The 9800 looked promising with bright images. However, the zone dimming is very obvious and can be distracting, especially in black bars and with small objects against a dark background.
stand out sharpness and resolution
very good color and skin tones
good off axis behavior
pleasing sound from built in speakers
local dimming action intrudes in dark scenes and black bars
DSE can be distracting
The 65UB9800, LG's slim, handsome 4K Ultra HD, found it's way into Cleveland Plasma/Cleveland AV's warehouse recently. Being the ever curious nerd (my wife says... lovingly) that I am, I conned CP owner Chris Majoros into letting me put it through the most extensive testing I could come up with. Before that testing could begin, though, LG had some testing of their own to do, apparently in a quest to figure out just how much cute creativity a nerd like me can handle. You like your remote? Well, let's see how you take to our new Super Ultra Compact Kontrol Saber. Nifty, huh? You can make it move with just one hand, but to really wield the kontrol, you must grasp it with both hands. And we turned the setup process into a hybrid choose your own adventure - story based animation process. See? We're cute, we're hip, we get it...
Upon owning my old fashioned stubbornness and apparent lack of appreciation for the modern, the cool, and the sophisticated, I finally got around to playing a Blu Ray on the 9800. But my first positive impression was not from the image, but from the sound: the speakers not only look like modern sculpted pillars at each end of the screen, but they sounded full, with much more bass and surround envelopment than a flat panel can normally manage. With default sound settings and within it's volume limitations, the 9800 produced a very crowd pleasing tonal balance despite slightly spitty sibilants and exaggerated upper bass/lower midrange.
The 9800 powers up in the APS (power saver) picture mode, despite the fact that I instructed the 9800 not to engage power saving circuitry during the setup process. Apparently it sympathized with the nerd and restrained itself from too much penny pinching, because the image didn't seem as dark as is usually the case with severe power limitations in place. However, it was a bit overzealous in it's efforts to catch my eye, resulting in an overblown, pale look. Details were etched in the image, and LG even remembered to throw in a couple of familiar old acronyms in the image: the SOE (Soap Opera Effect) and DSE (Dirty Screen Effect) were both present.
Accuracy seemed to improve when I switched the picture mode to Cinema, though the image seemed to gain a slightly earthy toned filter, with the resulting measurements included in the before calibration column of the attached report. To quickly get a good image in preparation for a real calibration, use Cinema mode, bump up the color a bit, and in the advanced menu switch gamma to 2.4 and white balance to Warm1.
The 9800's screen is mostly glossy, and suffers significantly from glare. In high ambient light areas, it also loses a little more perceived contrast than competing models as the screen washes out. The good side is that, while those competing models take on a slightly bluish or purple tone in ambient light conditions due to their light absorbing filters, the 9800 remained charcoal-gray neutral.
The ISF modes look identical for the most part to Cinema mode, with the added benefits of the ability to name them ISF Day or ISF Night and lock the settings when done. Calibration was optimized for a moderately dark environment, and the actual viewing consisted of that and also some bright room and totally dark room viewing.
In the advanced settings, the 9800 has a selection for "Super Resolution." While I normally turn enhancers like that off, turning SR on low helped sharpen resolution patterns with only minimal edge enhancements. During the viewing I felt that the detail was just a little hyped with SR on low, but it was subtle enough and gave what I felt was a useful boost to the sharpness, so it stayed on.
The 9800 has both a 2 point and a 20 point white balance adjustment, and they can work in tandem with each other. The best course of action is to use the 2 point to get things close, and then use the 20 point to really nail it down. However, that nailing down process isn't going to go so well if you want to leave much Whiter Than White headroom, because the 20 point control progressively mistracks as the contrast setting is reduced below the maximum setting of 100. With contrast at 100, there is just a whisp of WTW headroom out to around level 237, and full WTW headroom occurs at a contrast setting of 84. Although opinions vary about the importance of WTW headroom, the 20 point adjustment isn't going to go well at any contrast setting much below 100.
