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LG NanoCell 8K TV review: Prestige at a price
- Comprehensive featureset
- Full-array backlighting
- Much cheaper than last year's 8K TVs
- Lack of 8K content
- Still quite expensive
LG’s latest NanoCell 8K TV isn’t quite the TV of the future but, if you can afford it, it’ll suit the present moment just fine.
Price$ 7,199.00 (AUD)
Should I buy the LG NanoCell 8K TV (2020)?
The 2020 LG 8K NanoCell TV takes everything that worked out the 2019 model, sprinkles in some new software and hardware and then slashes away at the price-tag. Even $7199 is a little on the expensive side and might not be the best use of your money in the midst of a pandemic and an uncertain economy, it’s hard to be too down about that.
In Australia, the 65-inch LG NANO99 NanoCell 8K TV is priced at AU$7199 and the LG SN9RG soundbar is priced at AU$1399.
Design & Build Quality
The good news here is what while LG’s more mundane 8K offering has become significantly cheaper this year compared to last, there’s not a difference in the build quality involved.
Like last year’s model (which was priced at a hefty AU$11,849) the 2020 LG NanoCell 8K TV comes equipped with basically every bell and whistle you’d expect from the brand - short of OLED that is. If you want absolute blacks to go with your 8K resolution, it’ll cost you a lot more.
Regardless, this year’s LG NanoCell 8K TV comes with a fairly bog-standard two-legged stand and competitively thin bezels. As far as these things go, these aren’t the thinnest bezels I’ve ever laid my eyes upon but they’re thin-enough that they achieve the end goal of making it feel like the black bars that separate your next big experience from the world around it razor thin.
The back of the LG NanoCell 8K TV touts four HDMI ports, 3 USB ports, an optical input, component / composite ports and an ethernet port. This layout is fairly standard but, as someone who does own a fair few games consoles, I would have appreciated an extra HDMI port or two and I did find myself missing the external One Connect Box-style setup found in Samsung’s QLED range.
For as much as the aspects cement the 8K LCD LED display as a strict conformer to the expected formula for what a TV this expensive looks like, there’s not much to complain about here. As a unit, it looks right at home in your living room. As an LG Smart TV, it ticks all the usual functional boxes.
That includes the point-and-shoot Magic Remote. This is technically a slightly updated take on the 2019 LG Magic Remote. It has a bunch of dedicated buttons on it and supports hands-free voice control but it’s not a massive upgrade or redesign. It’s basically the same as what you’d get from an older or cheaper LG TV and it still feels a little too much like a Nintendo Wii remote for my liking. YMMV.
As with most modern TVs, understanding what the LG NanoCell 8K TV has to offer comes down to two things: software and hardware.
First things first. Like the rest of LG’s modern Smart TV ecosystem, the NanoCell 8K TV runs on WebOS. Out of the box, this smart TV interface supports most major streaming platforms, including Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now, Google Play Movies, 9Now, Amazon Prime Video, Eros Now, Disney+, Youtube, YuppTV, ABC iView, Apple TV, SBS OnDemand, MLB.TV and WOW TV. No Binge though.
Additional streaming apps are available via the WebOS app store and, for better or worse, the wand-waving interface of WebOS feels foundational to the broader identity of this product. Even for something as simple as changing the channel or source, it feels like you’re using An LG Smart TV more-so than just using any sort of modern TV. It’s inescapable and all-encompassing in a way that I sometimes find a little exhausting. Sure, it’s cool to be able to control your local smart appliances and via your TV but sometimes you just want to turn a TV on and get stuck into watching something without having to remember how WebOS’ various ribbon-based interfaces work.
That being said, I will give them credit where it’s due. The LG NanoCell 8K TV comes with both support for ChromeCast and Apple’s AirPlay 2.0 - which makes bypassing the clutter of WebOS a little easier to achieve than it has been in the past. What’s more, it makes it possible to watch content on a streaming service that doesn’t have a WebOS app - such as Binge.
Then, under the hood, LG’s NanoCell 8K TV runs on the company’s third generation Alpha image processor and benefits from the NanoCell tech found in the rest of their SuperUHD lineup. Akin to something like the quantum dots found in Samsung’s QLED TVs, LG’s NanoCell film helps give colors a little bit of extra oomph. The blacks don’t go quite as deep as Samsung’s QLEDs but you do benefit from the wider viewing angle of the IPS panel involved.
According to LG, the third-generation Alpha 9 processor delivers 15% better CPU performance and 50% better GPU performance. It also touts 8-step image upscaling rather than the usual 6-steps and support for AI-based audio enhancement plus Dolby Vision IQ rather than the regular HDR format. For more on Dolby Vision IQ, click here.
Last but not least and as alluded to above, the LG Nano99 Series 8K TV inherits all the ThinQ smart home tech introduced in last year’s crop of LG TVs. You can control it with your voice and it’ll integrate nicely - though not seamlessly - with both Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant.
Now, while LG 8K NanoCell does come with support for 8K video codecs, you’re probably not going to watch much 8K content on the thing in the near future. That’s because outside of the usual promotional reel content designed to show off how good a TV like this one can look, there just isn’t that much 8K content out there.
