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How to buy the best TV

How to buy the best LG TV

By Martin Pratt

Article 3 of 7

Numerous OLED ranges from the C9 to the rollable Signature R TV - bolstered by LCD 4K and Full HD sets - make up LG's 2019 line-up. We explore the new technology housed in these TVs, so you know how each one differs.

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OLEDs are once again leading the charge for LG in 2019. The C9, E9 and W9 are successors to TVs we saw last year, while the Z9 and Signature R are entirely new in every sense of the word.

We've broken down each range in LG's 2019 line-up so you can see how they differ. Or take a look at the TVs released in 2018, which are still available and are cheaper than they've ever been.

In this guide:

LG TV technology explained 

There's no shortage of intriguing technology in LG's 2019 line-up, including an improved image processor, new HDR formats and object-based sound rendering.

Alpha 9 processor

LG's high-end 2019 TVs are powered by the second generation of the Alpha 9 processor. It builds on the original by adding two new features: content enhancement and content optimisation. Both are designed to make the pictures being displayed look as crisp, accurate and lifelike as possible regardless of the resolution.

TVs with this upgraded chip will analyse every frame of what you're watching and hone it to look as close to 4K or 8K as possible. What resolution the content is boosted to will depend on your TV. 8K sets rely on this sort of technology as there's no 8K content to watch, but if it works well then SD and HD footage will look better than ever on 4K TVs, too.

HDR10, Technicolor, Dolby Vision and HLG HDR formats

LG is covering most of the HDR bases with its 2019 TVs. The OLED models come with four formats built in, so there won't be many devices or HDR content that they won't be compatible with.

HDR10 is the standard format at the moment, although Samsung and Panasonic's support for HDR10+ may change that.

HLG is the type of HDR that broadcasters will use when they launch HDR channels. It's not so useful now, but given that most of us keep the same TV for years, it's good to know that it will work with the new channels. 

Unlike HDR10, Dolby Vision costs the manufacturer a licence fee to use. Cost aside, the key difference between it and HDR10 is metadata - this is the data that makes up the quality of the picture. HDR10 gets one dump of information for every film and TV show compatible with HDR; this means the HDR version of what you're watching will be the same regardless of the TV it's being displayed on. Dolby Vision, on the other hand, can react to what's on screen by accounting for the brightness, colour and contrast of different TVs.

Similarly to HLG, Technicolor will help to simplify broadcasting HDR. It will also be able to upscale content to HDR quality.

Dolby Atmos and DTS audio

The sound-processing tech in LG's OLEDs should help create a more immersive sound experience. It does this by creating object-based sound effects, which should make it seem as though the TV audio is all around you rather than coming directly from the TV. In theory, this means that the sound of a plane taking off on screen would seem to come from above you or the sound of talking crowd would surround you if the action is taking place in a stadium, for example.

ThinQ

TVs get smarter every year and the ThinQ technology that debuted in 2018 is being built upon in the 2019 line-up. ThinQ-enabled TVs will be able to control other LG appliances, so your TV would alert you when your washing is done, or it could display the contents of your fridge. 

Voice search will still feature and you'll be able to search for specific channels and apps, or look up films of a certain genre or starring a specific actor. If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home you can use those to control your TV rather than the remote. 

HFR (High Frame Rate)

This is a feature that comes part and parcel with HDMI 2.1 (yes, even your TV's inputs get updates), which is something many of LG's 2019 TVs support. HFR ups the amount of frames a TV can display per second to 120. This should make high-speed action look silky smooth with no hint of blur. 

Sport is the natural fit for this technology and the tech demos showing it off are often tennis and football matches where balls are travelling at high speed. It's unlikely to be used for TV or movies, which are displayed at around 24 frames per second. Upping this to 120 would look very unnatural.

LG's 2019 range overview 

Information on LG's new TVs beyond the 8K OLEDs is sparse, but we'll add to this section as we learn more about the cheaper OLEDs and LCD models coming up.

LG Signature R 

LG saves the Signature label for its most elite devices, whether it's a fridge, washing machine or TV, and the Signature R certainly earns the title. The vast OLED screen seems to achieve the impossible; it vanishes before your very eyes. At the push of a button the enormous screen disappears into what seems to be the TV base equivalent of Mary Poppins' bag but, in fact, the screen is rolling up like a newspaper. 

It solves a key problem faced by many who would like a big TV but don't want it to dominate their living room when it's not being watched. With the screen rolled up, the base looks like a stylish side table and doubles as a sound bar you can connect to via Bluetooth. 

All the rolling and unrolling could take a toll on the screen, but according to LG the panel can coil 50,000 times, which means it would last 34 years if you unfurled it twice a day.

