In preparing for writing this review I had a quick search through my reviews folders to see what other OLED TVs we’d reviewed in the past. And I was startled to find one as far back as 2009, a tiny little 11-inch Sony that cost $6999. Since then both Sony and Samsung have dropped their flirtations with the technology, leaving the field to LG.
LG and LG.Display, meanwhile, have continued to develop OLED technology, so now we present here, at a thousand dollars less than that tiny Sony TV, the new 55-inch LG 55EG960T Ultra High Definition (aka 4K) OLED TV.
Of course, this TV and its 65-inch sibling are the culmination of two different strands of consumer TV technology being brought together. While OLED has been around for a couple of years, it has thus far been limited (in Australia, anyway) to full-HD resolution. The other tech is Ultra High Definition, and that’s what this TV also enjoys.
So, a brief recap on the tech. UHD means 3840 by 2160 pixels, four times the number of full-HD. UHD content is sparse at the moment, but if you have a very fast internet connection and a premium Netflix subscription, you can get some from there. There are some YouTube clips. Or you can make your own content on one of the increasing number of UHD-capable video devices (the TV supports the higher efficiency H.265 codec in additional to the older H.264 for UHD content). And then there’s the promise of UHD Blu-ray, which is ‘said’ to be coming this year. The TV supports HDCP 2.2 and the new deeper colour standards, so compatibility is almost certain.
As for OLED, this seems like the final, perfected display technology. Each pixel produces its own light, so there’s no need for a back light, permitting extremely thin panels (just 6.7mm for the top portion of the screen in this case). And unlike plasma, the brightness of the pixels can be ramped smoothly all the way down to completely off. So perfect blacks are, well, just the norm for this technology.
In addition, switching time is astonishingly fast. Not the few milliseconds of LCD panels, but 0.002 milliseconds. There can be no smearing of the image unless the electronics are intentionally engineered to do that.
The downside of OLED has been fears about the pixels themselves, blue in particular, being relatively inefficient and perhaps shorter lived than the other colours. LG addresses that by using four colours: the regular three plus white. It can enhance the blue, allowing the use of lower power settings for the blue pixels. LG says that this third generation of OLED panel is good for 30,000 hours, which is eight hours a day for ten years.
By then I reckon we’ll have OLED wallpaper.
In the meantime, the 138.8cm screen is curved. We remain skeptical about the benefits of such a thing, but I must admit that this curved TV looks very pretty, hovering slightly above the bench on a stand in which the vertical component is a slab of glass. The extremely thin screen and the smooth white finish of the rear add to its beauty.
This TV has three HDMI inputs, as well as some legacy analogue connections, Ethernet, dual band Wi-Fi, three USB sockets. And it comes with the new version of LG’s Magic Remote Voice. This re-instates quite a few traditional keys to this RF device, making it much more efficient than the previous ones which required excessive interaction with on-screen number pads and the like. The pointing function remains as good as ever. You can tell the TV to do things with the spoken word if you like to control your TV the hard way, but you can also use it to enter search terms into the web browser, which can actually be useful.
The convergence of information technology with consumer technology is now nearing completion. The current batch of premium TVs score at least four-core processors, and this one is no exception. That allows its upgraded WebOS 2.0 operating system to work responsively (along with other things, such as FreeviewPlus becoming quite usable). There are lots of streaming apps available, some games (see panel).
Now, a caveat. LG seems to be a bit reluctant to ship OLED TVs all over the country for review, so they brought this reviewer to Sydney, putting both him and the TV up in a very nice hotel room. I brought my suite of test discs, of course, but do be aware that the environment was different to my normal one.
One way in which it was different was a hugely faster internet connection than is normally available to me. My own internet has been frozen in capabilities now for seven years, thanks to the ‘promise’ of NBN at some indeterminate time in the future. The connection in the hotel was fast enough to support UHD Netflix streaming. Back to that later.
Once again, we have a TV that is capable of extraordinary performance which, right out of the box, it isn’t delivering due to a few unfortunate settings. (Of course, I didn’t take it out of the box, but I did reset everything to defaults so I had a clean slate to examine.)
First and worst, the TV defaults to the ‘16:9’ aspect ratio even when playing full HD material from a Blu-ray disc. And this imposes a small amount of overscan, such that about 2% of each side of the screen is pushed off the display area. Go to the Picture settings menu and change the aspect ratio to ‘Just Scan’, which maps each incoming full-HD pixel onto four display pixels, with just a little processing around the edges of on-screen objects.
Actually, if I may dive deeply into this for a moment, one of the test patterns I use was quite revealing. It features a number of extremely fine crosshatch-like patterns. One of these is, horizontally, one pixel white, one black, one white etc, with the next line the same, except offset by one pixel. The others have slightly wider arrangements, such as two pixels of white, two of black, etc. The standard picture processing detects edges of onscreen objects and in turning one incoming pixel into four, it might darken or lighten or alter the colour of some to smooth jaggies. But if you try to do that with the finest of the crosshatches, you’re going to grey out the whole thing. The processing actually detected that alternating pixel arrangement and, upon close examination, I was able to see that what was shown on the screen were four white UHD pixels, then four black UHD pixels and so on. The larger crosshatches were softened a little by comparison because their hard edges were filed off by the upscaling.
