I was fortunate enough to be invited to an event hosted by LG to introduce bloggers and reviewers to their OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) televisions. Since it was a tech event, and I’d been told that the target group was tech bloggers and reviewers I’d feared that it would turn out to be something of a sausage fest. Recent events such as #gamergate and the death threats against Anita Sarkeesian, have put me very much out of sympathy with mostly male tech groups so I did honestly wonder if I wanted to go at all. But I was promised cocktails and a gift, so I thought what the hell? And Glinda kind of pushed me out the door anyway, so going was easier than making up an excuse about why I was sitting at home missing the free drinks.
Turns out that the group was mostly women. Though there were a number of men there, I discovered that at least some of them were +1s (I didn’t know I could bring a guest!) I got the impression that though it wasn’t actually said, the target group was actually female tech bloggers and reviewers. The atmosphere was pleasant. I ended up sitting with a columnist for Go Girl Travel Network, and we had a very nice chat. Kudos to LG for taking women in tech seriously.
(Please be aware that the photos I took can not come close to showing how good these TVs are. They’re simply here to show you what I saw.)
After a brief presentation explaining the technology, we were shown the same programs on four televisions, two of which were the LG OLED TVs (The EC9300) The others were LCD televisions. The difference was apparent almost immediately. The standout quality for me was that the screens showed true black. Someone, I think it was Kelly Freas, once said that there are 12 degrees of blackness, and all artists are looking for the 13th. Well these TVs go to 13. The black wasn’t washed out looking or splotchy the way it was on the the other TVs. It was a deep, consistent black. Why is this important? Because the right degree of black is what makes all the other colors pop. If you have washed out black, no matter how good the other colors are, they’re not going to have the same intensity. Against these blacks, the colors glowed.
Now wait, you say, when colors on the screen are too intense, they bloom and wash over everything else. An intense color will bleed all over everything else. Well that’s true of most TVs, but as bright and vivid as the colors are on the OLEDs I never saw them be anything but honest. They didn’t bloom or bleed, but remained fixed within their objects. Every color was discrete and it was true. The skin tones were true. They were so true and so accurate that they were not entirely flattering to some of the people on screen. We were shown a short clip from Desolation of Smaug, and the detail I could see on Smaug’s horde was startling. And it looked like gold. It wasn’t coppery, it was the color of honest-to-god gold.
Color has emotional content, there’s no question that it does. So when we’re not seeing the right colors on a screen, we’re not getting the full impact of the program. Now admittedly this isn’t as important to sports events or news programs, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be as accurate as our favorite movies or TV shows. We’ve all watched TV with funky color and for the most part our brains translate what we’re seeing into what we figure we’re meant to be seeing. It’s only when you actually see how true color can be on a screen like this that you recognize the importance of not having to translate images. They’re already what they should be.
We were shown a number of clips from soap operas to newscasts to sports events, all of which illustrated a different facet of the OLED. I was startled to see how true the textures seemed — the grass on the football field was clearly grass not astroturf –, and how crisp the background images were. I could see the wood grain on a door in the background of one shot. The newscast in particular highlighted the true skin tones, and the crisp, clean contours. Next to the OLED the details on the LCD TV looked soft and sloppy or showed odd, highlighted edges that were distracting. The very fast refresh rate on these TVs give them extreme clarity even during fast action.
Because of where I was standing, I could see the drawbacks of a sharp viewing angle with LCDs, but couldn’t quite see how good the OLEDs are even at very sharp angles until we were shown the EC9700 (Not yet on the market.) While this photo doesn’t do it justice, you can get some idea of how well the screen image can be seen even at an extreme angle. The crispness and color were as true as if I’d been sitting in front of the television.
We didn’t get much in the way of sound during these demos because we were listening to the reps, but I understand that they all have good sound systems, and the higher end ones have Harmon Kardon systems. Later in the evening, someone turned up the sound on the Hobbit demo and even from well across the meeting room, I could hear it clearly and knew exactly who was speaking.
One of the things that impressed me the most was the actual size and weight of the televisions. The screen itself is about as thick as a pencil, and the fifty-five inch 9300 weighs just thirty-six pounds. Let that sink in a minute. Thirty-six pounds. For all that, the base is broad and seems quite well balanced. I doubt you’d have to worry about the possibility of it tipping.
These are smart TVs and they come with LG’s WebOS which includes such standards as Netflix and Amazon, and some unusual features such as Skype, and the ability to switch inputs directly from the OS. They have multiple HDMI and USB inputs as well as the standard composite and component ones. It’s really virtually everything you need for your own home theater unless you want to go with some ginormous sound system.
I’m really very impressed by the OLED TVs and am looking forward to the day I can actually afford one. They’re beautiful, technically advanced, and they’re really high end. If you love movies and TV and can afford one, I really recommend them.