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LG 55EG9100 review: Sorta-more-affordable OLED is the TV to beat at 55 inches

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As the least-expensive OLED TV on the market, the LG 55EG9100 gives you all of the awesome picture quality advantages of that technology for a price that's a bit less than astronomical. It's a stretch to call it a "bargain" at $2,000 for 55 inches, but unlike LG's other OLED TVs, it's somewhere close the realm that many people can afford.

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8.4

LG 55EG9100

The Good

The LG 55EG9100 OLED TV's picture is better than any LCD or plasma TV. It's equally adept in bright and dark rooms, showed accurate color, and looks better from off-angle than any LED LCD. Its 1080p resolution is plenty for a 55-inch screen. The TV looks striking in person, with organic curves and an insane 0.25-inch depth on most of its body.

The Bad

Albeit the most-affordable OLED TV yet, the 55EG9100 is still very expensive for a 55-inch TV. Unlike most high-end TVs it doesn't support HDR sources, and some LED LCDs can get brighter. Its 3D picture quality isn't great, and uniformity problems can appear in the darkest scenes.

The Bottom Line

No TV delivers the same level of picture quality for the price of the LG 55EG9100.

In the UK this TV is known as the 55EG910V and sells for £1,799, while in Australia it's the 55EG910T and sells for AU$3,999. Aside from differences in Smart TV app support, the TVs are basically identical to the US version I reviewed here.

Now, to answer your questions. The fact that it's "only" 1080p and not 4K resolution shouldn't be a deal breaker for most people. Neither should its inability to handle HDR sources. It will still outperform any LED-based LCD TV we've seen overall, including the highest-end models with 4K and HDR. Then again, if you insist on your next TV having those next-generation features -- a perfectly reasonable stance, especially on a TV this expensive -- the 55EG9100 isn't for you.

Nobody but LG manufactures OLED TVs, and LG doesn't make this TV in any other size. If you want a larger screen OLED TV you'll need to pay more than twice as much money for the 65-inch versions, and there are no consumer OLED TVs smaller than 55 inches. Likewise, if you want a flat rather than curved OLED TV, you'll have to pay about 50 percent more for the 55EF9500.

And no, we don't know for sure whether OLED is as reliable as LED LCD in the long term, but we have no reason to believe it's not. The same fundamental technology has been used for years in cell phone screens with no issues. LG claims a robust 30,000 hour lifespan, and in our experience reviewing OLED TVs over the last year, we haven't seen any evidence they're particularly susceptible to burn-in.

If you just want a tried-and-true TV that will just get the job done, there are plenty of excellent LED LCDs to choose from, and most cost a lot less. But if you want the images you watch every day to look their very best, while paying the very least possible, the 55EG9100 is your boy.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2008 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

So-thin style

OLED display tech allows TVs to get remarkably thin: the top third or so of the EG9100 measures less than a quarter-inch deep, thinner than a pencil. Add in the sleek silver accents, the skinny black border around the picture, and "OLED" printed on the stand, and you'll have a green light to talk up your new TV to visitors.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Unfortunately, internal electronics, connections and enough substance to survive shipping fatten the bottom third to about an inch-and-a-half deep. That extra thickness, plus the curved screen, means the EG9100 won't hang as flush to the wall as you might like. You'll also need to buy a special bracket, model OTW150 ($150 list), to wall-mount the TV. It won't work with standard VESA wall mounts, which are typically much less expensive.

LG 55EG9100 OLED TV (pictures)

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For those who choose to use the stand instead of wall-mounting, the EG9100's pedestal is nice and sturdy but without the elegance its predecessor.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The new remote is a lot better than last year's though. The medium-sized wand offers nicely differentiated button groups, a convenient scroll wheel, voice control and of course LG's trademark Nintendo Wii-mote like motion control, where you wave the remote around and the pointer responds on-screen. My only complaint is lack of backlighting.

Yes to OLED and curved, no to 4K and HDR

We've written plenty about OLED TV in the past, so here's the short version. Just about every TV on the market today -- from Samsung's SUHD to Sony's Triluminous to Hisense's ULED -- uses an LED backlight that shines through a liquid-crystal display layer (aka "LED LCD"). OLED is the only major exception. Its organic (hence the "O") LEDs emit light themselves, creating the picture directly.

That basic difference leads to many of OLED's picture quality advantages over LED LCD, including perfect black levels and superior off-angle viewing. Meanwhile a few high-end LED LCD TVs can get brighter than any OLED, but OLED is still very bright.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2008 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

As LG's base-model OLED TV, the 55EG9100 doesn't have the 4K resolution of more-expensive models. 4K is rare today however, and in our experience content that is available in 4K, such as Netflix and Amazon original programming, doesn't look much better than the 1080p version--especially at 55 inches.

HDR, or high dynamic range content, is even rarer for now, but unlike 4K, HDR content might provide a significant picture quality improvement on a TV like this (I say "might" because I just haven't tested enough HDR TVs and content to say for sure). Then again, SDR still looks spectacular on this TV.