Don’t worry. This is all worthwhile. With normal programme material, and normal still photos and menu items and such, the smoothing delivers a significant improvement in picture quality. There didn’t appear to be a way to switch this processing off anyway (i.e. just to map each full-HD pixel to four UHD pixels).
The next bad setting was the ‘Sharpness’ control default at the halfway mark, adding nasty edges to high-contrast material and generally making the picture fussy and tiring to look at. Dragging it down to zero produced a simply lovely picture.
The Contrast control can stand being pushed from 95 up to 100, otherwise the full brightness gamut isn’t being achieved. That probably isn’t very important, though, because of the great depths of the blacks.
Finally, I turned off the TruMotion motion smoothing system. The default setting was ‘Clear’, and this was just a touch too glossy for me, and occasionally produced some weird distortions with animated menus and the like, plus a modest amount of heat-haze distortion. But I should note that if you have TruMotion switched off and there is any judder inherent in the video, this TV will do nothing to disguise it. That’s because of the extremely fast switching speed of the pixels. If you find judder irritating, then try the User setting. Putting the ‘De-Blur’ setting to zero and the ‘De-Judder’ setting to ‘3’ reduced judder on the worst scenes without introducing significant distortions.
I guess I can talk about it now that they are no longer in the business: one of the test Blu-ray discs I use is from Pioneer, which the company created to show off the Kuro plasma TVs. This has colour flowers on black backgrounds, a photographer wearing a black leather coat in a darkish room decorated with black objects, a samurai wielding his sword in a black void. And you know what? With this TV it was perfect. In some of the scenes there was some noise in the black — at the source, that is — and this was clearly displayed. Where there was no noise, there was just black. I turned off all the lights in the hotel room and the blacks remained perfect. I paused the video and went up to the screen, placed my curled hand to my eye to block out the light from elsewhere on the screen, and examined a black corner of the picture minutely. And there was nothing to see, for it was black.
The only remaining imperfection will only be solved with some new developments in glass. When I looked closely at still bright objects over a deep black background, there was a very slight diffusion of light around the edges of the bright object, thanks to some scattering of photons in the screen glass itself. That’s how picky I’ve had to become to say something negative.
With such deep blacks, whites actually appears whiter, and colours richer, yet still entirely natural.
I had quite a few UHD test clips, and these were displayed with dazzling clarity and sharpness. Likewise for a couple of nature things streamed in UHD from Netflix. The data flow was clearly adaptive to the circumstances of the digital pipe, so for the first few seconds it was decidedly sub-SD in resolution, then SD, then HD, then UHD. And so wonderful it looked that it got us thinking that maybe, just maybe, UHD source material might just be worthwhile even on a 55-inch TV.
The scaling and general picture performance was up to LG’s best, which is around as good as it gets.
The TV is, of course, 3D capable. It uses LG’s passive system and two sets of 3D eyewear are provided. Passive 3D TVs were by far the best when all we had were full-HD TVs. However the alternating lines of polarisation seem to be too close together with a UHD TV, resulting in a narrow vertical range of effectiveness. The result is that unless you sit a long way away from the TV, there’s a lot of crosstalk at either the top or the bottom of the screen, or both, depending on how high your eyes are with respect to the screen.
This may be less evident when viewing 2.35:1 ratio movies where the top and bottom of the screen is taken up by the black bars (our thanks to reader John Robert Johns for noting this). But 3D movies are far from only 2.35:1 - Pixar and other animation houses, for example, re-render movies to 1.78:1 for home release.
I wish LG would go to active 3D. With the near-instantaneous switching time of the OLED display, this would provide brilliant 3D performance.
I was unable to test the picture delay time without my normal equipment. There’s no reason to think it differs substantially from LG’s current batch of UHD TVs, say 100 to 120 milli-seconds normally, and 40 to 50 milliseconds in Game mode.
You pay a premium for OLED. But dare I say, for the true enthusiast, it is a premium worth paying. In my opinion, the LG 55EG960T OLED UHD TV is the best 55-incher on the market, and I’d be pretty confident that the 65-inch version is likewise the best in its market segment.
+ The best picture on the market; Gorgeous styling; Powerful and effective smart
- 3D crosstalk at top and bottom of screen
Tested with firmware: Ver.03.03.06
Display technology: Curved OLED panel
Screen size: 138.8cm
Native aspect ratio: 16:9
Native resolution: 3840 x 2160
Brightness: Not stated
Contrast ratio: Infinite
Inputs: 3 x HDMI, 1 x composite video, 1 x component video, 1 x stereo audio, 3 x USB, 1 x Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 1 x aerial
Outputs: 1 x optical digital audio, 1 x 3.5mm headphone/analogue audio
Audio: 4 speakers, 2-way, 20W total power
Included accessories: Table-top stand, ‘Magic’ remote control, 2 x 3D glasses, cable adaptors
Energy rating: 3.5 stars, 466kWh per year
Dimensions without/with stand (whd): 1226 x 719 x 50mm/1226 x 760 x 213mm
Weight without/with stand: 15.3kg/18.9kg
Warranty: 1 year
Product page: LG Electronics