​Kogan curved 4K UHD 55-inch LED LCD TV review

Does crazy price equal crazy good for the Kogan 55" TV?

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Kogan curved 4K 55-inch LED TV
  • Kogan curved 4K 55-inch LED TV
  • Kogan curved 4K 55-inch LED TV
  • Kogan curved 4K 55-inch LED TV
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Crazy cheap
  • High quality image
  • Good upscaling
  • Responsive remote

Cons

  • Sound is a bit muddy
  • Some graphical distortion at low res

Bottom Line

Outstanding value and generally-great picture performance. Kogan is the latest to disrupt the TV market with this relatively-cheap, high-value model. Just note you’ll need a set-top box or media streamer to go with it.

Would you buy this?

Read more: ​Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review

Picture quality

We’ve been testing TVs for many years and long ago came to the conclusion that running formal benchmarks was a waste of time. Not only can they give completely false sense of what a TV can and cannot do but ultimately nothing compares with living with at TV set and watching a variety of different types of content.

That said, we started with the best show we know - the amazing 60fps 4K Costa Rica showreel on YouTube. This glorious short film is a feast of colour and detail with challenging panning shots that tells us a lot about a TV. In this instance detail was really very impressive (as we’d expect on any 4K TV). Despite several colour setting adjustments, though, it was clear that the colours were never going to pop out of the screen the way they do on the likes of the more-expensive Hisense ULED, LG OLED and Samsung Quantum Dot rivals. This isn’t a fail by any stretch but we’re not talking about a breathtaking picture here. Just a very good one.

Our camera is being a bit generous with colour saturation here, but still... while colours don't jump off the screen, everything is still natural looking.
Our camera is being a bit generous with colour saturation here, but still... while colours don't jump off the screen, everything is still natural looking.
Read more: ​Panasonic Viera DX900U UHD 4K smart TV review

Cheap TVs can struggle when displaying areas of uniform colour – reverting to colour-soaked, blocky artefacts – but there was none of that here. Even detail when panning was impressively smooth with no aberrations. We were impressed.

Another stalwart test is The Martian on 4K HDR Blu-ray. The opening scenes give us a great sense of the TV’s ability to display true blacks, display vibrant colours, detail in dark areas and ability to pan without juddering. We were actually quite impressed with black performance. Only in pitch black room did the letterbox bars become visible and distracting (at times).

In a dark room expect the letterbox bars to be visible. Even so, performance here rivalled, if not beat, side-lit LCD screens from Sony and Samsung.
In a dark room expect the letterbox bars to be visible. Even so, performance here rivalled, if not beat, side-lit LCD screens from Sony and Samsung.

While there are some halo effects where light from the scene bleeds into the bars, it wasn’t particularly annoying or distracting. Panning shots were impressively smooth but the red colours we’re used to popping out of the screen weren’t quite there. Also, the detail in shadowy and light areas wasn’t quite as good as with the High Dynamic Range (HDR) panels we’ve seen in recent times, but only real enthusiasts would notice this. All in all we were impressed again.

A fairly typical letterbox bar as seen in a dark room.
A fairly typical letterbox bar as seen in a dark room.

Watching Narcos in 4K on Netflix was a joy. Detail was great, colours were fine and even rapid movement wasn’t an issue.

Netflix's Narcos in 4K. Almost worth buying this TV for.
Netflix's Narcos in 4K. Almost worth buying this TV for.

Watching a DVD quality movie showed that upscaling wasn’t much of a problem and details didn’t look too soft.

Read more: ​Kogan Atlas UltraSlim Pro laptop: full, in-depth review
A DVD quality version of Deepwater Horizon looked generally good with reasonable detail and sharp (not soft) lines. Letterbox bars stayed impressively black.
A DVD quality version of Deepwater Horizon looked generally good with reasonable detail and sharp (not soft) lines. Letterbox bars stayed impressively black.

The picture was generally good when watching HD channels on broadcast TV. We occasionally experienced areas of picture shimmering – almost underscan-type effects – which could be a little annoying on occasions but it depended on what was being broadcast and most shots were fine. However, graphics and small writing did appear to vibrate on screen in many instances. Some of us paid no heed to this but others found it unbearably distracting. It was worse in standard definition.

E! Entertainment as viewed from the internet on a Fetch TV Mighty. The picture is impressively sharp considering the low quality but the logos at the bottom had a habit of 'vibrating' at low resolutions which can annoy some people.
E! Entertainment as viewed from the internet on a Fetch TV Mighty. The picture is impressively sharp considering the low quality but the logos at the bottom had a habit of 'vibrating' at low resolutions which can annoy some people.

Nonetheless, standard definition (i.e. low quality) TV was dealt with impressively. We’ve seen expensive Samsung TVs struggle badly here – displaying blocky artefacts in detailed areas to an annoying degree – but the Kogan did very well. Even our terrible-quality Father Ted test, which plays the video in its native 480i resolution, wasn’t unwatchably terrible and while jagged lines appear onscreen with all TVs playing this content much of the detail was smooth and distinct.

Read more: ​Samsung 2017 QLED Q7 TV: Full, in-depth review
Broadcast TV on HD channels was crisp, colourful and clear.
Broadcast TV on HD channels was crisp, colourful and clear.
Low quality, standard definition TV was generally watchable. However, detailed areas could shimmer annoyingly, especially when panning, as would logos, graphics and writing.
Low quality, standard definition TV was generally watchable. However, detailed areas could shimmer annoyingly, especially when panning, as would logos, graphics and writing.

So all in all, we were very impressed. While it’s not up there with the Hisense ULED in terms of picture quality, it’s not too far behind. Bright colours aside, it’s comparable to Samsung levels of quality. Common-or-garden TV buyers won’t mind the slightly-muted colours and not-quite-black letterbox bars. They may have issues with fine details, logos and graphics shimmering and vibrating if they watch a lot of those kinds of low-quality channels, but it’s a minor thing that doesn’t show up with high-quality content. The all-round picture quality is really very good.

Sound

As TVs have got smaller and thinner we’d have thought sound would have got worse, but we’ve been tremendously impressed with the output coming from impossibly small TVs like the LG OLED, Sony, Samsung and Hisense ULED. Having switched from the latter, it was clear that the Kogan’s audio wasn’t as clear and distinct as the Hisense. It’s passable to most people and rescuable with a sound bar if you can’t bear it. All in all despite dialogue sounding a bit muddier than the competition, it’s acceptable to most people.

Conclusion

After being wowed by Hisense and remembering that the last Kogan TV was a bit of a letdown, we really were very impressed with this. It punches well above its price-tag-based weight and will suit anyone on a budget that really wants a 4K UHD TV – especially a curved one.

Previously, our choice in this area has been Samsung’s 7000 series which, while not as colourful as it’s more-expensive siblings, offered decent value as a curved option. But it’s now on clearance sale at Harvey Norman for $1495- that’s almost double the $799 price of what we have here and we’re inclined to say that picture quality is better on the Kogan (although the Samsung’s sound is a bit better and it has some Smart TV features).

Our verdict on which TV to buy now has an added dimension: as before, if money is no object you buy a 2016 LG OLED TV, otherwise you buy the Hisense ULED 7000 series at (what was until now) a giveaway price of $1295 for a 55-inch model (there are often some great deals for larger screen sizes). If that’s still too expensive then you buy one of these, it’s just as simple as that.

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