Part of LG’s OLED success is due to its 4 colour subpixel (WRGB) approach. Traditional pixels are made up of three subpixels – red, green and blue – which vary in intensity to create the desired colour or white light. RGB has its limitations and LG’s answer was to add a white subpixel. The LG’s OLED screen consists of a stacked set of RGB subpixels under a colour refiner. Each subpixel filter allows for red, green, blue, or clear white light to pass through. Brighter whites are achieved using only the white subpixel rather than the combined RGB subpixels of a traditional display. Colours and grayscale are also improved thanks to this. Add the fact that each pixel can operate natively at 10-bits, and there’s a lot of colour capability and the TV should display all source material without introducing its own false contouring (Blu-ray and TV is only 8-bit). WRGB has added benefits of reducing the TV’s power consumption and preventing the blue subpixel from wearing out faster (picture browning) as it does on all other past and present technologies.
To reduce motion blur from the OLED panel (this does not include native motion blur inherent in film and TV content), this LG has a high refresh rate of 120Hz and claims only a 0.1 ms delay. Input lag, caused by the TV’s video processing from input to final display, is over 100 ms for all picture modes except for game (which disables most processing at the expense of picture quality). LG’s input lag is high for my liking, so be sure to set the audio delay in your receiver/preamp accordingly, otherwise the picture and the voices/sound may be misaligned.
LG includes a picture Wizard mode to help a user set up the picture. I don’t advise using it since it doesn’t come close to achieving a good picture. LG’s presets include Vivid, Standard, Game, Cinema, Expert 1 and Expert 2. As you would expect from a modern TV, this LG also offers a 3D picture, using passive 3D glasses.
Smart TV functionality has been advancing over the last few years and consumers now have certain expectations. LG’s webOS was introduced in some of the company’s TV sets in 2014. All on-screen menus use webOS and take a few moments to load once the TV is turned on. Apps are spread along the bottom of the screen as selectable cards so the viewer can continue watching TV when browsing through the apps. They are easy to scroll through and the most popular ones are placed first. An on-screen keyboard is used to type for YouTube and the web (a full internet browser is included), and the rest of the navigation is done with the Magic Remote’s pointer. In a future firmware update, I’d like to see the ability to dim the on-screen menus – they are eye-scorching bright and require the eyes to readjust when jumping from picture content to the menus. The TV’s firmware/software updater is easy to use. Two updates happened in the month and a half that I had this set and both contributed to improvements. Since updates can take up to ten minutes, they can be done conveniently while watching TV.
I only report on image quality after calibration since it’s the best way to judge a television’s performance. Measurements were taken using a Konica-Minolta’s CS-1000A spectroradiometer feeding data to CalMan 5.3 software, while the test patterns were sourced from Accupel’s DVG-5000 pattern generator. The review environment consisted of both bright and dark room scenarios. Blu-rays were spun in an LG BD660 player. For a detailed calibration report, please visit the CANADA HiFi forum at novo.press.
If I was to give an example of a TV that has all picture controls maxed out, this would be it. Out of the box this TV is set to APS mode, which is a sort of energy saving feature. The picture is just horrible. The brightest white was jacked up as high as this TV could deliver, but the rest of the range was dark with murky details to save on power consumption. Colours were intensified and white was exceedingly blue just to compensate for the darkness. LG was probably hoping to show how great the contrast is, but at the expense of far too many details and colour compromises. Luckily that can be fixed. None of the image presets were close to showing an accurate picture including the Expert mode. Thankfully all of the necessary adjustment controls are available. After several hours of measuring and evaluating, the final calibration produced a picture that was accurately bright, highly contrasting, rich in detail, and overall exceptional. I have never seen an image on a television as good as I’ve seen it on this LG OLED. Period.
Once contrast and brightness controls were set correctly, the grayscale was near-perfect thanks to the tweaking of the 20-point grayscale control. A perfect grayscale means that all colours intended by the filmmaker can be seen precisely. With Pixel Dimming, deep, dark, rich colours are seen on this TV that no other TV technology has shown correctly to this date.
Screen uniformity, or the ability to display consistent white across the screen edge to edge, is equivalent to a plasma TV and far better than an LCD. If you are wondering if the curve will be distracting to your viewing, I didn’t feel so unless I was sitting at an extreme angle. From the screen looked more trapezoidal than rectangular. Most of my viewing was straight on center. At a healthy distance of 6 feet – a great distance for small Toronto condos – I felt just as immersed in the video as I do with flat screens.
The first movie I spun was Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. I wanted to watch a classic piece of filmmaking without all of the video noise created by plasma, without all of the uniformity issues of LCD, and with the transparent image of the OLED. WOW!! I’ve seen this film countless times. This OLED TV heightened the emotional impact of this film to a level I’ve never experienced. An extremely accurate image and video display can change how one feels about a film. With the room lights out, the black level was so deep that the TV’s image was indistinguishable from the dark wall behind the TV. As Captain Willard read through the dossier on Colonel Kurtz while travelling down the Nung River in the dead of night, the glow from the flashlight highlighting Martin Sheen’s face was the only light in my room. I was immediately transported onto the boat with him – the ultimate suspension of disbelief any filmmaker could ask for. No milky-gray blacks. Just amazing, stunning black. Also challenging for all video displays is resolving film grain. It’s an extremely important detail for any film purist and the LG 55EC9300 did it better than anything else. No matter what movie I played, the LG OLED was pure video bliss.
This LG also showed me how good over-the-air (OTA) TV can look. An OTA picture is superior to satellite and cable, but now OLED makes OTA mesmerizing. Specialty and cooking shows on TVO and PBS looked almost as good as Blu-ray. Network television shows and sports broadcasts were addictive to watch. I attribute my new addiction to this OLED TV’s contrast and colours and I don’t think I’ll ever want to watch my plasma and LCD TVs again. You can’t unlearn high quality. Once you see it, you can’t go back.
There is however room for improvement with this LG OLED TV. The sound from the speakers is tinny. The input selection, on-screen menus, and the Magic Remote take some getting used to. Like plasma TVs, this OLED set also has an auto brightness limiter that prevents full-screen white to be displayed in the same manner as smaller white images. It’s also susceptible to image retention (IR) if the aspect ratio is left in 4:3 for too long. I recommend stretching all standard definition programs to full screen by keeping the aspect ratio in 16:9. As the technology advances, I’m sure these minor drawbacks will be improved.
This 55-inch LG 55EC9300 OLED TV is simply brilliant and has forever changed how I feel about watching TV. It serves up unbeatable contrast, combined with deep, rich, and gorgeous colours. It is capable of the deepest black levels ever developed and a beautifully bright picture. There’s an immediate transparency in the image that we’ve never seen before. For true movie buffs, it is time to forget about plasma and LCD TV – this OLED TV sets a brand new reference standard. At $4,999 (with sale prices as low as $2,999) it’s priced higher than the same sized plasma and LCD competitors. But the reality is there is no competition for OLED technology. OLED TVs live in a category of their own. I couldn’t go back to watching my plasma or LCD TVs again, so I bought this LG. If you’d like to experience absolute video nirvana, you should get one too. But if you’re the patient type, you might want to wait for LG 4K OLED TVs hitting the stores a little later this year.
Mike Osadciw is a THX/ISF
Professional Video Calibrator/Instructor with The Highest Fidelity
LG 55EC9300 55-Inch 1080p Curved Screen OLED HDTV