LG SM9970 8k TV Review

Tested using Methodology v1.4
Reviewed Feb 03, 2020 at 08:39 am
LG SM9970 8k Picture
Test Methodology v1.4
8.1
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: not enough data
7.2
Movies
8.2
TV Shows
8.3
Sports
8.7
Video Games
7.1
HDR Movies
8.1
HDR Gaming
8.8
PC Monitor
Type LED
Sub-Type
IPS
Resolution 8k

The LG 75SM9970PUA is a great TV featuring an 8k resolution and LG's Nanocell technology. It has outstanding motion handling, excellent low input lag, and an easy-to-use user interface with tons of available apps. There are forward-thinking features such as HDMI 2.1 support and eARC, but unfortunately, it requires an external box in order to display 8k content, although this is provided by LG for free. For now, it's a good choice for those in need of a large TV and don't mind waiting for native 8k content to be widely available.

Our Verdict

8.1 Mixed Usage

The LG 75SM9970PUA is a great TV for most uses. Its large size and wide viewing angles are perfect for large rooms with wide seating arrangements. It can get bright enough to provide a decent HDR experience, and it has low input lag for those who want to game on a giant screen. Unfortunately, there are some uniformity issues that can be distracting when watching sports, but on the whole, it's an impressive TV for nearly every type of content.

See our Mixed Usage recommendations
7.2 Movies

The LG 75SM9970PUA is an okay TV for watching movies. Its size provides an immersive experience and it has excellent motion handling to keep the picture crisp. Unfortunately, contrast ratio and black uniformity are only mediocre, so it may not be the best choice for dark room viewing. Since there's no native 8k content at this time, upscaling performance is important, and this TV excels at it.

See our Movies recommendations
8.2 TV Shows

The LG 75SM9970PUA is great for watching TV shows. It has an impressive peak brightness and exceptional reflection handling for watching daytime TV, but its low contrast ratio and mediocre black uniformity make it less suitable for dark room viewing. The TV can display lower resolution content well, such as cable TV, and it has decent viewing angles so everyone can see the picture clearly.

See our TV Shows recommendations
8.3 Sports

The LG 75SM9970PUA is great for watching sports. Its size, resolution, and viewing angles make this TV the perfect choice for watching the big game with a large group of friends and family. It has outstanding motion handling to keep motion blur to a minimum, but there's some dirty screen effect that can be distracting.

See our Sports recommendations
8.7 Video Games

The LG 75SM9970PUA is an outstanding TV for gaming. It has an exceptionally low input lag for a responsive gaming experience, and its excellent motion handling is great for fast-paced games. The TV's resolution and size provide an immersive experience for atmospheric RPGs, but the lack of variable refresh rate is a bit disappointing.

See our Video Games recommendations
7.1 HDR Movies

The LG 75SM9970PUA is an okay TV for watching movies in HDR. It delivers a good picture quality and has excellent upscaling, but its HDR performance is limited by its low contrast ratio. Although there's a full array local dimming feature, its effectiveness is questionable, as there's noticeable blooming and flickering when it's enabled.

See our HDR Movies recommendations
8.1 HDR Gaming

The LG 75SM9970PUA is an impressive TV for HDR gaming. It has nearly everything that gamers ask for, such as low response time and low input lag; however, variable refresh rate doesn't seem to function at this time. Its upscaling is excellent if you play at a lower resolution, and it has an acceptable HDR performance thanks to its great color gamut and decent peak brightness.

See our HDR Gaming recommendations
8.8 PC Monitor

The LG 75SM9970PUA is an excellent TV for use as a monitor. It has a low response and low input lag for a responsive desktop experience, and there's no risk of permanent burn-in with user interface elements being always in the same place. Text is sharp and legible, and the TV can display chroma 4:4:4 properly.

See our PC Monitor recommendations
  • 8.1 Mixed Usage
  • 7.2 Movies
  • 8.2 TV Shows
  • 8.3 Sports
  • 8.7 Video Games
  • 7.1 HDR Movies
  • 8.1 HDR Gaming
  • 8.8 PC Monitor
Pros
  • Excellent upscaling.
  • Outstanding motion handling.
  • Low input lag.
Cons
  • Bad color accuracy.
  • Mediocre contrast ratio.
  • Difficult to display native 8k.
  1. Update 2/20/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.

