Some retail branded TVs are more exclusive than others
What is the John Lewis 55JL9000?
It wasn't until the review sample arrived, that we realised the 'JL' in JL9000 stood for John Lewis.TVs that are exclusive to a specific retailer are becoming more frequent but usually the model in question is a minor variation on an existing range or made by Vestel. Not so with the 55JL9000, which is exclusive to John Lewis and is made for them by LG. Whilst looking quite different from the rest of LG's own range, the JL9000 appears to include much of the Korean manufacturer's latest technology. The John Lewis website revealed that the 55-inch model we had in for review could currently be picked up for just £1,399 and that's a very enticing price when you consider all you get.The JL9000 is a Full HD LED LCD TV that includes LG's passive 3D, Triple XD Engine, 1000Hz Motion Clarity Index, webOS, a Magic Remote, two pairs of glasses and a built-in 12mp camera. It also has an attractive design and a 50W 2.2 channel soundbar built into the stand, meaning the TV should sound as good as it looks. There are also 49- and 65-inch models available at prices that are equally as aggressive, so there should be a model to suit every pocket. Well, everything looks good on paper but let's see how the 55JL9000 performs in testing.
Design and ConnectionsThe JL9000 certainly looks different, with a very contemporary design that will immediately distinguish it from LG's primary line-up. However it still uses their Cinema Screen design, with a single sheet of glass at the front and a 1cm wide black border around the panel underneath. There's also a 1cm wide black strip along the bottom and a silver strip around the outer edge. The rear of the panel is white, which will certainly help the JL9000 stand out from the crowd, whilst the fairly large brushed metal stand has a trick up its sleeve.
The stand actually doubles as a sound bar, with a forward-firing 2.2-channel configuration and 50W of amplification built-in. The combination of the stand and the overall build quality makes the JL9000 quite large and heavy, whilst the nature of the stand itself will preclude swivelling or wall mounting. The JL9000 also includes a built-in 12mp pop-up camera, which is a bit of a coup for John Lewis as it doesn't even appear on LG's own higher tier TVs. It also uses the same unusual three-pin power cable found on all LG's 2014 TVs and as with those models, the cable is only 1.5m long.
At the left rear of the JL9000 are a combination of downwards and sideways facing connections. There are three HDMI inputs, three USB ports and a headphone socket facing sideways and these are positioned 41cm from the edge, which is excellent because it means you won't have to worry abut unsightly cables poking out of the side. Facing downwards you'll find another HDMI input, aerial and satellite connectors, an Ethernet port and various legacy connections.
The JL9000 comes with LG's Magic Remote, which sports a nice silver and black finish and even the John Lewis moniker. It remains the best motion controller we have tested. LG have been fine tuning this controller for a couple of years and the current model is ergonomically designed to make it comfortable to hold and easy to use. It's also very accurate in terms of tracking motion on the screen, thus making it the perfect compliment to LG's new webOS/Smart+ system.
The JL9000 is a Cinema 3D (passive) TV and includes two pairs of well made metallic 3D glasses that, once again, include the John Lewis name along the arm. The great thing about passive, aside from the lack of batteries and flicker, is that in general the glasses are very cheap. In fact if you have any RealD glasses from the cinema, you can even use those, and you can also buy optional Dual Gaming glasses, which is an inventive implementation of the passive 3D technology.
The large stand doubles as a full-on soundbar, resulting in a much improved audio performance.
MenusDespite all the John lewis branding on the outside, there's no mistaking who actually makes the JL9000 once you turn it on. The LG menu system is one of the best on the market and is well designed and easy to navigate. It is now integrated into webOS, which means just like everything else, you access it by pressing the Home button on the remote and selecting the Setup icon. When you access the Setup menu, you get a range of options that covers everything from Picture, Sound, Network, General, Security and Accessibility. There's also a Quick option, to guide the unfamiliar through the setup process.
Within the Picture sub-menu there is an option called Picture Adjust, where you can access all the standard controls such as Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Tint and Sharpness. There's also a sub-menu for Expert Control with options for Dynamic Contrast, Super Resolution, Colour Gamut, Edge Enhancer, Colour Filter, Gamma, White Balance (2- and 20-point control) and a Colour Management System (CMS). LG have long been a supporter of ISF picture modes, which calibrators can use to create Day and Night settings but they also have Picture Wizard, which is a handy tool for getting a quick and easy setup that's reasonably accurate.
FeaturesThe idea of using an enlarged stand as a built-in soundbar on the JL9000 is definitely a good one and the benefits of this approach were plain to hear. The larger, front-firing speakers and greater amplification resulted in a decent, room-filling sound. The front soundstage was both wide and reasonably immersive and, thanks to the larger screen size, there was also a reasonable amount of stereo separation. Whilst, thanks to the beefed up amplification, the volume could go quite high without distorting, whilst dialogue remained clear. The built-in subwoofers also helped give the sound a greater low-end presence and whilst the built-in speakers on the JL9000 wouldn't beat a dedicated soundbar with an active subwoofer, they would certainly give some of the smaller soundbars a run for their money..
