Those of us, who have been following the display industry closely have heard talk about OLED technology for many, many years. Even before LCD and plasma TVs took off there was talk about this new amazing technology called "organic LED”. It has taken more time than anticipated to commercialize, but OLED TVs are finally here in large formats. Despite the extreme price tags we are genuinely excited to see the first real OLED TVs being released. And we are excited to take closer look at LG’s 55-inch OLED TV.
This is not the first OLED TV we have reviewed; it is actually the third (see our 15” LG OLED TV review here, our Sony OLED review is only available in Danish), but things are obviously much different on a 55-inch TV compared to a small 11-15 inch panel. Throughout the review we will focus entirely on picture quality, as well as the pros and cons of OLED technology. Is this the future?
MagicRemote (motion enabled) Smartphone app (LG TV Remote)
Price and retailer:
Our first impressions
We have LG’s curved 55-inch OLED TV. The TV is also available in a flat limited edition version in Europe, but LG has chosen to roll out the curved version as the main product. We will take a closer look at how the curvature affects picture quality later, but for now we just have to say that the TV looks stunning.
It is ridiculously thin; just 4.5 mm, and LG has seen it necessary to mount the OLED panel in a strengthened carbon fiber frame to make it stable. OLED display panels can become almost paper-thin and you really have to stand next to the TV to appreciate just how thin this TV is. It looks amazing.
Personally, I do not like the transparent plastic base. I think it looks a bit cheap, but it is obviously a matter of personal taste. The speakers are built into the base, as the photos suggest. It looks very futuristic, but when TVs become this thin, speakers are almost impossible to implement. It would be interesting if TV makers started separating the speakers from the TV, and instead provide a reliable wireless system for connecting external speakers.
All input and output ports are found on the backside of the TV, most pointing out to the side. The TV has 4 HDMI ports and even some of the old analogue inputs that should have been killed many years ago. LG’s first OLED prototypes had all input ports integrated into the base, but LG has chosen instead to extend the lower part of the backside of the TV and move them up here for the final product.
Our TV signal is DVB-S (satellite) from Canal Digital and DVB-T (terrestrial). Testing is done with the DVE (digital video essentials) and Peter Finzel test DVD. Testing is also done via Blu-Ray and Media center/PC.
We use our own monitorTest. The software supports some of the traditional test patterns used to evaluate displays as well as some new and unique test patterns developed by the people here at FlatpanelsHD.
Sony PlayStation 3 is our Blu-Ray player.
All contrast measurements are based on the ANSI methodology.
All Smart TV features are similar to LG’s other 2013 TVs, so see our LG LA8600 review to learn more about what is possible (and what is not). The TV comes with two remote controls in plastic. The first one is the Wii-like Magic Motion Remote and the second is s a classic, black remote with a myriad of buttons. The remotes’ plastic look and feel simply do not match the TV’s stunning appearance, which is a shame.
The only difference is that the Smart TV background is black instead of white to complement the design of the OLED TV.
OLED technology is said to be very power-efficient, but just like with LCD and plasma TVs there will be variations based on the type of OLED panel and obviously the screen size. When it comes to energy consumption, OLED actually share more similarities with plasma than with LCD/LED. OLED panels consume varying levels of energy depending on the colors and images on-screen. Very bright images consume more energy than dark movie scenes, simply because OLED is a self-emissive display technology. Each pixel lights up individually, instead of relying on a full backlight unit behind the screen as on LCD/LED models.
We always take before and after (calibration) readings of energy consumption, and always offer the average energy consumption, based on a movie with bright and dark scenes, measured over a period of time. The key takeaway here is that energy consumption of an OLED panel goes up and down, depending on what you watch.
We measured peak consumption to 178 W (on a full white screen), and on a 100 % black background we measured it to 50 W. The average values are presented in the table above.
Calibration on LG OLED TV
Below is an out-of-box measurement of picture quality on LG’s OLED TV. The TV uses the Standard color profile per default.
If you are a regular reader of our reviews you know that basically all TVs have oversaturated and inaccurate colors in the Standard profile. The default settings are designed to impress potential buyers in stores, but at home you obviously want accurate colors.
As you can see in the graph above, color deviations are quite significant. The Standard profile has oversaturated colors and the color temperature is also too high at 9519 Kelvin, meaning that the picture is too bluish/cold. Brightness was measured to 182 cd/m2, which is very decent for a typical living room environment.
We quickly switched to the pre-calibrated THX Cinema profile and took a new reading.
