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post #1 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 07:40 AM - Thread Starter
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LG 77EG9700 UHD OLED—An Extended Critical Look



Mark Henninger takes a critical hands-on look at the largest emissive UHDTV available to consumers, a 77-inch OLED UHDTV from LG.

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Over the course of the past year, AV enthusiasts have witnessed the death of plasma and the birth of UHD/4K OLED. Like plasma, OLED displays are emissive—each pixel lights up on its own. Emissive displays typically achieve deeper blacks and higher contrast ratios than their LED-backlit LCD brethren.

The first generation of consumer-oriented OLED HDTVs consisted of two 55-inch 1080p models: the Samsung KN55S9C and LG 55EA9800. Those two TVs introduced the world to curved-screen flat-panel displays. For a brief moment in time, that curve was OLED's calling card. Soon enough, curved LCDs appeared, and OLED lost its curved cachet. The shift meant OLED TVs had to compete on price and performance, instead of relying on the novelty of the ultra-thin curved screen.

During that first year, the price of a 55-inch 1080p OLED took a vertiginous plunge. The price of a 55EA9800, which debuted at $15,000, fell to a street price of $2000. It's replacement—the LG 55EC9700—debuted at $3500. Any way you cut it, that's a tremendous price drop in only one year. Meanwhile, Samsung decided to take a pass on a follow-up to its KN55S9C—the company decided to pursue the market for curved-screen LCDs instead.

Currently, LG is the only company offering OLED displays to consumers. Its flagship OLED is the 77-inch 77EG9700, a curved-screen 4K/UHD TV that sells for $25,000. You won't find it on display at your local Best Buy, so when Robert Zohn of Value Electronics (an AV retailer located in Scarsdale, NY) offered me a chance to spend a day with the 77EG9700, I took it. Even better, that day stretched into three separate visits, which gave me a chance to really dig into this OLED.


The First Visit

For my first trip to Value Electronics, on February 19, I rode shotgun with AVS member Joe Whip (jwhip). The goal of the trip was to take a brief critical look at the 77EG9700. During that visit, we sat with Robert in his darkened home-theater demo room and watched a combination of 2160p and 1080p content on an uncalibrated 77EG9700.

The first 15 minutes of The Dark Knight on Blu-ray served as a reference for both color and contrast—a reference I revisited numerous times in the process of writing this piece. It looked good, but there were clear issues with grayscale tonality—we could see hints of green and magenta in clouds, pavement, and other typically gray or neutral objects. We also spotted a lot of video noise in shadow areas.

During the demo, I told Robert I brought a calibration kit with me, including CalMan 5 Pro and a pair of high-performance meters—the CR100 colorimeter and CR-250 spectroradiometer from Colorimetry Research. I suggested it would be quick and easy to perform a 2-point grayscale adjustment to see what difference it made. Robert agreed to try a quick calibration.

It only took a few minutes to perform the 2-point adjustment, and the results were well worth the effort. When we re-watched the same footage from The Dark Knight, everything snapped into place—grays were gray and skin tones looked natural. Furthermore, post-calibration measurements confirmed that the overall delta E of both the gamut and grayscale measured below 3, the threshold where errors become noticeable.


A quick 2-point grayscale adjustment resulted in a delta E of 3 or less.

Despite the improvement from the quick calibration, we could not help but notice some additional issues with that particular panel. The most obvious was a vertical stripe near the center of the screen. It was about an inch wide with soft edges. The stripe was slightly brighter than the rest of the screen, and it was clearly visible when displaying a gray full field. With real content, it was hidden most of the time, but in some scenes it was clearly visible.

We also noticed that the TV was crushing blacks, but that effect was very minor. The exaggerated noise/grain was the most obvious and distracting artifact, and we had no idea what was causing it.

I suggested to Robert it would be interesting to perform a more in-depth calibration, including 20-point grayscale and CMS (color management system) adjustments. I wanted to see if it was possible to get more out of that TV.