LG Z9 8K OLED 

The rollable OLED isn't the only first for LG in 2019; the Z9 is its first 8K OLED. The gargantuan 88-inch display houses more than 33m pixels and should be capable of displaying mind-blowing clarity. 

The second-generation Alpha 9 processor will help it overcome the lack of 8K content problem, and by lack of, we mean none. Thankfully, the processor should upscale SD, HD and 4K video to something close to 8K quality.

Without it, you're paying a fortune for a TV with a headline feature you can't use. It would be like buying a house knowing that you couldn't access the top floor. 

LG C9 OLED 

The C9 is one of the cheaper OLEDs, but it still has the impressive second generation Alpha 9 processor.

Other than the new processor, not too much has changed from the 2018 C8 and this C9 model. It still supports Dolby Atmos and four HDR formats: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision and Technicolor. It's more of an iterative year than an innovative one for LG's OLEDs. 

When we come to test the TV we'll expect to see improvements made to the WebOS operating system to make it easier to find shows to watch, navigate the app store and tinker with the settings. 

That new processor should make lower resolution content look closer to 4K, too, so we're looking forward to seeing crisper SD and HD content than we've seen on an LG OLED before.

LG B9 OLED 

It's still an OLED, but with no Alpha 9 processor, the entry-level OLED could be far behind the models higher up the range when it comes to picture quality, particularly when it comes to SD and HD content.

It has the Alpha 7 processor instead, which also powers most of the high-end LCD models. The first generation of this chip can be found on 2018's 8000, 8100 and 8500 LCD ranges, some of which did very well in our tests, so it's not a sign that the B9 will be poor quality.

In most other ways, the B9 is similar to the pricier C9. The same HDR formats are supported, Dolby Atmos is built in and you can control the TV with your voice.

LG SM9800PLA 

LG is called its high-end LCD TVs 'Nano Cell' in 2019, and it claims that this technology produces more accurate colour. 

The 9800s are the top-end LCD sets and sit just below the B9 OLED. But despite having different screen types, they share the same second generation A7 processor. Upscaling is the big focus, and the new processor is designed to optimise picture and sound based on what you're watching. This 'adaptive improving' is known as AI upscaling. LG's flagship A9 processors do it, too, but it's unclear how the high-end processor improves over the A7.

The processor isn't the only thing impacting sound: the 9800s support Dolby Atmos for a simulated surround sound experience.

The SM9800PLA TVs will be available in 55 and 65 inches.

LG SM9010PLA and SM9000PLA 

On paper, the 9000 range looks to be very similar to the 9800s above. The processor is the same, it has a full-array backlight for improved contrast control, and it's a Nano Cell set, so we may see more vivid colours that we're used to on LG's LCD sets.

The only significant difference seems to be the variety of sizes. Where the 9800s are only available in two sizes (55 and 65 inches) the 9000s come in five (49, 55, 65, 75 and 86 inches).

LG is taking a leaf out of Samsung's book and try to help its high-end sets blend in better with the room they are in. It has partnered with Tripadvisor to present a gallery mode that displays seasonal landscapes when the TV's not in use - it even mimics a picture frame on screen to help it look more like a real hanging photograph.

TVs in this range are either classified as 9010 or 9000, but only the size of the display differs.

LG SM8610PLA and SM8500PLA 

It appears that only stand design separates these two Nano Cell TVs. The 8500 has feet at either end of the screen, while the 8610 has a central stand similar to the SM9000 above it.

The features seem to be on par with pricier Nano Cell models. The Alpha 7 processor is built in, as is Dolby Atmos surround sound technology.

Normally we'd say that these cheaper models would have had less time being calibrated. The time spent tweaking the colour balance, contrast and sharpness is what often separates the best TVs from the magnificent ones, but all LG's Nano Cell sets have a new auto-calibration feature from CalMAN, which is software designed to tweak the colours for you in a way that you'd typically need to be an expert to do.

It's still possible that less work has been done behind the scenes in LG's own labs to tune the picture, but the CalMAN software is a welcome addition for anyone who wants to feel like they are getting the best picture without spending hours pouring through menus.

Both ranges will be available in 49, 55 and 65 inches. 

LG SM8200PLA 

The cheapest series in the Nano Cell range is also the most different. It doesn't have the A7 processor, instead it has to settle for the more generic sounding quad core processor. It's still doing fundamentally the same thing, reducing distracting noise on screen, boosting the colours and upscaling lower resolution content to close to 4K, but there's no mention of the sound optimisation that comes with the A7 processor.

Processor aside, not much else appears to have changed. The same four HDR formats are supported as is Dolby Atmos, a type of audio processing that does a better job of placing sound in the space around you rather than having everything coming directly from the TV.

