Plasma TV is dead. (I'm still getting over this.) With plasma gone, there was a difficult couple of months where if you wanted a TV with excellent contrast — perfectly deep blacks, bright whites, beautiful colour — you had to buy an extremely expensive, top of the line LCD. Then OLED came along at a reasonable price, late last year, and we rejoiced. Now we're finally seeing OLED TVs that support Ultra HD start to hit store shelves, and that's a very good thing — this $9999 Ultra HD OLED screen is almost the perfect TV.
What Is It?
- Screen Size: 55-, 65-inch
- Screen Type: OLED
- Resolution: 3840x2160 pixels
- Smart TV: Yes, WebOS 2.0
- Connectivity: 4x HDMI, 3x USB
- Wi-Fi: Yes
The EG960T is two different screen sizes of the same specifications — a 55-inch and a 65-inch, both of which have the same 3840x2160 pixel Ultra HD resolution, the same slightly curved design and chassis, and the same WRGB (white-red-green-blue) OLED panel. OLED televisions have an array of organic light-emitting diodes as their pixels, rather than the comparatively complicated combination of LED backlight, liquid crystal display, polariser and thin-film transistor glass. An OLED panel means each pixel creates its own light and can therefore display an infinite range of contrast — perfectly dark black next to perfectly bright white.
The new top of the line OLED TV was launched to great fanfare last week, but I got a chance to sit down overnight with one of the 65-inch models, priced at a cool $9999, and give it a test drive with a bunch of Blu-rays, some beautiful 4K Ultra HD compressed and high-bitrate video, as well as the best of Netflix in 4K and 1080p, to see how the EG960T handles high quality and low quality video alike. I also gave its Harman/Kardon 20-Watt speaker system a test with some streamed Spotify and downloaded high bit-rate MP3s to see how such a skinny TV's sound stands up against a larger soundbar.
The LG EG960T can be switched on and you won't know it, as long as its screen is entirely black — it's the same as having the screen switched off, since no pixels are illuminating. There's no variance in display uniformity, either, so none of the hot zones and light leakage that are common (albeit to only a small extent) on most edge-lit and even some backlit LED LCD TVs. Because the EG960T's OLED pixels have a range of colour that exceeds the sRGB display standard and 10-bit colour depth for billions of colours, too, you will see your downloaded TV shows and movies and Blu-rays exactly as the director intended — as long as the TV is calibrated correctly (but more on that later).
Both of LG's EG960T televisions support 3840x2160 pixel inputs through their three HDCP 2.2 compliant HDMI 2.0 ports, although there's no DisplayPort 1.2 (sorry, PC gamers). You'll also find a USB 3.0 port into which you can plug an appropriately fast flash drive and watch high bit-rate 4K Ultra HD video, and two USB 2.0 devices into which slower storage, a Skype camera, or a keyboard or mouse can be attached to navigate the EG960T's quad-core-powered WebOS 2.0 Smart TV interface. A single FreeviewPlus-compatible DVB-T tuner works for free-to-air TV and lets you record to any USB-connected storage device.
The $5999 55-inch 55EG960T and $9999 65-inch 65EG960T are out in Australia now, in a bunch of Harvey Norman stores exclusively for a six-week launch period, and alongside the 55EC930T are the only OLED TVs you can buy in Australia. LG has been developing its OLED tech for six years, and is the first to release screens of any reasonable size in Australia — that's if you discount the $7000 11-inch Sony XEL-1 from 2008. This is the second year that you've been able to buy a LG OLED display, although the 2014 EC930T continues to be sold in identical form this year as well.
I've had the 55-inch 1080p, step-down equivalent of the EG960T — it's called the EC930T — for a couple of months now, so I've learned all its ins and outs, and found its strengths and weaknesses. It has perfect blacks and a beautiful range and gradation of contrast, but is very slightly let down by mediocre motion performance straight out of the box. The EC930T can only be slightly improved out of the box with a bit of tweaking, so I was interested to see the improvement — if any — that I could make with the EG960T and its 8,294,400 pixels.
What's It Good At?
You know how LED TVs never look perfect when they're displaying blocks of colour? Or when they're showing an entirely black screen? Or when there's super-fast motion on screen? OLED fixes all of that. The LG EG960T's eight million pixels each go black when they go off — this, more than anything else, is OLED's biggest hook. I can't emphasise enough how important a low, low black level is to the rest of a TV's display abilities — it makes colours pop more, it makes even moderate whites look more impressive, it makes even boring free-to-air TV look good. Contrast is the most important feature of a TV in my opinion, more important than resolution and screen size, and the EG960T has it in spades.
