LG LA970W Ultra HD 4K TV Review
It's Ultra HD and it's got an ultra-price but does it deliver an ultra-performance?
What is the LG LA970W?The market for Ultra High Definition (UHD) TVs might still be in its infancy but that hasn’t stopped the manufacturers from firing the first salvos in the inevitable war for our hearts, minds and, most importantly, wallets. It would seem that in the absence of any agreed standards for 4K or UHD, not to mention the thorny question of just how that content is going to be delivered, the manufacturers have chosen a different approach. The current emphasis is on how the combination of a higher resolution panel and superior upscaling can make all your existing high definition content look better. So, even if you can’t actually watch any 4K content yet, you can still benefit from your UHD TV.
In that respect LG are no different from the competition but they have taken an alternative approach in other respects. Their 65-inch LA970 UHD TV uses a full back light array, which means that the LEDs are behind the panel, rather than to the side. This should ensure a more even backlight, which can be a problem when using edge lighting on these larger screen sizes. LG has also tried to address the perennial problem of poor TV sound by adding an ingenious slide down soundbar and larger speakers at the rear. Of course aside from the 4K panel itself, all these extra features have added to the cost, so let’s see if the 65LA970W can justify its £5,500 price tag.
Design and ConnectionsThe LA970 packs an awful lot into a slim and attractive chassis, although for good reasons it’s a little deeper than some of the competition. There is a minimalist feel to the design, with a thin black bezel that measures 1cm and surrounds the entire screen. At the top is a pop-up camera and microphone for making video calls and facial recognition, whilst at the bottom is the logo and a power indicator light. At the far right rear of the screen there are some basic controls, whilst at the rear left are the connections. There are only three sideways facing HDMI inputs, although they include support for ARC and MHL. There are breakout cables for legacy connections, a CI slot and three USB ports. There’s also an Ethernet port, although the LA970 has built-in WiFi. Quite how LG will address the issue of changing UHD standards and new versions of HDMI remains to be seen.
We quickly realised that a soundbar slides down into the space the stand creates beneath the panel itself - very clever.
The panel sits on a matte metal stand that measures 136cm across the entire length of the TV and there is a reason for this aside from pure aesthetics. When we first turned the LA970 on, we heard the sound of motors and wondered what was moving. We quickly realised that a soundbar slides down into the space the stand creates beneath the panel itself - very clever. There is the option to leave the soundbar down constantly or to leave it up if you are using an outboard audio solution. As a result of the built-in sound bar and beefed-up speakers, the panel is much deeper at the bottom, measuring 7cm. The larger screen size and all this speaker power means that the LA970 is also a lot of heavier than most LED LCD TVs, so bear that in mind if wall mounting.
The LA970 comes with the latest version of LG’s Magic Remote and whilst we’re not sure it needed a redesign, it remains a highly effective way of navigating the TV menus and the Smart features. We would have preferred a normal remote whilst calibrating the LG and we still find going through the home page to access the Settings menus a pain but once the TV has been setup, the Magic Remote is a pleasure to use. If you’d rather use your smartphone as a controller, LG also provide free remote apps for both iOS and Android. This being an LG TV it comes with plenty of passive 3D glasses and two pairs of Dual Play glasses for two-player gaming.
MenusThe LA970 uses LG's standard menu system, which is no bad thing. We have always considered LG's user interface to be one of the best around due to its simplicity, clarity and ease of navigation. Our only complaint is that to access the Settings menu you need to navigate in from the Smart Home Screen but there is a Quick Menu button which provides easy access to various important settings. These include the Picture Mode submenu which has two ISF modes, where you'll find all the calibration controls you could possibly wish for.
These include a Colour Management System (CMS) with full 6 axis control over tint (hue), saturation and luminance for both the primary and secondary colours. The CMS is located in the Expert Control area of the Picture Menu along with both 2- and 20-point White Balance controls, some pre-set Gamma curves and a choice of Colour Gamut options. Other controls found in the Expert Control menu are the Dynamic Contrast, Super Resolution and Edge Enhancement options, all of which should be set to ‘Off’. The Picture Menu also contains all the standard controls of course, including Backlight, Contrast, Brightness and Colour and there are both vertical and horizontal Sharpness controls.
