LG’s slice of the relatively small OLED marketplace pie has been pretty sizeable to this point, especially when you consider that practically every knows LG makes the panels for Sony’s OLED displays. I can’t say for certain that LG will also be making the panels for Vizio when that company enters the OLED game this year, but suffice to say, Vizio entering the scene is bound to do one thing: get both LG and Sony to drop the price of some or all of their OLED TVs in 2020.
Truth be told, the price of OLED has gone down significantly over the past few years, and as of this review it’s possible to get an Ultra HD OLED TV from LG for well under $2,000 retail. While two-grand might not be Hisense money, it’s not as prohibitively expensive as early OLED displays were.
But, while the price of some OLED TVs has dropped, flagship offerings that rely on the display technology have retained their premium price tags. Case in point: the LG E9 reviewed here. At $3,299.99 MSRP for the 65-inch model (OLED65E9PUA), the E9 isn’t cheap by any metric.
Regardless of model or price I think we can all agree that there are few displays in 2020, OLED or not, that are as sexy as any LG given OLED display from a pure design perspective. The E9 is no exception; in fact, aside from LG’s rollable OLED and Wallpaper display, it may just be the best-looking display, design-wise, that LG has ever produced.
Its full glass façade extends below the black graphic bezel to form a sort of translucent edge, where one will spot an etched LG OLED logo. While the glass edge serves no real purpose, it’s a design touch that I quite like. I also like that the E9 is a near bezel-less design, with the image extending virtually edge-to-edge.
The 65-inch model I received for review measures 57 inches wide by 34.5 inches tall and two inches deep at its bulkiest, which is along its bottom edge. Weight is a manageable 44 pounds, making the E9 among the lighter OLED displays to ever grace my living room. There is a 55-inch variant as well, which obviously will save you on size and weight, not to mention money, with its retail price of $2,299.99.
The E9 is a looker from virtually every angle, except for maybe its rear, but how often do we care about the backside of our displays? The back panel is where you’ll find some, but not all, of the E9’s input/output options, as LG has chosen to some connections on the side panel. Starting with its back panel, you’ll find an analog audio/headphone out, a RS-232C port, an optical digital audio out, an AV in (which splits into component video and stereo RCA via a dongle), an Ethernet jack, a cable antenna (ATSC, Clear QAM), an HDMI input, and two USB inputs. Turning your attention to the left side (when looking at the screen), you’ll find three more HDMI inputs, as well as an additional USB input. All of the HDMI ports are HDCP 2.2 compliant, with HDMI 2 featuring ARC.
The E9’s panel boasts a native resolution of 3,840 x 2,160, making it a true Ultra HD display, and it supports three flavors of HDR, including Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG. It employs an α9 Gen 2 Intelligent Processor for all its processing and upscaling needs.
Gamers, especially PC gamers, will note and no doubt like the presence of NVidia G-Sync on the E9 (which facilitates a variable refresh rate to appropriately match your gaming PC or console for reduced screen tearing), as well as its 1ms response time and 12.9ms input lag. While all of these things will appeal to gamers and power users who may want their E9 to pull double or even triple duty in their homes, for everyday viewers the added gaming prowess will (likely) not be felt or appreciated in everyday viewing scenarios.
What users will notice however is the E9’s smart TV features, powered by LG’s webOS operating system, which brings a ton of functionality to the E9, especially if you’re a cord cutter and streamer like me. For starters, the E9 has both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa built in. It also features both Bluetooth (5.0) and Apple AirPlay 2 as standard. The E9 is also WiSA Certified, meaning it can wirelessly transmit surround sound to WiSA compatible loudspeakers, albeit via a separate transmitter, the Axiim Link, which retails for a little over $200. As for built-in streaming Apps, the E9 has virtually all of them, including newcomer Disney+. Apple TV+ is also supported via the E9, though you have to engage it via your smartphone then cast it to the E9 via an AirPlay connection. Rumor has it a native Apple TV App is in the works, but for now it requires a slight workaround.