Movies aren’t being released in 8K yet. There aren’t any 8K BluRay players out there. Streaming services haven’t started streaming in 8K yet either and, even if they did so tomorrow, there’s no guarantee that the state of Australian broadband would be able to deliver it to your home.
99% of the time, the content you’re watching on an 8K TV like this one, is going to be upscaled. That upscaling relies on the third generation Alpha 9 processor inside the unit. These days, the image processor-based upscaling that’s done by your TV is very much the secret sauce in the process.
Before any content you load up on this 65-inch LED canvas hits your eyeballs, it goes through a ton of post-processing. The contrast, faces and text gets sharpened. There’s a frequency-based sharpness enhancer that boosts the finer details and adds texture to what’s on the screen by accentuating the edges of objects on the screen. There’s an object depth enhancer that separates the main object from the background image and processes it to make detection clearer and the edges.
In theory, all this is really cool. In practice, it feels so floaty and airy. I found myself constantly wishing for something like the demo mode for the AI upscaling offered by the new Nvidia Shield TV. It’s one thing to say that this TV uses machine learning to adjust, refine and augment your everyday viewing experience but quite another to actually get a real-world sense of the difference the tech here makes.
The dedicated picture modes here also left me a little cold. The game mode resulted in worse performance and lower frame rates and the vivid mode often leaves images way too bright for comfort. The Filmmaker mode is nice but you’ll probably want the sun to be down by the time you turn it on. Most of the time, I left this thing set to standard and was happy with the results.
Neither The Nightingale, Overlord and The Dead Don’t Die are available in 8K but all looked gorgeous on this thing. I played a bunch of older PS3 games like 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand and God of War HD and more recent stuff like Bloodborne. With regards to more modern content, I wouldn’t say they looked as good as jumping from 1080p to 4K but things did look that little bit sharper and smoother. Older content looked much better on this front though.
Annoyingly, most consumers won’t be able to get a proper sense of what an 8K TV like this is capable of until there exists more widespread access to the content that pushes the processor inside this thing to its full potential. Content remains the biggest problem for 8K TVs like LG’s latest and while the fact that this year’s model is about half the price of last year’s model makes it much easier to like, it does little to solve that issue.
As far as HDR goes, the LG NanoCell 8K TV plays nice with basically everything. It supports HDR, HDR10, HDR10 Pro, Dolby Vision IQ and HLG. It also benefits from Full Array Dimming in a way that LG’s cheaper TVs don’t and supports G-Sync on the off-chance you’re looking to hook this thing up to an Nvidia-powered gaming PC.
The only missing dot point here is HDR10+ content but that’s not nearly as prevalent as the other options so it never feels like you’re missing out on all that much.
Ultimately, this year’s LG NanoCell 8K TV still succumbs to the same foibles as its predecessor. It’s a TV ahead of its time and while it represents close to the best picture quality that you’ll currently see in consumer tech, the absence of content that pushes the hardware here makes it hard to recommend in spite of those merits.
On its own, the LG NanoCell 8K TV touts 60W of Dolby Atmos surround sound. However, my review package included an LG SN9RG soundbar so we opted to use that most of the time.
I was a little less sold on this part of the package than the 8K TV itself. It certainly provided a more detailed and immersive soundscape than the built-in speakers on the NANO99 but, despite that improvement, my instincts are that it lacks the clarity of some of the other options.
Don’t get me wrong, by the numbers, it’s a solid 4-star effort here but I wasn’t exactly blown away by the fidelity in the way that I have been with other soundbars recently. Dialogue also sometimes sounded a little too quiet to be heard - which is rarely an issue I encounter with soundbars, since they’re often designed with solving that particular problem in mind.
Like the LG NanoCell 8K TV itself, the design of the SN9RG isn’t all that different to its predecessor and the spec-sheet isn’t all that different either. Given the ticked boxes here, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If you’re just looking for a safe choice to tack onto your 8K TV, it’s probably fine but if you care enough or at all about building an audio rig that’s just as high-fidelity as the screen you’re building that setup around, it might be worth doing a little more research before you add this one to the shopping cart.
The Bottom Line
The good news is that the 2020 LG 8K NanoCell TV takes everything that worked out the 2019 model, sprinkles in some new software and hardware and then slices the price-tag almost in half. Even $7199 is a little on the expensive side and might not be the best use of your money in the midst of a pandemic and an uncertain economy, it’s hard to be too down about that.
If you’re still unsold on OLED for whatever, the LG NanoCell 8K TV might just be the 8K TV to beat.
Of course, the other side of things is that LG’s latest NanoCell fails to make a coherent or compelling argument for 8K over 4K. Without a 4K model to directly compare it against, I’m left to imagine the difference and while there is a difference to be measured here I’m doubtful that it’s significant enough to warrant the up-sell over a 4K model with close to these same specs.
This thing looks incredible but, in a world without properly mastered 8K content to run on it, it just doesn’t feel like as much of a leap forward as it ought to. LG’s latest NanoCell 8K TV isn’t quite the TV of the future but, if you can afford it, it’ll suit the present moment just fine. It's as pricey as it is prestigious.
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