TVs are getting more and more advanced as this year goes on. We've seen curved screens, OLED panels and 4K pixel density popping up all over the place, from a bunch of different brands. But we haven't seen all three in one TV that you can actually go out and buy. LG's newest top-of-the-line 65-inch EC970T panel is curved, has a ridiculously high-res Ultra HD 4K resolution, and uses unique OLED tech for infinite contrast -- and it is, at the moment, the perfect TV.
What Is It?
- Screen Size: 65-inch
- Screen Tech: OLED, WRGB sub-pixels
- Screen Type: Curved, 5-metre radius
- Resolution: 3840x2160 pixels, 16:9
- Smart TV: Yes, WebOS, Motion Remote
- 4K Inputs: HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2
The EC970T, available only in the 65-inch screen size, will set you back a cool $9999 when it becomes available in November from a very specific range of retailers around the country. Australia is one of only 10 regions around the world to be allocated stock of the TV, and while I don't exactly expect them to fly off the shelves, I do think we'll see more of these TVs being sold than LG expects initially, so they might actually be a bit hard to find if you want one.
The reason why I think that is that, even though $9,999 is quite a lot of money for a TV, it's also not -- when you consider that LG's own 84-inch UHD LED TV was $15,999 back in 2012, Sony's was $24,999), its 55-inch curved non-UHD OLED was $11,999 in 2013, and its first 55-inch non-curved non-UHD OLED was $9,999 in 2012. When you're paying that much a mere two years later and getting every single one of those high-end technologies, that's a pretty impressive achievement.
The 65-inch panel of the LG 65EC970T is curved, but only slightly -- over a 5000mm radius (so if you decided to splash out a couple of hundred thousand dollars, you could build yourself a ring of curved UHD OLED TVs with a 10-metre diameter). To be honest, it seems like just as much of a fashion statement as it is an effect for increased immersion and theatricality of the video content that you watch on the screen. It doesn't look bad at all -- on the contrary, while I was sitting in front of the curved UHD OLED TV watching Skyfall I was especially entranced for a movie that I've seen dozens of times before.
What Is It Good At?
OLED has to be the one biggest factor in the peerless viewing experience of the LG EC970T. LG has a patented four-sub-pixel structure for its OLED panels, and the combination of standard red, green and blue with an extra white sub-pixel genuinely does improve the utility and overall performance of an already brilliant screen technology. Black levels are perfectly, completely deep and inky black with the pixels powering off completely and individually when not displaying colour, white is brilliantly bright, and colours are just about as perfectly accurate as I've seen (by default) while still being incredibly vibrant and well saturated.
This TV is one huge step up from the LED TVs that are commonplace at the moment. The picture is reminiscent of a great plasma TV like Pioneer's brilliant KUROs, but with a completely new dimension of contrast enabled by those super-bright whites and completely dark blacks. I've said time and time before that contrast and colour and black level are infinitely more important than resolution in determining the quality of the picture you're watching on a TV, and I would genuinely say that the EC970T's OLED panel is the best I have ever seen.
Ultra HD, or 4K if you like, is the other big drawcard of the 65EC970T. The TV's 3840x2160 pixel resolution, in the classic 16:9 widescreen ratio, is four times the resolution and pixel density of an otherwise equal Full HD TV, and that means a massive jump in detail, when you're viewing an appropriately high resolution To test the EC970T, I used a 4K-capable gaming PC running an Intel i7-4970K quad-core CPU and Nvidia's GTX 980 powerhouse graphics card, playing Tomb Raider and Metro: Last Light at the highest quality settings possible, and the experience was absolutely amazing.
