The new 4K TVs shown by several manufactures this year at CES are either the next big thing in television or just a more expensive version of same old, same old. The truth for most people is probably something in between.
LG this week unveiled the company’s first 4K (3840x2160 screen resolution) LED TV model LM9600. At 84 inches diagonally, it was not only one of the highest resolution TVs at the show (Sharp showed a prototype 8K TV) but also one of the largest.
Because there is no 4K content available and no expectations that 4K content is coming in any serious way any time soon, the main benefit of 4K resolution is that you can get a bigger picture (or sit closer) without seeing any pixel structure and you can get full 1080p resolution 3D with polarized glasses. That’s important, especially to LG, because they’ve been driving hard the benefits of passive polarized 3D over active.
I was able to get up close and personal with LG’s LM9600 TV. On the CES show floor it was only being demonstrated in 3D mode with some footage prepared by LG, not Blu-ray material.
First off, the TV uses LG’s LED Plus technology which means it’s edge-lit, but incorporates zones of local dimming. The rep at the TV didn’t know how many zones. I was also told it’s a 240Hz screen, but was unable to get complete confirmation on that.
The TV’s colors were dramatic, maybe a bit too dramatic and over saturated, but that could be a combination of the content and the way the TV was set up for the event. These sets aren’t usually calibrated to home theater specs when viewed in a convention center—they’re set up to be bright and bold under super bright lighting.
The first thing you notice as you approach the TV is how close you can get without seeing any pixel structure—I approached to within a foot or so, and even then the picture was smooth, even along edges. At more normal viewing distance, the TV was incredibly sharp. Note, this was all in 3D mode.
Wearing polarized 3D glasses (LG must have handed out thousands of them at CES this year), the picture didn’t exhibit any of the softening that can be associated with a standard 1080p passive TV set because in this case, each eye received a full 1080p picture. The 3D effect was very convincing. In one scene when a fencer thrust his foil at the viewers the entire crowd swayed back to get out of the way. The hand guard of the foil appeared to be inches from my face, but looked detailed and real. The image showed no crosstalk or flicker that I could notice.
In other scenes some objects grew softer in appearance as they moved out of the mid-field, either backward or forward, of the 3D image. Flowers that looked sharp as they were further back became cloudy as they moved closer to the viewer.
Black areas also looked strong, but the content on the screen was mostly bright and colorful, so it’s difficult to judge how well the black levels really are at this point.
It will be good to see how this TV looks with 3D Blu-ray movies, but we’ll have to wait for review samples. I also want to see how it looks upscaling regular 1080p for 2D viewing.
The model will come with LG’s new suite of smart TV features including the Magic Remote with voice and gesture control.
This model is planned for release sometime in the second quarter of this year. The price hasn’t been released yet, but expect it to not be cheap.
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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.