A Review of the B9, LG’s Most Affordable 4K HDR OLED TV (OLED55B9) (OLED65B9)
Stephan Jukic – October 7, 2019
For its price, the LG OLED B9 is an outstanding OLED 4K HDR TV. You could even argue that it’s one of the best of the year; being excellent by any measure, and thus delivering a superb value per dollar spent compared to any other OLED 4K HDR TV released in 2019. The main reason we make this claim is that this particular 2019 OLED delivers nearly identical (and in some ways slightly better) specs than several other OLED models of 2018 and 2019 while being the cheapest of the bunch of them by far. The same was the case in 2017 and 2018 with the B7 and B8 predecessors to the B9 but in the case of this year’s edition, the closest alternatives come with weaknesses that make the B9 all the more attractive as a cheaper OLED 4K HDR option. Overall, in terms of picture quality, motion handling, connectivity and general performance, the LG OLED B9 performs extremely well.
• Outstanding color delivery
• Excellent motion handling
• Superb OLED black levels, contrast and dimming precision
• Nearly perfect viewing angles
• Excellent content upscaling for all resolutions
• Wonderfully priced compared to all other 2019 OLEDs
• Could have delivered better HDR brightness
• Burn-in possibility for OLED display (See below in “What we Don’t Like” section for details)
• Mediocre audio
The LG B9 is maybe our favorite OLED 4K HDR TV of 2019 and we can’t recommend it enough. If you want a latest-model OLED 4K ultra HD TV for this year, then this IS the edition to go for, and we say that after reviewing alternative OLED TVs from both LG and Sony. Last year in 2018, we said the same for the LG C8 instead of the B8 but with the B9 you get even more quality compared to its more expensive cousins and this gives it a serious competitive edge on value for the money it costs.
What We Liked about the B9
There is so much to like about the LG B9 and especially because this 4K UHD TV comes cheaper than most of the alternative OLED models available this year. In other words, while the B9 mostly delivers the same great specs and features as its rival the A8G from Sony or is 2019 LG cousin the C9, it offers all of those things at a much better price that makes it more valuable for the money you spend on it. In addition to this, the B9 actually does manage to even do a couple things better than some of the pricier TVs, and that’s a major bonus. Let’s get down to details.
The color rendering capability of the LG B9 is nothing short of superb. This TV not only delivers some of the best wide color gamut delivery of any of the 4K TVs of 2019 (and especially among the OLED 4K models), it also handles color really well in general. We noted that its color settings were really weak right out of the box but this was only a calibration issue, and after a bit of adjustment in the picture settings menus, the B9 really shines, for HDR content in particular but also for content of any kind from any decently mastered source. Additionally, the presence of such perfect, deep OLED black levels and precision contrast only adds to the perception of rich, vibrant color delivery in a way that very few LCD HDR TVs can quite match.
In the B9 OLED the issue of display brightness is just a little bit complicated. On the one hand, we had a problem with it not being quite as strong as we’d seen in older 2018 and even 2017 4K HDR OLED TVs, but on the other hand, this TV gives stiff competition to all the other OLEDs we’ve seen among the 2019 editions, and is almost as good at delivering bright highlights as its more expensive C9 cousin. The B9 does a particularly great job of handling regular content (non-HDR video sources) and the peak/sustained brightness levels we noted with ordinary TV watching are great in this edition.
OLED Dimming, contrast & black rendering
One of the single strongest aspects of OLED display technology, and definitely its most innovative characteristic, is the quality of all three of the above specs in the subtitle. Unlike LCD TVs, which have backlight LED arrays behind an LCD screen whose pixels seal out light or let it through as needed, OLED screens create light inside each individual pixel with their tiny organic light emitting diodes. These diodes can be lit up or completely turned off selectively (even on a single pixel basis) with electrical current.
The result of all this is a capacity to totally dim part of the screen to perfect black, thus also creating infinite contrast if needed. Additionally, this technology also means that local dimming of dark scenes can be done to single-pixel precision. LCD TVs are capable of none of these things and even though some of the better LCD 4K HDR TVs on the market have LED local dimming in which parts of their LED backlight array can shut off to enhance contrast in content scenery, the precision of the effect is nowhere near as perfect as that of OLED.