Seeing your favourite games in 4K is always beautiful, and seeing them on a large Ultra HD screen is even more so. The EC970T's upscaling is excellent at its job, and makes high quality 1080p Blu-ray movies look just as good as you'd expect -- if you have a high quality movie to start with, it looks better when upscaled to 4K with smatterings of edge enhancement to suit the 65EC970T's larger screen size and higher resolution. Gravity, a gorgeous Blu-ray transfer, looks incredible in 4K and on an infinite contrast OLED screen. To be honest, Ultra HD is less of an issue now and more of a future-proofing feature for most users, since we don't have access to a huge amount of native 4K content, but if you're buying an expensive TV now you'd be a chump not to buy a 4K panel and insure yourself against the technology and content changes of the next 10 years.
WebOS is LG's Smart TV platform of choice for its premium TVs in 2014 (and into the future), and it's really something to behold. A long way from the interface of the HP Touchpad, WebOS on LG Smart TVs is card-based, and gives you live access to multiple apps simultaneously. You could be using the TV's Web browser, switch to using the YouTube app, and swap back to live TV or a Blu-ray movie with nearly imperceptible lag -- the TV's quad core processor really keeps things running smoothly, and the interface is both understated and surprisingly useful for a Smart TV. Everything is controlled through LG's Wiimote-esque Magic Wand Remote, which uses infrared and accelerometers to give you a mouse cursor on screen to mimic the touch of a finger -- imagine entirely controlling your PC with the left mouse click, and you get the idea. (Voice is also available, but I didn't give it much of a test drive.)
What Is It Not Good At?
I've always been more than a little sceptical of curved TVs, and while LG's newest TV has done the most by far to convince me of the merits of the format, I remain unconvinced. The rational technology purchaser in me worries about having friends over and seeing them sitting off to the sides and thinking that they're not getting the same perfect and optimised viewing experience as I'm getting sitting right in the centre.
It is an expensive TV, of course. I won't belabor the point. This is a TV aimed at a particular market segment -- those that want the best, and are willing to pay for it. If you're considering spending in excess of a few thousand dollars on a television in the first place, the difference between a $7000 TV and this one probably isn't as big as the difference to someone also considering a $1000 TV. Whether you can rationalise paying the difference for the improvement in quality between another TV and this particular one is entirely up to you. Personally, I tend to think that I probably could -- that picture, that design, that Smart TV interface are all huge points in my personal buying decisions, but your mileage may vary.
Being a super-glossy screen, Curved panels sometimes have the downside of picking up reflections in the room around you and focusing I watched the EC970T in a room with super-strong backlighting behind the TV, and in a well-lit room, and in dark scenes it was possible. To be experienced at its best, this is a TV that you should watch in a dark room with the lights dimmed and no lamps on around your viewing area. That way you can really enjoy those amazing black and white levels.
To be honest, apart from its curved design and the price tag attached to it -- both of which can be entirely rationally explained away -- I don't have much to criticise about the LG 65EC970T. I've somehow convinced myself that $10,000 is a reasonable price for a television. I've somehow convinced myself that I would buy a curved screen and enjoy it. These are the kind of things that happen to you when you sit in front of this screen and enjoy a session of gaming or a couple of good Blu-ray movies. It's something special.
Should You Buy It?
Not too many people will have the disposable income to splash $9999 on a new TV, even if that TV is genuinely top-of-the-line and will last a long, long time in any household. The target market for the LG EC970T is not massive, but to be honest, this display is more of a smart investment than any LED TV or non-4K screen that you can buy today. A TV should last you a long time, and two of the three vital statistics of this TV play very heavily in its favour as a long-term worthwhile purchase.
About the only concern I have is with the curvature of the EC970T's screen. It's certainly not a bad thing if you're sitting in front of the display, and if you're buying into the hype it does seem a little more immersive for certain types of content, but when you're off-centre it is not as impressive a picture. The curvature isn't exactly massive -- it's less prominent than Samsung's, for example -- so it's not exactly a big deal, It's certainly a fashion statement, and that is one thing you're looking for in a TV like this.
If you were buying a TV tomorrow, and if you could manage to find $9999 to spare, I'd tell you without a moment's hesitation to go and buy the LG 65EC970T. I really, really want one.