HDTV

LG 55EA980 55" Curved OLED HDTV

ARTICLE INDEX

The LG 55EA980 OLED HDTV On the Bench


Dead Pixels

There are quite a few differences between the various OLED implementations that should be noted. That means that issues that might affect one manufacturer would appear quite different on another manufacturer's implementation. So, caveat emptor - what I'm writing here is relevant for the specific unit and model I tested.

The LG implementation of OLED is WRGB, which means each pixel on the screen is composed of 4 sub-pixels: White, Red, Green and Blue. The white pixel helps with both the resolution (the eye is much more sensitive to luma changes than to color - which means a dedicated pixel for grays will let us get better perception of greys) as well as for luminance and white balance. I believe this also helps LG OLED better avoid burn-in, which was seen in other types of OLED displays.

The downside of WRGB is that you have 2 million more sub-pixels that can fail in production. With the current low yields of OLED, you might very well encounter dead pixels (stuck pixels are much more annoying and far rarer on OLED).

Dead pixels are not easily detectable without uniform color field test patterns. And indeed, I was able to see dead pixels in all primary colors, save the white, which I did not find any dead pixels in. Again, your mileage may vary as other reviews on the Internet were quite diverse with the number of pixels.

Residual Light / Uniformity

Another issue I saw clearly was residual luminance, which was present on all types of primary colors but the reason for it was unclear. The display I got was used as a demo unit before I got my hands on it, which might very well mean that this is some type of burn-in.

The following images were captured by long exposure and some auto contrasting to make the lit areas more perceptible and pronounced.

Since there was a pattern to the residual light output on the screen, I mapped it horizontally using the following luminosity graph.

Uniformity was measured at around 90% average, with a few dips at 80%, significantly better than LED and LCD, but short of plasma uniformity, which typically measures above 90%.

To try and replicate the burn-in effect, I left the TV on for a few days with only a blue 100IRE window at the center. At the end of the test, I fully expected there to be some slight difference between the area surrounding the box and the box itself. Such a test on a plasma screen would often yield noticeable burn-in, or at least image retention which would require a few days at least to resolve. However, no noticeable difference was noticed.

Smearing

The next issue to test was moving pixel test. Most LED TVs (actually LED backlit/edgelit) still have noticeable pixel smearing which is caused by response time. OLED technology is similar to LCD in terms of smear - since it also uses sample & hold for its pixels. Plasma, on the other hand, normally flickers subpixels very quickly, so pixel smear is a non-issue. To resolve this, black frame insertion is used on LED TVs, typically at 240Hz. Response time for this OLED display is around 0.1ms and I did see black pixel insertion (one row at a time) at roughly 10KHz, which was extremely difficult to detect using a Nikon DSLR…

During the tests I did see issues with moving lines, but they were all linked to the image processing mechanism known as Intermediate Frame Creation. This effect adds intermediate frames in order to create smooth motion effect. For some reason, LG cranks this feature up, which both reduces the moving lines resolution dramatically (comparable with typical LCD numbers) and also introduces glitches and artifacts. Switching the Dejudder feature to off (this is user controllable with regards to judder and sharpness) increased the moving line resolution to Plasma levels.

Color Shift

As a videophile, I fully expected to be annoyed by the curved display and the nonlinear nature of the image. While I did only view the TV at the sweet spot (centered both horizontally and vertically) the curved image did not annoy me at the very least and after a day or two, I stopped noticing it…

Off center viewing typically causes color shifts in LCD and LED technology (edge and back lit displays often also suffer from additional artifacts due to off center viewing). The curved display does affect the off-center viewing and increases the image deformity, as well as adds some color shift. The image tends to be pinkish when viewing from a wide angle (>75 degrees off axis).

On the bright side, I had a terrible time trying to photograph light reflections - the image was almost completely free from light reflections, which is a really amazing thing.

Blooming

LG's OLED technology is very bright, and this causes a bit of a "problem" when  bright edgeful objects appear on the screen - they can slightly bleed out of the image. The ANSI contrast of this display is so drastically high (it is impossible to measure), that the effect is nearly impossible to measure or even determine if it is caused by my eyes (or camera sensor blooming) or if it's a real phenomenon…

Clouding

Light spills and clouding are the two banes of LCD/LED technology. The thinner the display, the more susceptible it is to clouding and light spills from edges (or in the case of full-LED or Nano-LED, light spills per light block).

