The 55” LG 55EG9100 OLED display is the entry-level LG OLED for 2015. For plasma fans, OLED has been billed as the great savior. Not only would an OLED be thinner than our plasma sets, but it could be brighter and have pure blacks. We wouldn’t have to live with the LCD compromises of worse off-axis viewing and backlights that can’t deliver the darkest blacks. OLED promises the potential to make us forget about plasma once and for all.
Having spent time with the LG 55EG9100, I can say it is the first display I might give up my Panasonic VT60 for. The blacks are pure and provide you contrast ratios no LCD can touch. The colors are vibrant and accurate while still looking great off-axis. Even the curve, which I typically dislike, is not as much of an issue. There are a couple quirks that hold the LG back, no set is perfect, but for those that miss plasma you might finally have the replacement TV you are after.
|Inputs:||3x HDMI 1.4a, 1x Component/Composite, 1x RF, 3x USB 2.0|
|Streaming Services:||Amazon, Netflix, YouTube|
|Display Size:||48.2” x 29.9” x 8.2”|
|Display Weight:||33.1 lbs.|
|Review Date:||October 23, 2015|
The included remote works as an on-screen pointer for the updated WebOS 2.0 interface. I’ve adapted to using an on-screen cursor instead of a directional pad, and the LG one is good enough. But the remote isn’t backlit which is surprising for a $2,000 TV. There are also only 3 HDMI ports on the left side. If you use a receiver this might be enough, but 4 or 5 inputs seems more appropriate for a high-end TV like this. These are minor quibbles with the set, and I was able to use the remote in the dark without issue after a day.
Unlike an LCD, OLED pixels produce their own light. With an LCD the panel produces the colors and then a backlight shines through that to create the image. Creating black means closing a pixel on the LCD but some of the backlight always creeps through. Local dimming systems try to improve this on an LCD but those can create their own issues with blooming and other artifacts. Since each pixel on an OLED produces its own light, when you turn one off there is actually no light at all.
If you bought a plasma from Samsung or Panasonic the final year they were made, you have good black levels. So good that you can get a contrast ratio of 25,000:1 and have an image that pops off the screen. So what difference does going from very dark to pure black make? More than you can imagine without seeing it.
Watching scenes from Skyfall the scenes of Shanghai and Macau jump off the screen more than before. The night sky is a pure pitch black that both neon lights and fireworks stand out against. Even with these dark blacks, bright scenes maintain a fantastic, natural look. Skin tones are accurate without any hint of redness to them. The ocean is a rich deep blue while a helicopter exploding fills the room with light but doesn’t cause the night sky to shift from blackness at all. During a vertical pan there is some judder that is visible, but usually it cannot be noticed.
Jurassic World presents a lush world of greens and blues. Daytime scenes are plenty bright with lots of panel brightness to spare. The real flaw with the LG is that it makes the CGI of the dinosaurs more apparent. The struggle here is to come up with something that doesn’t look fantastic while watching the movie.
The usual Harry Potter torture test reveals one of the flaws in the LG 55EG9100. As Voldemort and his minions gather on top of the hill, the entire scene is near pitch black. The LG dips into pure black here, but dips too far. The dark shadow details around the edges of the screen are crushed down to pure black, losing those details. Turning the brightness up lets these details appear, but also moves the letterbox bars away from black into dark gray. Switching the gamma preset from 2.4 or BT.1886 to 2.2 or 1.9 also reduces this but doesn’t look as good overall in a dark room. This only seemed to happen to areas near the edges of the screen, and only with dark shadow areas but it was something I could notice.
Below you see three images taken at BT.1886, 2.2, and 1.9 gamma settings. You can see the right side descends into complete blackness instead of being a shadow. One click higher on the Brightness control and the letterbox bars would move out of pure black, so that isn’t the issue. It just seems to be a flaw in the image processing on the LG OLED displays right now.
While I usually hate the curve on a TV, it didn’t bother me with the LG. Since the viewing angles on the OLED are so much better than an LCD you can sit to the side without the curve reducing that viewing angle. Since the letterbox bars are black, the distortion a curve can introduce is much harder to notice. While I still prefer a flat display the LG is the first curved display that I was OK with being curved.
The fast action of sports looks great on OLED as well. Watching the NFL on CBS over-the-air there is no motion blur that I can see. 1080i test patterns reveal some small processing issues, but these are not visible when watching regular 1080i content on the screen. Combined with the wide viewing angle that the LG offers, it makes a good TV to watch when you have a crowd over to see the game.
As with most LG TVs the 55EG9100 uses passive 3D glasses instead of active ones. The largest benefit is that it is far easier on the eyes to watch with passive glasses than with active ones in my experience. The tradeoff with a 1080p display is that passive glasses cut the effective resolution in half. Watching Hugo in 3D the opening scenes show very good depth and very little crosstalk. The 55″ size doesn’t give you the most immersive experience but you do get a feeling of depth without much eye strain. Switching to Monsters, Inc the loss of resolution is noticeable on the fine fur of Sully. Moving back to 8-9′ away the loss of resolution isn’t at noticeable, but when you get close you can tell. Live action doesn’t show the aliasing as much but CGI is more impacted.
