The wallpaper TV has arrived
What is the LG W7?
The W7 Ultra HD 4K OLED TV is the latest addition to LG’s range of Signature products. It is their flagship TV for 2017 and uses a wallpaper concept with just the panel attached to the wall and everything else housed in a separate all-in-one box. Aside from these unique design aspects, the W7 has all the same features as LG’s entire OLED range for 2017 which includes the B7, C7, E7 and G7. That means all of their new OLED TVs support High Dynamic Range including HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Technicolor. LG have also tweaked the performance of their OLED TVs this year, promising increased brightness, better detail just above black and improved image accuracy with both SDR and HDR content. The 2017 OLED TVs also includes the latest version of webOS and Dolby Atmos support via psychoacoustic processing from just two speakers, although there are six in the W7’s All-in-One box. So let’s get hands-on with the W7 and see how it performs.
Editor’s Note: This hands-on with the W7 was conducted in San Francisco at an event arranged by LG themselves and although we had a number of hours with the TV and were able to run many of our usual tests, this should not be considered a full review of the TV as we were unable to test in our own controlled conditions or over a prolonged period of time. We were also unable to test certain key UK features such as the Freeview tuner or catch-up services. Since LG don’t plan to send the W7 out for testing, all published reviews will have been conducted under the same conditions and thus should only be considered hands-on rather than in-depth reviews.
Since LG have confirmed that all their OLED TVs this year use the same panel and System-on-Chip (SoC), what differentiates each model is their design. In the case of the W7 LG have taken the design of their flagship OLED TV to new heights with their ‘Picture-on-Wall’ concept. The screen measures just 3.85mm deep and is attached to the wall using a dedicated bracket that fits completely flush against the wall. The panel is then attached to the bracket using hooks at the top and magnets at the bottom to hold it in place and the result is a paper slim screen that is mounted with a zero gap between the panel and the wall. The result is stunning and makes the screen look like it is part of the wall, allowing it to blend seamlessly with the rest of your interior design.
Since the screen is just 3.85mm deep all the electronics, connections, amplification and speakers need to be housed somewhere else. The solution to this problem is what LG refer to as the AIO (All-In-One) box which uses an aesthetically pleasing design to house all the other components needed to turn a panel into an actual TV. The AIO box is attached to the panel via an in-wall flat cable system, this cable comes in a basic length of 47cm but is also available in an extended length of 160cm. The AIO box uses a striped design at the front and includes a 4.2 speaker setup with two forward-firing drivers, two subwoofers and two upward-firing drivers. The AIO box is hard-wired at the rear and, aside from the cable that attaches the panel, it also includes all the other connections.
Connections & Control
All the connections are at the rear of the AIO box and here you’ll find all the inputs you need. There are four HDMI inputs, all of which support Ultra HD 4K, HDR and HDCP 2.2.. Since LG’s 2017 OLEDs support HLG out of the box these HDMI inputs are version 2.0b, although interestingly LG said that officially a manufacturer isn’t allowed to say exactly which version of HDMI they are using. When asked if the HDMI inputs could be upgraded to version 2.1 LG said that it depended on what was being upgraded. They could add support for High Frame Rate (HFR) and dynamic metadata, as long as the bandwidth didn’t exceed 18Gbps because if it did then that would require a hardware update. In terms of other connections there are three USB ports, twin terrestrial and satellite tuners, various legacy connections, an Ethernet port and built-in WiFi.
The remote controls included with the W7 are essentially the same as the ones used with last year’s G6 which was the Signature OLED TV for 2016. So we get the same silver Magic remote that allows you to navigate the webOS smart platform using motion control. The only real difference this year is that there are now direct buttons for both Netflix and Amazon. Otherwise it remains the same universal remote that can be used to learn and control your entire system. The controller is comfortable to hold, precise in use and responsive, making it ideal for navigating the webOS Smart TV platform. The second controller is a stripped down version that can be used for basic control of the TV if everything else in your system is being controlled via another remote. The two remotes included with the W7 both use Bluetooth to connect with the TV. Of course if you prefer there will also be the option to control the W7 using a free remote app available for both iOS and Android.
The main feature of the W7 is obviously its wallpaper design and separate All-In-One box but there are a number of other key features, all of which also apply to the other OLED TVs in LG’s 2017 range.
First of all the panels themselves are brighter, with the 2017 OLED models delivering a peak brightness that is 25% brighter compared to the previous year. LG now claim that the new OLED TVs can hit 1,000nits of peak brightness, albeit in the least accurate Vivid HDR mode. This increased brightness isn’t evenly applied across the entire APL, with the darker part of the image about 25% brighter, the middle part of the image about the same and the brighter part increasing by about 30-40%. This increased brightness is also combined with a higher APL on a full white screen, that LG claim is now about 150 nits. As with previous years there will be slight variations in performance from panel to panel.