All of this functionality is controlled with LG’s trusty old Magic Remote, which I’ve grown to like--not love--because it would appear LG isn’t getting rid of it anytime soon. For what it is it’s fine. It’s simple. It fits well in the hand and it does what you need it to. It’s just a bit too cute for me, and its simplicity often means an extra step or two is required when doing most anything.
Upon its arrival, the E9 replaced another LG OLED display, the 65-inch B9. The B9 is LG’s entry-level OLED offering, so I was keen to see what differences--if any--would be readily apparent between the two. While both OLED displays are really, really, really good looking, the E9 is an absolute head turner when mounted. Even my wife commented on how much she the look of it hanging on the wall.
With the E9 mounted, I set out to measure its out-of-the-box using CalMAN and a bevy of trusty light meters. The E9 ships with its Energy Saving picture profile set as standard. Don’t use that profile. It’s garbage. I didn’t even bother measuring it, since I could see its shortcomings with my naked eye.
Starting instead with LG’s “Standard” picture profile, I measured a max brightness (100% white) of roughly 1,000 nits. The grayscale heavily favored blue, though its color accuracy in terms of hue was largely correct, as all colors measured over saturated. Switching to the “Cinema” profile, things improved dramatically. Peak brightness was curbed from roughly 1,000 nits to about 710, though you can adjust this profile for more light output if you choose. The grayscale was near perfect, with an overall Delta E (margin of error) of roughly three or less, with the exception of the 30 and 40 percent test patterns, which measured just over the Delta E threshold of three--still, not bad. Colors were bang on, with the out-of-the-box Delta E resting well below three across the board.
Switching to the “Technicolor Expert” setting, things only got worse again. Similar to the “Standard” profile, the Technicolor profile heavily favored blue in the grayscale measurements and produced wildly oversaturated colors throughout. Ending with the “ISF Bright Room” profile, things calmed down a bit. In truth, the ISF Bright Room was very close to the Cinema preset in its default measurements, though its colors suffered from the same oversaturation as found in the Standard and Technicolor profiles. [[Editor’s Note: LG responded to the above observations as follows: “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 our movie mode (x = .3127, y = .329). Calling Technicolor mode “less accurate” is a not entirely accurate, unless Andrew’s measurements were far off from Technicolor’s specifications (x = .300, y = .327).]]
All things considered, my recommendation to folks thinking of purchasing the E9 is this: immediately switch it to its Cinema profile and move on with your life, since the display is as close to calibrated as any reference-caliber display I’ve encountered in recent memory. The Cinema profile does enable several frame interpolation or smooth motion effects. Turn those off. Not sure why these features are still a thing in 2020, but alas, when choosing the Cinema profile, you will need to go into the advanced menus in order to defeat said annoyances.
I’m going to attempt to keep this part brief, as there are a few inalienable truths when it comes to OLED that I think we all know by now. First, OLED kills it when it comes to black level performance, detail, and contrast. Full stop. The E9 is no different. It’s literally no different from any other LG OLED I’ve demoed and tested in the past 12 months in these respects. Whether you’re choosing to watch SD, HD, or Ultra HD content in SDR or HDR, when it comes to contrast and black-level detail and rendering, there is nothing like an OLED.
Case in point: when viewing Galaxy Quest (DreamWorks) in HD via Vudu, the presence of natural-looking contrast and absolute black did wonders in making the aging film appear far more modern. While captured on film, as evident by the sexy organic grain visible in every frame, the three-dimensionality of the image was allowed to shine through thanks to the E9’s superb contrast.
It’s important to note that contrast is more than just values between absolute black and absolute white. Contrast affects everything, including color. And when you have a display like the E9 that exhibits natural looking and organic contrast throughout the totality of its display, other traits such as gradations of color, edge fidelity (that three dimensionality I spoke about a second ago), and the like take center stage. This can actually further toward making lesser-quality presentations appear decidedly “4K” than mere pixel interpolation or upscaling--both of which the E9 also excels at.
