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LG 55EC9300 review: OLED TV: Best. Picture. Ever.

Those other issues aren't deal breakers, however, and all of them could be cured in future generations. In fact, when I re-tested the EC9300 as part of the EG9600 review in June 2015, the video processing seemed a bit better. And of course, these glitches dire enough to threaten the supremacy of OLED's perfect black levels and truly infinite contrast. The 55EC9300, however imperfect, comes closer to TV picture quality perfection than ever--unless you want to spring for the 4K version.

Click the image above right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Black level: OLED is everything advertised. Just like the Samsung KN55S9C I tested earlier, the LG 55EC9300 reproduced visually perfect black levels. In a completely dark room with an active screen, I couldn't tell where the black backdrop of my lab wall ended and the TV screen began.

When I was watching the one of the best scenes I've ever seen for demonstrating contrast and black level, Chapter 2 of "Gravity," the LG destroyed the other TVs in my lineup. Beginning at around 16:15, as Stone spins off into space, the shot grows darker and darker until it's just deep space, the thousands of stars of the galaxy and beyond, and the slowly dwindling lights of her helmet. None of the other sets could touch the dead-black void between the stars, the abyss of darkness in the letterbox bars, or the contrasting eye-popping clarity of the brilliant star field and helmet lights.

In this scene the screens of the LCDs appeared cloudy and indistinct next to the OLED, with dimmer stars and brighter space, and while the plasmas were better -- they're the two best TVs I'd ever tested prior to the LG, mind you -- they still didn't compare. In this scene their black areas looked dark gray next to the lightless void of OLED.

Just for fun I turned up the OLED's light output and, as expected, the blacks stayed perfect and the stars got even brighter, for even more sweet, sweet contrast. Meanwhile the LCDs' blacks brightened along with the stars...and the plasmas, particularly the ZT60, stayed the same, because they were already essentially at maximum light output. Advantage, OLED, in a landslide.

Of course, scenes that dark are a rarity, and the vast majority of things I watched didn't show as stark a difference between the OLED and the other TVs. In our completely dark room, with light output equalized at 40 fL, brighter scenes looked very similar between these five excellent TVs in terms of contrast and pop. During a shot of Stone hanging onto the space station above Earth (32:56), for example, contrast on four of the five was visually identical. The exception was the the Samsung, whose letterbox bars still appeared lighter and more washed out than the others however, as they did in many even brighter scenes, such as when she looks out of the porthole at the hurricane (42:15).

Equalizing light output is my standard procedure for comparison for many reasons, but it actually handicapped the LG. That's because 40 fL is just half of its potential light output in the Expert mode I used for calibration; it can get to 83 without clipping white. That means you can crank the "OLED LIGHT" setting all the way to 100 without sacrificing detail in white areas or those perfect blacks. I personally find 80 fL much too bright for comfort in a dark room, but OLED is the only display technology among the three that can achieve such incredible contrast, if you want it--which is why it's so good in bright rooms too.

Not everything was perfect on the LG 55EC9300, however. Shadow detail was very good in most scenes; for example, the interior of the derelict shuttle (22:17) was shown with plenty of detail in the walls and bulkheads. Near-black areas appeared brighter than the others, however, making near-black noise, for example on the back of Stone's shadowed pack (17:11) more visible as well. Reducing the brightness control removed this issue but destroyed shadow detail, so it's something I had to live with (and was unable to otherwise fix in calibration). The plasmas, in particular the ZT60, won in this area overall, although the overall look of shadows was still more natural on the LG OLED than on the more washed-out LCDs.

In the darkest of areas, for example the starfield from Chapter 2, there did appear to be some clipping. The dimmest stars weren't visible on the OLED, while they were revealed again on the Kuro and especially the ZT60. I tried turning up the brightness control again, but above a setting of 59 absolute black was spoiled, which wasn't worth the sacrifice. On the other hand, cranking light output did improve the visibility of the star field, but of course made bright scenes uncomfortable to watch in a dark room. Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as too much contrast: when it hurts your eyes.

Color accuracy: For this category I abandoned the color-poor "Gravity" for the lush, spectacular hues of "Samsara," perhaps my favorite overall Blu-ray for picture quality, as well as a few other favorites. As you can see from the charts, the LG measured very well, albeit not perfect. It was the least accurate of this superb bunch in terms of color, which did show up in comparison.

The LG's color held up well during many scenes in "Samsara." The bright tones of the strange dancing women from Chapter 1 looked great, with beautifully saturated jewelry and face paint, and likewise the grays of the volcano smoke and the red lava looked very good. Skin tones were also quite accurate in this film for the most part, for example in the face of the woman and the bloated stomach of the man in the plastic surgery sequence, or the bodies and faces of the dancers under the lights (Chapter 18).

