Once in a very long time, a TV comes along with such a sharp, lustrous picture that it hypnotizes nearly everyone who sees it. The LG 65EF9500 is that TV. Its picture is so bright and sharp you'll feel like you have to wear shades.
The 65-inch set is based on OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display technology, versus LCD sets with LED backlights that currently dominate the TV market. OLEDs have the virtue of creating pixels that can be lit individually without requiring a separate backlight. It results in truly deep blacks and degrees of contrast not possible using competing technology. LG uses the OLED design to great advantage in the LG 65EF9500, with its ultra-HD 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels). This set produces a visual crispness that's nearly palpable, but that comes at price: roughly $5,000, or more than double what some similarly sized (but inferior) 4K LCD sets cost today.
Design: Elegant and poised
In spite of its 65-inch screen size, the LG 65EF9500 has a lightness of being. Its pencil-thin bezel means the image tends to levitate without a heavy black frame, and the set's white chassis blends in with most living rooms, rather than sitting there like a large black obelisk (on the other hand, some may think it has a '60s, Austin Powers flavor).
Contributing to its ethereal effect, the set sits on a single, wide pedestal stand that keeps the device on solid footing, thanks to a single clear piece of supporting plexiglass. Its transparency means that the set appears to float above a tabletop. Best of all, this is not one of those gimmicky, curved 4K sets; it's flat and perfectly poised for movie viewing.
To connect to video and entertainment sources, the LG 65EF9500 has just three HDMI ports (many sets have five), but they are all fully 4K-compatible. There are also three USB ports (one 3.0-compatible), Ethernet, RF, digital audio, component and composite video connections, as well as built-in Wi-Fi. For those who still enjoy the effect, the LG 65EF9500 also supports 3D programming with its passive design and includes two pairs of glasses.
Performance: Simply stunning
With stunning contrast skills, the LG 65EF9500 can reveal details in shadows that other sets simply tune out. And the OLED's ability to pinpoint colors and brightness means that everything from violent explosions to serene star fields is rendered perfectly. I tested most material in Cinema mode (video and audio), which I found delivered the best picture; switching to other preset modes, such as Sports mode, delivers a retina-burning brightness that's almost painful to watch.
Thankfully, the LG 65EF9500 does an excellent job up-scaling standard Blu-ray and HD fare (which is the vast majority of material currently available) to ultra-HD levels. You'll see all the disgusting details in Dad's costume in Mad Max: Fury Road, every beautiful pore on Charlize Theron's face, and details in the backgrounds that will thrill (or frighten) a set designer. As a demonstration of what the LG 65EF9500 is capable of, the fire shooting out of the flame-throwing guitar looks realistic on Fury Road; other sets are unable to handle the sudden brightness of the flare without making it look cartoonish.
In space footage, the LG 65EF9500 does just as well. In the Blu-ray of Gravity, there's so much detail that you can count the scores of tiny shrapnel pieces as they speed toward the space shuttle. Other sets reveal only a few of the larger chunks of detritus before the cascading collisions begin. Space is appropriately black without making any compromises by dimming the stars. As Sandra Bullock spins out into space, the lamps on her spacesuit flash without flaring and affecting the rest of the picture; every other set I've tested created some kind of light flare or leakage in this scene.
Another critical aspect of up-scaling is being able to handle rapid transitions and action sequences without generating blurry artifacts. The LG 65EF9500 excelled in this, as well. There were no streaking stars in Gravity's motion scenes, and no missing or flashing imperfections in Skyfall's chase scenes. Colors from yellow to red looked solid and saturated; greens were naturalistic and skin tones neither too pink nor too chalky. Capping it all off, there's no bad seat in the house, thanks to the set's excellent viewing angles. Even if you're sitting on the edge of the couch, colors and brightness won't suffer.
Bumping up the picture with 4K programming was equally pleasing. And the LG 65EF9500 can support the expanded color gamut of HDR (high dynamic range) content. I used a music video with expanded color information to test the set's "Ultra-HD Deep Color" setting. For the first time, I could see the faces and skin tones of audience members sitting in the shadows of the stage, as well as colors like the iridescence of the mother-of-pearl saxophone keys.
The only area in which the LG 65EF9500 was less than stellar was in the audio department. The set has several presets for isolating dialogue, boosting musical soundtracks or enhancing sporting events. I choose Cinema mode as the most well-rounded setting, but while the TV's 20-watts of total power made it loud enough to fill a living room, its audio lacked the overall dynamic range a good sound bar would deliver.
Interface: Snappy webOS
LG uses its own software to back up its connected, smart-TV features.
I still like the design, graphics and organization of LG's webOS 2.0 software. The remote's settings button invokes a quickly understandable row of icons down the right hand side of the screen, with adjustments for picture and audio, a sleep timer, a parental lock, and more-advanced settings.
Tap the remote's Home button, and along the bottom of the screen are big, angled tabs for popular and frequently used services such as Netflix and Amazon. There are dozens of additional apps available from LG, including Crackle and Pandora and a couple of casual games. However, LG offers a relative paucity of choices compared to Sony's Android TV-based sets, Roku TVs or models from Samsung.
One can skip around the LG interface easily thanks to the inclusion of LG's "Magic Remote," which behaves like a wireless mouse directing an on-screen cursor. It makes short work of finding your favorite Spoon videos on YouTube, and it has everything to make most owners comfortable, including a four-way directional pad with a clickable thumb wheel in the center. There's also a numeric keypad in case that works better for you.
With an arresting picture that cannot be beat, the LG 65EF9500's only real competition at the moment is Sony's Bravia X930C set, which costs $2,000 less than the LG. The two TVs offer very different pictures, but both are very impressive. However, for an image that's a real showstopper, the LG 65EF9500 is unparalleled.