internet speeds. For example, I did run through the image quality of the updated TVs with objective and subjective tests. This year, every OLED has the same panel and same SoC, so image quality between the different models should be identical. Based on what I saw with the W7 and E7 models, the 2017 LG OLED models offer the best image that I have seen on a TV to date.

2017 Improvements

Display Type:OLED
Inputs:4x HDMI, 3x USB, 1x Composite, 1x Component, 1x Ethernet
Outputs:1x Optical
Streaming Services:Netflix, Amazon, Vudu
Wi-Fi Support:Yes
3D Support:No
Display Size:48.4″ x 28.0″ x 1.8″
Display Weight:38.1 lbs.
Review Date:
March 3, 2017

When I reviewed the LG E6 OLED last year, I said it was the best TV I had used. The combination of perfect blacks, wide color gamut, and high dynamic range made for images that look amazing. The only TV I didn’t get a chance to use last year that might compete was the Sony Z9D, and it only has an advantage with HDR content but not regular material. Despite being the best TV I had seen to date, there was still room for improvement from LG. From the time I spent with them and tested them, I have to say that LG has delivered. One persistent issue with the 2016 LG OLEDs was the presence of some slight shadow crush. This could be mostly fixed through a combination of the brightness control and the 20-point white balance, but not perfectly. Having to choose between perfect blacks or more shadow details, I always went with blacks, but it was a compromise. On the 2017 panels, this has been fixed. All of the shadow details are visible, the brightness control is much finer, and you get the best of both worlds now.

lg 2017 oled hands review

While not something we were able to look for as easily at the start of last year, the differences in tone mapping became apparent between the OLED and TVs with higher levels of net output. This year, the tone mapping of the LG OLEDs is improved with more detail around bright highlights. OLED is not going to be able to win the nits race against full array LED backlights, but with improved tone mapping, it helps to minimize the advantage those sets can have with HDR.

Input lag became a big issue last year as HDR video games were introduced. LG managed to fix a bit of their issues last year, but with two different SoCs, they had issues. This year, all the displays use the same SoC, and the input lag for HDR signals in testing is only 21.5ms. Even hardcore gamers should be happy with this level of input lag, which is just around 1.3 frames in total.

Light output also improved, at least on the panels that I tested. Peak light output with a 10% window was right around 740 cd/m2, while last year, the E6 measured closer to 640 cd/m2. It isn’t up to the level of LED TVs that are aiming for 1500-2000 cd/m2 this year, but it is a good improvement over last year.

Sometimes, there was also a small tint to the OLEDs last year as well. With calibration, it mostly went away, and you were unlikely to notice it unless it was directly next to a more accurate display. This year, that tint is completely absent, so worrying about whether it is visible or not isn’t a concern.

Display Measurements

lg 2017 oled hands review

Measurements were done with a Klein K-10A profiled from a Konica Minolta CS-2000 using a Murideo Six-G test pattern generator with CalMAN software. For SDR content, we targeted 100 nits (to make sure ABL wasn’t an issue) with the Rec.709 color gamut and the BT.1886 gamma function. For HDR, we are targeting the DCI primaries with the SMPTE ST 2084 EOTF and peak light output using 10% windows. We didn’t measure Dolby Vision as the workflow for this was not ready yet, but we will test it as soon as it is available and we have a full review sample.

For SDR mode, I used ISF Expert mode with Warm 2 color temperature and the BT.1886 gamma preset. For 99.9% of people, this is all you need to do. Just adjust the OLED Light to the appropriate level, make sure that Brightness is set correctly, and you have an accurate image. It’s not just accurate, but dead-on almost perfectly accurate. I did improve it with calibration, but by so little that you should not bother unless you own the equipment to do it yourself and really want to try it out. The average dE2000 value for the grayscale was below 1.0, while for saturations, luminances, and the color checker, it was below 2.0.

