An OLED TV for how much?
What is the LG EC930?The 55EC930V is LG's latest Full HD OLED TV, following on from the 55EA980W that we reviewed at the start of the year. This latest generation includes a curved ultra-thin OLED panel and passive 3D, but now adds a newly designed stand and LG's reference setting Smart+ platform powered by webOS. However what really grabs our attention is the price, with the 55EC930 available from high street retailers for just £1,999 (November 2014). That's an incredible price point for a new OLED TV and whilst the EC930 isn't Ultra HD 4K, that's still a key tipping point in terms of OLED pricing.
What is OLED?OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode and shouldn't be confused with the 'LED' TVs that you've seen in the shops over the last five years. What manufacturers have euphemistically called 'LED' TVs are actually just LCD TVs with an LED (light emitting diode) as a backlight. An OLED uses a completely different technology and the panel is composed of an organic material that emits light when an electrical current is passed through it. In that sense OLED is more like a plasma, where the panel is also self-illuminating, and for the same reason the blacks on OLED screens are incredibly deep. In fact they are even superior to plasma because there's none of the after-glow associated with that technology and OLED is brighter, resulting in the best dynamic range possible with a modern TV.
So if they're that good, why haven't the shops been flooded with them? Well the simple answer is that they have proved very difficult to manufacture and, until recently at least, expensive to make. Last year there were two competing types of OLED technology, one that used red, green and blue OLEDs and one that used a white OLED and red, green and blue filters. The former was championed by Samsung and was used in their KE55S9 OLED TV and the latter was championed by LG. Samsung have since withdrawn from OLED production, leaving LG and their WRGB technology with the OLED market largely to themselves. You can read more about the technology behind OLED in his handy article and you can read about the advances LG have made in OLED production here.
Is OLED the future of TV? LG certainly think so...
Design & ConnectionsIn terms of its overall design the EC930 uses a curved screen, although LG insist this is primarily to distinguish OLED TVs from all those 'LED' TVs currently on sale, rather than Samsung's view that curved screens are the future of TV. Certainly from LG's perspective OLED is the future of TV and there's no denying that curved or not, an OLED TV is definitely striking even before you turn it on. At just 5mm deep the screen is ridiculously thin but LG have used a decent level of build quality, ensuring that the panel remains rigid despite its fragile appearance. The chassis widens out to 40mm nearer the bottom because this is where LG have installed all the electronics, connections, amplification and speakers - well they had to go somewhere.
The screen itself has a 10mm wide black border and there's a silver trim around the outer edge, whilst the rear panel has a gloss black appearance. The clear plastic stand that was used on the previous generation has gone, replaced with a new design that uses a rather attractive metallic finish. There are speakers positioned along the bottom of the panel and the stand has been designed to enhance the audio performance. The stand doesn't swivel but it can be detached and the EC930 wall mounted if you so desire. At the bottom centre of the panel there is an illuminated LG logo (which you can turn off) and the remote control sensor and the intelligent sensor; whilst at the rear right is a small joystick control.
Also at the rear are the connections, on the bottom left as you face the screen. Along the bottom are some downward facing inputs including a LAN port, satellite and aerial sockets and various legacy connections. There's also an optical digital output and an HDMI input that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). There are three more HDMI inputs facing sideways, one of which supports MHL (Mobile High-definition Link). There are also three USB ports, a CI (Custom Interface) slot and a headphone socket. The sideways facing inputs are a decent 25cm from the edge of the screen, which should avoid unsightly cables. Speaking of which, the EC930 also comes with cable holders and a cover for the recessed AV inputs for tidier cable management. The power cable is hard-wired and, as is often the case these days, a bit short at only 1.5 metres.
Remote ControlThe EC930 comes with two remote controls included, the first is a standard remote whilst the second is LG's excellent Magic Remote. This is easily the best implementation of a motion controller that we have tested to date and LG have been fine tuning it for a couple of years. The current model is ergonomically designed to make it comfortable to hold and easy to use; whilst it's also very accurate in terms of tracking motion on the screen, making it the perfect compliment to LG's new Smart+ system powered by webOS.
