LG OLEDB6P series review

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THE GOOD: The LG B6 outperforms every other TV we’ve tested, with the exception of even more-expensive 2016 OLED TVs, which perform about the same. It evinced perfect black levels, wide viewing angles, accurate color and a brighter picture than last year. It’s compatible with both types of HDR TV shows and movies, Dolby Vision and HDR10. Its striking design features a super-slim panel.

THE BAD: It’s still expensive.

THE BOTTOM LINE:¬†LG’s high-end 2016 OLED TVs deliver the best picture quality of any TV we’ve ever reviewed, and the B6 is the best value of the bunch.

Fall 2016 update

If you were looking for an excuse to buy an OLED TV, here it is.

LG has recently dropped the price on its least expensive OLED TV with 4K resolution, the B6 series reviewed here. The 55-inch OLED55B6P is now $2,000, while the 65-inch OLED65B6P is $3,000.

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That’s a discount of $500 and $1,000, respectively, compared to their prices in early October, and although LG says the price reduction isn’t permanent, I’d be surprised if it goes up again before the end of the holidays. I’d also be surprised if it goes any lower this year.

Because of this price drop, and the fact that 2016 OLED TVs like the B6 deliver the best picture quality of any TV I’ve ever tested, I’m increasing its Value subrating from a 6 to a 7, its overall score from 8.4 (4 stars) to 8.7 (4.5 stars), and awarding it CNET’s Editors’ Choice Award.

In other words, if you have the money and want a 55-inch or 65-inch TV, buy this one.

In side-by-side comparisons with LCD TVs I tested, there’s not much of a contest. The B6, LG’s “cheapest” 4K OLED TV, simply looks better in almost every way. Its picture is basically the equal of the more expensive E6 I tested at the same time, so I don’t think it’s worth paying extra for that TV’s superior sound and styling.

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It’s also better than the 55EG9100 and the EF9500, two OLED TVs from last year that are still available, often at slight to steep discounts. The picture quality gap between the B6 and EF9500 is narrow, but wide enough that I don’t advocate buying the older version unless the discount is truly steep. (The newer B6 and E6 models are fully HDR compatible, unlike those older OLEDs.)

So yes, along with the E6, the B6 is the best TV I’ve ever tested. And yes, many people will think it’s too expensive to buy one, even after the price drop. Extremely good LCD TVs, like the Sony XBR-X930Dand the Vizio P series, cost much less, and deliver image quality that’s good enough for just about anyone.

But if you’re okay paying a premium for “the best,” the LG B6 OLED is the TV to get. And the fact that the premium is up 25 percent less than before just sweetens the deal.

Editors’ note, November 7, 2016: The rating, introduction, headlines and prices in this review (originally published August 23, 2016) have been updated, but the remainder of the review remains unchanged.

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Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 55-inch LG OLED55B6P, but this review also applies to the 65-inch OLED65B6P. Both sizes in the series have identical specifications and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

The more expensive OLEDE6P series also received a price drop. I reviewed it at the same time as the B6. It has very similar picture quality as well, with most of the differences noted below. For that reason the two reviews are very similar.

Also receiving the price drop is the curved version of the B6, the C6, which has the same specifications and features — the exception being that the C6 has 3D, while the B6 does not. I prefer flat to curved TVs, but the difference is largely aesthetic. Then there’s the ultra-expensive G6, with its rotating sound bar stand and available 77-inch size. I didn’t test either model, but LG says they all have the same picture quality as the B6 and E6 I did review.

Here’s the full lineup, with Amazon pricing current as of November 7, 2016.

