LG 55-inch curved OLED (55EC930T) TV review: The future of OLED is bright
Fantastic colour production, promising smart TV software and stunning design are hallmarks of LG's 55-inch OLED television
- Excellent colour production
- Deep blacks
- Stunning design
- Fantastic WebOS software makes smart TV features simple to use
- Limited gamut with blacks
- Small application ecosystem
- No future support for WebOS 2.0
Price$ 3,999.00 (AUD)
Head into a store and the salesmen will pitch one of two television technologies. There’s Ultra high definition championing a next-generation resolution, and OLED televisions, which are organically backlit sets focused on delivering outstanding colour, blacks and brightness.
LG is among the first in Australia to offer OLED TVs, and its curved 55-inch variant ranks among the best televisions we’ve tested.
Massive screen, wafer thin
There’s a sense of theatricality to this television. It is large at 55-inches and the expansive size of its OLED screen is only exaggerated by the slender depth of the bezel. The border is no larger than a centimetre tall and the panel is 5mm deep. The result is a television that is all screen, one that gives the inkling the technology at work is cutting edge.
Pride has evidently been taking in the design and construction. The Full HD panel is thinner than a pencil, is bordered by chrome and has a brushed finish. The stand is sculpted from a piece of aluminum. It has a slender, symmetrical footprint, and it props the television up gracefully on both sides. At night, it is bathed in the soft glow of a white light that originates behind the LG badge.
LG goes one further by curving the OLED screen. It is a subtle curve, and although the benefits of a curved display are widely debated, the end results speak for themselves. It adds to the television’s charisma and it certainly doesn’t hurt the resulting picture quality.
Curving the screen helps minimise those pesky reflections. LG applies an oleophobic anti-glare coating to the screen. Reflections are reduced from a harsh white to a soft purple, and this tinge somehow adds to this television’s char, even when it is switched off.
WebOS smarts & fun
Premium LG televisions run the WebOS platform. The 55EC930T operates on the first-gen version of the software, which has been well appropriated to the television form factor. All of the smart television features are there, though it might not benefit from new features as LG is not upgrading the 55EC930T to WebOS 2.0.
The software on this OLED set feels custom built for a television. Large, colourful icons make use of the vast screen real estate. It is styled simply and is intuitively structured, so much so that LG can afford to bundle this TV with a pointer ‘magic’ remote. Applications are colourfully laid out along the bottom of the screen. There’s a settings icon and a source icon at the top. That’s all there is to the menu homescreen, and it can be summoned at any time, no matter where you are in the menu or the application in use.
Powering the smart television is a dual-core processor — LG, like other manufacturers, remains vague on its specifications. The dual core processor is powerful enough to run multiple applications. It is among the faster processors in the television market, though few times are dampened by little lag.
Connecting to the Internet can be done by plugging in an Ethernet port or by jumping on networks wirelessly. It’s possible to surf the web with the inclusion of a preinstalled browser. The versatility of the magic remote makes it easier to browse the web on a big screen television as it doubles as a cursor and makes entering text easy.
Letting the WebOS platform down is the immaturity of its application store. Some big name apps are supported, such as YouTube, Facebook, Skype and Spotify. There are a few video-on-demand apps, including Netflix, SBS on Demand, ABC iView and Bigpond TV, though the overall application experience is stunted by the availability of too few applications.
The television bounces back with a file manager that brings the multimedia from otherwise frayed devices into one place. The media player gleans all types of files — be it photo, movie or song — from all of the storage devices either plugged into the television, or from those that are on the same home network.
Most file formats are supported by the 55EC930T. All of our music and photo files were played back without fault. We did encounter an anomaly in that some MP4 videos could be played back and others could not.
Casting content from an Android smartphone to the television works seamlessly, even with non LG smartphones, such as the HTC One (M9). The LG OLED television outperformed the Sony’s X9000B television in this respect, as it struggled to cast content from an LG smartphone during our review.
Sharing content to the television required that we download its Android WebOS application and jumped onto the same Wi-Fi network. The app automatically found the television on our home network and it guided us through the casting process.
How well content casting works depends largely on the quality of a home’s Wi-Fi network. Slow networks dampen the experience with long loading times, while faster networks will transfer the content much quicker.
The LG television works on the Miracast standard, and although it diligently handled music and videos, photos could benefit from further optimisation. The ability to zoom in on photos on smartphones and have the effect reflected on the TV would work well for both holiday slideshows and business meetings.
LG bundles its Magic Remote with the smart television in an effort to keep matters simple. The magic remote is comfortable to hold with a small, curvaceous body. Navigating through menus is easy because it tightly integrates many input methods, including point-to-click, a navigational D-pad and a scroll wheel.
In an unconventional move, the magic remote doesn’t have any numbers. Going directly to a channel is handled by pointing the remote at a number pad displayed on the screen. This isn’t the quickest mode of channel changing, though it is easy to get used to and it does make a second remote unnecessary.
The deal with OLED
The focus of OLED is less on resolution and more on motion, colour and lighting. OLED televisions do not need a separate panel for backlighting as the pixels are organically lit. Being able to turn off select pixels makes it possible to display bright colours alongside deeper blacks.
Blacks appear immediately darker on this 55-inch television. Parts of the menu are simply white text set against a black screen; a black so dark that the television barely looks powered. Having such a dark palette in which the colours can be set against makes them appear brighter.
A handful of movies were watched on the LG OLED television during our fortnight of testing. Most telling of its performance was our Blu-ray of Pan’s Labyrinth, the 2006 film directed by Guillermo del Toro. The film alternates between a dark, noir-styled reality and a rich-in-colour fantasy world.
The 55EC930T rendered the dark scenes with blacks that are much darker than its Sony and Samsung rivals. Unfortunately these blacks change in tone harshly. This causes small areas to be coloured in a uniform shade of black — rather than differing subtle tones — that has noticeable detail missing.
Tuning some of the settings won’t help. An alternative mode switched the backlighting for blacks on, and other than illuminating the dark spots, it did little to restore the lost detail.
The loss of detail in blacks is only noticeable in overly dark scenes. It is the weakest point of LG’s OLED television, but it isn’t enough to thwart its long list of ‘pros’.
Offsetting the limited detail in blacks is the television’s colour performance. Most manufacturers make use of three coloured sub-pixels – red, green and blue. LG’s OLED television adds white to that recipe in an effort to increase the contrast range and improve the rendition of colours.
Colours are bold, vibrant and prominently backlit. Detail throughout the colour range is rich, and it is maintained in fast action scenes. It’s in the wide range of colours that this LG television shines, especially when the bright and wide colour gamut is set against the television’s deep blacks.
Nature documentaries from National Geographic mesmerise on this television. All of the tiny details work together to create an utterly immersive experience. The quality of the panel, its curved profile and the sheer size of the thing all pitch in to create an experience reminiscent of a cinema.
This experience would be compounded if the television is partnered with a sound bar or a home theatre system. Built into the lower half of the set are four 2-way speakers that produce a total of 40-watts. Slim televisions struggle to deliver big sound, and although the speakers in the 55EC930T are competent enough to watch all sorts of media without the support of a speaker system, having one would get the most out of the television.
Much hype surrounds UHD, and in the company of OLED, you have to wonder why. UHD is a technology that will mature tomorrow, with a need for more content, a method of delivery and pricing that is affordable, while OLED is ready for today. LG’s 55-inch OLED variant is case and point.
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