LG OLED TV review

Review: LG OLED TV (flat)

19 May 2014 | Rasmus Larsen


We have already tested LGs curved OLED TV, but we just cannot get enough of OLED technology. Back then, we said that OLED is the future and we do not expect that LGs flat OLED TV (55EA8800 / 55EA880W) will make us doubt that statement. However, we are interested in examining how the flat panel affects the picture quality experience and just how consistent LGs OLED TVs are.

Even if you cannot afford an OLED TV right now we highly recommend you to read on. For the first time in many years the TV industry is about to introduce a whole new display technology (no "LED TVs" were not a new technology) and that is exciting! Prices will come down eventually, but how good is the first generation? Join us and find out.

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Specifications

55"
Full HD (1920x1080)
Flat OLED
Passive 3D
Stand (fixed)
(HxBxD) 71 x 123 x 2.5 cm (without stand)
13.2 kg
HDMI (4x)
USB (1x 3.0 - 2x 2.0)
Optical
HDMI-ARC (1x)
Headphones
Stereo
DVB T/T2/C/S2
WiFi (n-standard)
MPEG4
NetCast
MagicRemote
Motion control
Smartphone app (LG TV Remote)
Manual
MagicRemote

Price and retailer:

US retailerUK retailer


First impressions

LG released a curved OLED TV last year, and later a flat variant was introduced in Europe. LGs flat OLED TV is now also available in the US and we have had a the pleasure of having it in our testing lab for some time.

LG flat OLED TV review


This 55-inch flat OLED TV is sold as a "Gallery OLED TV because of the frame that has a complete audio system built in. The frame of the Gallery module can be changed to fit your decor - or mood.

LG flat OLED TV review


We have not received the Gallery frame, but just the OLED panel without speakers. It is actually sold this way in some regions of the world. It is extremely thin, and makes even a modern LCD TV look fat when standing next to it. It really is quite impressive.

The bezel is also extremely slim, except at the bottom. When off the TV panel looks almost bezel-free, like just a black piece of glass without borders. Connectors are found on the back side, pointing either down or to the side, making it easy to wall mount the OLED TV.

LG flat OLED TV review


The most amazing thing about the design of the OLED TV is probably that LG has actually made it thicker in order to support itself. The thinness of OLED panels has zero effect on picture quality. It is just how they are made. OLED panels can also be produced on bendable material, making them flexible, even rollable. Imagine where this will take us in the future.

Test tools

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.

Functionality

Both of LGs current OLED TVs are 2013 models, which means that even though the TVs will be sold throughout 2014 they will feature the old NetCast Smart TV platform, not the new webOS platform. The motion-enabled Magic remote is bundled in the box and is used to control all facets of the TV interface.

As we have already tested several 2013 Smart TVs from LG we will not go through all the features again. Instead, we refer to our LA8600 review here. The Smart TV features in LGs OLED TVs are identical to those in the LCD/LED models.

We will take a look at the new webOS based Smart TV platform in LGs 2014 Smart TVs later.

Energy consumption

Compare power consumption measurements on different TVs and monitors with our interactive power consumption applet here.


Standby 0.0 W 0.0 W
SD+HD 104 W 68 W
3D 110 W 79 W


Power consumption is actually a bit lower than on LGs curved OLED TV. Around 5-10 W lower at similar brightness levels. LGs OLED TVs still consume a bit more power than the best LED LCD TVs, but the difference is not huge. Also, remember that power consumption of an OLED TV depends on the content you are watching. Dark movies equal lower power consumption.

Calibration of LG OLED TV

We took an initial measurement of the out-of-box picture settings.

LG flat OLED TV review


The graph says this:

Right graph: The number on the left is the delta value. Delta is a difference between two; here its the difference between the measured color on the panel and the desired color.

  • A delta value higher than 2 means that a human eye can perceive a slight visible deviation from the actual color.
  • A delta value over 4 or 5 results in visibly wrong colors.
  • A delta value between 1 and 2 means that colors it is very hard to perceive a visual deviations in colors.
  • A delta value lower than 1 is basically perfect color accuracy. Our target value is 0.
  • Everything between 0 and 1 is barely visible to the human eye.