The B9 OLED TV delivers on all of the above as well as any (even the most expensive) 2019 OLED TV can, so in terms of the above key contrast, black level and dimming specs for picture performance, it’s basically perfect.
Another thing that an OLED TVs deliver amazingly well is motion handling. They’re especially good at reducing motion blur because the response time of their pixels and subpixels at changing colors or brightness as content needs to move across the screen is extremely fast. This is the case for the same reason as the one we mentioned above for black levels: the light source itself is right inside each pixel and so are the color RGBW color filters it needs to display colors. The result is an extremely smooth image quality even for extremely fast-paced action sequences with lots of movement and color changes.
Additionally, the native 120Hz display of the LG B9 OLED lets it interpolate motion beautifully even if content is being played back at much lower frame rates (as virtually all content and especially 4K video sources will). Its motion interpolation technologies and Black Frame Insertion features are great at handling this. The bottom line: you’ll get great onscreen motion smoothness for nearly any video source you throw at this TV, and the B9 OLED is especially excellent for live sportscasts and action movies.
overall HDR delivery
The OLED B9’s combination of superb color rendering (especially of the WCG color space), fantastically perfect OLED black levels and some very respectable peak brightness levels all combine together to make this one really strong HDR TV by any measure. If you want to really see movies formatted in any of the three main HDR formats (HDR10, Dolby Vision and the less common HLG) all shine spectacularly at their best, the B9 delivers something very close to an ideal visual experience. What’s more, this TV’s HDR specs also seem to help boost the quality on non-HDR content since its general color accuracy, strong contrast ratios and high brightness work exceptionally well on playback of most ordinary movies, games or TV shows.
In basic terms, the LG B9 is a superbly good HDR TV even by the standards of today’s best premium 4K televisions.
Upscaling of non-4K HDR content
In a final and very useful visual touch, the B9 delivers the expected level of excellent upscaling quality for content that isn’t natively 4K ultra HD. This has become pretty par for the course in most newer-model 4K UHD TVs but it’s still worth mentioning as a very useful feature for those of you who might be wondering why you need a 4K TV when most content is still delivered in lower resolutions. Well, for one thing, there will only be more 4K content coming out as the years go by, and it’s worth appreciating. Secondly, the upscaling of the LG B9, in terms of both perceived video sharpness and overall color/contrast/brightness vibrancy does really make a visible difference for your typical DVD, HD Blu-ray or even run-of-the-mill broadcast content. Go ahead, watch you’re a DVD edition of a favorite Hollywood blockbuster with no HDR or 4K resolution on the B9 and your older HD TV side by side, see if you don’t notice the difference in visual quality.
Smart TV Platform & Functionality
Finally, like all of LG’s 4K TVs of all types and prices for 2019, the B9 comes equipped with the latest version of the LG WebOS smart platform (version 4.6 in this year’s models), and we love WebOS. It has always been one of our top picks for native smart TV platforms (as opposed to those running from attachable streaming media sticks) and for the latest version, overall usability is better than ever. The smart platform comes with access to thousands of major media apps, great user-friendliness and also features voice control capability through the also excellent LG smart remote that comes with this TV.
What We Didn’t Like
Seeing as how no 4K TV we’ve yet reviewed is perfect, even the otherwise superb B9 comes with a few flaws. Most of these are very minor in real terms and will barely affect the quality of your experience with this OLED, and some of the weaknesses below are general to all OLED TVs, not just this one.
Display brightness problems
Further above in our section on the LG B9 OLED TV’s best aspects, we mentioned that we liked its high brightness compared to some other 2019 OLED TVs, so it might seem odd that we also mention this TV’s brightness here in our rundown of what we DON’T like about it. Well ,not so much. The thing is that while the LG B9 is indeed pretty damn bright and does a great job compared to most of the competing OLED TV options of 2019, it still doesn’t get as luminous as we’ve seen OLED TVs go in previous years. This applies especially to the B9’s display brightness when it’s set to render HDR content. This is why we mention the B9 again: It’s a reasonably bright 4K TV compared to the average (especially when used for viewing ordinary TV content) and it’s actually brighter than many HDR OLED TVs if used for displaying any kind of content both HDR or SDR, considering its price. But, the B9 could have done better in absolute terms. In 2018’s B8 and 2017’s B7, we saw peak luminosity hit over 800 nits, and the B9, an arguably more advanced television, can’t even reach 700 nits. That’s too bad even if it’s not a huge problem.