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75" 75SM9970PUA
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Video

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The LG 75SM9970PUA is LG's flagship 2019 Nanocell TV, but not the only one with an 8k resolution in their entire lineup. They've also released the OLED88Z9PUA, which is an 8k OLED TV. There are significantly more expensive 8k TVs on the market, such as the Sony Z9G, but Samsung's Q900R is its main competitor.

Design
9.0
Design
Style
Curved No

The LG 75SM9970PUA's design is excellent. It's nearly identical to the LG SM8600, but the stand has been upgraded slightly with some metal on the inside for better support. Like the LG SM9500, it has cable management built into the back of the stand.

Design
Stand

The stand is large and is a mix of metal and plastic. The stand's arc crosses to the front of the TV, so you may have to consider its positioning if you have a soundbar.

Footprint of the 75" model: 35.2"x15.1"

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 600x400

The TV has a plain metal back with a brushed finish. Cable management is built into the stand.

Design
Borders
Borders 0.55" (1.4 cm)

The borders are slightly thicker than the LG SM9500 and they protrude from the screen.

Design
Thickness
Max Thickness 2.80" (7.1 cm)

The 75SM9970PUA has a thin profile. The stand is slightly bigger than the SM9500, but the TV won't stick out when wall-mounted.

7.5
Design
Build Quality

The 75SM9970PUA has a good build quality. The stand is a mix of metal and plastic, while the back of the TV is metal. It feels much more stable than the SM9500, which had a fully plastic stand. However, our unit has a missing screw at the top left corner, but your experience may vary.

Picture Quality
6.3
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
898 : 1
Contrast with local dimming
2622 : 1

The LG 75SM9970PUA has a mediocre native contrast ratio, even for an IPS panel. However, it does improve significantly when local dimming is enabled.

5.5
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
Yes
Backlight
Full-Array

Local dimming performance is disappointing. The backlight struggles to keep up at times, causing the leading edge of objects to appear dimmer, and there's a noticeable flickering of the image. In dark scenes with specular highlights, it performs better, but there's some blooming in regular content as well as with subtitles. It's very similar to the SM9500, but the black level is slightly higher so as not to crush details in dark scenes.

8.2
Picture Quality
SDR Peak Brightness
SDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
381 cd/m²
SDR Peak 2% Window
665 cd/m²
SDR Peak 10% Window
757 cd/m²
SDR Peak 25% Window
685 cd/m²
SDR Peak 50% Window
441 cd/m²
SDR Peak 100% Window
370 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 2% Window
268 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 10% Window
303 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 25% Window
337 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 50% Window
357 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 100% Window
370 cd/m²
SDR ABL
0.020

The 75SM9970PUA's peak brightness is great. There's quite a bit of variation between different content, but the TV can get bright enough to overcome glare in a bright room.

Brightness was measured after calibration, using 'ISF Expert Dark' Picture mode, with Local Dimming set to 'High', and Color Temperature set to 'Warm 1'.

The TV can get brighter if you set it to 'Vivid' Picture Mode with its default settings, but at the cost of picture accuracy.

7.4
Picture Quality
HDR Peak Brightness
HDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
498 cd/m²
HDR Peak 2% Window
761 cd/m²
HDR Peak 10% Window
941 cd/m²
HDR Peak 25% Window
821 cd/m²
HDR Peak 50% Window
543 cd/m²
HDR Peak 100% Window
456 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 2% Window
304 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 10% Window
374 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 25% Window
422 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 50% Window
439 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 100% Window
455 cd/m²
HDR ABL
0.024

HDR peak brightness is decent, but it's significantly lower than the SM9500.

Brightness was measured before calibration using the 'Cinema' Picture Mode, with Backlight set to '100', Local Dimming set to 'High', and Color Temperature set to 'Warm 2'. Dynamic tone mapping was disabled as well.

You can achieve higher brightness with 'Vivid' mode, at its default settings.