Robert mentioned that professional calibrators Kevin Miller and David Mackenzie planned to work on the 77EG9700, and he invited me to join that session as an observer. The pro calibration would use a Lumagen Radiance 2143 video processor ($4000) to take care of color processing because it supports a 4913-point 3D LUT (lookup table).

However, I wanted more hands-on time with the 77EG9700 before joining the calibrators for the Lumagen session. Robert said that was not a problem, so five days later I took another trip to Value Electronics.


The Second Visit

On February 24, I returned to Value Electronics. I spent four hours working on the LG using CalMan and the Colorimetry Research meters, carefully tweaking the LG's 20-point grayscale and CMS controls.

Performing a thorough calibration on the 77EG9700 was a tedious process because menu items on the screen affected readings taken by the meter. In order to achieve the accuracy I sought, I had to exit the menu for every measurement. Unfortunately, the in-depth calibration was a complete waste of time; I did not achieve an appreciable improvement over the 2-point calibration. In fact, using the 20-point controls mostly made things worse.

The problem is that LG's 20-point grayscale and CMS controls generate contouring artifacts. Contouring makes smooth gradients look banded, and it tends to exaggerate noise and film grain. Any small improvements in measured accuracy—CalMan produced some very pretty graphs—were negated by a visible (but unmeasurable) degradation in picture quality. I reset all the 20-point controls to zero and I switched my focus to the CMS, where I dialed-in the BT.709 gamut.


A full calibration using the LG's 20-point grayscale and CMS adjustments produced a pretty chart.

When I finished my calibration, I ran a ColorChecker scan using CalMan 5 and the Colorimetry Research CR-100. Technically, the TV passed the test; the average delta E for the scan was less than 3, which is below the threshold of human perception. However, some of the ColorChecker patches spiked well above a delta E of 3. After a few iterations of CMS adjustment and 2-point grayscale tweaking, I was satisfied that the 77-inch OLED was as calibrated as it was going to get using its built-in tools.


When I ran CalMan 5 ColorChecker, some color patches spiked about a delta E or 3.

It became clear that a video processor like the Lumagen Radiance 2143 is desirable if you want to get the most out of the 77EG9700. A dedicated processor offers a lot finer control over calibration, albeit at a rather high price. And even with a $4000 investment in a Lumagen Radiance 2143, that device can't accept a native 4K/UHD signal—it's limited to 1080p input with UHD/4K upscaling.

A fully 4K-capable Radiance is in development, but I expect it to cost considerably more than the 2143. Combine that with the $25,000 cost of the 77EG9700 and you wind up with a 77-inch TV that costs as much as a compact luxury car.

Since there was nothing more I could do to improve the picture quality beyond what the 2-point grayscale adjustment offered, Robert and I switched to critiquing real content. We spend about an hour scrutinizing the opening scenes from The Dark Knight.

As we sat and watched from about eight feet away, I kept seeing a lot of film grain and/or noise. I also spotted a few cases where screen-uniformity issues were visible with real content—the vertical stripe was still there.


The Third Visit

I returned to Value Electronics on Saturday, March 7. When I arrived, Kevin Miller and David Mackenzie were hard at work calibrating TVs, including an LG 65EC9700 OLED. The 77EG9700 was in the showroom now, hanging on the wall next to a calibrated Samsung UN78HU9000. I must admit that I did not immediately recognize it as an OLED—in a bright room, it looked a lot like the LCDs.

We discussed the experience I had working on the 77-incher's 20-point grayscale controls, and how I found it unusable. Kevin and David were not surprised that LG's controls did more harm than good—apparently, that issue is not exclusive to the 77EG9700.

David played a scene from Argo and paused it on a close-up of a face. I was surprised to see pronounced, unnatural mottling in what should have been smooth skin. The calibrated Samsung 78HU9000 hanging right next to the 77EG9700 showed no sign of that artifact. With the image still on the screen, David rolled back the LG's CMS adjustments. As he set each level to zero, the overall picture quality improved before our eyes—visible proof that the CMS system in the LG did more harm than good.


Using the CMS controls on the LG caused the mottling you see on the left. Resetting the CMS controls cleared things up, as seen on the right.