The burn-in problem of OLED
The possibility of “burn-in” is a potential problem that all OLED TVs risk falling victim to, so it’s not a criticism of just the B9. Basically, with OLED, graphic elements from content that display statically for a long time can create a ghostly outline of themselves on the screen even when other content is being played back later. This is what we mean by burn-in and it’s especially likely if the TV is left on for hours a day, every day, playing back the same visuals in the same position, like you’d see with news or sportscast scrolling feeds, for example. Most home users of the B9 or any OLED TV won’t deal with burn-in for years or possibly ever in the ownership lifetime use of their TV but it’s worth mentioning as a risk.
LG included a “Screen Shift” pixel shift setting in their TV menu options which will shift an entire image to one side by a couple pixels and then in another direction very gradually. The movement is nearly invisible but it reduces the risk of burn-in. There’s also a pixel refresh setting that puts all of the TVs pixels through a prolonged refresh cycle to clean them against burn-in. This process takes a good hour to run but it only needs to be done once a year so it’s a minor tradeoff. Even if you don’t use any of these special settings, burn-in might never appear on your OLED unless you’re running it non-stop.
Mostly mediocre audio
Like most 4K TVs of any kind, the LG B9 delivers what we would only call modestly good native audio from its internal speakers. It can get loud enough for most casual TV viewing and is fine for lots of uses but if you want some serious volume and bass kick from your favorite movies flowing through your living room, we’d definitely suggest an external sound bar or speaker system array. It’s not a deal breaker and in any case, almost all 4K TVs have this problem.
Value for Price & Bottom Line
The bottom line for the LG B9 is that we seriously recommend it by almost any measure, and especially if what you want is an OLED TV. This is our top pick so far for the best value, price and quality among this year’s OLED 4K ultra HD HDR TVs and it won’t disappoint. The B9 delivers almost identically great specs compared to any other 2019 OLED TV we’ve reviewed but is by far the cheapest of them all and that’s awesome. The few flaws that the B9 OLED has are minor and easily outweighed by its good qualities.
Key LG B9 OLED Specs
• Screen sizes: 55 inch OLED55B9, 65 inch OLED65B9,
• Smart TV: WebOS 4.5 smart TV Edition
• HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
• VP9 Included. Yes
• HD to UHD to 4K upscaling: Yes
• HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
• HDR Support: Yes, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log Gamma
• Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate
• Screen Lighting: OLED TV display
• Resolution: 3840 × 2160 pixels 4K UHD
• Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
• Remotes: LG smart remote with voice control
• Connectivity: 4 HDMI ports (all of them 2.0a and with HDCP 2.2, All with HDMI 2.1 enhancement), 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Digital Audio Out. See more on connectivity details further below in review.
• Contrast Ratio: OLED, infinite (native, real contrast)
• Absolute Maximum Peak Brightness: 640 nits (cd/m2)
• 3D Technology: N/A
• Processor: a9 Processor
Display Performance Metrics
In the following sections, we’re going to go into detail about just how well or poorly the LG B9 delivers on the display metrics that are genuinely important for good performance during playback of any content and games. The details and technical measurements in the sections and subsections that follow cut through all the noise, marketing lingo (usually from manufacturers) technical abstractions and other confusing information to tell you in easy to understand terms how well and why this TV does at delivering the key specs you actually need for a great picture.
The following sections focus on what really matters for a TV in terms of quality and measurable performance. In order to do this, they go into the essentials of TV black levels, contrast, dimming capacity, brightness, color delivery, motion handling and input capabilities. We also do an overview of inputs under the main connectivity section below but first we’ll go into visual specs and then elaborate on how the B9 OLED 4K HDR TV’s inputs do with rendering of motion for movie, console, and PC gaming content.
