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I first heard of OLED display technology many years ago at a trade show. OLED sounded so exciting, but it was years before anything larger than a tiny monitor became available. Cleveland Plasma...
Incredible contrast, excellent clarity, very photo realistic
Very reflective screen
I first heard of OLED display technology many years ago at a trade show. OLED sounded so exciting, but it was years before anything larger than a tiny monitor became available. Cleveland Plasma owner Chris Majoros arranged for me to get my first taste of OLED technology with the LG 55EA9800. The EA9800 has a beautiful, slightly curved screen design with a clear, crystal like base that imparts a free floating look. While the glossy screen does a good job of staying dark with a moderate amount of ambient light, reflections can be very distracting if care is not taken to minimize bright light sources in front of the screen.
Sound quality from the EA9800's built in speakers was surprisingly good, with very clear dialogue and relatively adequate handling of movie sound effects.
Vivid mode looked over enhanced, as is often the case. Colors were too bold and strong, and whites looked bluish and over exposed. Brightly lit faces were slightly glazed over, with a caked on makeup look. Shadow detail was strong and neutral toned. The combination of high light output and very deep blacks gave a very impressive sense of contrast.
Standard mode was an improvement over Vivid in every respect except colors, which were even bolder and over the top. There was more sense of depth, and the picture had a smooth, almost glossy photo quality.
Eco mode looked somewhat similar to Standard, but was less intense. Skin tones and colors were still too hot, but the added richness was a welcome improvement.
THX Cinema mode made a fundamental change to the picture. Whites took on a slightly off white tone, and the image appeared a bit washed out. Shadow detail was perhaps a bit too strong, but colors looked fairly natural. With the reduced light output, the image became more natural though a bit bland and shallow. Still an excellent picture overall, most viewers will probably not take to THX mode's relative lack of excitement.
Game mode turned out to be a pleasant surprise, with a good balance between the excitement of Standard and the naturalness of THX. Colors were still too vivid; but motion, shadow detail, and clarity were all very good. Game mode seemed to strike the best balance between accuracy and vibrancy.
The ISF Expert modes had similar color presentations to THX, though the image seemed a bit more defined and less washed out.
Over all, the EA9800's out of the box tuning was well above average, with oodles of contrast, pop, smoothness, and clarity.
Calibration was performed with a Jeti 1211 spectroradiometer, along with Klein K-10a (thanks Buzz!) and X-Rite i1D3 colorimeters, both profiled off the reference Jeti spectro.
Sources close to the engineering team, who spoke under conditions of anonymity since they admittedly have an overactive imagination, report overhearing the following conversation during the design of the EA9800:
“10 point adjustments are great. They worked good on our LED LCDs.”
“Well, we gotta come out ahead! Let's give 'em 20!”
“Some people didn't like our old partial CMS adjustments, though. They worked OK, but they didn't have enough control to really get it dialed in.”
“I know you think we don't have all the kinks ironed out yet, but put the full CMS adjustment in there too. It's OK, at least we'll have the most adjustments. I pity the fool who tries to use 'em, though! And make sure to give 'em that new space age remote... You know, that wand like thing I seen you waving around. It won't help none when they go to make the adjustments, but it's the coolest thing I ever did see!”
The EA9800 presented some tough calibration challenges. The first issue became apparent soon into my first pass of the 20 point adjustment: if the same shaped object is displayed on the AE9800 for more than a brief period, the TV loses light output, giving way to fatigue. It doesn't matter if the intensity or color is changed; the shape seems to be the trigger. Unchecked, that leads to wildly inaccurate calibration. Stopping the calibration after each control or two and popping up other portions of the menu or other test patterns seemed to be the only solution; and even then, multiple passes were required for any precision. If the problematic 20 point adjustment is ignored and only the simple 2 point adjustment is calibrated, gamma and grayscale tracking have visible errors because of the quirky tracking of the 2 point adjustment.
In addition to panel fatigue, the 20 points progressively mistrack at the high end if the contrast control is not kept very high.