For streaming the included WebOS smart apps get the job done. Netflix and Amazon content streams quickly and reliably while looking good. It takes a little bit of time to start up but after that the responsiveness is good. It doesn’t have the selection of a Roku but it offers the essentials and does a good job with them.
Writing about the performance of the LG 55EG9100 is a challenge. Writing 1,500 words that just point out how incredible something looks over-and-over seems redundant, but it is what I want to do. The LG isn’t perfect, most notably because of the shadow detail issue, but it comes closer than any TV I’ve watched the past few years. It is a picture you have to go see in person because the improvement it offers can’t be conveyed in words.
Pre- and Post-Calibration numbers for the LG EG9100 are nearly perfect. If you place it into the ISF Expert mode and set the primary controls, like Brightness and Contrast, correctly you will be rewarded with a fantastic image. Full details of the calibration with charts and data can be found after the summary or by following this link.
My First Choice
The LG 55EG9100 is the first display I’d consider replacing my Panasonic VT60 with. It has better blacks, is much easier to move around, and has much better SmartTV features. The shadow detail bug is an issue but to me that’s a much lesser problem than the ones that all backlit LCDs have. The accurate colors and grayscale along with a uniform panel make it an image that is hard to beat.
If I was shopping for a TV now and I could afford it, my list would start with the LG 55EG9100. The only display I’d consider instead for myself is the 4K LG 55EF9600. If you want something for less money I recommend the Vizio M. It won’t have the perfect blacks of an OLED but is an UltraHD display. If you want to be future-proof, you can step up to the UltraHD and HDR-ready 55EF9600 OLED for $1,000 more. If you want the best looking image you can get for $2,000, you should get the LG 55EG9100 as I would today.
|Pros:||Perfect blacks, incredible contrast ratios, accurate colors, jaw dropping images, thin design.|
|Cons:||Issue with shadow details on some scenes, non-backlit remote, slight judder.|
|Summary:||It isn't perfect but the LG 55EG9100 is as close as I've seen in a long time. As a demanding videophile, it is where my TV shopping would start if I was looking for a new set today.|
The LG 55EG9100 was calibrated using SpectraCal’s CalMAN software using an i1Pro2 spectrometer, a Klein K-10A to measure black level, and a DVDO AVLabTPG pattern generator. As always we target 35-40 foot Lamberts of brightness, the HDTV Rec.709 color gamut, and the BT.1886 gamma curve.
Out of the box the LG is in a poor picture mode. Changing it to Expert 1 makes a big difference and so I made my measurement in that mode. The main flaws out of the box are in the RGB balance at 70% and beyond. Everything else, from gamma to colors, are almost ideal. You can select between different gamma curves, including BT.1886, in the Expert controls which make it easy to setup the LG for a dark room or a bright room. Most people can put the display into Expert 1, adjust the OLED panel level and gamma preset for their room, and be happy.
After calibration, everything is even better. The black level measures between 0.0001 and 0.0003 indicating that some light is getting to my meter. My room isn’t pure black, as the PC has lights and so does the pattern generator. Even with those included we are seeing contrast ratios that are well over 200,000:1 or even 400,000:1. This is way past what any LCD or plasma can do and is why the LG looks so incredible with content. Everything just leaps off the screen because of this.
The LG is close to perfect. The colors are dead accurate, other than blue being low in saturation near 100%, and the grayscale and gamma track almost perfectly. The dip in the gamma at 5% is likely caused by having to use the i1Pro2 to read it and it not handling dark readings as well as other meters. The Klein K-10A didn’t read the colors well off the OLED, so I only used it to read pure black.
In this case the objective numbers match up to the subjective opinion of the LG OLED. Aside from the dark shadows issue, the main flaw I can see in the OLED, the image is about as perfect as you can get today.
For those gamers out there, the LG has a game mode with lower input lag. In game mode you will see 50ms of lag while in ISF Expert 1 you will see 108ms of lag. 50ms is slower than some other displays, but it should let you game OK. Renaming the input to PC further drops this down to 40ms.
One more area that the LG stood out in is uniformity. I’ve been measuring displays to see if the center of the screen matches other areas of the screen. So far the testing has been only LCDs, which is testing the uniformity of the backlight. Since an OLED has no backlight it gives us another reference. What I found is that the LG OLED is more uniform than the LCDs I have measured, both of which cost far more. What this means is that the whole screen will be uniform in color and brightness. The images below show you how much more uniform the LG is as lower numbers are better.
|White Level:||45.2 ftL||44.99 ftL|
|Black Level:||0.0002 ftL||0.0001 ftL|
|Average Grayscale dE2000:||1.53||1.18|
|Average Saturations dE2000:||1.46||1.24|
|Average Color Checker dE2000:||1.19||1.03|
|Summary:||The LG 55EG9100 is nearly perfect before and after calibration. Aside from blue being slightly undersaturated there isn't anything to complain about. Even the panel uniformity, something we just recently started testing, puts the LCD competition well behind it.|