LG 55EC9300 review

$3,500 for LG's latest OLED should be a steal, but there's a whopper of a catch

If you’re so hungry for OLED that you’re willing to overlook some image judder, then the EC9300 is an otherwise excellent television.
If you’re so hungry for OLED that you’re willing to overlook some image judder, then the EC9300 is an otherwise excellent television.
If you’re so hungry for OLED that you’re willing to overlook some image judder, then the EC9300 is an otherwise excellent television.

Highs

  • Superb black levels and contrast
  • Excellent shadow detail
  • Deep, rich colors
  • Slim and sexy panel design
  • Excellent webOS smart TV platform

Lows

  • Distracting motion issues (judder)
  • Still a little pricey for some
  • Only available in curved screens

DT Editors' Rating

LG’s EC9300 is not the first OLED TV, the biggest or the highest resolution, but it’s one we’ve been eagerly awaiting for nearly a decade. What makes the EC9300 so remarkable is its price tag – this is the first production OLED TV to debut at less than $10,000. In fact, it is currently being sold for $3,500 at Amazon. And in time, that price is likely to go down (LG’s prior 55-inch OLED debuted at $15,000 last year and now sells at Amazon for under $3,300). That puts this TV within reach of a broad swath of consumers with a few spare bucks in their pockets or on their credit cards.

Imagine that: The best TV display type you can buy right now, at a price that won’t break you. That sounds pretty compelling, yes, but should you buy it? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that question. While the EC9300 is easily the most breathtaking television we’ve ever had in our testing lab, it’s also the most frustrating. One minute we can’t tear our eyes from it, the next we’re cringing.

So what’s going on? Read on to find out.

Hands on video

Out of the box

Any television that can be pulled from its box fully assembled with one hand gets a thumbs-up from us. The 55EC9300 is just such a set, though we wouldn’t recommend the one-hand thing.

The fact that the television can be packaged with its stand already attached is a testament to its ridiculously thin frame, which, at its borders measures out to a mere … well, it’s thinner than an iPhone.

Any television that can be pulled from its box fully assembled with one hand gets a thumbs-up from us

Even considering the compartment on the back panel that houses the TV’s guts, the unit’s total depth barely breaches 3 inches. And at 31.7 lbs. without stand (36.1 lbs. with) it’s a real featherweight, too.

The 55EC9300’s subtle curve is virtually unnoticeable when sitting in front of it, and it does very little for the viewing experience, but the curve is a slick design accent that works well when the set is placed on a hutch or credenza within full view. There are many that won’t feel that way, of course. For some, the whole point of having a really thin TV is so you can mount it to the wall and have it all but disappear. This TV won’t do that, but we’re here to tell you, it looks slick just sitting in a room.

In the box with the TV you’ll find LG’s Magic Motion remote, A/V and component video breakout cables, four pair of passive 3D glasses, and a user manual.

Features

Chances are the 55EC9300 has you covered in the connectivity department. With four total HDMI inputs (one ARC, one MHL), three USB inputs, an optical-digital audio output, LAN port, built-in Wi-Fi adapter, A/V input, component input, coaxial antenna input, and RS-232 control port, the TV is about as outfitted as you’re likely to need.

The television comes with LG’s much-improved Magic Motion remote. No standard remote is available because a motion-style remote is key to navigating the set’s class-leading webOS interface, which manages not only smart TV features, but the set’s various menus as well. If you’re used to using a Wii controller, you’ll have no problem. If not, we think you’ll get used to it quickly.

Refreshingly, this TV has no built-in camera to worry about disabling or covering up with electrical tape so it doesn’t spy on you. If you want to use Skype, which the EC9300 does support, you’ll need to pick up an external camera and make use of one of the TV’s three USB ports. The TV does offer some voice-recognition for basic controls like channel up/down, volume up/down, settings, etc. But the only time we found the voice feature particularly useful was when searching for something – speaking a title is easier than hunt-and-peck typing.

Supported streaming apps include Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and YouTube. If you want more, you’re best off picking up an external set-top box like an Apple TV, Roku, or Fire TV.

