Introduction and features
While there’s always been a lot of excitement around OLED technology, it seems to have reached fever pitch this year, and it’s easy to see why. Having already greatly improved the performance and affordability of its OLED TVs last year, LG – the only brand currently making full ranges of OLED TVs – is claiming further substantial performance boosts and key new features for its 2016 range.
The first of these potential OLED dazzlers to come our way is the OLED55C6P: a 55-inch curved-screen model boasting a native Ultra HD Resolution and support for both high dynamic range (HDR) and 3D playback.
As usual with an LG OLED TV, the OLED55C6P is seriously easy on the eye. The curved screen gets it off to a good aesthetic start, and the way the edges of the screen curve slightly forwards also makes it easier for jealous friends and family to notice how incredibly thin – sub 3mm – the screen is over the majority of its back side. Completing the sumptuous elegance is a really attractive metallic silver trim that runs around the screen’s outer extremities.
Connections are built into a protruding section of the rear, and chiefly comprise three HDMIs, three USBs and built-in Wi-Fi. Two of the HDMIs can handle UHD HDR sources like Ultra HD Blu-ray players and the Nvidia Shield, while the USBs can play most types of multimedia files. The Wi-Fi network option supports multimedia streaming from DLNA-enabled devices on your network, or app downloading/video streaming from LG’s walled garden of online content.
This online content includes such key services as the 4K and HDR-capable versions of Netflix and Amazon Video, alongside apps for YouTube, Hulu, Google Play Movies & TV and more.
All of the OLED55C6P’s myriad content sources are accessed through the third generation of LG’s webOS platform. Given that webOS remains the slickest and most brilliantly simple smart TV interface in the business LG has sensibly not tinkered with it too much for 2016 – and the two main changes are positive ones.
One is the addition of a My Content section, into which you can easily bookmark favorite sources for quicker repeat access, while the other cuts down on the use of sub-menus by enabling more apps to be added to the main scrolling content bar.
It’s the OLED55C6P’s picture technology, though, that’s the main attraction, chiefly because the OLED panel at its heart is the only display technology consumers can buy today in which every pixel in the picture can produce its own light and color.
It’s pretty easy to appreciate the potential benefits this level of light accuracy should be able to deliver where contrast is concerned, and it’s a benefit that’s become even more important now that HDR has well and truly arrived on the AV scene.
After all, I’ve yet to see any LCD TVs that are able to deliver dark HDR scenes with complete conviction, on account of their use of external light systems that can only illuminate large groups of pixels, or even the whole screen, simultaneously.
Also noteworthy on the OLED55C6P are its claimed picture improvements over 2015’s OLED models. For starters, brightness has been greatly increased in a bid to deliver more of HDR’s thrills.
But also on offer are expanded color performance, claimed to deliver more than 95% of digital cinema’s DCI-P3 color spectrum (just the job for handling the expanded color gamuts associated with the vast majority of HDR content), and improved light control that should significantly reduce 2015 OLED’s issues of uneven ‘bands’ of light and sudden shifts from black to grey during dark scenes.
LG has also boosted the HDR credentials of its 2016 OLED TVs by introducing support for Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision predominantly differs from the open HDR10 standard by carrying an extra layer of data, providing scene by scene optimization of the way HDR’s effects are applied to the movie or TV show you’re watching. 4
Dolby Vision also delivers a degree of optimization for the particular TV screen it’s being viewed on.
Netflix has pledged to considerably up its Dolby Vision output in the coming months, and Amazon Video has also announced that it’ll be introducing Dolby Vision support later in the year. So, given that the OLED55C6P offers Dolby Vision support alongside support for the more common HDR10 system rather than instead of it, you can’t help but think that LG has been quite canny in covering all the HDR bases.
One last feature to mention here is 3D – unlike any Samsung or Philips TVs this year the OLED55C6P supports playback of the third dimension using the flicker-free passive system.
Picture quality and performance
The OLED55C6P is unquestionably the best OLED TV LG has made so far – which is saying something considering how many wow moments its predecessors have given us. That said, LG still has a few bits and bobs to sort out before OLED becomes 100% irresistible.
So that we can finish this section in the positive vein this TV deserves, let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first – starting with the screen’s occasional noise issues during dark scenes, and especially dark HDR scenes.
First up, HDR pictures can suffer from a peculiar effect whereby all the definition and light subtleties in the very darkest sections of the picture can go AWOL as they’re taken over by a slightly blocky, vaguely glowing noise effect. Dark backdrops also occasionally fall prey to different dot-crawl noise that sometimes becomes noticeable enough to pull your eye away from the action.