LG have also made improvements at the darker end of the scale with a new NBO (Neutral Black OLED) polarising filter being added to the existing anti-reflection filters to enhance the perceived blackness and better reduce reflections from ambient light. According to LG the removal of the 3D polarising filter on this year’s models had nothing to do with increasing the brightness but was a business decision based purely on a lack of consumer interest in 3D. However LG did say that if they removed all the anti-reflection filters they could achieve 1,000nits of peak brightness in the accurate Cinema HDR mode. The professional Sony OLED monitor has no filters and that can deliver 1,000nits of peak brightness accurately. However that monitor is designed to be used in a completely dark environment whilst a consumer TV will be used in many different levels of ambient light and thus the filters are essential.
In the past OLED TVs have struggled to deliver detail just above black because of the absolute nature of the technology’s black levels. This sudden change from total black to an image has resulted in crushed shadow detail. LG said that they have improved panel production and selection which has not only resulted in the increased peak brightness but also helped in this area. LG have also applied a new algorithm that uses higher bit resolution and revised dithering to improve the visible detail above black. OLEDs have also suffered from revealing macro-blocking within the dark parts of content, as well as contour lines because of the gaps in the greyscale in the dark part of the content. To mitigate this issue LG’s 2017 OLEDs use a de-contour filter, which LG claim removes noise and macro-blocking, thus improving the clarity of dark scenes.
LG have also made improvements to the colour performance and this year’s OLED TVs use a larger 3D LUT (Look Up Table) with 17x17x17 or 4,913 points. Previous OLED generations had used a 9X9X9 3D LUT with 729 points, so there is six times the accuracy. In terms of the colour processing, LG initially apply a 1D LUT and then use the 3D LUT for hue correction, which they feel delivers superior colour gamut mapping with HDR.
As with last year’s models the W7 supports High Dynamic Range in the form of HDR10 and Dolby Vision but LG have now added Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) and Technicolor support as well. The inclusion of HLG is important because this will be the main form of delivering broadcast HDR and the 2017 OLED TVs will support it out of the box. LG will also be adding HLG support to their 2016 OLED TVs as well, through a firmware update in the third quarter. LG have now added a new feature called Active HDR which analyses HDR10 and HLG sources and analyses the image and adds dynamic data on a scene-by-scene basis. LG claim that this new feature can enhance the HDR experience, resulting a performance closer to Dolby Vision which uses dynamic metadata as part of its HDR delivery. LG have also tweaked the HDR Effect feature which is designed to create a fake HDR experience from SDR content. It does this by detecting highlights and then enhancing the contrast and correcting the colour to create an image that approximates HDR.
The new panel supports 100/120Hz which means it can already accept a 1080p signal at 100/120Hz, which could be useful for gaming. The new OLED TVs might also accept 4K at 100/120Hz, although this would require a firmware update and would only be possible if the bandwidth didn’t exceed the 18Gbps capabilities of the HDMI inputs. As with all of LG’s TVs this year, the W7 does not support 3D.
Finally LG have made improvements to the input lag on their 2017 OLED TVs. Using a Leo Bodnar lag tester combined with an HDFury Integral and HDFury Linker were were able to test the SDR and HDR input lag in Game mode. Both the E7 and W7 delivered an input lag of just over 21ms, regardless of whether it was an SDR or HDR signal, which is great news for gamers.
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-Box
The basic setup of the W7 and LG’s other 2017 OLED TVs is essentially the same as last year but there have been some minor changes made to the menus and controls. LG have now renamed the Normal Colour Gamut as Auto, which better explains what it actually does. You should always leave the Colour Gamut in Auto as it will automatically detect and select the correct colour gamut. The default setting for brightness is still 50 but there the control is far more granular around that point, allowing better fine tuning of shadow detail just above black. As usual we selected the ISF Expert (Dark Room) mode which provided the most accurate measurements against the industry standards and bypasses the sharpness controls. If you’re tempted to use the HDR Effect mode we recommend you don’t because SDR content is graded to be seen that way and never intended to look like HDR, so you’ll just end up with blown-out highlights and over-saturated colours. It’s better to follow our suggested settings and watch SDR as it was intended to be seen.
