LG's New OLED TV Is 'Cheapest' Yet

Videophiles with a little money to burn now face a difficult choice: Should they buy a 4K TV or an OLED HDTV? LG has announced a $3,500, 55-inch OLED TV available for pre-order at Best Buy. While the price is still too high for an impulse buy, it's less than a quarter of what LG's first 55-inch OLED sold for. And the price is low enough to make it comparable with 4K (aka UHD) LCD sets — helping determine whether shoppers want the highest resolution available or the best screen quality.

OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, is a fascinating technology that's never managed to achieve widespread mainstream appeal. OLED is a thin, fragile, flexible organic material that can display a picture when charged with an electrical current. Supporters love OLED screens for their amazing color, wide viewing angles and ability to achieve essentially absolute black and therefore extremely high contrast. Detractors cite the devices' prohibitive price.

MORE: Are OLED TVs Doomed?

The 55-inch LG Curved OLED TV (55EC9300) is exactly what it sounds like, and will release on Aug. 24. Although only Best Buy is taking pre-orders at the moment, LG assured in a press release that other major retailers will sell the device as well. The TV will also use LG's Smart TV+ webOS interface, letting users stream content from services like Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus and Netflix.

Thirty-five hundred dollars might seem like a steep asking price, but LG's first 55-inch OLED TV debuted about a year ago and sold for a staggering $15,000. (At this rate, one wonders whether next year's model will cost $805. Probably not.) OLED manufacturing costs have dropped since then, but the jury is still out on whether consumers really want OLED TVs (or curved ones).

Furthermore, consumer-grade OLED TVs still max out at 1080p resolution. As beautiful as the screen may be, users may not want to shell out the cost of a few months' rent or mortgage for something that won't play all the 4K content that's supposed to come out over the next few years. At present, viewers can buy a curved 55-inch Samsung 4K LED TV at Best Buy for $3,300. This essentially gives consumers an apples-to-apples choice between 4K and OLED TVs for the first time.

Either way, interested users can check the TV out at Best Buy, then determine how much a gorgeous screen is worth to them.

Marshall Honorof is a staff writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at mhonorof@tomsguide.com. Follow him @marshallhonorof and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.