LG 55EA9800 Curved OLED
6th Sep 2013 | 13:56
Would you ever buy a curvy TV?
With no press conference at IFA and relatively few new products to show-off on its stand in Berlin, you could be forgiven for thinking that LG's usually rampant innovation engine is showing signs of slowing down.
That is until this curved 55-inch OLED TV slides into view and blows-open a whole new concept in TV. Or, at least, that's the theory.
OK, so maybe we're not totally sold on the idea of a curving telly, and Samsung is also showing one, but it deserves some attention.
The first thing to say about the 55EA9800 (also known as the 5EA980V according to the product itself) is that despite its curves – and it's got more than one – what hits us hardest is the use of an OLED panel.
That richness of colour, the domination of pure – as in, total – black and awesome contrast is often underplayed by commentators, but OLED remains the best thing we have in flat telly. That's underlined by a silky, life-like smoothness to motion that's a big advance even on high-end LED TVs.
It might be a new shape, but LG has stuck with its proprietary 4 Colour Pixel flavour of OLED also called WRGB, where a white sub-pixel is added. This is also the first OLED TV to get THX certification.
It's certainly a luxury look. The designers of the 55EA9800 – supposedly on sale now in Europe for €8,999 – have been hard at work. As well as the general curve of the panel, a clever transparent plastic support at the bottom called Crystal Stand mirrors the angle then juts in at the centre, underneath the logo.
As well as supporting the TV – and a couple of interesting Clear Speakers that sadly weren't activated – it's a design that accentuates the curve. Just 4.3mm in depth at the edges, it's a jot more than that in most places. Super-slim at the sides, the central rear portion of the screen is a tad thicker, though a gentle curve is used to hide the electronics.
On the side of that slight incline are four HDMI slots, three USB slots – one meant for a HDD for recording from the built-in TV tuner – and a Common Interface slot. Downward-facing slots are as you would expect; a headphones jack, an optical digital audio output, ins for digital and satellite TV and some adaptors for hooking-up Scart, composite and component video.
We weren't able to confirm whether the TV had smart TV apps, though what we can say is that there is no built-in Skype camera; it might be curvy, but a couple of corners have certainly been cut. Speaking of which, the 55EA9800 doesn't have the slimmest of bezels – it measures about 10mm on all sides.
What LG's clever/crazy designers have accidentally done is not only taken the attention away from OLED as a display technology, but also partially ruined it; the 55EA9800 is stunning when watched from the centre, but stray from there and the reflections kick-in, big time. A far-too-glossy sheen across the 55EA9800 is ripe for picking-up every glint of light, and on the IFA show floor, there's a lot of that.
Despite all that, the technical viewing angle of the 55EA9800 impresses close-up, with little loss of contrast or colour when watched from the wings. But immersive IMAX or 'surround TV' this is not.
However, the killer blow is the curves, but the lack of pixels. LG's decision to swerve 4k Ultra HD resolutions on an otherwise high-end TV may be just about acceptable for now, but we're fast getting to the point of insisting on a 2160p resolution on any screen purporting to be a luxury item.
The 55EA9800 isn't LG's only OLED innovation for IFA; the South Korean manufacturer has also been showing-off its 55-inch 55EA8800 'Gallery' OLED that shows arty prints when not in use. Complete with 2.2 channel speakers, it's also the first wall mountable OLED telly.
For now, Curved OLED seems, to us, a pure and pointless novelty. Roll-on the age of flexible graphene panels; the 55EA9800 could then be bent back into shape in no time.