posted on Monday, 3rd April 2017 by Steve May
Dubbed the wallpaper TV, LG’s W7 is the most extreme TV execution of OLED panel technology yet. Comprising an astonishingly thin 65-inch UHD panel connected by a flat cable to a soundbar/tuner hub, it challenges preconceptions of just what a TV can be.
The panel itself sticks to a bespoke wall plate using magnetic lugs. The attached soundbar incorporates a Dolby Atmos decoder, but doesn’t actually perform as you might expect.
One thing’s for certain, this premium proposition isn’t a cookie cutter telly. To it, we travelled to San Francisco, where LG hosted review teams from around the world, to get a closer look.
LG W7 OLED TV: Design and specification
Make no mistake, the W7 is a tour de force of industrial design. The display, just 2.75mm thin, sits virtually flush to a wall, thanks to its magnetic wall mount. An umbilical cable, which delivers sound, vision and power, runs downward from the centre. The standard cable is just 47cm. Helpfully, LG also offers an extension lead, which extends reach to 160cm.
The soundbar hub sports four HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 compliant, plus three USBs (one of which is a fast v3 port for USB recordings) and minijack AV. There’s also an optical digital audio output and Ethernet. HDMI 2 is ARC enabled. Wi-Fi, supported by Wi-Fi Direct, is dual band. Onboard tuners include Freeview Play and Freesat.
LG W7 OLED TV: Features
The W7 offers the latest iteration of LG’s connected webOS platform, v3.5. The user experience is much the same as we’ve seen before, but there are refinements. It users to zoom into recordings and save them to USB (I have no coherent explanation as to why this might be desirable). There’s also a new OLED gallery feature, which displays works of art, or your own image folders, when not watching the box.
Perhaps the most appealing new feature is the ability to play back 360 degree VR footage, much as you might on a tablet, using the Magic Remote cursor to scroll around the image area.
3D has been binned, but there’s a now a Neutral Black polariser in play, which improves contrast and black level performance for daytime viewing.
LG W7 OLED TV: Picture performance
Image quality is gorgeous. In addition to OLED’s trademark pure blacks, we noted superb near black shadow detail and excellent colour fidelity. LG has also dramatically improved HDR peak brightness, which has opened the door to some startling dynamics.
LG offers a plethora of HDR support – HDR10, Dolby Vision, Advanced HDR byTechnicolor and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma). Very small HDR highlights can peak at 1000 nits. This drops dramatically depending on the size of the white highlight required. A full peak white screen is power limited to 150 nits.
Test footage from Planet Earth 2, encoded in HLG HDR, appears to have almost three dimensional depth.
As we auditioned the screen in the US, it was possible to inspect Dolby Vision from the Vudu platform, as well as HDR10 from UHD Blu-ray. A 4K DV stream of Star Trek Beyond looks decidedly cinematic, with a vibrant USS Enterprise offset against a deep space backdrop. Similarly, The Secret Life of Pets (4K Dolby Vision, Vudu), shines with vibrant CG visuals. Blu-rays, using HDR10, look just as good. Sure you can nitpick, but most users will be wowed by both.
While there’s understandable excitement about HDR, the majority of content viewed will be SDR. So to take advantage of the panel’s dynamics, there’s also HDR Effect mode.
Here both the medium and strong settings lift images without overly introducing colour artefacts. The HDR Effect mode provides a 25 per cent peak luminance boost in darker images, with around 30-40 per cent more in the brighter scenes.
There’s a feast of new tech behind the glass, including a Bit Depth Enhancement algorithm to refine low grey levels, and a de-contour algorithm to reduce noise. To be fair, I felt there was still noise prevalent in the image, as distinct from film grain, but for the most part it’s unobtrusive.
LG W7 OLED TV: Audio performance
While few would argue that the W7’s image quality is preposterously good. The conjoined soundbar is a little more contentious. Promoted as a Dolby Atmos device, it doesn’t quite perform as you might suspect.
One key attribute are twin speakers which pop up from the top of the unit. You could be forgiven for thinking that they’re up-firing height speakers, but they’re not. Their job is ostensibly to lift the soundfield a notch, to better integrate it with the screen.
Crucially, the soundbar currently doesn’t accept a Dolby Atmos bitsream from a Blu-ray player. That’s because it’s been designed to unpack Atmos from a Dolby Digital Plus container. It ignores Atmos when part of a TrueHD bitsream. In the US, that translates to Atmos support for streaming service Vudu. It’s also how BT delivers Dolby Atmos over broadband for UHD footie. Hook up a Blu-ray player though and you get a rather flat stereo downmix. The same happens with any DTS soundtracks.
LG, which describes the bar as a 4.2, tells Inside CI that it’s optimistic for a firmware fix which will address the problem.
When an Atmos stream is successfully received, it’s flagged in the corner of the screen. The soundfield is wide, but offers no real sense of spatial depth or surround. The audio output is rated by LG at 60w. More significantly there is no bass at all, and with no sub-out option, there’s no way to get any.
LG W7 OLED TV: Verdict
The W7 can rightly be considered an astonishing TV. Visually, it’s the best looking OLED TV we’ve seen to date, and sets a very high bar for 4K HDR in all its various flavours. The soundbar performs well enough but is not a convincing Dolby Atmos home theatre device. This is unlikely to diminish its designer appeal though. That said, for some custom install projects the two-piece design is going to be a challenge to deploy.
Interestingly enough, LG says there’s no difference in image quality between any of its 2017 OLEDs. They all use the same SoC, with key differences being the audio application and stand design and choice. This bodes well for the incoming B7, C7, E7 and G7 models.
Price: £8,000. A step-up 77-incher, expected in September, will be priced at £25,000.
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Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics
industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.