Color accuracy and fidelity during my viewing of Galaxy Quest were top notch. Skin tones looked positively real. Subtle textures, from pores in the actors’ faces to differing fabrics of the various uniforms and alien skin, were rendered faithfully and brilliantly via the E9.
Another trait that I find to be a constant with OLED is the utter lack of smearing, tearing, or other motion artifacts. I know the E9 has some gaming prowess, but since I am not a gamer I was unable to test its G-Sync capabilities, but when viewing fast-moving scenes or sequences such as the opening of 6 Underground on Netflix, there was nary a hint of motion artifacting that caught my eye.
The opening sequence of this new Michael Bay new action flick was also a veritable buffet of HDR goodness, displayed beautifully by the E9. Bay likes overly saturated colors--especially complementary colors such as orange and blue, or warm tones and cool ones. He likes these colors because we as human beings like these colors. We like them even more when they’re sandwiched together, which is why so many films feature color palettes that are heavily biased towards orange and blue.
The true-to-life accuracy of the colors notwithstanding, the rendering of all the colors contained within the opening moments of 6 Underground were among the best and most satisfying I’ve seen from any display to date. This is not a given among OLEDs, but a trait I’ve come to expect from LG, as all of their OLED displays, especially the E9, have proven to be absolute stunners when it comes to the accurate portrayal of color.
While OLED can be criticized for its absolute light output when viewing HDR content, in all but the brightest rooms I find the E9’s light output to be more than adequate. I was able to enjoy other HDR content such as the new Apple TV+ series The Morning Show in the middle of the day with all my windows open the same as I could in the evening. If anything, for me, OLED’s biggest problem isn’t its lack of light output; it’s the use of glass. While I do think glass makes everything better, it does produce more reflections when compared to the screen material of most LED-backlit LCD TVs on the market today. It is the glare that I find is the enemy of HDR content via an OLED in daytime viewing, much more so than the technology’s relative lack of light output.
Then again, HDR content is still a bit of a mixed-bag in terms of its implementation and overall success. For example, The Morning Show is a terrific example of HDR done right, as it showcases not only the E9’s chops, but rather what lies ahead for filmmakers and viewers on a whole. Day or night, the image appears natural through and through. Conversely, another Apple TV+ show, The Servant, is an example of HDR gone bad, very bad. In fact, it’s almost unwatchable via the E9 in any lighting condition save for maybe in the dark. That said, viewing the show on a brighter, LED-backlit Ultra HD display from Vizio, the resulting image isn’t really any more satisfying or superior to the E9. Suffice to say, just because something is available in some flavor of HDR doesn’t mean it’s going to be the bee’s knees.
I should also note, that while I may not be a fan of LG’s webOS, its smart TV functionality does work and work well. Also, the Amazon Alexa integration is near flawless in my day-to-day use, even though I myself do not rely on Alexa all that much.
Overall, the E9 dished out a truly reference-grade performance, and reminded me, once again, why I prefer OLED over any other display type currently on the market. No one does OLED better than LG, and the E9 is at least on par with the best OLED displays from the company that I’ve seen to date.
As near-perfect as the E9 is, it does have a few drawbacks. For me, and this is totally nitpicking, but the width of the bezel is thicker at the bottom than at the top, presumably to give a bit more presence to the glass extension as well as aid in hiding the table stand in a tabletop installation. That said, when wall mounted it makes the E9 a bit bottom heavy.