Being an Ultra HD TV, too, helps the EG960T to display oodles of detail whenever it's displaying natively 4K content. I watched Timescapes — the first film to be released widely in 4K — and found it to look the best I've ever seen (thanks, contrast!) as well as a bunch of LG-supplied Ultra HD timelapse video that looked incredibly clean. For the last year I've been having to suggest choosing between 4K Ultra HD and OLED (I actually chose both, but in two different TVs), but the EG960T bringing them together makes that decision unnecessary.
And, as usual, LG's WebOS 2.0 Smart TV user interface remains excellent and quick to operate, a subtle but significant improvement from the already good experience I've had with the original WebOS TV ribbon. It isn't quite as action-packed as Samsung's Tizen SUHD screens — there's less bespoke video-on-demand, with LG just giving users direct access to Netflix (in Ultra HD, if your 'net can support 25Mbps streaming video), ABC iView, SBS On Demand and others — but it's easier to use because of that. Switching inputs is simple, The original WebOS on 2014 LG TVs is certainly usable, but on newer screens you will genuinely notice the improvement that waiting one second rather than five for apps to load brings.
It hardly bears mentioning any more, but when you buy an OLED TV you're getting an incredibly skinny TV. It's actually really cool to walk to the side of the screen while it's showing video, because it doesn't look like it should be showing anything — it looks like it should be a concept for the TV of the future. The majority of the EG960T's chassis is a mere 5mm thick, and the smooth curve accentuates that further than if it were flat. The back of this particular LG TV is white, too, so it'll fit in better if you're mounting it right against a white living room or theatre room wall and showing off its curve.
What's It Not Good At?
There's no getting around the fact that the 65-inch LG EG960T is more expensive than any other TV in its screen size. It's not massive — that is to say, it's more than enough for the vast majority of Australian apartments and households — but it rivals 78- and 79-inch screens in price, so you have to decide whether you want a larger LED or a smaller OLED. I know I'd be choosing the OLED, but it's hard to get around the fact that after price The same is true of the 55-inch EG960T, but the price differential is smaller and you're actually most hard-pressed to choose between the $5999 Ultra HD EG960T and the $3999 Full HD EC930T.
LG's regular, straight-out-of-the-box Standard picture settings for the EG960T are a little bit too contrasty and sharp, and you'll find this especially true if you're watching an already high quality flick like a Blu-ray movie. I noticed it initially with the clean, sharp animation of Frozen, but it persists slightly less so even on any other piece of video content — and it actually makes everything but native 4K video look a bit worse than it should. Back off the screen sharpness down to zero, lower contrast slightly and you'll get a more moderate, but more detailed and actually more enjoyable image out of it.
Because there are completely black pixels next to completely white, it is possible to see a small amount of brightness bloom on the edges of the text in credits and in movie title sequences and the like. With such a bright screen, too, getting the right white balance is crucial and the EG960T's Cinema mode actually looks slightly too warm — an interesting difference from most LEDs and older plasmas out there. Back it off slightly (from Warm 2 to Warm 1 or Medium) and you'll have a far more pleasant viewing experience in a room that's already lit by downlights or lamps. Similarly, motion smoothing looks best in Clear or the customised User mode, with Smooth being far too soap-opera-y for my tastes.
If you want a bespoke LG wall-mount that means the EG960T sits almost perfectly flush with your wall — trust me, it'll look amazing — you'll have to pay around $199 for the OTW150, or around $129 for the OSW100 for the 55-inch EG960T and EC930T. It's not a huge price increase, and it's probably something you might even be able to negotiate as part of the purchase price on the two more expensive EG960Ts, but at least on paper it's an additional expense and one more object that's slightly more expensive than other brands out there. The same is also true of a replacement LG Magic Remote. You're basically paying a bit more for the privilege of being on the bleeding edge of technology.
Should You Buy It?
To be absolutely honest and upfront and simple about it, yes. The LG EG960T is the current pinnacle of TV technology in Australia — it combines Ultra HD and OLED, it's (very slightly) curved to boot and it runs an excellent Smart TV operating system in WebOS. Those are all excellent things, and when you see it in person you'll understand just how good it is when it all comes together. It's really something quite special to see for the first time, especially directly against even a good LED TV.
The downside? It's expensive. It's quite expensive. But that's no surprise, and hopefully as months go on and Christmas rolls around the LG EG960T's price will fall, especially for the 65-inch model that carries enough of a price premium to put it in direct competition with LED-LCD televisions that are a full 13 or 14 inches larger diagonally. The 55-inch will always remain expensive, relative to its competition, but it's less expensive in an absolute sense and that's what matters for most buyers.
When prices fall significantly, it's going to be really great for OLED, as it becomes even more competitive against LED. Even now, though, it's a price you could potentially justify to yourself if you wanted, and if you were
smart crazy brave enough to do so, you'd have yourself an amazing television that would keep you happy for a very long time.