LG EF950T Flat 4K OLED TV: Australian Review

LG finally has a flat OLED TV out in Australia -- and it's a beauty. The EF950T is a 55- or 65-inch 4K Ultra HD OLED, super thin with the incredible contrast and amazingly deep blacks that we've come to expect from LG's exclusive OLED screens. It'll cost you a pretty penny, sure, but you get what you pay for.

What Is It?

The $5499 LG 55EF950T and $8,999 LG EF950T are 55- and 65-inch screens respectively, both with identical specifications. Both OLED panels have 3840x2160 pixels, meeting the spec for Ultra HD 4K resolution, and also add HDMI 2.0a support with 4K High Dynamic Range at 60 frames per second. Those prices are at RRP, too -- already I've seen them a full $1,000 cheaper at retailers, even though stock isn't on (most) shelves yet. LG has an excellent history of lowering its OLED TV prices over time, and I'd be confident of the 55-inch screen being under $4,000 by Christmas.

The EF950T is an extremely thin TV by virtue of the fact that it doesn't have any backlight or any extraneous image polarising layers; the actual colour-producing stack is half as thick on OLED versus LCD, and it shows in the EF950T's pencil-thin screen edges and the almost-borderless design of the display and bezels. Without the stand, the EF950T is 51mm thick, with the vast majority of that coming from the centre lower third of the TV where the processing power is contained. If you're wall-hanging the screen, you'll have to use LG's bespoke picture-frame mount, which attaches to the thinner portion of the display and helps it sit flush against the wall.

As one of LG's first TVs with HDMI 2.0a ports, the EF950T supports the latest and greatest HDMI display specifications, all the way up to 3840x2160 pixels of resolution, 60 frames per second and with support for high dynamic range. OLED TVs already have a greater brightness and colour fidelity range than their LCD counterparts anyway -- LCDs can't display the darkest 20 per cent of colours unless they have expensive trick 'local dimming' backlighting -- but the inclusion of HDR means that the EF950T supports a wider range of colour again. Now, HDR content is quite light on the ground, but it's about future-proofing -- you'll soon be able to buy Ultra HD Blu-rays with HDR support, and Netflix just has to flick a switch to turn on the 4K HDR streams from its library.

The EF950T runs on LG's WebOS 2.0 interface, the card-based on-screen menu that it has used since 2015 -- the same system as on the EG960T curved 4K OLED. It's not the most up-to-date interface, since LG showed off WebOS 3.0 at CES this year, but it's perfectly serviceable, and LG's gesture- and speech-controlled Magic Remote Voice makes navigation extremely easy once you've learned how to drive it.

What's It Good At?

LG continues to impress with the quality of its OLED TVs, and the EF950T is an appropriately high water mark in a consistently great series of screens. If you just want to sit in front of a TV and be stunned by the vividness of colour and contrast of images, then go find a EF950T pronto -- it's the perfect example of why I think OLED is the best TV technology that you can buy right now. Case in point is the EF950T's black levels, straight out of the box -- they're black, with the backlight effectively just switched off. And that means dark scenes are dark, and in a dark room the EF950T can just disappear into the background.

And because that black level is so black, every other step of brightness in every other primary colour looks exponentially more bright against its background. Colours look extremely vivid and well saturated without looking garish, and you don't even realise that the screen you're looking at isn't actually that bright -- useful in a bright room, amazing in a dark room. LCD TVs have higher maximum brightness, sure, but their minimum brightness is also much higher -- and OLED has a higher overall contrast ratio and won't melt your eyes at the same time while you're watching it.

When you load up some 4K HDR content -- the EF950T supports it via streaming, through the USB 3.0 port and through its HDMI 2.0a ports -- the advantage of OLED becomes even more obvious. Incredible detail from LG's test HDR content (60Mbps HEVC Ultra HD video running at 60fps) is translated perfectly through the EF950T's display, with detail right up to the maximum and minimum brightness boundaries. Motion, too, is much improved with a high frame-rate source. It goes to show that with current and future video formats, a technically capable screen like the LG EF950T will continue to perform brilliantly.

I had the chance to directly compare a LG 65EF950T against an identical size, top-of-the-line LED edge-lit LCD TV from a competitor's brand, with identical video running simultaneously on the two, and the difference was stark. The most telling comparison was a scene where bright, primary-colour objects moved in the centre of the screen -- where the LCD had to strobe its backlight which showed as flickering brightness in black areas, the OLED was nearly perfect in how it displayed moving colours against dark blacks. Neither is perfect with fast on-screen motion, but the OLED is far superior.

