Bye Bye Plasma, Hello LCD & OLED
Since 2010 I have given a monopoly to Panasonic Plasma TVs. After CNET declared Panasonic's 2013 ST series model with the award of not only Best Picture, but Best Value, it was hard not to pick up the ST (and S) model. Reasonably priced at around $2000 or less for 65", Panasonic looked unbeatable. But, in hindsight, back in 2010 I thought Mitsubishi's DLP's would be the technology to see continual improvement and be the one to beat in the long run. Since you couldn't ever mount a TV such as that, I was wrong.
To further shift the industry of home entertainment as a whole, Panasonic announced in 2014 that it would drop their Plasma line entirely, less than a year after being announced as the maker of the best TVs. While the death of Plasma could be a discussion in its own, the primary reason came down to resolution and frame rate. Plasma did not look capable of 4K and, if it was, the 600hz would not be possible at 4K today, let alone in the next few years. With today's 2.0b HDMI technology, consumers are ecstatic to achieve 4K resolutions at 4:4:4 sampling at 60hz. That is an achievement, which brings us to the next generation of TVs or, more specifically, LG's EG9600/EF9500 series.
If you are going from Plasma and have spent time researching LG's OLED TVs, you might have felt that figurative kick to the nuts every time you read something like, "Nearly as good as a Plasma." It can be frustrating, especially if you are the consumer looking to abandon the plasma technology in favor of LED/OLED. While changing from LED to OLED is definitely an improvement of visual quality, there are still strong reminders that black levels on Plasma TVs are hard to match. Henceforth, replacing a Plasma, especially one of the later models, is not the most exciting prospect.
LG vs Vizio vs Samsung
The three options on the table are the Vizio P Series, the Samsung KS series and the LG OLED models; at least in my buying situation. I know Sony has some fantastic LCD models, I just limited my selection to the above three. The current size price point is 65", as anything over is going to cost a small fortune. Since all models represent the future of home televisions, the biggest outsider is definitely the OLED, a technology that LG currently dominates. The only issue with OLED is the (insane) price, as last year's model, the EG9600/EF9500 started around $9000 for the 65". Give it a year, and you can find the EG9600 for under $3500, the EF9600 for a bit more. Since I had no preference on curved versus flat, I went with the cheaper option. But it's not exactly that cheap, considering the Vizio P and Samsung KS are available at the $2,000 price point. In comes the upsell!
If you consider yourself a film buff and take pride in your home entertainment, then LG's OLED should always be the option of choice as long as you can afford it, or if the salesman can talk you up to it. You'll likely have to settle for "last year's model", which sucks, but OLED at least should be on the cutting edge of future technology. The EG9600 and EF9500 do have a catch, however.
When you have a TV leading the charge in technology, like the EG9600, it would make sense to support HDR. The Vizio P and most new Samsung models do, and if you were to see the difference in clarity and color, you'd be instantly convinced to avoid older TVs not supporting HDR video. LG's EG9600 is on the fence. The TV was released before HDMI 2.0a, so the display's inputs are limited to HDMI 2.0. This sucks, especially since there is now TVs supporting HDMI 2.0b. So a TV model that costs nearly double the price as the competition will not allow for HDR, but still accepts 4k at 60hz.
EG9600 Trips a Bit, But Still Big Step Forward
Here is the most difficult consideration when purchasing either the EG9600 or the EF9500: the TV cannot accept HDR video by HDMI input. This fact alone almost had me purchase a cheaper competing model. The Catch 22: The 2015 OLED can definitely do HDR, it just has to be delivered by digital streaming sources like Netflix/Amazon. I do not plan on purchasing any 4K Blu-Rays in the near future. Hell, I have no intention on buying a 4K player. So why worry about having no HDR inputs? In the end, I am the perfect consumer the EG9600 was created for. At least until other apps that aren't installed on LG TVs, like HBO Go, begin supporting HDR, which would definitely piss me off. But until then...
So I went with the EG9600, saving about $400 over the EF9500 of the same 65" size. I was hoping for a 70", but they do not exist. Hashtag boo. First impressions are that the TV is incredibly thin, incredibly light in terms of weight, and has the feeling of being fragile. Just imagine carrying a thin 65" sheet of glass. Because of the TV's thin dimensions, it (of course) needs a special mount made by LG. An unexpected $100, but what can you do. Got the TV on the mount, did a quick prayer, and proceeded to start the thing up.
Whereas the Panasonic Plasmas can see great improvements in color and clarity with online calibration guides, typically boosting their energy usage, the LG OLEDs come fairly dialed in. You do not need to change much, save for some contrast and brightness preferences. To kick things off, the cable box got hooked up first with 1080p video in mind.
Sigh--It looks no better than the Plasma that was up before moments before. Sure, the TV is bound to look better than comparable LCD TVs, but no point spending that much dough for no improvement. So bring on the 4K stuff. Onto Netflix, one of the few UltraHD HDR sources the EG9600 can get. To sum up that picture quality: Wowza.
The video looks insane, to the point where it is hard to look away. The colors pop, the blacks are the blackest I have ever seen, and the video is smooth. Considering that Plasma owners have pride in their smooth video, this was a relief.
LG OLED First Impression
After powering through a few more UltraHD videos on Netflix, I'm now prepping to try Amazon. But, being first impressions, I can confirm that LG's OLED definitely lives up to the hype, just as long as the source is the best format. Not to finish on another disappointment, but it looks like the TV came built with an 802.11n WiFi adapter. Now this is just ridiculous. To stream UltraHD over WiFi you need high speeds, making the Wireless-AC the option of choice. Why LG chose the older Wireless-N when AC was widely available at time of release is beyond comprehension. Fortunately the video streamed without issue, but other consumers might struggle depending on router location. I, of course, took it upon myself to see how the TV does with upscaling web MP4s, and was sure to watch the trailers for Wonder Woman, Doctor Strange and Suicide Squad. While the upscaling is just fine, it's obvious that you are not watching native 4k.
Streaming HDR: At the time of publishing this post, Amazon claims that the only TVs capable of streaming HDR10 content are LG, Samsung and Sony. Be sure to confirm that your model number matches with what Netflix and Amazon list. If your TV is a 2016 or later HDR10 compatible model, fair shot you should have no issue.
Rating - 8/10
Thanks to recent price decreases, this LG TV might be the best value... for an OLED. But, it still takes a hit when foregoing HDR through HDMI, saving that for a later model. The apps are great, just wish there were more of them and an AC WiFi adapter to better support 4K streaming.