6.7
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
4.854 %
50% DSE
0.215 %
5% Std. Dev.
0.618 %
5% DSE
0.112 %

The 75SM9970PUA has decent gray uniformity. There's vignetting at all corners and dirty screen effect throughout the screen, which is most noticeable when watching sports. However, it's more uniform in dark scenes.

6.9
Picture Quality
Viewing Angle
Color Washout
27 °
Color Shift
52 °
Brightness Loss
31 °
Black Level Raise
70 °
Gamma Shift
28 °

Like most IPS TVs, the 75SM9970PUA has decent viewing angles. When viewed from the side, the most noticeable change is color shifting, followed by a decrease in brightness.

6.3
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
2.115 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
0.964 %

The 75SM9970PUA has mediocre black uniformity, as there's a considerable amount of clouding throughout the screen. It's much more uniform when local dimming is enabled, but there's noticeable blooming.

8.6
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Semi-gloss
Total Reflections
2.8 %
Indirect Reflections
0.5 %
Calculated Direct Reflections
2.3 %

The 75SM9970PUA has excellent reflection handling and you shouldn't have any issues with glare in well-lit rooms.

4.4
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
White Balance dE
6.52
Color dE
4.59
Gamma
2.06
Color Temperature
5695 K
Picture Mode
Expert (Dark Room)
Color Temp Setting
Warm 2
Gamma Setting
2.2

Out of the box, the 75SM9970PUA's color accuracy is bad. There are inaccuracies with many colors, and the gamma is too low, causing most scenes to appear brighter than they should.

Our measurements were done with Color Temperature set to 'Warm 2', as we expect it to be the best setting for most people, and it's the default color temperature of the three most accurate presets (ISF Expert Bright, ISF Expert Dark, and Technicolor).

9.4
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
White Balance dE
0.40
Color dE
1.00
Gamma
2.19
Color Temperature
6680 K
White Balance Calibration
22 point
Color Calibration
Yes
Auto-Calibration Function
Yes

After calibration, white balance and gamma are nearly perfect. There are still some inaccuracies with the color blue, but shouldn't be noticeable to the naked eye, and color temperature is slightly warmer than our target of 6500K. The TV has an auto-calibration feature, but it would still require the use of a colorimeter.

Calibration was done with Color Temperature set to 'Warm 1'.

You can see our recommended settings here.

8.0
Picture Quality
480p Input

The 75SM9970PUA can upscale 480p content well and it looks a lot like the Samsung Q900R's upscaling.

8.0
Picture Quality
720p Input

Upscaling of 720p content such as cable TV looks good, with no signs of artifacts.

9.0
Picture Quality
1080p Input

Upscaling of 1080p content looks excellent, slightly better than the Samsung Q900R.

9.9
Picture Quality
4k Input

Upscaling of 4k content is outstanding and looks better than the Samsung Q900R.

0
Picture Quality
8k Input

Unfortunately, the SM9970 requires an external "upgrader" box in order to accept an 8k signal. This box is available for free, and we've ordered it, but we aren't currently able to test the 8k performance of the TV. We'll update the review once we receive it.

Picture Quality
Pixels
8.0
Picture Quality
Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
Yes
DCI P3 xy
88.14 %
DCI P3 uv
94.16 %
Rec 2020 xy
65.01 %
Rec 2020 uv
71.89 %

The 75SM9970PUA has an impressive wide color gamut. The EOTF overshoots the target PQ curve by a bit, so some scenes may appear slightly brighter. Game mode doesn't seem to change the EOTF by much, as you can see here.

If you want to make HDR content brighter, you have to set Dynamic Contrast to 'High' or see our recommended settings here. This results in a much brighter image in HDR content, as shown in this EOTF.

6.0
Picture Quality
Color Volume
Normalized DCI P3 Coverage ITP
66.5 %
10,000 cd/m² DCI P3 Coverage ITP
35.1 %
Normalized Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
53.3 %
10,000 cd/m² Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
28.5 %

The 75SM9970PUA has a mediocre color volume. It can't produce dark, saturated colors due to its low contrast ratio.

