LG 55EA9800 Curved OLED TV Review
TV like you've never seen before
Behind the Screens
The LG 55EA9800 ($9,999) is the second curved OLED we've had the pleasure to test, and it continues to tout the sheer awesome power of organic light emitting diodes. Its contrast performance is flawless, its traditional and expanded color accuracy is top-notch, and it provides an outstanding picture right out of the box—and with LG's ISF calibration controls in tow, the EA9800 can be tweaked and tuned to flawlessness if you so desire.
Before and after
I calibrated the EA9800 in its ISF Expert 1 picture mode, which gave me full access to the TV's more complex controls: 2- and 20-point IRE white balance, CMS (Color Measurement System), and color gamut selection, to name a few. Below, you'll find the as-found settings for all of our pre-calibration data and charts throughout this page, as well as our after-calibration data and results.
I found that, while the picture was very good in ISF Expert 1 by default, a little bit of tweaking allowed it to approach perfection even further. The major changes to RGB gain and offset have been reported; my 20-point IRE settings were so minute that they will differ from unit to unit, and reporting them would be misleading. I set the TV's 100 IRE light output to about 40 fL (or about 120 cd/m2) by adjusting the OLED Light setting, and set it to follow a 2.4 gamma—it struggled a bit here, but more on that in a minute.
Infinite contrast: It's a thing now
As I said on the front page, marketers have been making a ruckus about infinite contrast ratios for quite some time. Contrast ratio is a measure of a TV's peak light output, divided by its minimum luminance level, or black level. One reason OLED TVs look so outstanding is because their black levels are "true" black levels: They emit no light, which makes for a contrast ratio that's infinite. However, our practice has always been to create a number for comparison purposes, so—like with Samsung's KN55S9C—we've approximated the EA9800's black level to 0.001 cd/m2, or one one-thousandth of a candela.
Using a 50/50 ANSI checkerboard pattern, I measured a peak brightness of 272.50 cd/m2, which is about 100 nits (candelas) darker than Samsung's OLED, but is still much brighter than you'd ever need in normal amounts of lighting. Using the EA9800's approximated black level, we can calculate a contrast ratio of 272,500:1—in other words, using numbers is becoming an obsolete practice.
A bit unruly
Gamma is a measure of a television's middle luminance allocation, and determines, among other things, how aggressively or passively it exits black. Gamma is usually expressed in a set of numbers—1.8, 2, 2.2, 2.4—the larger of which mean a slower gamma curve, more suitable for a theater environment.
We calibrated the EA9800 to a 2.4 gamma, but found that it struggled to follow, especially when exiting black into middle luminance areas. The TV behaved much more amiably following a gamma of 2.2, which it defaults to in ISF Expert and which is more suitable for "most rooms."
Easy to fix
A TV's grayscale is its black to white output, a series of 256 steps (or 0-100 IRE) along a luminance gradient. The grayscale is made up of the red, green, and blue primary sub-pixels (which we'll analyze in the next section, RGB balance). Initial readings revealed a DeltaE (SI of sum error) of 4.35, which isn't bad, but is a little high. A quick 2-point calibration (and a slightly more tedious 20-point calibration) yielded a much lower DeltaE of 1.95. While this still isn't perfect, it is telling of the TV's flexibility.
Too much blue!
Our initial readings in ISF Expert 1 of the TV's out-of-the-box settings revealed a somewhat uneven RGB balance across the grayscale spectrum. The TV's primaries continued to grow further imbalanced towards 100 IRE, resulting in the DeltaE discussed above.
Fortunately, more closely matching the red, green, and blue primaries to similar luminance and presence within the grayscale was fairly easy due to the highly-responsive 2- and 20-point grayscale controls. The end result was not perfect, but means a more natural-looking picture overall.
Gamut: Color & Luminance
Close, but not quite there
The EA9800 produces about 20% more color than international standards require, but it's still very important that it's capable of adhering to the HDTV color space (Rec. 709). Sure, more highly-saturated colors are great for a lot of content, but there are times when you want a movie or TV show to just look the way it was meant to.
The EA9800 initially struggled to match the Rec. 709 HDTV color gamut—it tends to oversaturate primary colors and produce off-tint secondary colors even in the BT709 color space. As I suspected and later confirmed with ISF's TV maestro, Joel Silver, this may be related to break-in. Sure enough, after a few more hours, the EA9800 was producing color much closer to the proper coordinates. I was then able to use the TV's CMS to fix most of the remaining error, and balance much of the color luminance to the same degree.
The EA9800's Wide color space selection results in a wider color gamut with more saturated primary and secondary colors. Everything is more vivid, more rich, and more like real life—especially when viewed against the EA9800's perfect black backdrop. The most remarkable thing is that the EA9800 manages to preserve subtle details even when increasing the scope of its color.
A-plus all the way to the bank
Despite being curved, both OLED TVs we've reviewed in the last week have exhibited stellar viewing angles, thanks to the emissive quality of OLED cells. This means you can comfortably watch them from pretty much anywhere except behind them—expect a full 178° of viewing.
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