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LG 2016 4K OLED TVS

Model Size Price Screen shape 3D capable Design
OLED55B6P 55 inches $2,000 Flat No Standard
OLED65B6P 65 inches $3,000 Flat No Standard
OLED55C6P 55 inches $2,000 Curved Yes Standard
OLED65C6P 65 inches $3,000 Curved Yes Standard
OLED55E6P 55 inches $2,800 Flat Yes Picture-on-glass
OLED65E6P 65 inches $3,900 Flat Yes Picture-on-glass
OLED65G6P 65 inches $8,000 Flat Yes Picture-on-glass with sound bar
OLED77G6P 77 inches $20,000 Flat Yes Picture-on-glass with sound bar

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There’s thin, then there’s OLED TV thin

Plenty of LCD TVs are exceedingly slim in profile these days, but few take it to the level of OLED. The top half of the B6 TV, which consists of just the OLED panel itself and enough structure to support it, is pencil thin, just 0.18 inch deep. The bottom half, where the electronics, power supply, inputs and other stuff live, is thicker at just under two inches.

The B6 lacks the striking picture-on-glass design of more expensive 2016 LG OLEDs, but it’s still beautiful TV. It’s nearly all picture from the front, with just a tiny LG logo. The stand is angular and darker shade of silver, and adds a mass of transparent plastic on the back to create a more floaty look.

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I’m guessing most buyers in this price bracket will opt to wall-mount, though, foregoing the stand. Unlike earlier LG OLEDs, which required a special add-on wall bracket, the B6 and other 2016 models can work with a standard VESA wall mount.

The remote is basically the same as last year, and I’m a fan. LG kept its trademark motion control, which allows you to whip around the menus with a responsive cursor rather than a plodding directional keypad. That keypad is still available too, if you want it, along with a slick rubberized scroll wheel. The step-up E6 and G6 TVs enjoy a new, redesigned remote, although it’s not much better than this one.

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Smart TV is solid, but not the best

There’s nothing wrong with LG’s Web OS Smart TV system, and I am glad that response times are snappier than last year throughout the menus, but competing systems (with the exception of Vizio) are better. Roku and Android TV have more apps and a better design, and Samsung has the unique ability to control more of your gear.

4K streaming with Dolby Vision HDR is available from Netflix, Amazon and Vudu, which outpaces the HDR selection of Samsung (which lacks Vudu’s HDR) and Vizio (which lacks Amazon’s) and matches Sony’s. 4K-capable apps include YouTube and Xfinity’s lame 4K sampler, formerly exclusive to Samsung, which only works for Comcast subscribers.

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Other apps are hit or miss. You get Hulu, Crackle, MLB TV, Plex, Google Play Movies and TV, Spotify and Pandora, for example, but LG’s system is missing both HBOs (Go and Now), Showtime (or Anytime), Pluto TV, Sling TV, Watch ESPN, CBS All Access, PBS, PBS Kids and more. Roku and Android TV have all of those, and many more niche apps too, while Samsung’s selection is about the same, give or take a few services. (Note that CNET is a division of CBS.)

You also get voice search and a “content store” but none of it is as easy to use, or as comprehensive, as other systems. In the end you’re best off, as usual, getting your streams from an external device.

Features and connectivity

KEY TV FEATURES

Display technology: OLED
LED backlight: N/A
Resolution: 4K
HDR compatible: HDR10 and Dolby Vision
Screen shape: Flat
Smart TV: Web OS
Remote: Motion
3D capable: No

OLED is the dark star of the show here. Its basic tech closer to late, lamented plasma than to the LED LCD (SUHD or otherwise) technology used in the vast majority of today’s TVs. Where LCD relies on a backlight shining through a liquid crystal panel to create the picture, with OLED and plasma, each individual sub-pixel is responsible for creating illumination. That’s why OLED and plasma are known as “emissive” and LED LCD as “transmissive” displays, and a big reason why OLED’s picture quality is so good.

New for 2016 LG is claiming 25 percent higher light output and a wider color gamut compared with previous models like the EF9500. Interestingly, it also says all of its new 2016 OLED TVs have the same picture quality. See the picture quality section below for tests of those claims.

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The other big improvement over last year is support for both types of HDR video: Dolby Vision and HDR10. Today at least, that means TVs like the B6 can access more HDR TV shows and movies than other devices. On the other hand, the B6 is also the only 2016 4K OLED TV to lack support for 3D sources. If you want a non-curved 2016 OLED with 3D, your cheapest option is the E6.

The only other features difference between the B6 and E6 is the latter’s superior sound system.

