There are two things most people notice instantly about OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs: they have a truly eye-catching picture, and they cost way too much!
One extra thing that stands out about this TV is that it has a curved screen. Put enough of them end-to-end and they'd eventually form a circle around you. A very big circle, mind you; it's only a slight curve after all.
As with most new technologies, the cost of producing first-generation models is high and prices will remain far beyond most budgets until enough are being sold that manufacturing costs start to fall. OLED TVs will no doubt take a similar route, if enough people like what they see.
LG loaned us the 55EA9800-TA OLED TV so we could see first-hand just how bright the future may be.
What we liked
We compared this TV against regular TVs in our lab and found it has an undoubtedly impressive picture, with remarkable blacks. However, more important than just the black level is the detail in the shadows, and in that regard this is the best TV we've ever seen.
Our testers have watched some sequences from our test movies hundreds of times over the years, but they've never seen some of the detail the 55EA9800-TA can deliver. Action sequences are smooth and there's not a lot of visual noise in this screen, so even when you're too close to it, it's fine to watch.
What we didn't like
It's not all good news. The seven-degree curve is a gimmick and just adds to reflections. Front on it's not a problem, but as you move to the sides there's some distortion and the curve becomes more obvious. One of the advantages of OLED technology is that you can move to extreme angles and the picture remains almost as colour-saturated as when you're in front of it. So there really doesn't seem to be a great need for a curve, other than to prove it's possible. Both LG and Samsung currently have curved OLED models, and we expect them to go flat with the next generations. The 55EA9800-TA obviously can't be mounted on a wall.
Many CHOICE staff members who viewed the screen said they thought it looked a little dull compared with a bright LCD screen. This is something we often see with plasma screens desperately trying to keep their energy use to a minimum. OLED screens can use a lot of power when producing large areas of white light, compared with an LED-backlit LCD TV, but they make up for it by using virtually none when producing blacks.
White levels on this TV are lowish, but a long way from being a problem if your room lighting is low – it's just that some bright outdoor scenes may look a little subdued. The upside of this is that you tend to get more detail in highlights as well as shadows – but there is a lack of punch, despite its good colour saturation.
The screen on the 55EA9800-TA has a slight pinkish tinge, which can be seen in reflections and sometimes in lighter tones. This gives a slightly warm feel to the image, which is more an observation than a criticism, as some people prefer a warmer image.
The lack of quality sound on TVs is one of our constant complaints, and it's disappointing to find this very expensive TV distorts quickly and sounds pretty tinny, even at low volume.
There's no doubt the LG 55EA9800-TA OLED TV has one of the best pictures we've seen in our lab, and it's a very promising technology. However, we're not excited by the curve and are seriously underwhelmed by the sound.
At $8000, our advice is to wait a while before buying, to see what the second-gen models are like.
$8000 for the LG 55EA9800-TA OLED TV