LG's latest remote app replicates the look and style of Smart+ and both are clearly based upon webOS. As a result using the remote app creates a seamless and unified experience that is highly satisfying. The app itself has two main screens, the first is the launcher, which is the same as the one found on the TV. From this screen on your phone, you just tap the app you want to open and it immediately opens on the TV itself. The second screen is for controlling the TV itself and replicates the buttons found on the Magic Remote.
The EC930 has great looks and a fantastic set of features including webOS.
Features & SpecsWhilst the OLED screen itself will be the EC930's major selling point, it also comes with a number of excellent features including LG's Smart+ system powered by webOS. This new system is incredibly intuitive and easy to use and by treating everything as an app that appears as a pop-up tag along the bottom, you can quickly switch from one thing to the next. If you scroll to the left, you go backwards through the apps you have previously opened and if you scroll forwards you can access all the available apps.
There is no need to close one app or go to another page to access an app, you just select the one you want from the launcher and go straight into it. Since everything including Live TV, the TV Guide, the Time Machine (HDD recording) and the HDMI inputs are treated as apps, navigating from one to the other is simple, making webOS/Smart+ the first system that feels like an integral part of the TV. The new system really is a ground-up redesign of a Smart TV platform and you can read the full in-depth WebOS review here.
The EC930 also includes LG's Cinema 3D, which is their name for passive 3D. As such there's an invisible polarised filter on the front of the screen and the TV comes with four pairs of polarised glasses (two regular and two clip-on). Although as always, if you have any RealD glasses from the cinema knocking about, you can use those as well. Other useful features include the previously mentioned Magic Remote, the free remote app, the Freeview HD and satellite tuners, built-in WiFi, four HDMI inputs with support for ARC and MHL, Miracast and WiDi. There's also a 2.1-channel speaker configuration with 40W of amplification.
Picture SettingsThe EC930 ships in its Standard picture mode which, as is often the case, includes way too much blue, as well as having all of the 'special' features on and the processing maxed out. The best approach is to use one of the ISF settings, which immediately selects a number of options that are closer to the industry standards used in video and film production and turns off most of the 'special' features.
As a happy by-product, it also reduces the amount of energy your new OLED TV uses because we measured the Standard mode at 198W whilst our calibrated setting was only using 85W. This is because the Standard mode was also far too bright and would definitely be uncomfortable to watch at night. As an indication of of how bright the Standard mode was, our calibrated 3D mode which we wanted to be bright, was only measuring 162W.
If you want to read about how best to set your TV up, take a look at our PicturePerfect guide and you can find our recommended settings for the 55EC930V here.
Whilst the calibration controls are buggy, thankfully the out-of-the-box performance is excellent.
As mentioned in the previous section, we chose the ISF preset for our initial measurements and as the graphs below show, the out-of-the-box performance was excellent. In terms of the greyscale all three primary colours were measuring at about the same amounts at each 10 IRE point from 0 to 100, resulting in overall errors that were below the visible threshold of three. The gamma curve was also quite good, tracking between 2.2 and 2.4 and averaging around 2.3, which is perfectly acceptable.
The colour gamut only has two options - Standard and Wide - but we found that Standard measured close to the industry standard of Rec.709. As the CIE Chart below right shows, the colour temperature of white is hitting its target for D65 and the saturation and hue measurements for the colours are also very good. The luminance measurements were slightly high for all the colours but the overall errors are mostly below the visible threshold of three, with the exception of red and magenta.
It's just as well that the out-of-the-box performance of the EC930 was so good because the calibration controls proved to be something of a disappointment. LG have included both a two-point and a twenty-point white balance control but given the overall accuracy of the greyscale, there was little the two-point could add. However when we tried to use the twenty-point to fine tune the performance we found that it didn't work correctly. The controls for one IRE point would instead affect the one next to it, so for example 20IRE was affecting 30IRE and so on. We also found that using the white balance control introduced errors and in the case of 80IRE we were unable to correct them because none of the controls seemed to affect that point. In the end we gave up and decided to just use the out-of-the-box settings.