If our testing finds that losing the A7 processor doesn't make much difference to the picture quality, then this cheaper range of Nano Cell TVs could be an appealing option. 

The SM8200PLA range will be available in 49, 55 and 65 inches.

LG UM7660PLA 

Models with UM in the name aren't Nano Cell TVs, but they are still 4K HDR, with the same suite of smart features as even LG's OLEDs.

What they lack is the A7 processor and Dolby Atmos sound processing. Instead of Atmos, the TVs use DTS Virtual:X audio processing to create a simulated surround sound effect, so it should still seem as though the sound is all around you rather than all coming in a straight line from your the TV.

Unlike some of cheaper models from the UM 4K range, the 7660 has LG's superb Magic Remote, which means you'll be able to issue voice commands to search for shows and change channels by pressing the microphone button on the remote.

The UM7660PLA is only available in 55 and 65 inches.

LG UM7600PLB 

Generally the bigger the number a TV's model name the more high end it is, but the 7600 looks better on paper than the 7660. That's because it has the A7 processor, which is more than we can say for some of LG's high-end Nano Cell LCD TVs.

It's peculiar to have a lower-end TV with better specs than a pricier model, but it's also interesting and it could mean that the 7600 range outperforms some of the Nano Cell TVs in our testing.

The A7 processor isn't the only high-end feature that should help the 7600 punch above its weight. It also has Dolby Atmos audio processing technology to create a surround sound effect and it comes with the Magic Remote, so you'll be able to issue voice commands to the TV without having to fork out the extra money for the premium remote.

Often LG's more advanced sets are only available in 49 inches and above, but the 7600 starts at 43 inches and goes all the way to 86 inches.

LG UM7450PLA and UM7400PLB 

There isn't much difference between these two ranges, but it's possible that the 7400 will have a superior viewing angle. LG promises that even if you're sat at a 60-degree angle to the TV the colours will be 100% accurate. Usually at these sorts of angles we start to colours fade and appear washed out.

The improved colour accuracy is down to the 7400's IPS panel. Otherwise the two ranges are largely the same. DTS Virtual:X surround sound should make the audio more immersive and less like a tunnel of sound direct from your TV, but only the 7450 will have the Magic Remote for voice control. You'll need to buy it separately if you go for the 7400.

The 7450 range will be available in 43, 50, 55, 65 and 70 inches, while the 7400 range will be available in 43, 49, 55 and 65 inches.

LG's 2018 TVs overview 

The table below shows the key differences between each of LG's ranges. Or you can jump straight to the LG TV series you want to know more about.

LG W8 Signature OLED 

 

The W8 looks almost identical to last year's W7. The TV, which is designed to be wall-mounted, is a paper-thin OLED panel attached to a separate sound bar - LG calls the design 'picture-on-wall'.

It's good looking, and it should be no slouch when it comes to picture and sound quality. It uses the Alpha 9 processor, supports all four HDR formats and the separate sound bar works with DTS and Dolby Atmos to create a virtual surround sound effect where sound can seem to come from anywhere in the room. 

It also supports high frame rate (HFR), which should make motion more stable and fluid, something OLED TVs are generally good at anyway.

This TV has built-in voice control and uses ThinQ to communicate with other LG appliances.

It will be available in 65 or 77 inches.

LG OLED G8 

 

The G8 has a similar design to the W8, but the sound bar is attached to the base rather than being separate. Unlike the W8's sound bar, which has six built-in speakers, the G8 only has four, but it does still benefit from Dolby Atmos and DTS object-based sound effects.

Being a high-end OLED means it uses the Alpha 9 processor and supports HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision and Technicolor HDR formats. 

As with the W8 you'll be able to control the G8 with your voice and use ThinQ to communicate with other LG appliances.

The G8 is a single model rather than a range since it's only available in 65 inches.

LG OLED E8 

 

The E8 matches the G8 and W8 when it comes to technology. All four HDR formats are supported and it uses the Alpha 9 processor. The main difference is in the design. It has a more conventional stand rather than a sound bar base. 

That doesn't mean it misses out on the Dolby Atmos and DTS audio, though. Both features are there, but built-in speakers will likely mean this TV doesn't sound as good as the G8 or W8.

The E8 will be available in 55 or 65 inches.

LG OLED C8 

 

The C8 is the cheapest OLED to still use the Alpha 9 chip, the entry-level B8 OLED uses the Alpha 7 instead. It's available in 55, 65 or 77 inches.

Design and B8 aside, there's very little to pick between LG's OLED TVs. The HDR formats are the same, as is the image processor. Dolby Atmos is present in all of them, even those without sound bars, and they all support ThinQ AI technology for controlling other LG appliances and voice commands.

