Not only is the SJ8500 HDR compatible, LG has added emphasis on upconverting standard definition signals to HDR-like quality (read about HDR below). The features is called HDR Effect, and I thought id worked well – improving brightness and color in various areas of the picture.
There is no more important component of a 4K UHD TV than the video engine – particularly the ability to upscale/upconvert resolution to the native resolution of the panel. LG’s SJ8500 does a very nice job in this regard, and with much improvement over last year’s models. Processing artifacts are cleaned up nicely. The lack of 4K content is going to continue well into the future, so stellar upconverting all manner of HD resolutions 720p, 1080p, 480p is essential. The higher up the HD chain you go, the better the clarity and detail to show off the native 4K resolution. This Video engine and upscaler quality is also one of the differentiating factors moving up the price scale between models within LG. The SJ8500 uses a 4 step process to examine and enhance broadcasts, recorded video, and home video game consoles.
LG’s SJ8500 uses an IPS (in-plane-switching) panel, albeit a new one for 2016/2017. The IPS panel allows for much better picture quality from side angles without degrading color saturation and contrast much. This is one of the standout features of this TVs picture quality. There are still weaknesses in both with side angle viewing as contrast degrades, but generally the IPS panel is 20%-30% better from angles than non-IPS panel LED TVs. Reflections are also subdued by the IPS panel and front substrate. (Note: The 75SJ8570 may have a VA panel rather than IPS which will provide better black levels and poorer side angle viewing).
Colors do to render more depth and slightly better saturation in these new 4K HDR models. The SJ8500 has an expanded color gamut meeting HDR standards, however it is limited compared to other competitors or LG’s OLED TVs. LG contends this is due to their new Nano Cell technology-which uses phosphor (colored) based LED lighting. Out of the box calibration is very easy with this TV, no need for a professional calibration. Using the Cinema picture mode setting with Contrast at 80% gets you most of the way there.
The big focus TV feature for 2017 is HDR (High Dynamic Range). HDR extends the range that a pixel in an LCD TV can show and in many cases looks better than 4K TV. This applies to the brightness and luminosity of images. Contrast is enhanced by increased brightness rather than deeper blacks. Rather than just increase the brightness of the picture overall though, the real purpose of HDR is to increase contrast in various image areas of the picture. It improves the presentation in the brighter parts of the picture and this creates more contrast with surrounding darker parts of the picture. Since picture contrast is one of the primary features in improving perceived depth, HDR is considered a major picture quality improvement even though it may not increase the overall contrast of the panel a lot.
Bright colors receive enhanced purity. A good HDR image will show better shadow detail, and the scenes that you will notice the most are those with light illuminating images, such as a room that has sunlight coming in through a window and illuminating parts of the room. HDR content is and will be in short supply for a while.
The studios, distributors (Netflix, Amazon) and TV manufacturer must all be on the same page for you to see HDR content. More HDR content is popping up on Amazon and Netflix.
The same IPS panel that causes the SJ8500 to excel from side angles performs in mediocrity in black level depth and contrast. IPS panels are especially good at side angle viewing capability, but take away from black levels. So if you are a night time, center view, movie watcher this may not be the best TV for you (but the price may put you over the top).
The local dimming feature may be turned on or off and affects contrast a good deal. It’s adjustable in High, Medium or Low setting and you will notice the picture darkening progressively from low to high when using the feature. It does not really enhance picture quality much and we recommend the low or medium setting if you are going to use the feature at all.
The TruMotion feature setting is used for judder reduction. Our recommendation is to turn the TruMotion settings feature off with all but sports programming. It adds that kitschy fake look to the picture by removing too much of the intended background blur. One of our readers called it the “Telenovela” effect to give you some perspective. It’s especially distracting during BluRay movies. It may sharpen older DVDs and give you a new perspective on them.
The SJ8500 does a nice job of eliminating judder in most content even with the Trumotion setting turned off. Streaming movies and older DVDs may show some, especially in scenes that pan slowly side to side.
The SJ8500 has no problem with fast motion video scenes due in part to it’s 120Hz panel.
The primary improvements over last years excellent WebOS 3.0 are cybersecurity assurance program certification, a better or at least different zoom function which allows the user to zoom in on various areas of the picture. You will literally know more than the game day announcers in the review box – for better or for worse. Also, what we found interesting was the ability to connect our mobile devices to the TV and view content on the TV, especially pictures or videos. There are new “hot” buttons for connecting directly to Netflix and Amazon with a press of a button. Boot up times are fast, and this is either the best or one of the best Smart TV systems out there now in terms of speed, and user interface. The interface layout is straightforward and intuitive and makes sorting your favorite programs very easy with the point and click operation of the new LG Magic Remote (we love the Magic Remote). The ability of the user to order and place the various Apps that matter most is a considerable strength over competing systems. Overall, WebOS provides a smooth, and very enjoyable experience. The one knock is that Samsung’s Tizen, Android and Roku do offer more Apps selection, although LG will have nearly all of the major Apps that are considered important.
Smart TV options are Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, HSN, Showtime, Drama Fever, iHeart Radio, and newly DirecTV to name a few.
The one I like for you cable-cutters out there is Sling TV, which for a monthly fee ($20) gets the all important ESPN and ESPN 2 taken care of. It also gives you the addictive and entertaining Food Network.
IheartRadio is an digital audio service which allows streaming of live radio stations.
Sound quality is better than average on the SJ8500 probably due to the Harman Kardon design influence. Volume capability is much better than competing models. 35% volume level is plenty to fill a medium sized room. Clear voice 2 was our favorite audio alternative. The SJ8500 packs 40watts of audio output.
The SJ8500 has very nice clean lines and a small half inch bezel frame. The TVs depth is less than 2” and though the TV is not curved the attractive and well-made metallic silver stand is curved, which lends a nice artistic modern touch. There is an indention for the bezel frame which is absent in the seemless design of the higher priced cinema screen design TVs. But for the price difference I like this one better.
55SJ8500 – $1999 MAP – 88/100 Projected Price $1199
65SJ8500 – $2799 MAP – 88/100 Projected Price $1499
75UH8570 – $3699 MAP – 79/100
Price points on the SJ8500 are a bit better in the smaller sizes. At our projected price points, the SJ8500 will be a very good buy considering the feature set. All you really sacrifice is that jet black contrast of OLED. The SJ8500 compares with similar LED 4K HDR models from Samsung and Sony. The SJ8500 has all the bells and whistles needed to future proof for HDR, Dolby Vision, and 4K UHD content. The WebOS 3.5 system works great and the Magic Remote is always fun and easy. Passive 3D is a plus for those that want it. All this is enveloped in a sleek modern very attractive package. Medium quality black levels and contrast are drawbacks.