  • As you can see colors are not very accurate with the default settings, but this is very common on todays TVs. These are tricks used by all TV manufacturers to make their TVs appear more impressive in stores. A cheap trick, but it seems to be working.

    As we did more measurements we quickly found out that LGs flat OLED TV resembles the curved OLED TV in almost every way. The THX profile is much better than the default settings and recommended for most content. The results are really impressive and once again shows that OLED can reproduce very accurate colors - if TV makers want them to.

    There is no need to run through everything again since results are almost similar to the curved OLED TV, so if you want some more views on this see our review of LGs curved OLED TV.

    Measurements Out-of-box Calibrated
    Black level 0.0 cd/m2 0.0 cd/m2
    Brightness 188 cd/m2 136 cd/m2
    Contrast - -
    Input lag 55 ms (Game) 60 ms

    Power consumptionOut-of-box Calibrated
    On 104 W 68 W
    3D 110 W 79 W
    Stand-by 0.0 W -

    Calibration SettingValue
    General Picture mode ISF Expert1
    OLED light 52
    Contrast 80
    Brightness 50
    V/H Sharpness 0
    Color 50
    Color tone 0
    Advanced Dynamic contrast Off
    Super Resolution Off
    Color gamut Standard
    Edge enhancer Off
    Color filter Off
    Noise reduction Off
    MPEG noise reduction Off
    Black level Low
    TruMotion User
    (de-judder 0, de-blur 0)
    Color temp Warm2
    Gamma 2.2
    RGB method 2 point
    R high -1
    G high -5
    B high +4
    R low -1
    G low -1
    B low +2
    Energy saver Off
    Picture format Just scan


    Note 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 60-80.

    Picture quality

    LGs OLED TV has a glossy surface, not unlike most LED models. It is highly reflective when the TV is turned off, but once the video rolls you only really notice reflections during dark scenes. The anti-reflective coating on the OLED panel is considerably better than on typical LED models.

    As we started to run our usual picture quality tests, we quickly learned that LGs flat OLED TV resembles LGs curved OLED TV in almost every way. LG leaves room for improvements in color gradation, as the TV exhibited some bands in the darker areas of our color gradation charts, but this is quite common on TVs. The problem will most likely be fixed when the industry as a whole (hardware, distribution and content) moves to 30-bit colors instead of 24-bit like today.

    Today, TVs do not reproduce the entire spectrum of colors that the human eye can see, simply because of old TV standards. OLED can enable us to move to the next stage, but content producers and TV distributors also need to take the step. That should happen with Ultra HD in a few years.

    LG flat OLED TV review


    We did not particularly like the curve on LGs other OLED TV. We felt that it was distracting as you needed to sit right in front of the TV - spot-on vertically and horizontally. So we are only happy that LG has expanded the distribution of the flat variants to Europe and the US.

    A little bird told us that LG originally wanted to sell OLED as curved TVs, but that they had a hard time selling them. That is why LG is expanding the availability of the flat OLED TV to more markets at the moment.

    In most other areas the TVs excels. SD picture quality is very nice and HD pictures look stunning. The clarity and vividness of nature pictures is amazing due to the incredible contrast of the OLED panel. This TV can reproduce perfect black in any viewing environment, day and night. This is perfection and we have been waiting so many years for it. It ensures rich and intense colors, as well as depth in pictures.

    You will be impressed. If you have a chance to see an OLED TV in person we really recommend that you take the drive. With OLED we are nearing perfection in a lot of important picture elements. No longer will we have to suffer stupid stop-gap solutions such as local dimming and dynamic contrast.

    LG flat OLED TV review


    As we discussed in our previous review, LG uses sample-and-hold driving, developed for LCD panels. In practice this means that the TV is not completely blur-free. It is faster than any LCD panel out there, but LG could improve things further by using a different driving method or by using black frame insertion, where black frames are inserted into the video stream as very, very short frames. However, since this flat OLED TV is from the same generation as the curved one, we cannot really blame LG for not changing anything. The two TVs were developed at the same time.

    We also found that input lag is quite high. We managed to get it down to 50-60 ms in the Game Mode, which is the same level as the curved TV, but this might be too high for some console gamers taste. This is one area that LG should focus on when developing future OLED TVs. Right now, input lag is too high.