The following metrics and specs are pretty specific, so we note that they might be slightly different between different units. That said, they reflect pretty accurately on general performance in the B9, and especially because it’s an OLED TV. In LCD TVs, some metrics of picture quality can also vary between different screen sizes. However, for the B9 there are only two sizes and in any case, this isn’t quite as much the case with OLED TVs as it can be with LCD since the extremely precise nature of OLED technology eliminates the variability of luminance and black levels that LCD displays show between different sizes and units of the same TV. Because the B9 is an OLED TV, our review of one unit and display size is a pretty excellent indicator of the B9 ’s general quality.
Black Level, uniformity, Local Dimming and Contrast:
The strongest aspects of OLED TV performance are its specs for black level, uniformity, local dimming and contrast. In these things, OLEDs are basically perfect. This isn’t just hype; it’s a basic fact of the technology. Why? Because with OLED TV displays, each individual pixel of the 8.3 million on the screen can have its own internal light activated or deactivated individually or in groups as needed. And because the organic light emitting diode light source is literally integrated with the onscreen pixels, local dimming works on a pixel-precise level.
And because totally dimmed pixels neither emit nor bleed light through neighboring pixels, contrast and black levels can be nearly perfect and close to infinite. Another outcome of this is perfect black uniformity in OLED TVs: In effect, because OLED edition like the B9 totally shuts off light inside each pixel that needs to be dark depending on content needs, the TV screen suffers from pretty much no backlight glow during dark scenes and presents no halo effect at all around lit objects against a dark background on the TV.
In other words, on the above specs, OLED TVs like the LG B9 totally outclass the hell out of most LCD TVs. To further understand why, a bit of explanation on how LCD is different: Unlike OLEDs, LCD TVs create luminosity through a backlight system of dozens to hundreds of arrayed LEDs that are behind the LCD screen and its pixels, and create dark/bright areas by a combination of the LEDs being turned off in sections and the display pixels blocking out backlight selectively as needed.
Using the above system, the best LCD TVs come with full-array LED backlighting and multi-zone local dimming, meaning that they have hundreds of LEDs covering the entire back of their screen and dozens or hundreds of local dimming zones in which some of these LEDs shut off selectively for better black levels, but even in these models, some light always bleeds through along the edges between bright and dark content. Furthermore, even hundreds of LEDs and hundreds of dimming zones are nowhere near as precise as millions of individual pixels in an OLED display doing the same thing. This is what most makes this newer technology so spectacular in certain ways.
There are of course absolutely excellent LCD TVs out there, from brands like Samsung, Sony or others, with their backlight local dimming and black levels working so well that they really impress, but if you take any of them and put them next to an OLED TV showing the same content, the superiority of OLED is difficult to miss.
For our section on brightness we first need to explain a couple things about how we’re measuring it for the LG B9 or any of the 4K TVs we review: The main metrics to consider are absolute maximum peak brightness and sustained brightness in nits (cd/m2) across different-sized areas of the screen (from 2% to 100%). We then also measure how much average brightness the LG B9 outputs during regular content viewing. These measurements are given for the TV when it’s set to view SDR (normal TV, streaming, disc and broadcast) content and high dynamic range (HDR) content of the kind that’s now more available for today’s increasingly common HDR TVs like this model.
What’s our overall conclusion about the brightness output of the LG OLED B9 HDR TV? Well, it performs really well on the whole even though it has a couple weaknesses. Compared to most other 2019 OLED TVs, the B9 is great, and not only holds its own really well against much more expensive rivals like Sony’s A8G and A9G, it also outperforms them on SDR (regular content) brightness rendering. What’s more compared to the somewhat more expensive C9 from the same LG brand, the B9 is the better TV at displaying high luminosity. Go figure.
On the other hand, it’s when we compare the maximum luminosity of this model with older 2017 and 2018 OLEDs that we see a notably weaker performance, especially at rendering HDR content. This is a bit of a disappointment because both LG and Sony were really heading down a line towards breaking the 1000 nit mark on their HDR OLEDs. Now they seem to have lost some of their traction in the 2019 releases.
All things considered though, we repeat that the B9 is one very reasonably bright 4K TV. On absolute maximum peak brightness in HDR mode, this OLED edition performs decently enough at over 640 nits and when it’s being used in normal SDR content mode, maximum display brightness is downright excellent by OLED standards at just over 420 nits. On the other hand, the overall display brightness of the B9 is only moderately good in HDR mode. In other words, this particular OLED HDR TV is decent at brightness while hitting a couple very strong highlights of luminosity when used for regular content.
