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LG 55EG9600

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Product Description

The 55EG9600 UltraHD OLED is the successor to what are arguably the most beautiful televisions to ever be debated among hard core enthusiasts, and Chris from Cleveland Plasma/AV arranged for me to get together with EG9600 owner Aaron to take a long look at his new display.

The EG9600 features the now familiar curved screen design, along with an attractive white back. For those who, like Aaron, use the EG9600 as an expensive but undeniably high tech computer monitor, the curved screen shape is a definite advantage. Even pushing back a bit from the desk, the curve seemed to enhance the EG9600’s profile in my peripheral vision. In more typical living room environments, the picture quality enhancement the curve provided disappears, though the EG9600’s profile remains a thing of beauty.

Initial viewing took place in a moderately darkened room, with a standalone Sony Blu Ray player playing back familiar reference material at 1080P/24. Prior to my arrival, Aaron had the EG9600 hooked up to his very high end PC, displaying 4K at 60 Hz. In that role, while fine text was not rendered as crisply as he had hoped, the contrast and overall picture quality was stunning. However, upon hooking up the Blu Ray player, I was immediately disturbed by a low resolution blockiness that showed up in both the player’s setup menu and my demo material. The same blockiness was easily visible in my pattern generator’s output at every resolution from 480P to 1080P, though curiously it was not present with the generator set to 480i. I made a network connection and confirmed the EG9600 was running the latest firmware, version 3.00.13. After switching picture modes and making sure all modes were at out of the box settings, I was not able to find a cause nor a solution for the issue.

After several changes in scan rates and color spaces of the incoming HDMI signal, some additional bugginess crept into the EG9600’s behavior. An obvious delay between signal input and display of the image became apparent, and though the EG9600 initially had correct video levels with RGB colorspace, that situation changed for the worse seemingly all on it’s own. With the situation getting desperate, I did the one thing people in Sci-Fi movies never seem to think of: I pulled the plug. Fortunately, that was just what the EG9600 needed, and to my great relief, the horrible blockiness was gone when power was restored. Owners of the EG9600 should not hesitate to pull the plug once in a while, especially if they observe strange behavior from their display.

Before calibration:

ISF Expert 1 and Expert 2 can serve as ISF Day and Night modes, and before calibration they and Cinema all looked identical. Unfortunately, the picture was very grainy. While the blacks and contrast were exceptional, the overall perspective was somewhat flat, lacking natural depth. Skin tones were reproduced fairly well, just slightly ruddy. Shadow detail was very strong, dark objects and textures being easily visible. Dark objects should have been just a little darker; not quite as visible as they seemed to be in this case. Pans appeared a little too choppy, though thankfully neither the Soap Opera Effect nor the Dirty Screen Effect seemed to be present. Overall, the color tone looked pretty good, and the image was strong and bright; but it was held back by graininess and a lack of depth. Upconversion of 1080P to 4K resolution produced no moiré artifacts and a very sharp image.

Game mode was grainy and very bright, with choppy motion. In addition, game mode had too much color, though I wouldn’t call it over the top.

Standard mode was bright and vivid, showing a lot of pop and excitement. It showed the Soap Opera Effect with motion though with occasional hiccups. Bright white levels seemed slightly blended together, and whites had a bluish cast. Standard was pretty in an overly enhanced sort of way, and may appeal to some viewers at first glance.

Sports and Vivid looked somewhat similar: very unnatural with gaudy colors, and super bright. Colors were so exaggerated they appeared cartoonish. Sports had slightly more color saturation and shadow detail than Vivid.

Calibration:

After getting used to the previous generation OLED’s calibration anomalies, the EG9600 presented no surprising issues. Displacement of 20 point controls was the same as on previous 55” models. Thankfully, the Color Management System is now usable, though relatively slight artifacts were still created with strong adjustment of red luminance and saturation. Unusually, no CMS tint control effected the delta hue of skin tones; usually the red hue control will have a large impact on skin tones.

While calibrating the CMS, my recommendation would be to start by adjusting the main color control for lowest delta error at red, and then, provided the adjustment is very slight, adjust the main tint control for lowest delta hue error on skin tone color checker patches. Overall, the CMS is barely worth bothering with, as any errors it reduces appear to be minute and very localized.

The EG9600 did not display YCbCr 4:4:4 or RGB as 4:4:4 at 1080P in the ISF modes; it displayed all 4:4:4 variants as 4:2:2.

Light output, with OLED light at 50 and contrast at 100: 5-25% windows were around 78 fL, 50% windows 44.9 fL, and 100% fields were 27.2 fL. All window styles and sizes up to and including 25% measured about the same.