8.2
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
10 Bit
Red (Std. Dev.)
0.114 dE
Green (Std. Dev.)
0.121 dE
Blue (Std. Dev.)
0.094 dE
Gray (Std. Dev.)
0.085 dE

Gradient performance is great. There's some banding, particularly with the color green. The Smooth Gradation feature doesn't seem to affect our test pattern, but it does work with regular content; however, it may cause a loss of fine details in some scenes.

9.9
Picture Quality
Temporary Image Retention
IR after 0 min recovery
0.04 %
IR after 2 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 4 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 6 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 8 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 10 min recovery
0.00 %

There's some temporary image retention for a very short time, but it shouldn't be noticeable after 2 minutes of recovery.

10
Picture Quality
Permanent Burn-In Risk
Permanent Burn-In Risk
No

Like most IPS panels, there's no risk of permanent burn-in.

Motion
9.4
Motion
Response Time
80% Response Time
2.8 ms
100% Response Time
11.8 ms

The LG 75SM9970PUA has an outstanding response time; there should be very little blur trail behind fast-moving objects. However, there's a significant amount of overshoot in every transition, causing the appearance of some artifacts. The backlight's flickering can also lead to duplication of the image.

6.0
Motion
Flicker-Free
Flicker-Free
No
PWM Dimming Frequency
240 Hz

The 75SM9970PUA uses PWM to dim the backlights. Flickering is present at all brightness settings and can cause duplication of the image. The backlight always flickers at 120Hz when in 'Game' mode.

10
Motion
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
Optional BFI
Yes
Min Flicker for 60 fps
60 Hz
60 Hz for 60 fps
Yes
120 Hz for 120 fps
Yes
Min Flicker for 60 fps in Game Mode
60 Hz

This TV has an optional black frame insertion feature to help reduce motion blur. To enable it, go to Tru Motion in the settings menu and set Motion Pro to 'On'. When displaying an image at 120Hz, the flickering is always on and activating Motion Pro will only cause a decrease in brightness.

Motion
Motion Interpolation
Motion Interpolation (30 fps)
Yes
Motion Interpolation (60 fps)
Yes

The 75SM9970PUA has excellent motion interpolation and can interpolate content up to 120Hz. In fast-moving scenes, the interpolation can sometimes struggle to keep up, causing motion to appear erratic and the appearance of some artifacts, which is very similar to the SM9500. To enable motion interpolation, set TruMotion to 'User' and adjust the sliders to your preference.

7.1
Motion
Stutter
Frame Hold Time @ 24 fps
29.9 ms
Frame Hold Time @ 60 fps
4.9 ms

Due to the TV's high refresh rate, there may be some stutter in lower frame rate content. If this bothers you, enabling Motion Interpolation can help.

10
Motion
24p Judder
Judder-Free 24p
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60p
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60i
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via Native Apps
Yes

The 75SM9970PUA can remove judder from all sources. To remove judder, you must enable Real Cinema in the Picture Option Settings menu.

0
Motion
Variable Refresh Rate
Native Refresh Rate
120 Hz
Variable Refresh Rate
No
HDMI Forum VRR
No
FreeSync
No
G-SYNC Compatible
No
4k VRR Maximum
N/A
4k VRR Minimum
No VRR support
1080p VRR Maximum
N/A
1080p VRR Minimum
No VRR support
1440p VRR Maximum
N/A
1440p VRR Minimum
No VRR support
VRR Supported Connectors
No VRR support

Although LG advertises the TV as having support for variable refresh rate and have released a firmware update to enable it, we were unable to make it work with our Xbox One S. We tried with a PC equipped with an NVIDIA RTX 2070 graphics card too, but it was unsuccessful.

Inputs
9.3
Inputs
Input Lag
1080p @ 60 Hz
18.5 ms
1080p @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
135.0 ms
1440p @ 60 Hz
18.6 ms
4k @ 60 Hz
18.5 ms
4k @ 60 Hz + 10 bit HDR
20.6 ms
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
18.3 ms
4k @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
135.0 ms
4k @ 60 Hz With Interpolation
139.1 ms
1080p @ 120 Hz
7.7 ms
1440p @ 120 Hz
7.7 ms
1080p with Variable Refresh Rate
N/A
1440p with VRR
N/A
4k with VRR
N/A
8k with VRR
N/A
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)
Yes

Update 02/14/2020: It was brought to our attention that this TV requires an external 8k "upgrader" box in order to accept 8k signals from external devices. There was a small information sheet included in the box, but we didn't notice it. LG provides the upgrader box free of charge, so we've ordered one, and will update the review once we receive it.