This TV is unlikely to match the G8 and W8 with their attached sound bars, but the C8 is also be significantly cheaper than both of those TVs.

The impressive technology and cutting-edge displays on C8 OLEDs should make them some of the best TVs around. Read our reviews of the LG OLED55C8PLA and LG OLED65C8PLA to see if they live up to their potential.

LG OLED B8 

 

LG's entry-level OLED TV doesn't have the Alpha 9 processor, it has to settle for the Alpha 7 instead. This is likely to impact the vibrancy and accuracy of the colours as well as the overall sharpness.

The B8 should at least be more affordable as a result. OLED TVs are typically very expensive, particularly at launch, but the B8 could be priced to compete with high-end LCD TVs from other brands, assuming it's picture and sound quality are good enough.

Sound could be the B8's strong suit as it uses Dolby Atmos and DTS to create a surround sound effect.

Read our in-depth review of the LG OLED55B8PLA to see if LG's cheapest OLED is a match for pricier models from Panasonic, Samsung and Sony.

LG SK9500 

 

This is LG's top-end LCD set in its Super UHD range, which means it uses a backlight illuminating a LCD panel to create the images on screen. OLED panels can create their own light meaning they are thinner and offer greater contrast.

LCD panels may be inferior to OLED in terms of contrast, but that doesn't mean the SK9500 will be a bad TV. It supports HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision and Technicolor, just like the OLED sets, and it uses Dolby Atmos and DTS tech to create object-based sound, too.

What it does miss out on is the new Alpha 9 Processor. All the Super UHD TVs get the Alpha 7 Processor instead. We expect this to impact colour accuracy and sharpness, but we won't know how much until we test LG's new TVs.

Can a high-end LCD TV match or beat an OLED? Read our LG 55SK9500PLA and LG 65SK9500PLA reviews to find out. 

LG SK8500 

 

Still in the Super UHD range, but under the SK9500, sits the SK8500. On paper, there isn't a great deal to pick between these two high-end LCD TVs. Both support the same four HDR formats as the OLEDs and use Dolby DTS tech to simulate sound coming from specific parts of the room rather than directly from the TV.

The Alpha 7 Processor in this TV won't be quite as accomplished at creating balanced colour as the Alpha 9 Processor, but the Nano Cell technology on the LCD display may mitigate this somewhat. Nano Cell was designed to create consistent, natural colours even if you're watching the TV at an angle. The OLED TVs should still have the edge when it comes to sharpness, however.

If you like the sound of LG's ThinQ smart features, then you'll be pleased to know that it isn't unique to the OLEDs, you'll find it on all the 4K models.

Since launch, the price of this range has dropped significantly, but are they are a great way to get high-end quality at a low price? Find out in our reviews of the LG 49SK8500PLA, LG 55SK8500PLA and LG 65SK8500PLA.

LG SK8100 

 

In terms of specs, the SK8100 looks to be almost the same as the SK8500. The curved metal stand is smaller on this model, meaning it will be easier to fit on a media unit. You can also buy a  mammoth 75-inch version of the SK8100 making it the biggest Super UHD TV available this year.

If your living room can't quite accommodate such an enormous TV then you can go for the 49, 55 or 65-inch version instead.

LG UK7550 

If the model number starts with an eight or higher then you're looking at an LG Super UHD TV. Anything lower means you're eyeing up an LG Ultra UHD TV instead. Both sound equally impressive, but there are big differences between the two.

The SK7550 only supports two of the four HDR formats, HDR10 and HLG, so you won't get the full benefit of HDR if the content you're viewing was mastered specifically for Technicolor or Dolby Vision, although admittedly that is rare.

Sound quality may take a knock, since the Ultra HD TVs don't have Dolby Atmos and DTS tech on board. We still don't know how well this object-based sound mastering will work or whether it will improve sound quality, so not having it doesn't necessarily mean the audio will suffer.

In terms of picture quality, the SK7550 has more in common with the Super UHD sets. It still uses the Alpha 7 Processor and has Nano Cell picture tech built into the display.

It may not be one of LG's Super UHD TVs, but there's still some impressive tech in 7550. Read our LG 55UK7550PLA review to see if it's a match for the pricier SUHD sets.

LG SK6500 

LG's other Ultra UHD TV is the SK6500 and it looks to be identical to the SK7550 in terms of technology. The design is very different, though. Rather than a centrally mounted curved base, it has two metal feet positioned at each end of the TV. 

The alternate base design may have been to support bigger screens as a goliath 86-inch version of the SK6500 is available. It's the biggest TV in LG's 2018 line-up by 11 inches. 

It's available in more modest 43, 50, 55, 65 and 75-inch sizes, too.

Take a look at all our LG TV reviews to see which models from its cheaper ranges we recommend.

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