LG 15 inch OLED TV (15EL9500) Review

Phil Hinton looks towards the future of TV with LG's OLED screen

by Phil Hinton
TV Review

26

Highly Recommended
LG 15 inch OLED TV (15EL9500) Review
SRP: £1,900.00

Introduction

OLED TV, it’s the future. Well that is what we’ve been told for the last 5 years, at least. However, it seems to have taken longer than anticipated for the technology to mature and develop and yet, even now, large screen sizes are still technically difficult to manufacture, with an acceptable lifespan and failure rate. Smaller screen sizes are now a commercial reality with Sony having released a model two years ago and now LG is coming to the fore and launching this 15 inch version at an eye watering £1,900 (approx).

So what is OLED? Will it be the answer for achieving perfect image quality in a slim TV? Will it ever be viable in large screen sizes? And most importantly, is it any good? We are about to answer those questions and more…

Technology & Design

When OLED becomes a mainstream product (assuming that is the main goal of manufacturers like LG) then it will likely be a hard sell to the consumer for one reason. Confusion. You see, over the last two years certain manufacturers have been quite cheeky in their marketing for the latest LCD TVs using LED Backlights. They have been guilty of marketing them as a new LED Technology, an LED TV, which of course is not true or accurate. They are LCD TVs which use LED lights instead of CCFL tubes for the backlight behind a traditional LCD panel. This little white lie has confused the consumer who, at this moment in time, believes that by buying an LED TV (usually at over inflated prices) they are buying a new TV technology. So what happens when we do get a new technology like OLED? I would guess that would be even more confusion.
OLED is a new technology, there is no doubting that fact, and it is pretty mind blowing with what it can provide. Unlike LCD TVs, it doesn’t need a backlight; instead it is somewhat like Plasma, in that it is self illuminating technology, but unlike plasma, it offers exceptionally low power consumption; at least 5 times lower than a 50 inch plasma screen. Plus it doesn’t take up much room to perform its magic so OLED screens are exceedingly light weight and incredibly thin. But perhaps its biggest party trick is exceptional contrast to images with rich, deep and fluid blacks and incredible colour purity. Are we excited yet?

The LG EL9500 is the largest Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) screen available to consumers and is equipped with an AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display in which organic diodes generate their own light, to produce strikingly sharp colours and excellent levels of black. Added to this, OLED offers perceived luminance increases over a traditional LCD display and with no backlight it is also capable of deep blacks, giving the TV a large visible contrast. Plus the advantages of the technology mean that there are no issues with off-axis viewing just like the best Plasma screens out there.

The final advantages of OLED technology is that screens can be as thin as 3mm and use no more that 40 watts of power in normal every day use. It all starts to sound like it’s too good to be true. However, there is a snag, and that is the screen size available to consumers. At this moment in time, this LG represents the pinnacle for OLED technology as a consumer product but with the average screen size for TV purchases in the UK now standing at 40 inches, this 15 inch model will be of little use in the AV enthusiast’s living room. So perhaps it is not quite the holy grail, well not at the moment anyway. What is cool is that your new OLED TV will be delivered in a box similar to one you would get with a new pair of shoes; filled with padding and two accessories boxes. I have no doubt this will not be the case for the larger sizes when they finally get here, although that would be amusing.



The remote control supplied with the 15EL9500 is a monster when compared to the size of the TV. It is the basic plastic affair seen with all the LG screens this year, offering nothing special design wise but being well laid out and intuitive to use.

There is, however, no denying that the 15EL9500 is a stunning piece of technology and design. With a screen that is just 3mm in depth, and with its included back panel that acts as a table stand, it is a beautiful object to look at. It also feels very fragile when held in your hands or moved around the table; you would be forgiven for thinking that it might be easy to snap it in two!

In terms of connections, the size of the unit restricts what is available. Housed on the right side of the rear chassis is one HDMI connection available in the mini jack configuration. The unit is powered by a 12v adaptor which also has an RF slot attached for a traditional TV signal. Finally, there is a service port that is covered over and a USB slot for multimedia use. So, very basic in terms of connections but with such a slim display the last thing you would want are large HDMI cables hanging from the side.

On the opposite side of the back chassis are some access keys for switching the power on, a menu key and ‘OK’ selection, plus channel advance and volume controls. So very much like the overall design, connections and controls attached are minimal.

Features

The 15EL9500 has one USB port that allows playback on-screen of pictures, music and video files. These are controlled with the now common media menu seen on LG TVs. I found almost all files played back but was unable to confirm that MKV playback was possible due to a disk drive error on my PC. Sadly there are no internet or widget style functions available on this model.
Obviously the biggest selling point of this TV is the OLED display technology and its beautiful design and we are not complaining about that.

