A big, feature-packed TV that looks great with 4K content, promises a brilliant next-gen gaming experience and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg
- Looks good with native 4K content
- As future-proofed, games-wise, as they come
- Half-decent sound
- Good OS
- Some backlighting issues
- Not the most capable upscaler
- Lacks UK catch-up TV services (for now)
- Looks deep if wall-mounted
- Review Price: £1699
- HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Dolby Vision IQ
- voice control
- VRR, ALLM, FreeSync, HGiG
- Filmmaker mode
The LG NANO 90 (65NANO906) sits near the top of LG’s 4K NanoCell range and comes in 55, 65 and 75-inch sizes.
Lately, it’s been hard to shake the feeling that LG has a lot more love for its OLED TV ranges than its LED designs. To a degree this is understandable – considering the acclaim and sales LG’s OLED TVs have been enjoying, the company can be forgiven for taking its eye off the LED ball.
But with its new Nano range – of which this LG NANO 90 sits right near the top – it seems LG is about ready to stop treating LED like an unwelcome stepchild and instead welcome it properly back into the family.
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LG 65NANO906 design – Unremarkable, but in a good way
Of course, one of the reasons LG might conceivably have become a bit blasé about LED TVs is that they’re just so unglamorous, in design terms at least, when compared to their OLED alternatives. Just have a look at this LG NANO 90, and you’ll see what I mean.
From the front, it’s unremarkable in a good way. The bezel surrounding the IPS screen is slim and smoothly curved at the corners, and its deep grey finish isn’t too reflective. The feet it stands on are as plasticky as the bezel but are as equally fit for purpose (as long as you have a very wide surface on which to stand it).
From the side, though, it’s a different story. Part of the appeal of OLED TVs is their almost supernatural skinniness; this vanishingly low profile isn’t something LED TVs could ever hope to achieve. But the 65NANO906 is more than 7cm deep – which may not look all that much when written down, but it makes the TV look old-fashioned in the flesh. Anyone who wants to hang their expensive new TV on the wall might take one look at the LG’s profile (or its 24kg weight) and decide it isn’t for them.
At the rear, the 65NANO906 is just one curved expanse of plastic. There’s one significant cutaway, though, where its inputs and outputs are arranged – and in terms of connectivity, the LG begins to make far more sense.
There are four HDMI inputs, two of which are rated at 2.1 specification and compatible with 4K/120Hz – which means they’re happy to handle anything the next-gen Xbox Series X or PS5 can throw at them. They’re joined by three USB 2.0 inputs, a CI card slot, aerial posts for the on-board satellite and terrestrial TV tuners, and an Ethernet socket. Outputs run to a digital optical and an analogue 3.5mm socket (which is at line-level and thus can be used with headphones).
Those physical connections are joined by dual-band Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2 connectivity and Bluetooth 5.0. The latter is bolstered by Bluetooth Surround Ready, so with a couple of compatible wireless speakers, you can achieve pain-free home cinema surround sound.
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LG NANO 90 features — More than a handful
This is where LG demonstrates just how serious it is about LED TVs this time round. The LG NANO 90 absolutely piles in the features and, as a consequence, moves smoothly from “mildly interesting” to “genuinely intriguing”.
The 65NANO906 uses LG’s NanoCell technology in a drive to deliver the most convincing images possible. It uses nano-particles that are designed to strip unwelcome colour frequencies from the picture information. In theory, at least, this should make colours purer and more convincing. And the 3820 x 2160 array of pixels are lit by LEDs arranged in a full-array configuration and divided into 32 individually operable dimming zones. “32” is far from an impressive number in this context – but, as we all know, it isn’t how many individual dimming zones you have but what you do with them.
Of course, having backlit the pixels and then purified the colours they produce, the LG offers quite an extensive adjustment of the various elements of picture performance. There are some preset viewing modes (vivid, sports, standard and so on) as well as the ability to customise the 65NANO906’s images at a “contrast” or “colour temperature” level, for example. Each preset has its pros and cons, and each element of micro-adjustment can play a part in the resulting image – but the most interesting of all the modes, for no other reason than that it was the talk of CES 2020, is Filmmaker mode.
In theory, Filmmaker mode defeats every single one of the TV’s clever picture-processing algorithms, instead seeking to deliver an image that’s as close to the original intention of the filmmaker as possible. In practice, it doesn’t quite work like that, as we shall see.
To be fair, the appearance of Dolby Vision IQ is almost as diverting. The LG features HLG, HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR modes – and Dolby Vision IQ, which uses the light sensor built into the LG NANO 90 to make on-the-fly adjustments to picture quality.
HDR content is available from many of the numerous streaming services embedded in the LG’s webOS smart TV interface. It remains one of the slickest, least convoluted and most satisfying operating systems around – despite the rather involved picture setup menus – and is full almost to the brim with viewing options. Compulsory apps Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are joined by Disney Plus, Apple TV and pretty much every other high-profile streaming service. There are also quite a few more obscure options grouped in a folder called “LG Channels”.
However, conspicuous by their absence are the UK’s major catch-up TV apps. Somehow LG and Freeview failed to come to an arrangement in time for BBC iPlayer, All4 and all the rest to appear on the company’s 2020 range of TVs. A deal should be done to save this happening in 2021, though. In the meantime, LG is working with individual broadcasters to get their apps onto its current range as soon as possible.
As well as providing extensive viewing options, webOS also allows the setup and sequencing routines of any Internet of Things device on a common network. There’s the opportunity to get involved in some retail therapy (if anything on the screen catches your eye), or to identify the music that’s accompanying the pictures.