The JL9000 incorporates LG's excellent new webOS/Smart+ platform, which is incredibly intuitive and easy to use. By treating everything as an app that appears as a pop-up tag along the bottom, you can quickly switch from one app to the next. If you scroll to the left, you go backwards through the apps you have previously opened and if you scroll forwards you can access all the apps. There is no need to go close one app or go to another page to access an app, you just select the one you want from the launcher and go straight into it. Since everything including Live TV, the TV Guide, the Time Machine (HDD recording) and the HDMI inputs are treated as apps, navigating from one to the other is simple, making webOS/Smart+ the first system that feels like an integral part of the TV. The new system really is a game changer and you can read the full in-depth review here.
This might be a John Lewis branded TV but you get all the latest LG technology including the superb webOS.
For our initial measurements we started by choosing either of the ISF picture modes because they will default to the best colour and white balance settings and turn off the majority of the image processing, leaving a picture that will come closest to the industry standards. You can find our recommended best settings based upon the review measurements here.
The out-of-the-box greyscale accuracy was generally very good on the JL9000, although the image ran out of blue energy at the brighter end of the scale, causing a visible skew towards yellow near white. The gamma was tracking reasonably well against our target of 2.2, although it did move up to 2.4 at around 90 IRE. The colours were also reasonable, although there were some sizeable errors in luminance, resulting in errors in green, blue and cyan.
The two-point white balance controls proved effective at improving the accuracy of the greyscale but we struggled with the ten-point control, which didn't appear to work correctly. Whilst the resulting greyscale performance was very good overall, we still struggled to correct a minor excess of blue in the blacks. We also struggled to make any improvement in the gamma, with the curve still hitting 2.4 at 90 IRE. There appears to have been a firmware update for the colour management system that has solved the problem of introducing artefacts when used.
Unfortunately, the CMS appeared to have very little impact on the actual colours, making it essentially useless. As a result we were unable to correct the luminance errors. This is a shame because the hue and saturation performances were generally pretty good, although both red and blue struggled at lower saturation points. Strangely, despite the difference in panel resolution, the greyscale and especially the colour performance of the JL9000 was almost identical to LG's Ultra HD UB950. It isn't a bad performance overall, it's just that we're used to a greater degree of accuracy from LG TVs.
Black Levels, Contrast Ratio and Screen Uniformity
The similarities with the UB950 didn't stop with the colour performance and the IPS panel on the JL9000 delivered a familiar performance when it came to black levels. We actually measured black at 0.10cd/m2 which, whilst not great, is actually slightly better than the UB950. The JL9000 was also very bright, easily hitting our target of 120cd/m2 for a comfortable viewing experience. From that perspective, the JL9000 would certainly work well in rooms with a lot of ambient light. The ANSI contrast ratio measured at 578:1 which is fairly mediocre but the backlight uniformity was good, with an even appearance and no obvious clouding or bright corners and edges.
Based upon our experiences with LG TVs this year, we expected a degree of occasional banding visible when the camera panned from side to side and this was the case. In addition the use of the local dimming didn't appear to affect the banding but you will need to employ it to improve the perceived black levels. However, as with the 55-inch UB950, we didn't feel that the local dimming worked as well as it has on LG TVs with smaller screen sizes. The blacks didn't seem as solid and there was some obvious haloing, even in the low setting, which we will discuss this in more detail in the Picture Quality section.Video Processing
As we have also come to expect from LG, the video processing was excellent. So regardless of whether the content you are watching is standard or high definition, the JL9000 will handle both with ease. The deinterlacing and scaling was good, as was the motion adaptive deinterlacing and the JL9000 had no trouble with 2:3 or 2:2 cadences. It also handled mixed film and video material well and was just as effective with 1080i content, deinterlacing the material without any issues. When we moved on to 24p content, the results were just as good and overall this was an excellent performance from the JL9000. The motion handling was also surprisingly good for an LCD TV, measuring around 400 on the FPD Benchmark Test. In fact, even though we were watching a lot of football we never felt the need to resort to TruMotion but it's an effective option for those that feel they need it with fast-paced sports action. Although as always, we would never recommend using TruMotion with film-based material.
