- Often sensational picture quality
- Pretty, space-saving design
- Excellent smart TV interface
- Doesn’t have the brightness of rival LCDs
- Detail loss in bright areas
- Occasional colour noise
- 55-inch OLED screen
- Native 4K/UHD resolution
- webOS 3.0 smart TV system
- Freeview Play onboard
- Multimedia playback via USB/DLNA/Bluetooth
- Manufacturer: LG
- Review Price: £2,699.00
WHAT IS THE LG OLED55B6?
This is LG’s least expensive Ultra HD OLED TV for 2016. The £2,700 price tag will itself be enough to win the hearts of many AV fans looking to make the jump to OLED. Especially since its relative cheapness seems to have had minimal impact on its picture quality. It may not be as fancy as the models higher up in the range, but this gets the job done beautifully.
LG OLED55B6 – DESIGN AND BUILD
Some of LG’s 2016 OLED TVs have been extraordinarily beautiful, and the OLED55B6 looks quite ordinary by comparison. Its rear sticks out a few centimetres rather than just the few millimetres of LG’s E6 and G6 OLED models. Its desktop stand is finished in a rather dour black as opposed to the usual gleaming silver. Its OLED pixels don’t benefit from being mounted directly onto a sheet of glass. Overall, build quality feels disturbingly “normal”.
But while the OLED55B6 might look and feel pedestrian by LG OLED standards, it’s actually gorgeous in the context of the wider flat TV world. Not least because around two-thirds of its rear remains incredibly slim, while its outer edge sports a dashing metallic sheen.
The screen is flat, not curved. If you want a curved screen (I’m struggling to think of convincing reasons why you would) you’ll need the LG OLED55C6.
LG OLED55B6 – SETUP
First, keep the main brightness setting within a very narrow band: 49-52. Go below 49 and dark areas begin to lose detail and depth. Go higher than 52 and the stunningly rich black colours that are OLED’s single biggest selling point are suddenly infiltrated by low-contrast greyness.
Next, when watching HDR 10 or Dolby Vision HDR (the OLED55B6 supports both), don’t be tempted to use the most aggressive setting options, since these make the brightest parts of HDR pictures look overexposed.
Always turn off the TV’s noise-reduction options when watching native 4K/UHD sources. And finally, when watching movies at 24 frames a second from Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray, set the OLED55B6’s motion processing to Custom mode, with its judder and blur components set to somewhere below half their power.
LG OLED55B6 – FEATURES
The OLED55B6’s single most important feature is its OLED picture technology. This lets every pixel produce its own light, while LCD forces groups of pixels – or sometimes, all pixels at once – to share an external light source.
The result, as we’ve seen time and time again, is a combination of stunning contrast and immaculate light precision that current LCD technologies could never hope to match.
Despite being much cheaper than its E6 and G6 siblings, the OLED55B6 seems to offer an identical picture specification in terms of contrast, brightness, colour range and motion processing – on paper at least. Particularly eye-catching are a maximum brightness of around 650 nits (far ahead of anything LG’s 2015 OLED range could manage), and a colour performance that delivers around 94% of the so-called DCI-P3 colour spectrum used in commercial digital cinemas.
The OLED55B6’s specifications are comfortably in excess of those needed for ‘Ultra HD Premium’ certification, a standard the AV industry devised to highlight the best UHD and high dynamic range performers.
LG’s decision to carry the Dolby Vision version of HDR, with its extra layer of data providing scene-by-scene optimisation, seems like a canny move. Articles suggesting a format war between Dolby Vision and the more common HDR10 system are overblown, but it’s still reassuring to know that a TV supports both. Especially since Dolby Vision produces a tangible performance benefit.
The OLED55B6’s smart features cover the usual combination of streamed multimedia from networked DLNA-capable and Bluetooth devices, plus access to LG’s decently expansive array of online apps and content sources.
Online highlights include Sky’s Now TV platform, HDR and UHD-capable versions of Netflix and Amazon, plus access to the catch-up TV services of all the UK’s main terrestrial broadcasters courtesy of the Freeview Play platform.
Freeview Play lets you access its on-demand content either via separate channel apps, or via a handy electronic programme guide, where you can scroll backwards and forwards in time.
The LG webOS interface makes navigation simple. This remains the most slick, efficient and friendly smart TV system that the TV world has to offer, despite not changing much since 2015.
There is one feature the OLED55B6 surprisingly doesn’t include: 3D. This might not bother many people, given the apparently dwindling fortunes of 3D as a home-entertainment format, but there are certainly a few AV fans who won’t be happy at the idea of the OLED55B6 rendering their 3D disc collections redundant.
LG OLED55B6 – PERFORMANCE
Does the OLED55B6 deliver the quality of LG’s more expensive 2016 OLED TVs? And the short answer is yes.