Navigation of this extensive suite of features can be achieved in a couple of ways. The 65NANO906 is supplied with a “Magic” Bluetooth-powered point-and-click remote control, which is a more rapid way of entering information than your standard remote control. Or there’s voice control, accessed either via the big, bold “mic” button on the handset (Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are both available), and the screen itself has a mic for use with LG’s ThinQ range of AI products.
The LG is bursting with functionality for active as well as passive viewers. Gamers will already be on high alert thanks to the appearance of HDMI 2.1 inputs with 4K/120Hz capability – and LG gives gamers even more of the come-on with its support for Auto Low-Latency mode, Variable Refresh Rate, FreeSync and HGiG HDR tone-mapping. Add these to a sub-13ms response time – which will be swifter still at 120Hz – and the 65NANO906 could be the great big games monitor plenty of people have been waiting for.
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LG NANO 90 picture quality – Serves up an enjoyable native 4K HDR performance
If you’re going to do the right thing by your LG NANO 90 (and “the right thing” in this instance basically means “feed it a diet of 4K HDR material either via a streaming service or a UHD disc-player”), you’ll be rewarded with a picture that’s pretty much all “pro” and very little “con”.
A 4K HDR10 disc of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, for example, looks enjoyable in almost every way. There’s a (mildly ironic) lack of detail retrieval from the blackest tones of the movie, but once up above there the level of detail is pretty impressive. Information regarding texture, the subtleties of patterns and the nuances of skin-tone are all served up in a naturalistic and believable manner. LG’s NanoCell technology would seem to earn its keep here, too – the colour palette the 65NANO906 paints from is wide-ranging enjoys real breadth of tonality and is convincing in every circumstance.
The LG does good work with motion, too, keeping edges smooth and uniform even during the most testing instances of movement. There’s a reasonable depth of field to images, and picture noise is repressed zealously.
The 65NANO906’s backlighting can give itself away in the most high-contrast, dark-scene-with-bright-white-elements moments – there is mild, but discernible, haloing around the white parts of an otherwise-black scene. But this, along with the paucity of detail in the deepest black tones, is what constitutes “shortcomings” where the LG’s best-option images are concerned.
Switch to Filmmaker mode and first impressions aren’t all that great – the punchiness and sharpness of the picture seems to take a hit. But look a little longer, especially in low-light environments – presumably what Filmmaker mode is all about – and you’ll see the gains in colour fidelity and second-stage detail levels. And despite what you may have heard, there’s still the facility to trim the picture to your taste. This is especially welcome where motion-tracking is concerned.
The LG looks almost as composed when streaming the Dolby Vision-enhanced Mindhunter via Netflix. You may find yourself dipping back into the setup menus to ensure motion doesn’t become hesitant, and again to try to balance that backlighting indiscipline against nice clean white tones. However, get to a workable compromise, and the LG NANO 90 is endlessly watchable. All the good work the LG does with a 4K disc is pretty much replicated here – so motion, detail (with the same deep black caveat), texture, colour fidelity and edge definition are all pleasing in the extreme.
Stepping down in quality results in, well, a step-down in quality. A 1080p Blu-ray disc of The Coen Brothers’ True Grit still enjoys plenty of detail (except in black tones, which are beginning to become quite overtly crushed by the LG), impressive colour balance and remarkably assured motion-handling. There remains a decent dynamism to contrasts, despite the increasing uniformity of black shades. And although picture noise starts to assert itself somewhat, the overall presentation is composed.
However, anything of a lesser quality than this is treated quite dismissively. Bog-standard DVDs or, heaven forbid, standard-definition off-air broadcasts can look a mess: ample picture noise, jagged and uncertain edge definition and a major reduction in detail levels are the order of the day. Colours lose subtlety, white tones become bleached and featureless, and the basic watchability of the LG suffers as a consequence.
LG NANO 90 sound quality – A good-sounding TV
The 65NANO906 is fitted with a couple of downward-firing full-range drivers, powered by a total of 20 watts. It isn’t that promising a specification for a TV of this size, even if the ability to understand audio codecs up to and including Dolby Atmos is welcome.
And in practice, the LG turns out to be one of the better-sorted and better-sounding TVs of its type. There’s a hint of low-frequency presence and weight, some well-judged bite and attack at the top end, and the mid-range is prodded forward a sensible amount to ensure dialogue is front-and-centre. And there is an auto-calibration feature in the pipeline for the near future, too, to allow the 65NANO906 to take its specific environment into account.
None of this means you shouldn’t consider a modest soundbar as a more-or-less compulsory purchase, of course. It’s just that you won’t be offended by the sound the LG makes while you’re waiting for it to arrive.
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Should you buy the LG 65NANO906?
It’s not rocket science: you want an LG 65NANO906 because you want a big, feature-packed TV that looks great with 4K content, promises a brilliant next-gen gaming experience and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. And you don’t mind that it’s a bit of a bloater.
Plus, it isn’t as if the LG has an absolute stack of direct competition, either – especially since global circumstances mean the usually coordinated launch of most brands’ 2020 TV ranges is, basically, all over the place.
Sure, you could consider the Samsung QE65Q80T – it offers better sound than the LG, a superior user interface, and it doesn’t ride roughshod over black-tone detail either. But then it does cost quite a lot more money.
You can pay less and get a smaller TV, of course. Philips’ excellent 55OLED754 may only be a 55-inch TV, but as an OLED screen, it’s smaller where depth is concerned. In addition, unlike the LG, it has proper command of the black tones it generates. What it doesn’t have, though, is any appeal for gamers – not with that leisurely lag time, it doesn’t.
So unless you’re prepared to go hunting for a 2019 bargain, you could quite reasonably imagine you’ve two choices: buy this LG – and really enjoy it – or wait to see what else 2020 brings.
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