LG’s 65NANO97 65-inch ”Real 8K” TV is fantastic. I spent over six weeks with it toward the end of 2020, and I am in love because it’s the nicest TV I’ve had the pleasure of watching TV shows, movies and playing games on.
I first fell in love with it because it’s absolutely huge – 65 inches of viewable screen area is massive, almost too much for my lounge – and watching movies and TV shows on it turned out to be truly superb. When people say size doesn’t matter, they haven’t watched anything on a large screen like this – it is a truly joyful experience. It was for me, anyway.
But the appeal extended well beyond its nice size, because this TV made every piece of media I watched on it look gorgeous thanks to LG’s under-the-hood magic. Their tricks include an AI engine that works to keep content looking amazing, 4K upscaling, low-latency technology that eliminates input lag when gaming, and of course, LG’s proprietary NanoCell panel technology that makes colours pop and improves viewing angles, and more. That it’s an 8K panel doesn’t hurt, either.
In short, this is a feature-packed TV that lovers of all kinds of modern media will love. If they can afford it, that is.
With these tricks all working together to make sure the on-screen image is always at its best, even DStv’s ancient 1080i signal looked good. Netflix shows and movies were even clearer at 1080p, and 4K content on both YouTube and Netflix was almost unbelievably sharp.
This, paired with LG’s “TruMotion 200” – refresh technology which smooths transitions between frames for smooth on-screen motion – improved the perceived frame rate of all content I watched, appearing so much smoother and clearer than I was used to seeing on my regular old 1080p TV.
Sounds like a dream
LG also sent over their SN11R Sound Bar to use during the review period. This long, flat, up-firing speaker came with two wireless rear speakers and a subwoofer. Setting everything up was thankfully quite easy – I simply plugged and played.
The sound bar has touch controls, but it was far easier to use the LG Wi-Fi app to control volume and set sound modes. With Surround Sound active and the two wireless speakers set up behind my sofa, the TV’s Dolby Atmos capabilities kicked into overdrive and shot sound at me from all directions. It was amazing, immersing me in my entertainment more than I’ve ever been immersed.
What I really appreciated was that even without a sound bar, surround sound can be achieved by connecting two Bluetooth speakers and using them as your rear speakers. I thought that was a really nice touch.
Because I live in a complex, I had to consider my neighbours during testing, so kept the sound bar at reasonable levels most of the time. The bass thumped pleasantly, all dialogue was clear, but I had to keep my phone handy because action movies got a little too loud quite often, even with the DRC feature enabled that claims to “…run with Dolby Digital sound source to reduce big sound and enlarge small sound”. That was a little disappointing.
On the other hand, movie aficionados who like their entertainment loud but clear will find a lot to like here.
What is NanoCell?
The “NanoCell” part of the name means that this TV uses a proprietary LG technology that’s used to improve image quality by filtering out “impure” colours with what LG calls “nanoparticles”. This makes colours bright (if a small bit oversaturated) and darks nice and dark. This brightness of colour is especially noticeable when watching sport on DStv; golf greens, rugby pitches, and cricket grounds in particular are very green on Standard Mode.
Fortunately, there are several viewing modes to choose from (Vivid, Standard, Eco, Football, Game, Filmmaker and Expert) that tweak colours and brightness levels. I found Game to provide the most appealing overall image, while Football seemed to push saturation levels to the max. Some tweaking may be required to get the image to your own exacting standards, of course.
LG developed NanoCell technology as a cheaper alternative to OLED, which is very expensive to manufacture. OLED is the superior technology because it doesn’t use a backlight, instead illuminating each pixel individually which produces incredible colours and very deep blacks. NanoCell panels, on the other hand, cost less to make and the image quality and viewing angles are still great, if not quite as good as OLED.
I was most impressed by this TV while gaming on my Xbox One X, thanks to one particular feature: Instant Game Response, also known as Automatic Low Latency Mode. This made every game I played run so much more smoothly than they did when my Xbox One X was connected to my regular gaming TV. It was like my Xbox had been upgraded!
Assassins’ Creed: Valhalla stood out as feeling the most smooth and responsive on the 65NANO97, but of course everything else I played (Control, Gears of War 5, Call of Duty: WWII) felt great as well. Smoother than on my 1080p TV, anyway.
Hooking my PC up to the TV was also amazing, as I could exceed the 60fps refresh rate limitation of my regular monitor. LG’s TV has a real refresh rate of 100Hz, allowing me to get the benefit of smoother performance in high-speed games like Counterstrike GO, Overwatch, and Apex Legends.
As a gamer, I was very happy playing on LG’s 65NANO97. And if you’re lucky enough to have procured yourself a GeForce RTX3090, this is a great option if you want to play your PC games at 8K native.