FeaturesThere's already a detailed review of LG's Reference Status Smart TV System, which you can read here. The LA970 includes a heathy set of features for interacting with a mobile device, including built-in WiFi, WiFi Direct, Miracast and LG's new 'Tag On' feature. This uses Near Field Communication (NFC) to allow a fast and easy connection between your mobile device and the TV itself. All you need to do is simply hold your smartphone or other NFC-enabled device against the NFC sticker and the two devices will then automatically connect. The LA970 also includes a pop-up camera with built-in microphone, for use when making Skype video calls. The LA970 is DLNA certified, so it has extensive networking, connection and sharing capabilities - all of which can be accessed from SmartShare. It also offers extensive file support and it passed our new DivX Media Test Kit with absolutely no issues.
In terms of LG’s 2013 Smart TV System, it's accessed via the Home screen and is extremely good, highly usable and fast to navigate, especially using the Magic Remote. The content is accessibly and cleanly presented and if you have a favourite app you can make it quicker to access by adding it to the ‘More’ bar which runs across the bottom of the Home page. To add to the usability, the Home page can be customised to a degree and it’s all presented in a ‘card’ style format for the different categories – Premium, Game World, 3D World, Smart World and Smart Share. One of the new features in LG's smart platform is the addition of Sky's NOW TV service, which gives you access to a number of premium Sky services - for a fee of course. Although you can access NOW TV from a number of devices including Sky's own NOW TV box, LG are the only manufacturer to currently offer the service as part of their TV smart platform.
LG’s 2013 Smart TV System is extremely good, highly usable and fast to navigate thanks to the Magic Remote.
Audio QualityThere's no denying that LG have worked hard to improve the audio on the LA970 and to large extent they have been successful. Certainly the idea of incorporating what amounts to a built-in sound bar is a clever one and gives the TV superior sound to much of its competition. You can either have the speaker slide down into position every time you turn it on or you can leave it down all the time. The sound quality was very good overall, with the central speaker providing a wide and effective front soundstage. Dialogue remained clear and centrally focused whilst the width provided good stereo separation for both music and effects. The larger chassis and built-in subwoofer at the rear also provided some low end impact giving the sound a reasonable amount of bass. Of course, you could argue that anyone buying a £5,500 UHD TV will be using some form of outboard amplification but you can't fault LG for trying to provide a viable alternative.
Test ResultsIn terms of performing a basic setup, LG has always provided a series of correctly named features in their menus, which makes this process much easier. If you use one of the Professional modes, you can select a colour gamut of BT709 and a gamma of 2.2. Then all you need to do is turn off most of the other features, turn the Sharpness controls down, select the Just Scan aspect ratio for high-def content and set the Brightness and Contrast controls to suit your environment.
The out-of-the-box greyscale isn’t as accurate as we would expect from LG, with an excess of red and a deficit of blue resulting in some visible discolouration and a yellow tinge. The errors aren’t huge but with a DeltaE of around 5, they will be noticeable. Gamma also proved problematic, crushing blacks slightly at the low end of the scale and boosting the brighter portion of the picture. The colour performance is better, although the luminance or brightness of red, blue and therefore magenta are all too high. There are also some hue errors due to the inaccurate greyscale and you can clearly see white skewing towards yellow.
In the past LG have included some very effective calibration controls but recently we have noticed some bugs in the software and sadly the LA970 was also affected. We were able to quickly improve the greyscale using the two-point control but found the 20-point to be largely ineffective. No matter how much we moved certain sliders they appeared to have no affect, so we couldn’t fine tune the greyscale in places, although overall it was very accurate. However the gamma remained a problem that we were unable to correct it with the controls available to us.
Things got worse with the colour management system (CMS), which initially seemed to work quite well, giving a reference series of measurements. However as soon as we watched some viewing material there was an obvious problem with the CMS, introducing terrible artefacts into the image - especially with red. In the end the best we could do was calibrate the greyscale and leave it at that because any attempt to use the CMS introduced artefacts. As a result the hue errors were corrected but the excessive luminance in red, blue and magenta remained. This is a poor state of affairs for flagship TV that costs as much as the LA970.
The measurements at lower saturation levels were reasonable, although there was an over saturation of all the colours at levels below 100%. Again this isn’t terrible but we really would expect a more accurate performance from a flagship TV at this price point. It would seem that in terms of colour accuracy, LG have some work to do.