I found that the best way to calibrate the 20 point control was not to try to do it in real time, but rather pass by pass, making adjustments after each pass as needed.
Finally, I discovered that all of the CMS adjustments, but especially the red saturation and luminance, have severe side effects. Making significant adjustments to these controls resulted in patchy looking skin tones, and taken to the extreme they turn Hollywood's most beautiful people into horrifying zombie-like creatures.
The great news is despite these issues, the AE9800 had the most impressive contrast performance I've ever seen, and it did so without resorting to such things as dimming zones or floating blacks. Full black fields were under the .0001 fL threshold of the mighty Klein K-10a.
After calibration, the ANSI checkerboard contrast ratio measured around 70,000:1, with a very small amount of light leakage leading to blacks that measured between .0006 and .0007 fL. Whites measured about 47.1 fL in this test.
There was no real change between different size measurement windows, and there was no color shift when ABL finally kicked in with full fields. There should be no mystery surrounding what size or style of windows to use when calibrating the EA9800, as it appears that just about any window will give similar results. The maximum light output with a 100% full white field was about 24 fL, indicating minimal ABL intrusion. Another test of ABL is the dynamic brightness pattern on the AVS 709 test disc, which showed some brightness limiting but less than what would be seen on a plasma.
White field uniformity was excellent, with no visible changes across the screen. Black uniformity was not an issue since black was totally dark. Off axis, whites take on a more off white, yellowish tone, but otherwise the picture appears to have no change. Images are perfectly watchable at extreme off axis angles, though with the curved screen and white balance shift giving a distinctive character.
Below are measurements of the differences between the color space selections of the EA9800's advanced picture menu.
Standard and BT709:
Sony and some others in the industry recommend using spectrometers set to the Judd Vos modified 2 degree CMF for OLED displays. I tried that for the day mode calibration and all the before calibration measurements. For the night mode, I switched back to the standard 1931 CIE 2 degree setting. I found the standard 1931 CIE setting gave the most neutral looking white balance, with the Judd mod setting appearing a bit cool and giving a slightly reddish cast to skin tones.
ISF Night mode after calibration:
ISF Day mode after calibration:
Each time I viewed the EA9800, I was struck by how photo realistic the image was. I believe the exceptionally smooth yet detailed presentation along with the exceptional blacks are what contributed to this impression.
Watching Battleship on DirecTV revealed exceptional pop, natural skin tones, and great detail in dark areas of the picture. The combination of smoothness, clarity, depth, and contrast was beyond anything I had experienced before. Skin tones were natural, and colors of all shades had an addictive vibrancy.
On one HBO promo that featured vibrating and shaking white letters on a black background, I noticed color fringing around the edges of the letters while they shook. Thankfully, that was the only time I noticed the effect. Some upconverted standard def programming on a certain channel seemed to require a reduction in the contrast control of the ISF Day mode to avoid glazing over brightly lit faces. Otherwise, standard definition programming looked better than I expected.
If you like very bright images, the EA9800 can deliver, with no apparent sacrifice in accuracy or stability. Hockey looked great, with good purity and brightness of the ice and fine motion. No dirty screen effect or ABL action was visible in that or any other programming.
Compared to the best plasmas, namely the Pioneer Elite Kuro and the Panasonic VT/ZT60, the EA9800 is significantly superior in most areas, especially smoothness and clarity. Contrast is superior also, with the EA9800 maintaining that contrast even in dark movie scenes. It's greater light output capability means that, provided reflections are minimized, the EA9800 will look punchier and more exciting in rooms with moderately bright ambient light. Color accuracy is very good, though this is one area where the EA9800's measured performance could not quite match that of the reference plasmas. Thankfully, any measured color accuracy deficiencies were so minor that they were not visible with normal programming, which always had beautiful color in ISF Night mode. In comparison with arguably the best LED LCD, the Sharp Elite, the EA9800 displays visibly better color, no blooming around white objects, and better purity in moving white objects such as hockey rinks. In short, the EA9800 is the best of the best, handily surpassing previous reference displays.