THX has partnered with LG, as well as Panasonic, for the last couple of years, and the results have generally been excellent. The THX profiles on TVs usually offer very accurate colors, and LG’s OLED TV is no exception. The THX profile offers great picture quality, very close to the target values.
As you can see color deviations are very low and as a result color reproduction is excellent, partly because gamma is almost spot-on. The color temperature is also very close to our 6500 Kelvin target, although a bit too low. Brightness was measured to 119 cd/m2, which is spot-on for a dimmed viewing environment. For a brightly lit living room you will probably want a higher brightness level. All in all, the THX mode is excellent and LG deserves much praise. We hope LG will continue to offer THX modes on its future OLED TVs.
Lastly, we calibrated the OLED TV to squeeze out the last few drops. The THX profile was already excellent, but it was interesting to calibrate LG’s OLED TV. The calibration process was actually very straightforward, as you need to make fewer compromises during calibration because of the excellent native characteristics of the OLED panel. We managed to squeeze out a bit more accuracy compared to the THX profile, and colors are excellent after calibration - certainly much more accurate than in the out-of-box settings.
MPEG noise reduction
User (de-judder 0, de-blur 0)
Please notice that our calibration suggestion is based on a room with dimmed lights. If you want optimal settings for a brightly lit living room you should increase the setting "OLED light” to around 70-80.
Picture quality on LG OLED TV
In this section we go through picture quality with the calibrated settings.
LG’s OLED TV has a glossy coating on the panel, like most modern LED panels. It reflects some light, but is also designed to prevent washout of colors during daytime. It is actually considerably less reflective than most glossy LED models, which is great, but it still reflects objects and lamps/windows in a room.
One important element to understand is that OLED displays are based on self-emissive pixels, just like plasma displays. In fact, OLED technology share more similarities with plasma technology than LCD/LED technology, but it also combines the best of the two worlds. Each pixel in an OLED panel is controlled individually and is self-emissive, so each pixel can go from full black to full white, and reproduce all the gray tone steps in-between. That is also why we were eager to test how well LG’s OLED TV handles color gradations, so we loaded up our usual test patterns and scenes.
This is one area where LG actually leaves room for improvement. While the OLED TV reproduces most color steps very nicely, our gradation tests also revealed some vertical lines, which means that not all colors are reproduced flawlessly. LG’s OLED TV still operates with 8-bit colors, so LG should move to 10-bit in future version of OLED TVs if they want to take it to the next step (and hopefully content makers will do the same). We certainly do not mean to suggest that color gradation is bad, on the contrary it is excellent, but it is not perfect yet.
We tried to watch some regular SD and HD channels and videos, and LG’s OLED TVs is fantastic. It uses much of the same picture processing systems as in LG’s other TVs so upscaled SD looks fine, and HD content looks amazing. It does not have the extreme clarity of 4K LCD panels, but it is only a matter of time before OLED panels will take the step to 4K resolution, too.
On the other hand, images look absolutely stunning due to impressive, vivid, and accurate colors and amazing contrast. Just by looking at our regular test scenes we can get a feeling of just how deep the black color is, which also means that other colors look extremely vivid and rich. When compared to a standard LCD panel in a dark room, the OLED panel just stands out. It looks so much more impressive, especially in high-contrast or dark movie scenes.
Once you sit down and start watching a movie you rarely notice that the panel is curved, but it becomes apparent when sitting/standing above, below or out to the side, as the photos below show. Straight lines become curved and the picture gets a bit distorted. We saw no real advantages of a curved panel, at least not on this relatively small 55-inch panel, and we hope that it is a temporary trend and that TV makers will start producing flat OLED TVs in the coming years.
One of the concerns with OLED displays have been that the technology might suffer from retention or burn-in, like the phosphor in plasma TVs. We ran the same tests that we usually do on plasma TVs, but we never experienced any retention issues with LG’s OLED panel. We cannot rule retention out as it would require a much longer period of testing to confirm 100 %, but as far as we are concerned this is not a major issue with LG’s OLED panel. We would love to hear from the early adopters out there. Similarly, we cannot test the longevity of the panel and cannot confirm or deny whether or not the life span of the individual pixels might affect color balance in the long run. Again, we need owners to confirm these things after having used OLED TVs on a daily basis for at least a year or two. Our sample had no dead pixels.
