The 55EA980W has a 55" (140 cm) OLED display that's just 4.3 mm thick. It also has an intriguing curved display, which LG claims will help immerse viewers in the onscreen action. Over to you to decide whether or not that really works ... Otherwise, it comes with all the usual features seen in LG's top-end TVs, including Smart TV services, a passive 3D mode and an "Absolute Motion Clarity" motion interpolation function to keep moving images looking smooth.
Note that we tested the LG 55EA980V, which is the sold as the 55EA980W in the UK and the 55EA9800 in the US.
2D Image Quality
While Samsung opted to use an RGB OLED screen in its freshly released OLED telly, LG has gone for WOLED (White OLED or WRGB OLED), adding an extra white organic light-emitting diode to each pixel. In other words, each pixel comprises four white OLEDs—one with a blue filter, one with a red filter, one with a green filter and one with no filter.
With the TV unboxed, installed and the manufacturer's demo out of the way, the moment of truth was finally upon us—time to start testing. First up, black level and contrast. But when we placed our sensor on the black zone of the onscreen test card it measured... absolutely nothing! The black on this TV screen is so deep that it's below the minimum level our test equipment can read. With the black pretty much at 0 cd/m², LG has managed to achieve perfect, infinite contrast! The black is so black that you can't even make out the TV screen when facing it in a pitch dark room, even after your eyes have had time to adjust to the darkness.
To get a better idea of just what this gain in contrast does for the image quality, we put this OLED TV next to an LCD TV with 3000:1 contrast (which is good for an LCD TV). When set side by side, the LCD screen looks pale and washed out next to the OLED model (see above). In the screenshot from the OLED TV (above left), you can see the folds, creases and a greater level of detail in the jacket of the actor standing in front of the light. On the LCD model (above right) the jacket just looks like a mass of black that blends into the dark surroundings.
Like plasmas, OLED screens have a fixed amount of electrical power that can be used over the display. So when a small area of white is displayed onscreen, the brightness can reach up to 300 cd/m². However, when the TV shows an all-white screen (not something you're likely to do in real life, admittedly), the TV is limited to 70 cd/m². That said, this limitation is less marked than with plasmas. And we didn't record any variation in brightness with our 35% white test card. In comparison, plasmas generally reach around 150 cd/m² with the 1% white test card, dropping below 90 cd/m² on the 35% white card. This isn't something that's seen with LCD TVs, however, which keep brightness levels constant whether displaying a small white dot or an all-white screen.
The image is clearly affected when the screen is viewed from the side.
The image hardly changes at all when viewed from an angle. This OLED TV behaves in a similar way to plasma screens.
As you can see from the images above, this OLED TV has very wide viewing angles. In fact, it's on par with plasma technology. From 45 degrees, we measured an average variation in brightness of just 10%. In comparison, with LCD screens based on VA technology (PVA, PSA, UV²A, etc.), the black can vary up to +300% and the white to -60%, which makes contrast drop markedly when watching the TV screen from the side. IPS technology does a little better, although variations can still reach 70%.
Another great thing that the 55EA980W has in common with plasma screens is that brightness levels remain perfectly constant over the display. We measured an average variation in the white level at less than 5%, which makes for excellent screen uniformity!
And this OLED TV has still more impressive performances in store, as the responsiveness is simply incredible! As soon as an image appears onscreen the previous frame has already gone. We have never before seen such an amazing result from a TV! In comparison, the most responsive LCD TVs get ghosting times of 8 ms in our responsiveness tests, whereas the speediest plasmas get around 6 ms. The LG 55EA980V, however, pushes that down under 1 ms. That's so good we still hardly believe it!
LG could work on the input lag, however. In "Game" mode, the TV takes 71 ms to display an image from the moment it leaves the source (compared with 135 ms in "Cinema" mode). This lag will only be problematic for gamers. In certain FPS games, for example, this level of latency can give adversaries a slight advantage in multiplayer set-ups.
Left: the motion interpolation mode creates digital artefacts on the building windows.
Right: no sign of artefacts.
The motion interpolation mode does its job, keeping fast-moving images smooth when watching movies. We recommend switching this to "User" mode, then setting "De-Judder" to 4 and "De-Blur" to 6. With that done, you do still get the occasional spot of judder, but there's no sign of the annoying soap opera effect that these functions often create. Note that artefacts can still crop up in certain sweeping, travelling shots, making the image feel a bit like it's shuddering or trembling. And that can be quite off-putting ... especially in a TV selling for £8,000.
What's perhaps a little more annoying is that picture quality isn't quite perfect with the factory settings. In both "THX" and "ISF Expert" mode, colour reproduction is red-heavy, with an average Delta E of 6, and the grey scale is too dark, with gamma at 1.8. Note that Delta E measures the difference between perfectly reproduced colours and those actually displayed onscreen—colours can be considered accurate with a Delta E of 0 to 3.
