LG UP970 Review: Why so Blu?

Does a long overdue Dolby Vision firmware update give this affordable 4K deck a boost over the competition? Steve May isn’t convinced. Read our LG UP970 Review.

A front USB port enables flash drive media playback

LG MAY HAVE relentlessly pursued the premium end of the TV market with its 4K OLED and LED models, but the UP970 is very much cut from the same budget cloth as its previous 2K Blu-ray offerings.

The player is full-width (430mm) but thin. It’s anonymously smart, although clearly a commodity product. Don’t expect to find the same level of build quality here as on Oppo’s premium Dolby Vision players. It’s more akin to the Panasonic DMP-UB300 and Samsung UBD-K8500.

LG UP970 Review

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As is LG’s long-standing want, the UP970 has little stick-on transport buttons positioned beside a front-facing USB port disguised by a tethered cover. There’s no on-body status display, just very discreet green and red LEDs.

The rear of the deck is similarly stripped back. There are two HDMI outputs, with the second designated audio-only for use with non-4K capable AV receivers. There’s also an optical digital audio output, plus Ethernet to accompany integrated Wi-Fi.

The supplied IR remote control is short and dumpy. And operationally this player leaves a lot to be desired. The USB reader, for instance, seems unnecessarily fussy. While some thumb drives were recognised, others weren’t.

av info

PRODUCT: Bargain-priced 4K disc player with Dolby Vision support

LG’s solo Dolby Vision player

PEERS: Panasonic DMP-UB300; Samsung UBD-K8500

The player’s user interface will be familiar to owners of previous LG Blu-ray hardware, comprising a strip of horizontal graphics designated Movie, Photo, Music, Premium and Settings. Premium is where you’ll find just two streaming services, Netflix and YouTube, both of which play in 4K.

The settings menu is somewhat coy, and doesn’t proffer much control over what this deck can do. When it comes to display output, there’s Auto or forced settings from 480p to 2,160p, plus an HDMI colour option (YCbCr or RGB). There’s no user definable bit-depth or chroma output.

Picture performance is average – I noted artefacts vibrating on high-frequency 4K detail on UHD test platters. The player also appears to emphasise grain and noise.

You can alter characteristics of the image, using the supplied output modes (Standard, Vivid, Movie and User, the latter allowing you to adjust contrast, brightness, colour and sharpness), but I certainly wouldn’t want to entrust image processing to this particular box.

Dolby touches down

The UP970 now supports both standard HDR10 and Dolby Vision, although the deck waited quite some time for DV to land (and did so after my review period). An early attempt to deploy firmware late last year was abandoned, when it inadvertently switched the region code of all players to the US.

Bizarrely, I actually think the deck looks its best with standard Blu-rays. CG animation Astro Boy is all futuristic neon and deep colours, which the player handles well. Images are smooth without aliasing. Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line tries valiantly to maintain its lush hues. When the GIs land at Guadalcanal, there’s band-free colour in the sky, sea and sand. The troops’ helmets reveal pock marks and exhibit convincing texture.

The UP970 itself isn’t the quietest, being noticeably more noisy spinning UHD discs than standard Blu-rays and CDs. On the plus side, it’s at least a speedy loader. A menu- heavy movie disc goes from tray to menu in 34 seconds, while a simple concert platter was up and running in just 25.

CD playback is downright poor, with the UP970 making an indistinct hash of the soundstage. A classical suite of strings and oboe had a strange, phasey, drifting quality.

Basically speaking

After the best part of a year in limbo, the appeal of the UP970 now rests entirely on its Dolby Vision support and its bargain (or thereabouts) price tag. Unfortunately these factors alone don’t make up for its many budget shortcomings. Image quality is below the best, build quality basic and audio performance underwhelming

SPECIFICATIONS

ULTRA HD: Yes HDR: Yes. HDR10; Dolby Vision UPSCALING: Yes. To 2160p MULTIREGION: No, Region B BD/R2 DVD HDMI: Yes. 2 x outputs (one audio-only) COMPONENT VIDEO: No MULTI CHANNEL ANALOGUE: No DIGITAL AUDIO: Yes. Optical audio output ETHERNET: Yes BUILT IN WI-FI: Yes SACD/DVD-A: No/No DIMENSIONS: 430(w) x 45(h) x 205(d)mm WEIGHT: 1.63kg

FEATURES: USB port; smart portal with Netflix and YouTube 4K apps; setup wizard; file support includes MPEG, MKV, MOV, MP3, AIFF, AAC, FLAC, WAV, OGG and WMA

Verdict

6 Total Score
LG UP970 Review

Compatible screen owners will be tempted by this budget deck's Dolby Vision playback, but overall it's uninspiring.

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Last update was on: August 17, 2019 3:20 am

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