I did see some slight uniformity issues which appeared as barely noticeable bands. The only time I saw this was during very bright scenes in the disc The Art of Flight. I’ve seen this issue before on TVs, and it seems to be associated with edge-lit LEDs. This was not a major issue, and if you weren’t looking for it, you’d probably miss it.
On other test patterns, like color, motion and deinterlacing, the TV performed very well.
After the test pattern discs, I switched to some 1080p Blu-ray movies. First up was Tron: Legacy The scenes in this movie are almost all dark, and the light issues were not apparent accept in the top and bottom black bars of the Cinemascope feature.
I watched clips from several other 1080p movies, including The Dark Knight, Avatar and The Art of Flight. While the 4K upconversion didn’t necessarily make the 1080p video look any better (and it didn’t make it worse), it did completely eliminate any pixel structure unless you were practically leaning on the TV. It’s quite impressive to sit five feet away from a TV that’s six feet wide and still see a perfectly smooth image.
Next I switched to 3D mode. As stated earlier, this TV uses the passive polarized system (known as Film Pattern Retarder). I’ve been a fan of this type of system because the cheap, lightweight glasses make 3D a little less of a burden than active shutter glasses, but the system has a significant flaw. With 1080p TVs, polarized glasses cut the resolution in half so you end up watching less-than high definition. It doesn’t look bad, but the picture isn’t as crisp as the full HD view you get with active shutter glasses. Ultra HD TVs turn that upside down.
With an Ultra HD TV, the passive glasses still cut the resolution in half, but you’re starting with double the resolution (because the TV upscales the 1080p signal to 4K). When the glasses divide up the left and right image you’re still getting 1080p in each eye, but without the flicker and irritation sometimes encountered when wearing active shutter glasses.
All of the above was preparation to report that this TV displayed the absolute best 3D I’d ever seen on a television. I watched segments from a few 3D Blu-ray discs, but IMAX Under the Sea was the most impressive. The image was completely natural and realistic. In one scene a large grouper swims up close to the camera, and I could swear the fish was three inches from my nose. The illusion was THAT convincing. Other, less dramatic scenes still produced a depth and clarity that was stunning.
After all the 1080p material, which is what most buyers will watch on this set, I switched over to some 4K video that LG supplied on a hard-disc server. These clips were mostly landscape shots of attractive cities and towns around the world, and they all looked amazing. From 10 feet the resolution shouldn’t have made much of a difference, but the effect was more subtle than just more pixels—it created the closest thing to looking through a clear window I’ve ever seen. A single 3D 4K clip (this one animated) was also pretty amazing.
The image on the TV looks fuzzy because it’s a 3D animation in 4K viewed without the 3D glasses.
So is Ultra HD the future of television? Well, maybe, probably. How’s that for a firm answer? There are a couple of ways to look at this—first, 4K is a natural progression from 1080p, and unlike some other TV innovations (3D), it is an actual improvement. More real pixels means more real picture information. But how many pixels are necessary for a given screen size? I honestly don’t think I can answer that for every person, but I can say that on this 84-inch TV, the extra 2,000,000 or so pixels made the picture more realistic, added depth and improved clarity, especially in 3D.
But what about 4K content? Currently Sony is offering buyers of its 84-inch 4K TV a hard-disc server with ten 4K movies, but Sony’s TV also cost $8,000 more than the LG unit. For now, this LG (and all the other 4K TVs that will launch next year) will mostly be used for watching the high-definition sources you already have, and this TV does a good job of that. Remember, TV broadcasters don’t even send 1080p video out. Do you actually need 4K content to appreciate a 4K TV? The answer to that is obviously no. You already watch lots of 480p, 720p and 1080i content on your 1080p TVs. A 4K TV just upscales those lower-resolution signals even further to make them more viewable on a very large screen. Having a good built-in video processor and extra resolution improves the visual experience of plus-size TVs and dramatically improves passive 3D.
$19,999 ($16,999 MAP)
Full specs here.
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.