Television, despite what the manufacturers are saying, is in a pretty boring place at the moment. The jump to color from black and white, to high definition from standard—even the unmitigated failure that was 3D—those were moments in TV history. What we’ve currently got is gentle, natural leaps in picture quality: wider color gamuts and HDR.
Explaining these new advances in TV tech can be difficult, and most manufacturers like to do it by talking about the red double-decker buses in London. That exact shade of red is physically impossible to reproduce on most displays and TVs. It looks duller and darker than the vibrant red you’ve seen with your own eyes. And that’s where the wider color gamut comes in—it gives you that specific shade of red back as if you were standing on a street in the U.K.
Watching Netflix’s Daredevil on LG’s new OLED, I was reminded of the buses because, for the very first time, I was seeing something more. The LG OLED G6 brings the color back.
Daredevil is, ostensibly, a very colorful show—critics talk rapturously of the cinematography and characters reference Daredevil’s bright red costume. But if you’ve watched it on most TVs, you have no idea what the hell they’re talking about. For most viewers, Daredevil is dark, highlighted by splashes of ugly yellow or bruising purple. The red so important to the show and character is seen only in fleeting glimpses and under only the brightest of lights.
But the show was created in Dolby Vision HDR, a specific HDR format that not only reveals the details in the darkest shadows and brightest highlights, but also benefits from a wider color gamut. So when I watched it on the LG OLED G6, which has one of the widest color gamuts (it met nearly 99% of the DCI-P3 color gamut used by filmmakers for movies in theaters) available in a Dolby Vision set, I finally saw all that red the characters were talking about.
Daredevil’s costume, which looked black on my own high definition set or my Macbook Pro, became a dark red with black highlights. Electra’s mask, which appears a muted maroon on so many TVs, was a splash of vibrant red that my eyes couldn’t help but follow. Even the Punisher’s white skull emblem became a beacon in Dolby Vision.
Even the lighting was different. Those yellows and purples were no longer an ugly lighting choice, but the gaudy shades of a Frank Miller comic book. Watching a fight scene, I suddenly understood every choice the cinematographers of Daredevil made and I was astounded by the lurid colors and the artistry on display. This was what Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and even Zack Snyder were all working towards when they made their early attempts at comic book movies.
It’s been a little depressing living in a Dolby Vision-less world since.
When you go to a press event for OLEDs, you’re going to see a lot of stars. Specifically the ones in space (you may also see a famous person). OLEDs can control the light produced on a pixel by pixel basis and manufacturers love nothing more than showing that off with stunning renditions of the Milky Way. The traditional LED displays that populate most homes simply can’t compare, and it doesn’t matter how good those displays are.
What LG’s OLED G6 does is crack down on “the halo effect”. When a bright subject usually appears on a dark field they tend to glow ethereally like a 16th-Century saint. This is particularly noticeable in Gravity. When Sandra Bullock hurtles out into a field of stars she’s easy to spot on an LED display by the glow around her suit. On the G6 she sometimes disappears into the star field. Which is, itself, also breathtaking.
“This is what the filmmaker meant,” someone sighed as we all gathered around the set before being allowed to actually review the TVs.
On the OLED you could make out each individual star as if you were looking at a high resolution photo straight from the Hubble telescope. There was no blur, no lost detail. It bordered on overwhelming, and in my case, I felt like I was right back in the theater, when that vast space tickled some vaguely agoraphobic notion in the back of my brain.
There is, however, a problem with LG’s pixel by pixel method of controlling light. If the video you’re watching doesn’t have enough metadata, the LG can wig out.
It worked wonderfully when I watched 4K content from Amazon and Netflix, but it was less crazy about upscaling 1080p and standard definition content from a Blu-Ray. So Skyfall, one of the best looking Bond films ever shot, sometimes got ugly. Real ugly. The opening scene, all rich browns and dark shadows on a 1080p set, became as grainy as if you were watching a crappy DVD rip. It improved when I turned the lights in the room on, but then you’re stuck with the harsh red reflective glare endemic to OLED displays.
The upscaling problem also presented itself when I tried watching broadcast TV over the tuner. Granted, daytime talk shows aren’t exactly known for their Emmy-caliber cinematography, but a good TV shouldn’t exacerbate the ugly picture like the G6 does.
If you really want to use and love the LG OLED G6, you need to embrace the content available for 4K sets. That means either waiting for the 4K blu-rays that will start appearing in stores in the coming months, or reaching for the login info for your Amazon, Netflix, or Vudu account.
The G6 makes consuming all the streaming content relatively easy. LG doesn’t go with a familiar TV OS like Roku or Android TV, but instead has their own setup called WebOS. The G6 uses the latest version, WebOS 3, and it’s a significant improvement over the previous iterations. Apps are displayed as “cards” at the bottom of the screen and choosing one is as simple as pointing the remote at it.
Or it should be. I found the remote, which acts like that of the Nintendo Wii, to to be hyper-sensitive. While others seemed to navigate the TV’s UI naturally and simply, my cursor seemed to fly from one side of the screen to the other with less than a flick of the wrist. It made me yearn for simple navigation via a directional pad.
That normally wouldn’t be a knock against a TV, but the LG OLED G6 is not cheap. It is really, really expensive. I spent just $400 on my TV at home, five percent of the G6's $8000 price tag. Sure, it can’t compete with the G6 when it comes to color, or details in shadow, or rendering a macro vision of the universe, but it doesn’t look like garbage when I watch high definition and standard definition content either. And that’s where the G6 runs into a problem.
While the G6 is unparalleled in displaying ultra high definition content, there’s not enough of that content available to make it a smart buying decision. That won’t stop me from coveting it, or dreaming of watching Daredevil on it. If anything its made me impatient. I finally see what the future of television is capable of, and I want it more than ever.
- Picture quality so exceptional I questioned every TV I’ve used up until this point in my life.
- Some of the best color on a TV today
- Incredible contrast
- Upscaling is so bad you’re better off tossing your whole DVD collection than watching it on this TV