Ole! OLED the New TV Leader

OMG! OLED leaves other TV technologies DOA – dead on arrival.

This month I had the privilege of appraising in my home the first large OLED screen to go on sale here, LG’s Curved OLED Cinema 3D Smart TV (55EA9800).

OLED stands for organic light emitting diodes and it looks set to be the next living room wonder if the retail price can be shaved as sharply as the 55-inch display’s svelte dimensions.

At $17,000, it costs $10,000 more than a 4K or Ultra HD TV of the same size yet is “only” 1080p.

But the picture quality is like nothing you’ve seen before on a flat-screen TV.

That’s not to say it’s flawless, which is what you may think a TV with such a premium price tag should be – until you recall that 10 years ago a no-frills, 42-inch, standard definition plasma TV would set you back the same sum.

But performance quibbles aside, the Curved OLED is as close as I’ve ever come to pixel perfection – and I say that after spending several months up close and personal with 4K TVs and top-end LED TVs (watch for reviews over the next few weeks).

LG’s trailblazer also delights in other less important but still gratifying ways, chief of which is … no assembly required!

That’s right. You can lift this lightweight, carbon fibre colossus — it weighs only 17kg — straight out of the box and on to a table or cabinet.

That’s because the TV’s own stand, complete with transparent speakers, is integrated into the curved frame.

This will bother those who would rather wall-mount their TV but doing so with would rob it of its wavy, wafer-thin looks (4.3mm at its narrowest point).

Another bonus is LG provides four pairs of passive 3D lenses: two virtually weightless glasses and two clip-on lenses, which are a big boon for viewers who wear prescription specs.

As are the comfort and convenience of passive 3D viewing — the resolution may be inferior to active 3D but it’s hassle-free and extra pairs are much cheaper to buy to fit out all the family.

The TV is stacked with other features, including a Magic Remote with voice control, arguably the best apps of any TV manufacturer, live and scheduled recording straight to the TV, “smartsharing” with tablets and smartphones, dual-play gaming, a wide viewing angle and a “universal search” function for locating online videos that’s of more limited use here than in other markets.

But most of these are redundant when your only reason for buying this TV should be its eye-popping picture quality.

Virtually everything you watch is richly dimensional. Images have amazing depth and texture, and the colours are luscious without being inaccurate or candied neon.

The key to this clarity, detail and dynamic yet natural picture quality is the contrast, which LG claims is infinite.

It’s certainly infinitely better than watching Full HD any other way, although the same may not be true of native 4K.

But with OLED you get the benefits of what seems to be dramatically enhanced resolution through unbeatable black levels without the need to invest in 4K servers or disc players, replace your Blu-ray collection or wait for the networks or Sky to start transmitting in a new standard (which will be years off given even in the Full HD era most channels are still SD).

LG attributes the picture prowess of its first OLED model to adding an extra, white sub-pixel to the red, green and blue mix.

The veracity of that will have to wait until other OLED TVs go on sale here but in the meantime the improvements are palpable.

Of course, the 55EA9800 can’t replace detail that’s not there and even its suite of picture tweaks can’t tame the noisiest of Sky’s lousiest SD channels or enhance sub-standard DVDs like Private Peaceful or season three of The High Chaparral.

But most DVDs look terrific on this TV while Blu-ray movies and HD broadcasts enter an exquisite new realm of realism.

The Blu-ray of Schindler’s List is dramatically enriched with a starkness that intensifies its black-and-white horrors — as is the pitch-black eeriness of the dead-of-night train robbery in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, making this under-appreciated western more haunting.

An animated title like Despicable Me 2 would look brilliant on the dustiest of TV technologies but the 55EA9800 manages to mine even more magnificence from its state-of-the-art ‘toonmanship.

In truth, there’s little about LG’s marketing hype about this being the ultimate TV that its performance doesn’t bear out.

The caveat to this rave is I only had it at home for three days, so the test drive wasn’t exhaustive. And there were definitely aspects I didn’t appreciate.

Although there’s far less motion blur than on an LED screen, it still occurs and fiddling too much with the settings does introduce subtle side effects.

3D performance was excellent but not faultless. The Life of Pi predictably looked spectacular on this display but despite its 3D viewing options, I couldn’t always achieve seamless sharpness between foreground and background.

The innovative stand, which conceals 40 watts of speaker power, may be award-winning and, with the lights turned off, give the impression of a floating screen.

But in daylight, its plastic appearance diminishes the display’s sublimely sleek chic while its transparency untidily exposes the power and HDMI cables trailing behind it.

The screen’s five-degree inward curve also seems gimmicky. LG reckons it helps to immerse you into an IMAX-like viewing experience at home.

But I found it made the screen seem smaller. Based on my viewing of Sony and Panasonic’s 4K TVs, the curved display would need to be at least 65 inches to be truly cinematic – so roll on LG’s 71-inch 4K OLED model!

Of course, the price of that, should it goes on sale here, will be even more daunting than the 55EA9800’s.

Is the difference between the first big-screen OLED TV to market and its high-end plasma, LED and 4K rivals worth another $10K?

If you’re a picture purist with cash to splurge, absolutely! The rest of us can only hope that enough of you adopt it in such numbers that it becomes an immediate mass market must-have.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

3 Responses to “Ole! OLED the New TV Leader”

  1. “At $17,000, it costs $10,000 more than a 4K or Ultra HD TV of the same size yet is “only” 1080p.”

    At that price I’d want a 4K set.

  2. Who wrote that blurb? It reads like an LG sale brochure. A 55″ curved screen is just dumb! Ditto the lack of 4k capability – that is what killed off Panasonic’s plasma range.

  3. I saw this TV at Big Boys Toys a few weeks ago and it’s pretty impressive, I actually thought it was 4K. You can’t expect 4K in everything just yet, it’s their first product of this type, so good on them for being innovative and trying something new!

Leave a Reply