Thursday, January 5, 2017

LG's new 65" 4K OLED W Signature TV is stunning and under 3mm thick

LG is defending its champion-of-TV-picture-quality crown here at CES 2017. For a few years running, the company’s dedication to OLED sets has earned it rave reviews and the loyalty of home theater buffs. It’s been rumored that LG is (finally) about to get some competition in OLED 4K TVs from Sony, so this year the company needs to find another way to stand out. And it’s doing that through presentation. This is the new LG Signature 4K OLED W series. The W stands for wallpaper and refers to the TV’s new “picture-on-wall” design. It’s a two-part system: the main display up top, and a Dolby Atmos soundbar below it. That soundbar also houses the TV’s primary guts, HDMI inputs, and so on.

The screen itself is a 4K HDR OLED panel that measures just 2.57-millimeters thick. That’s the 65-inch model; the W also comes in a 77-inch size. But the point is that it’s very, very thin. Hard to believe thin. At 17 pounds (again, we’re talking the 65-inch version), it’s fairly light too.

This is possible because OLED technology doesn’t require the same backlighting (and thus extra space) as LCD sets. Separating the TV’s brains from the panel basically allows LG to make a dumb, beautiful screen that plugs in — via a proprietary cable — to the soundbar underneath. You can’t put this TV on a stand on some table; the only honorable option is to mount it to the wall.

LG has nonetheless made slight improvements to image quality across its 2017 OLED lineup, which includes the B7, C7, E7, G7, and the W7 featured here. (The other models have a less radical design and are modest upgrades to last year’s family.) The main upgrade is that they’re capable of getting brighter “where needed” in certain scenes. They all support every flavor of HDR video, as well: HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma). Technicolor apparently lended some “color science expertise” related to calibration and reproduction technologies to LG in the making of these sets, as well.

WebOS continues to be the underlying software platform on these TVs and, now at version 3.5 on LG TVs, is mostly unchanged from 2016; it remains very colorful and probably the most “fun” TV interface from the major brands, but that by no means makes it the best. I’m sure there will be people wishing these TVs ran Android TV or Chromecast instead. LG says it has “partnered” with Netflix, Amazon Video, and Vudu this year, likely just to give 4K and HDR content more prominent placement in the interface.

As for the soundbar, LG says customers with their own surround system can bypass the Dolby Atmos bar if they’re already running a better setup. But unfortunately you’re still stuck with the big soundbar taking up room on a table in this scenario; there’s no option for a smaller companion box for the flagship OLED — at least not yet. It sounded pretty good in our brief demo time, and seeing the two circular speakers rise from the left and right sides when you power it on is rather cool. (Yes, they automatically retract back into the body when you’re done.

LG isn’t revealing final pricing for its new signature 4K OLED yet, but you can bet it will be very expensive. Probably more expensive than any consumer line you’ll see at CES from competitors like Samsung and Sony. Thankfully you’ll get (mostly) the same great picture quality if you step down to a less pricey model in the 2017 LG OLED lineup.

And this is really what CES is all about: a flashy, your-eyes-can’t-believe-it technology marvel of a TV. Prototypes of this “wallpaper” display actually curled at the edges, but LG advises against trying that with the shipping consumer display. Speaking of which, the 65-inch Signature OLED W will start shipping in February and arrive in stores by March. A handful of Best Buy stores will also be showcasing the TV and taking preorders starting January 5th. The 77-inch variant won’t arrive until a little later.

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