At CES 2017, LG made a big deal out of the fact that the new OLEDs, free of ABL in SDR mode at 150 nits or less, were good enough to be used as reference monitors by Technicolor. Having seen one and measured it, I can say this is the case. Watching some clips from Harry Potter and Skyfall, the dark shadow details were visible while black levels were pitch black. The Macau lantern scene in Skyfall looked better than it ever has, with the bright orange-red lanterns glowing on top of the water with the wave details clearly seen. Skin tones were pure without any red push, and the overall impact was great for SDR. As with all OLED displays, the contrast ratio is infinite, so I left it off this table.

Grayscale dE20000.970.69
Saturations dE20002.011.61
Color Checker dE20002.181.84
Luminances dE20002.031.49

With HDR, I was able to coax a little more performance out of the display with a calibration. This year, LG added a 2-point white balance control in HDR where it was missing before. This, combined with a 21-point control, let me adjust the RGB balance and the EOTF to better track the HDR standard. It didn’t get to be perfect, but with maximum grayscale dE2000 values right around 4 and an average error of just 1.34, it was close enough that you’ll almost never notice the difference.

Colors were close to accurate in HDR mode but also benefited from a little bit of correction inside of the CMS. Measuring the color gamut size, I had a reading of 99.1% of the DCI/P3 gamut. This improves upon the 96% I saw last year. The color checker showed an average dE2000 of 2.83, so it has some visible errors, but the average level is still below the visible level. All of the objective measures were perfect or close to it.

With HDR discs, the impact was more impressive. Watching Sully, with its native 4K transfer, shots were completely sharp, with even the smallest details present. The opening shot of buildings against the Hudson River had more HDR and pop to it than when I watched it before on the Vizio P65-C1, making it almost like a different movie. Later, when he is running at nighttime, all the bright city lights contrast against the dark sky and outfits.

During Deepwater Horizon, when the oil rig explodes, the improved Brightness lets the explosion stand out against the black sky. Since OLED also has near-instant pixel response time (something I will measure this year in testing displays), those fast explosions light up quicker than they can on an LCD set. On The Secrets Life of Pets, the improved tone mapping shows up. Gidget in the film goes from being plain white to having all those individual strands of fur visible. Bright sections of the sky in Pan also have clarity that you could previously see in the Dolby Vision version, but that was washed out in the UHD Blu-ray copy.

Early Caveats

This isn’t a full review of any of the new OLED models because we couldn’t test streaming and other features, but just an overview of the picture quality. We also didn’t look at audio quality at all for this preview. There is a chance the C7 could have worse image quality, but we don’t see a reason that will be the case since it has the same panel and SoC other than sample variation.

We plan to test more features on TVs this year, including color volume and pixel response time, but we didn’t get a chance to do that as the testing isn’t ready yet. We also couldn’t run blur tests during our time with the display. That is another area we’d like to improve this year with better tests and more photography.

Once we spend a few days with a C7, we will be more certain about this, but right now, that is the TV we would buy for ourselves this year.

The Best TV Ever?

For almost everyone, it looks like the new LG OLED TVs are the best TV you can get today. The only hesitation we have at all is the massive light output that the Sony Z9D series can do with HDR, but those also cost more than the LG C7 and look worse with non-HDR content than the LG. Since most people only watch a fraction of HDR now, and the LG still looks exceptional with HDR, we had no hesitation in recommending the updated LG OLED models once they are available.

Review Summary
Product:LG OLED
Reviewer:Chris Heinonen
Pros:Virtually perfect image quality, improved shadow detail, improved tone mapping, better input lag, the 2017 LG OLED TVs make all content look as good as it can.
Cons:Some LED LCD TVs can still produce more nits for HDR content, but can’t touch the black levels of the OLED TVs.
Summary:Unless you absolutely need the peak light output of a TV like the Sony Z9D, you’re unlikely to find a better TV than the 2017 LG OLED models. They improved upon all the flaws we saw in the TVs last year, which were already superb, and produce an image that is detailed and you have likely never seen before.