I found that the OLED light control was less hindered by the Automatic Brightness Limiter than the Contrast control; in other words, if it were deemed important to minimize ABL action, it can be nearly eliminated by turning OLED light all the way up and setting contrast near or under 50. In that scenario, a full white field will put out nearly the same light output as a window pattern, with maximum light output adequate for dark room viewing. However, there are two compromises with this approach: the 20 point control will be displaced to the point where it is unusable except for the darkest intervals, and gamma performance will be significantly compromised. See the attached images for coarse grayscale/gamma measurements with 10% windows and full fields using this technique. This calibration technique would be worth investigating for 3D LUT calibrations or Game/PC mode calibrations provided a high light output is not required.

In the advanced picture settings, there is now a gamma mode selection for the BT1886 gamma formula, which on a display with perfect blacks will be the same as 2.4. Not surprisingly, when I measured both the BT1886 and the 2.4 presets, they measured identically. See the attached images for detailed grayscale/gamma measurements with gamma selections of 2.2 and BT1886 (with 2.4 measuring the same as BT1886). The BT1886 selection is redundant in the EG9600.

In a pitch black room, initially if I wanted perfectly black blacks, I sacrificed digital levels 17 and 18. If I were willing to accept only the slightest glow (darker than a Pioneer Elite Kuro), I could get reproduction of digital level 17 on up. However, after further refining the 5% interval of the 20 point control, I was finally able to get perfect blacks along with reproduction of 17 on up. However, care had to be exercised to ensure a smooth transition from black into the lowest levels.

Near black uniformity was mediocre, not as poor as on another 55” OLED I reviewed previously, but with very noticeable dark patches across the screen below 3%. Dark gray uniformity improved between 5 and 10%, with some dark areas at the edges disappearing as the level increased past 10%. Uniformity above about 20% was excellent, with no reliably discernable problems.

During the calibration process, whenever I would check my reference screencaps, I would notice they appeared to be very grainy.

On the LG OLED displays, contrast really is infinite; or, at worst, much closer to infinite than we've ever seen before. No contrast ratio measurements were attempted, since I believe if it did come up with any numbers they would be misleading.

After calibration:

1080P/24 input, totally dark room, 4-5’ viewing distance:

With noise reduction off, the EG9300 could look grainy at times, especially when viewing at this extremely close distance. Some scenes exhibited less of this behavior than others, my reaction ranging from occasionally “Wow, this is pretty smooth!” to usually “These bright objects have more texture and grain than they should.” Thankfully, I never thought it was to the point of being obnoxious, despite it being obvious most of the time. Turning noise reduction on could give a smooth overall look and would be a perfectly reasonable judgment call. I did not have the option of moving further back to observe any changes that might have had.

I never detected any banding or contouring after calibration, most likely the result of the exceptionally smooth grayscale tracking achieved through lots of patience and determination during the calibration process. 4K upscaling was as perfect as I have seen in the aspect of moiré free fine detail. This is a rare quality, and it outperforms 4K sets from Sony and Samsung in this regard. Shadow detail was excellent, and the perfect blacks provided tons of punch. There was a great sense of depth. Colors were generally very good, though there were certain subtle color shades that were not quite right, mostly ambient or environmental shadings.

There were a few dark 16x9 scenes in my reference material where the bottom few inches of the picture became washed out and grainy, almost like it had been pushed past a certain delicate threshold between black and content for a few seconds. It is possible that a slight reworking of the calibration near black could remedy this.

Overall, the EG9600 displayed an extremely exciting image, with some flaws but an incredibly deep image accompanied by lots of impact and pop.

PC 4K @ 60Hz:

Initially, it appeared the EG9600 would not display 4:4:4, but after jumping through a few hoops in the setup of both the PC and the EG9600, Aaron was able to get it to display 4:4:4 at 4K/60. He reported a visible increase in the clarity of fine text as a result.

I believe all the graininess mentioned above was the result of upconversion to 4K, because watching true 4K content was a revelation. I saw incredibly smooth and detailed images with 4K YouTube material. There was never even the slightest hint of added graininess, and the image had tons of detail, depth, and pop.

We also sampled a few of the latest video games, such as Assasins Creed Unity and some others at 4K. The image was consistently very smooth and detailed, and I have never seen video games look this realistic or exciting.

With 4K content, the EG9600 comes closer to the “looking through a window” ideal than I have ever seen on a display.

Conclusion:

I suspect any graininess could be remedied by using an external video processor or even an AVR to upconvert lower resolution sources to 4K before going into the EG9600. Some receivers such as the Pioneer Elite 4K models do an excellent job of 4K upconversion, though I have observed excessive edge enhancement in a Denon X4100’s 4K upconversion. The iScan mini and Lumagen 4K video processors would also be worth investigating to get the EG9600 to look it’s absolute best.

However, even without this external help, the EG9600 displays a generally gorgeous image. There may be times when graininess or color shadings can remind you that you’re seeing an imperfect reproduction; but that is going to be the case with any other display currently in production, just with different flaws.

The EG9600 can be your dream come true if you’re coming from a display with great blacks like the 9th generation Kuro or the 60 series Panasonic plasmas; and it can give you the most satisfying image of any current display, especially when being fed 4K resolution.

 

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