Review : LG 65 SM8600

Out of the shadows?

Can LG's new LCD screen LG 65SM8600 catch up with OLED?

LG 65 SM8600

Our verdict

The LG SM8600 delivers a sharp and colorful image with a wide viewing angle. Ease of use is also excellent, with low latency as a bonus for gamers.
Brightness and contrast are only in the middle of the tree, and the black level is nothing to brag about - a marked difference from the company's own OLED screens
• Size / type: 65 ”4K OLED
• Resolution: 3840×2160 (4K Ultra HD)
• Operating system: WebOS 4.0
• Inputs: 4 HDMI, 3 USB
• Outputs: Optical digital audio output
• HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, Technicolor
• Other: Dolby Atmos compatible
• Web: lg.com.

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Price: £ 1799

LG has invested billions of kroner in the development and marketing of OLEDs for several years, to a point where they have almost become synonymous with each other. The Koreans stubbornly claim that this is the image technology of the future, with an image quality that is technically superior to LCD in all areas! Precisely for this reason, it can be easy to overlook the fact that LG also has a lot of interesting LCD models in the range.

LG 65SM8600 is one of LG’s premium LCD models for 2019, and part of the so-called Super UHD family. It uses an advanced LCD panel with LG’s own NanoCell technology, which provides a wider range of colors while maintaining a good viewing angle. In addition to the 65 “version we are testing here, it is also available in 55” and 75 “inch sizes. It offers much of the same goodies you get from LG’s OLED B9, including support for HDR, Dolby Vision, and not least Dolby Atmos sound!

Design

The curved foot gives a stylish, futuristic look, but can get in the way of a possible soundboard. (Photo: LG)

The LG SM8600 has a nice look with sleek lines and a curved, center-mounted foot. The build quality is good with a great surface finish: the back is completely smooth and clean. We still have a couple of complaints. Although the foot helps to give the TV a modern look, it will be a bit in the way of a possible soundboard. There is also no doubt that the TV appears a little thicker than the company’s jam-thin OLED screens. The SM8600 is ready for wall mounting with a VESA bracket, but as some of the HDMI connectors point backwards, these will require some space from the wall.

Ease of use and features

The LG WebOS menu system with Magic Remote provides comfortable operation. (Photo: Audun Hage)

When it comes to the user experience, the SM series is almost exactly like the OLED screens from LG. It uses the same operating system (WebOS 4.0) with the now well-known Magic Remote touch remote control. LG has a very nice user interface where the content is in a clear “deck”, which is easy to navigate using the pointer. The selection of apps is good, Netflix and Youtube are of course a matter of course. LG currently has to do without Apple’s own TV app, but it is emphasized that this is available by connecting an Apple iOS device via Airplay 2.

LG’s OLED screens have excelled in several areas, including low response time and input lag, which are the alpha and omega of competitive gamers.
The SM8600 is fast too: We measured the delay to 14 milliseconds, which is fully on par with the OLED screens.

NanoCell

The LG SM8600 uses a 4K IPS LCD panel with NanoCell technology. This is a color filter that removes unwanted wavelengths of light so that the TV can reproduce cleaner and more lifelike colors. The LCD panel has LED lighting at the edges (Edge LED). Those who want a TV with direct LED backlight (so-called Full Array) should rather look at the top model SM9500. Otherwise, it is worth mentioning that the image processing is handled by LG’s Alpha 7 s2 chip, the same one that is in the LG OLED B9.

Image quality

As we said in the introduction, there is no doubt that the LCD screens from LG have ended up a bit in the shadow of the company’s OLED screens. It’s possibly a little undeserved, because the SM8600 has many fine qualities, too. The first impression is that the color reproduction looks very nice: Here, for example. red looks like real red, not orange! With more precise primary colors, it also becomes easier to bring out the small nuances, and there is no doubt that the SM8600 has a very neutral, natural color palette. Thanks to the IPS technology, the TV also manages to preserve the colors even when not sitting at a right angle in front of the screen.

The SM8600 also has plenty of brightness – good enough for watching TV in broad daylight.

The LG SM8600 delivers great color reproduction, but the contrast is not on par with the best OLED screens. (Photo: Audun Hage)

LG, on the other hand, has not succeeded in improving what has been the IPS LCD’s major challenge in recent times – namely contrast and black level. As soon as we look at the SM8600 in dimmer lighting and / or with very dark image material, the weaknesses become apparent. An otherwise contrast-rich and visually gorgeous series like Suits is disappointingly pale via the LG screen. Black appears more like dark gray, and thus the image loses its sense of depth. This impression is also repeated when we challenge the LG screen with HDR video. Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece The Irishman does not get the depth and scale it deserves, despite the fact that the SM8600 supports Dolby Vision as the best display format.

Compared to LG’s excellent OLED screen OLED B9, it simply turns gray and sad. A bright but slightly low-contrast LCD TV probably works excellently in brighter parts of the world, but up here in the cold North where it is “dark half the year”, there is no doubt that we favor a TV with more contrast and deep black level.

Sound quality

The LG screen manages to elevate the impression a bit when it comes to sound reproduction. The film The Irishman consists of many dialogue scenes between the legends De Niro, Pacino and Pesci: SM8600 has a distinct and clear midrange that gets the voices out and forward. Here it is also surprisingly rich bass, which contributes to a generally good sound image. Those who want to upgrade the sound have a good opportunity to do so: the SM8600 supports Dolby Atmos and can easily send the audio signal on to a compatible audio board via HDMI ARC.

Conclusion

The LG 65SM8600 has some clear strengths and weaknesses. Here you get the pleasure of LG’s smart TV ecosystem WebOS, with user-friendly touch remote control, lots of apps and compatibility with all the important video and audio formats. The image quality is great and excels especially with nice, natural color reproduction. This LCD screen looks great in daylight. Unfortunately, the film in film mode suffers from a rather mediocre contrast, which limits the experience of films and series in the “cinema darkness”. Here, the SM8600 stands in contrast to a popular competitor such as the Samsung UE65RU8005 with VA LCD panel, not to mention LG’s own OLED screens, which are some of the best on the market in the area.

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