Slim, flat TVs are nothing new – but little prepares you for the drama of LG's 15EL9500.
The world's slimmest television at just 3.2mm deep, it's also the largest yet to use an Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) display.
So, what's OLED? The panels are made from carbon-based (in other words, organic) materials that emit light when a current is passed through them.
In that sense, they offer the self-illuminating benefits of plasma TVs – every pixel on the screen emits its own light – but with a fraction of the bulk or energy use.
LCD and LED-LCD TVs, on the other hand, both shine light from single or multiple sources through an LCD matrix.
So thin it'll flex in your hand
OLED technology has already made its way into a few mobile devices, and it's impressive indeed: it's possible to make an OLED panel so thin that it will flex in your hand.
But, for all the tech, it's the prospect of significantly improved picture performance that entices us – and on the evidence of the 15EL9500, there's a great deal to get excited about.
This LG generates the deepest blacks of any display we've ever seen – including our reference Pioneer Kuro plasma.
Whites are amazingly punchy, and the colour gamut… well, we've not seen better. This might only be a 15in panel, but the picture is wonderful, with no discernible smearing, banding, blocking or jaggies, and no apparent pixel structure until you've got your nose touching the panel.
The only flaw of note was a trace of judder with Blu-ray that we couldn't dial out, but it wasn't there with TV or DVDs.
The viewing angle is incredible, too – you can get up, walk right over to the corner of the room and still make out the picture perfectly with no apparent deterioration in its quality.
A truly attractive wrapping
All this comes in a truly attractive wrapping: the clever stand supports the set in a table-top application or folds near-flat for wall-mounting, and if the socket count is sparse – one HDMI and a USB – it all works as it ought, the LG accepting 1080p/24 from Blu-ray plus DivX, JPEG and MP3 from USB.
The Freeview tuner works well too: its images are so crisp you'll seldom pine for the absence of off-air HD. Only the speakers are less than brilliant.
This is a staggeringly impressive debut. Of course, it's way too expensive: that's the pitfall of any spanking new flat TV technology.
But even so, the LG is so good at what it does (and the future it heralds is so exciting) that we're justifiably excited about it.
If they could resolve the judder with Blu-rays, we'd give it five stars at the price. And if they can make it at reasonable money, the future belongs to OLED.
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