LG 55EC9300 OLED TV Review
Price tags are shrinking on the best TV technology we've ever seen.
Behind The Screens
The LG 55EC9300 (MSRP $4,999) boasts a lot of value with a combination of sleek design, LG's vaunted webOS platform, and the core performance that's natural to OLED TV panels. I tested the same incredible black level and massive contrast as with previous OLEDs, but the EC9300 also exhibited a few flaws that weren't present on LG's EA9800 and EA8800. This TV undersaturates red, follows an overly steep gamma curve, and creates mild but present banding when transitioning between color gradients.
Because it has a gamma pre-set slider, both 2- and 20-point white balance controls, and a full CMS (Color Management System), calibrating the EC9300 was no short-term task. We calibrate each TV we review to both test its out-of-the-box performance and to show consumers what level of performance it's capable of with an informed calibration.
Calibrating the EC9300 involved reducing its Oled Light to match the 40 fL output ideal for home theater viewing, as well as adjusting the Gamma pre-set to help it achieve a 2.4 gamma curve. The most arduous task was correcting the TV's RGB balance, however, as it tends to over-emphasize blue and green at the expense of red across the entire grayscale spectrum.
Below, you'll find my 2- and 20-point white balance settings and CMS settings alongside the out-of-the-box pre-sets.
Contrast ratio, the measure of a TV's maximum light output divided by its darkest black level, is an area where OLED TVs truly excel—in fact, it may be their greatest strength. Because OLED (organic light-emitting diode) cells turn on and off individually (based on content), they are able to get extremely bright while simultaneously maintaining very dark, practically pitch-black shadows.
The EC9300 tested with a severely dark black level of 0.001 cd/m2, an amount of light so small that it's almost impossible to detect with the naked eye. In its ISF Expert 1 mode, the EC9300 pairs this black level with a peak brightness of 121.30 cd/m2, though it grows much brighter than this depending on content. The EC9300's contrast ratio of 121,300:1 is leagues beyond anything from past years, plasma or otherwise, and is in-line with the other OLED TVs we compared it to.
Our viewing angle test measures how much flexibility a TV accords viewers who prefer watching from off-angles, away from the center of the screen. Due to panel design and self-lighting pixel cells, this is another area where OLEDs perform above and beyond other TV technologies. Like the other OLED TVs we've tested, the EC9300 boasts a total viewing angle of 178°, or ±89° from the center to either side of the screen. This means you can watch the TV from practically any angle, making it a great choice for large rooms or wall-mounting.
A color gamut is an illustration of the span of colors a television produces. When a TV's colors are 100% saturated (fully colorful), they should match an international color standard called Rec. 709. We measure each TV's primary and secondary colors against this standard.
In the case of the EC9300, I found that the TV produces accurate blue and green primaries, but tends to undersaturate red in both the Cinema and ISF Expert modes. This causes yellow to skew a bit towards green, and magenta to skew towards blue. Using the TV's CMS (Color Management System), I corrected the errors with color production, but it's a shame that the TV doesn't come pre-calibrated to the proper color ideals.
It's also worth mentioning that the EC9300 supports an "expanded" color gamut that increases the saturation and vivacity of colors by 10-20%. It might make some content look unnatural, but it really adds a fresh look to things like cartoons, nature documentaries, and some video games.
Grayscale & RGB Balance
In display tech, the grayscale refers to the range of neutral shades a TV produces, from blacks, to dark grays, to bright whites. Using an additive color process, TVs produce shades of the grayscale by combining red, green, and blue sub-pixels. The ideal shades of the grayscale adhere to a correlated color temperature of 6500K, which is the international standard for movies and TV shows. Error within grayscale accuracy is measured as a collective called DeltaE, where an ideal result is a DeltaE of 3 or less. When steps of the grayscale do not meet 6500K, they tend to be tinted with excess blue, red, or green, depending on the nature of the imbalance.
Prior to calibration, the EC9300 tested with a DeltaE of 6.04, which is more grayscale error than we like to see. During calibration, I reduced the grayscale DeltaE to 2.78 using the TV's 2- and 10-point white balance (grayscale) controls.
Error within the grayscale is usually the result of an imbalanced sub-pixel emphasis. A closer look at the EC9300's RGB balance revealed that it tends to over-emphasize the blue and green sub-pixels at the expense of the red sub-pixel, which maybe responsible for the undersaturated red point detailed above. Using the grayscale controls, I added some red back into the white balance, smoothing out the sub-pixel emphasis to achieve the DeltaE of 2.78 mentioned previously.
Gamma, usually expressed as numbers like 2.0, 2.2, or 2.4, is an evaluation of how much luminance a TV adds at each step between its darkest and brightest light output. Gamma ideals change depending on how bright (or dark) the viewing room is. Most TVs adhere to a gamma of 2.2 by default, ideal for a dim room, but we calibrate to a 2.4 gamma because it's more suitable for a dim or dark home-theater environment.
This is one area where the EC9300 does not behave ideally. Because it's capable of such extreme brightness, it tends to add too much luminance at each output step from black to white, adhering to a gamma of 2.11 by default. This gamma curve means excessive luminance is added at each step, resulting in the loss of subtle details within gradated areas of the picture.
Using the 10-point white balance control, I was able to remove enough green (the most luminous sub-pixel) to decrease this brightness and achieve a gamma of 2.42, which is very close to the home-theater ideal.
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