The best news is that the OLED55B6 delivers the same awesome level of contrast as its siblings, underpinned by immaculately deep, rich, even black colours that remain unaffected by light “leakage” around bright objects, even when watching extreme HDR images.
The OLED55B6 also joins its more premium siblings in doing away with the “vignetting” issues that afflicted LG’s 2015 TVs. The results is that the left and right edges of the picture look just as bright as the central areas, rather than dimming slightly as they did before.
Feeding the OLED55B6 HDR pictures reveals that these mesmerising, exclusive-to-OLED black levels can share a frame with punchy whites and bright colours similar in intensity to those of LG’s flagship G6 series. For some reason the E6 models look brighter, but only slightly.
The HDR sources we’ve seen to date are almost always accompanied by wide colour gamut technology, and the OLED55B6 handles these expanded colour palettes superbly. The way its colours can appear within a pixel’s width of the screen’s inky blacks helps them look incredibly intense, despite not achieving the same raw brightness of the best HDR LCD TVs.
There’s a high level of subtlety in the colour performance too, enabling the screen to reproduce wide colour images without succumbing to striping or plasticky skin tones.
Throw into the mix the sort of subtle shadow detailing that’s impossible to replicate on an LCD screen. The OLED55B6 proves again that OLED remains peerless when it comes to the dark end of the spectrum.
The OLED55B6 also does a decent – if not quite outstanding – job of selling the detail and clarity joys of UHD. There’s a touch more refinement in the detailing of the flagship OLEDG6 series, mostly down to slightly improved colour management. I doubt many people would consider the difference big enough to stretch to the G6 series’ £6,000 asking price.
One last strength of the OLED55B6 is its playback of standard dynamic range sources. It’s so effortlessly awesome at handling SDR’s images that I’d say there’s no other TV out there that can do it so well. Except for LG’s other 2016 OLED TVs.
While the OLED55B6 delivers broadly the same picture advantages as the other 2016 LG TVs we’ve tested, it also exhibits broadly the same failings.
The worst of these is clipping – a loss of detail in the brightest HDR picture areas. This can, for instance, cause a bright shot of the sun to appear more like a whitish hole in the image, rather than a fully realised rendering of a sun. This issue is at its most noticeable with whites, but can affect very bright colours too.
The clipping issue is much more of a problem with the OLED55B6’s HDR10 playback than it is with Dolby Vision HDR, seemingly because Dolby understands the shortcomings of the panel and sacrifices some brightness in return for more detail and colour richness. While such a move isn’t ideal, the simple reality is that the more detail-rich Dolby Vision pictures look significantly better overall.
There’s also more noise in dark backdrops than rival screens, and it displays the same occasional patches of blocky colour errors – usually visible in shots of skies – with HDR content.
The darkest parts of HDR images can also look slightly dominant and hollow – again, I suspect, due to a slight shortfall in native brightness.
Motion isn’t handled brilliantly, either. 24fps images from Blu-rays and UHD Blu-rays suffer with judder if you don’t use LG’s motion processing, but tend to exhibit unwanted side effects such as smudging around the edges of moving objects and momentary image pauses if you do use the feature.
Despite the issues, the OLED55B6’s picture performance is exceptional overall -– uniquely so if you prefer deep, consistent blacks to LCD’s extra brightness and bright-area detailing.
The OLED55B6’s pictures are only slightly less refined than those of LG’s flagship G6 models, making its vastly cheaper price look like a steal. But doesn’t keep up with the step up E6 and G6 series when it comes to sound quality. Both of the more premium models feature built-in soundbars capable of pumping out vast amounts of bass, volume and clarity, which wouldn’t be out of place on a decent quality separates system.
The OLED55B6, by comparison, only features a fairly standard set of speakers built into its svelte frame. Predictably, these sound much more muted, flat and uninvolving – although they do at least understand their limitations and so don’t readily succumb to crackling and/or phutting distortions.
SHOULD I BUY THE LG OLED55B6?
If you’ve already decided that OLED’s peerless light controls and black colour reproduction are for you, the OLED55B6 looks like as much of a bargain as a £2,800 TV could ever be. It delivers much of the frequently stellar picture quality seen on LG’s high-end LCD TVs for a fraction of the price, and its webOS smart TV interface remains the one to beat.
But bear in mind that when it comes to HDR playback, the OLED55B6 is more a personal preference than a flat-out “winner”. Its OLED technology is certainly superb at handling extreme contrast and dark HDR images thanks to its pixel-by-pixel light control, but top-level LCD TVs such as the Samsung UE65KS9500 handle the bright end of HDR’s potential with far more punch and detail – albeit only at the expense of occasionally distracting backlight flaws.
If you’re desperate to get your hands on LG’s 2016 OLED picture quality but just can’t handle the eye-watering prices of the G6 and E6 series, the OLED55B6 is a dream come true.