LG 2017 OLED TV range full review: W7 Signature Wallpaper, G7, E7 and C7 UHD TVs
Did the best 4K smart TVs just get better or worse?
- Gold standard image quality
- Mandatory sound bars can be annoying
The best TVs just inched slightly further towards perfection. But the built-in sound bars are awkward, expensive and unnecessary. Our pick is the base-level C7 which avoids the trimmings.
Last year, buying a TV was simple. The best TVs on the market came from LG’s 4K 2016 OLED range but if you couldn’t afford that you bought a Hisense Series 7. Easy. Things are getting a bit more complex this year thanks to LG supplying OLED panels to the likes of Panasonic, so hopefully we’ll see a bit more competition and lower prices in the OLED space… soon. But for now, Hisense and LG OLED are still the only models worth bothering with. The problem is, LG’s 2016 OLED TVs were borderline perfect and the 2017 models come with some controversial design choices. So the question is, are the 2017 models worth buying?
All of the 2017 models have the same picture quality and on-board features. They only differ in design flourishes, built-in sound bars and price. As such, despite us reviewing the 65-inch G7 Signature model here, we’ve spent enough time with the rest of the range to make recommendations for all of them.
(Warning: Technical jargon paragraph - feel free to skip to the next section) While it’s tricky to see how the 2016 OLED TVs could be better, there are some clever technologies at play. For one thing the TVs now operate in a 14-bit colour space (the “latest” HDR content only uses 10-bit), but now the TVs dynamically choose which of that 14-bit space gets processed by the 10-bit HDR. On top of that, Dolby Vision has returned and now there’s considerably more content than a few Ben Stiller Netflix movies. While our memories of the 2016 pictures were high, we’re surely looking at perfection here. It’s hard to see how 4K Ultra High Definition can get any better in measurable terms.
UHD 4K Blu-ray
As usual with our tests we started off with the opening scenes of The Martian. These are perfect for testing the true-black levels of a TV along with brightness and depth of colours. It’s also handy for identifying any Halo Effect (bright areas of light leakage) issues.
The OLED aced every test. Letter box bars are pure black, bright areas on a black screen are surrounded by true black. The red colouring on the dark background was bright and vibrant and surrounded by true black. Details in shadowy areas were impressively retained and the same went for detail in bright areas in the same scenes. Quite simply, this is still the gold standard of dynamic range performance, true black performance and bright, vibrant colours.
The opening also showed us how the TV is great with panning shots – there was no juddering or pixelation to be seen anywhere. Picture quality was not-surprisingly outstanding and better than you’ll likely ever see in a cinema.
We moved onto the legendary Costa Rica 4K 60fps showreel on YouTube which is one of the best tests for colour performance, detail and panning. Once again it was essentially perfect with minute detail clearly visible, colours jumping off the screen and next to no artefacts and pixelation when scrolling.
Netflix 4K with Dolby Vision
There are many TV shows and movies available on Netflix (and apparently Amazon Prime) that now make use of Dolby Vision’s dynamic HDR. This is when Dolby analyses each scene in a film and determines which 10-bit colour space suits that scene best (rather than the usual method of picking one 10-bit space that the entire movie has to sit within). But it’s difficult to quantify when watching individual shots; all we can say is that content looked superb and we never noticed any areas which lost detail through excessive brightness and darkness.
It’s also worth noting that other UHD content here did not suffer from the soap opera effect - where a TV’s image processor makes characters in a scene look like actors on set.
We moved on to low-definition content using broadcast TV from our Fetch TV set-top box. Many buyers will still be watching Standard Definition content and so we examine how good a TV is at upscaling… stretching the low resolution over a massive, high-resolution screen. The results of this can look terrible on cheap and expensive TVs alike, but we were generally impressed with the LG’s prowess. Images were displayed smoothly and with minimal noise – where possible. Some content is broadcast in a terrible state and TVs can’t invent detail where it didn’t exist. While it wasn’t perfect here, nothing is and this is still best in class.
We then dropped down to our Father Ted test – the program exists only in a poxy 480i resolution. It’s impossible for any modern TV to make this content look good but it was certainly watchable on the 65-inch LG. Upscaling is impressive with artefacts being smoothed out to an impressive degree. There were still some jaggies around some straight lines, but to a lesser extent than we’ve seen anywhere else.
It’s worth noting that High definition broadcast TV looked brilliant too – food shows especially are looking more appetising when the broadcast quality is there.
One of our favourite features of TVs is the picture modes. Not only can you have great works of art on display in your home, they appear in frames which, especially if your TV is close to the wall, look fantastic due to the thin bezels.
