LG 65EC970V (EC970V) Ultra HD 4K OLED TV Review
In search of picture perfection
What is the LG 65EC970V?Strictly speaking, the 65EC970V is a 2014 OLED TV but various delays have meant it’s only just been released to the UK market. As such, the EC970 ships with the first iteration of LG’s webOS Smart TV platform but we’re told it will receive a software update to make it Version 2.0 compatible, as per the EG960V, which is somewhat confusingly a 2015 model. As a side note, the sample we received had a manufacturing date of January 2015 so it looks as though the model is still in production.
In addition to the cutting edge OLED tech, the EC970V also features a de rigeur curved screen design, Ultra HD (4K) resolution and a sound system designed by Harmon Kardon, so this TV is more or less at the vanguard of breakthrough television technologies. It certainly needs to be, however, when you consider the asking price is a princely £6,000, or thereabouts. When you think that most people look at spending £500, or under, on a television, this makes the 65EC970V an elite product that needs to deliver outstanding performance to get close to justifying the outlay.
Design & ConnectionsWe’re largely agnostic on the benefits of the curved screen, in terms of improving the viewing experience, but there’s no doubt they are aesthetically gorgeous to many. The EC970V is also literally wafer thin, for the most part at least, with a panel thickness of 5mm but there’s bulge on the back housing the speakers, amplification and connections, which makes it 57mm at its thickest point. The chassis rests on a very attractive arched metal stand which doesn’t allow for any swivel, but since viewing angles are incredibly wide that’s not really an issue. There’s also a pop-out video camera at the top of the panel, activated by a manual switch, and the only other front facing feature of note is the LG logo, directly below at the bottom, which you can choose to illuminate should you wish.
As this is a bleeding-edge product, one would expect the EC970V to sport the very latest in connectivity options and it more or less delivers. They are placed on the side and downward facing plates and include 3 USB Ports (2 x v2.0/1 x v3.0); 4 HDMI 2.0 ports, capable of carrying 4k signals at up to 60 frames per second; legacy video connections (Scart, Component, Composite); a Toslink digital audio output and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s also a LAN port, although the EC970 does also feature built-in dual band WiFi capability. Additionally, there’s a Freeview HD friendly aerial terminal and a CAM slot for premium (paid-for) digital TV services.
Beautiful Smart feature layout but awful settings menus
LG Smart+ TV (webOS) Features and UISince this is the same Smart TV system we reviewed in 2014, you could click on the link for a more in-depth look but we’ll give you a brief summary here. The idea behind webOS is that, much like your smartphone or tablet, everything is treated as an individual app. You want to access Netflix? Click on a tile from the ribbon at the bottom of the screen. You want to switch over to your Sky Box HDMI input? Click on a tile from the ribbon again. You probably get the idea from the description and the photos below and it’s all very customisable, too, so you can place your most used apps in the quickest to locate positions. You can also fully rename the inputs to match your kit list and the experience is generally slick, in terms of the Smart TV features, although we find the Settings menu interface absolutely dire – a bit more on that later.
The choice of apps is particularly strong, in terms of video streaming services, with NOW TV, Wuaki, Amazon Instant and Netflix all present. The latter two of those are of greatest interest to us, given they are the most viable sources for actual Ultra HD content to watch; we’ll expand on that in the Picture Quality section below. You also get BBC iPlayer, Demand 5 and the option of downloading YouTube from the LG Web Store but, alas, it’s not a 4K YouTube like we’ve seen with other competing models. We did get the odd instance where the webOS interface would hang and become unresponsive but this is still one very slick system that will only get better as it matures.
Input LagWhile there is no denying gaming on a 65-inch screen of such quality is extremely captivating, you might find yourself put at a disadvantage by the EC970V's relatively sluggish response to controller input. The Leo Bodnar tester registered an input lag of 81 milliseconds, when in Game Mode, and changing the input labelling to PC made no difference. For some casual single player, we say there's no issue, but if your competitive (and rich), you could find a better alternative for the sport(?).
