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LG's roll-up OLED TV comes out of hiding only when TV time rolls around

The bad news? It's $60,000.

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Seen here at CES 2019 a year ago, the LG rollable TV will finally ship in 2020.

Sarah Tew/CNET
This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

The biggest sensation in TVs for the last two years at CES was arguably LG's incredible rollable TV, a 65-inch OLED television that's flexible enough to roll up and down. The screen will roll down and disappear into its cabinet when you're done watching, completely out of sight. When TV time, er, rolls around again, a push of a button on the remote brings the OLED screen back up, emerging gloriously like an entertainment cobra from a basket.

LG originally said the TV would ship in 2019 but that date slipped, at least in the US. Now we have the full details, starting with the price: $60,000 (about £45,600 or AU$86,200). LG hasn't officially announced that figure but it was given to me during a recent visit to Korea by JS Lee, head of global marketing for LG's home entertainment business. 

When I asked LG's representatives to confirm it at CES 2020 they told me again that US pricing isn't finalized. They did say it would ship sometime in the second or third quarter of 2020.

Guys, that's a lot of money for a 65-inch television. LG charges around two grand for a standard 65-inch OLED, by way of comparison, and its massive 88-inch 8K OLED costs $30,000. It wouldn't be the most expensive TV out there, however. Samsung and Sony each pocket $70,000 for their 98-inch 8K TVs, while Samsung's The Wall MicroLED TV starts at $400,000 for the 146-inch version, installed. In your yacht.

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Discerning rich people with mountain views they don't want obscured by the TV could well prefer the LG Signature RX, as the company calls it. Available only in a 65-inch size, the "TV" is just a piece of furniture reminiscent of a minimalist, modern sideboard or credenza: It's a low-slung stand supporting a sleek silver box. Cloth conceals a Dolby Atmos sound system and a full-width sliding door on the top back conceals the screen itself.

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The rollable screen in "line view."

Sarah Tew/CNET

In addition to the full-sized TV view, you can also watch the TV in "line view," where it rolls back up and descends into the box until maybe a quarter of the screen is visible. LG has designed a special home page for this short, wide screen shape, allowing it to display a clock with weather, personal photos or moving ambient designs. The screen can also disappear completely while music plays -- the set's sound system can interface with your phone via Bluetooth.

When I saw it in person last year, the TV screen looked stiff and solid unrolled. The OLED screen material itself is fixed to numerous thin horizontal bars that support its structure, raised and lowered by a pair of riser arms on the back. It's wild. And the sample showed no wrinkles or signs of stress from rolling up that I could discern.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

LG says the TV has been tested to 50,000 rolls up or down. So if you turned it on or off eight times a day it would last 17 years. The RX is covered by LG's standard TV warranty.

While the RX only rolls up from the floor, LG Display is demonstrating a concept version that rolls down from the ceiling, like a projector screen (no word on when or it it will go on sale). I'm interested to see that in action and ask how it's dealing with the fact that a standard 8-foot ceiling would put the TV too high for comfortable viewing.

Beyond its rollyness the RX should offer superb image quality, like all OLED TVs we've tested, but I don't expect it to perform any better than its $2,000-ish cousins. It includes most of the new extras introduced on LG's standard 2020 OLED TVs, including the A9 Gen 3 processor and far-field voice control of Alexa and Google Assistant, but it is missing a Next Gen TV (ATSC 3.0) tuner and AMD FreeSync/Nvidia G-Sync compatibility. I guess even those who can afford it all can't have it all. 

Originally published Jan. 6.