LG 55EA8800 Gallery OLED TV Review
Design and picture quality that's truly worthy of the Louvre.
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This isn't complicated: OLED is the best screen technology available today, hands down. If you can afford it, buy it.
LG's new 55EA8800 (MSRP $8,499.99, $4,499 online) seeks to build upon that success. Unlike the LG's curved 2013 OLED, the EA8800 is flat. More importantly, it's also a work of art: Hidden speakers in the shape of a "gallery" frame wrap this beautiful panel in an equally beautiful finish, providing expansive audio support that's well beyond what you typically find on a TV.
Most people can't afford an $8,000 TV, and while the current price of $4,500 is a huge incentive, it's still about three grand more than you'd usually pay for a 55-inch TV. If you do have deep pockets, however, know that this investment is a wise one for anyone searching for the best in picture quality, sound quality, and design in a single package—and really, who isn't?
Right now, the LG 55EA8800 is one of just three OLED TVs available in the United States, and one of them (Samsung's) is extremely hard to track down. With picture and audio quality that outperform last year's LG OLED, this TV is a one-two punch kind of success story.
Need I say more?
Today, OLED TVs stand in a stark spotlight: These displays have a reputation for producing the best picture quality people have ever seen, TV reviewers included. Yet LG's EA8800 is right at home in this spotlight—because it easily meets the sky-high expectations.
To start, the 55EA8800 produces magnificent black levels. Dark areas of shadow are completely free of luminance, which adds to the overall contrast and "pop" of anything else on screen—even subtle, gloomy colors like blue and purple stand out by comparison. And unlike plasma TVs (the previous champions of shadow) the EA8800 also gets bright enough to use in a well-lit or sunny room. A contrast ratio this massive easily delivers a lifelike, impressive picture.
The EA8800 is very adept with motion handing, as well. I sat down and watched Baraka on Blu-ray and the EA8800 was up to the task. With motion assistance enabled, the film looked fluid and lifelike—even during complex motion and camera panning. Even better, there was none of the unnatural smoothness that often accompanies settings of this kind.
Most colors, like the low-luminance red of dying embers or the stormy blue of angry ocean waves, look accurate and vivid, but the EA8800 has a tendency to oversaturate green. The result is that subtle details like definition in a grassy field become slightly obscured—bad news for World Cup fans. Fortunately, we were able to fix the TV's green point during calibration.
Rounding out its dynamite test results, the EA8800 also delivers the outstanding viewing angle we've come to expect from OLED TVs. You can enjoy an excellent view even from extreme angles. For once, the armrest seat at the end of the couch doesn't come with terrible picture quality: Black levels remain very dark, bright highlights remain luminous, and colors remain crisp and clear.
Before wrapping up, I should mention the one slight drawback to OLED TVs: Like plasmas, OLEDs automatically limit light output based on how much of the screen is bright. For instance, white areas in a very bright scene (like the Hoth battle in Star Wars) will be dimmer than white areas in a mostly dark scene. This light-limiting behavior isn't damning to the overall picture quality, but it does mean that very light scenes will look brighter on an LED display. Of course, that isn't a bad tradeoff: Those same LED TVs often have terrible, washed-out black levels.
For my final calibration settings, as well as the full lab results and charts, head over to the Science Page.
Truly unique, possibly inconvenient
The 55-inch EA8800 sets itself apart from every other TV on the market with two singular design choices: It's the thinnest panel we've ever seen and it sits within a stylish matted frame, just like a painting.
First things first: You have no choice but to wall mount this television. There is no stand. Do yourself a huge, huge favor and hire someone to install this TV. Mounting it did not make for a joyous afternoon, thanks to a combination of poorly written directions, drywall, and the sheer terror that accompanies mounting an $8,499 TV.
Installation aside, the 55EA8800 really is unique. The panel itself is shockingly thin, about the width of a pencil—just a smooth, unassuming black pane.
The surrounding frame is minimal and tasteful, topped with a dark metallic finish to suit a variety of rooms. A Gallery mode curates a rotating batch of paintings by artists like Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, and van Gogh. Hanging on the wall, the assembled display simply blends into a modern room, almost as if there's no TV at all. I say "almost" because LG stubbornly included its commercial red logo on the TV's bottom bezel, which flies in the face of tasteful interior design. LG clearly needs a premium version of its signature for certain high-end products like this one.
Notably, the frame isn't just an aesthetic flourish. There's an entire speaker system hidden inside, consisting of a three-way, 10-train speaker set that outputs a whopping 100 watts. Compared to the usual 2-speaker, 20-watt setup of most TVs, it's a massive improvement in both volume and clarity of high and low frequencies. Quite frankly, unless you have an absolutely enormous living room, these speakers are probably all you need. I cranked the volume on a James Bond movie and the floor literally shook.
Last but not least, before you mount this beauty on your wall, you'll want to have a good idea where all of the video connections and ports are located.
As you might expect on a TV this thin, the connections are all located on the back of the TV in a recessed cutout. Side-oriented ports include four HDMI and three USB, making it easy to switch high-definition devices and USB peripherals. Further back, you'll find options for coaxial, component/composite hookups, digital audio out, LAN (ethernet) in, and (weirdly) a headphone jack.
Before you buy the LG 55EA8800, take a look at these other televisions.
The least exciting part of this TV is still damn sophisticated
If you're going to buy the EA8800 Gallery OLED, do it for the impressive design and stellar picture quality. You won't find LG's snappy new webOS platform here—on the other hand, this was one of the best smart platforms available last year, so it's not too shabby.
You'll still find plenty of apps, like Netflix and Facebook, and a huge slew of picture customization and audio options.
A continuing testament to the power of OLED
Last year's curvy OLEDs seemed to come out of nowhere, taking the TV industry by storm with an unheard of combination of inky, shadowy black levels, blistering brightness, and rich, vivid colors. The 55EA8800 continues that tradition of amazing picture quality while also introducing terrific sound and beautiful design. So, what's the catch?
The only reason not to buy this TV is its price—$8,499 is a ton of money. Even if you find it online for today's price of $4,500, that's not chump change either.
All the same, this is the best TV technology that the market has ever seen, and 100 watts of speaker power and the most stylish design presentation we've ever seen doesn't hurt either.
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