If you really want HDR, your choices are to pay more for a higher-end OLED, wait until LG comes out with an HDR-compatible entry-level OLED at some point (no guarantees that it will), or get an LED LCD.

Another potential sticking point is the curve. It doesn't have much impact on picture quality, but the aesthetics might bother you, especially if you're putting it on the wall.

Key Features

Display technology OLED
LED backlight N/A
Resolution 1080p
HDR-compatible No
Screen shape Curved
Screen finish Glossy
Smart TV Web OS 2.0
Remote Motion
3D technology Passive
3D glasses included 2 pairs

If you care: Smart TV, 3D, settings and connections

On just about every TV, especially expensive ones, we recommend using an external streaming device like a Roku instead of relying on the Smarts inside your TV for your Netflix fix. If you follow that advice, feel free to skip this section.

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Sarah Tew/CNET. Screen image copyright 2008 MacGillivray Freeman Films. Used with permission.

Still with me? The 55EG9100 runs on LG's Web OS 2.0 Smart TV system, which is quite a bit faster and more responsive than version 1.0. It's very good overall, and I prefer Web OS to Samsung's 2015 system, but I like Roku TV best of all.

Hitting the Home button on LG's remote brings up a band of diagonally aligned "cards," overlaying the lower third of whatever program or app you're watching at the moment. You can customize and reorder the cards to quickly reach favorite apps or inputs. The system has many major apps but a few go missing, including HBO Go/Now, Showtime and PBS/PBS Kids. Android TV, Samsung and Roku all offer a wider selection. There's also a (weak) web browser and (decent) voice search. Check out my EF9500 review if you want more details on Web OS.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Unlike at least one 2016 OLED series (the B6), the 55EG9100 has 3D capability, with two pairs of included passive glasses. It shows the same issues we've seen on other 1080p resolution TVs with passive 3D, namely jagged edges and some visible line structure, but at least it's available.

Picture settings are extensive. Highlights include eight picture presets, a custom dejudder control to dial in (or dial out) the soap opera effect, and a full color management system and multipoint grayscale control for calibrators.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The back panel has ample ports, namely three HDMI, three USB, an Ethernet port, an antenna output, optical digital audio and an analog AV input that supports component or composite video via an included breakout cable.

Picture quality: All the joy of OLED

The short story on the 55EG9100's picture? Spectacular. It beats out any non-OLED TV we've tested, including high-end models like the Samsung JS9500, by virtue of incredible contrast with no major issues (such as blooming or off-angle fade) that plague even the best LED LCDs. No, it's not perfect, and more-expensive OLEDs deliver an even better picture, but there's nothing close to this level of picture quality for this price.

Click the picture settings image on the previous page 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: The 55EG9100 delivered the absolute black that OLED is known for, and no other kind of TV can match. Watching the "Exodus: Gods and Kings" Blu-ray, it first became evident in the opening titles. The white words were stark and clear against the black backdrop with the OLED TVs, while the LCDs showed that characteristic brighter, grayish black. In my lineup it was lightest (worst) on the Samsung JS8500, followed by the Vizio, then the JS9500 (the best of the LCDs).

In the film numerous shots that included dark sections that illustrated OLED's superiority. When Moses visits Ramses in the snake pit scene (Chapter 5), the letterbox bars, depths of shadow and other black and near-black areas looked inky and true, compared to the more or less grayish cast of the LCDs. To their slight detriment, however, the two 1080p OLEDs did fall a bit short of the others (including the EF9500) in rendering all of the available shadow detail in this and other dark scenes. They obscured a few of the darkest details, like some hieroglyphs or folds in curtains.

HDR comparisons: In an attempt to see how much you'd miss by skipping HDR on a TV like the EG9100, I compared it to the JS9500 and the JS8500, both capable of HDR. The two Samsungs played the HDR version of Exodus (via the M-Go app from an attached hard drive) while the OLED displayed the SDR Blu-ray.

On the JS9500 most images looked better than on the OLED. The bright highlights from the glinting gold of Ramses during the initial battle, the sky and the sun itself all overwhelmed the OLED in comparison, which looked relatively flat and drab (even though I had maxed out its light output for this test). The exceptions came in dark scenes like the snake pit. The Samsung's black levels were even worse because HDR calls for a maxed-out backlight, and overall contrast and pop was solidly in favor of the OLED.

Meanwhile HDR on the JS8500, which in its 55-inch size comes pretty close to the 55EG9100 in price, didn't look significantly better in bright scenes than the OLED. Its HDR-ified highlights were barely brighter than LG in most scenes, leading to near-parity between the two sets. In dark scenes the JS8500 looked even worse and more washed-out than the JS9500, lending an even larger advantage to the OLED.

