Hands on: LG EC9800/EG9700 Series curved 4K OLED TV review

Is OLED the future of TV? If this 4K 55-incher is anything to go by, we hope so

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

If you thought OLED was dead, it comes roaring back to life with this LG 4K model. Picture quality to die for and not a trace of motion blur.

For

  • Superb colours
  • Superb motion
  • 4K
  • OLED

Against

  • Could be expensive
  • Very little else

Is OLED still a going concern? Such is the paucity of OLED innovations at IFA 2014 that we're not convinced that it is, and yet there is one company that keeps on churning out Organic Light Emitting Diode TVs like it's all of our tomorrows. Having spent some time with this 55-inch we sincerely hope that's the case for here is one awesome slab of next-gen tech that could – with the arrival of 4Kresolution – now be considered as display tech for the here and now. LG clearly thinks so; this 55-incher is being displayed with the banner 'the future of TV'.

Walk into LG's booth at IFA 2014 and there's a display of five 77-inch OLED TVs strung-up against each other. It's a stunning sight, but behind these examples of the 75EC9700 (which has already won the EISA Best Product 2014-2015 Award and is confirmed to go on sale) are slightly smaller options in both 55-inch and 65-inch sizes.

The latter – officially supposed to go on sale soon – didn't appear to be on show at IFA 2014 in its official design; the signature design for the EC9800/EG9700 Series is a leaf-like desktop stand, which instead graced the 55-inch we have before us. It would appear to be under consideration for sale, the issue presumably being whether its 4K detail is even visible at that small-ish screen size.

All OLED TVs begin with a leg-up in terms of design, but this has a stunningly slim bezel of about 4mm and a screen depth of not much more. There's a bulge lower down the centre of the TV's chassis on the rear, but it's not exactly chunky, and it's kept away from interfering from the slinky sides.

This belter is also curved or contoured – call it what you will – though it's not as severe a feature as it might look. That gentle curve is supported by a leaf-like desktop stand that looks like it could gently rock from side to side. Happily, it doesn't.

Features

What is this 55-incher's standout feature? With an OLED panel, a curved design and a Ultra HD 4K screen resolution of 3840x2160, it's hard to say. The user interface is webOS, while the audio is taken care of by an Ultra Surround Sound module by Harman Kardon. However, it's the OLED panel that's most interesting, with LG's four-colour Pixel WRGB technology, which adds a white sub-pixel to the usual red, green and blue mix.

LG EC9800 EG9700 Series curved 4k OLED TV

In case there was any doubt...

LG appears to be committed to OLED. As well as the 65EC9700 we spotted a 77-inch OLED that LG claims is the world's first (the most over-used phrase at IFA) flexible 4K OLED TV. The angle of this 75-incher's curve can thus be altered according to … how many people are watching. No, it doesn't much sense to us, either, though we suppose it has something to do the opinion that a bigger curve equals a more immersive picture.

LG's stand also includes a 55-inch Art Slim Design version this screen nearby, which takes bezel down to incredibly sub-millimetre widths while retaining the same desktop stand.

Performance

"You'll see every pixel come alive with the ultimate explosion of colour and contrast," is how the LG spokesperson introduced these 4K OLED TVs to us, and broadly speaking he was right.

But is this 55-incher any better than the existing and similarly curved 55EA980W already available for around £3,000, and also being shown-off at IFA 2014? Well, it's certainly bigger, though it does lack those nifty transparent speakers

LG EC9800 EG9700 Series curved 4k OLED TV

It's a fine looking set across the range

Although we couldn't confirm it, we would expect the EC9800/EG9700 Series to be fitted with LG's own passive 3D system (3D has an almost ghostly presence at IFA 2014).

Picture quality is to die for; bright primary colours of red and blue rip through inky black backgrounds, displaying in exquisite detail. If colour is convincing across the spectrum, so is the response time; even frenetic movement is silky smooth, and we didn't notice any motion blur.

Early verdict

If OLED is the future of TV, it simply has to come with an Ultra HD 4K resolution. That the EC9800/EG9700 Series can show-off immense detail to add to OLED's known strengths – not least those awesomely deep blacks, viciously vivid colours and smooth motion (the latter being easily the standout feature, if you ask us) – is a huge step forward for OLED and, perhaps, brings the future of TV a bit closer.

However, with Samsung seemingly out of contention on OLED and no-one else left to challenge LG on the production of OLED panels, we're not convinced that it's a screen technology that has the legs to make it into mainstreams TVs. The 55-incher certainly isn't that, but with a confirmed price of £5,999 for the 65-inch version, at least it's not going to be utterly ridiculous … like its bigger sister 77EC9700's whopping £20,000 price tag.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.