  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2
  • 3x USB ports
  • 1x component video input
  • 1x composite video input (shared with component)
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • RF (antenna) input
  • Remote (RS-232) port (minijack)

The selection of connections is top-notch. Unlike many of Samsung’s sets, this one actually has an analog video input for legacy (non-HDMI) devices.

Picture quality

There’s nothing like OLED, and the B6 and E6 are the best OLED TVs I’ve tested so far. They improve on the EF9500 from last year with better brightness, wider color gamut and better uniformity in dark areas. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than any LCD TV I’ve tested. To be fair, however, my comparison crop didn’t include the very best 2016 LCD TVs from Samsung (the KS9800) and Sony (the Z9D), so I can’t say for sure whether the B6 is better than them.

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If you’re looking for differences between the two, this review isn’t the place to find them. According to my eyes and measurements both were equally adept with the vast majority of stuff I tested. The B6 did have a bit less input lag for gaming, there were slight differences in video processing, and the E6 was a bit brighter, but I can’t say whether that was the result of their screen size differences.

And in case you’re looking for a link to my picture settings, I’m not going to provide them for this review. Check out my calibration and HDR notes for details.

Dim lighting: OLED was king here. All four of the OLED TVs in my lineup produced equally perfect black, compared with the variously lighter shades of black found on the LCD TVs. As usual the difference showed up most in dark scenes, for example in “The Revenant” Chapter 21 where Hugh emerges into the searchers’ torchlight. The black bars above and below the image, the shadows among the trees, and Hugh’s silhouette all appeared in true black or very dark shadow, and all looked blacker and more realistic than any of the LED LCD sets.

Another big difference between the OLED and LED LCD TVs was OLED’s immunity to blooming. The best LCDs, like the ones in my lineup, all use local dimming to improve contrast and deliver deeper black levels, but all suffer to a greater or lesser extent from stray light that leaks from bright areas into dark. It showed up most in onscreen graphical elements, like my Blu-ray player’s icons or the subtitles against the lower black bar in Chapter 4 of “The Revenant,” but also some normal program material. The KS8000 was the worst while the Vizio and JS95000 were very good, if not perfect. The issue worsened from off-angle and brighter picture settings, including HDR.

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Shadow detail isn’t OLED’s strongest suit but all of the LGs were still very good in this area after calibration to fix the default settings’ crushed blacks. Looking closely at that Chapter 4 scene, I saw very slightly more detail in Hawk’s face and clothing in the Samsung LCDs compared to the OLEDs, but nothing that would be evident outside a side-by-side comparison.

Bright lighting: While OLED’s black level and contrast advantages are more obvious as the lights dim, they’re still evident in normal and even brighter room lighting, delivering more pop at the same light output settings as the LED LCDs on test.

On the other hand the biggest advantage of those LED LCDs is superior light output, giving the Samsungs an advantage in the very brightest of rooms (the Vizio wasn’t that much brighter overall than the OLEDs in SDR, and dimmer in HDR). It’s easy to overstate this advantage, however, and the simple fact is that any of these TVs is plenty bright for pretty much any indoor lighting situation.

Nonetheless, here’s how the TVs measured. As LG promised, the 2016 models are notably brighter than last year’s EF9500 in HDR mode.

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TV LIGHT OUTPUT IN NITS

TV Mode (SDR) 10% window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10% window (HDR)
Samsung UN65JS9500 Dynamic 958 411 Movie 884
Samsung UN65KS8000 Dynamic 618 480 Movie 1346
Vizio P65-C1 Vivid 502 572 Calibrated Dark 468
LG OLED65E6P Vivid 441 143 HDR Vivid 710
LG 65EF9500 Vivid 431 146 Vivid 420
LG OLED55B6P Vivid 367 115 HDR Vivid 651
LG 55EG9100 Vivid 353 89 N/A N/A

LG says it improved the antireflective screen of its OLEDs this year but I found it tough to tell the difference. All of the OLEDs did a superb job of maintaining a deep black level in a bright room, beating the Samsungs by a hair and the Vizio by more. They also dimmed reflections very well, albeit not quite as well as the KS8000. Overall, however, the OLEDs performed extremely well in a bright room.