Now, you might be one of those people that steadfastly believes that flat screens are superior to curved ones, and in that case the EF950T is probably the TV that you've been waiting for. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle, and the difference between curved and flat screens is so minimal as to not matter beyond aesthetics once the TV is turned off; in any case, it's good to see that the EF950T is effectively priced identically, both at RRP and on the street, to its otherwise (nearly) identical curved EG960T counterpart. That way, you can choose whichever looks nicest to you in the store and whichever looks the nicest in your living room -- simple.

What's It Not Good At?

OLED screens are still just before that mass-market tipping point where they're accessible to everyone. They're still expensive -- and I'm pleased to say that the EF950T is relatively less so than the EG960T and EC930T it is introduced alongside, but it's still a pricy piece of technology. It's not that it's expensive for what you're getting, it's just that you could get a similar size LED-backlit (or edge-lit) LCD TV for a fraction of the price, or a much larger one for the same price. That $8,000 65-inch? You could buy a 78-inch Samsung UHD TV for that same price, or five 65-inch Sony W850C 1080p LED TVs.

I have a single complaint about the LG EF950T's picture quality, and it's a minor one at best. As with other OLED TVs I've seen in the past, the EF950T has the slightest incidence of vignetting, where the outer vertical edges of the display are very slightly -- almost imperceptibly -- darker than the centre of the screen. This is actually an interesting cinematic effect once you've noticed it, as it makes the display pop out of the background a little more, but for an image purist it's the smallest niggle that stands out only because it's just about the only one that I can easily find.

Motion performance is generally good, but could be a little better especially with 1080p and lower-resolution content and lower frame-rate video. LG's TruMotion does a good job, especially in Clear mode, of making fast motion look more clear, but there's still a bit of judder that exists if an object moves quickly within the frame on an otherwise static screen -- this is LG's motion processing working to its limits. I'm happy to say that higher frame rate content, like the 60fps HDR video I tested, looks perfect -- and I'm confident that annoying judder will be a thing of the past in the near future.

As beautiful and straightforward for everyday use as LG's WebOS 2.0 interface is, it still lags a bit when you step outside of the everyday use case. If you want to jump into settings to enable or disable energy savings, for example, or to set a quick clock timer to switch the TV off after an hour or two, you'll have to jump into the Quick Settings menu. This takes just a couple of seconds to load, but it's a wait that feels out of place against the majority of the rest of the interface. The EF950T would be easier to recommend if it had WebOS 3.0 onboard; like previous models, a firmware update should improve WebOS 2.0 to a similar visual design, but it'll still have the slower processor inside.

Should You Buy It?

Have you been waiting for a high quality OLED screen that's not curved? Then obviously you should be making trails to your local electronics retailer and picking up an EF950T; it's your only choice at the moment. It's good, too, that it's a very high quality choice, with OLED's typically excellent contrast, similarly excellent picture detail both with 1080p and Ultra HD 4K video sources and the new novelty of amazing contrast detail and gradation with the very limited amount of 4K HDR content that's out there.

Lg's $4500-plus EF950T also benefits from the fact that it's not a first-generation product. Other LG OLED TVs have been out in Australia for a couple of years now, and the advancement in technology is obvious; motion performance is much improved from the already-pretty-good EC930T and slightly improved from the pretty-damn-good EG960T. It supports HDR (like the EG960T), it has WebOS 2.0 (but not 3.0),

It's also not outrageously expensive. It's expensive, sure, there's no doubting that -- $4500 street price is still quite a lot to pay for a 55-inch TV, considering you can find a highly competent LCD TV for a third of that price. The 65-inch EF950T screen is more expensive still; at roughly $8,000 it's well out of the realm of 'impulse purchase' and more into the 'how many organs do I have to sell to finance this thing' depths of most wallets. You're absolutely not wasting your money, though -- the addition of HDR support over HDMI means the EF950T is future-proofed the most of LG's entire line-up.

At the end of the day, if you buy a LG EF950T you're getting -- by my estimation -- the most visually impressive TV that money can buy in Australia right now. It handles high quality video extremely well, and whether you decide to tweak its picture settings or not you'll get a beautiful image with that incredible contrast and switched-off blacks. And it blows any equivalent LCD TV out of the water. The only question is whether you'd like OLED, or a much larger LCD for the same price -- and I know which I'd prefer.

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