Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
LG 55EG960T OLED UHD TV
A trifecta of emerging technologies, all at a price that challenges lesser rivals
- OLED panel delivers outstanding blacks and bright colours
- webOS smart TV interface is easy to use and easier to navigate with one remote control
- Support for UHD and six-step upscaling engine
- Bite-the-back-of-your-hand good looks
- Low resolution content is still upscaled with image noise
Price$ 5,999.00 (AUD)
Black on an OLED TV is black. It is the absence of light. It is darkness. When the fade away screen happens in a movie on an OLED television, it looks as though it is switched off.
The panel technology has existed for years as a concept. Samsung and LG have long championed it as the next generation in televisions at past Consumer Electronic Shows (CES), but difficulties in manufacturing large OLED panels deemed it a concept only. Now, finally, LG has cracked the manufacturing formula, where it can mass produce the panels at a reasonable price.
This is the panel used in LG’s 55EG960T, a 55-inch television that combines the holy trinity of emerging technologies. Along with its OLED panel is an ultra high definition (UHD, aka 4K) resolution and a curved form factor.
LG representatives have a simple reason as to why they have gone with a curved OLED panel. “It looks good,” they say, and it’s hard to argue otherwise.
The large television has a deep black screen, narrow bezels and is pencil thin. Chrome borders its edging and the stand is largely transparent to create the illusion it is floating. This TV then is as much a design piece as it is a technological step forward.
The back of it does detract some charm, with its white, appliance-like plastic. LG retorts: the colour and material make more sense when it is mounted to a wall.
There’s much more to this television than a striking design. The 960T is a smart TV, powered by a quad-core processor and running webOS, an operating system which has been overhauled for use on large screens.
Most smart TVs offer a plethora of features, only they are locked behind software that is complicated and a navigation mode that is counter intuitive. We don’t get this feeling from LG’s rendition of webOS.
Both the software and the remote have matured to the point where it can be used easily. WebOS is colourful and has large, easy-to-read icons. The information and options it presents are relevant and not inconsequential. Every part of it is thematically consistent and works in the exact same way. And, finally, there’s the mode in which the software is browsed.
Sony, Samsung and Panasonic bundle two separate remotes with their televisions. One of them has a lot of buttons and the other recognises gestures. LG only has one remote this year, and it is a remote designed to work with the software.
Applications downloaded to the television sit in a ribbon at the bottom of the screen. Point the ‘magic remote’ right and the ribbon will scroll in unison with the motion. Move a little the other way and the scrolling speed will slow down — just as a car does when you stop accelerating. Press down on the scroll wheel and it will select that application. There is no need tell the TV to move over every app with a button press, or to look for a separate remote altogether. The learning curve for this remote is tiny and it means you don’t waste time trying to figure out how to use your expensive television.
The application ribbon will be long because the LG content store is maturing. A combination of big name international apps, such as Netflix and Spotify, along with select local apps, the likes of SMH TV and BigPond Movies, can be downloaded. There’s not enough local sport content, which gives its rival Samsung an advantage, though the browser is good enough to frequent favourite sporting sites.
Switching between the various functions is easy. A task manager is one of the features unique to webOS. Going from broadcast TV to content on a hard drive to Spotify to the app store, and so on, all happens quickly. The various sources, inputs and applications are all docked alongside each other, suspended in a state of pause, until the one needed is picked.
The file manager follows this one-place-for-all approach. All of the devices — those plugged into a USB port and those that are on the same Wi-Fi network — are presented in an aesthetic, unified interface. Smartphone support, however, does favour one ecosystem over the other.
Owners of an Android smartphone can cast their favourite music, movies and videos to the 960T over the Miracast standard. Miracast holds potential because it replicates whatever is on your smartphone’s display wirelessly. It can be used to show off holiday photos with ease or to swipe through the slides of an office presentation.
LG has invested in an application that makes it possible to use your smartphone as the TV’s remote control. The app, which supports both iOS and Android, comes in handy during those moments when the magic remote is on another couch and getting up is too much of a bother. It makes it possible to use your smartphone as a trackpad, to launch applications or to simply change the channel.
As a smart television then the 960T excels, with its sophisticated software, honed ease-of-use and a growing app ecosystem. But what of its overall picture quality? Or the speakers crammed into that slender body?
Watching the UHD movie TimeScapes was a bit of a revelation. It is the stock footage we use to test different 4K televisions; our constant in the ongoing parade of varying visual technologies.
There are many scenes where the camera is pointed diagonally towards a star studded sky, while a tree or a rock in the foreground is rendered as a silhouette. Watching these scenes on an LED-backlit LCD television, such as the Samsung JS9500 or the Panasonic CX700A, shifted our attention to the sky in the background. These televisions were versed in the colours.
As the same scenes unfolded on the LG 960T, we were stunned by the silhouette, by the depths of its black and its emptiness. It was the lack of colour cast by a shadow that held us, and because the silhouette was darker, deathly darker, all of the surrounding colours seemed brighter.
LG, similar to its rivals, uses an upscaling engine to improve the way Blu-rays (1080p), DVDs (576p) and broadcast television (576i) are presented on this 2160p display.
Watching Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar on Blu-ray was little different to watching UHD content. Image noise was kept to a minimum and motion was, almost always, silky smooth. Scenes set in space have more depth because there is no backlighting in select sections. In the pursuit of keeping audiences engaged, the 960T was successful.
DVD movies were less convincing. The upscaling engine worked well during well-lit and brightly coloured parts, only there was an increase in image noise in dark scenes. The grainy picture quality in these instances is enough to eject you from what is meant to be an otherwise immersive experience.
This appears to be a problem common to UHD televisions, which struggle to upscale low resolution content. The 960T performs better than most, but it wasn’t enough to help us through a sitting of The Matrix.
A more enjoyable experience was had when we streamed a high definition movie over Netflix. The Replacements, an NFL-based movie, was presented with plenty of detail and little image noise, while also performing well in the fast paced sporting scenes.
Netflix thus far has formatted well on all of the Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic UHD televisions we have tested, and this is in spite of the local offering generating only 14 results during a search for ‘4K’ content.
There’s little doubt OLED is the future of televisions. Unlike UHD, which is an investment waiting to mature, the benefits of an OLED television can be appreciated today. The price of the 55EG960T is competitive too, particularly when you consider it boasts a trifecta of next generation technologies.
LG is the second largest television company in the Australian market and it is punching above its weight with its latest range. Some companies hope to sell televisions using an inflated advertising budget. It's good to see LG is trying to win you and I over with good ol’ fashion innovation.
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