LG 65EC970V Picture SettingsAs usual there are a lot of Picture Mode options in this LG TV; nine, in actual fact, but we’d advise heading directly to the bottom of the list and opting for one of the isf Expert options. They are both set up the same and provide an image that should be very close to the industry standards, although you may want to change the preset Gamma, in the ‘Expert Options’ to 2.4 for a darker viewing conditions. Interestingly, for an isf Mode, the Edge Enhancement feature defaults to ‘On’ when normally it wouldn’t and we’d definitely advise leaving it that way for anything broadcast HD quality and down, else you get a picture that looks quite soft. You can see our calibrated settings (such as they were) in the video below.
CalibrationApologies if this turns in to a rant but the calibration process involved with the EC970, with its current software version, is quite a painful one. There are a number of issues to report, not least the awful settings adjustment process which presents one menu to the side and one across the bottom of the screen, where one or the other would have been sufficient. Instead you find yourself accessing an option from the side menu and then making adjustments through the one at the bottom using a laborious highlighted icon, rather than the directional keys on the remote. Furthermore, when the menus are on-screen, they make a mess of the light output and white balance readings, so you have to measure, adjust and exit the menus and then measure again without them on-screen. When you have 20 point white balance and a 3D colour management system with three possible adjustments per colour, that is a significant drain on your time and patience. If I knew any Korean expletives, I would not hesitate in using them here!
And there’s more. The 20 point white balance controls don’t function as they are supposed to unless you set the Contrast control very high (LG advise maximum levels) which is all well and good but in doing so you end up severely clipping red energy in the greyscale, causing a pink hue easily visible in whites. The theory goes that once you’ve completed the calibration, you can then drop the contrast to a level where the clipping and tint disappears but you’re then changing the behaviour of the panel such that the readings near white, with contrast at max are almost meaningless.
We can see from the charts pictured above left that the 65EC970V fortunately displayed an impressive degree of greyscale accuracy, right out of the box, with just a small – although still noticeable – excess of green energy throughout. The gamma was tracking somewhat erratically, however, and more so with the Black Level set to Low, so we adjusted that to High and reset the Brightness accordingly. It was still not ideal but closer and hopefully within the scope of the controls to tame. But, as we can see from the post calibrated greyscale results top-right, things didn’t really go according to plan as the 20pt controls proved unworkable so we were left with the 2pt option to do what we could. On the plus side, we were able to get greyscale errors down below three and gamma tracking a little more as we’d like but this is a TV aimed at videophiles – as well as Premier League Footballers – and, as such, we expect it to be able to reach reference levels of accuracy.
Poor calibration controls for a videophile television
And the same goes for the colours. You can see from the charts top-left that the EC970V has quite a wide colour gamut even in its ‘Standard’ config, which is supposed to represent the Rec. 709 standard. It’s not terribly off but red, in particular, is over-saturated, too bright and off hue. You can see from the charts top-right that we were able to use the CMS to put everything in its place at full saturation levels but, unfortunately, this doesn’t present anything like the full story.
If we compare the CIE Charts above, that paint a fuller picture of the performance at less saturated levels, the one on the left is actually the pre-adjusted version where the colours are actually much better at lesser levels, albeit with a tendency to slightly over-saturate. That’s still a preferable state to the ‘calibrated’ chart, to the right, where they are relatively all over the place. The result of that is colours that don’t transition well and, at worst, visible chromatic artefacts with blocking and posterisation present. In the end, all we could do was reduce the luminance levels slightly and notch one down on the global Colour control, which brought most errors below three but, again, we would expect much more from a premium display product.
Picture QualityDespite the non-reference colour accuracy, the LG EC970V still has lots going for it. Chief amongst its commendable qualities, of course, is its ability to go extremely black, thus offering up near unlimited contrast performance with results that verge on the disconcerting initially. With an all-black screen, you wouldn’t know it was switched on, even in a darkened room, and it gives 2D pictures an almost 3D quality, unmatched by any other TV technology we’ve seen before. The pop is quite simply incredible and sometimes jaw-dropping in its dynamic range.
Contrast and Black LevelIf you’re interested in the numbers, like the OLED’s we’ve tested before, the EC970V registered a black measurement of 0.001 cd/m2 – which is phenomenally dark – and it could maintain that on a black and white checkerboard pattern, against a calibrated peak white averaging 92.3 cd/m2. That provides an ANSI contrast ratio of 92,300:1, which is so far beyond the range of even the best LED/LCD televisions that it’s a total non-contest in this aspect of picture performance. It doesn’t quite tell the full story however as the EC970 clearly has some quite aggressive brightness limiting circuity on board which meant the 92.3 cd/m2 output from the chequerboard pattern was tamed in to the low 60’s. In practice we can’t say that’s in any way an issue but it looks as though LG is being very protective of the circuitry inside, perhaps underlining that the technology is still in relative infancy.