There are also moving images of sunny (and rainy) days outside, if you’d like to have a virtual window.
We used our Xbox One to play games on the TV. In the old days, there could be serious input lag which made gaming a nightmare. However, we haven’t seen this as a problem since TVs all started adding Game Mode to their settings which turns off the lag-making post processing. Even so, we found most games worked fine without switching to Game Mode. While some professional beat-em up players might have issues with milliseconds of lag, the vast majority of gamers will love using this.
It used to be the case that you’d have to tweak picture modes in order to get things just so but we’ve found ourselves not doing this so much with the LG OLED. Cinema mode makes colours warmer but with top content coming from very-high quality sources nowadays there’s less impetus to do this. The main settings we fiddled with involved switching between Standard and Vivid Modes. Vivid can be a bit TOO in your face on occasions – some TVs use it as In Store mode – but we found it simply enhanced content more often than not. Ultimately, we didn’t have to tweak any settings, but the enhanced, advanced menus will allow enthusiasts to play with virtually every possible setting.
The Signature Edition OLED TVs come with two remotes. One is fully-functioned ‘wand’ remote (which acts like a Wii-mote) that has a microphone for Voice Search features. it also acts as a universal remote… with compatible devices. However, we’re not convinced that it has the best layout or is the most intuitive to use: there’s no fast forward or rewind buttons which seems like an annoying oversight. The rubber scroll wheel is also a bit low-profile to use comfortably.
But there’s much to like: responsiveness is very good and both Netflix and Amazon buttons are now included. The Amazon app is not great (at all), however.
There’s also a second, smaller remote, with basic features. In some regards, we actually preferred this because of its simplicity, although missing pause and play buttons proved a bit annoying.
We’ve always been impressed with WebOS and it’s getting more powerful and feature rich now. Choosing inputs and apps is simple with the point-and-click wand remote and switching between apps puts you right back where you left off (no restarting the app each time).
We were impressed with this last year but it’s just as good now. Just pressing a button on the remote sees a useful search box pop up (after a few seconds) and search results quickly pop up with results from Netflix, Youtube and online. It’s impressively accurate and can handle highly-elaborate names… but not if kids are making noise in the background!
One of the promoted features of the new range is Device Connector which supposedly lets you easily add devices to the TV and then programs the universal remote to operate them. Our first hurdle appeared when we tried to connect our set-top box. Despite LG offering a huge list of compatible devices, our Fetch TV unit (one of the most popular in our country) wasn’t included.
So we tried setting up our Xbox and straight away the HDMI number listing was changed to "Games Console." Handy. We also added another video streamer which was immediately tagged as Other Box. So we did the same for our Set-top box and it too was labelled as Other Box. Now we have two Other Box listings and no idea which is which. The ability to customise labels would be useful here.
Audio and inputs
We’ve always been impressed with the audio that comes out of recent thin TVs, but LG’s decision making this year has proved divisive. The top three (out of four) models now come with expensive sound bars whether you want one or not. The Dolby Atmos compatible monster that comes with the top-end Picture frame model is worth $1700. It sounds very good but still offers a virtual surround-sound experience. We suspect people in the market for such a TV will want or already have their own real, built-in surround-sound systems. Those who struggle to afford the screen, will unlikely want to pay a lot more for a mandatory sound bar.
The 60W unit of our G7 Signature review unit certainly packs a punch and remains crisp and clear even when at high volume. It’s Dolby Atmos compatible but doesn’t have the up-firing speakers seen on the W7’s sound bar. As such it offers a virtual surround sound performance which might not sit well with those who already have a dedicated surround sound system.
While sound bars on the G7 and W7 models sounding very good, the E7’s audio was less so. This sound bar is much smaller. We spoke to a salesman at The Good Guys who had one on store and, unprompted, told us that it sounded ‘crap’ and that a sub couldn’t be attached to it.
Back to the G7 and our main issue was the bulk of the sound bar and its affect on the base. It’s massive and protrudes behind the TV a considerable way. While it functions as a solid base we’d rather it wasn’t there as it can get in the way of other TV-related paraphernalia. It also means that the input ports at the rear are among the most awkward we’ve had to access in years. If you don’t want it facing forward it can point down when wall mounting but it adds so much weight to the TV that you’ll need a strong wall.
Meanwhile the basic, C7 model eschews the soundbar and swaps a heavy glass-mounted screen for a plastic-backed, more-simple traditional design with no built-in sound bar. It’s ugly at the back compared to the metal-finished 2016 base model, and the sound is merely OK rather than spectacular. But the fact it has the exact same picture as the top end models, for much less money, is alluring.
Next: The differences in the range plus Conclusion
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