At that point, the need for an external video processor was self-evident. The LG 77EG9700's built-in calibration controls are only useful for creating pretty graphs in CalMan, not for creating pretty pictures on-screen. None of this was a big surprise to the pros, who have worked with other LGs that exhibit similar issues. The answer to the problem was to use the Lumagen Radiance.

Kevin Miller performed the 77EG9700 calibration using a custom workflow (that he designed) in CalMan and a Klein K10-A colorimeter. He achieved much better results with the Radiance; image quality was clearly superior using a 3D LUT to correct color and grayscale. We played the same scenes from The Dark Knight, and the result looked great—not only were colors more accurate, they were also richer. When we dimmed the lights, the LG's exceptional contrast made the LCDs in the room look pathetic in comparison.


Kevin Miller performing the calibration.


CalMan 5 cranking out a 3D LUT for the Lumagen Radiance 2143 and LG 77EG9700 combo

As good as the 77EG9700 looked, several of its flaws remained. The excess noise did not go away, and the vertical stripe was still there. The TV also appeared to crush blacks, if only slightly. As an experiment, we bumped up the brightness control a few notches until we saw the first hint of illumination in the letterbox bars. The crushed blacks went away, and the result was a very compelling image—color accuracy and shadow detail were superb. I wish I'd had a chance to measure the black levels after we tweaked the brightness control, but by then it had gotten very late and we were all ready to go home.

Ultimately, there is a lot to like about the LG 77EG9700, but it is not perfect. The vertical stripe we spotted could very well be a one-off defect of that particular panel, but the issues with LG's calibration controls were not—that is clearly a design flaw.

The exaggerated noise is a real issue—I watched the same scenes from The Dark Knight on a Samsung F8500 plasma, a Panasonic AX900 UHD LCD, and numerous other LCDs in the Value Electronics showroom. The excessive noise appeared only on the OLED—it's not in the content. I also noticed that off-axis viewing introduced a mild color shift in the image. It's not a big shift, but there is a viewing cone outside of which color accuracy diminishes. Even so, it's better than the vast majority of LCDs in that regard. Only the very best IPS LCD panels exhibit better off-axis color accuracy.

I applaud Robert Zohn for inviting such scrutiny of a TV that he sells. At the end of the day, when we shut off all the lights and compared the calibrated and tweaked 77EG9700 to all the LED-lit LCD TVs in the showroom, it looked better—a lot better. From a normal viewing distance, its positive attributes trumped any of the flaws I've mentioned. The seductive combination of OLED's high contrast and color accuracy are sure to inspire a few well-heeled buyers to invest in this bleeding-edge TV.

Crucially, if the vertical-band uniformity issue is a one-off defect, what remains is the noise issue. According to David MacKenzie, there is a strong possibility that the noise results from the way the 77EG9700 processes color, as opposed to an issue with the panel itself. Ideally, I'd like a few more days to experiment with a 77EG9700—I'd love to find a solution to the noise problem—but my time was up.

The irony of high-end gear is that the closer you get to perfection, the easier it is to spot any flaws. Even so, if you compare the latest generation of OLEDs to what was available just a year ago, you can clearly see that LG has made tremendous progress. At the 2014 Value Electronics Flat-Panel Shootout, LG's 55EC9300 tied for first with Samsung's PN64F8500 plasma. But the 55EC9700 had many more image quality-related issues than the 77EG9700. If Robert hosts another shootout this year, I suspect the latest OLEDs will be unbeatable.


Calibration Reports

Click here for Kevin Miller's calibration report using the LG 77EG9700's built-in color processing:

Click here for Kevin Miller's calibration report with the Lumagen Radiance 2146 taking care of video processing

TOOLS

SpectraCal CalMan 5 Professional Calibration Software
DVDO AVLab TPG 4K Pattern Generator
Colorimetry Research CR-100 Colorimeter
Colorimetry Research CR-250 Spectroradiometer


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Last edited by imagic; 03-13-2015 at 06:38 AM.
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post #2 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 08:06 AM
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How many points did you use for your after 3DLUT calibration colorchecker, once loaded into the 2143.?