This is not the case with OLED. It can shut down light completely. In my case, I was able to occasionally see some light output while the display was supposed to be completely dark. This was some type of residual light but this was not always reproducible. This image was captured by extremely long exposure (around 10 seconds):

Measurements

Contrast is a tough one, with different manufacturers measuring it differently and all announcing impossible numbers going above the million to one mark. There are quite a few ways to measure or even detect contrast, which is the ratio between lit pixels and unlit pixels. Some refer to the on-off contrast, which determines how a particular display can turn off the display. When we're talking about LED displays, certain areas of the display (or the entire display) can be turned off completely - which means that black level is absolute black = infinite contrast. However, this is not without problems. Pioneer Kuro was the first commercial display to be so utterly black as to almost be imperceptible to the eye - black letterbox marks are so dark as to meld into the black bezel in a fully darkened room.

LED displays have various problems with contrast - edge lit displays can turn off the entire screen (or a large part of it) but this causes a big mess with patterns like checker box patterns. Backlit, local dimming LEDs do better, but still can't really turn off a particular section of the screen. Plasma is better at ANSI contrast, but OLED seems to blow everything away: checker box patterns show extremely bright boxes and purely black boxes. Were you to place this display side by side with LED or Plasma - the LG OLED display would blow away the other two at both the bright areas and the dark areas.

In terms of light output, the extra white sub pixel allows the OLED panel to measure at up to 350cd/m2 (about 300% the capability of plasma and higher than most LED TVs). This changes based on the number of lit pixels, as the power output of the display is monitored - the more pixels are turned on, the lower the overall brightness that the APL system allows, to reduce the power requirements of the display (which max out at 100W). A full 100IRE field pattern generates 89cd/m2, which is more than reasonable.

Video Processing

Nothing out of the ordinary here. LG simply placed its latest generation video processor into the TV. It has basically the same processing as other LG Led TVs (which makes it a pretty average processing experience).

Color Measurements

In terms of color, the OLED technology is capable of the same wide gamut of colors as LED, but it still accurately portrays the REC709 color space. This is the wide color space:

This is the REC709 color space:

And this is how the color spaces translate into real world content:

Color temperature when set to WARM2 mode is around 6300K (D65 targets around 6500K) caused by consistent slight lack of blues. This can be easily corrected by a small increase of the blue bias setting.

The rich blacks of the display causes it try and increase shadow detail by reducing the gamma. I'm not sure that's such a wise decision - I think a higher gamma would actually make the display stand out even more. When set to 2.4 gammas I measured 2.09, which is way too low for me.

The spectral signature of the white OLED is very strange and unlike that of other technologies:

Lag testing measures the time it takes between when the display received the image until the actual light appears on the screen. I measured 146ms on regular content (1080P60) - which is definitely high. When set to game mode, the measurement dropped to 55ms - which is still quite high and could cause problems for serious gamers.

Image Quality

At the end of the day, the image quality is what decides if a high end TV is worth the exorbitant price… There is no question, the combination of a high contrast image, the design and the wide color gamut and fast response time makes for a spectacularly amazing effect.

I'll let the images do {most of} the talking…

Standard def TV looks as good as it can on a TV like this, but the really amazing thing is how wonderful even lower quality HDTV transmissions look like. The OLED really brings out the highlights of any transmission. It's definitely not just the contrast; it's also the color range and complete lack of any banding or false contouring throughout the color gamut range.

But when you feed the display Blu-ray content, it really blows you away. The first sequence I tested was actually the 3D demo content from our friends over at Spears & Munsil, with their HD benchmark 2.0 Blu-ray. The montage images were simply stunning in 2D (in 3D they are even more amazing).

Next up is the test Blu-ray that Pioneer issued with their 2008 Kuro model. These tests are pretty simple - they show a black background with stunning high def content in the foreground. Even LED TV will fail with these sequences simply because they will always have some degree of grayness, cloudiness and light leakage.

