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- LG’s new 65-inch NanoCell 90 Series 4K TV is one of the company’s flagship LCD display models for 2020.
- The TV boasts an impressive array of features, including full-array local dimming, an IPS panel for wider off-axis viewing, and extensive digital assistant support.
- However, the TV’s brightness capabilities can’t quite match more affordable models from Vizio, TCL, and Hisense.
- Still, if you’re in the market for an LCD TV that favors wide viewing angles and smart features over HDR contrast, then the NanoCell 90 is a solid living room display.
For the last several years, LG’s OLED TVs have become synonymous with high-end picture performance, repeatedly earning a top spot on numerous “Best 4K TV” lists.
But, while the company’s OLED models have been celebrated, LG’s LCD TVs, often branded as NanoCell, haven’t received as much attention. Though decent performers, the NanoCells just haven’t been able to equal the wow factor of LG’s OLEDs or the value of LCD models from other manufacturers.
For its 2020 NanoCell 90 Series 4K TV, however, LG has actually made some solid improvements over previous models, resulting in a display that stacks up a bit better against the competition. High dynamic range (HDR) performance still lags behind a few cheaper models from other brands, but the TV’s viewing angles and smart capabilities are among the best you can find for $1,199.99.
LG’s 65-inch NanoCell 90 4K TV features an attractive but pretty standard design. It’s unlikely to win over buyers based on style alone, yet it should look just fine situated on any home entertainment console or mounted on a wall.
The panel’s profile measures about 2.8 inches thick, which is about average for an LCD TV that doesn’t use edge-lit dimming. Unlike a lot of other TV models that feature thinner profiles at the top and then get thicker toward the bottom where the inputs are housed, the NanoCell 90 remains the same general thickness from top to bottom.
Left and right feet stands are included which need to be screwed into the bottom of the screen after unboxing. A thin bezel runs around the top and sides of the panel, while a thicker border rests at the bottom.
Inputs are housed on the back left of the screen, including four side-facing HDMI (one eARC) ports. Two of these HDMI connections feature support for the HDMI 2.1 specification, enabling new features, like Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), from compatible sources.
LG’s unique Magic Remote is included with built-in Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa voice control. The remote’s somewhat large and thick design won’t appeal to all buyers, but it does feature a cool point navigation option that allows you to move the cursor by pointing the remote at the screen. Anyone who’s ever played a Nintendo Wii will be familiar with the process. You can also use the remote’s scroll wheel and click buttons to navigate if you prefer.
- 65-inch IPS LCD panel
- 4K Ultra HD 3,840 x 2,160 resolution
- 120Hz native refresh rate
- Full-array local dimming
- Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG support
- NanoCell technology with wide color gamut capabilities
- Measures 57.3 x 35.5 x 10.7 with feet stand attached
- Weighs 54 pounds with feet stand attached
- Four HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI inputs (one eARC, two HDMI 2.1)
- LG webOS platform
- Wi-Fi, Apple AirPlay 2, and Ethernet connectivity
- 2-channel 20W down-firing speakers
- Magic Remote with Google Assistant and Alexa
After unpacking the TV, you simply need to attach the feet stands, hook up your external sources, and power on the display. The setup process is simple and requires going through the usual assortment of housekeeping items, like Wi-Fi configuration, firmware updates, and various privacy and terms of service agreements.
During setup, I hooked up an Onkyo AV receiver to the TV’s HDMI Audio Return Channel (ARC). A Panasonic 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, a Nintendo Switch, an Xbox One X, and a Roku Ultra were all connected to the receiver and passed through to the display. In addition, a Fire TV Stick 4K was hooked up directly to one of the TV’s HDMI ports. After getting everything plugged in, all of my components passed through to the TV with no issues, enabling full 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos support when available.
For those who’d like to adjust the picture further, the NanoCell 90 offers plenty of presets and options, including a handy Filmmaker Mode setting. Endorsed by the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), the Filmmaker Mode preset automatically deactivates unnecessary picture adjustments and processing, like motion smoothing and artificial sharpening, offering viewers a simple way to watch movies and shows closer to how the directors originally intended.
With that in mind, I recommend using Filmmaker Mode to get the most accurate Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) and High Dynamic Range (HDR) out-of-box picture. I also recommend using the High local dimming setting to get the best contrast. That being said, Filmmaker Mode is not available when watching Dolby Vision videos on streaming services or Ultra HD Blu-ray. For the most accurate Dolby Vision image, I recommend using the Cinema setting with local dimming set to High.
