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We still tend to get a bit giddy at the thought of watching 4K. So not surprisingly we immediately fired a selection of native 4K content – restricted at the moment to long demo reels run from LG USB drives and a Sony 4K server we've managed to cling onto - into the 65LA970W to see what LG's set could do.
And the short answer was that it could do a heck of a lot. In fact, for much of the time we felt that the 65LA970W was producing the most jaw-dropping UHD pictures we'd seen to date – and that's saying something.
The sense of clarity, detail, purity and depth the set delivers with native UHD footage is utterly mesmerising, especially as it's underpinned by an incredibly rich and subtle colour response and some very adept motion handling that means you don't have to put up with the gorgeous 4k clarity being severely undermined by LCD's common blurring problem.
The 65in size of the 65LA970W is ample, too, to reveal the lovely sense of pixel density you get from a UHD/4k screen, delivering a visual effect akin to the way your eye interprets the real world versus the simple feeling that you're 'watching a TV'.
Given how spectacular native 4K looks on the 65LA970W, it's obviously a damn shame there's so little native 4K content currently available to normal consumers. It is coming, though - and our prediction is that it will get here faster than you might think. And when it does – assuming it's not had all the quality compressed out of it at source – the 65LA970W will be on hand to make it look as good as it possibly could.
The only slight rider to all this happy talk is that while bright UHD footage on our demo reels looks pretty much flawless, dark scenes reveal some issues with the 65LA970W's handling of black. Though crucially, as we'll see a bit later, it's possible to work round the majority of these issues.
With native 4K content so hard to come by, you're initially at least going to be relying on the 65LA970W's upscaling processing. So it's good to find this working reasonably well – albeit not as brilliantly as the upscaling systems found on the Samsung UE65F9000 and Sony 65X9005A.
LG's upscaling approach seems to be a fairly straightforward one of just sharpening everything. This works well enough to give HD pictures a sensation of being higher in resolution than they look on a normal HD TV, and you do get that all-important sense of extra pixel density. However, by not seemingly not being able to manipulate the sharpening effect on as localised (within each frame) a level as Sony and Samsung's upscaling engines do, you don't get quite so effective a sense of depth in the upscaled image, and can also see slightly more low-level noise.
Reducing the 65LA970W's sharpness setting can reduce the sense of noise, but still we only managed to get an HD upscaling effect we'd describe as good rather than great. The 65LA970W's tendency to focus on general sharpness can inevitably leave standard definition sources looking a bit messy at times too - though hopefully most users now won't often have to resort to such low-quality source content.
Moving to other aspects of the 65LA970W's pictures not directly related to its UHD resolution, it registers a palpable hit with the extreme punch but also extreme subtlety of its colours, and also startles with its eye-popping brightness.
The third dimension
The 65LA970W is in its element with 3D, meanwhile. Passive 3D technology really comes into its own with UHD/4K TVs thanks to the way having twice as many lines of pixels down the picture enables passive technology to deliver a true 'lossless' 3D image from 3D Blu-rays. As well, of course, as delivering passive 3D's advantages of no flicker, minimal fatigue, greater brightness, richer colours and practically no crosstalk.
Though please note that the crosstalk point only applies if you keep your vertical viewing angle under 13 degrees above or below the screen.
We've purposely left a discussion of the 65LA970W's contrast and black level performance till last, on account of it all being a bit complicated.
The complications arise from the fact that the 65LA970W's native contrast performance isn't very impressive, in line with other Nano-type direct LED TVs we've seen. However, unlike previous Nano sets, if you're careful with the set's dynamic contrast and local dimming features you really can get a very good contrast performance out of the 65LA970W.
For us the best setting combination entailed choosing the 'Low' settings for the dynamic contrast and local dimming options, and sliding down the backlight to as low as its mid-40s setting for dark room viewing – though you can go a bit higher for viewing in a bright room.
With these basic steps taken the TV's black level response shifts dramatically from being average to being excellent. And the fact that these deep blacks are able to appear alongside bright, rich colours and punchy whites without compromising them perfectly demonstrates the benefits of direct LED lighting with local dimming.
Previous LG Nano TVs have tended to make rather a mess of local dimming, though, thanks to the so-called haloing effect, where you can see blocks of light around bright objects thanks to the direct lighting not being able to work on a local enough level. However, while this problem hasn't been wholly eradicated by the 65LA970W, it's way less overt and distracting than it has been previously, only showing up in quite extreme circumstances. For instance, when you've got white credits against a black backdrop.
We should have said, actually, that the haloing issue only crops up very occasionally if you're watching from directly opposite the screen. Unfortunately if you move even slightly – as little as 20 degrees – off axis, the light blocking/haloing issue suddenly becomes obvious and consistent. So much so that if you or members of your family routinely have to watch TV from any sort of angle, the 65LA970W is not for you, despite its 4K glories.
For the most part the 65LA970W is a very intuitive and straightforward TV to use, thanks to the high level of presentation employed in its menus, and the brilliantly direct feeling you get from using the Magic Remote.
There are a few concerns too, though. One is the work you have to put in to hide a few issues with the set's backlight. Another is that LG would be well advised to apply more quality control to the apps it allows onto its online platform, rather than continuing with its apparent obsession with quantity, so that users can find the good stuff more quickly.
Finally if LG is going to offer gesture and voice control options, it could do with making these systems a bit more sophisticated than they are now to reduce the potential for frustration as you use them.
The speaker bar that slides elegantly out of the 65LA970W's bottom edge is thankfully much more than just a showboating gimmick. The four angled, front-firing tweeters ranged across it deliver much more power, detail and dynamism than the vast majority of normal flat TV speaker arrays, and they're able to retain this combination of power and precision even under duress thanks to the way a rear-mounted woofer speaker frees them from onerous bass duties.
The angling of the speakers also helps the 65LA970W produce an unusually wide soundstage, which joins the large screen in helping the TV deliver an exceptionally immersive experience when you're watching a film.
It's a pity for sure that the 65LA970W is £500 dearer than its Sony and Samsung 65in 4K rivals. Especially as there are areas – upscaling, contrast consistency - where both of those cheaper TVs do better than this LG. However, the LG's use of expensive-to-make direct LED technology enables it to boast some unique strengths of its own, and its reproduction of native 4K material is second to none.
Overall, though, there are just enough concerns with the 65LA970W's performance to make us wish the set was £500 cheaper.
John has been writing about home entertainment technology for more than two decades - an especially impressive feat considering he still claims to only be 35 years old (yeah, right). In that time he’s reviewed hundreds if not thousands of TVs, projectors and speakers, and spent frankly far too long sitting by himself in a dark room.
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