LG 55EG9100 OLED TV Review
The most affordable OLED on the market still delivers jaw-dropping quality.
Since first debuting a few years back, OLED TVs have blown traditional LCD TVs out of the water when it comes to picture quality. But while our top-rated TV has been an OLED since 2013, OLED panels are still very expensive compared to regular old LCDs. At least, until now. While it's only 1080p and it's still starting at $2,000, the LG 55EG9100 (available at Amazon) is by far the most affordable OLED TV yet.
Like the EC9300 that it's replacing, the 55EG9100's inky shadows, rich colors, and hyper-thin profile continue to amaze. It has some minor issues, but the stand is much nicer and the smart TV functionality (webOS 2.0) is the best thing short of buying a dedicated streaming device.
The only drawback? LG's 2016 OLEDs all feature 4K resolution and adhere to the new UHD/HDR standards, while the EG9100—a carry-over from 2015—only comes in good ol' 1080p in a 55-inch size. That said, 4K/HDR content is still hard to track down reliably, so if you just want one of the best TVs (a reasonable amount of) money can buy, the LG 55EG9100 is a great bet.
About the 55EG9100
Normally this is where I'd list all the sizes in the EG9100 series, but the 55-inch 55EG9100 (known as the LG 55EG910V outside of the US) is the only one. As mentioned above it is essentially a carbon copy of the 55EC9300, except it features an updated design and webOS 2.0. But where the EC9300 started at nearly $4,000 before falling by about 50% late last year, the 55EG9100 is starting at just $1,999.99.
Other than the OLED panel, the 55EG9100 is a pretty standard HD TV. It's got three HDMI ports, three USB ports, 1 optical audio port, WiFi, ethernet, an RS232 port, and shared component/composite ports. It is 3D capable and comes with two sets of passive 3D glasses.
We received the 55EG9100 on loan from LG, performed a factory reset, let it warm up for about 50 hours total. We then ran it through our gauntlet of lab tests to measure things like contrast, color, motion smoothness, and viewing angle. I also watched a variety of content, including Netflix, cable broadcasts, and 1080p Blu-ray discs, spending a little over a week with the TV in total.
Design and Accessories
What We Like
The OLED we know and love, without the sky-high price
While today's finely tuned LED TVs have a few decades of engineering to lean on, OLEDs (like the EG9100) are still a new technology. The reason OLEDs dominate our rankings, though, is that every pixel creates its own light and can be turned on and off independently. Traditional LED LCD TVs all use some form of backlight that shines through a whole host of pixels all at once, so whole zones of the screen are partially lit up—even if that zone has both light and dark elements.
The ability to turn one pixel completely off while its neighbor is giving off light results in crazy good contrast, especially if you have a dark home theater. Seeing an OLED TV in action is seriously impressive—not unlike your first glimpse of the night sky outside city limits.
While newer LCDs are getting damn good at controlling for the dim portions of the frame, they're simply not on OLED's level; even a completely "black" screen on an LCD will look much brighter next to an OLED.
This extends beyond test patterns and extreme edge cases, too. I watched plenty of content on the 55EG9100—from cable, to Netflix, to Blu-ray—and everything looked great, comparing very well to our reference plasma display. As a "Netflix Recommended" TV the built-in app also responded well, though the 55EG9100 is still stuck with LG's older Magic Remote that lacks common-sense features like a physical play/pause button.
For the same reason that OLEDs excel at contrast, they also create exceptionally vivid-looking colors. Where the light from an LCD must travel through several layers before it reaches your eyes, OLEDs don't have nearly as much of a problem there. This means colors really pop, and are a bit more saturated than what you'll see on many standard HDTVs—though newer Quantum Dot TVs outdo the EG9100 here. This is also why OLEDs have such excellent viewing angles, rivaling the best LCD TVs.
Testing confirmed that not only does the EG9100 excel in raw contrast and rich color, it's also quite good at the subtler aspects of picture quality. The colors it produces are a bit more saturated than your average HDTV, but not unnaturally so. And compared to previous OLEDs, the EG9100 does a better job presenting deep shadow details just above pure black, looking the way the director intended.
From a less technical perspective, the design of the 55EG9100 is greatly improved over the EC9300. It's curved, which isn't my favorite, but it's subtle enough that it's not much of a bother. I also really like the stand compared to the one that came with its predecessor, and LG's webOS 2.0 smart platform is always a welcome addition.
What We Don't Like
It's still pricey, but OLED's problems are overblown
There are two major issues with OLED TVs currently: uniformity and image retention. Uniformity is sometimes called "vignetting," while image retention is sometimes confused with "burn-in," an issue that plagued many early plasma TVs. Both problems go away after you use the TV for a while, but it can make for a rough first impression which is why we let OLEDs run for a couple days before testing.
Vignetting is likely the first thing you'll notice, as the center of the screen will look quite a bit brighter than the edges at first. It clears up after you use the TV for about 50 hours (in my experience), but it's the most common complaint we've heard from new OLED buyers. Just make sure you turn the TV off once in a while, rather than running it for 50 hours straight; this allows the OLED cells to run a repair cycle, which will improve things faster.
Image retention is a little trickier to diagnose. Basically, image retention—or "burn-in"—sometimes occurs when you leave a static element on the screen—like the clock on a 24-hour news station or the HUD in a video game—for a long period of time. In affected TVs the outline of these elements can stick around, even if you change the channel. With some early plasmas, the problem could be very difficult to get rid of. While it does happen from time to time with brand-new OLEDs, it rarely happens once a TV has been properly broken in and it goes away after no more than an hour.
The only other major drawback to OLED is brightness. In a dim or totally dark viewing environment, OLED TVs look incredible, but in rooms with greater ambient light or lots of windows, the EG9100 doesn't quite get bright enough to overpower reflections. In our tests the EG9100 has a black level of basically zero, but a brightness of only about 150 nits (a common measurement of brightness).
Your average LED LCD can hit anywhere from 300-500 nits, which is usually enough even in a brightly lit room. LG's newer HDR-spec'd 2016 OLEDs can also get around this bright, but the EG9100 doesn't qualify. It'll still look great, but if you watch a lot of daytime TV and don't have heavy curtains you may find this annoying.
Should You Buy It?
Simply put, this is an outstanding TV, marking an important step for a still-fledgling display technology. But it's not going to appeal to everyone, especially those hungry for big screens and 4K resolution. For $2,000 you can easily find a 65-inch 4K LCD TV like the Vizio M series or the Sony X850C, giant TVs that'll dwarf the EG9100 on a retail shelf. But if you want some serious bragging rights, being one of the first on your block to own an OLED is definitely going to be a feather in your cap.
And in truth, 55 inches is plenty big enough. Yes, it's only 1080p, but every cable broadcast, your entire library of Blu-rays, and nearly all of Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu Plus top out at 1080p. There's no reason to jump to 4K right away, especially if you have the kind of home theater setup where an OLED like the EG9100 will excel.
For situations like that, the incredibly quality that OLED can deliver is worth delaying the jump to 4K and the new, fancier HDR standards that are coming later this year. If that sounds good to you, then the LG 55EG9100 is absolutely worth picking up.
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