LG’s NanoCell 90 is a solid performer overall, but the display has some key strengths and weaknesses compared to other competing flagship and midrange LCD TVs on the market.
IPS viewing angles
Unlike a lot of LCD TVs from the competition, the NanoCell 90 uses an In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel instead of a Vertical Alignment (VA) panel. So, what’s the difference between the two? Long story short, IPS panels are known for superior viewing angles, allowing images to look good even if you’re sitting off to the side, while VA panels are known for better contrast and black levels.
In practice, the IPS screen’s viewing angles don’t disappoint. Off-axis colors and contrast tend to fade and distort a lot on LCD TVs from other brands, but the LG NanoCell 90 maintains its picture performance very well, even if you’re sitting off to the side. This is great if your couch can’t be set up directly in front of the TV or if you tend to have viewing parties with guests seated all around the room. Local dimming does become more noticeable when off-center but, in general, viewing angles are a key benefit of this model.
General screen uniformity is also strong. Some faint irregularities are visible across the panel from time to time, but distracting vertical lines and instances of dirty screen effect are less intrusive than I’ve seen on some TVs from Vizio and Hisense.
Despite the IPS screen, contrast is surprisingly decent. This is in part because the NanoCell 90 includes full-array local dimming. Local dimming is a beneficial feature found on several midrange and high-end LCD TVs, allowing the screen to dim and brighten in specific sections.
That being said, the NanoCell 90 doesn’t use as many dimming zones as most TVs in this price range. Though LG doesn’t disclose an official number, the display features approximately 32 zones. For comparison’s sake, Hisense’s 65-inch H9G ($999) features 132 zones, TCL’s 6-Series ($899) has 160 zones, and Vizio’s P-Series Quantum ($1,199) features 200 zones. There are other factors that contribute to local dimming performance but, overall, the more zones the better.
The NanoCell 90 uses its relatively limited number of zones to achieve decent black level and brightness performance. In fact, standard dynamic range (SDR) content essentially looks flawless with no major dimming artifacts. This is pretty much par for the course when it comes to flagship 4K sets, however, and the real test comes down to how good high dynamic range (HDR) content looks.
For testing purposes, I watched several 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and HDR streaming titles from services like Netflix and Disney Plus. Overall, HDR movies and shows look good, making strong use of the TV’s wide color gamut and dimming.
Unlike a lot of other flagship LCDs that use quantum dots for expanded color, the NanoCell 90 actually utilizes a slightly different process that integrates a nanoparticle filter on the panel. The end result provides a similar range of colors. When judging the TV’s HDR performance as a whole, however, there are some issues worth pointing out.
First and foremost, the NanoCell 90 can’t get as bright as some other 4K HDR TVs in the $800 to $1,200 range. Peak brightness hovers around the 500 nit mark, which is quite a bit under the 1,000 nit benchmark that a lot of HDR videos are graded for. The similarly-priced Vizio P-Series Quantum and the less-expensive Hisense H9G are both capable of exceeding 1,000 nits.
What does this actually mean when watching HDR content on the TV? Basically, the bright highlights don’t pop quite as much as they do on some competing models in this class. If this TV was placed side by side with one of the Vizio or Hisense models mentioned above, the brightest highlights in HDR videos would likely appear less intense and dimensional on the NanoCell 90.
It is a bit disappointing to see such average peak brightness numbers on a 65-inch LCD in this price range, but the TV’s image quality does still benefit from its support for HDR. In fact, judged on its own, I rarely feel like I was missing all that much when watching HDR10 videos on the TV.
Black levels are also solid but the NanoCell 90 rarely provides the inky quality that better LCDs are capable of. Bars above and below the picture in widescreen movies, for instance, tend to remain a dark gray rather than true black.
Dimming artifacts, like blooming and vignetting, are also visible and occasionally distracting in darker HDR scenes. This causes bright objects to create a flashlight effect around darker backgrounds. Artifacts like this are common on local dimming TVs but appear a bit worse here than on competing models I’ve tested. Blooming is less distracting on the NanoCell 90 than it has been on previous LG TVs, however, so the company has made some improvements in this regard.
It’s also worth noting that I encountered some odd discrepancies when viewing Dolby Vision content through different sources. When watching various Dolby Vision titles using the Cinema setting through the TV’s built-in apps, like Netflix, the picture appears unusually dim, often lacking the punch in highlights that one would expect from HDR content. On the plus side, local dimming artifacts are very minimal as a result.
