Introduction and features
LG is pushing hard with UHD this year. No less than 65 percent of its TV range offer 4K resolution, and the 65-inch UF850V screen reviewed here sits at the premium end of its many Ultra HD offerings.
While the UF850V sells for less than LG’s UF950V flagship, it’s still a fully tooled 4K telly. The UF850 is part of the brand’s ColourPrime family of screens, an umbrella term that describes both Quantum Dot and Wide Colour Gamut panels, both of which offer richer hues than the norm.
This set uses the latter. While the QD filter is intrinsically more expensive to implement than a wide colour gamut panel, there’s actually very little difference to be seen between the two.
The UF850V is also available in 49- 55- and 60-inch guises, as the 49UF850V, 55UF850V and 60UF850V respectively.
4K UHD TVs have four times the resolution of their Full HD equivalents, but to really get the best from this level of pixel density it’s always worth going for the largest screen you can. 65-inches should be considered a sweet spot for ultra high definition.
Slimline design and clever with it
The UF850V looks more upper class than premium economy, and close scrutiny reveals some wonderful attention to detail.
The metal edging to the screen bezel is seamless – it’s a complete wrap without visible joins. The set also has a separate metal backsheet, with the screen module moulded on to it. This back panel is completely smooth, with no grilles required for ventilation.
The UF850V also sports a posh metal ribbon stand, common to LG’s Cinema Screen TV series, with a distinctive line groove finish. This doesn’t just look cool, it also helps mitigate against unwanted light reflection.
When you’re watching your new 4K TV in a dim, dark room the last thing you need is light reflection bouncing back off the metallic stand and diminishing screen contrast. The grooves cleverly help disperse any screen light reflected by the stand.
Trim and trendy
The trim below the screen looks trendy, but upon closer inspection reveals itself to be an audio reflector for the set’s downward firing micro speakers. The clever engineering is by Harmon Kardon – in fact all of the brand’s step-up 4K models have audio systems designed by the hi-fi specialist.
Connectivity comprises just three HDMI inputs, two of which support 4K 60Hz with HDCP 2.2 copy protection compliancy.
This means that when Ultra HD Blu-ray launches, or broadcast services begin, the set will be able to deliver 2160p resolution images. Without HDCP 2.2, screens will either display a down-rezzed version of the signal, or maybe nothing at all (companies are a little vague when it comes to specifics here, mainly because they don’t actually know).
Tune in TV
The set has both Freeview HD DVB and DVB-S satellite tuners. Those still living it large in the Nineties can also take advantage of a SCART and component video input. For connection to exterior speaker system or soundbar, there’s a digital optical output. While the set has Wi-Fi onboard, there’s also Ethernet LAN.
Helpfully, the Wi-Fi is dual band, covering both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. The ability to connect over the less congested 5GHz band is to be welcomed. There’s is also Wi-Fi Direct for enabled laptops. A Screen Share function supports both Miracast and Intel WiDi compatible devices.
Setup and usability
LG has tackled the challenge of ever more complex TV tech by the clever expedient of keeping things stupidly simple. The installation procedure, for example, is remarkably pain free.
LG’s mascot Bean Bird is on hand to help even card-carrying technophobes get up and running. The rest of us can simply admire the easy elegance of Bean Bird’s animations.
The UF850V features the second iteration of LG’s webOS Smart Platform, which frankly isn’t radically different from what we’ve seen before. The distinctive striped Launcher runs faster, but behaves in much the same way.
Originally a mobile platform devised by Palm, LG had been working with Hewlett-Packard to evolve a TV centric iteration when the opportunity to arose to acquire webOS outright. What this translates to is a simplified home screen that offers every type of source, from tuner, IPTV and local sources, as well as a history of recent activity, all accessed via a horizontal bar of coloured slides.
For the first time, you can treat online content just like any other channel, hopping between them without having to exit and then relaunch apps.
Embedded Smart streaming services include Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Wuaki.TV, Now TV and BBC iPlayer.
Sidle along to the LG content store and you’ll find additional premium VoD content (including movies) as well as gratis games and other apps. Attractions include Blinkbox, BBC News and Sport, and Eurosport Player.