Setup

For most users, very little setup is required. We recommend the EC9300’s Cinema picture preset for the best straight-out-of-box experience. Still, you’ll want to make a few basic adjustments. If you hate the “soap opera effect” as much as we do, you’ll need to navigate to settings – picture – picture adjust – picture options – TruMotion – Off. Most of the other default settings are fine. Whatever you do, leave “Black Level” set to low. Contrary to what you think it should do, the high setting makes blacks look grey, ruining overall contrast.

LG 55EC9300 OLED TV HDMI USB

Unlike its predecessor, the 55EA5800, the 55EC9300 is not THX certified. For particular users, a call to an ISF calibrator might not be a bad idea. While the EC9300’s color output is by no means bad under the cinema setting, a little bit of targeted work will go a long way toward bringing the set to spec.

Performance

Everything you’ve read about OLED being amazing is true. Black levels, contrast, shadow detail, and brightness, are all pulled off exceptionally well by the EC9300. Until you’ve seen what truly excellent contrast does to an image, you haven’t really treated your eyes to what’s possible with a television (or a projector, for that matter).

That depth of field that you were promised when 1080p HD was first introduced? You get a little taste of that here (though not nearly on the level of a fine 4K or 8K television). The picture is so silky-smooth and rich, you just want to drink it in like you would an expertly pulled shot of espresso. Every single DT staff member who saw the EC9300 in action spent some time slack-jawed in amazement.

The 55EC9300 exhibits one very significant – some would say, fatal – flaw: distracting judder.

But then there was one very significant – some would say, fatal – flaw: distracting judder.

For those not familiar, judder is a sort of stuttering effect that is most easily seen in scenes that pan across otherwise still objects. The effect is a byproduct of a process called 3:2 pull down, which matches up film’s 24 fps framerate to a TV’s 60Hz scanning frequency. Generally, the better the 3:2 pull down processor, the less judder is perceived, though there’s usually some to contend with no matter what.

Unfortunately, it is not just with film-based content that the EC9300 struggles with motion. We streamed a few television shows off Netflix and watched a few locally broadcast programs. Throughout, it was hard for us not to notice a persistent stuttering on-screen, though it was much less severe with TV than with Blu-ray movies.

This issue can be addressed using the TV’s TruMotion feature, which, under its ‘user’ option, lets the viewer use separate controls to minimize blur and judder. Unfortunately, turning this feature on means you’ll have to deal with some level of “soap opera effect” which makes films look unnatural. The only way we could stand having TruMotion turned on for more than just a few seconds is if we kept De-Judder at 1 or 2 and De-Blur set at level level 2 or below. Even then, we didn’t last long with it on.

Conclusion

We’re in a pickle here. On one hand, the 55EC9300 delivers the promise of near-perfect blacks, excellent contrast, and rich color that OLED is revered for. Pair that with an excellent smart TV interface and wrap it up in a sexy package, and you’ve got a winning TV.

But the judder issue is not one that we’re able to overlook, and that’s not just because we stare at TVs day in and day out, either. More casual viewers struggled with the judder issue as well, so we can’t help but worry that you might, too.

Unfortunately, it appears LG had to cut some corners in order to bring the 55EC9300 to market at an unprecedentedly low price. And frankly, we probably should have seen it coming. This TV could easily have scored a 9, but considering its premium price and the judder issue, we just have to knock it down a couple points. It’s hard to throw our recommendation behind something that may disappoint the sort of buyer who would consider this TV in the first place.

With all of that in mind, we’ll say this: If you’re so hungry for OLED that you’re willing to overlook some image judder, or if you’re not one easily bothered by such things, then the EC9300 is an otherwise excellent television. However, if you’re sensitive to motion issues and prone to buyer’s remorse, you might want to wait until next year. Or, alternatively, you can go for broke and drop $8,000 on the excellent 65-inch 4K OLED LG will be unleashing next month. Either way, you should head down to your local electronics store and have a look at this television. This is what TVs will look like in the future … without the judder, we hope.

Highs

  • Superb black levels and contrast
  • Excellent shadow detail
  • Deep, rich colors
  • Slim and sexy panel design
  • Excellent webOS smart TV platform

Lows

  • Distracting motion issues (judder)
  • Still a little pricey for some
  • Only available in curved screens
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