LG, the purveyors of all things OLED, have been on a roll lately. While it is easy to be wowed by the company's latest flagship efforts, like rollable displays and gigantic 8K offerings, OLED isn't just for cover shoots and the one percent. While historically OLED displays have carried a more premium price compared to their LED counterparts, that is changing--and fast. Case in point: the 65-inch B9 OLED reviewed here, which carries an MSRP of $2,199.99, though if you shop around you can nab one for under $2,000. If you don't need a 65-inch model, the 55-inch variant is now selling below $1,500 via authorized resellers. Sub-$2,000 puts the B9 in Vizio-like territory from a value perspective, but does that savings mean you're going to have to make do with less?
The B9 looks every bit an LG OLED, which is to say that to the untrained eye, it likely will be impossible to differentiate the B9 from LG's costlier offerings. From the front, the B9 looks every bit a high-end product, though when you turn your attention to the rear of the display, it does lack the C Series' Metropolitan Museum of Art inspired curve. Minus that, the all-glass screen looks positively sexy and visually indistinguishable from its costlier brethren. The 65-inch B9 measures 57 inches wide by 33 inches tall and less than two inches deep at its thickest point, tipping the scales at 55 and a half pounds, which is more than some comparably sized LED LCDs, but it's not a heavyweight by any stretch.
As far as connectivity is concerned, the B9 features the HDMI inputs (HDCP 2.2), three USB 2.0 ports, one composite video input, one RS-232 port, one RF antenna port, an Ethernet port, as well as a single optical audio output. The B9 has a built-in ATSC and Clear QAM television tuner. Wireless connection options include WiFi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0 compatibility. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support is also present, and the TV boasts AirPlay 2 connectivity.
The B9 sports a native resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. This means the B9 is a true, native UltraHD 4K display. Since it is an OLED display, every pixel is functionally its own local dimming zone, meaning you get absolutely uniform lighting edge-to-edge, with no hotspots, blooming, or what have you. The B9 is compatible with a variety of HDR formats, including Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG. An α7 Gen 2 Intelligent Processor powers the B9's visual engine as well as its smart TV operating system, which is LG's own webOS.
The B9 replaced the fantastic Hisense H8F in my current rig. While the H8F may have been one of the more impressive displays of 2019 (so far) in terms of price-to-performance ratio, there's no confusing an OLED display once it's up on your wall. With the B9 mounted, I configured the built-in apps to my liking, including installing a few that don't come pre-loaded as standard.
I'm not wholly sure why LG doesn't use AndroidTV, instead opting for webOS, which if I'm being honest is like 90 percent AndroidTV. Google-based apps work great on webOS, same as they do on AndroidTV, and the same can be said for Netflix and Amazon. It's just that webOS doesn't really have a home screen, but rather a home bar that appears along the lower third of the screen. So, if you are one who relies on built-in streaming apps like me, you're limited to a lower-third experience laid over a black screen opposed to a full-screen entertainment landscape à la AndroidTV. But I digress.
Moving on, I set about measuring the B9's out of the box performance to see which, if any, of its picture modes are closest to accurate straight away. The B9 ships with its APS Energy picture mode engaged as standard, which is less than stellar. The APS picture mode is very biased towards blue both in white balance and color on the whole. Maximum brightness in this mode measured just over 800 Nits, so not exactly a barn burner.
Switching to Standard things didn't improve much with respect to white balance or color accuracy, though brightness did improve a bit. It wasn't until I switched to the Cinema picture mode that things became respectable. While not calibrated out of the box, Cinema was closest to "right" compared to all of the other options. The grayscale in the Cinema profile had a warm or red bias, but it wasn't too bad and carried a margin of error or Delta E of four throughout. Anything below three could be considered calibrated, so an average error of four isn't too shabby. Colors on the other hand were more or less perfect, all possessing Delta Es far below the threshold of human perception.
Max brightness in the Cinema mode measured 690 Nits. It should be noted these brightness figures are not HDR measurements, but rather what you can expect watching SD and HD content. When being fed an HDR signal, I measured the B9's maximum brightness to be around 1,400 Nits. So, not as bright as say Vizio's P-Series Quantum X, but enough to enjoy HDR content properly. I went ahead and measured all of the other picture profiles and found them to be less accurate than the Cinema profile--even the Technicolor Day and Night professional modes [[Editor's Note: According to Technicolor, the Technicolor Day and Night modes have a white point that is different (x = .300, y = .327) than the widely accepted white point in LG's movie mode (x = .3127, y = .329), because they believe that their white point most closely matches their reference monitor]]. My advice to potential new customers who don't own calibration tools: if you buy the B9, put it in its Cinema picture profile straight away and turn off all the dynamic adjustment options and enjoy. It's that simple.
For those who want to go to the extreme, you can calibrate the B9 to absolute perfection. Better still, if you use CalMAN, you can do it automatically, as you can connect the software directly to the B9 itself and have its complete calibration while you sip coffee, provided you have a compatible colorimeter and pattern generator as well, of course. The entire auto calibration process takes a bit of time (I think it took about 30 minutes start to stop for me), but when done, the B9 is essentially pixel perfect from a measurement standpoint. While I've seen LG, displays measure a little better out of the box, in the end, there is nothing that really separates the less expensive B9 from its costlier siblings in terms of achievable performance.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...