A victim of its own success
One small criticism: while overall the TV’s image is excellent, it is almost too good, adding an element of “unreality” to some of the movies and TV series I watched, most notably on Netflix. With such smooth and clear imagery flaws and sloppy filmmaking techniques became more evident, revealing more of Hollywood’s fakery than is normally on show. Watching The Christmas Chronicles over the holiday break brought this home for me, as the special effects were more obviously computer-generated on the 65NANO97.
While putting out an image that’s too sharp and smooth for modern content is certainly something that can be forgiven, I found it distracting at times, preventing me from the necessary “suspension of disbelief” that’s needed to appreciate some movies and series fully. Especially the more fantastical kind of which I am fond.
Fortunately, this means the TV is nicely future-proof since content creators will catch up some day, and when they do, the 65NANO97 will be ready for it.
LG’s WebOS, which the company has been working on for years now, is a brilliant interface through which to access the TV’s settings and features thanks to an intuitive layout and clear explanations as to what each function does. Paired with their beautifully responsive “Magic Remote” which controls the on-screen pointer with no lag whatsoever, managing the TV’s many functions is very easy.
But LG didn’t stop at making the remote control amazing – they included voice support as well. Thanks to Google Assistant integration, which supports voice commands, I could control the TV with my voice. This made switching inputs so much faster than manually doing it with the remote. All I had to do was say “Hi LG”, wait a second for the TV to acknowledge my voice, and then “HDMI 1” or HDMI 4”, and the TV would switch inputs. So simple!
I did have a few laughs, however, as the TV would occasionally respond to phantom voice commands that neither I nor my girlfriend gave. It happened frequently enough that it got a little tiresome, causing me to swear in exasperation (I told it to “go away” but not so nicely), and the TV promptly turned itself off. I laughed, my girlfriend laughed, our poltergeist laughed…
Funny, sure, but it was also the reason I ended up disabling voice control.
On the other hand, when using both my voice and the Magic Remote worked as intended, getting around the TV’s interface made me feel like I was living in the future. And if you have other “smart home” devices that work with Google Assistant, you can control those from the TV, too.
WebOS also supports YouTube and Netflix (no ShowMax yet), so you don’t need an external device to stream from. Handy!
LG has packed in so much functionality into this TV that the average person will likely not use most of it, but at least it’s there for those who might have a need for it. If you’re a fan of high-end TV technology, and you have a chunk of spare cash lying around, this is definitely the TV for you.
With all of this goodness under the hood, it’s only fair that LG charges a premium for the 65NANO97. And they do: at the time of writing, this was a R48 999 (RRP) TV, although in the time since the original review was published it’s gone up to R51 999.
This is a fair price for all of the amazing features you get for the money, but it’s certainly not what anyone would call “affordable”. That means this is more of an aspirational TV, a “nice to have” showpiece for those who can afford it, rather than a TV for everyone.
Fortunately, history has taught us that TV prices do come down over time, so if this model intrigues you, maybe keep an eye out for it on next year’s big sales.
If you can afford it right now and you are in the market for a new TV and a killer sound system, grab the 65NANO97 and the SN11R sound bar together – I am positive you won’t be disappointed.
Aimed at the well-heeled
This is a phenomenal TV, and by far the nicest viewing experience I’ve ever had. There’s so much going on here – LG has positive stuffed the 65NANO97 with functions – but it’s almost too much. In a South African context, where the vast majority of consumers are just looking for a nice big TV to watch DStv on, the 65NANO97 is overkill.
Firstly, it’s an 8K panel, which is a huge resolution but one that’s wholly wasted on the content available to most South Africans. Most households don’t even bother with 4K Netflix thanks to the cost of the high-speed internet connection needed to enjoy it to its fullest. And while Netflix’s 1080p content looks great upscaled, it left me wondering if 8K is truly necessary. The answer I came to in the course of this review: not yet.
Second, there are so many high-tech features that the average TV buyer won’t get much (or any) use out of them. The Smart Home support via Google Assistant is lovely, but useful to only a handful of South African homeowners.
And last, the price. R50k is not exactly a small chunk of change, especially during such challenging economic times. And that’s just for the TV: throw in the LG Sound Bar SN11R, and you’ll need an extra R20k at the till.
So as much as I love both the TV and the sound bar, I have to note that these two devices are very clearly aimed at only those who are well-heeled, which narrows their potential audience down considerably.
I can confidently say that these awesome products are packed with all the features a tech-savvy household could want, they deliver a phenomenal viewing and listening experience, and show that LG’s design team really knows how to make killer entertainment products.
Ultimately, this is an incredible TV and a brilliant sound bar, and both are worth the cash if you have the money for them. Budget buyers should look elsewhere or wait for sales or the inevitable price reduction that comes when today’s new hotness becomes last year’s line-up, however.
The LG 65NANO97 and SN11R Sound Bar were kindly provided by LG South Africa for review purposes.
This review was originally published on the 24th of December 2020, but due to technical issues relating to an update to our backend was lost. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
A gorgeous future-proof TV and Sound Bar with a big price tag.