Since the Pioneer Kuro virtually the only ones to pass these tests with any sort of success are the latest generation plasma panels from Panasonic and, to a lesser degree, the Samsung. In a privately held shootout I conducted, the VT60 was finally on par with the 2008 Kuro model. However, this first gen OLED not only surpasses this benchmark, but simply looks amazing while doing it. This type of benchmark really shows the capabilities of this type of display and how far it surpasses LED and LCD.

Non benchmark content benefits from the technology greatly. Inglourious Basterds has simply never looked sharper or deeper before.

The final part of Lord of the rings looked gritty and unbelievably realistic.

But the toughest challenge was obviously Sin City - this is benchmark quality tests, not only is it primarily grayscale (which means it is working with only 235 shades of gray during most of the movie!!!), but it has an amazingly rich contrast, which makes it a challenging Blu-ray to look good.

The LG OLED display simply made it look amazing. It was mind-blowing contrast.

Finally, LG gave me some of its own "Kuro-like" test patterns that were a bit more up to date than the original Kuro tests. They use the same trick - black background with rich colors and details in the foreground, bound to fail on most modern displays save the OLED TVs.


The two final movies I tested with were the colorful "Speed Racer", which pushes the color gamut to the max, and the final piece of the second Star Wars trilogy, with rich textures and dark colors.

3D


LG was the first to realize that 3D was nothing more than a feature that you would use occasionally, but not buy the TV specifically for. This realization moved it to be the first to roll out passive radial filters that are bonded to the display.

The upside is that this adds almost no cost to the TV and the glasses are cheap and light.

And LG has even improved on that. 4 pairs of glasses come with the OLED model, two of which are clip-ons for people who already have glasses. The other two were created with glasses maker Alain Mikli, who designed the best 3D glasses I have ever worn. They are paper light and look like a pair of Oakley sunglasses. They fit as good as or better than normal sunglasses and after a minute or so, you simply forget they are there. 

However, I have to say that while I'm a huge fan of 3D and love watching good 3D movies (Gravity and Life of Pi being the last two great movies that came out in 3D), I do have to mention I really am not a big fan of passive 3D. Passive 3D alternates rows between the right eye and left eye, leaving essentially 1920X540 for each eye to see at any given moment. This is half the resolution of active 3D (or the passive 3D you would see in a normal movie theater).

This can be clearly shown by the next photo:

The loss of resolution can be clearly felt when you are sitting too close to the TV. So, keep in mind that if you're up to it, 3D will be easier on your eyes and nose (no flickering, but very light glasses), but on the other hand, you'll need to sit at least 4-5m (13-16ft) away to avoid seeing the "scan line" effect.

I added some photos from Life of Pi, but keep in mind that these were taken when the display had the 3D feature turned off, so that the images would not appear fuzzy.

One additional note, LG's smart section now contains demo materials of 3D. I can't say I like all of it, but it does make for some cool test content to demonstrate if company drops by and you want to demonstrate 3D on your new TV.

Smart LG

I won't go too deeply into this specific rabbit hole… LG's smartTV offerings are quite rich and have improved over the last few years, with the latest generation finally containing most of what you would expect from a major manufacturer, including Netflix and other content vendors. The sad part is that it took me about 20 minutes to sign up, due to network issues and the terrible complexity that LG puts up during the signup process before you can actually start using any apps. That's a terrible experience and would definitely explain why so many people purchase a smart-TV but neglect to sign up, connect it to the Internet, or use it.

The internal streamer on this TV was able to connect to most of my computers and storage devices and view images, music and videos with very little effort. The TV itself can also connect to a USB 3.0 storage drive and become a recording device of its own by recording HD and SD free to air transmissions and playing them back when needed. This combination of quick access to services like YouTube and Netflix with recording of free-to-air, is a clear winning proposition for cord-cutters.

I was able to use DLNA to stream 55Mbps M2TS files (bitrate test content) and up to 70Mbps MKV files before the videos started stuttering…

The TV also remembered which files I started playing and offered to start back where I stopped last. DTS files played fine, which was a surprise.

Finally, voice control was able to let me quickly access YouTube videos with very little effort. This combination of discovery and quick access to online videos is a real breakthrough and I would expect LG to integrate these features into a wider variety of content providers, and not just limit it to a few select ones like YouTube.