Supported audio services number Deezer, Napster, vTuner, Spotify (but not Spotify Connect). Determined to keep 3D alive, LG even provides a dedicated 3D showcase, with a variety of short 3D films available to squint at.
To install some of these content services though you’ll need to set up a separate LG account before you can download them, which is a bit of a faff.
The Netflix client itself is 4K as the set has an integrated HEVC decoder. It’s good to see the number of UHD shows increasing here, with Video Game High School, Bloodline, and Grace & Frankie, joining Marco Polo, Daredevil, Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad.
Also included is the latest version of LG’s Magic Remote, a premium wand with embossed buttonry.
This Bluetooth pointer proves to be an excellent way to navigate the set’s webOS menu. Its gyroscopic accuracy is impressive, and it also boasts an integrated microphone for voice commands.
The voice recognition on the Magic Remote is darn good too. It can recognise channel commands, as well as basic menu functions (such as TV guide and input selection). It very quickly becomes clear that voice command is the simplest way to access the set’s Settings menu, even allowing you to drill down to Picture and Network modes.
As a viewer with an ingrained distrust of both voice and motion control systems, this comes as quite a shocking revelation.
You can even use your tonsils to search for content genres. Enunciate Science Fiction and it throws up a thumbnail list of upcoming SF shows. If you see anything you like, you can schedule a Reminder or Timeshift them to an attached USB hard drive.
Of course, it still gets things wrong. I asked for an HDMI input, only to have the TV fire up its web browser and look for HTC – perhaps I was mumbling…
The UF850V makes for a great media hub.
Once connected, LG’s Smartshare interrogates your network for music, video and photos. To make sure you can make sense of what it discovers, go in via the device and folder structure. If you don’t you’ll be lost amid content from your various storage devices.
File support is good enough. The UF850 offers codec and wrapper support for most popular video formats, including AVI, WMA, MKV, MOV and MP4. Music compatibility includes FLAC, AAC, M4A, MP3 and WMA.
Picture performance falls on the right side of impressive. Fine detail performance is good. There’s a crispness to its upscaled 2160p picture that is entirely convincing, while colour fidelity is excellent. The set has plenty of dynamics on tap.
There’s a tactile level of detail evident in Daredevil (Netflix 4K). Fabrics have weave and density, skin tones are painfully bruised and realistic. It’s as if this TV grants viewers some iota of Matt Murdoch’s supersense. The set does a fantastic job painting detail into the shadows of Hell’s Kitchen. The image is gritty and compelling.
The set doesn’t have the best upscaling in its class, but there’s no doubt that it puts every 2160p pixel onscreen.
The Expendables 3 (Blu-ray) opens with a big close up of Stallone’s grizzled face. Grimy and bathed blue and red, it looks positively hyper-realistic. There’s no evidence of pixel structure in the image, even when viewed immodestly close.
Bright white highlights in Stallone’s eyes ping from the screen.
Fade to black
The screen offers a passable black level, particularly when viewed in a room with ambient light. While it can’t achieve the kind of absolute black we’ve seen on LG’s own OLED screens and previously on high-end plasma displays, it does maintain a consistent dark grey, particularly when the Black level setting is kept to Low, rather than High.
The backlight is not entirely even, although any discrepancies that result are not immediately evident onscreen.
Where it does somewhat falter though is motion handling.
This is a common complaint of LG’s TruMotion picture processing engine. One simple way to reduce motion artefacts is to turn off TruMotion all together, but this has a negative effect on subjective clarity.
The Smooth and Clear settings restore detail, but introduce motion artefacts around moving objects – horizontal pans are smooth with good detail retention.
The Clear Plus mode delivers excellent moving detail at 6.5 ppf (pixels per frame), but there’s a noticeable drop in brightness. There are motion artefacts, but perhaps they’re not as noticeable as those found on the regular Clear setting. This could be a good choice for sports fans.
Strangely though not a single TruMotion mode warrants genuine enthusiasm.
Ultimately, I found the best option was to use the customisable User mode (something most buyers simply won’t bother with). This has variable de-judder and de-blur, and provides the cleanest images.