Menus and Set up

Setting up this screen really is a doddle which takes no more than a few minutes to tune in the Freeview channels and plug in your HDMI source. In our case, we used an AV Receiver on by-pass for video switching duties, given there is only one HDMI video input.
The menus employed on this OLED screen are identical to the mainstream LG TVs which even include the now standard ISFccc expert controls. There is no THX certification but LG have added a cinema preset that attempts to be accurate towards the industry picture standards.

The main picture menu will be familiar to most LG users and regular readers of our reviews. We have the Just Scan option for switching off any over scan along with the excellent Picture Wizard tool for helping users set the front panel controls correctly for their viewing environment. The front panel controls are also present and correct for setting Contrast, Brightness etc, and the advanced menu option then opens up the ISFccc controls.

Included here are the black level, gamma and white balance selections. We keep the brilliant 10 point greyscale controls along with a good quality 2D Colour Management System (CMS). So overall the flexibility for picture set up can be described as excellent.

Moving to the audio side of things and again we have full menu control which offers clear voice technology and a full custom set up option. The drawback, as you would imagine, are the actual speakers used with the LG which are well hidden and offer a very limited audio performance. In fact the sound quality produced from this ultra slim, tiny screen is no better than a cheap bedside clock radio but I suppose, given the likely applications of the screen in a bedroom or kitchen, this may not be a deal breaker. It is never going to replace the main display in the living room.


Test Results

Even new technology must follow industry standards when it comes to playing back film and TV content, no matter how good the black levels and contrast available. With this is mind we selected the Cinema picture preset with the Warm colour temperature and set the front panel controls for our review room. This included viewing in dimmed and daylight conditions with the LG. So how does it perform against our reference standards?

Looking at the Greyscale results first, this lets us see how the red, green and blue colours are mixed to provide us with the correct colour of white. All three RGB levels should be mixed in a specified amount to create our white balance and the colour of grey (white with luminance removed all the way to black). Looking at the RGB balance chart we can see that only blue tracks around the 100% target. Green is high and red is low. This creates a slight green cast to images due to the lack of red. However the RGB results do show that all three colour track in a fairly uniform manner from 10IRE and above to full white. This means that some slight adjustment will correct the results. The last area to look at is Gamma which tracks just below the desired 2.2 reference point, but not in any degree that will overly affect image quality.

Moving to the Colour Gamut and, again, LG does itself proud with a Gamut that gets as close as possible to the standards. Obviously there are some issues here that don’t make the results as perfect as we would like. The most obvious issue is with the green primary, which has a large hue and saturation error. This will impact on screen with green looking brighter and stronger than we would like. Most of the other points are close to where we would like them, with a hue error affecting magenta and blue. The most important areas are the luminance or brightness of the colours with green, cyan and yellow showing slightly high results here. Thankfully there is a 2D Colour Management System (CMS) that should help with most of the errors, although green will be a struggle.

Looking at the Greyscale graph first, you can see that we managed to obtain reference level results. Thanks to the, now standard, 10 point Greyscale controls on all LG TVs (take note every other manufacturer), we were able to get RGB tracking bang on with errors that will be impossible to see with the naked eye. The only area where we couldn’t get any real improvement was with Gamma tracking, which is still just under the desired 2.2 reference point. However, this slight error is not a deal breaker and in fact most users would never notice the slightly brighter gamma level. Indeed when added to the sheer performance level of this panel, it is really nothing to worry about.

What was more difficult to improve was the green error in the Colour Gamut. Looking at the results of our calibration, using the CMS system with some slight adjustments with the main colour decoder, we managed to balance the results in such a way that most colour points are more accurate than out of the box. Things are not perfect as we still have high luminance results for green, yellow and cyan, but with low error figures, there shouldn’t be any major issues when watching normal material. Only the green error is likely to affect actual viewing and only then with certain material, with lots of green. What was positive was that these results hold true at 50, 75 and 100IRE points, so the results are linear.

Picture Processing

The LG manages to perform very well with its good video processing. Scaling to the panels native resolution with SD material was very good with no signs of artefacts, ringing or any added enhancements that shouldn’t be there. This is also the case with the de-interlacing with no real issues with jaggies on diagonal surfaces. The HQV tests were passed, with very good results, in the jaggies tests where all the lines appeared to be pretty smooth. Even cadences at 2:2 and 3:2 passed with flying colours.
24p material was also correctly played back with no induced judder or image artefacts being present when down converted to the panel resolution. HD images appeared detailed and sharp with nothing that concerned us at all.
There is a Trumotion 100Hz frame interpolation system, which apart from testing, was left switched off. There was just no need for the technology with this panel and its excellent motion resolution results. Overall it’s top marks here for the LG.