As you can see from the graph above, the out-of-the-box greyscale was reasonable, although there was a bit too much red and not quite enough green across most of the scale. However the gamma was tracking our target of 2.4 reasonably closely, aside from bumps at 40 and 80IRE, and we could see from test patterns that this gamma was no longer crushing shadow detail the way it did last year. We were able to leave the Brightness control at 50 and still be able to see detail just above black that wasn’t possible last year.
The colour accuracy was very good, aside from errors being introduced by the red pull of the greyscale. The Auto colour gamut was working effectively and the increased accuracy of the new 3D LUTs certainly delivered accurate tracking across all the saturation points. This is just as well because by LG’s own admission the Colour Management System (CMS) remains as flawed as it was last year. LG are hoping to introduce a new approach to calibrating the colours next year that will be based on how LG will be calibrating the Dolby Vision settings this year.
Picture Settings – Calibrated
As always the W7 includes both a two-point and a 20-point white balance control, which means we should be able to get a near-perfect greyscale and gamma performance. As already mentioned in the previous section the CMS is flawed, introducing artefacts into the image, so this is best avoided. However if the tracking remains as good as the out-of-the-box performance, then once we’ve calibrated the greyscale this shouldn’t be an issue.
As we suspected we were able to get a very accurate greyscale by simply reducing red using the high setting in the two point white balance control. We then simply fine tuned both the greyscale and gamma to get a near perfect performance with all the DeltaEs (errors) well below one – very impressive.
Once we had calibrated the greyscale the colour temperature of white was now hitting its target of D65 (6500K) precisely and the red skew was gone. As a result the colour performance was now excellent and the tracking was equally impressive. Aside from a slight under-saturation of red at 25%, all the colours were hitting their saturation targets. This is great to see and shows that you don’t really need the CMS, the colour accuracy is just as good without it.
Picture Picture Settings – High Dynamic Range
The HDR picture modes have been expanded and renamed, so the most accurate mode is Cinema, although there is also Cinema Home which increases the luminance and colour temperature for brighter environments. We would always recommend selecting the Cinema mode for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision content. With HDR10 or HLG content the new LG OLEDs default to Dynamic Contrast on Low, which is the Active HDR setting. Switching to Mid or High doesn’t make any difference but we found that this setting would clip detail, so we recommend turning it off. Aside from that you can leave the majority of the settings at their default positions, although this year LG have added a two-point white balance control in the HDR mode.
In terms of the HDR performance the W7 was impressive with an accurate greyscale that had equal amounts of red, green and blue. The performance against the PQ EOTF was also excellent, with the OLED tracking it closely. However LG have taken the deliberate decision not to track it exactly which they feel retains the peak highlights better but does result in the overall image being slightly darker. Since there are no standards as far as HDR as concerned, every manufacturer takes its own approach to tone mapping and LG’s approach certainly delivered impressive results.
The increased colour accuracy of the 3D LUTs was certainly paying dividends with very good tracking against Rec. 2020, within the limitations of the panel’s native colour gamut. As we mentioned earlier, using the Auto Colour Gamut ensures that the W7 is precisely tracking whichever colour gamut the incoming signal is using. Although HDR uses a Wide Colour Gamut, don’t be tempted to select the Wide Colour Gamut setting on the W7 because that is just the native colour space of the panel. The W7 panel delivered 69% of the Rec. 2020 colour space, which is on a par with last year.
This improved colour accuracy also applied to the performance against DCI-P3 within Rec. 2020, with the colours all tracking their targets very closely within the limits of the panel’s native colour gamut. In fact this is one of the best measurements we have seen from a TV and means that the colours on HDR content will certainly look accurate and realistic. The W7 measure 94% of DCI using the 1931 coordinates and 98% using the 1976 coordinates..
Although we weren’t able to fully test the W7 under our controlled conditions and over a prolonged period of time, we were able to run a number of additional tests as well as the measurements already mentioned. The black measurements were zero, which meant that for both the on/off and ANSI tests the effective contrast ratio was infinity. In terms of the brightness performance the W7 could easily hit 120nits in our calibrated mode, which is our target for SDR content. In the most accurate HDR mode it was also capable of delivering 713nits on a 10% window with HDR content, which is consistent with LG’s claims of a 25 to 40% increase in overall brightness and a definite improvement on last year. The APL measurement on a full white pattern was 140nits, which again is consistent with LG’s claims.
We used 1 to 5% grey test patterns to check for any dark edges or vignetting and there was none apparent on the W7 that we were testing. However there was banding present, so this would appear to remain an issue with OLED screens, just as it did last year. Although we should stress that this banding wasn’t apparent when watching normal content. We were pleased to see that LG has improved the performance of their 2017 OLED TVs just above black and this was apparent using test patterns and also using actual content. We were also able to compare the above black performance of the new E7 against the E6 from last year and a Sony professional OLED monitor. The detail in dark shadows was definitely better on the E7 compared to the E6 and very close to the Sony monitor.
