- Written by Ofer Laor
- Published on 23 December 2013
Design and User Interface of the LG 55EA980 OLED HDTV
The effect of seeing this display is nothing short of stunning. The screen is extremely thin - about half as thin as the iPhone 5s… The bottom area of the display has a slightly thicker area that curves in the back to form the connection area (which has lots of connections, including USB 3.0, a top side "hidden" USB connection, tuner port and more). The bottom of the display is clear plastic and curves around more drastically than the TV itself, thus forming a stable base for the TV to stand on. The curved clear shape, along with almost no bezel gives the impression that the display is floating a few inches from the tabletop.
Two nearly transparent film speakers are found on either side of the clear part of the stand and add even more to the mystery - they produce 40W of great sound almost without being noticed. A bottom facing subwoofer is hidden from view but does give a great punch to this display.
The back of the TV is made from black and shiny carbon fiber resin which simply looks awesome from behind. This is clearly the best looking and best design I have ever had in my testing labs, maybe apart from how I felt about the original Kuro design at the time.
The main remote for this TV is the "magic remote", which has an air mouse that works using a gyroscope - kind of like the Wii remote with a floating cursor you control by physically moving the remote through the air. This remote has relatively few buttons, but does contain a roller wheel instead of an OK button. This wheel lets you quickly channel zap but the problem is that it is really annoying when used elsewhere. Also, the User Interface is somewhat cumbersome and is suitable for a computer savvy person (i.e., geek compatible). I believe normal humans will often be confused by the User Interface, which does take some getting used to. One example of this is how to switch HDMI inputs: There are several options, but pressing the "smart" button brings up the full smart TV interface with many icons - pressing the settings input icon gives you a sliding view of the inputs. Switching from HDMI1 to HDMI2 requires 4-5 mouse operations, for something that should actually be a dedicated key on this TV.
Smart android and iOS apps are really neat and simulate a regular remote very nicely, albeit are problematic for waking the TV up when it is completely off.
Another way to control the TV is by touching its underside, which has a capacitive sensor. This is a neat and cool way to control a TV (although somewhat embarrassing and confusing for any bystanders). Unfortunately, LG did not perfect the navigation technique which is quite difficult to navigate… When plugging in the optional camera accessory into the top USB connection (a small panel can be removed to show this hidden connection), the TV can also be controlled using hand gestures but this is a really annoying way to signal the TV to change channels or reduce the volume - you can even draw a number in the air to try and switch channels but I have had very little luck with this - probably due to the lack of ambient lights.
Finally, the TV can also be controlled by voice, but not to voice commands. The remote contains a microphone and dedicated button. However, this does not let you really control the TV, but does an online search and produces a list of potential videos that you might be referring to. This is really a cool way to access online content and reminds me quite a bit of how the Kinect works (except that the microphone on the remote lets LG detect voice much more accurately than the Kinect).
There are two popular questions I get asked about this technology:
1. Why is the screen curved?
There are many answers to this question, but I think the primary answer is "because they can". OLED needs to be clearly differentiated from LED TVs both because of the price differences but also because this is clearly new technology and this needs to be relayed to the customer somehow. OLED is technically "printed" technology that can be shaped in many different ways (LG even produces the LG flex which is a slightly flexible smartphone using similar technology). The curved screen is not shaped like the IMAX display which is so large that the distance to the projector would cause it to defocus at the corners without curving it. The distance to the viewer is much too short and the curvature much too drastic for that.
I found the real benefit (beyond blowing people away when the catch the shape and thickness of the TV panel) is that the curved shape virtually inoculates the TV from light reflections. Whereas large flat TVs have a problem if they are installed opposite a window or porch door, the curved nature of this display acts like a lens and reflects you back onto yourself - which means you hardly get any light displays (unless you are glowing for no particular reason…).
2. I can get a 55" screen for a lot less. Is it worth it?
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: "hell yeah".
Although this seems like a first generation product, in reality this technology has been in development for so long and is being mass produced for a few years for cell phones (many Android handsets are using OLED in favor of LED/LCD), this technology appears much more finished than almost anything out there.
I did find quite a few flaws in the display, all of which I will share in this review, but my overall impression, based purely on my experience with this specific TV, is that this technology is actually ready for prime time.