Gaming Lag

Gamers will be pleased to hear that lag time was measured at 15ms which is an excellent plasma like result, which should keep all gamers happy.

Power Consumption

This is another area where OLED is likely to set the standards with a power consumption of 35 watts in normal viewing modes and 21 watts in calibrated modes.


Picture Performance

Starting with SD and HD material, in out of the box settings, the LG offered a performance that left me extremely impressed. The last time this happened was with the 9th Generation Pioneer plasmas, so that tells you how good this image is! The colour reproduction is a little off kilter, uncalibrated, with greens looking too bright and off hue, and skin tones showing up a slightly green cast. However, the dynamic range and contrast of the image is breathtaking with deep, fluid blacks that promote excellent shadow detailing and depth. If you want black levels that leave the Pioneers behind, then it has to be OLED technology, but be prepared to squint at the tiny screen!

That is the real disappointment. While image quality is breathtaking in its depth, detail and contrast, the small screen means this is nothing more than a technology showcase. Plus, we have no idea if larger screen sizes will be capable of the same image performance at this moment in time.

Moving to calibrated settings gives a glimpse of just what we may be able to enjoy in the years ahead. If the technology finally makes it to larger sizes, we are in for a treat. While colour accuracy was just slightly out with some rouge green shades, the rest of the image was striking in its vibrancy with realistic looking skin tones, image depth and stunning black levels. Brightness was also excellent, whether we were watching in dimmed viewing conditions or daylight. The only drawback here was the reflective screen surface which does a good job as a mirror in bright rooms. However, with sunlight hitting the screen, there was no washout of the image, if you could avoid the reflections. And motion resolution was also excellent with very little detail loss in fast pans; you are more likely to see issues with the material you are viewing than any issues added by any lack of motion resolution of the panel. Sports like football were free flowing and detailed; if a little on the small size. Finally there were no signs of banding with excellent colour gradation performance.

Overall, the only thing holding this TV back, is the fact it is only 15 inches and not its image performance.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Stunning design and screen slimness
  • Cutting edge energy consumption
  • Stunning black levels and contrast performance
  • Good results for colour reproduction and greyscale when calibrated
  • Excellent video processing
  • Excellent motion resolution

Cons

  • Slight colour reproduction issues with the gamut out of the box
  • It is too small!

LG 15 inch OLED TV (15EL9500) Review

It feels like it was a few years ago now when I was last excited to this degree with a TV display. The market and the large numbers of TVs we get for review here tend to leave you a little jaded when there is not a lot to separate products these days. The last big thing that got me so enthusiastic was the Pioneer panels and they haven’t been available for quite some time now. This little OLED TV offers a real step forward in terms of picture quality and comes as standard with a slim design. It is frustrating that we have been waiting for OLED for about the last 5 years, or so, with baited breath. This panel shows us what is possible but will we ever get to see it in large screen sizes and will it still offer this kind of performance when added to such large screen sizes? We certainly hope that is the case.

In terms of usability, this panel will be relegated to a kitchen or bedroom monitor for the more affluent of readers. For everyone else, it is a technology preview that proves the concept of OLED technology and just makes us wish that manufacturers would get the finger out and get the large screen sizes into production now!

Highly Recommended

Scores

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
3

Smart Features

.
.
.
.
6

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
.
.
.
.
5

Verdict

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
9

Video Processing

.
9

Greyscale Accuracy

.
9

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
7

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

10

Screen Uniformity

10
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Our Review Ethos

Read about our review ethos and the meaning of our review badges.

To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.

Related Content

Philips 984 (65OLED984) 4K TV Review
  • By Steve Withers
  • Published
Philips OLED 754 4K TV Hands On
  • By Steve Withers
  • Published
Philips OLED+ 934 4K TV Hands On
  • By Steve Withers
  • Published
Sony AG9/A9G (KD-55AG9) OLED TV Review
  • By Phil Hinton
  • Published
Panasonic GZ1500 (TX-55GZ1500B) 4K OLED TV Review
  • By Phil Hinton
  • Published

Latest Headlines

LG Display OLED only strategy sees first job losses
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Samsung trademarks Infinity Screen TV display terminology
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
LG showcases transparent OLED displays at Harrods
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Top Bottom