Another issue to be wary of is that the OLED55C6P’s pictures fall down quite severely if you’re not pretty precise with its main brightness setting. Set it to less than its 49 level and details start to get noticeably crushed out of dark areas; push it higher than 52 and the screen’s otherwise spellbinding black levels rapidly start to grey over.
The OLED55C6P’s curved screen, meanwhile, can cause distracting distortions of any bright light sources opposite the screen, and LG’s motion handling could do better; action scenes can look quite juddery if you turn off the OLED55C6P’s TruMotion circuitry completely, yet all the TruMotion presets LG provides end up making pictures look rather processed, with flickering and haloing artifacts over or around fast-moving objects.
Fortunately you can get a satisfactory solution by selecting the Custom setting and then choosing values of either two or three for the judder and blur reduction components.
One last issue is some loss of detail in bright whites and the brightest areas of color when watching HDR content. This is caused, presumably, by the OLED55C6P still not delivering enough brightness to cover the full brightness range of HDR content (its light output peaks at between 600 and 650 nits using any sensible picture settings, versus the 1000 nits most UHD Blu-rays are currently mastered to).
Right, that’s quite enough miserableness. Let’s get to the good stuff. Starting with the fact that, despite the occasional noise blemish with really extreme HDR content, the OLED55C6P’s black level performance is just stunning. Not even the best LCD TV can get close to delivering the depth or, especially, the evenness, consistency and accuracy of black level response displayed by LG’s OLED maestro.
This benefit of OLED’s self-emissive pixel structure is particularly obvious and welcome when watching HDR content, as even the most intensely white tones or bright colors are able to sit just a pixel away from intense, deep black colors without even a hint of light ‘contagion’.
Every LCD TV I’ve seen to date exhibits a degree of light haloing or striping around bright HDR objects when they appear against dark backdrops, with some screens having to severely compromise the black level response of the entire image when asked to deal with a bright object within a predominantly dark HDR shot.
The bottom line is that, except for the fortunately rare occasions where the noise discussed earlier creeps into proceedings, the OLED55C6P is the first TV I’ve tested that consistently delivers HDR scenes that look as convincing, immersive and flat-out beautiful as their creators doubtless dreamed they would.
Good black levels usually prove an ideal foundation for good colors, and sure enough the OLED55C6P’s spectacular blacks are partnered by fantastically vibrant, full-blooded colors more than capable of reproducing the extra image punch delivered by the wide color gamuts sported by all UHD Blu-rays (so far) and a growing number of streamed video sources.
The way OLED pixels create their own light also means that, unlike with LCD TVs, you can watch the OLED55C6P from an extremely wide viewing angle without the image’s contrast or color reducing in intensity.
As noted earlier, even the extra brightness LG has conjured for its 2016 OLEDs can’t stop the OLED55C6P from falling slightly short of the color volume and subtle toning in the brightest HDR areas that you get with the best LCD TVs. But the OLED screen’s infinitely more accurate light controls mean color tones remain more consistent – at least during dark HDR scenes – than they do with LCDs, as they don’t keep getting infiltrated by extraneous areas of greyness.
The extra brightness LG has found for its OLED TVs also means you get a more potent sense of HDR’s peak brightness potential; in other words, it’s not only in dark scenes that the OLED55C6P gets its HDR mojo on.
The OLED55C6P’s considerable color talents are especially obvious, interestingly, if you’re watching Dolby Vision HDR. Dolby’s metadata system, appreciation for the pros and cons of the screens it’s working with and, I guess, huge experience in the cinema and home cinema worlds give clips of Pan in Dolby Vision which I had stored on a USB stick a strikingly richer but also subtler color range than the same movie in its HDR10 Ultra HD Blu-ray incarnation – at least as rendered by LG’s default (and best) Standard HDR mode.
Dolby Vision Differences
The more refined handling of color and light in Dolby Vision mode also means DV sources look more detailed and three-dimensional than HDR10. It should be said that HDR10 playback looks much brighter on the LG than the Dolby Vision version; Dolby’s system actually sets the TV’s OLED brightness to just 50, while LG’s HDR10 approach pushes OLED brightness to 100.
Some may be unable to resist the allure of all that extra HDR10 brightness, but my feeling is that most of the sort of video enthusiasts likely to buy the OLED55C6P will feel that Dolby Vision’s approach simply proves that brightness is perhaps not the be-all and end-all of good HDR playback after all.
