LG 84LM960V - High-End Hero (Part 1)

6/1/2013 9:33:18 AM

LG’s flagship 84in screen is both super-large and, thanks to its Ultra HD resolution, state-of-the-art in terms of technology. How much does it cost? Well, if you need to ask…

The humble television is changing. As if touched up by a troupe of Kubrick monkeys, yesterday’s Full HD TV is now on course for a revolutionary image upgrade to 4K Ultra high-definition, an evolution fuelled by advances in panel production, the development of new compression codec technology and a crying need to inject life into the moribund global TV market. Frankly, we couldn’t be more excited.

LG 84LM960V

LG 84LM960V

4K Ultra HD was the star attraction at this year’s International CES in Las Vegas, with every TV major dealing some form of high-resolution hand, and while native content remains a conundrum, there seems little doubt that industry-wide commitment is real. Of all the brands touting 4K, it’s LG which appears to have the most to shout about. Its panel-making division, LG Display, is already the primary supplier of glass for most TV manufacturers and it remains the only outfit currently shipping UHD screens in volume, already shoehorning this massive 4K debutante into multiple stores across the land. Admittedly, it may be some time before you see them in the aisles of your local supermarket, but it’s not going to be too difficult to locate a supplier. John Lewis, Bentalls and Richer Sounds (to name but three) have all signed up.

Not that Ultra HD will suit everyone. As a fledgling TV technology, it’s frighteningly expensive and this 84in screen may seem a little challenging to accommodate, but any tech promising four times the clarity of Full HD isn’t going to come cheap and needs a really large display to be fully appreciated. That said, LG is planning to introduce smaller sets (65in/55in) at lower prices later this year. But that is next, this is now…

Big daddy display

There’s no getting away from it, the 84LM960V is a phenomenal-looking beast with an immaculate finish. LG hasn’t skimped on build quality. Despite what seems like an acre of metal and glass, it’s relatively thin at 40mm, but a naked weight approaching 70kg will make you think twice about wall-mounting. The supplied metallic stand offers stylish curves and is easy to manage, but can prove distractingly mirrored, particularly when credits are scrolling above it.

The set’s sound system is fully integrated, unlike Sony’s rival 4K TV which hangs high-end speakers off the frame almost as an optional extra. Purely from an aesthetic viewpoint, the result is more harmonious, offering clear lines.

While we wait for native 4K content, LG's screen upscales Blu-rays with panache

While we wait for native 4K content, LG's screen up-scales Blu-rays with panache

Connectivity is par for the high-end course: there’s are four HDMIs, component and Scart via adaptor, PC Ethernet and a trio of USBs, one of which handles time shift duties to an external drive. Wi-Fi is built-in for those unable to hardwire Ethernet and there’s Wi-Di and a Wi-Fi Share direct mode, which enables compatible mobile devices to be connected directly without burdening your home network.

Two remote zappers are included in the box, a standard LG IR control (which seems inappropriately ordinary considering the cost of this screen) plus the brand’s wave-it-all-about Magic Remote wand.

The screen comes with a pack of four Passive 3D glasses, plus a pair of clip-ons for attaching to your prescription spectacles. As with LG’s regular Full HD TVs, the 84LM960V offers passively polarized FPR (Film Patterned Retarder) 3D. Also  included are two Dual Play goggles which enable simultaneous split-screen gaming. This actually works rather well. While there is some image ghosting between the two alternate views, the resulting images are clean enough for general gameplay.

Two tuners are on board: one for Freeview HD, the other for DVB-S2 satellite reception. Although intended primarily for European use, there’s no reason why you couldn’t hook up a spare Sky dish if you have problems getting a decent terrestrial signal. This will give alternative access to the Freesat channel bouquet, albeit without the navigational niceties of the Freesat EPG environment.

Making space for Ultra high-definition

As the below illustration shows, the overall size difference between an 84in screen and a 55in model is considerable (and a 32in TV appears tiny in comparison). However, our experience shows that you soon adjust to super-size screes, and what seems massive at first quickly becomes normal. And don't forget that LG is planning to release smaller (and more affordable) UHD sets in the Autumn.

Making space for Ultra high-definition

Making space for Ultra high-definition

Feature attractions

In addition to 3D, the 84LM960V also offers network streaming functionality and access to LG’s now mature Smart TV portal. This means there’s a range of premium streaming services available, including BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Lovefilm and YouTube. The latter offers some 4K-labelled content, but while it looks nice enough, it simple doesn’t compare with full-fat4K delivered at upwards of 40Mbps. However, the set’s 4K Resolution+ up-scaler doesn’t do too bad a job with HD catch-up steams.

The TV is DLNA compliant, with media playback facilities on a par with other premium LG Smart TVs. File compatibility covers MKV, AVI, MOV and MP4 codecs, while a Smart Share mode allows you to make the set discoverable to LG devices running the Smart Share app.

The user interface itself is somewhat disappointing, though. Rather than produce an Ultra-optimized GUI, LG has simply loaded up its stock UI. On a set of this size it means the menus and text appear absolutely massive and not entirely sharp. How much nicer it would have been to get an Ultra HD remix of the interface. Hopefully LG will think hard about addressing this on its upcoming second-generation UHD models. It just doesn’t do for a state-of-the-art panel like this to present a fuzzy face to the world.

One ongoing problem facing any 4K panel proposition is the complete lack of commercial native 4K content to play on it. To get around that not inconsiderable hurdle, we evaluated this big LG with a UHD media server pre-loaded with 2D and 3D 4K test footage. An assortment of time lapse photography and CG animations may not give Sky Movies anything to worry about, but it says much that in Ultra HD this rather uninspiring collection transpired to be totally mesmerizing. The level of absolute fine detail the screen can resolve is quite extraordinary. You can literally peer deep into an image, finding nuance and texture where previously there would only be a glowing pixel grid. It’s like looking through an impossibly clean, pin-sharp window.

Thankfully, the 84LM960V quadruples regular Full HD resolution material with equal aplomb. BBC HD, remapped to 3,840 x 2,160, is gloriously, cinematically smooth. Upscaled Rastamouse is a riot of color, with immaculate detail in the rodent fur. With no pixel structure evident, this oversized animation looked extraordinary. The BBC’s Africa documentary series is exponentially more impressive. Frankly it looked better than being there.

As you'd hope with a $33,750 TV, the stand is reassuringly study

As you'd hope with a $33,750 TV, the stand is reassuringly study

It’s astonishing just how quickly you adjust to a screen of this size. The extra resolution translates to zero viewing fatigue, it’s all wonderfully comfortable. Of course, one consequence of running a mega display is that you tent to avoid standard-definition content altogether. This isn’t the hardship that it might once have been, particularly if you subscribe to a premium pay service from Sky or Virgin Media.

The panel does its best up-scaling work with Blu-ray. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, a good-looking 1080p disc, takes on a vibrant density when up-scaled that look remarkably like a theatrical presentation. The premiere super group is even more formidable in Ultra HD.

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