Secondly, I rely solely on a display’s built-in apps and OS for 95 percent of my day-to-day viewing. The E9, like other LG displays, has a sort of fine art gallery whereby your display appears to be a painting when not in use. This is awesome, but it’s far too easy to confuse Gallery Mode with the screensaver mode that engages when no inputs are present, and pulls images from Gallery Mode. In screensaver mode, LG plasters a semitransparent notice box across the lower third of the artwork, effectively ruining the illusion of the screen as a painting. I dove into every menu and submenu looking for a way to defeat this. I even jumped on the internet to look for a solution and it appears I’m not alone in my confusion and frustration over why LG chose to do this. Turns out, though, the solution is easy, if not intuitive: simply launch Gallery Mode from webOS instead of waiting for the screensaver to kick in and you won’t be bothered by the notice box.
As with all OLEDs, the presence of glass on the E9 also means the presence of glare in brightly lit rooms, as mentioned above. No OLED display at any price is immune to glare for this reason. Glass is better for picture but it does mean you may have to combat some reflections and/or glare from time to time.
Lastly, OLED displays aren’t flame-throwers in terms of overall or absolute brightness, and the E9 is no different. While it proved bright enough for me, a 2,000 or 3,000 Nit source it is not. So, if you’re one that likes to watch TV with sunglasses while applying sunscreen on your sofa because you just can’t get enough of them nits, the E9 isn’t going to be the TV for you. Then again, no OLED will be.
Competition and Comparisons
The obvious question with respect to the E9 is this: looks aside, is it worth it to buy the E9 over, say, the C9 or B9, both of which are less expensive? Short answer: maybe not. In truth, all of the LG OLEDs measure and look relatively the same when viewing real world content, day in and day out. There is some brightness variation between models, but on a whole you can get reference-grade performance from the least expensive B9 same as you can from the E9 reviewed here. Which OLED is therefore right for you is a matter of your personal wants and needs, not to mention budget. The E9 is my favorite LG OLED display thus far, but if I had to buy one at retail, I, like many of you, would likely opt for the B9 (reviewed here) in order to save money.
Apart from its own stablemates, the E9 also faces competition from Sony. Though as I stated in my intro, a Sony OLED is little more than a rebadged LG save for two key differences: image processing and Sony’s use of the Android OS, which I prefer. Sony’s OLEDs, however, don’t tend to be as accurate picture-wise out of the box, and they tend to command a slightly higher price point, all things considered, compared to LG.
Of course, stepping away from OLED there is Samsung’s QLED lineup of Ultra HD smart displays, which can be purchased in virtually every standard size. On a whole, Samsung’s QLED displays are nice, and far brighter than any OLED you’ll find on the market today, but comparing one to the other is a bit of an apples and oranges affair.
Along that same line, there is Vizio with its Quantum Dot displays, which perform similarly (if not better) than Samsung’s QLED displays, but often for much, much less.
Lastly, there is the question of 8K. LG is one of the manufacturers on the forefront of not just 8K, but 8K OLED. In all honesty, 8K is still future tech and something likely for the top one tenth of one percent. It’s still going to be a good three to five years before 8K is remotely where 4K is today, which is saying something when you consider that 4K still hasn’t fully arrived yet. So, yes, you should be aware of 8K, but it shouldn’t put you off the purchase of a 4K TV today, should you be in the market for one.
With a suggested retail price of just under $3,300, the LG OLED65E9PUA isn’t going to win any budget awards, especially considering the presence of LG’s own B9 Series retailing for well under $2,000 for a 65-inch at the time of this review.
But the E9 isn’t about saving money; it’s about enjoying the absolute best that LG has to offer from an Ultra HD OLED right now without getting into really unusual form factors, and to that end it succeeds. The E9 is a total head turner both physically and in terms of its performance. It is arguably the best Ultra HD display on the market today, and one of the easiest to setup and live with to boot. Honestly, if you have the funds to accommodate its higher asking price, one could easily buy the E9, put it in any room in the home, switch it to the Cinema profile, and enjoy one of the finest, most accurate images of any display straight away--no additional fuss required.
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• LG 65B9PUA 65-Inch OLED Ultra HD Display Reviewed at HomeTheaterReview.com.