The precision of the OLED55C6P’s color and light handling helps it make the most of its Ultra HD resolution when fed a native 4K source too, except for where detail ‘clipping’ crops up in the brightest areas. In fact, its detailing is pretty much immaculate when you’re watching standard dynamic range sources (which you will be most of the time), since the reduced brightness range of SDR content largely takes the brightness-related clipping issues out of the equation.
Pretty much everything is perfect about the TV’s SDR performance, in fact, as the color, contrast and brightness ranges introduced to boost HDR give the screen enough ‘headroom’ to handle SDR more or less effortlessly.
LG has provided an HDR Effect mode on the OLED55C6P, which attempts to expand the color range and luminance of SDR images to give them an HDR feel. However, the processing seems much more enthusiastic about expanding the luminance range than it does the color spectrum, resulting in a slightly anaemic look that made me feel more comfortable leaving standard dynamic range content playing in its native state.
Similarly, I’d advise against using the Vivid HDR10 setting LG provides on the OLED55C6P, for while this pushes brightness with HDR sources much more aggressively than the HDR Bright and HDR Standard settings, it also leaves colors looking unconvincing, reduces color detail, and is much more likely to throw up video noise.
Gaming and 3D
Tests reveal that the OLED55C6P’s screen takes only 30ms or so to render its images, making it one of the most responsive and therefore game-friendly UHD TVs around. I was struck right away by how relaxing its 3D images are, as its passive approach removes all flicker and most crosstalk ghosting noise.
The screen’s stellar contrast plays an important role in delineating an exceptional sense of scale to the 3D worlds you’re watching too, while the freedom from the shuttering effect of active glasses means 3D pictures look almost as bright and vibrant as 2D ones.
It’s hard to think of any TV that could be easier to operate than the OLED55C6P. Its webOS 3.0 interface is joyously simple and straightforward, and runs slickly. The point-and-click remote works well too, once you get used to its quite extreme sensitivity.
The one thing that dents the OLED55C6P’s usability credentials is the fact that you have to be careful with some of its picture settings if you don’t want to have a seriously negative impact on what you’re viewing.
The OLED55C6P sounds about average for a flat TV. Deep bass is pretty much restricted to a few distracting thuds and pops, which can lead to dense action scenes sounding a bit unbalanced and harsh from time to time.
The mid-range is reasonably open and clean, though, and both male and female voices sound pretty convincing, even under duress. The soundstage spreads quite nicely beyond the confines of the TV’s bodywork too, without losing cohesion or sounding excessively thin and weedy.
Actually, even sounding average should probably be considered a success when you’re talking about a TV that’s as incredibly slim over much of its frame as the OLED55C6P is.
The OLED55C6P does its best to seduce you as soon as you look at it, with its stunning ultra-thin and tastefully curved screen. Happily, that turns out to just be the start of its appeal, as its OLED screen technology serves up frequently amazing picture quality, while its webOS operating system is a joy to use.
Really extreme HDR content can cause LG’s ground-breaking TV one or two headaches, but overall the OLED55C6P represents another big step forwards for what remains the most promising TV tech you can currently buy.
It’s a touch disappointing, perhaps, that LG hasn’t introduced any real OLED price reductions for 2016. On the other hand, you could easily argue that $2,800 isn’t beyond the pale for picture quality which is unprecedentedly good in key respects. Let’s not forget, either, that it wasn’t all that long ago when you couldn’t get an OLED TV for less than eight grand.
The OLED55C6P looks a million dollars with its super-slim, silver-edged screen. It also produces stunning color and contrast, along with more brightness than any previous OLED TV, and it’s the first TV I’ve seen that consistently convinces with dark HDR scenes. Meanwhile, WebOS continues to be arguably the simplest smart TV interface in the business.
Bright HDR peaks aren’t as intense as they are on LCD TVs, and there can be some loss of detail in the brightest areas. The very darkest HDR content can suffer with a couple of different types of noise, and the set’s audio lacks bass. The curved screen won’t suit everyone either, especially if you have a bright light source opposite the screen.
LG is to be applauded for moving its already impressive OLED technology on leaps and bounds with the OLED55C6P. It solves my main problems with 2015’s screens, and the extra brightness that’s been found is as welcome as it is important.
There remain two or three key areas where LG can improve things further, but the OLED55C6P is certainly the finest all-round OLED TV I’ve seen yet – and that ranks as high praise indeed.