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Oled TV with forward-looking features

The LG E9 Oled TV supports the latest HDMI 2.1 standard out of the box.
The LG E9 Oled TV supports the latest HDMI 2.1 standard out of the box.

The built-in speakers in TV sets often feel like an afterthought.

At best, they sound middling, which probably suits manufacturers as they can upsell sound bars to consumers.

To be fair, the mediocre audio is also because the sleek, near-bezel-less design of the latest TVs means that their speakers have been relegated to the rear or are pointed downwards to the detriment of the sound quality.

This is not the case for the LG E9, the upper mid-range model in the South Korean TV-maker's 2019 Oled TV line-up. It comes with front-facing speakers, enhanced by an AI audio mode, that sound more expansive than typical TVs'.

For instance, the signature bass beats of composer Hans Zimmer comes across powerfully from the E9 in the Sea Wall track from Blade Runner 2049 (2017), generating an equal sense of excitement and dread.

I had to restrain myself from turning up the volume as the audio would probably have woken up the neighbours. You can also switch between a stronger bass and clearer treble in the audio settings.

Unless you are an audiophile, you can likely do without a sound bar when using the E9.

Despite the improved sound, the speakers are just as slim as the E9's millimetre-thick Oled screen.

The screen is mounted on a larger piece of glass, which gives it a transparent border on all sides. This "glass bezel" is significantly thicker at the bottom, creating the impression that the TV is suspended in mid-air centimetres above the TV console.

  • FOR

    • Excellent floating-screen design

    • Expansive, above-average sound

    • Future-proof

    AGAINST

    • No support for HDR10+

    • Incremental upgrade in screen quality

    SPECS

    PRICE: $5,099 (55"), $6,999 (65")

    PICTURE FEATURES: Maximum resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, HDR10, HLG, Advanced HDR, Dolby Vision

    AUDIO FEATURES: 4.2ch (60W) and subwoofer (20W), Dolby Surround, Dolby Atmos

    OPERATING SYSTEM: webOS 4.5

    CONNECTIVITY: 4 x HDMI, 3 x USB, optical output, headphone output, Ethernet, Wi-Fi

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4.5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 5/5

A stand at the back acts as a counterweight to prop up the TV. It has a mirrored finish that is visible through the bottom bezel when viewing from the front. But because this stand is physically a few centimetres behind the screen, there is a depth effect that further enhances the floating-screen illusion.

Cables can also be concealed from the viewer by the stand, so that the TV looks clean and free of clutter.

LG typically uses similar Oled screens for all its Oled TV models, regardless of price. This year, LG has introduced a newer processor with a few new tricks, such as adjusting screen brightness to account for the environment's ambient light.

As expected of an Oled TV, the blacks on the E9 are very dark, while screen brightness is not as high as that offered by LED TVs.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) content, especially those in the Dolby Vision format, looks great on the E9, but a slight quibble here is the lack of support for HDR10+ format championed by rival Samsung.

The screen appears uniform without any dirty-screen effect, or blotchy patches. There is also hardly any colour-gradient banding when looking at videos such as nature documentaries featuring clear blue skies or oceans. Viewing angles are generally excellent, though I noticed a good amount of colour shift when looking at the screen from the side.

In short, there are not many reasons for owners of a recent LG Oled TV to upgrade, unless it is for the improved audio or the design of the TV.

The E9 offers a few forward-looking features that may extend its longevity.

For example, it is one of the few TVs now to support the latest HDMI 2.1 standard out of the box. All four of its HDMI ports are 2.1-compliant, which requires new HDMI 2.1 cables.

Some of the benefits of HDMI 2.1, such as increased bandwidth for 8K content, is not applicable for the E9. However, others, such as a variable refresh-rate feature for smoother gaming, is available with the Xbox One X console.

Audiophiles will also appreciate eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) compatibility, which enables pass-through of lossless audio formats, such as Dolby TrueHD, to a receiver or sound bar from the TV.

Speaking of future-proofing, the E9, like other LG 2019 Oled models, supports WiSA, a new wireless audio standard that claims to make it easier to set up a wireless audio system, while offering lower latency than Bluetooth. I did not manage to test this as I did not have compatible WiSA speakers from the likes of Klipsch and B&O.

Like many new TVs this year, Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit are compatible with the E9. The E9 does not come with a native Apple TV app, though, unlike Samsung's latest TVs.

AirPlay 2 makes it convenient to stream or mirror the screen content on Apple devices to the TV, while HomeKit support lets you manage HomeKit-compatible smart devices using the Home Dashboard, a control hub for smart home devices. This same Dashboard can be used to manage LG smart home devices, such as its robot vacuum cleaner.

But the most useful smart feature in the E9 is the built-in Google Assistant (Amazon Alexa is also supported). Using the Magic Remote control, you can issue voice commands to the TV, from searching through videos to finding out the day's weather.

The remote control is similar to last year's model. While not as minimalist as Samsung's version, it stands out with its air-mouse-like feature that lets you navigate and control a mouse cursor by waving the remote like a wand.

At $5,099 for the 55-inch model, the E9 is not as expensive as some of its Oled competitors.

There is also the cheaper C9 model ($4,099 for 55-inch), which offers similar picture quality and performance, but without the E9's audio and design.

If you already have a good audio system, the C9 probably makes more sense.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2019, with the headline 'Oled TV with forward-looking features'. Print Edition | Subscribe