We moved on to examine response time and motion reproduction, and we quickly noticed that LG uses the same system to drive the OLED panel as they use for LCD/LED TVs. The OLED panel is controlled with a sample-and-hold driving method, so instead of constantly updating/pulsing each pixel on the panel, pixels are only being refreshed when new picture information is sent to the pixel. The sample-and-hold principle has several advantages (and is required if display makers want to use OLED for PC monitors), but it also has some disadvantages (with the current TV eco-system). Specifically: it reduces motion clarity somewhat and results in some mild blurring of fast motion.
Because even though OLED displays are fast; much faster than plasma and LCD, they are still limited by how the driving method works, as well as the frame rate of content (for example 24Hz for movies). That is why some blurring occurs during fast motion on LG’s OLED TV. It is consistent across all color transitions, which is great, but the TV is not completely blur-free and cannot reproduce all details during motion. Again, this has nothing to do with how fast the OLED technology potentially is; just how LG has chosen to drive the panel and the low frame rates used for video content, movies/shows/series/games today.
There are several ways to improve motion reproduction. LG could start using black frame insertion, which is pretty much standard in all LCD/LED models today, where very short black frame are inserted into the video stream to eliminate blurring (and continuously reset the human vision). Another way is to increase the frame rate for movies from 24 Hz to for example 48, 60 or even 120 fps. The Hobbit 1 and 2 are the first movies to utilize 48 fps – or the so-called HFR (high frame rate).
There is also another way to improve motion reproduction somewhat. By using the TruMotion system the TV can interpolate extra frames and make motion appear smoother / reduce motion blurring, but it also introduces the undesirable soap-opera effect. However, it you set TruMotion to 0 and 0 for de-judder and de-blur, you can avoid the soap-opera effect, but still reduce motion blurring. We hope LG will introduce black frame insertion in future OLED TVs.
Unfortunately, LG’s OLED TV has significant input lag in most picture profiles. Some settings increase input lag to well over 120 ms, but we managed to get it down to around 50-60 ms by deactivating the processing systems. 50-60 ms input lag is above average and might be noticeable by some console gamers (but not necessarily the average user), and is definitely noticeable when moving a mouse pointer around on the screen when a PC is connected. This is something LG needs to address in future OLED TVs. We know there is more potential in the OLED technology.
Let us move on to one of the areas that we were very eager to take a closer look at.
If you look at the specifications sheet of an OLED TV you will find contrast ratio specs such as 1,000,000:1 or "Infinite Contrast” – and for the first time this is actually true. LG’s OLED TV can reproduce black as intended. The black tone is pitch black. No light leaks through, which is amazing. The only TVs that have come close to achieving this in the past have been Pioneer’s famous KURO plasma TVs and Panasonic’s 2013 plasma TVs (which will also be their last), as well as some local dimming LED models (a compromise that results in terrible crushed shadow details).
We always do our contrast measurement on ANSI patterns, but even if you reduce a black spot on a white background to a small dot, LG’s OLED panel makes sure that it remains completely pitch black. This is very impressive.
The most amazing aspect is probably that LG’s OLED TV can reproduce perfect black without tricks. It is a native capability of the OLED technology and panel, and it is amazing to see. It also renders our black depth measurements irrelevant. LG has achieved perfection in this area. We have always said that black depth is one of the most important elements of picture quality – projector fans disagree, obviously – and LG’s OLED TV is the perfect example of just how much it can contribute to overall picture quality. It looks almost surreal when you are used to seeing subpar black reproduction on most TVs today.
Despite using the sample-and-hold driving method of a typical LCD panel, LG’s OLED TV share many similarities with plasma TVs. On a full white screen pixels are not fully as bright as on a black-white checkered pattern. A brightness limiter system kicks in, simply because OLED pixels consume more power when reproducing bright colors, so when all pixels are fully lit the overall brightness of the panel goes down. On a 100% fully-lit screen we measured brightness to 89 cd/m2. Peak brightness was measured to 332 cd/m2, so the TV can certainly light up a living room, but we are hoping that OLED panels will reach higher brightness levels n the coming years.
Shadow detailing is excellent, too. Only the 1-2 darkest shades of grey were hard to distinguish, but this is still an excellent result. Combined with the perfect black level pictures look absolutely amazing.
We also examined LG OLED TV in a dark room to see if it has bleeding or clouding issues.
Our sample of the LG OLED TV had absolutely no issues with clouding or bleeding. In a 100% dark room the TV screen is pitch black, impossible to see, except for the small cursor we use to focus our camera lens. This TV can reproduce 100 % black with no light homogeneity issues whatsoever. Incredible.
