LG claims that this process means longer lasting panels, as well as an easier manufacturing process and a brighter and more efficient screen. We'll wait until we've spent some significant time with an RGB model before we judge which method seems to have the better experience.
What we will say is that the contrast is just amazing. With OLED panels, black is the genuine absence of light and, combined with the brighter colours, it makes everything look sharp and crisp.
The difference compared with plasma and LCD is very noticeable, across both brightly coloured images and dark, moody scenes. We tested across a number of Blu-rays — including The Fast and The Furious and Source Code — as well as live TV, and the 55EA9800 excelled.
The 55EA9800 is centre, with an LG LCD TV to the left and a Panasonic plasma to the right.
(Credit: Nic Healey/CNET Australia)
Both in brightly lit rooms and near-total darkness, the TV was great to watch. We had thought the curve might create problems with viewing angles, but it didn't seem to cause any issues at all. The screen is quite reflective, however, with the depth of black heightening this effect.
It's worth remembering that the TV is still just a 1080p panel. While the colour range and contrast make things seem sharper, it's still the same resolution as your current TV — at least until 4K Ultra HD OLED gets a mainstream release.
The 55EA9800 is actually THX Certified but, for some reason, in Australia, LG has chosen not to license the certification. What this means is there's no THX Cinema preset when you're looking through the picture mode options. LG assured us that you could "calibrate the 55EA9800 with a chroma meter/signal source to achieve THX performance".
This could be a little more effort than some people are looking for, but we found that the standard cinema preset, along with the default picture mode, still produced excellent images. For people who want to get stuck into user settings, you've got a remarkable amount of depth for tweaking the picture to your tastes.
A caveat for people who are bothered by the dreaded "Soap Opera Effect" (SOE): some of our co-workers did think that the brighter colour range heightened the SOE. We didn't find it to be a problem, and you can adjust the level of motion smoothing (which LG calls TruMotion) to strike a balance if it is an issue. We'd recommend keeping at least some motion smoothing on, however — there was a slight judder on very fast-paced scenes when TruMotion was completely off.
So, what's with the curve? Honestly, it's really not clear why we're getting curved OLED ahead of flat panels, nor why both LG and Samsung have said that they'll be sticking with curved for some time now. While conspiracy theories abound, both companies are claiming that the curvature allows for a more immersive viewing experience, so let's address that.
If you're watching the 55EA8900 alone, with a chair carefully positioned to have you exactly the right distance from the screen and in the exact middle then maybe — maybe — you could make a case for the curve feeling like a mini-IMAX. But remember, this is a 55-inch screen, not some 84-inch monster.
The curve is more subtle than might be expected.
In all, we found the curve neither added nor detracted from the viewing experience. Aesthetically, we liked it a lot, but in terms of how you actually see the panel, it's almost invisible. You basically forget it's not a flat screen — unless you're seated at the absolute outer edge of the viewing angle.
So, while it does mean you can't wall mount the 55EA9800, in our opinion, the curvature is a slightly baffling but otherwise pleasant design quirk.
Buy or not?
It seems like a simple question, but it's quite complex. We're confident that nobody could be disappointed when viewing the 55EA9800. We'd run out of superlatives to describe the picture before we felt like we'd done it justice.
But is it worth AU$11,999? First generation technologies always command a premium price, and while this isn't exactly OLED TV 1.0, it's close enough for Australian consumers.
At the moment, it's just not clear where the OLED market is going to go in terms of pricing, sizing and resolution, nor is it clear what time frame it's all working to, so we're not really in a position to tell people to wait six months for prices to fall and flat screens to arrive. Those things may happen, but given the lengthy delays for OLED TVs of any description, there's no guarantee.
Perhaps it's best to put it this way: dedicated early adopters with deep pockets will be purchasing a truly great TV panel that's also a design talking point when featured in the lounge room.
No one will blame the rest of us for waiting a little while to see what happens down the track.