LG’s curved 4K Ultra HD OLED TVs don’t go on sale in the UK until October, but we’ve been able to get some brief eyes-on time with one.
The 77-inch 77EC980V will cost a monstrous £20,000 once it hits shelves. We got up close and personal to see exactly what you get for the equivalent of a graduate’s starting salary/what your average footballer earns every nanosecond.
‘Polished’ is the word we’d used to sum up the 77EC980V. Everything about it practically gleams, from the vibrant colours, deep blacks and brilliant whites to the seemingly physics-defying slimness of the concave set.
Though saying big TVs are ‘slim’ these days is like saying water is wet, we were taken aback all the same. We held up an HTC One Mini next to it and it wasn't much thicker than that. David Bowie’s wrist circa Station to Station was probably thicker.
The point of inwardly-curving TV sets is to create a more immersive viewing experience. Detail from the edges is aimed at your peripheral vision so more detail hits your eyeballs - or at least that's what the makers claim.
Combined with the naturally superior viewing angles you get from OLED panels, the 77EC980V should add up the best viewing experience yet.
The model we saw was an early production unit and as such was intermittently hobbled by technical gremlins - the kind which you sometimes see at trade shows when a new product is wheeled out for the first time. LG promised that these snags would definitely be ironed out by October.
Teething problems aside, the TV was one of the best we’ve seen. The 77EC980V was playing 4K demo footage at 60fps (frames per second) as well as upscaled Full HD clips from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
While it was indeed a visual treat we had to ask that perennial question: what can you actually watch right now when there are no 4K channels hitting the airwaves?
As well as Netflix, which is giving you the likes of House of Cards and Breaking Bad (provided your broadband is good enough), the 77EC980V will be able to play back files with the H.265 (HEVC) codec through devices connected by HDMI, USB and LAN (Ethernet) ports, at 30fps or 60fps.
The 77EC980V also comes with LG’s True 4K Engine Pro technology, which promises to upscale SD, 720p HD and Full HD to near-4K quality. MEMC (Motion Estimation Motion Compensation) is present to compensate for any motion blur which might result from upscaling.
LG’s retail and range planning manager for the UK, Robert Taylor, was keen to point out details such as etching on some of the dwarven coins from The Hobbit as an example of the kind of detail you’ll get on upscaled content. On Full HD TVs of a similar size, you’ll not be able to pick out such detail as easily.
Having not seen the latest Hobbit movie on a Full HD TV it’s hard for us to say for sure - there was also no opportunity to compare the same clip on a Full HD panel, so we’ll take Taylor for his word. We have to say that Martin Freeman running away from a CGI dragon did look amazing and tiny details like symbols on coins, fantasy runes and whatnot were easily discernible from roughly five meters away.
If you still think that all that isn’t worth paying £20,000 for, or your living room simply isn’t big enough to house such a TV, then you’re in luck as LG’s 65EC970V - a 65-inch version of the 77EC980V - will go on sale in October for £6,000.
Both TV sets will come with LG’s webOS-based interface and access to Now TV, something which you can’t get from any other smart TV range. By the time LG’s curved 4K OLEDs go on sale, the exclusivity period, which LG had for at least 12 months from August 2013 might be over, unless Sky and LG extend their current deal.
In terms of answering the question of ‘what can you watch right now’ it seems like LG has got most of if not all of the bases covered. Sony still hasn't launched its 4K movies service in the UK and the BBC, Sky and other members of the DTG's UK UHD Forum are still ironing out the technical details of 4K broadcasting.
Of course, if broadcasters eventually settle on a higher frame rate for 4K TV, then you might have bought yourself into a corner.
For sports, 100fps is said to be the ideal rate and based on what we’ve seen from Sky’s test footage, we’d be inclined to agree. Once 4K TV standards have been defined, it might be that you’ll have to shell out for an extra device, like the one Sony is releasing later this year - or get another TV. Such is the gamble of the early adopter.