Set de-judder at between 5-7, and de-blur at 0. Motion artefacts are reduced to almost zero and there’s a little motion blur during pans, which combats that rather cheap-looking soap opera effect.
The result is pleasingly cinematic.
The right angle
While this IPS panel is bold and punchy to watch, off angle viewing is poor. The screen loses a huge amount of contrast and colour if you sit too far to the edge. You really need to park square on for the best results.
Also ensure you engage Just Scan for the aspect ratio, as it’s not a default and you’ll be missing picture content without realising it.
Picture presets comprise Vivid, Standard, Eco, Cinema, Sports, Game and Photo. There are also dual ISF Expert modes. Standard and Cinema are the go-to options. You can fine tune these with individual Backlight, Contrast, Brightness and Sharpness adjustments.
Power consumption for such a large panel is excellent. Displaying 100 percent colour bars, the TV draws a meagre 67w from the mains; a 100 percent white screen requires just 65W.
3D for me
The screen is 3D compatible, naturally. With regular viewing I’ve become quite a fan of passive polarised 3D, particularly when implemented on a 4K panel – not least because there’s no appreciable resolution drop.
However, this panel is infuriatingly directional. Unless you’re viewing three dimensional antics square on, you’ll suffer significant double imaging.
For this audition, the set was low to my seating position, only by a few degrees, but this was enough to make onscreen detail in the lower half of the screen a visual mess.
The menu for Tangled, which is a great torture test for 3D TVs, becomes completely unreadable if you’re out of alignment. Once you do square up, the 3D picture becomes comfortable to watch – but that acceptable viewing angle takes some finding.
Two pairs of polarised glasses are included in the box. However it’s easy to add more. Those RealD 3D specs you get at your local cinema will work just fine.
Surprising sound quality
Audio quality is better than you might expect from the ultra thin form factor.
The speaker drivers, which are slightly angled within to project onto the reflector, do a decent job emulating front-firing sound. What actually looks like a slick cosmetic trim is actually a sonic reflector, and this deception works rather well.
There are six sound modes to choose from: Standard, Cinema, News, Sports, Music and Game.
You’ll notice differences here in terms of bass, dynamics and volume, so it’s worth experimenting. That said, you’ll probably still want to migrate to a separate sound system sooner rather than later.
The LG UF850 is a solid performing, beautifully designed 4K flatscreen.
It actually looks more expensive than it is, with that bonded panel and copious neat design details adding class. It also benefits from the brand’s excellent Smart platform.
The latest iteration of webOS is great to use, and the set’s sprightly navigation and first class Magic Remote implementation make it intuitive and fun.
Picture quality is generally impressive. A deep rich colour performance, allied to crisp 2160p detail, make for an immersive big screen experience. However the uneven backlight and generally grey black levels prevent it scoring top marks.
The screen’s 3D performance is infuriatingly poor, thanks to a very limited acceptable viewing area.
From its seamless edging to the metallic ribbon stand, this LG UHD should make even the most unapologetic hovel look swanky. It’s also blessed with webOS, arguably the best Smart TV platform available. WebOS is a dream to use and navigate – even the Voice Command system works well.
Overall picture performance is good, with lush colours and supreme detail from 4K sources.
The set is unable to deliver really convincing deep blacks, which means images can grey-out if you watch in a fully darkened room. Maintain some level of ambient light though and the picture enjoys much better subjective contrast. You’ll need to work on the picture modes to combat motion artefacts. Upscaling is effective, although scaling appears more linear than creative.
You won’t find a full complement of catch-up services here. 3D is a genuine headache too, owing to a very restrictive angle of viewing.
The LG UF850 is a prime example of just how far and fast 4K displays have come over the past 18 months.
Colour fidelity and fine detail reproduction are fabulous. This set has all the features you’ll need too, from HDCP 2.2 enabled HDMI connectivity for upcoming UHD sources, through to onboard HEVC decoding from OTT services like Netflix.
It’s also ingeniously designed – the Harmon Kardon audio system being a case in point.
While you can find better 4K images, any caveats need to be weighed against the pleasingly aggressive price point, typically £2500. The overall build quality and cosmetic design are first rate.
Just don’t bother with the 3D.