If there was one area where the LA970 really surprised us, it was in terms of it’s native black levels. We actually measured black at 0.005cd/m2 which is extremely good for an IPS panel. The LA970 also had plenty of brightness, easily hitting out target of 120cd/m2 and giving us an on/off contrast ratio of 24,000:1. When it came to the ANSI contrast ratio, things weren’t quite as impressive, with the LA970 measuring at 1,767:1. However as the checker board pattern shows, thanks to the full array backlight the measurements were very uniform.
In fact this was one area where the LA970 was especially strong, with a very uniform backlight and no clouding and bright corners or edges. Unfortunately all this good work was undone once you moved off-axis. Surprisingly for an IPS panel, the off-axis performance was very poor with bright objects against dark backgrounds glowing very noticeably, even with local dimming turned off. The only conclusion is that the proximity of the LEDs to the panel itself is causing the glowing, despite the presence of LG’s proprietary Nano filter. So whilst the picture looked great directly in front of the screen, it rapidly deteriorated as you moved further from centre.
The video processing on any UHD TV is especially important because, for the time being at least, all the content you will be watching on it will be upscaled to the panels native resolution of 3840 x 2160. Thankfully the video processing was absolutely superb, with all the content we watched being deinterlaced and scaled perfectly to match the higher resolution panel. The LA970 proved extremely competent at deinterlacing and scaling standard definition content, with clear and crisp reproduction of fine details and no unwanted ringing. The LG also had no problems detecting both 3:2 and 2:2 cadence correctly and scrolling video text over film was also delivered perfectly. The LA970 performed extremely well in all our other tests, delivering an almost flawless performance in every regard. The quality of the video deinterlacing at 1080i50 was just as good as it was for standard definition and there were no apparent issues with 24p content. All this content was perfectly scaled to match the 3840 x 2160 panel and we saw no motion handling issues. In fact we found the overall motion handling to be quite impressive for a LCD TV and even fast moving sport looked quite good.
LG TVs have struggled with input lag recently, which suggests that there is quite a bit of processing going on behind the scenes. However in our recent review of the LA860 we measured a lag of about 50ms which whilst too slow for dedicated gamers was at least an improvement on last year. Sadly the LA970 is a retrograde step, measuring a decidedly tardy 109ms even in Game mode. This will undoubtedly be too slow not only for the more expert gamer but also those of a less fanatical nature, so if input lag, or rather the lack of it, is important to you then the LA970 is probably not the best choice.
- Standby: 0.0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Dynamic Mode: 204W
- Calibrated 2D Mode: 195W
- Calibrated 3D Mode:280W
The off-axis performance was very poor with bright objects against dark backgrounds glowing very noticeably.
LG LA970W Picture Quality 4KWhilst the availability of genuine 4K content remains limited it is increasingly difficult to provide a very informed opinion of the merits of the current crop of UHD TVs when it comes to content intended for the native resolution of their panels. LG were good enough to include some 4K content for the review and it was some the better footage we have seen, with plenty of motion and energetic shots such as parachute jumps over Dubai. This makes a change from the usual rather static travelogue shots and does at least allow us to judge motion handling on 4K content at lower frame rates. As it happens the LA970 looked spectacular with 4K content and the 65-inch screen was bursting with fine detail which, in the case of the shots over the skyscrapers of Dubai, induced a degree of vertigo. There's no denying that the increased resolution was immediately apparent and it was pleasing to see that motion was also handled well despite the current limitations. The full backlight array certainly played a part in making the 4K content look excellent and it was easily some of the best 4K we have seen to date. Sadly, and this is going to be repeated through-out the next few sections, the presence of banding on any camera pan was always a constant distraction. This was a shame because in all other respects the LA970 delivered a fantastic 4K performance.
LG LA970W Picture Quality 2DThe performance of the LA970 with high definition content was in the most part very good, with the excellent video processing scaling the content to nicely match the higher resolution screen. The superb backlight uniformity was also pleasing to see, as were the deep blacks - thanks to this and the panel's brightness the dynamic range was also impressive. In fact, although the local dimming worked very well, neither crushing shadow detail nor introducing unwanted artefacts, the blacks were still good even when it was off. The motion handling was also impressive for an LCD panel and when it came to 24p content the results were great - as long as TruMotion was off. The LA970 was even able to make standard definition content look good, which is a testament to the quality of LG's video processing. Whilst it couldn't do much about poorly compressed content, when the source was reasonable the results were surprisingly good. The precise 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.
