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LG 65EF9500

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Technical evaluation: LG 65EF9500

As the successor to LGs beautiful but seriously flawed 65EG9600 OLED, the EF9500 has some very high expectations to meet. The EG9600 proved to be a short lived model, and it appears that the EF9500 was brought out quickly to address the dark sides so common on the EG9600. Cleveland AV owner Chris Majoros had taken many preorders for the EF9500, and owners are just now getting time to know and enjoy them.

While I can see the benefit of a curved screen when viewing up close, at more typical living or theater room distances I prefer the flat screen profile of the EF9500. The EF9500's screen filter soaks up ambient light very effectively, allowing rich contrast even in typical living room environments. In addition, the strong brightness capability allows the image to punch through moderate amounts of ambient light while retaining most of it's vibrancy. However, as with any glossy screen display, sharp reflections can be a distraction if it is placed opposite of large windows or sliding doors. The EF9500's image also holds up very well off axis; even at extreme angles, the image lost only a minor amount of color richness.

The unit I calibrated was running FW version 04.20.07 and was almost new, with about 30-40 hours on the panel. Near black uniformity, which was the EG9600's sore thumb, was dramatically improved on the EF9500. Checking 1-5% gray fields revealed a slightly dark edge to the right of the screen. It was hard to discern with any ambient light in the room, and it was not visible on any screencaps or video material I viewed. Dark gray uniformity was fair, with 10-20% gray screens showing a slightly dark and purplish right edge transitioning into a slightly yellowish area; from there, the uniformity was very good from the center through the left. Mid level and bright uniformity was fair to good, with a slightly yellowish area near but not at right side. I would expect these results to mean little or nothing to most people, though some viewers might get fleeting glimpses of the imperfections.

Before calibration:

Like most TVs, the EF9500 has many picture modes, with some looking downright awful and others allowing a beautiful image. Before making any calibration adjustments, the following observations were made of those picture modes while viewing in moderate ambient light:

ISF Expert: On my standard demo material, ISF Expert showed rich color and strong depth, with lots of pop. Skin tones appeared to be a little too red. The overall image was bright and photorealistic with smooth, but not artificially smoothed, textures. Shadow detail looked good but slightly off color. Watching The Dark Knight Blu Ray, I was distracted by shaky motion; it reminded me a little of a cross between the handheld camera effect and excessive jerkiness, though that overstates the effect. There was excellent detail and definition. The color was pleasing but appeared to be too rich. There was tons of pop, and awesome contrast. Cinema mode looked similar to ISF Expert but with no overscan.

Photo and Game modes appeared to show some promise, with Photo looking bright, punchy, and somewhat cool. Game mode was slightly more garish and enhanced than Photo. APS mode seemed similar to Game, but more garish, with paler colors and wild brightness swings as ambient light changed.

Sports mode looked horrible, grainy and overblown. Standard mode was overly enhanced, cool and sterile. Finally, Vivid was very garish, almost as over processed as Sports.

Calibration:

The best picture modes of the EF9500, such as Cinema and ISF Expert, include calibration controls for adjusting the hue, saturation, and level of each primary and secondary color. Also, a white balance adjustment is provided at 5% brightness intervals. These must be calibrated with test patterns and a meter to get the desired result.

As with other LGs, the 20 point control's alignment is greatly impacted by the contrast adjustment. Trying to adjust the upper half of the 20 point control with the wrong contrast setting can lead to ineffective and undesirable results. On this EF9500, the least displacement was with contrast set at 82, which is close enough to the default setting of 80 that the default setting can be used with good results. There was whiter than white headroom out to around level 249 with contrast at 82.

As with other LG OLEDs, getting a good transition out of black can be tricky at first. Digital level 16 should be totally dark, and ideally the display should reproduce level 17. Sometimes reproduction of level 17 is not possible and 18 may be the lowest level reproduced, which is not a big deal visually. This is also highly dependent on the 5% and low end white balance adjustments, so the brightness should be calibrated with keeping those controls in mind. It can also vary from one set to the next, even in the same model.

Another trait that is present on most but not all LG OLED's I've seen is a tendency for very dark shades of cyan to be visibly too greenish. While cyan is the most visibly serious, other dark color shades can be pulled off target as well. These shading problems, when present, are there before calibration and frustratingly get worse after calibration to a D65 white balance. These subtle color shading issues might not be visible at all over several hours of viewing, and then you might catch that magic show or movie scene that shows it up and makes it annoying. This EF9500 did exhibit this behavior, though not nearly to the extent I have seen on some LG OLEDs. A workaround that fixed the issue entirely in this instance is to calibrate to a white point of D75 in one of the ISF Expert modes. The D75 white point pulled the dark cyan shades right in place. While D75 is not the Rec 709 HDTV standard white point, it can look excellent in a day mode when there is a D65 night mode alternative.

The CMS control was somewhat functional, though it should only be adjusted within a +-10 range at the most. Looking at color gradients showed some problems with how the controls transitioned between the calibrated color and adjoining color shades which became severe with adjustments over +-10. The effects were much less noticeable with real images than with test patterns, though they were visible in some cases. As with some other LGs, no CMS settings changed skin tone tint, either in real images or in skin tone color checker measurements. With most displays, changing the red, and to a lesser extent yellow, CMS tint will have a dramatic effect on skin tones. The approach I took was to adjust the normal color and tint for the best performance on skin tone measurements, and then do the CMS adjustment. Although CMS should be adjusted after white balance and gamma, doing so throws off the white balance and grayscale tracking enough that they should be touched up again after CMS adjustment.

The motion issues noted above can be remedied with custom Tru Motion settings. Setting Blur reduction to a high number increases motion resolution, and setting De Judder to 1 or 2 can clear up the jerkiness without adding the overly smoothed Soap Opera Effect. Higher De Judder numbers can be used depending on how much you like or dislike the SOE.

Vertical resolution was just a bit soft with 1080i, P, and P/24 resolution patterns. Vertical and horizontal resolution were both a little soft with 720P patterns. The H and V sharpness adjustments could not correct for this. Thankfully, it was not nearly severe enough translate to a soft looking image in this situation.

There was no real difference between any size measurement window up to 25%, APL or regular. There is no meaningful advantage to using one size or style of window over another for a normal user menu calibration on the LG OLEDs. Also, there was no visually significant white balance shifts with full fields as opposed to windows, so unlike some plasmas, the OLED's white balance remains neutral no matter how much of the screen surface is displaying bright content. With default ISF Expert settings, maximum light output measured 26.9 fL full field, as opposed to 74.5 fL for windows.

I did not have the opportunity to view the after calibration image in ideal conditions enough to include detailed impressions here, though I was very impressed with what I did see.

I am including calibration reports for the night mode (D65), day mode (D75), and 3D with the meter looking through the glasses. The picture names correspond to which calibration they go with.
 
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