LG 55-inch OLED TV

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/ Updated: 25 May 2012 5:35 pm BST

The TV is the heart of the home, acting as the portal for the whole family to be instantly transported into the mystical realms of movies. If your telly time is important to you, you'll want to spend a fair whack of cash on buying a good one. But is any living room worth parking £8,000 of tech in the corner? LG hopes you think so because that's what it's asking for its new flagship TV.

This 55-inch beast uses OLED technology to produce astounding picture quality. Not only that, at 4mm thick, it's so thin it's like putting up a poster on your wall.

The LG OLED TV is available to pre-order from July. Units will then be on show in shops like John Lewis and Harrods and I highly recommend you pop along to have a look. If you place an order, you can expect delivery towards the end of the year.

Picture quality

There are two things any top-end TV should have -- an amazing quality display and stunning design. Unsurprisingly given the price, this TV has both.

It's the first TV from LG to use OLED technology, which stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diodes. It's the same as you might see on much smaller devices like phones and tablets. OLED screens are typically extremely vivid, with super-deep black levels resulting in an amazing contrast. But due to the complex technology involved in making them, we've not previously seen anything much over the 10-inch mark.

LG OLED TV screen
As with OLED screens seen on mobile phones, contrasts are amazing, with seriously inky blacks.

The 55-inch OLED panel in play here is every bit as bold and bright as its smaller cousins. I only had a brief hands-on in a conference room in Monaco so I didn't have a chance to test it with various films, but the demo reel that was playing was stunning. The blacks in the picture were endlessly deep. Cheaper displays that rely on backlighting aren't able to achieve this, instead producing blacks that are more of a grey shade, with less overall contrast.

Colours were extremely rich on the OLED TV and the reds of a strawberry in the test footage hit me in the face like a pro boxer. It was also incredibly sharp, with every minute detail clearly visible. Viewing angles were extremely wide too. Of course, the demo reel was designed to show off the TV at its very best, so I'll have to leave the final verdict for our full review.

LG OLED TV angled
Viewing angles are extremely wide if you insist on sitting on your favourite chair in the corner.

It's shaping up to be an utterly incredible screen. But is it too good? The OLED's intensity means it has a particular 'style' that might not be to everyone's taste. It's similar to what we've already seen on smaller screens -- the display on the Samsung Galaxy S2 is more vivid and colourful than the iPhone 4S screen, but many people preferred the natural balance on Apple's blower. Whether this is also the case on the larger screen remains to be seen.

The set uses 'passive' 3D technology, which means the glasses you'll need to wear for 3D videos aren't battery powered, as with 'active' 3D TVs. As such, they're a lot cheaper to buy in bulk and are more suited to families gathering around to watch a 3D movie. One drawback is that you'll see a lower-resolution picture than with an active set. This is slightly at odds with LG's uber-premium proposition.

During my eyes-on, there was sadly no 3D content on display, so I can't comment on how it will appear on an OLED screen but I'm very keen to try it out.

LG OLED TV control box
If you're wondering where to plug in all those ugly cables, LG provides a separate control box that looks like a Blu-ray player.

Super-slim design

Moving on to those good looks I mentioned earlier. The stand-out feature of the TV's design is its incredible 4mm depth. I don't often find myself taken aback by new products, but this thing is so skinny, it blew my mind. I'm no stranger to slim tellies as we have numerous models skipping in and out of CNET UK Towers every week. But LG's goes far beyond what I've seen before -- it even made my 9mm iPhone 4 look fat by comparison.

Seeing the TV up close doesn't diminish how impressive it looks either. If you move around to the side and view it edge-on, you'll be looking at a thin line hanging in the air. Couple that with a bezel that's only a couple of millimetres thick and you're left with the impression that your TV is a living poster hanging on your wall.

LG OLED TV side
Best not to hang in the air like LG did here, because if you walk into it, you're in danger of slicing yourself in two.

One problem -- if you can really call it that -- with it being so slim is that all the ports and connectivity gubbins have to be housed in a separate control box. This is also very slim and is clad in an attractive brushed metal covering that makes it look like you've got a very sleek Blu-ray player sat beneath your telly.

The set weighs around 7kg, which is considerably less weighty than most TVs on the market so you won't have to worry about your house collapsing if you decide to mount it on your wall. If that's not an option for you, it comes with a rather nice stand so you can pop it on your regular TV cabinet.

LG OLED TV bezel
Squint your eyes and you may spot a narrow bezel around the screen.

Smart TV and Magic Remote

No modern TV is complete without smart functions and the OLED TV is no exception. Expect to find access to your social networks as well as on-demand services if you're just too busy to watch shows when they're aired. I wasn't able to check out the smart services so I'm not sure how the TV functions yet or what other gems it holds in store, so stay tuned for the full review.

When we saw the prototype OLED at the CES show in January, it came with a Magic Remote that operated much like a Nintendo Wii remote, letting you point it at the screen to move a cursor around. This should make navigating around the web or loading up apps a simple task. There was no sign of the remote in Monaco, but it's possible it just popped off to the Casino next door. We'll have to wait to see if it makes an appearance when it ships towards the end of the year.

Outlook

LG's OLED TV boasts not only one of the most bold and vivid displays I've ever seen, but also one of the thinnest, sleekest designs ever. Its price means only those of you who've recently been signed to Manchester City are likely to be able to afford one. But if you are so fortunate, rest assured you will be spending your money on what is probably the best TV money can buy.

Stay tuned for our final verdict in the full review soon.

Editors' note: Andrew Hoyle saw the OLED TV at a LG event in Monaco. His flights and accommodation were paid for by LG, but the company had no input into the content of this article.

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Where to Buy

LG 55-inch OLED TV

Part Number: CNETLG 55-inch OLED TV

Typical Price: £8,000.00

See manufacturer website for availability.