Australian Review: LG 65EF950T 65-inch 4K OLED TV - Finally flat

LG 65EF950T 65-inch 4K OLED TV
Australian Review: LG 65EF950T 65-inch 4K OLED TV - Finally flat

For all intents and purposes, the LG 65EF950T is almost identical to a TV I described as "almost perfect". Same manufacturer, same design, same underlying technology. There's a few key differences though. This one is bigger, and as such, more expensive. This one can play high dynamic range content over HDMI. And most importantly, this one is flat.

Unlike the LED panels found in a more traditional TVs, OLED displays don't require a backlight. Pixels are instead lit up on a case by case basis, allowing for what's LG's marketing gurus call "perfect black". Essentially, if a pixel on an OLED TV isn't being used to display a colour, it switches itself off entirely. If, for some reason, you were looking at a black screen, you wouldn’t be able to tell if the TV is on or off. On a conventional television, you'd still see a faint backlight behind any black areas, giving them a greyish tinge.  In turn, "perfect black" means OLED TVs provide better contrast and greater colour accuracy.

LG has been selling OLED TVs in Australia for a couple of years now, but you've had to settle for a curved display. Some people love curved displays, but I much prefer a more traditional TV design. If you're like me and want one of the best TVs money can buy without the hassle of a curved screen, the 65EF950T is the answer to your prayers.

The 65-inch 65EF950T and the smaller 55-inch 55EF950T are the first flat-screen OLED TVs LG has made available in Australia. Much like their curved siblings, both have a 4K display and a potentially prohibitive price tag (AUD$8,999 and AUD$5,499, respectively). While these prices may seem sky-high, the 65EF950T looks like a AUD$8,999 TV. Thin black bezels seamlessly blend into the screen, and a chrome frame gives the TV an extra bit of pop. A transparent perspex stand connects the 65EF950T to its aluminium base, and almost makes the TV look likes it floating. Especially when you've got the lights off.

Like the majority of LG's 2015 TVs, the 65EF950T runs WebOS 2.0 Smart TV operating system (rather than upcoming WebOS 3.0, fingers crossed for an upgrade). The operating system itself is one of the better smart TV platforms around, and is very easy to get the hang of. Option menus are simple to navigate, and as a whole, the operating system is laid out in a way that makes sense. As user friendly as WebOS 2.0 is, it feels a little sluggish compared to modern set-top boxes such as the new Apple TV; most actions take a second or two longer than they should. In a similar vein, the 65EF950T takes a tiny bit longer to turn on than a conventional LED TV.

While the 65EF950T has a good range of inputs on the back (a single USB 3.0 input, two USB 2.0, an Ethernet jack, and optical audio out), the inclusion of only three HDMI ports for a TV of this stature is a bit of a let down. This might not be an issue for most, but I'd really want to see at least four to help cut down on cable switching. 

When I reviewed the 65EF950T's curved bother, I said there's nothing quite like an OLED TV currently on the market, and I still stand by the statement. If you're after picture quality or a proper cinematic experience, it's hard to go back to a regular LED panel. Watching a film like Interstellar or Gravity on the 65EF950T is an incredible showcase of how much of a difference "true black" can make.

Newer TVs try and replicate this idea with localised dimming. While it can be effective on TVs with full array backlights, most LED TVs are edge-lit. Regardless of the backlight technology used, neither works quite as well as OLED, and often result in what's called haloing or blooming - an area where the backlight is still lit up, even though its meant to be showing black. This is especially noticeable when it comes to white logos on a black background.

The 65EF950T still exhibits a tiny amount of haloing when you've got solid white (or other bright colours) up against black, but for the most part, this isn't noticeable when playing a game or watching a movie.

In addition to giving you darker shades of black, the 65EF950T offers up more shades of black. Rather than combining similar shades into a flat mass, an OLED panel means its possible to see a lot more detail in both dark and bright areas (providing it's already there). Bloodborne, a dark and moody video game, is a perfect example of this. Early in the game, there's plenty of shadowy rooms to explore. On a more conventional TV, it feels you're in complete darkness. On the 65EF950T, not only are you able to better make out the shape of the room, you can actually see the furnishings that adorn it. The same is true for white hues; an OLED panel can, for example, reveal a lot more detail in raging water and rolling clouds.

Flat versus curved may be a question of aesthetics, but there's also some practical value to the 65EF950T's more conventional screen. The lack of a curve gives the TV wider viewing angles; provided you can see the entire TV, you shouldn't experience any colour distortion. This will almost certainly cut down fights over who gets to sit front and centre.

In order to get the best possible image quality out of the 65EF950T, you'll need to tweak a few picture settings. The default "Vivid" mode is good for flashy demo reels, but will make almost anything else look oversaturated. "Standard" looks pretty good out of the box, but I turned contrast down just a touch, and dialled in a bit more brightness for a more natural image.  You'll also want to turn off noise reduction and TruMotion for best effect.

While OLED panels deliver phenomenal picture quality, there is a small catch. Since there's no backlight, the 65EF950T isn't quite as bright as conventional TV. As such, it's a bit more prone to picking up glare and reflections. You can still comfortably use the 65EF950T in a well lit room, provided its not on an angle where sunlight is hitting it directly. These reflections are especially noticeable when watching shows or movies with a darker colour palette. As a rule, the 65EF950T is best placed in a room where you've got some control over your lighting, whether it's by dimming lights or closing blinds.

The 65EF950T's inbuilt speakers are just okay. They'll go loud without losing clarity or distorting, but unsurprisingly, there's not much low-end. You'll almost certainly want a sound bar and subwoofer combo to go with the TV.

Last but not least, the 65EF950T's HDMI ports all use the HDMI 2.0a standard. This allows playback of high dynamic range (HDR) content over HDMI, something the curved model isn't capable of. While there's very little HDR content available currently, the change is designed to pave the way for Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs and Ultra HD Blu-Ray players, which will support HDR-encoded content. HDR-encoded content will take advantage of the wider colour gamut found in TVs such as the 65EF950T in order to provide a more vivid, detailed image.

Both LG's flat and curved 4K OLED will be able to stream 4K video through sources such as Netflix. Netflix's first batch of HDR-optimised content is due to hit the service later this month.

As with its curved counterpart, I have no qualms calling the 65EF950T one of the best TVs money can buy. The only problem is that you'll need a lot of it.

On paper, the AUD$5,499 55-inch 55EF950T is potentially a better value buy than the 65EF950T. A AUD$3,500 premium for an additional 10-inches doesn't necessarily make sense for the most. The smaller TV size does however mean you won't get as much value from 4K resolutions unless you're sitting closer.

It's also worth noting that LG has higher-end OLED models on the horizon: the stupidly thin Signature series. While aesthetic is a clear selling point, these will also run a newer operating system, and presumably have more powerful components under the hood. Based on my conversations with LG Australia staff, I'm expecting Signature OLED family to be a touch pricier than the EF950T family. If you're already looking at dropping almost AUD$9,000 on a TV, what's a couple of grand more to own a TV that's just 2.57mm thin. You baller, you.

But if you want one of the very best TVs you can buy, you don't want to compromise on size, and you want it now, LG's 65EF950T fits the bill admirably.

Alex Choros reviewed the 65EF950T at The Four Seasons Sydney as a guest of LG Australia.

Cybershack Score - rating backgroundrating 4.5

Phenomenal picture qualityVery expensive
Flat! Only three HDMI ports
WebOS 2.0 is user friendlyProne to glare and reflections

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