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Following on the heels of Samsung's announcement yesterday of its first smaller--and less expensive--Ultra HD TVs, LG is launching its own 55- and 65-inch sets in the LA9700 series, which will carry price tags of $6,000 and $8,000, respectively.
The TVs--which have an elegant, streamlined look, with an ultra-narrow bezel and an attractive silver stand--have a few unique features, including LG's Nano full-array LED backlight technology, which spreads LED particles across a thin film behind the screen, allowing for local dimming of 144 separate zones, the company says. In past reviews of full-array backlights with local dimming, we've seen improvements in black levels and contrast, though we haven't yet tested these specific sets.
Also unique is a retractable 4.1-channel motorized sound bar speaker system that slides out of view when the TV isn't being used. The system, which can be programmed to remain out of view even when the TV is playing, includes a behind-the-screen subwoofer for lower bass frequencies.
The sets will also be among the first to include a built-in HEVC (also known as H.265) decoder. HEVC is a new video codec that uses an extremely efficient compression scheme, so it can send higher-quality content--such as Ultra HD movies and TV shows--without requiring more bandwidth. In the future, we expect to see many content providers, as well as broadcasters and Internet video services, move to the HEVC format to deliver Ultra HD content. We also expect Blu-ray to adopt the HEVC standard in Ultra HD Blu-ray players sometime next year.
Like other Ultra HD "4K" sets, the LA9700 models have a 3840x2160 screen resolution with four times the number of pixels as standard 1080p TVs. The TVs use the company's four-step Tru-Ultra HD upscaling to upconvert regular high-definition (1080p, 1080i and 720p) and standard-definition content to the set's higher native resolution. LG uses an IPS LCD panel, which we've found produces a wider-than-average viewing angle for an LCD TV.
Not surprisingly, the TVs are loaded with features, including LG's smart TV platform with access to a lot of online content, plus its passive Cinema 3D technology.
What started as a trickle of Ultra HD introductions is slowly turning into a steady stream. In addition to Samsung's upcoming 55- and 65-inch Ultra HD TVs--which carry prices of $5,500 and $7,500, respectively--we've covered new smaller XBR X900A models from Sony, plus Seiki's 50-inch $1,400 Ultra HD set. We're also expecting Ultra HD sets from Sharp and Toshiba, as well as Haier, Hisense, Westinghouse, and Vizio. So keep checking back for update info on these sets, as well as complete testing of several of these models in our TV Ratings (available to subscribers).
—James K. Willcox