When it came to the colour management system (CMS), the controls appeared to work very well. We were able to use the separate luminance, saturation and hue controls for all six colours to correct any minor errors. As a result, in terms of the measurements the EC930 appeared to be delivering a reference colour performance. However as soon as we actually watched any content we could immediately see nasty artefacts like banding within the colours. We have experienced this problem on all of LG's sets this year and it was a disappointment to see it affecting the EC930 as well. So as with the greyscale, we ended up using the out-of-the-box colour gamut, so it was just as well that these settings were already quite accurate.
Input LagWe selected the Game mode on the EC930 and our initial measurement for the input lag was 52ms, which is a bit on the high side. However, as is often the case, renaming the input to PC resulted in the input lag dropping to 41ms, which is about average for a Full HD TV this year. Whilst we might have hoped for a lower input lag given OLED's legendary response times, 41ms is better than LG's previous generation of OLED TVs and will certainly be good enough for most people. We definitely didn't find any issues with latency during our gaming sessions and overall it was a very enjoyable experience, enhanced by the great images the EC930 produced.
Good sound and a 41ms input lag add to an already attractive package.
LG EC930V Sound QualityLG have taken great strides in improving the audio performance of their TVs this year and the EC930 is no exception. Unlike their previous generation of OLED TVs, which used forward-firing speakers built into a clear plastic stand, the EC930 has a slightly more traditional downward firing configuration. However the attractive new stand has been designed to improve the audio performance, whilst the inclusion of a 2.1 system and 40W of amplification also helps considerably. As a result, the audio performance of the EC930 was good, with an open front soundstage, clear dialogue, well defined effects and nicely reproduced music. Obviously there are plenty of superior out-board audio solutions available but if you do plan on using the EC930's built-in speakers, you won't be disappointed.
LG 55EC930 Video Review
LG 55EC930V Picture QualityThere has been a fair bit of discussion about this TV over the last few weeks, so we'll try and address everyone's concerns and questions in a systematic manner. Let's start with the obvious benefit of OLED - black levels and contrast ratio. First of all the EC930 is bright; we could hit our target of 120cd/m2 with the OLED light control at just 57, so that should give you an idea of how high it could go. In addition the blacks are really black, with our Klein K-10 measuring 0.001cd/m2 on 0IRE; although we couldn't get any measurement at all on the 55EA980. Still that means an on/off contrast ratio of 120,000:1 and the ANSI contrast ratio was 110,500:1 - we'll take that any day. The screen uniformity was also excellent, with no visible discolouration or other issues. We also had no problems with image retention or screen burn during the two weeks we were using the EC930; nor were there any dead pixels and since the EC930 is an OLED, the viewing angles were also extremely wide.
As some people have pointed out the black frame insertion has been dropped but LG has added an hour counter and according to the one on the review sample it had done 106 hours; we were also using software version 04.32.20 at the time of the review. It is also true that the best no sharpness setting is 10 on the Sharpness controls. The EC930 uses exactly the same 'sample-and-hold' approach that we saw with the EA980, which means the panel displays and holds a static frame until the next one is refreshed. As a result the EC930 was delivering about 400 lines of resolution with TruMotion turned off. This could be improved by turning TruMotion on but the result is a picture that looks unnaturally smooth, especially with film content, and we could see artefacts in some of test material. This was true regardless of whether you choose Smooth or Clear and although you could experiment with the TruMotion settings on something like football, we were perfectly happy watching all of our content with TruMotion turned off.
As we mentioned in the calibration section, the calibration controls were very buggy with the 20-point white balance created more problems than it solved, whilst using the CMS resulted in terrible colour artefacts. Thankfully the out-of-the-box performance was excellent and so the EC930 still delivered natural and realistic looking colours, whilst the greyscale and gamma performance was also very good. There were also no signs of clipping in red, green or blue; whilst we could see all the detail up to video level 255 and down to video level 17. There have been reports of backdoor video processing, especially noise reduction, removing grain and high frequency detail on the EC930. Well we turned everything of and watched test footage and various films, like the beginning of Casino Royale, with excessive grain. We could clearly see the grain and there were no signs of any noise reduction being applied; whilst high frequency detail in our test patterns certainly appeared to be present and correct.