4K Ultra HD PerformanceWe, or rather I, am in the fortunate position of having an internet connection that can comfortably cope with the bitrates necessary for 4K Ultra HD material from both Amazon Instant and Netflix. Resulting in the chance to again to see what the format really means for the consumer at this time. There’s precious little else, as things stand, beyond some clips on YouTube but the results are unlikely to disappoint all but the most over-expectant. We’ve long said that 4k will need more than the resolution increase to really sell itself, and that is set to happen, but when you see streamed video of this quality it’s hard not to think that 4K Blu-ray is going to have a major battle on its hands, once its released, with the entrenched – and relatively cheap – streaming services out there.
First up on the menu was the Netflix exclusive, Daredevil, which I’ll be honest in saying didn’t impress me as much as I’d hoped. I’d seen a couple of episodes on the Samsung JS9000 which had got me rather excited at the prospect but the 65-inch EC970V brought in to sharp focus (or not) the inadequacies of watching UHD on a 48-inch screen. The video is actually very grainy, no doubt as a stylistic choice from the director to produce a gritty feel, but it’s not a great advert for an emerging format selling itself on the back of clarity of image. The third season of House of Cards, on the other hand, is a feast for the eyes and obviously shot with 4K in mind; the number of skin close ups showing off tiny details and the increasing stubble count of the cast are testament to that. Still, we’re not complaining – far from it in fact – and this is video quality of (nearly) the highest order. There were two instances where we got a strange and fleeting multi-coloured pixelated effect (one was Episode 3 at 29m35s) that we don’t know whether to attribute to an HEVC encoding or decoding issue but we’ll check when we have another 4K Netflix capable TV in.
We've been spoiled - it's 4K House of Cards now, or not at all
HD & SD Picture QualityWe wouldn’t say the LG EC960V exactly struggled with sub Ultra HD resolutions but it was certainly less forgiving than some of the high-end 4K LED/LCD TVs we’ve seen. As said above, anything from broadcast HD (1080i) is going to need some edge enhancement, at least, to stop it looking soft and when we’re going in to the territory of streamed 720p and, worse still, standard definition material, then you might have to investigate the noise reduction options to make it at least palatable. This isn’t a criticism of the EC970V as such, and you shouldn’t feed a racehorse on pig swill – but be warned that if you’re not planning on jumping in to the resolution revolution with both feet, you’d still be best served with a quality 1080p TV, for the time being, or at least an Ultra HD one that treats lesser material more kindly. It’s a different story with a good Blu-ray disc where there’s no need for processing assistance, beyond the necessary scaling, but this TV is built to really shine with 4K.
The motion handling of the EC970V is not especially impressive on paper (we got around 400 lines of clarity on a 1080p test) but, in practice, we couldn’t really see any notable problems. Film content was perfectly handled, whilst faster paced action such as football (and I watch lots of that) does just blur a little but it’s in a way that, to my eyes at least, looks perfectly normal. There’s certainly no unpleasant trailing or dragging artefacts and the general look of the TV is definitely more plasma than it is LCD/LED, despite the shared sample and hold technology.
3D Picture QualityI’m not a fan of 3D and I’ve never made a secret about that. In my eyes, it just ain’t natural and never will be but if there was ever a TV that could make me change my mind about that, then the EC970V would be it. The combination of the cavernous blacks, fluid crosstalk-free images and zero flicker with Full HD delivered to each eye is pretty staggering to be honest. I’d intended to watch a few test clips but ended watching nearly all of Gravity; nearly all because I fell asleep in the armchair near the end, which at least shows that the Passive 3D glasses are comfortable to wear! Stunning 3D but whether it’s enough to save that format remains to be seen.
Definitely built for 4K and not sympathetic on lower quality sources. But those blacks and contrast performance - yikes!