The Neutral Black OLED polarising filter certainly helped to minimise reflections and, when combined with the improved colour accuracy, these tweaks all form part of a series of incremental improvements that when combined result in a noticeable improvement in performance compared to last year’s OLED TVs. The only area where the LG OLEDs still struggle is motion handling, which could be better and still shows slight judder with fast motion. Unfortunately we weren’t able to test the W7 with football but this is an area that we will look at closely when we get the other models in for more detailed reviews. However it certainly appeared that the motion handling was identical to last year.
As mentioned earlier we were limited in terms of our viewing content when testing the W7, with no broadcast TV or standard definition content, aside from some of our test DVDs. However we were able to stream 4K and HDR/Dolby Vision content from both Netflix and Amazon and familiar shows like Marco Polo and The Man in the High Castle looked impressive. We had some Blu-rays including our own copy of Gravity, which looked superb with exceptional detail in the star fields and the bright highlights against the blackness of space. We also watched a number of Ultra HD Blu-rays including The Revenant, Sicario, The Martian and Mad Max, with the results being particularly impressive. These OLED TVs might not be as bright as an LCD panel but they certainly deliver an impressive HDR image that is sure to please. We also had the opportunity to watch a number of scenes in Dolby Vision that were provided by Dolby themselves and these looked incredible, demonstrating the potential of the format. We also compared the Ultra HD Blu-ray of Pan with the same scenes in Dolby Vision and although Dolby Vision still had the edge, the difference was far less obvious than last year.
The W7 comes with an All-in-One (AIO) box that contains all the electronics, connections. amplification and speakers. The AIO box has six drivers in total that deliver what LG call a 4.2 audio experience with 60W of built-in amplification. However it should be stressed that it is not a Dolby Atmos soundbar. There are two forward-firing drivers and two upward-firing drivers, along with two built-in subwoofers. The upward-firing speakers rise up out of the AIO box when the TV is turned on and go back down again when the TV is turned off. However the upward-firing drivers don’t bounce sounds off the ceiling, they simply fire sounds up so that they appear to emanate from where the screen is located rather from beneath the screen.
The AIO box should be placed on a flat surface, it can’t be wall mounted, and it uses psychoacoustics to create a more immersive experience from the four speakers built into the box. The audio performance could be quite effective on occasion, creating a more open and room filling effect. There was a good example of this in Star Trek Beyond where Captain Kirk is addressing the ship and his voice is heard in a number of different environments which the AIO box interpreted quite well. However there is very little sense of surround or overhead sounds and almost no bass, so the overall experience is nowhere near as good as a full Dolby Atmos setup. The addition of an active subwoofer would certainly make a lot of difference but at the moment that isn’t an option and we have to wonder how many people buying the W7 actually want the AIO box.
The latest version of WebOS remains essentially the same as the generations that have come before with the same responsive, robust and intuitive platform that treats everything as an app and can be effectively navigated using the Magic Remote. The latest version is WebOS 3.5 and this adds some new features, none of which are especially vital. There’s OLED Gallery which allows you to choose Art Frame, Rainy Window, Sunny Day or your own photos to appear on the screen, making the W7 a feature in your lounge even when you’re not watching TV. This year LG have also included an option called Zoom Record which allows you to record a zoomed section of the image and there’s also the option to use the Music Player in full screen mode with lyric synchronisation, if you fancy a bit of karaoke. Finally LG have added the ability to enjoy 360 degree material on your TV screen and use the Magic Remote to drag the pointer and look around the 360 degree environment.
The LG W7 is certainly an eye-catching concept and the combination of their latest OLED panel with support for every version of HDR means that it should be able to deliver a picture to match its wallpaper design. Some may lament LG’s decision to drop 3D support in 2017 but the W7 has more than enough features to please TV enthusiasts, along with the latest version of WebOS and a dedicated All-in-One box that can deliver a Dolby Atmos experience from its 4.2 speaker configuration.
The improvements that LG have made to image quality this year are all small but important and when combined result in a performance that is clearly superior to last year. It’s good to see that LG are listening to feedback and addressing issues such as detail just above black, whilst the 21ms input lag in particular is sure to please many gamers.
The 65W7 will be arriving in UK stores in early April at a price of £8,000 but the good news is that if, as LG claim, the panel and picture processing is the same on all their 2017 OLED TVs, then you’ll be able to get this excellent performance on models that will be nearer most peoples’ budgets.