We're glad to see that LG has made major improvements to the input lag on their TVs this year and the JL9000 is no exception. We measured the ISF mode with all the extra processing features turned off at 98ms, which is clearly too high for serious gaming. However switching to the Game mode immediately got this down to a more respectable 46ms, which is fine for most people, although still rather high for the dedicated gamer. Renaming the input PC brought the lag down to a very respectable 35ms, which is one of the lower measurements we've recorded this year. Whilst we make no claims to be hardcore gamers, a session on the PS4 certainly paid dividends, with the high-def graphics and higher frame rate being well served by the JL9000.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 63W
- Calibrated – Professional Mode: 69W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 80W
John Lewis 55JL9000 Video Review
John Lewis 55JL9000 Picture QualityAs it happens, we had the 55JL9000 in for review at the same time as the 55UB950 and since we did the latter first, by the time we got around to the JL9000 there was a distinct sense of deja vu. Yes, one is Ultra HD and the other Full HD but in terms of the black levels, colour accuracy and local dimming the performance was almost identical. The main difference being that the JL9000 is £1,000 cheaper and we are thus more inclined to accept certain limitations.
As with the UB950, the overall performance was generally very good. The excellent video processing and impressive backlight uniformity delivered an enjoyable experience, whilst the motion handling was also good for an LCD, especially when it came to 24p content. As always we would recommend turning TruMotion off with 24p content but it can be a benefit with fast paced sports action. The excellent greyscale also played its part in creating a good picture and whilst the colours weren't as accurate as we would have liked, they appeared perfectly fine with normal viewing content.
However, just like the UB950, all this good work was undone to a degree by banding and haloing. The issue with banding was fairly minor and is undoubtedly a result of LG using edge lighting, with the LEDs positioned at the top and bottom. As a result when a camera pans across a uniform background, like a football pitch, you can, on occasion, see columns that correspond to the LEDs above and below the panel. This approach to lighting the panel, also created problems for the local dimming. Since the native blacks are poor, you will need to use the local dimming if you want the picture to be acceptable, especially when viewing at night.
We would recommend using the Low setting as the others are too aggressive, resulting in loss of shadow detail and excessive haloing. Unfortunately even in the Low setting, when a bright object was against a dark background, you could see a halo of light extending up or down as a glowing column because of the position of the LEDs. We used the same test material on the JL9000 that we did on the UB950, including scenes from the last Harry Potter movie, Captain Phillips and Zero Dark Thirty. All these films have extended sequences that take place at night and can be a torture test for a TVs native blacks, shadow detail and local dimming.
We have been quite impressed by the performance of the local dimming on smaller LG TVs and we suspect that the screen size might be a factor but the positioning of the LEDs clearly doesn't help and is directly related to the banding and haloing. Perhaps LG should consider placing the LEDs at the side, as other manufacturers do with greater success. Whilst these are worst case examples, the issue was apparent with less extreme content and was also easy to see when navigating webOS. If you watch a lot of TV during the day it won't be as much of an issue but at night, when you'll need to activate the local dimming, you will notice it.
At least when it came to 3D they JL9000 deviated from the UB950 and was actually better. Since the JL9000 uses a Full HD panel, the polarised filter does result in a reduction in resolution but, unlike the UB950, the 3D images were free of crosstalk. We are generally fans of passive 3D because not only is the crosstalk usually minimal but also there's no flicker and the images are often brighter. The glasses are also considerably cheaper, which can be a bonus if you have a large family. Overall the 3D was excellent, with plenty of death and pop, and whilst the polarised filter can be visible on a screen this size, it will depend on your visual acuity and how far you sit from the screen.
The JL9000 delivers a decent picture but does inherit some of the traditional LG issues.
- Attractive design
- Excellent build quality
- Decent sound
- Good 3D performance
- Reference smart platform
- Easy to use
- Great price
- Mediocre blacks
- Minor banding
- Issues with calibration controls
- Haloing with local dimming
John Lewis 55JL9000 (JL9000) TV ReviewOverall the 55JL9000 makes for a very tempting proposition and there's no denying that at £1,399 you're getting a lot of TV for your money. The design is distinctive and the build quality excellent, whilst the idea of incorporating a soundbar into the stand is a clever one that pays dividends with a decent level of audio. The JL9000 also comes within two remote controls, including LG's Magic Remote, along with two pairs of passive 3D glasses and a built-in 12mp pop-up camera. If that wasn't enough you also have built-in WiDi and LG's superb webOS powered Smart+ platform. The JL9000 is also very energy conscious if that's important to you, especially for a screen this size, and the input lag is low enough to keep all but the most dedicated gamers happy.
In terms of the image accuracy the JL9000 is comparable to other LG TVs we've reviewed, although we've also seen better. However overall it was pretty good and it's just the issues with the calibration controls that we found frustrating. As we would expect the video processing was excellent, the motion handling was good for a LCD TV and the 3D was great. The backlight uniformity was impressive and although the native blacks weren't ideal, they could be improved by employing the local dimming. It's here that the JL9000 inherits some of the familiar issues of its LG pedigree, with occasional banding and haloing due to the local dimming. These issues aren't deal breakers but we just wish LG would sort them out once and for all.
However when you consider the generally good performance, the features and the price, not to mention the excellent after sales service that John Lewis provides, the 55JL9000 is certainly worth checking out if you're in the market for a new Full HD TV.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use10
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
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