LG 65UF950 review

Definitive proof that looks aren't everything...

LG 65UF950
Definitive proof that looks aren't everything

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In a year where we've seen flat TV picture quality take a quantum leap forward - including with LG's own OLED TVs - the 65UF950V stands out for all the wrong reasons. Or to be more precise, a variety of mostly contrast-related reasons.

At the heart of what the 65UF950V gets wrong is the inability of its LCD panel to produce anything close to a deep, rich, natural black colour in its natural state. By which I mean that dark scenes look washed out and milky without any of the TV's contrast-boosting tools in play.

It's common, of course, for LCD TVs to suffer some degree of greyness where there should be blackness when running in their native states, but the extent to which the greyness afflicts the 65UF950V is pretty shocking when considered against some of its rivals this year.

The wrong tools

Of course, though, LCD technology's inherent difficulties with contrast mean that the vast majority of LCD TV owners will seldom if ever attempt to watch their TVs without using some sort of contrast-boosting processing system in play.

Be it a dynamic contrast system (where the whole lighting level is continually adjusted to suit the image content) and/or, ideally, a local dimming system where different sections of the screen's light are controlled individually.

We've seen numerous examples already this year of just how effective these sorts of systems can be, in fact.

On the 65UF950V, though - partly because of how hard they're having to work - these systems are anything but effective.

The main problem is light banding. Activate the local dimming system and yes, immediately the picture's general black level depth improves massively, with far less greyness hanging over proceedings. But what you now have to put up with instead is clearly defined vertical stripes of light running the full height of the picture wherever there's a bright object appearing against a dark backdrop.

LG 65UF950

Local dimming breaks bad

The cause of this distracting problem is painfully simple.

LG has apparently arrayed the 65UF950V's lights along the bottom edge of its screen, meaning they have to fire upwards to light the picture. So if you then introduce a local dimming system, each individually controllable cluster of edge LEDs will fire different amounts of light up the screen - and since LG appears to be making little or no effort to diffuse the effects of the resulting up-firing light differentials, you see the clearly defined light bars I mentioned.

Especially if you're watching a movie with a wider aspect ratio than the TV's 16:9 one, meaning there are black bars above and below the image.

You can minimise the striping issue by keeping the local dimming on its Low setting and adjusting the TV's settings to tame the image's contrast and brightness. But nothing I was able to do simultaneously tackled both the screen's native contrast woes and the striping problem anywhere near well enough to make the 65UF950V a rival for the likes of the Sony 75X9405C or any of the Samsung UHD TVs we've seen to date this year.

Don't sweat the bright stuff

The one bit of good news for the 65UF950V is that the sort of dark or mixed brightness content that causes it so much trouble doesn't crop up in everything you watch. Most non-drama TV shows prefer to stick with a determinedly bright palette, and there are even a few drama shows that seem determined to stick to the brighter side of life.

Most movies, though, will operate with a very dynamic contrast range at some point, and so will many of the most high profile dramas currently hitting the small screen.

And I'd say that there will be points in all of these high-contrast sources where the 65UF950V's images will become borderline unwatchable, regardless of what combination of picture settings you've ultimately settled on.

It must be said for the record that when the 65UF950V looks good, it tends to look very good.

Its brightness levels are exceptional, giving full rein to a colour palette of rich, dynamic saturations and some surprisingly effective tonal delineation that only starts to fail during dark scenes, when the set just doesn't have enough control over its light output to deliver uniformly effective toning.

Native UHD content looks superbly detailed and clean too, with little if any noise being introduced by the TV and plenty of colour subtlety on hand to keep pace with the sheer amount of pixels in the image.

HD upscaling

There's a slightly softer look to the 65UF950V's upscaled HD pictures than some may like; certainly you get a greater sense of sharpness and, perhaps, pixel density with the latest upscaling engines from Sony and Samsung.

But there's an argument to be made for the LG's slightly gentler, less 'shouty' approach - at least to the extent that it's very efficient at keeping noise out of the upscaled picture.

The 65UF950V is also a pretty effective handler of motion, managing to keep both blur and judder under reasonably decent control without making images look processed so long as you avoid the upper reaches of LG's TruMotion processing engine.

I'd also expected to have little but good things to report when I unleashed the 65UF950V on a selection of my favourite 3D Blu-ray discs - but unfortunately at this point LG's screen actually slipped back into my bad books.

3D isn't great either

For just as happened with the equivalent model from LG's 2014 TV range, the 65UF950V's 3D images are plagued by eye-catching amounts of crosstalk ghosting noise - despite this being something passive 3D technology was actually created to avoid!

The crosstalk doesn't cover the whole image to the same extent; it seems to effect certain areas much worse than others. Unfortunately one of the worst effected areas is the bottom central portion of the image, making it painfully hard to read subtitles.

The 65UF950V's 3D images do at least deliver on the brightness, colour richness and freedom from flicker passive 3D was designed for, but the crosstalk often ruins everything before you get chance to take the good stuff in.

John Archer
AV Technology Contributor

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.