LG 55EA9800 3D OLED HDTV Page 2

The LG passed all of our standard video-processing tests, though with some visible rolloff in the highest-frequency horizontal chroma resolution burst—common to many displays we’ve tested. The Real Cinema control had to be turned on for the set to pass both the 3:2 and 2:2 pulldown tests.

414lghd.rem.jpgOnce set up and properly adjusted, the LG OLED was a stunner. The color was impeccable, though this was no surprise. Most high-quality LCD and plasma sets today, properly adjusted, can produce color that only the most obsessive videophiles might criticize. But it was important to discover that OLED can do this as well. Fleshtones were spot-on, and green foliage never looked artificial—the two most critical colors because most people see them live every day. Within the limitations of today’s BT709 HDTV format, you won’t get much better color than this on any other HDTV.

Whereas the instant response of OLEDs should result in less motion lag than that of other designs, my reference Panasonic TC-65ZT60 plasma was superior to the LG in this regard (with the latter’s TruMotion turned off). But this was evident mainly on tests designed specifically to show this quality. With normal program material, I was never bothered by motion blur on the OLED, though I admit it rarely bothers me on most sets. Nor was off-center viewing ever an issue; the picture didn’t change in either color or brightness at any viewing angle.

Still, the LG’s black level and contrast are the big-ticket stories here. Properly adjusted, the OLED produced totally black letterbox bars on widescreen movies. On scenes from Gravity and Prometheus, even the dimmest stars were clearly visible against a pure black background. Prometheus also offers other dark scene challenges. Early in the film on Earth (chapter 2), Dr. Shaw breaks through to a darkened cave; on the LG, the gradually growing opening was surrounded by total black. The same was true in the alien caves later in the film. A superb example: At the beginning of chapter 10, the scene was almost totally black on the LG, punctuated only by the tiny, growing glow of flashlights as the explorers moved further into the scene.

In 2008, Pioneer produced a demo disc that highlighted people and objects against a completely black background. A prototype of Pioneer’s Infinite Black panel, which was to be featured in the company’s Gen 10 plasma, was demonstrated at the 2008 CEDIA Expo and rendered the backgrounds on that disc totally black. But Pioneer never went beyond Gen 9 because they unexpectedly exited the HDTV business. Now I’ve finally seen that total black background once again—in an OLED. To experience a bright object floating in air with nothing visible around it is a jaw-dropping experience.

When I compared the LG OLED with my recently recalibrated reference Panasonic TC-65ZT60, the Panasonic’s colors looked a shade more reddish on some (but not all) material—though both sets’ colors measured well within acceptable limits. I marginally preferred the OLED’s color, but absent a direct A/B such as this, it would be hard to complain about the color on either set. And as good as the Panasonic’s blacks are—and they’re the best I’ve ever experienced in a commercial display up to now—the OLED’s are noticeably better.

That said, the blacks on the OLED—or, more precisely, its dark grays—weren’t perfect. The gray-level uniformity, visible even marginally above black on a full-screen gray test pattern, was poor, marred by significant streaking. This was only occasionally visible on real program material, mostly in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. Still, it’s something that LG needs to fix. There were also some white non-uniformity issues, but they weren’t as serious as in the grays and no worse than what you’ll see in many otherwise good LCD sets.

414lghd.side.jpg3D Performance
Passive 3D glasses reduce the vertical resolution you see with each eye to 540p—since the vertical lines are split between the left- and right-eye images before they’re separated by the polarized glasses. The LG shares another issue common to viewing 3D via passive glasses on other 1080p displays: hundreds of fine, horizontal lines across the screen, caused by the required patterned retarder layer. These are not visible in 2D. In 3D they’re most visible on title lettering, and they also subtly decrease the smoothness of 3D images.

This standard caveat aside, 3D images on the LG were exceptionally bright and punchy. The 3D peak brightness, through the glasses, was comparable (both visibly and by measurement) to the brightness I used for 2D. (There was, to be clear, a lot of spare gas left in the settings tank that I didn’t need for 2D, while for 3D I nearly maxed out the OLED Light and Contrast controls to achieve this equality.) As long as I kept my eyes more or less level with the screen, I saw no significant ghosting. The clip-on 3D glasses, used over prescription specs, were sublimely comfortable. And on the wide range of 3D films I sampled, apart from the issues mentioned above (neither of which bothered me much at my 8-to-10-foot viewing distance), this was 3D the way it should be but almost never is. Even your local IMAX theater can’t really do better—apart from screen size.

Is the LG OLED perfect? No HDTV is. And we haven’t even raised the issues of usable lifetime and potential burn-in. When questioned about the latter, LG says that OLED is closer to plasma than LCD, but they’ve taken steps to minimize the risk. I had no problem with burn-in (or its less aggressive twin, image retention) in my admittedly short two weeks with the set.

Blue OLEDs have been shown to have shorter lives (to half brightness) than red or green. There is no way for us to test for the potential life expectancy or color stability of an OLED display and, as yet, no real-world experience to use as a benchmark. But, according to LG, its W-RGB system, which uses white OLEDs and color refiners to make the colors, should have a lifetime to half-brightness comparable to that of a plasma set.

The truth is that OLED today is an early adopter’s game, but I suspect most early adopters with deep enough pockets will be deliriously happy with the LG 55EA9800. As for me, if the set were 4K, measured at least 65 inches diagonal, sold for half the current asking price or less, and didn’t make my checkbook hand me a guilt trip, I’d own one in a heartbeat.

LG Electronics
(847) 941-8182

LordoftheRings's picture

It's a curved TV! ...For what, for who; curved people with curved eyes?

wowlfie's picture

No it's for those of us with superior curved brains!

mikem's picture

I simply do not understand why curved OLEDs are being marketed in the US since OLED flat screens are marketed elsewhere. I have yet to see OLED in person but would sure like to. Right now I'm still in shock that Panasonic pulled out of the plasma market. Fortunately I bought one a year ago and it offers stellar performance. For BD I have a Darblet and this even makes the panny more jaw-dropping.

DigitalMan's picture

For those of us who want OLED can now have it in a 55" panel for 3500! Best Buy has the 55EC9300 LG model in stock. The black levels and colors are stunning! The only downside is the TV is still just 1080p.