Sadly all this good work was undermined by two factors that as far as we can tell are directly attributable to the full LED backlight array. Whilst we applaud LG's attempts to use a full LED array to eliminate backlight uniformity and clouding issues - and they have been successful in this regard - their desire to keep the chassis slim undermines a lot of their good work. The LEDs are just too close to the panel itself and LG's proprietary Nano filter doesn't diffuse them enough to eliminate certain issues. Thus, as we mentioned in the Test Results section, as soon as you move off centre bright objects against dark backgrounds glow excessively. This haloing is common with poorly applied local dimming but it was obvious on the LA970 regardless of whether the local dimming was on or off. As long as you were sat dead centre it was not an issue but as soon as you moved to either side it was immediately noticeable. We could tolerate the glowing to a certain extent because, as we said, it wasn't an issue when you watched the LA970 directly on-axis but it will make it difficult for the whole family to watch TV when spread across the living room.
The second factor was far more of an issue and is again a result of the LEDs proximity to the panel. Unfortunately whenever a camera panned from one side to the other banding was clearly visible. This banding was the result of LED array and you could literally see the columns of LEDs that make up the backlight. Again it didn't matter if the local dimming was on or off and it was always there regardless of whether you were watching 4K, high-def or 3D content. It was especially noticeable if the camera panned over a uniform surface such as a sky or a green field and thus made football almost unwatchable. LG developed the Nano filter as a way of combating this banding but it has proved largely ineffective and LG have failed to address this problem despite us feeding back our comments on it over the last two years. As a result the picture is compromised and certainly can't justify the LA970's hefty price tag.
There was very noticeable banding on every camera pan, which affected all viewing material regardless of its nature.
LG LA970W Picture Quality 3DAs always with a 4K panel that uses passive 3D, the results were spectacular. We have always liked LG's Cinema 3D, which is the name they use for their passive 3D system, and the added resolution of a 4K panel means they can actually deliver a full 1080p to each eye. The results speak for themselves, with beautifully detailed 3D images that are free of any crosstalk or flicker. The motion handling was also very good and the LA970 handling both frame packed and side-by-side 3D with equal ease. The glasses are light, comfortable to wear and don't need fresh batteries or recharging. They're also very cheap and if you have any RealD glasses from the cinema lying around, you can even use those. Thanks to the inherent brightness of the panel, the 3D images had real punch to them and with the 65-inch screen size it was a genuinely immersive experience. Only the ever present banding ruined what was otherwise a very enjoyable 3D experience.
LG LA970W Video Review
- Excellent backlight uniformity
- Surprisingly good black levels
- Superb video processing
- Reference Smart platform
- Excellent features
- Impressive audio
- Great build quality
- Noticeable banding on any camera pans
- Excessive glowing around bright objects
- Very limited off axis performance
- CMS introduces artefacts
LG LA970W Ultra HD 4K TV ReviewWhilst we applaud LG’s ambition, the 65LA970W is a classic example of overreach and as a result it ultimately fails to deliver a performance that justifies the price tag. There is much to like about this TV, from its excellent backlight uniformity to its impressive black levels and superb video processing. It looks great with 4K content and takes full advantage of the higher resolution panel when upscaling high and even standard definition content. The features are impressive, the build quality excellent, the Smart platform reference setting and the Magic Remote a joy to use. You can debate the merits of onboard audio on a TV of this nature but if you don't plan on using an add-on solution, LG's innovative sliding speaker is undeniably clever and actually sounds good. As always there is an effective menu system and some good calibration controls, although LG's inability to effectively implement their CMS is an ongoing problem.
Despite all this, the one thing that sets the LA970 apart from the competition is also its downfall. The use of a full LED array backlight might result in good uniformity and deep blacks but the proximity of the LEDs to the panel and the ineffectiveness of the Nano filter spoils the party. The glowing of bright objects on dark backgrounds once you move off-axis means the LA970 has very limited viewing angles, which is a problem for a TV this big. Whilst the banding that appears every time a camera pans will make some content and especially football almost unwatchable. When you consider how much the LA970 costs that really isn't acceptable and has to be a mark against the TV when compared to much of the competition. The simple fact is that the 65-inch UHD TVs on offer from both Sony and Samsung offer better performance for a lower price and, as a result, the LG 65LA970W is a case of close but no cigar.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality7
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money6
Our Review Ethos
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