OLED has a reputation for oversaturation but, like all displays in my experience, that's largely an issue with picture settings, not the technology itself. In fact, after calibration the 55EC9300 showed slightly undersaturated color in some scenes. In "Samsara" the Chapter 3 temples in Southeast Asia, for example, revealed a somewhat paler, bluish jungle canopy compared to the brilliant yellow-tinged green of the other sets (5:32), and the golden temples didn't show quite the same glow.

The second issue was the slight reddish tinge, perhaps a result of its uneven grayscale. It was obvious throughout "I Am Legend," particularly in dim areas like Neville's lab. Some paler skin tones also showed it, like face of Jack's Wife in Chapter 3 of "Tree of Life." I also noticed it quite a bit dusing "Skyfall," for example the gray hallway, shadowed room and dimly spotlit face of Bond at the very beginning, and later as he sits chained in the server farm room (Chapter 17).

It would be tough to notice either of these issues in isolation, but in my comparison lineup they were fairly obvious. The LG's calibration issues meant I couldn't do much to clean them up, either.

On the other hand, in many scenes throughout these films the OLED's color kept up well with the others in accuracy. I also appreciated the LG's excellent grayscale linearity, particularly near black, where the LCDs tended toward their typical bluish tinge.

Video processing: Yes, the LG is capable of delivering correct 1080p/24 film cadence, but compared with the other displays in my lineup it actually introduced too much judder in some scenes using the default "Off" TruMotion setting.

Slow-speed pans didn't show the issue but once the camera movement became more rapid, the extra judder and jumpiness became somewhat jarring. My nominal test for film cadence, the medium-speed pan over the Intrepid from "I Am Legend," looked generally fine, although looking closely it was very slightly jerkier than the other displays.

But watching "Skyfall," with its more frenetic camera movement, I noticed it more often. As the camera sweeps across the abandoned lot in Chapter 17, for example (1:17:17), the facade of the building judders strongly, and the derelict bicycle and pole in the foreground appear similarly too jumpy. The pan across the stone gate at the entry to Skyfall manor (1:47:30) also appeared a bit jumpier than the other sets, albeit to a lesser extent.

The TruMotion settings provide some relief. Smooth and Clear introduced too much smoothing, but the User setting with its adjustable de-judder worked relatively well. In my initial review I noticed that at "1" and "2" the pan stuttered unevenly, but when I retested it in June 2015 that issue appeared fixed. For that reason, I'd probably use one of those settings for watching film-based (24p) sources on the 55EC9300.

Motion resolution was also lower than any of the other sets, topping off at 600 lines. That's because the 55EC9300, like all current OLED sets, uses sample and hold technology. All of the TruMotion settings showed 600 lines, with the exception of Off (which hit 300) and User with "de-blurring" set to a lower number.

The LG OLED also introduced more noise in than the other displays. I first noticed it during "Gravity," on a scene of the space station above Earth (29:16) where the sunlight was shot through with more roiling motes than the other sets. Later, in "Samsara," a better example was the crawling noise in the smoke of the volcano in Chapter 1 (2:50). It wasn't terrible by any means, but all of the other sets looked cleaner in these areas. As a rule I disable noise reduction on high-quality sources like Blu-ray, but in the LG's case turning Noise Reduction (standard, not MPEG) on to the High or Auto setting did erase most of the noise. The image did seem to lose some fine detail, however, so I I'd probably still leave NR turned Off anyway.

The LG's input lag was on the happy end of Average territory at 46.7ms in Game mode. Engaging the Expert preset caused lag to skyrocket to more than 100ms, however.

Uniformity: Back when there were still plasma TVs to review I used to skip this section entirely since it's basically perfect for that technology. The LG OLED's uniformity isn't perfect, but trounces any LCD, especially from off-angle.

In a completely dark room with a black screen the TV appears to be completely off. There's one tiny exception to that perfect field of black, however. I noticed the faintest of outlines along the very edge of the TV, very slightly brighter on the sides than along the top and bottom. I'm not sure what causes it, but regardless it's invisible unless your eyes are adjusted for total darkness and the screen is nearly or totally dark. It was so faint I never noticed it during even the darkest of program material, only with test patterns.

With full-field test patterns above zero IRE (pure black) I did notice very slight variations in brightness across the screen. They were actually most obvious in very near black, particularly 1 through 10 IRE, and manifested primarily as a brighter center compared to darker edges. This issue seems directly related to the curve, and I'd be surprised if a flat OLED TV showed similar vignetting. The right and left edges also showed slightly shifted color toward blue and red compared with greenish in the middle.