My takeaway? Unless you're comparing it to one of the very top-of-the-line LED LCDs, like the JS9500, the EG9100's lack of HDR isn't a big disadvantage (and if you are, the fairer comparison would be to an HDR-capable OLED like the EF9500; see that review for just such comparison).

Maybe future comparisons to new HDR-capable TVs coming in 2016 will change that conclusion, as could the release of more HDR-ified content on 4K Blu-ray, but either way the comparison is illuminating. Just because a TV is HDR-capable (or just because it's OLED) doesn't necessarily mean it's better than another TV that isn't.

Color accuracy: According to my eyes and to objective measurements, the EG9100 is very accurate. It nailed most aspects of color in the Geek Box (see below), and watching Exodus and other even more colorful material, like the "Samsara" Blu-ray, alongside the other expensive TVs in my lineup, I had no complaints.

Video processing: As expected the EG9100 delivered correct 1080p/24 film cadence, and just like previous OLED sets I found the default Off position for TruMotion introduced a bit too much judder. Happily the Custom setting behaved well, with fine increments of smoothing, and I settled on a setting of De-Judder: 1 for film-based sources.

Motion resolution was also lower than the Samsung sets, topping off at 600 lines. That's because the 55EG9100, 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's input lag was on the lower (better) end of Average territory at 46.1ms in Game mode. Engaging the Expert preset caused lag to skyrocket to more than 100ms, however.

Uniformity: Aside from black level, the biggest advantage OLED has over LED LCD is an excellent off-angle image. When seen from positions other than the sweet spot right in the middle of the couch, every LED LCD will lose fidelity, becoming discolored and washing out. Blooming artifacts, prevalent in better LCDs with local dimming, also become more obvious from off-angle. With an OLED like the 55EG9100, on the other hand, the image remains vibrant and pristine from just about any angle.

Although superior to any LCD overall, the uniformity of the EG9100 falls short of that of higher-end LED LCDs in one noticeable way. In a few very near-dark scenes the edges of the image darken precipitously, obscuring detail. I saw it during the assault on Hogwarts from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" as well as in a sequence from "I Am Legend" where Neville goes after a group of zombies. I saw a similar artifact on the EF9500 OLED, albeit not as severe. It's definitely a problem, albeit a very rare one.

LG's engineers have told me they're trying to work on a fix for the 2016 sets, and attributed the problem to something to do with low-level voltage regulation. Since it's a hardware issue, however, any fix likely won't make it to earlier models like the 55EG9100.

Beyond that issue, uniformity across the screen was excellent on the EG9100. It didn't show any of the uneven clouding in dark areas that I saw on the LCDs (particularly at high backlight settings, like the kind required by HDR), and of course it was free of blooming artifacts.

Bright lighting: The first thing proponents of LED LCD will tell you about OLED is that it's not as bright. And that's true. The 55EG9100's maximum light output (102.9 fL per our test) falls a bit short of competing LCDs like the JS8500 (121 fL), and that difference only grows larger in scenes with a lot of white. LCDs maintain similar brightness regardless of how much of the screen is occupied by bright areas, while OLEDs get dimmer the more of the screen is bright.

Watching both in a well-lit room, however, I never got the sense that the OLED was too dim. It did a superb job of reducing reflections, and the image had plenty of pop under the lights. The only reason I'd see to go with LCD over OLED is in an extremely bright room--think walls full of windows opposite the screen--where a blindingly bright set like the expensive JS9500 would be ideal. The difference in light output between the EG9100 and mid-to-high-end LED LCDs like the JS8500 or the Vizio M-series isn't major.

3D: Watching 3D on the 55EG9100 can be frustrating. On one hand I appreciated the clarity and lack of crosstalk I've come to expect from passive 3D, and it was great just slipping the lightweight glasses on my face without having to power them up.

The downside is the visible line structure and jagged edges I've come to expect from passive 3D on a 1080p TV. It was there pretty much everywhere I looked, and worse than I remember from LED LCDs (perhaps because of OLED's superior contrast). The issue persisted until I got about 11 feet back from the screen. If course, 4K OLED sets like the EF9500 don't have this problem, and as a result produce some of the best 3D images I've ever seen. I can't say the same for the 55EG9100.

Geek Box

Test ResultScore
Black luminance (0%) 0Good
Peak white luminance (100%) 102.9Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.27Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.646Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.473Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.473Good
Avg. color error 1.159Good
Red error 0.715Good
Green error 1.31Good
Blue error 1.275Good
Cyan error 1.741Good
Magenta error 1.121Good
Yellow error 0.79Good
Avg. saturations error 0.772Good
Avg. luminance error 1.72Good
Avg. color checker error 1.519Good
Percent gamut HD (Rec 709) 99.75Good
Percent gamut Wide (DCI/P3) N/AN/A
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) PassGood
Motion resolution (max) 600Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 300Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 46.1Average
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8.4

LG 55EG9100

Score Breakdown

Design 10Features 7Performance 10Value 7