LG’s OLED TV uses the passive 3D technology, just like LG’s LCD models. Passive 3D glasses are completely flicker-free and very comfortable in use – and cheap. Included in the box are two pairs of LG’s specially designed Alain Mikli 3D glasses that you can actually wear outside as sunglasses.
However, despite being based on OLED technology the TV still suffers from the lower resolution of passive 3D tech. Only the the active 3D systems that require expensive shutter glasses can reproduce full 3D resolution today. We have said many times in the past that we believe that the passive system is better suited for everyday use as it is much easier on the eyes, but you still need a 4K panel to improve 3D detailing with the passive 3D system.
Still, 3D picture quality is fairly good and the impressive contrast of the OLED panel improves 3D picture quality over a typical 3D LED model. We saw virtually no crosstalk, but we did notice some pixellation when moving close to the TV, due to the halved resolution. Another problem is the low frame rate of current 3D movies that causes motion stutter, but that is obviously not LG’s fault.
The only way for LG to overcome the current shortcoming of the passive 3D system is to move their OLED TVs to 4K resolution – which we are sure will happen very soon.
PC and Media Center
In order to achieve 1:1 pixel mapping you need to select the aspect ratio called "Just scan" in the TV settings, and setting the input label to "PC”.
The viewing angles on LG’s OLED TV are extremely wide. Colors maintain intensity even from extreme angles, and the same is true for contrast. Only very tiny color deviations occur, but you have to look extremely hard to notice them. Black is still pitch black when looking at the TV from the side.
The curved panel can look a bit weird from angles. If you sit lower or stand higher, you will notice that straight lines, for example the horizon or a landscape, tends to look curved. There is a minor distortion of the picture, which we noticed from several odd angles. Overall viewing angles are very, very close to perfect, which is great!
The speakers do not look very powerful – and surprise, surprise, they do not sound very powerful either. LG’s "Clear Speaker” implementation is unique, but their speaker technology is still limited by the extremely thin TV profile. Bass is lacking, but the TV has a clear voice feature, which works reasonably well.
We would say that the speakers are around average or slightly above average compared to the general TV market, but if you want proper sound you need to connect a soundbar or real speakers. The speakers deliver a bit more than you would expect by just looking at the physical implementation, but we still recommend separate speakers for anything but daily casual use.
LG’s curved OLED TV looks impressive. No matter how you feel about the curved panel you will be amazed by how thin and impressive the TV is. It is so thin that it is hard to fathom how LG has managed to fit all the hardware into the set, because it still packs all of the same features of LG’s other 2013 TVs, including the Smart TV platform with TV apps. However, we still think LG has work to do in regards to Smart TV and the user interface. Small media players such as Roku or Apple TV offer far better "smart” TV platform for a fraction of the price.
But what we are really interesting in is picture quality. For years, manufacturers have teased the amazing capabilities of OLED displays, and we have seen them ourselves many times before, but it is something entirely different to see it in your own, comfortable environment. And even with our high expectations LG did not disappoint us.
The TV has fantastic picture quality. It can reproduce perfect black (!), vivid colors and has near-perfect viewing angles. We do not particularly like the curved panel, but once you sit down (directly) in front of the TV you soon forget about it. OLED combines the best from both world’s, and despite some minor issues (such as motion resolution), it performs so well that the best LCD/LED and plasma TVs are surpassed in most areas. That is truly impressive for an early-generation product, and we cannot wait for OLED to take the jump to 4K resolution.
OLED is the future. We already knew that, but LG’s OLED TV has made it 100% clear. Once prices come down you have to buy one of these, simple as that. We hereby award LG’s OLED TV our Reference Award. The future looks exciting.
Picture quality is assessed as overall picture quality, including color reproduction, image processing, contrast, motion etc. Features is an evaluation of the built-in functionality such as apps, connector ports, tuners, recording capabilities, decoder formats, and how useful they are, as well as sound quality. User experience is evaluated on the basis of user friendliness, speed, build quality, and day-to-day use of the TV. Total score is weighted: 50% Picture quality, 25% Features, 25% User experience. All scores are calculated based on a moving maximum target, defined by what we currently consider the best on market. It is then presented as a percentage. This means that a score will fall over time as new and better TVs set new standards. This allows you to compare scores across years. A score of 100% in a given category means that it is consider the best available product in this category to date.
Fantastic picture quality Perfect black level Vivid colors Virtually perfect viewing angles Fewer reflections than LCD Good ISF mode
Curved panel Motion reproduction High input lag Plastic base look cheap Price