Seen from off-angle the LG's image was worlds better than the LCD sets, with no loss of black-level fidelity. I did notice shifts in color in white fields, however, from both vertical and horizontal off-axis positions.

Moving from test patterns to actual real-life program material, all of the LG's uniformity imperfections became much less obvious, as usual, to the extent that you'd have to actually be looking for them with the right material to notice.

I also checked out a hockey match to evaluate dirty screen effect -- where the movement of the camera over the ice exposes differences in brightness, and again the OLED was plasma-like, and far superior to either LCD. The LCDs did show one advantage however, maintaining a full field of white at higher brightness than the OLED (see the next section).

Bright lighting: The LG OLED was the best TV in my lineup in bright situations. Its screen finish does a great job of maintaining black levels, and among the other glossy screens it actually deadened reflections the most -- although they were still brighter than on any matte screen. It also put out substantially more light than the plasmas.

Like the Samsung UN65HU9000, the curved screen of the LG generally helped reduce reflections compared to flat screens. A flat TV "catches" more of the surrounding reflections, increasing the chance that a particularly bright object -- like a window or a lamp -- is reflected back to the viewer. The curved LG misses more of those reflections. On the other hand it can actually increase the apparent size of reflected objects it does catch, for example a bright shirt worn by a viewer, stretching them into funhouse mirror shape.

If you're keeping track, the OLED demonstrated a maximum light output in Vivid mode of 112 fL (footlamberts). That's extremely bright, albeit not as searing as the brightest LED LCDs. More important, to my mind, is the fact that (just like plasma) the maximum light output changes according to average picture level (APL). So full-field white images, like the hockey game cited above, appear dimmer on the OLEDs and plasmas than they do on the LCDs, which maintain the same light regardless of APL. With a 100 percent test pattern, that 112 fL in Vivid mode measured on a window drops to 29 fL full-screen. That's roughly the same drop as a typical plasma, although the atypical Samsung F8500 does a bit better.

3D: The 3D reproduction of the LG 55EC9300 was similar to what I've seen on other passive 3D systems: virtually free of crosstalk with better brightness and pop than active systems, but marred by lack of resolution that manifested in visible horizontal line structure, particularly with diagonals. If anything, the latter issue was actually worse, and more visible, than on other the 1080p resolution passive LCDs I've tested.

Cue "Hugo," my go-to 3D test for its depth and variety of images. The 55EC9300 was completely free of the ghostly double-image of crosstalk in the tough areas that trip up active sets, for example Hugo's hand as it reached for the mouse (5:01) and the tuning pegs on the guitar (7:49). The tough GK films logo at the beginning of the film was again crosstalk-free, where even the best passive sets -- the Samsung and the Sony -- showed minor ghosting.

Line structure was quite noticeable in many scenes, such as the edge of Hugo's face (13:33) and that of Isabel's (17:06). I also noticed moving lines, typically when the camera moved over a scene that contained a horizontal edge at a shallow angle, like Uncle Claude's bowler hat (22:41) and the edge of a low wall outside the station (22:05). I could also easily discern line structure in high-contrast graphical elements, such as the PS3's menu icons and layover displays. None of the active sets showed these artifacts.

As with 2D, the OLED's high-contrast image was a major asset in 3D, delivering the same perfect black levels and bright highlights, for a more impressive image overall than any of the others.

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The weight difference isn't as extreme as it used to be between passive and active 3D glasses, but LG's feather-light specs were still a bit more comfortable than any of the active specs, especially Samsung's. I also liked the clip-on lenses, which fit my glasses fine and were more comfortable by far than wearing glasses over my glasses.

Power consumption: I no longer test TVs for energy use, but I figured with OLED it's worth making an exception. After calibration I measured 88 watts using the standard test, which is much less than a similarly sized plasma (the Panasonic TC-P55ST60 measured 249 watts) but a bit more than a 55-inch LED LCD (around 60-70 watts). As usual that number jumps dramatically when you amp the light output; in Vivid mode the LG drank 208 watts. Even if you watch your 5 hours per day in that mode, however, you'll only use $45/year in electricity.

Geek Box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.33 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 2.028 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 4.739 Average
Bright gray error (70%) 1.712 Good
Avg. color error 1.862 Good
Red error 0.685 Good
Green error 0.369 Good
Blue error 6.728 Poor
Cyan error 0.982 Good
Magenta error 1.576 Good
Yellow error 0.832 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 600 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 46.7 Average

LG 55EC9300 CNET review calibration report

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