We've been big fans of OLED TV tech at Tech Digest and HDTV UK for many a year since first setting eyes upon a prototype Sony screen at CES a few shows ago. Incremental updates to the tech have wowed us at subsequent trade shows, but high prices for screens no bigger than 15 inches have made OLED televisions a ludicrous luxury for only the most demanding of AV enthusiasts.
That's all set to change this year however as LG and Samsung go head-to-head with stonking 55-inch OLED models, due in stores later this year. Tech Digest and HDTV UK were invited this week to LG's glitzy Monaco launch event for their 55-inch OLED TV offering. Make no mistakes; if you're in the market for a new TV, this is what your cash should be splashed on.
OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) televisions offer some key advantages over LCD or LED screens. Faster refresh rates and wider viewing angles can be paired with deep contrast ratios and lavish colours. As OLED sets don't use backlights, this can all be achieved with far lower power consumption levels, in bezels almost invisibly thin.
LG's 55EM9600 OLED TV made its first appearance at the start of the year in January's CES 2012 show, and while little has changed with the set in the subsequent months, it's still massively exciting to see.
The latest headlining feature of LG's OLED TV detailed at this week's launch is its use of WRGB technology. Adding a white sub-pixel to the standard red, green and blue set-up, LG claim WRGB panels will "perfect" colour output and make the image displayed feel "natural and colourful to the human eye". It's a similar technique as was used by Sharp in their Quattron televisions, which added a yellow sub-pixel with impressive results.
Even without the WRGB technology, the screen would attract attention purely based upon how thin it is. At a ridiculous 4mm thin, it's half the thickness of your average smartphone, weighing just 10kgs thanks to its being built from carbon fibre reinforced plastics. Those who like to wall-mount their displays will instantly fall in love, with the LG5EM9600 sitting almost flush against the wall.
It's a real treat for the eyes, with the display delivering vibrant, bold colours. Close-up footage of rain-soaked plant petals felt crisp enough to reach into the TV and touch. If anything, LG's rainbow-like showreel ran the risk of making the screen seem overly saturated, but as with all showroom settings you'll likely be able to tone the colours down a bit for a more natural, accurate calibration.
Superb viewing angles afforded by OLED technology mean that there will be no duff seat in a home cinema that has this screen as its centrepiece. We experienced no noticeable dropout in contrast or colours no matter where we placed ourselves, whether at a wide horizontal angle or a low vertical position.
The inky blacks of the display and strong brightness levels deserve extra credit. LG's launch event was held in the Salle des Etoiles, famous for its mechanical opening roof. Halfway through the event the roof opened, bathing what had been a dimly lit hall with Mediterranean sunlight. Even with the dramatic change in ambient lighting colours remained vivid, and shadow detail bold and legible.
Though we've yet to see the display handling 3D video for ourselves, all reports so far have been incredibly positive. Indeed, our own prior experience with smaller 3D OLED displays has seen the technology deliver smooth, ghost-free 3D images of the highest quality. With 3D always working better on a larger screen, the results with the 55EM9600 would presumably be remarkable. A 0.02s response time will lead to super-smooth 3D visuals, as well as being a boon for gamers looking for a display as quick as their trigger fingers.
Pre-orders for the LG OLED sets will kick off in July, ready for a "Q4 2012" release.
So how many pennies will you have to drop in order to get one of these beauties in your home? Around the 9000 EURO mark, or roughly £7,300 if the UK pricing reflects direct exchange rates.
That is of course an astronomically priced set, but LG's OLED giant is poised to represent the very best that money can currently buy for home cinema fans. While the false promise of 3D TV left many frustrated, OLED TV sets offer genuinely luxurious 2D viewing while still delivering the very best in 3D visuals should you still be looking for eye-popping entertainment.
Local pricing is likely to be the big deciding factor as LG's flagship battles it out with Samsung's in stores. Regardless as to which proves the victor, the stage is set for one of the most exciting years for home cinema fanatics for a while, and LG are well placed to dominate.