We were surprised to see the Delta E at 6, as THX and ISF Expert accreditation are usually synonymous with accurate colour reproduction, with an average Delta E nearer 3 than 6. All the THX and ISF Expert certified TVs that we've tested in the past have managed to keep the Delta E down under 3. We're therefore tempted to think that there may have been a problem with the specific 55EA980W that we tested. We'll keep an eye on that as the first 55EA980W TVs come to market. In any case, in spite of the slightly high Delta E, image quality is incredibly impressive. It's way out ahead of anything that we're used to seeing in the current market. Impressive!
You can guess what we're going to say, right? Yep, once again this OLED TV achieves excellence. Like plasma screens, LG's OLED display is totally free from clouding. The black screen looks perfectly uniform with no white patches or cloud-like blotches leaking through.
The 55EA980W comes with LG's Cinema 3D passive 3D technology. Passive 3D has plenty of advantages, including lightweight, cheap glasses with no batteries required. Plus, passive glasses don't darken the 3D image. On the other hand, the resolution of 3D images drops to 1920 x 540 pixels with passive systems.
This TV is supplied with four pairs of 3D glasses, two of which can be clipped over the top of regular glasses. LG also includes a couple of carry cases so you take your specs out and about for 3D viewing one someone else's telly.
Image quality is excellent in 3D mode, with no trace of crosstalk (images for the left and right eyes overlapping onto one another and causing interference). Is there anything that this TV can't do amazingly well?
We have to admit we're a bit disappointed with the TV's design, which we don't feel lives up to its top-end performances and stunning image quality. The casing is mostly made from plastic, and that's only too noticeable from the moment you set eyes on the 55EA980W. The see-through stand looks a bit cheap, especially next to the "floating frame" design of Samsung's OLED TV.
Like LG's top-of-the-range LCD TVs, the 55EA980W features Miracast and WiDi that can be used to watch TV on compatible mobile devices. That can be handy when you want to carry on watching a TV show in a different room of the house. LG's Smart TV services are as pleasant as ever to use, with smooth operation plus an effective design and layout. The excellent media player supports loads of file formats. In fact, the only stumbling block seems to be movie chapters.
The 55EA980W has four HDMI ports, composite (YUV) and component connections, two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port. There are two TV tuners onboard so you can record one show (to the internal memory or to an external storage peripheral) while watching another.
The 55EA980W comes with LG's Magic Remote, which works a bit like a Nintendo Wii-mote motion controller. It's nice and compact, and ensures precise navigation. However, it doesn't have a whole load of buttons or shortcut keys, and some may find the fact that there's no number pad quite annoying.
LG's OLED TV has a built-in 2.1 audio system with two speakers located in the transparent part of the stand and a subwoofer in its base. Still, it's a bit of a stretch to call this a "subwoofer" as it also has to handle middle frequencies. The frequency response has a big dip at around 1 Hz caused by a slight trace of distortion. In spite of that, audio quality is generally a cut above what you get from most TVs on the market these days. That said, you'll still get better results from a home cinema speaker kit or a sound bar. An add-on audio kit is a must if you want to enjoy sound on par with the excellent image quality on offer in this TV ... and to stop the turbo-charged monsters in Fast and Furious sounding like spluttering petrol go-karts straight out of Mario Kart.
OLED technology is widely expected to push power use down to never-before-seen levels. The power readings we took certainly weren't bad—in fact, they're really very good. However, they're not impressive enough to set the LG 55EA980W miles apart from LED-based LCD TVs. Still, this OLED model is way more economical than the average plasma. The 55EA980W uses 114 W when running—that's 137 W/m² for this 55" screen compared with 100 to 180 W/m² for LCD TVs and 450 W/m² for plasmas. Power use drops under 1 W when on standby.
- Excellent 3D picture quality with no crosstalk
- Wide viewing angles
- Brightness levels stay even and consistent, good screen uniformity
- Almost instant screen response times
- Infinite contrast
- Effective motion interpolation function
- Built-in media player supports a wide range of formats
- Colour fidelity wasn't 100% accurate in the model we tested
- Image resolution halves in 3D mode
- Motion interpolation makes the image shudder a bit in certain sweeping scenes
With a true perfect black, infinite contrast, wide viewing angles, no trace of clouding, no ghosting and low power use, the first OLED TV to pass through our test lab does so with flying colours. LG's 55EA980W certainly delivers on its promises! Image quality is quite simply incredible. We haven't seen quality jump forward this much since Pioneer's Kuro plasmas arrived on the scene in 2008. The 55EA980W walks its way to a five-star review. Let's hope OLED starts to roll out more widely soon to help push down those monster price tags.