Tints, banding and other issuesAs stated a couple of times in this review, the EC970V is at the vanguard of several new technologies and, as such, it’s not surprising it’s not yet quite the finished article. There were a couple of, probably somewhat related picture anomalies that gave cause for distraction and both pertained to screen uniformity. The first thing that struck us, when looking at an all-white screen, was a patchy greeny-blue mottled effect, mostly visible around the centre together with a slight pink hue when moving out to the edges and corners. We think there’s a combination of factors at play here, with the filter and curve playing some part but there’s also the suggestion that the current supplied to the OLED’s isn’t quite right. The effect changes slightly depending on where you’re looking from, especially with the pink edges which would support the fact the filter plays a part but also the refraction of light at the perimeters is somewhat different than nearer the middle, which suggests the curve could also make a slight difference.
The second issue we noticed was initially less noticeable but ultimately more plaguing. When all’s said and done, you don’t often watch an all (or mostly white screen), except in adverts (and perhaps Fargo and Fortitude spring to mind) but you do get lots of dark scenes where the other issue rears its head, normally in transition from a lighter scene. Rather than a long drawn out explanation, if you look at the image below, you can see that some of the pixels towards the edge aren’t being fully illuminated and when you get an even darker image, then it can sometimes crush all the detail in the corners completely. Is this a by-product of the curve and the difficulty in supplying voltages evenly right to the edges? Perhaps but what is for sure is that this shouldn’t be happening on a six grand TV. In mitigation, your eyes are naturally drawn to the centre of an image so it’s not something you’re likely to notice often and it’s not like it’s a routine occurrence either but it does merit investigation by LG’s engineers.
We’ve also noted all of the feedback in our various LG OLED Owners threads regarding performance near black, particularly with regards to a panel banding effect and some scenes from Interstellar and Jaws. We can confirm that we saw some (extremely brief) banding and blocking issues with Interstellar but we could see no issues with the ‘campfire scene’ in Jaws. The fact we had to specifically go looking, rather than seeing anything similar in around 80hrs of viewing, is probably telling and we wouldn’t want to put people off on these grounds whatsoever; the LG EC970V boasts absolutely stunning dark scene performance with generally excellent shadow detailing that ups the already astonishing dynamic range of this TV.
For all that we’ve dedicated three paragraphs relating to picture problems, don’t think for a minute that this TV doesn’t generally look incredible. The fact is, when you place yourself at the top of the pile, as LG has, both in terms of pricing and proclamations of picture perfection, you invite this level of scrutiny and we know from past experience that LG always takes feedback seriously and will always do their best to resolve even the most minor niggles.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best) 84% 10-bit Panel HDMI 2.0a Inputs HDCP 2.2 Support HEVC Decoding 4K Streaming Services Smart TV Platform Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 8 What do these mean?
- Incredible blacks
- Near unlimited contrast
- Believable colours
- Gorgeous to look at
- Slick Smart features
- Some uniformity issues
- Unforgiving of lesser quality sources
- Poor calibration controls
- The EG960V costs the same but is better
LG 65EC970V (EC970V) Ultra HD 4K OLED TV Review
Should I buy the LG 65EC970V?There is absolutely loads to love about the LG 65EC970V but this is a very tough one to answer, not least because we’ve only just reviewed one of the 970V’s successors in the EG960V. The 65-inch version of LG’s latest 4K OLED line is also priced identically to the EC970V, which all leaves us very confused as to the company’s strategy here. Despite the near infinite black levels and picture contrast, believable colours, gorgeous design and slick smart features found in the EC970V, we already know that LG has bettered the calibration software – and boy did they need to – improved webOS and made the menus slicker in the EG960. That begs the question why wouldn’t you plump for the new and improved version?
The answer to that question, we guess, is that since reviewing the, then available, EG960V it seems to have disappeared from retail channels so who knows who long you would have to wait. The company’s track record in over-promising and under-delivering in the OLED department are well known. So, the probable fact of the matter is, the 65-inch LG 65EC970V is the best available television currently (May 2015) on the market. It is very expensive and it’s definitely not perfect but, still, it makes for absolutely outstanding viewing and comes Highly Recommended.
What else could I consider?Other than the waiting for the EG960, which is what I would be inclined to do given the funding, we would also recommend checking out the sensational Samsung UE65JS9000, which can’t match the black levels of OLED but does boast HDR technology and more sympathetic handling of lower resolution sources.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level10
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality10
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
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