The LCD TV packs in the features but still comes in under a grand
Other models in the SJ850V range are the 65in 65SJ850V and 60in 60SJ850V.
Of course, now that super-thin bezels are the norm, there’s only so much that can be done with TV design. LG’s screen maximises the impact of its 55in panel by framing it with a sliver of black, which gives way to a silver finish when viewed side on. This in turn segues into a mottled, white plastic rear cover, which is kind of striking but likely to remain unseen once the set is installed. The metal desktop stand is crescent-shaped and hefty. It slots into the TV’s rear, the joining section hidden by a white plastic cover.
The TV’s body expands at its bottom, to incorporate the set's down-firing speakers. The 2.2-channel array is surprisingly effective, a cut above other mid-price models. The orchestral soundtrack of The Great Wall (Ultra HD Blu-ray) gets a bassy, deep feeling, and good detail retrieval. It’s not particularly expansive, and a Surround option is more notable for thinning out the audio, rather than adding any sense of immersion.
Of two further sound tweaks to investigate, LG’s Magic Sound tuning analyses your room’s characteristics and then throws up an improvement. Except, having obediently gone through the setup process, and compared the before-and-after results, I discerned no real difference. A Smart Sound option is more rewarding. Claiming to adjust sound output based on ‘content type’, it proved effective at ramping up audio characteristics – the echoey temple chambers in The Great Wall, for instance.
All this user adjustment is done via LG’s WebOS, with its friendly fonts, pink tones and magic remote cursor which is an infuriating way to drive around a menu. Stick to the handset’s navigation keys for greater control.
Freeview Play is integrated, meaning easy access to the four big UK catchup portals from the pop-up icon bar, in addition to Netflix and Amazon. Other worthwhile apps to download include Deezer, YouTube Kids, TVCast, Google Play Movies, Now TV and Wuaki TV.
One niggle of the IR remote is that the Voice control button is positioned exactly where you’d expect the ‘Enter/OK’ key. The result is lots of inadvertent opening of the Voice search tool, which proves to be hit and miss. Seven attempts to open the ITV Hub? I’ll stick to buttons, thanks.
Lace up a 4K BD deck to any of the LG’s four HDCP 2.2-enabled HDMI inputs and you’re rewarded with a crisp, inviting picture – provided you follow a few ground rules.
First, motion handling is not this TV's strong point, and the situation isn’t helped by TruMotion processing being in play with so many of the presets. When viewing 4K HDR discs, the HDR Vivid option sets TruMotion to Smooth, HDR Standard sets it to Clear, as does HDR Cinema Home. As a preset, Cinema is favourable in this regard, as TruMotion is deactivated (although it still defaults to Edge Enhancement ‘on’ in the Expert Controls setting).
With The Great Wall, unboosted motion is average when the going gets tough. In the film’s opening chapter, as Matt Damon and pals sweep through a desert valley on horseback, the image is marked by blur and a reduction in perceivable detail. Select from any of the TruMotion settings and you get an exaggerated smoothness that I found quite distracting – and uncinematic.
When there are less fast-moving objects and swift tracking shots, native 4K sharpness is there for all to see. The Great Wall’s rich costume textures and set design showcase plenty of pixel finery and nuance. Damon’s straggly hair and weather-beaten skin are carried well. Swap over to the 1080p Blu-ray, though, and upscaled images lose some of that natural look, with edge enhancement and processing noise coming into play – even with the Super Resolution feature off and Noise Reduction features employed (MPEG NR is effective, it must be said, at erasing minute details in favour of a smoother image).
LG makes a big play on the viewing angle strengths of its IPS panel design, and it’s somewhat in evidence here. You can drift a long way off-axis and still have a relatively unsullied picture. Contrast does drop off, as the machinations of the edge LED array become more noticeable, but it doesn’t have the same paling effect as witnessed on other panels.
How the TV handles its LED illumination causes the most disappointment. Viewed in daylight or with some other light sources in play, the edge LED array seems stable – backlight clouding and rogue splotches are seldom seen. The sequence in Fast & Furious 7, where Deckard Shaw sits in the dark in Agent Hobbs’ office, features one-half of the screen in blackness, the other half with Jason Statham’s facial features looming from the murk. The LG lit this shot well, with black bars retaining depth and solidity. Black levels in general are good, too. Yet switch to dark-room viewing and clouding becomes much more apparent. The bars top and bottom show tell-tale signs of light pollution, and the workings of LG's local dimming is obvious. The latter is adjustable (off, low, medium, high) and how you run this will be personal taste. Having it on its highest setting helps delineate bright objects from their backgrounds and boosts contrast – off leaves the image a little flatter, but you're somewhat less likely to be bothered by light blooming.
Dynamic Contrast is another tool that you’ll want to experiment with, but even after much tweaking (and reducing the Brightness setting), I still ended up with the picture feeling flat and washed-out on occasion. This is a TV that does its best work with a level of ambient light in the room.
Where the Korean corp really wants the SJ850V to sell itself is with colour. LG’s new Nano Cell technology is billed as a Samsung QLED beater, albeit using a slightly more traditional colour filter/nano particle composition.
Colours enjoy a wide range and plenty of smooth blends. When Gru address the assembled Minions in Despicable Me (Dolby Vision 4K Blu-ray), the image feels subtle and cinematic. The diffuse red glow of overhead lighting shows plenty of variation in shade, as does the punchier yellow of the Minions', erm, flesh – while brighter lights reflect succinctly off their heads and goggles.
The impact of the 55SJ850V’s colour palette is hampered by a lack of the sort of brightness that makes such HDR content sing. LG claims a peak brightness of 1,000 nits for the SJ850V, a step-up over its OLED sets, but not reaching the peaks of high-end LED models such as Samsung’s QLEDs or Sony’s ZD9. That said, the luridly coloured cars and warm oranges of Fast & Furious 7’s Abu Dhabi sequence, and (more noticeably) the vivid swathes of blue, red and purple in The Great Wall’s Chinese army stand out well. And a rain of flaming arrows in the Damon flick is crisp and vivid, a real HDR highlight.
The SJ850V is a tempting option for a mid-range setup – Dolby Vision HDR, superior smart content and a sensible price go a long way to making some of its image quality foibles easier to bear. In a lit room it rarely disappoints. Just be wary of viewing in cinema-style darkness.
Price: £1,000 approx
We say: Lowering the price point for Dolby Vision disc playback, this 55-incher is mainly impressive, although motion and dark-scene handling aren't immaculate.
3D: No 4K: Yes. 3,840 x 2,160 HDR: Yes. HDR 10; Dolby Vision; HLG Tuner: Yes. Freeview HD (Freeview Play); satellite Connections: 4 x HDMI inputs; 3 x USB; 2 x RF inputs; Ethernet port; optical audio output; headphone output Sound (claimed): 40W (2.2-channel) Brightness (claimed): 1,000 nits Contrast ratio (claimed): N/A Dimensions (off stand): 1,229(w) x 708(h) x 59(d)mm Weight (off stand): 18.1kg
Features: USB/DLNA multimedia playback; HDR Effect upscaling; webOS 3.5 operating system; voice control; Nano Cell colour technology; edge LED lighting with local dimming; TruMotion processing; Dynamic Contrast; Magic Sound
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