UHD news is flying fast and furious these days. As reported here on AVS, Samsung just announced that its 55" and 65'" UHDTVs can be pre-ordered beginning on July 21, and they will actually start shipping in August. But Korean rival LG has beaten Samsung to the punch—at a media event held yesterday at Video & Audio Center in Santa Monica, CA, the company announced that its 55" and 65" UHDTVs, dubbed the LA9700 series, are now available for purchase, at least at that retail outlet. The new sets will be shipped to specialty stores in other major US markets over the next couple of weeks.
LG's VP of Communications John Taylor extols the virtues of the LA9700 UDHTV at Video & Audio Center in Santa Monica, CA.
The LA9700 sets offer several powerful features. For example, they employ LG's Nano backlighting technology, which was first introduced two years ago, then pulled from the market, only to reappear in the LA9700 series. Nano technology embeds tiny LEDs in a thin film behind the LCD panel to provide true local dimming. Combined with an IPS (in-plane switching) LCD panel, this provides deep blacks, high contrast, and wide viewing angles. Most other UHDTVs of this size announced to date use LED edge-lighting, which is prone to poor screen uniformity and can't match the performance of true local dimming.
Equally impressive is the fact that the LA9700 is the first UHDTV to include H.265 (aka HEVC or High-Efficiency Video Codec) decoding, which is likely to be the compression standard for UHD content. The first production units will provide this decoding in a USB dongle, but as the new standard becomes more widely implemented, H.265 will be built into the sets themselves. This is definitely a forward-looking move on LG's part, eclipsed only by Samsung's One Connect module that will be available for its UHDTVs and provide new decoders and inputs—such as HDMI 2.0—as they become available.
Still, it will be a while before lots of native UHD content is available, so the LA9700 includes LG's Tru-Ultra HD Engine video processor that applies a four-stage upscaling process to HD and SD images.
Of course, the LA9700 incorporates LG's Smart TV online platform, voice control-capable Magic Remote, and Cinema 3D with passive glasses. That last one is especially important for UHD—with an onscreen pixel resolution of 3840x2160, passive glasses present 1080 lines of vertical resolution to each eye, making the 3D experience much better than on HD sets with passive glasses, which present only 540 lines of vertical resolution to each eye. I happen to enjoy 3D, and I prefer passive glasses, so this is good news for me.
On the audio front, the LA9700 features a "sliding speaker"—a motorized, 4-channel soundbar that descends from behind the bottom of the screen when you turn the set on and retracts when you turn it off. A total of 50 watts power the soundbar and subwoofer located behind the screen. It's not a true surround system, but I'm sure it sounds much better than the typical audio coming from an ultra-thin flat panel.
Like most manufacturers that have jumped on the UHD bandwagon, LG started with a larger set—the 84" 84LM9600, which sells for $20,000. Granted, that's less than the Sony XBR-84X900 ($25,000) and Samsung UN85S9 ($40,000), but it's still out of reach for most of us. With the appearance of 55" and 65" models, the price of admittance into the UHD club is closer to what mere mortals can afford—in this case, the 55LA9700 lists for $6000, while the 65LA9700 carries an MSRP of $8000. That's $500 more than their Samsung counterparts and $1000 more than the Sony UHDTVs of the same size, but full-array LED backlighting with local dimming alone should be worth the difference in my view. Of course, the only way to know for sure is to see them under controlled conditions, which I plan to ASAP.