How many triplet color patches did you guys use for the profile.?

Do you have the full reports that you can post?

Looks like you guys used a Klein K10 (on-screen mode), did you profile the K10 with a spectro, if so what spectro did you use.

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post #3 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 08:11 AM
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Are you going to put the 65EG9600 model through the same rigorous testing, when it becomes available, to determine if it has the same problems with CMS etc that this model has? It would be helpful to know if LG has paid any heed to the many complaints about their CMS, and have taken steps to improve it or not.
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post #4 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 08:15 AM
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Thanks for the insight, Mark - even though it did feel occasionally like something a police officer would be reading out in court. ;-)

I'm glad you got multiple opportunities to examine the set, and that, with the combined input of Kevin Miller and David McKenzie, you were able to discover that some of the calibration issues could be addressed.

It would be very interesting to see if the remaining issues of the faint vertical band is visible in other models, and whether image noise is present when delivered from other sources or after having first been fed through another processor.

It's rather ironic that the original complaint of DNR has now been replaced with one of 'too much noise'.

Anyway - hope to hear if you get an opportunity to take another look, and what you think.

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It would seem that based on what you are saying @imagic these issues are correctable via a firmware update(ignoring the vertical stripe as a one off)...certainly the CMS issue and the noise getting created by the color processing at least.
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post #6 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 08:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wicklow View Post
It would seem that based on what you are saying @imagic these issues are correctable via a firmware update(ignoring the vertical stripe as a one off)...certainly the CMS issue and the noise getting created by the color processing at least.
That's only a theory, but it is an educated guess based on an extended discussion with David MacKenzie.
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post #7 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greenland View Post
Are you going to put the 65EG9600 model through the same rigorous testing, when it becomes available, to determine if it has the same problems with CMS etc that this model has? It would be helpful to know if LG has paid any heed to the many complaints about their CMS, and have taken steps to improve it or not.
I hope so. Ideally I'll get a chance to review one.

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post #8 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 08:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sillysally View Post
How many points did you use for your after 3DLUT calibration colorchecker, once loaded into the 2143.?

How many triplet color patches did you guys use for the profile.?

Do you have the full reports that you can post?

Looks like you guys used a Klein K10 (on-screen mode), did you profile the K10 with a spectro, if so what spectro did you use.

ss
I did not perform the 3D LUT calibration, it was Kevin Miller who worked with the Lumagen.

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post #9 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 08:36 AM
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I did not perform the 3D LUT calibration, it was Kevin Miller.
Ok, then can you show us the reports from Calman 5 you made before and after.

Do you know if Kevin has posted his 3DLUT reports.?

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I think this has less to do with OLED and more to do with the screen size. It is damn near impossible to not have panel defects on anything 65" or larger! Banding being the biggest culprit.
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post #11 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 08:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Ok, then can you show us the reports from Calman 5 you made before and after.

Do you know if Kevin has posted his 3DLUT reports.?

ss
Working on it...

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LG had a large display area at CES. Their OLED displays blew away all the other manufacturers' displays except the OLED displayed by Panasonic. The Panasonic OLED showed some really gorgeous images. Based on what I saw and all the attendees that crowded the LG display area, OLED looks to be a big hit and to be emerging as the highest performance display technology for video enthusiasts and possibly the masses if the cost of admittance drops to mainstream levels.

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I will post my thoughts when I get back. I will say that I would expect better technical performance from a set that costs $25k.

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Mark: Thanks. Appreciate the insights.
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Did you get the input lag measurement?
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This reinforces my belief that a company like Panasonic needs to get into the OLED game if only to bring their image processing expertise to the party.

I'm pulling for OLED-- it's the best replacement for plasma. But LG hasn't produced anything yet at a price I would consider. When you add in price the 55" 1080p model currently available just doesn't compare with the VT60 I bought in 2013.
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Here's a much simpler question. I have not gone out to any electronics stores to see any OLED in person which is why I ask here. Do the OLEDs have a textured screen like the LCD/LED sets, or do they have a smooth screen that is susceptible to greater reflection like plasmas did?

