Speakers should be heard, but not seen according to LG's engineers who've unveiled an Ultra HDTV with a speakers that unfurl at the touch of a button.
Although we reported on their release back in July, this is the first time we've been able to go hands-on with the LA9700 Series of Ultra HDTVs.
Made up of a 55-inch, 65-inch and 84-inch variants, the LA9700 Series isn't the only stab at Ultra HD from LG, which has also announced at IFA its LA9650 Series, which drops the bigger size and adds speakers at each side in a design flashback to early plasmas and LCD TVs from a decade ago.
There's certainly nothing retro about the 55-inch 55LA9700 we spent some time with. Despite the extra pixels on show, this is all about audio. It's got a small subwoofer embedded in the TV's rear that can be glimpsed from behind, but the 55LA9700's star turn is unquestionably its drop-down Sliding Speaker.
LG calls this a 4.1 channel system that's rated at 50W – most TVs have 10W speakers – though it's not about surround sound. Instead four tweeters are embedded in a white-coloured speaker enclosure that unfurls from the 55LA9700's undercarriage at the touch of a button.
It effect it's a soundbar that can be hidden away when the 55LA9700 is not being used.
However, this feature does mean considerable extra bulk; the sculpted metallic desktop stand is tough-looking but resembles scaffolding or a lift shaft as it ushers-in that drop-down speaker.
The speaker housing itself measures at least 20mm across and 30mm down when fully unfurled, while the TV itself is closer to twice that at the bottom. We're also slightly concerned about the desktop stand's width, which many will have trouble squeezing onto their AV furniture.
This is no slim TV, but its designers have made an effort elsewhere; a metallic bezel stretches barely 5mm at the top and sides, and 10mm at the bottom, though that tapers to the speaker enclosure.
On the rear of the 55LA9700 are three HDMI inputs, and though we weren't able to confirm that any of them were HDMI 2.0 compliant, it's unlikely given their announcement a few months back. However, a launch date – and price – is still to be announced so things could change.
Other ins and outs include three USB slots, Ethernet LAN, an optical digital audio output, a headphones jack, a Common Interface slot and some adaptors for composite and component video. We also noticed a RS-232c port which could allow the 55LA9700 to be integrated into, say, a Creston home cinema automation system. Lastly in terms of hardware, we couldn't locate any kind of built-in Skype camera.
There is no existing industry-agreed source of Ultra HD, so LG has taken steps to pack the 55LA9700 – and, in fact, all of its Ultra HDTVs for 2013 – with a decoder for HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding). Effectively this means that it can play Ultra HD content directly from a USB thumbdrive.
In terms of picture quality, we'd judge the 55LA9700 as a second-rung choice. It uses a 100Hz-rated panel that also boasts LG's own NANO Full LED backlighting. That ought to mean excellent contrast, brightness and colour consistency, though what's most impactful is the detail.
The 55LA9700's Tru-ULTRA HD Engine is responsible for upscaling, though the native 4k images are perhaps not quite as sharp as on the Philips Ultra HDTV we've witnessed at IFA 2013. We also noticed that the screen was very reflective, especially when viewed at wide angles, though the drain of contrast and colour were slight.
Not surprisingly, the 55LA9700 can show Cinema 3D, LG's own passive system, though initial impressions of this weren't particularly good. Perhaps it's because a rather aggressive, dynamic picture preset was engaged, but the 100Hz panel appeared to display a lot of crosstalk that took much of the impact of the extra Ultra HD detail that's so crucial in making passive 3D a higher resolution system.
LG is also using IFA to launch a further 84-inch Ultra HD TV, the 84LA9800, which houses a 310W-rated 2.2 speaker system that uses two subwoofers and stereo speakers on either side of the TV.
This looks like a brilliant TV but the probably asking price will be high so you'll find better value in the Philips 65PFL9708.