We saw the BeoVision Eclipse, Bang & Olufsen’s first OLED TV, at IFA 2017 in Berlin and spoke to the people involved with design, development and coordination with LG. Here are our first hands-on impressions. We will publish a full review later.
Bang & Olufsen + LG OLED
The video part of BeoVision Eclipse can be described in two words: LG OLED. As part of the partnership between the two electronics companies, LG has taken over the main responsibility of development of display panel as well as the complete video engine and the complete OS.
If you look around back you will even see a small sticker near the input panel, which reveals that OLED panel in Eclipse, in its basic form, is the LG C7 OLED. If you open the menus, you will find that Eclipse is based on webOS with some visual adjustments, added menus to control sound, and some missing apps. Both webOS and the video engine have been developed solely by LG and run on a LG-designed SoC, which is why BeoVision Eclipse will receive firmware and software updates according to LG’s schedule for 2017 OLED TVs.
Just to confirm that this is LG’s latest chip we opened the built-in YouTube app and navigated to the ’Cymatic Jazz’ video clip.
Besides being a great video clip to show off the wider color gamut and expanded dynamic range in HDR, it will push any TV into a corner and ask it to decode the HLG HDR format, compressed in Google’s VP9-Profile2. Only very few TVs on the market can handle this – not even LG’s 2016 OLED TVs. BeoVision Eclipse passed with flying colors.
This can also be confirmed from YouTube’s ‘stats for nerds’ menu.
Because LG is responsible for all things related to video, everything works. All relevant HDR formats will work out of the box. You will not have to wait for Dolby Vision firmware to be pushed out or anything. All you have to do it find a 4K HDR source and start enjoying pictures in sparkling intensity. This could be an UHD Blu-ray player via HDMI as well as Netflix, Amazon or YouTube via the built-in apps.
If you have yet to experience the latest OLED TV panels, let us be very clear here: BeoVision Eclipse delivers – more or less – the best picture quality on the market.
But Eclipse is far from alone in doing this. So what else can you expect?
Sound technology from Denmark
Switching our attention to sound, this is where Bang & Olufsen has contributed with its expertise. The speaker system underneath the OLED panel is classic B&O technology and it is not just one but several times better than typical built-in speakers in TVs.
IFA is extremely loud, especially because Bang & Olufsen’s booth was located in the audio hall, so the company had to turn up audio volume close to max. On a few occasions the highest tones sounded a bit shrill but you rarely listen to TV sound with volume on 90+ so we don’t think much of it yet. We will have much more to say when we receive our review sample.
Bang & Olufsen has developed the speaker system inside Eclipse in Struer, Denmark, and controls all aspects of the sound system – also firmware. It is technically a full sound system that incorporates wireless audio protocols such as Airplay, Chromecast, and Bluetooth. It can also integrate with B&O’s BeoLink multiroom system. It is a type of module solution without the freedom to pick which modules you want. Bang & Olufsen has picked the best components beforehand to give you the best possible video and sound experience.
Eclipse also supports WiSA – or IWS – allowing you to build out the sound space to surround sound by connecting Eclipse to wireless BeoLab speakers. This is unique because WiSA is a lossless audio protocol that supports up to 8 speakers. No other TV manufacturers can match Bang & Olufsen in this area, which is important to remember when looking at the price tag.
You can also connect BeoLab speakers via PowerLink.
Bang & Olufsen calls it a “Sound Center” and it has its own socket panel that is isolated from the actual TV. It is found at the bottom of the speaker bar.
Eclipse is a break from tradition
BeoVision Eclipse is not a typical Bang & Olufsen TV. Over the years, the company has partnered with Philips, in the picture tube days, and later Samsung, Panasonic, and TP Vision (Philips) in the flat panel era. This is the first time that the company has turned to LG for help. LG holds the key to the future with its OLED display technology.
In the webOS menu, B&O has included a “link” to its own menu structure that allows you to set up speakers in advanced ways. On the other hand, the rotating stand must be set up from the webOS menu.
From webOS you have access to apps such as Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube but many localized apps are missing. This is particularly noteworthy because webOS already offers some of these apps on LG TVs. It appears to be a rights issue but nevertheless a strange omission. You can also rent movies from ‘Google Play Movies’.
The stand, and wall bracket solution, is on the other hand classic B&O. The wall bracket is fastened to the speaker bar because the OLED panel is so extremely thing (and fragile). You can set up the stand to rotate in a smooth motion towards you – just like BeoVision Avant.
Bang & Olufsen declined to comment on the future implications of the LG partnership but the company was nevertheless very open about the design of Eclipse. One possibility would be to launch more TVs based on the “wallpaper OLED” panel but this is just speculation at this point. It was not said if the partnership with LG signals the end of the partnership with TP Vision that helped create the BeoVision Horizon, Avant NG, and BeoVision 14 NG. We were told that LG.Display’s 77” OLED panel cannot currently fit into the BeoVision Eclipse sound center because it has a different socket installation. The company declined to comment on whether it will be available at a later point.
The visual expression of Eclipse is defined mainly by B&O’s SoundCenter that extends beyond the frame of the OLED panel. It is a daring design that will divide opinion but that is what a Bang & Olufsen product must do. It should not look like the rest. We saw more OLED TVs at IFA in Berlin that we can remember but none looked like the BeoVision Eclipse. It stands out from the crowd. This extends to the choice of material and build quality, too.
BeoVision Eclipse is the first result of the partnership with LG. It is also the Danish company’s first TV based on OLED technology, their first TV with Dolby Vision, their first TV with webOS, and their first TV with built-in Airplay and Chromecast. It is an exciting but also radical step for Bang & Olufsen that has forced the company to fundamentally change the way that TVs are designed and manufactured.
It has taken courage and it is clear to us that OLED technology is the right – and only – bet that Bang & Olufsen could make at this point. And LG.Display is the sole provider of OLED TV panels. Still, the luxury company has to convince buyers that this is still a ‘Bang & Olufsen TV’ to justify the high price tag. We will examine everything in more detail in our coming review.