The 9800 has a function to copy the white balance to all inputs, so after doing the 20 step adjustment I clicked on that. However, when I went to do some streaming, I found that despite being in the right picture mode, the adjustments had not carried over. In addition, the 20 point adjustments refused to budge in the smart app's ISF Expert picture modes, so I couldn't manually enter the settings either. Fortunately, the next day I came back and investigated the problem, and the 20 points then accepted my changes. However, the copy function still did not work.
The 9800 has a properly functioning, artifact free CMS adjustment, and I found best results were obtained by bumping up the main color control to about 56 before doing the CMS adjustments at 75 or 80% saturation.
To my surprise, the bright on screen menu and some of my bright test patterns produced short lived but very obvious image retention. While IR is nothing new to plasma owners, it's somewhat shocking to see on an LCD. Thankfully, it dissipated within a couple of minutes at each occurrence and did not appear to be a longevity concern.
Resolution was full and strong with all HDMI scan rates from 480 to 1080. There was more EE than expected at 480, though.
Screen uniformity was very good, with very uniform blacks. With varying shades of gray up to white, it remained very good, with just a very slightly darker area visible at the lower right corner.
With both 1080P/60 and 1080P/24 inputs, my Jeti spectro synced with the 9800 at just under 120 Hz.
My worst case scenario contrast measurement is intended to be a torture test for LED dimming, with the black measurement taken with a 100% white surround along the edges of the picture and a large video black area in the middle occupying 50% of the screen area. With this measurement, the 9800's contrast ratio was 1,046:1. With the LED zone dimming on, that will be the minimum contrast ratio seen, with the effective contrast being higher but very program dependant. That relatively low contrast ratio is determined by LG's panel choice, which was made in favor of viewing angle over black levels.
The 9800 holds it's picture quality very well off to the sides, without the severe washout or pale n' pink skin tones that occur with most LED LCDs when you move one or two couch cushions over. I measured the 9800's off axis behavior by taking a simplified measurement run directly on axis, and then repeating it at approximately 45 degrees off axis. The off axis angle was judged by eye, so it should not be considered a scientific test; rather, just an indication of what changes and in what direction. The main point revealed by this test is that while the white balance warmed and light output dropped a little, other aspects of the picture held strong.
The 9800 slightly rolled off the chroma resolution when fed a YCbCr signal from the Blu Ray player, but the chroma resolution remained strong when the player was set to output RGB color space. This would not be visible with most video content, however.
Lip sync was just fine in both 2D and simulated 3D mode, getting the HDMI signal from a Blu Ray player going through an HDMI distribution amp, and also in streaming from Netflix.
In calibrated ISF Night mode, the 9800 looked promising with great motion, color, and sharpness. At times the DSE became apparent, though it had a slightly different look on the 9800 than it does on other LED LCDs. On most, the DSE looks like fleeting smudgy fingerprints on panning, bright objects. On the 9800, it looked more like fleeting vertical lines. That is one of those things that come and go with picture content; on some material it may not be present at all, and on other material it may be a bit distracting.
Another aspect of the 9800 that can be a source of annoyance at times is the action of the local zone dimming. While the dimming action increases real contrast ratio, it does cause visible black level fluctuation. It is at it's worst with bright letters or objects in the center of the screen set against a dark background.
Fortunately, the 9800 exhibits good pop and excitement with bright images, and dark scenes are better than expected except in the scenario described above.
I viewed some 4K content via Netflix, and even before the 20 point controls started functioning the image was very impressive in most scenes. At times the clarity and detail did seem to be a cut above what I was used to seeing with Blu Ray, despite the limitations of the Wi-Fi connection and source. Then, after applying the 20 point adjustments, the image depth and color tones improved even more, resulting in a few stunning moments.
Beautiful pictures abound with the 9800, especially in brighter scenes. However, it's not for every enthusiast or all program material.