The 75SM9970PUA has exceptionally low input lag and feels very responsive, as long as you're in 'Game' mode. Unfortunately, we couldn't get it to run in 4k @ 120Hz or in native 8k, as we haven't yet received the 8k upgrader box. To display proper chroma 4:4:4 with low input lag, you have to change the input icon on the Home dashboard to 'PC'. Auto Low Latency mode only works with compatible devices such as the Xbox One, and needs to be activated for the input in which the console is plugged in.

10
Inputs
Supported Resolutions
1080p @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
Yes
1080p @ 120 Hz
Yes (native support)
1440p @ 60 Hz
Yes (forced resolution required)
1440p @ 120 Hz
Yes (forced resolution required)
4k @ 60 Hz
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
Yes

Update 02/14/2020: It was brought to our attention that this TV requires an external 8k "upgrader" box in order to accept 8k signals from external devices. There was a small information sheet included in the box, but we didn't notice it. LG provides the upgrader box free of charge, so we've ordered one, and will update the review once we receive it.

The 75SM9970PUA supports most common resolutions. It can display proper chroma 4:4:4 as long as you're in 'PC' mode, which is important for text clarity. For high bandwidth resolutions such as 4k @ 60Hz with HDR, the HDMI Ultra HD Deep Color setting must be enabled. This setting has two options. At this time, the 8k option may cause compatibility issues with older devices and should only be used if the connected device supports a higher bandwidth connection, so it's best to choose the 4k option, which will allow full bandwidth for HDMI 2.0b.

Inputs
Input Photos
Inputs
Total Inputs
HDMI 4
USB 3
Digital Optical Audio Out 1
Analog Audio Out 3.5mm 0
Analog Audio Out RCA 0
Component In 0
Composite In 1 (incl. adapter)
Tuner (Cable/Ant) 1
Ethernet 1
DisplayPort 0
IR In 0
SD/SDHC 0
Inputs
Inputs Specifications
HDR10
Yes
HDR10+
No
Dolby Vision
Yes
HLG
Yes
3D
No
HDMI 2.0 Full Bandwidth
Yes (HDMI 1,2,3,4)
HDMI 2.1
Yes (HDMI 1,2,3,4)
CEC Yes
HDCP 2.2 Yes (HDMI 1,2,3,4)
USB 3.0
No
Variable Analog Audio Out No
Wi-Fi Support Yes (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)

Although this TV is advertised as having support for HDMI 2.1, we couldn't test it, as there are no HDMI 2.1 sources at this time.

Inputs
Audio Passthrough
ARC
Yes (HDMI 2)
eARC support
Yes
Dolby Atmos via TrueHD via eARC
Yes
DTS:X via DTS-HD MA via eARC
Yes
5.1 Dolby Digital via ARC
Yes
5.1 DTS via ARC
Yes
5.1 Dolby Digital via Optical
Yes
5.1 DTS via Optical
Yes

This TV supports eARC, which lets you send uncompressed object-based audio such as Dolby Atmos via TrueHD and DTS:X via DTS-HD over HDMI. To use eARC, audio must be set to 'passthrough' and eARC set to 'On'.

Sound Quality
7.2
Sound Quality
Frequency Response
Low-Frequency Extension
67.27 Hz
Std. Dev. @ 70
2.82 dB
Std. Dev. @ 80
3.31 dB
Std. Dev. @ Max
6.32 dB
Max
89.9 dB SPL
Dynamic Range Compression
4.44 dB

The 75SM9970PUA has a decent frequency response. It has a good amount of bass, but won't be able to produce any thump or rumble. The TV can get fairly loud and dialogue sounds clear. There's also a room correction feature to adjust the sound to your room's configuration.

7.2
Sound Quality
Distortion