It's possible that LG has addressed these issues with a firmware update or the affects are too subtle for most people to see but we doubt your average consumer is going to find issue with the images produced by the EC930. Certainly when watching Blu-rays the images appeared highly detailed and clean, except in the instances where film grain was supposed to be apparent, and there was no sense of high frequency information being lost. Overall the video processing was very good and the EC930 had no problems deinterlacing and scaling standard definition content, with excellent detail and no unwanted ringing. It also had no problems detecting both 3:2 and 2:2 cadence correctly or handling scrolling video text over film. The LG performed equally as well in the other tests, delivering an excellent performance. The quality of the video deinterlacing at 1080i50 was just as good as it was for standard definition and there were no apparent issues with 24p content.
We watched a lot of content on the EC930, thanks to a totally coincidental holiday, and we were never anything but impressed by the pictures it produced. The BBC's new documentary series Life Story looked absolutely spectacular in high definition and so did a number of Blu-rays that we watched. Gravity gave the EC930 a chance to show off its massive dynamic range with white spacesuits against black backgrounds, whilst the final Harry Potter film revealed the remarkable contrast ratio and shadow detail. When watching films like X-Men: Days of Future Past and Pacific Rim the detail was excellent, whilst colours remained natural and vibrant even in darker scenes. The 3D performance was also superb and although the use of a polarised filter does reduce the resolution it really isn't apparent at any sensible viewing distance. However what was apparent was the brightness of the 3D and the complete lack of flicker and crosstalk.
The picture quality was superb, with deep blacks, natural colours and plenty of detail.
- Absolute black levels
- Reference dynamic range and contrast ratios
- Accurate picture out-of-the-box
- Excellent video processing
- Superb 3D performance
- Reference features and smart platform
- Very good build quality
- Great sound
- Fantastic price
- Calibration controls faulty
- Motion resolution around 400 lines with TruMotion off
LG 55EC930V (EC930) OLED TV Review
Should I buy one?
If you're in the market for a Full HD OLED TV then the simple answer is yes because at £1,999 you'd be crazy not to buy one. The 55EC930 isn't quite as impressive as the 55EA980 that we reviewed at the start of the year and there are a number of issues that prevent us from awarding a Reference Status badge. Unfortunately the calibration controls are largely ineffective, although thankfully the out-of-the-box performance is excellent. Aside from that though, we feel that complaints about motion handling and backdoor noise reduction have been somewhat exaggerated and we had no issues with screen burn or dead pixels on your review sample.
The simple fact is that the LG 55EC930V is a gorgeous TV with a fantastic OLED panel that delivers unbeatable blacks and contrast ratios. The colours are natural, the 3D performance is excellent and the overall picture quality was superb. As always the curved screen will come down to personal preference but we hardly noticed it during testing and the viewing angles are very wide. The panel has plenty of brightness and a huge dynamic range, whilst the input lag will be acceptable to most people and the sound quality was surprisingly good. Once you throw in the Smart+ system with webOS and a host of other features, you've got yourself an easy Best Buy.
What are my alternatives?
As far as OLED TVs go LG is the only game in town at the moment, which does rather limit your options. However even if there were other makes to choose from, you'd be hard pushed to find a 55-inch OLED TV for less than £1,999. In fact you'd struggle to get a flagship LCD TV for that price, so the only real question is do you go for Ultra HD 4K instead? Once again the only manufacturer even talking about 4K OLED is LG and it doesn't look like we'll be seeing that TV this year. However even if you're thinking of an Ultra HD LCD TV, you wouldn't really benefit on a screen of this size and it's going to be a long time before there's a serious amount of native 4K content. Frankly if you're looking for the best picture quality currently available, then you should be looking at the LG 55EC930V. Oh and did we mention it only costs £1,999?
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level10
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality9
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box9
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use10
Value for Money10
Our Review Ethos
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