In comparison, LG’s C9 2019 OLED 4K HDR TV delivers notably weaker peak luminosity than the B9 and even on average SDR and HDR brightness is a fair bit weaker. What’s really surprising about this is that you’d expect the pricier LG OLED TV to perform slightly better at least.
Below are the B9’s specific measured specs across different settings:
LG B9 OLED SDR Brightness
- Overall SDR peak brightness for normal content: 331 nits
- Peak 2% display area display SDR brightness: 413 nits
- Peak 10% display area SDR brightness: 422 nits
- Peak 100% display area SDR brightness: 199 nits
- Sustained 10% SDR brightness: 367 nits
- Sustained 100% SDR brightness: 198 nits
LG B9 OLED TV HDR Brightness
- Overall HDR peak brightness for normal content: 532 nits
- Peak 2% display area display HDR brightness: 641 nits
- Peak 10% display area HDR brightness: 615 nits
- Peak 100% display area HDR brightness: 142 nits
- Sustained 10% HDR brightness: 569 nits
- Sustained 100% HDR brightness: 138 nits
The LG B90s color delivery specs are all pretty much uniformly good or downright excellent. This applies especially to its rendering of HDR color in the form of Wide Color Gamut coverage, but the TV’s 10-bit color gradation rendering is also wonderful. In other words, this 4K TV is stunningly vibrant at how it outputs its primary color combinations while also delivering strong color accuracy. Color volume is weak in the B9 under really bright display output but this was the only major flaw we noted as far as color performance goes. The B9 can handle both HDR and SDR color delivery exceptionally well and we suspect that this LG TV’s color rendering for ordinary non-HDR movies and programming is also improved by the B9 ’s superbly good color delivery technology for HDR content. In other words, it not only upscales resolution but also picture quality through its HDR capabilities.
Moving on to the key metrics of the B9 ’s color performance, this LG OLED renders very good Wide Color Gamut (WCG) at 97.5% of the color space, which is downright great. More negatively though, where this TV also ends up being a bit weak is on playback of very bright content. In this case, the B9’s color saturation is mediocre because the white subpixels that are responsible for brightness tend to de-saturate the vibrant pure colors that should stand out even under conditions of high luminosity in onscreen content. Sony’s A9G OLED and LG’s C9 both do a much better job on this last spec.
As for color accuracy, these are specs that we measure by the key specs of white balance delta E, color delta E and Gamma. In the B9, they are really damn crappy right out of the box but quickly become incredibly excellent after some moderate adjustment in the TV’s picture control menus.
Pre calibration settings and post calibration settings for these key color accuracy settings are as follows:
LG B9 Pre-calibration color settings
- White balance delta E: 5.3
- Color delta E: 4.2
- Gamma: 2.3
LG B9 post-calibration color settings
- White balance delta E: 0.15
- Color delta E: 1.28
- Gamma: 2.19
Motion Handling & Upscaling:
All OLED TVs tend to deliver really good motion control settings and especially fine motion blur moderation. This is because of how OLED display technology crams so much visual adjustment mechanisms right into the pixels themselves. The B9 is no exception here and this makes it an incredibly good 4K TV for any fast-paced content or high-intensity games you can throw at it.
On the other hand, the extremely strong motion blur response time of the B9 can also create stutter in certain types of lower frame rate content. However, in order to counter this, the B9 offers up some excellent motion interpolation settings such as black frame insertion and TruMotion for smoothing out low frame-rate content on its native 120Hz display. The overall result is that content played back at assorted different frame rates is delivered very little blur, flicker or distortion.
In more specific terms, the B9 delivers a superbly good, nearly instant pixel response time of just 0.2 milliseconds. This is a measurement of how quickly a TVs pixels change color or brightness in response to content changes. Furthermore, the B9 offers up nearly perfect judder control for extremely clean playback of 24p movie content being supported from any source at all, be it streaming media, HDMI-connected media device or even broadcast and cable TV. Combine this with the B9 OLED’s motion interpolation capabilities and you get a fantastic television for handling your favorite sportscasts, movies, streaming TV shows and nearly anything else.