Color accuracy: No major complaints here, at least on the review sample LG sent me. The B6 showed highly accurate color according to my measurements, and observations of program material in most areas backed that up. Watching one of my favorite references for skin tones and color in natural lighting, “Tree of Life,” the faces remained true in most lighting, the green of the grass and trees looked natural, and white areas like sheets and the cloudy sky looked neutral.

In relatively dim areas, like a firelit interior from the fort in “The Revenant,” the E6 and B6 did take on a somewhat redder appearance than the other TVs in the lineup. The issue wasn’t a big deal in my book, however, overall color accuracy was on par with the best TVs I’ve tested.

I mention the review sample LG sent me because I suspect it might not represent the B6 TVs available for sale to the public as much as I normally expect. This issue doesn’t immediately affect the outcome of this review, and I doubt most viewers will notice, but it’s worth mentioning nonetheless. As usual, If you want to be assured of the most accurate color on an LG OLED, I recommend a professional calibration. Check out my calibration and HDR notes for details.

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Video processing: The B6 was very good in this category, and LG has alleviated some of the jumpiness I saw last year with some pans and camera movement with film-based material. Looking at some of my go-to 1080p/24 film cadence favorites from “Skyfall” and “I Am Legend,” the “Off” TruMotion settings of the B6 and E6 both showed less judder (in a good way) than did the EF9500 last year, and were more in line with the other TVs.

People sensitive to blurring will likely want a setting with better motion resolution, however, and User offers the best of both worlds. At a setting of zero for De-Judder and 10 for De-Blur, the B6 delivered maximum motion resolution (600 lines) and correct film cadence. The rest of the settings (with the exception of Off) introduced some form of smoothing, or soap opera effect, and none bested that resolution. Notably, the same setting on the E6 was introduced unwanted 2:3 pull-down stutter, so film buffs should choose either Off or De-Judder: 1 (which introduces minimal smoothing) for that TV.

UPDATE: Input lag in game mode was one area of difference between the two TVs, although it’s not as wide of a gap as I originally reported. The B6 measured an impressive 26ms the first time I checked, but subsequent tests (one per day for about a week after this review published) yielded a consistent 37.6ms. I’m going with the repeatable result in the Geek Box, and I have no idea why the original measurement was off. For what it’s worth, repeat measurements of the E6 consistently showed 56ms.

Uniformity: Another big OLED’s advantage over LCD is its superb image when viewed from positions other than the sweet spot directly in front of the screen. Seen from off-angle, the B6 maintained black level fidelity and color accuracy much, much better than any of the LED LCDs, all of which washed out in comparison.

Last year the the EF9500 and other OLED TVs suffered uniformity issues in very dark scenes, which showed up as irregular darker edges and vertical banding in the darkest test patterns. LG, as it promised, seems to have largely fixed the issue with the 2016 models. Full-field patterns below 10% looked much cleaner than before, with only a slight darkening in the middle of the screen. With program material, like the challenging super-dark intro from Chapter 12 of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” the EF9500 and EG9100 showed the creeping darker edges, while the two 2016 models looked did not. I considered this issue minor last year, but it’s nice LG fixed it for 2016. Bright-field uniformity was excellent.

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HDR and 4K video: The B6 is a superb HDR performer overall, evincing similar advantages to what I saw with standard dynamic range content.

My first test involved sending my lineup of TVs the HDR10 version of “The Revenant,” courtesy of the Samsung UBD-K8500 Blu-ray player and the AVPro Connect AC-MX88-UHD, a distribution matrix that allows me to send HDR (and all other) HDMI signals to multiple TVs simultaneously. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to compare HDR on OLED and LCD HDR TVs side-by-side in the lab using the same source, and it further reinforced my previous observations: that OLED is just as much a powerhouse with HDR as it is with standard dynamic range, despite its light output deficit to LED LCD.

