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John Lewis LG 55JL9000 review

Katharine Byrne
18 Jan 2015
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
999
inc VAT for 55in model

A great TV with excellent picture quality and Smart TV apps, but the integrated soundbar isn’t great and makes the TV overly cumbersome

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Specifications

Screen size: 55in, Native resolution: 1,920x1,080, Video inputs: 4x HDMI, component, composite, Tuner: Freeview HD, Dimensions: 709x1,227x347mm

The JL9000 isn’t your average TV. Not only is this LG-made set branded with a John Lewis logo and sold exclusively through John Lewis shops, it also has a soundbar built into the stand.  

For this review we tested the 55in JL9000, but it's also available in 49in (49JL9000) and 60in (60JL9000) screen sizes.  All models have identical specifications except for dimensions and power usage. We're confident that image quality will be practically identical across the range. 

This makes a pleasant change from the more traditional downward or rear-firing speakers on other TVs, but it does mean you’ll need a very wide stand to place the TV on as the soundbar runs the full length of the set. This is quite cumbersome on the 55in model reviewed here, but it becomes even more of a problem on the larger 60in model. Surprisingly you can wall mount it if desired, with the speaker section clipping on below the screen.

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Bass receives most of the benefit from the soundbar, adding more weight to the clunking mech suits in Avatar. Treble and higher frequencies still sound quite tinny and thin, however, resulting in a soundscape that isn’t a great deal better than most built-in TV speakers. It certainly can’t compete with a good dedicated soundbar setup, but this is unsurprising given its lack of subwoofer.

Picture quality was good out of the box, with our colour calibrator measuring 91.8 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. This isn’t quite as high as LG’s slightly cheaper LB730V range, but we managed to increase this once we’d switched to Cinema mode and calibrated the TV using its Expert Control panel. By changing the white balance to 20 points, the colour temperature to Warm 2, and the blue and green settings to +2, leaving red at 0, the JL9000’s colour gamut coverage rose to a much more impressive 99.1 per cent.

Black levels were less impressive, though, as despite measuring 0.12cd/m2, night scenes in our Star Trek test footage have a distinct blue tinge, including the letterboxes surrounding the main picture. It got worse the further we moved from sitting directly in front of the TV as well, with viewing angles quickly diminishing as we moved to the side.

This is a shame, as we were hoping our measured contrast ratio of 1,342:1 would prevent the screen from darkening so quickly. We could still see a high level of detail in darker scenes, but this was marred by the shade of blue permeating through the blacks. We were able to improve this slightly by changing the JL9000’s LED Local Dimming setting to High, which made blacks appear much deeper, but this can’t help with viewing angles.

As well as basic backlight, contrast, brightness, sharpness, colour and tint settings, there are also gamma options, super resolution and dynamic contrast settings, and LG’s TruMotion frame interpolation.

TruMotion adds artificial frames to video content, making it appear smoother than the source material. There are plenty of settings to choose from, but Clear was the most balanced, avoiding the infamous ‘soap opera effect’ while still looking natural and avoiding screen-tearing. We also appreciate the inclusion of a customisable User setting, where you can set de-blur and de-judder effects to your liking. Changing each effect to 3 was the most effective, as this helped fast camera pans look more controlled and less jerky.

Switching to standard definition TV channels, we had to set both of the JL9000’s noise reduction settings to High to get a reasonable picture. TV looks overly smooth as a result, but it at least helps disguise most of the noise and jagged edges. We could still see a few patches of noise begin to creep in during sweeping camera pans, but largely static shots looked much more presentable than other TVs we’ve tested recently.

Naturally, HD channels looked much better from the outset, and we didn’t need to have the noise reduction settings on at all. Text was perhaps a fraction crisper, but even setting both options to High made little difference overall, so we left it off for the rest of our testing.

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