When watching the same Dolby Vision titles using a Fire TV Stick 4K or Xbox One X connected to one of the TV’s HDMI ports, however, highlights look brighter and more intense. At the same time, blooming from the local dimming is a lot more noticeable. This is also the case when watching the same streaming titles in HDR10 through a Roku Ultra connected to the TV.
I reached out to LG to see if there was a reason why this discrepancy was occurring. After looking into the matter, LG explains, “The image quality processing of Dolby Vision content is the same on either internal app or HDMI input and has been verified during the Dolby Certification process. However, there might be additional enhancements from individual device manufacturers that could make the color and brightness appear different depending on the devices.”
All things considered, I ultimately prefer to watch Dolby Vision content using my Fire TV Stick 4K since it seems to take better advantage of the TV’s brightness capabilities and match the TV’s HDR10 performance better.
The NanoCell 90 makes use of LG’s webOS smart TV platform, offering a fast and responsive system with a nice assortment of apps and lifestyle features. The included Magic Remote provides built-in support for Google Assistant or Alexa, allowing buyers to choose which voice assistant they want to use. In practice, the digital assistant functionality and voice recognition work well, allowing you to easily search for content, launch apps, and find answers to various questions.
Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Apple TV Plus, Peacock, and virtually any other major streaming app you’d want are also included. HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos support are also supported when available. Unfortunately, there is one notable app omission that could be an issue for some customers: HBO Max is nowhere to be found. This service is also currently missing from Roku and Fire TV devices, so its exclusion here is especially disappointing.
Thankfully, general navigation is snappy and I haven’t encountered any major issues with lag or crashes. Unlike some other streaming platforms, like Android TV and the Roku OS, LG’s webOS forgoes a typical fullscreen app homepage. Instead, pressing the home button on the remote pulls up a horizontal pop-up menu on the bottom of the screen with access to apps. Generally, this approach works just fine, and allows you to transition from one app to another without having to go back to a homepage.
LG also includes access to LG Channels, which features a large assortment of free internet TV stations that can be integrated alongside over-the-air networks if you have an antenna. LG’s free channel selection is powered by Xumo and includes stations like Cheddar News, American Classics, The Broadway Channel, and more. Free integrated channel lineups like this have become common on many smart TV platforms, but while a nice inclusion, they really don’t serve as much of a substitute for cable or a full-fledged live TV service. In other words, I’ve rarely found myself ever channel surfing this selection.
LG’s new NanoCell 90 TV offers solid overall performance, especially when it comes to smart features and viewing angles. On the downside, the display’s brightness and contrast capabilities aren’t on par with some cheaper TVs from brands like Vizio, TCL, and Hisense.
Should you buy it?
At $1,199.99, the 65-inch NanoCell 90 is a decent buy for customers who want an LCD TV with wide viewing angles and comprehensive digital assistant support for their living room. Buyers who place more importance on high-end HDR performance, however, can find less expensive TVs that are better for that purpose.
If you’d like a larger screen, the NanoCell 90 also comes in 75-inch ($1,999.99) and 86-inch models ($2,799.99). A 55-inch version ($949.99) is also available. Please be aware, however, that brightness and dimming performance will likely vary depending on the size of the TV.
What are your alternatives?
There are several worthy 65-inch alternatives to the NanoCell 90 in the $800 to $1,200 price range. The Hisense H9G ($999.99), TCL 6 Series ($899.99), and Vizio P-Series Quantum ($1,199.99), all feature brighter HDR capabilities and more local dimming zones, which should translate to a punchier image with deeper black levels. The Hisense and Vizio also add HDR10+ support, which is missing from the LG NanoCell 90.
On the downside, those competing models have worse viewing angles, are typically prone to more uniformity issues, and feature fewer built-in digital assistant options. The Hisense has a Google Assistant remote but lacks an integrated Alexa option. Meanwhile, the TCL uses Roku’s voice search, and the Vizio lacks a voice remote entirely.
Pros: IPS screen with wide viewing angles, Magic Remote with integrated Google Assistant or Alexa, responsive smart TV platform, HDMI 2.1 ports
Cons: Noticeable blooming in dark scenes when watching HDR content, peak brightness isn’t as high as competing TVs, inconsistencies with Dolby Vision playback (possibly an external source or DV issue rather than the TV itself)
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