The nature-scapes in the film looked brilliant in HDR on the B6, the sunlight and skies with more brightness, the clouds with that characteristic extra definition, the natural greens and blues with more realism, and an overall image that’s the best I’ve ever seen in my lab. I watched the B6 and E6 side-by-side, switching back and forth between standard Blu-ray and the HDR 4K Blu-ray on both, and there was very little difference between the two 2016 OLEDs, with both outdoing the other TVs to a greater or lesser extent.

HDR on the EF9500 looked the next-best, but its highlights were a bit dimmer, leading to less pop and brilliance. Shadows also appeared too-bright, making certain images appear too washed-out, and clouds didn’t have the same levels of definition (I’m blaming a wacky EOTF and poor tone-mapping, respectively, but I don’t know enough about HDR to say for sure).

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I was also surprised to note that both Samsung LCDs, although capable of higher light output in objective tests, didn’t have a visible brightness advantage in most scenes. Spot measurements with a handheld light meter confirmed my suspicions: the LCDs were actually dimmer than the OLEDs in highlights by significant margins with “The Revenant,” even the light cannon JS9500. I performed the same test on with the 4K Blu-ray of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the results were similar: the B6 and JS9500 were about equal in the highlight I measured, the E6 was the brightest and the KS8000 and EF9500 were also about equal, and quite a bit dimmer than the others, while the Vizio was dimmest.

I can’t explain the difference fully, but the main point is that with HDR, LCDs’ brightness advantage over OLED with test pattern measurements (detailed above in Bright Lighting) don’t necessarily indicate brighter highlights — one of the main advantages of HDR. The reality varies by display, scene and content. In fact, I’m guessing some of the variations I saw between the two 4K Blu-ray discs was due to metadata: “The Revenant” carries metadata indicating it was mastered on a 1,000 nit display, while “Mad Max”was mastered on a 4,000 nit display. HDR really is the wild west.

Between the two 2016 OLEDs the E6 showed a slight edge in HDR overall. Its highlights were the brightest in the room, and it lacked a minor artifact that plagued the B6 in at least one dark scene. In Chapter 4 while Hugh addresses Hawk at night (19:55), the B6’s black level raised slightly above perfection and I even saw slight shadowy fluctuations in the letterbox bars. I’m guessing the issue is restricted to very dark scenes only, but it’s relatively subtle, and I couldn’t replicate it in other scenes, or with SDR.

I also checked out the Dolby Vision stream of “Mad Max” from Vudu on the B6, comparing it directly to the HDR10 4K Blu-ray disc on the E6 and the other sets, and the differences were minor to nonexistent between the two OLEDs. Colors were a tiny bit redder in cast on the B6, but I didn’t measure color in Dolby Vision’s color on the B6, so I can’t say which is more accurate.

I can say that on both 2016 OLED TVs, the Dolby Vision version delivered slightly brighter highlights with Mad Max than the HDR10 version, according to my measurements. Given the choice between watching Dolby Vision and HDR10 on this TV, I’d choose Dolby for that reason, and the fact that at this point I trust Dolby’s certification process to produce the truest picture on this TV.

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I also played through a suite of 4K test patterns by Florian Friedrich and the B6 passed them all without issues, and also delivered the full 4K resolution from YouTube.

I appreciate that when the B6 is sent an HDR signal from the Samsung K8500 Blu-ray player, the necessary “HDMI ULTRA HD Deep color” control is set to “On” and a little pop-up appears that asks you restart the TV so the setting can take effect. Samsung’s 2016 TVs automatically handle HDR signals in a similar way (albeit without a popup or requiring a restart), but Sony’s and Vizio’s require you to know about and manually change the setting yourself.

GEEK BOX

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0 Good
Peak white luminance (100%) 128 Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.19 Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.652 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.71 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.96 Good
Avg. color error 1.467 Good
Red error 1.478 Good
Green error 0.884 Good
Blue error 0.554 Good
Cyan error 2.445 Good
Magenta error 1.084 Good
Yellow error 2.357 Good
Avg. saturations error 1.87 Good
Avg. luminance error 2.81 Good
Avg. color checker error 2.75 Good
Percent gamut Wide (DCI/P3) 98 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 600 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 37.6 Good

(cnet.com, https://goo.gl/2IWlF3)

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