    LG flat OLED TV review


    On the topic of 3D there is not much new to add. LG uses passive 3D that only requires cheap polarized glasses without batteries. Two Alain Mikli pairs are bundled. 3D resolution is halved because of the way passive 3D works, but crosstalk is very low and we prefer the passive 3D system over the active 3D system. LG needs to move to 4K panels to really improve 3D picture quality on both OLEDs and LCDs.

    We can also shoot down concerns about retention and burn-in on LG OLED TVs. LGs TV had no problems in this area, even after prolonged PC use. At several points in time have even we used LGs OLED TVs as a PC monitor. LGs 15-inch OLED TV that was released some years ago serves as our secondary PC monitor for almost a month.

    Below are our contrast measurements.

    Black level 0.00 cd/m2 0.00 cd/m2
    Brightness 188 cd/m2 136 cd/m2
    Contrast ratio - -
    Contrast ratio +/- 50


    When we reviewed LGs curved OLED TV we found it to have perfect black reproduction, so we were expecting the same from the flat version. It did not disappoint us. Black is pitch black. If you place the TV on a full black background in a completely dark room, it is impossible to tell if it is turned on or not. It reproduces perfect black, no tricks, making our measurements irrelevant.

    Brightness on the other hand, is still relevant. OLED TVs work like plasma TVs, meaning that peak brightness varies based on the amount of bright elements on-screen. A full white background is not very bright on an OLED TV, but a small white box on a black background can get very bright. It depends on how big the section of the bright spot is.

    LG flat OLED TV review


    So for the sake of comparison we took the same measurements that we did during our test of the curved variant.
    100% white screen: 82 cd/m2
    Peak brightness: 328 cd/m2

    The flat variant is more or less as bright as the curved variant. The difference is negligible. LGs flat OLED TV is certainly bright enough for even a living room with large windows, but LG should improve brightness on a 100% white screen.

    LG flat OLED TV review


    Shadow detailing is excellent, too. Pretty much all shades of grey are distinguished.

    LGs flat OLED TV had no light homogeneity issues either. No light leaks through, as there are absolutely no backlight bleeding or clouding issues. Again, perfection. No need for photos.

    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.

    Viewing angles

    The viewing angles are very wide and actually even better than on the curved variant since the flat TV does not distort images.

    Colors remain vivid and beautiful even from extreme angles and there is no drop in contrast either. Black is pitch-black from all angles. Only a very slight drop in color intensity can be spotted when the TV is viewed at extreme angles. Very impressive.

    LG flat OLED TV review


    LG flat OLED TV review


    Sound

    We did not have the Gallery frame during our review and without it LGs flat OLED TV is just an OLED panel with inputs. There are no integrated speakers, but you can obviously connect external speakers via HDMI or optical out.

    Conclusion

    All of LGs current OLED TVs are based on the 2013 Smart TV platform and not the new webOS-based platform. There is not much to add here other than LG will be focusing on webOS from here on. As it stands right now you are better off with a cheap media streamer box or game console. LGs new OLED TVs with webOS are expected to launch in Q3 or Q4 2014.

    But none of that matters when you turn on the TV and start up your favorite Blu-ray movie. Picture quality is simply amazing. LGs curved OLED TV reproduced perfect black and the same is true for this flat version. Viewing angles are near-perfect, motion is held back slightly by the drive method of the OLED panel, but still impressive. Colors are vivid and beautiful after calibration. There are no light clouding/bleeding issues at all. In essence, the TV is more or less identical to the curved version - except that it is flat, which means that you do not have to worry about image distortion when looking at the TV from an angle. Picture quality is simply amazin.

    We can only repeat what we have said before; OLED is the future. It combines the best of both worlds, and LGs flat OLED TV surpasses even the best plasma TVs, despite being a first-generation product. As a consumer product we simply wish for 4K resolution, a lower price point, and webOS Smart TV from LG. LGs flat OLED TV hereby takes over our Reference Award - from LGs curved OLED TV that was the previous holder.

    Price and retailer:

    US retailerUK retailer



    Fantastic picture quality
    Perfect black level
    Nice color reproduction
    Virtually perfect viewing angles
    Fewer reflections than LCD
    Good ISF mode


    Input lag
    Motion reproduction not great
    More expensive than curved







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