On the other hand, the LG B9 lacks some of the very useful gaming/movie playback technologies that premium ultra HD TVs from rivals like Samsung come with. So in other words, in the B9, there’s no AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-SYNC for your favorite PC games. What this TV does have though is the new HDMI VRR variable refresh rate technology that’s for now only available for the Xbox One. It works similarly to AMD FreeSync and should spread to other gaming consoles sooner or later.
Input Performance for Gaming and PC:
Overall, aside from a couple missing variable refresh rate technologies, the LG B9 delivers truly outstanding input lag performance when connected to external consoles like the Xbox One editions or the PlayStation 4 and its Pro version. We’ve seen better input lag specs from very few other 4K HDR TVs at any price range and even any OLED TVs from last year aren’t as great as the B9. More importantly, if you want a 2019 OLED TV that’s particularly good for gaming, the B9 completely outclasses Sony’s OLEDs on console and PC connectivity. In essence, for gaming connectivity through consoles, regardless of resolution, HDR, color settings or other settings, this TV really kicks ass, as the specs below demonstrate.
Here are some of the key specific specs for its gaming performance in different console setups:
- 4k @ 60Hz: 13.8 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz: 13.1 ms
- 1080p @ 120Hz: 7.3 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz outside Game Mode: 42 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz + 10 bit HDR: 16.7 ms
- 1440p @ 60Hz: 13.6 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode : 43.2 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: 13.5 ms
- 4K @ 120Hz: N/A
- 1440p @ 120Hz: 7.9 ms
- 1080p with FreeSync: N/A
- 4K with interpolation activated: 90.7 ms
The LG B9 offers broad and excellent support for different resolutions, frame rates and color settings when connected to a PC rig as well. The following specs show this clearly:
- 1080p @ 120Hz: Yes
- 1080p @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: Yes
- 4k @ 60Hz + 4:4:4: Yes
- 1440p @ 60Hz: Yes
- 4k @ 120Hz : No
- 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: Yes
- 1440p @ 120Hz: Yes
As of late 2018 and now in 2019, Samsung, LG, Vizio and others have started to adopt the new HDMI 2.1 connectivity standard for their TV ports. This is useful for transmission of 4K content at more than 60Hz and for a few other useful things, but HDMI 2.1 also doesn’t make a huge difference quite yet because no commercial content sources need it to deliver movies and games so far. That said, for when HDMI 2.1 starts being relevant, the LG B9 OLED is ready for it, with all four of its ports supporting the new HDMI format. This TV also delivers perfectly modern connectivity in the form of HDMI 2.0, USB and other key connections. It’s perfectly good enough for just about any content or device you want to hook up to it.
The following are the LG B9 ’s ports and their specifications:
- HDMI : 4 (HDCP 2.2 & full HDMI 2.1 capacity)
- HDMI 2.1 : all ports, 1 to 4
- USB : 3 (USB 2.0 x 3)
- Digital Optical Audio Out : 1
- Analog Audio Out 3.5 mm : 1
- Tuner (Cable/Ant) : 1
- Ethernet : 1
- HDR10 support: Yes
- HDR10+ support: No
- Dolby Vision HDR support: Yes
- Hybrid Log Gamma HDR support: Yes
- Dolby Vision HDR: Yes
The LG B9 TV models also offer audio connectivity in the following types.
- 1 Passthrough eARC Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough ARC
- 1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough eARC support
- 1 Passthrough DTS:X via DTS-HD MA via eARC
- 1 Passthrough 5.1 Dolby Digital via Optical
LG has released the B9 4K ultra HD HDR LCD Smart TV models in two different sizes. Thus, you have the choice of a 55 inch or 65 inch model. All models are basically identical in their specs and performance and between them only very minor screen performance variations such as those we described in our visual specs intro section above might be the case.
The two sizes of LG B9 4K ultra HD TV all sell for the following prices, found in the link below at the time of this writing. Bear in mind that these are subject to sometimes frequent downward change and it’s a good idea to click the following Amazon links for real-time pricing and all available discounts on this model.