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Nice review Mark.

Like SillySally, it'd be interesting to see the post LUTs calibration reports.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beerninja View Post
Did you get the input lag measurement?
I will return in a few weeks to do that as well as to check out a 55EG9600.

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post #20 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 09:58 AM
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Great job Mark. It's always enjoyable to read your thoughts and investigative findings when it comes to putting any TV through its paces. It's double the treat when you can combine your efforts with other professionals. Because OLED seems to be very important to the future of TV's, you're staying on top of its progress is invaluable to all of us.
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I will return in a few weeks to do that as well as to check out a 55EG9600.
Nice. Hope you have a Leo Bodnar tester at hand.

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post #22 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 10:11 AM - Thread Starter
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Nice. Hope you have a Leo Bodnar tester at hand.
Yes that's what we'll use.
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Great read this
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Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the use of an external video processor (such as the Lumagen) only feasible for content that is being fed from an external source device thru the processor and into the TV? So, basically, to get the best picture quality for all of your content, you can't use the TV's built-in apps or OTA tuner. Kinda makes the smart features, apps, and UI pointless for those who value PQ above all else if you are forced to use the display as a "dumb" monitor with everything being fed to it over a single HDMI connection. Not that big of a deal (this is how I use my current 1080p set anyways), but goes to show you the value of smart features. Worse yet, currently, there are very few external source devices that can provide native 4K content. So, until those become available, you are forced to choose between watching 1080p content with accurate colors upscaled to 4K, or, native 4K content with less accurate colors/more noise.

This is one of the reasons why many videophiles are hesitant to buy an LG display and would love to see another company with proven color management/processing (e.g. Panasonic, Sony, or even Samsung) rejoin the large screen OLED display market.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dubusduck View Post
LG had a large display area at CES. Their OLED displays blew away all the other manufacturers' displays except the OLED displayed by Panasonic. The Panasonic OLED showed some really gorgeous images. Based on what I saw and all the attendees that crowded the LG display area, OLED looks to be a big hit and to be emerging as the highest performance display technology for video enthusiasts and possibly the masses if the cost of admittance drops to mainstream levels.
Quote:
Originally Posted by sage11x View Post
This reinforces my belief that a company like Panasonic needs to get into the OLED game if only to bring their image processing expertise to the party.

I'm pulling for OLED-- it's the best replacement for plasma. But LG hasn't produced anything yet at a price I would consider. When you add in price the 55" 1080p model currently available just doesn't compare with the VT60 I bought in 2013.
Do you think the panasonic looking better had more to do with it using just Red, Green, and Blue without the white subpixel? I think that accounts for some of the uniformity issues on the LG displays, but that is also was makes them profitable to produce.
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post #26 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
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Do you think the panasonic looking better had more to do with it using just Red, Green, and Blue without the white subpixel? I think that accounts for some of the uniformity issues on the LG displays, but that is also was makes them profitable to produce.
It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that LG Display make the panel Panasonic showed at CES.

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post #27 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 11:39 AM
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I'd expect a fully working 20pt grayscale and CMS in a $25K TV

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post #28 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 01:36 PM
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I'd expect a fully working 20pt grayscale and CMS in a $25K TV
$25,000 for a TV and the colours don't fully work correctly. Is that not absurd?
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post #29 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 01:51 PM
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One bit of data that you did not report on was the pre-calibration color accuracy using the optimal presets. In my experience the LG OLEDs have very good color accuracy without using the CMS, which I agree is a POS. As I recall, a 729-point sweep of the gamut revealed an average dE error of 1.4. An LUT calibration improved that only by a small amount.

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post #30 of 947 Old 03-11-2015, 02:10 PM
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It's pretty much a foregone conclusion that LG Display make the panel Panasonic showed at CES.
If so then they are lying; the writing below the panels says worlds largest 4K OLED created by printing technology. LG does not use printing technology.



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