Hands on: LG E8 OLED (OLED65E8) review

A tiny processor makes a huge difference to the OLED range

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

LG has managed to improve upon its already impressive 2017 OLED range with the inclusion of 2018’s a9 processor chip, with a four-stage noise reduction feature, AI driven sharpness settings, and improved AI. But with all the promise of the a9 chip, it feels like it’s laying the groundwork for the 2019 OLED, rather than delivering a must-have set this year.

For

  • Brighter display
  • Much improved noise reduction
  • Useful AI

Against

  • Hard-to-understand menu functions
  • Colder image
  • HFR a practically redundant feature

Without a doubt LG has one of the best OLED TV ranges on the market, and with OLED being the current pinnacle of consumer TVs, arguably LG is the one to beat. 

So rather than rest on its laurels after the success of the 2017 range, the South Korean company has put a vast amount of work into the processors that go into its OLED range, giving them improvements across the board. 

The E8 OLED (sometimes seen as the OLED E8) is LG’s update to the 2017 E7 OLED, and even contains the same OLED panel as its predecessor. The E8 does lose the  soundbar-as-standard that you got with the E7, but other than that all of the changes happen under-the-hood with LG’s a9 processor.

While it may seem a little disappointing to have a processor be the only major differentiator, we can attest to the difference that the chip makes - at a  demonstration at the LG office in Madrid we were shown both this year's E8 and last year's E7 OLED side-by-side and the difference between the two was significant to say the least. 

Like last year's models, the LG E8 OLED TV is available in both a 55-inch and 65-inch variant, however at the moment LG is being frustratingly tight lipped about price - though, you can expect it to be significantly less than the flagship W8 OLED

In this hands-on review we’ll be talking you through our thoughts about the E8 so far, and discussing whether we think the improvements made over last year’s model make it a worthwhile investment. 

Design

The E8 does a fantastic job of getting out of its own way when it comes to design. The beautiful OLED display is housed by the thinnest of black bezels, with the entire unit being held by a pane of clear glass.

What this means is that it looks like the TV is almost floating, with a visible disconnect between the unit and the stand, allowing the picture on the set to be entirely independent of its surroundings. 

The E8's 'floating' stand

It’s a deeply aesthetically pleasing design choice, and for those not tempted by the ‘picture frame’ looks of the flagship W8, it offers a design that is more in-line with conventional television without looking boring. 

The unit is achingly slim, with a neat panelled section around the back that houses a number of the inputs, so even if you do look behind the set (which isn’t the business end of a television) you still get a sleek, pleasant-to-look-at device. 

If you’re a follower of LG, you’ll recognize the remote control as the same Magic Remote from previous years. And there’s an obvious element of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ about the remote; it’s comfortable, easy to use, and has a button for voice control which has really come into its own this year – but more on that later. 

The side view of the LG E8

Performance

LG has clearly listened to the reviews of the 2017 models, as there have been noticeable improvements in all the areas that we took issue last year. 

One of the biggest problems that we had was with motion artifacts, the little halo of blur you get around moving objects on screen. From looking at the same source material playing on an old set and the new E8 with the a9 chip, the improvements were dramatic. 

There are still artefacts here and there (especially when motion is more intense), but there are significantly fewer than we saw last year. Not satisfied with the standard two-step noise reduction, LG has implemented a four-step noise reduction which gives an image that’s as crystal clear as it is pleasant to look at.

What’s more, this impressive little chip has color reproduction that’s seven times more accurate than the previous chip. This translates to beautifully smooth transitions between similar colors, meaning a blue sky doesn’t suffer from any gradation from one shade to the next. 

An issue that we had with all these improvements were that rather than be included as standard in the set-up of the TV, they are all included in menu options named so obscurely that it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to know what they actually changed.

Case in point: Home Cinema Mode in the HDR settings is actually a setting that increases brightness and reduces saturation so that you can still experience an HDR image in a well lit room. We would never have guessed that from the name, and it’s similar across the whole menu. 

This means that even with all the amazing developments like AI image contouring, a user could end up with an image that doesn’t fulfil the TV’s potential just because of poor menu labelling, which feels like a shame. 

Another issue we had was with a setting that feels premature;  High Frame Rate (HFR) is a feature of the a9 chip that allows the E8 to handle images at 120 frames per second. This is a really exciting feature until you realize that the E8 doesn’t have ports for HDMI 2.1 that support 120fps, and there currently aren’t any streaming services that stream at this rate either.

This basically means you can use a USB stick to get your 120fps content onto the screen, or wait until the 2019 model to finally capitalize on this feature. 

One big leap forward that LG’s taken with the E8 is voice control. One of our favorite things about the E7 was its Web OS capable of voice control, but the voice control itself was incredibly limited, basically limiting you to simple commands like turning the set on and of, and adjusting the volume. 

On the E8 however, you can change to a channel of your choice, ask for a show by name, search by actor, adjust picture and sound modes, and if you do a single tap of the mic button, you get a list of suggestion for voice commands. 

Early verdict

The E8 is in many ways an improvement on last year’s model, with LG obviously taking note of the criticisms that the OLED range garnered and improving on them, and we were definitely impressed with what we saw.

The only problem is that it feels obvious the a9 chip is a chip that’s supposed to last at least until next year’s models, and given the peek at HFR which is genuinely going to be revolutionary for things that include moving at speed (think sports and action movies), we can’t help but feel we’d be better off waiting until the 2019 models come out when all these features are fully realized. 

Is the E8 an impressive OLED? Undoubtedly. Is it an improvement on the E7? Unquestionably. Is the E9 going to blow it out of the water? Probably. 

We'll need some more time with the set to sort through our feelings, but for now this is an impressive TV that's paving the way for the next generation.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.