A flexible OLED TV screen curves toward an empty seat before a desk in a home office as a camera looks down from a high angle. Behind the TV, LED lights illuminate a blue wall turning it turquoise while on the screen a colorful video game, Astro's Playroo
The OLED Flex

LG's Pricey Adjustable Curve OLED Flex Is a Multi-Class Specialist

You can make trade-offs to save money or money can be the trade-off. The OLED Flex does everything you could want a display to do, but at a cost.

The LG OLED Flex is, at the most basic level, an LG C2 TV with one important special feature: a 42-inch flexible screen. It sits on a large adjustable stand containing the motors that can take the screen anywhere from being a perfectly flat TV to holding a 900R curve, meaning that at its most dramatic curve the screen would represent a slice of circumference for a circle with a 90 centimeter radius.

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What this means in practice is that when you are sitting in front of it at your desk it wraps around you like an old IMAX screen and almost fills your peripheral vision. Its MSRP was $3,000, though it is discounted to $2,500 these days, which means that even now it is about three times the cost of its TV equivalent and almost double the cost of the 42-inch LG C3 TV that has begun to replace the C2 this year. For around the price of the OLED Flex you could buy both the new C3 and Alienware’s ultrawide quantum dot OLED monitor, the AW3423DW.

If that sounds like a terrible value proposition, you are not the only person to think so. When I was†researching what display to put in my new home office, I found a link to Digital Trends’ review of the display, which was the first I had ever heard of it. Editor-at-large Caleb Dennison’s final evaluation of the item was fairly measured, especially in light of its cost, but his framing was dangerous to me personally when he described the OLED Flex as a device that is attempting “to be the best of both the TV and monitor worlds. The end-all, be-all of personal displays. Dare I say, the ultimate display?”

A mocked up screenshot of a fake racing game with an old 1960s style F1 car racing down a brightly lit mountain highway, projected on a curving TV screen with the legend LG OLED Flex on it.

LG OLED Flex promotional image courtesy of LG

As someone who has never failed to ruin an RPG for himself by constructing a hopelessly compromised multi-class character, and who finds maximalist, over-engineered technology inherently fascinating, it almost didn’t matter what Dennison said for the rest of that review. He could have said the Flex had become sentient and killed his family and I would have thought, “Maybe they ironed that out in later production runs.”

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So I messaged my colleagues with a link to the LG store page for the Flex asking a simple question: “Am I a mark or does this sound awesome?”

Nobody I’ve spoken to, with the important and decisive exception of my wife, has thought this device sounds awesome. Yet I gave into astonishment and ordered one, then waited over a month for it to arrive, daydreaming about how perfect it would be and how many problems it would solve.

Emanuel's thoughts.PNG

I don’t do hardware reviews here, I have neither the technical expertise nor the equipment to make a definitive statement about things like color accuracy and response times. But here’s the thing: there are basically no long-term reviews of the OLED Flex from people who live with the damn thing. It is sold and often described as an incredible all-in-one device that comes with decent speakers, cool bias lighting, a special “game center” feature (that it shares in common with the C2), and LG’s Multi-View feature that lets you throw two video sources on screen side-by-side. Taken alongside all that, the adjustable curve becomes the cherry-on-top of a multi-purpose ice cream sundae of a display.

I loved the idea of not having to mount a TV to the wall to adjust viewing angles or distance, of not having to run speakers around my office, of getting bias lighting that threw complementary sprays of color across the walls around my TV in sync with the display without having to mount a bunch of weird Gamer Shit alongside my TV. I fantasized about how Multi-View would let me play games on one side of the display while watching the Cubs, Bulls, and Bears lose on the other half [my editor informs me the Cubs are good now, but I know a false dawn when I see one]. The Flex part of the equation sounded like more of a neat gimmick than a valuable convenience, but taken together the whole package would be perfect for my needs in a way that almost justified the cost.

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Then it arrived, followed closely by regret as those daydreams ran headlong into reality. I will tell you right now, most of those features are underwhelming at best and bullshit at worst. The LG OLED Flex is a TV whose display can adjust to function better as a computer monitor. It doesn’t do anything else much better than a normal LG TV, and there is absolutely no way I would have bought it if I had understood that from the start. Which would have been a mistake, because it turns out I made a great choice, just for all the wrong reasons.

Disillusionment came quickly. Within 30 seconds of powering the TV on for the first time, I realized that Multi-View is incredibly restrictive in terms of what it lets you do. On the C2 and on the OLED Flex it basically lets you watch one HDMI source input alongside either over-the-air TV or alongside the YouTube app. Crucially not the YouTube TV app. If I want to watch YouTube TV, I have to sneak in through a menu option inside the YouTube app, one that appears to launch YouTube TV inside the shell of the normal YouTube app.

It’s a strange and clumsy implementation of what sounded like a great feature, but at least it salvages from complete irrelevance because YouTube is just about the only app that works with Multi-View. If you want to watch anything that’s not on YouTube, like say the Hulu or Peacock apps, you’re out of luck as far as Multi-View is concerned. It supports Airplay but as I don’t have iOS devices that was pretty much moot for me. A reader tried that functionality on their C2 and had a pretty dispiriting experience, which makes me think it would not perform much more reliably on the Flex given how much they share in common.

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The new LG OLED TVs that just came to market, the C3 and G3, can apparently do split screen between two different HDMI source, which could solve all of these issues if you have a PC and a console hooked up to the same display, but until they release an updated OLED Flex based on the newer TVs, this functionality will be something I can only dream about.

A split-screen mode on an OLED TV shows a BMW driving across a gravel road on the lefthand pane, which is showing Gran Turismo 7, while on the right hand pane a group of Boston Celtics players look gravely toward the camera during a close playoff game on YouTube TV.

Gaming and taking photos proved impossible so here is Gran Turismo 7 running its "scapes" idle mode alongside a frustrating Celtics game.


You’ll see a lot of references to the OLED Flex’s 40-watt Atmos speakers. Turns out, that wattage mostly means they can get very loud while remaining deeply mediocre at best. At worst, LG’s awful “AI Sound Pro” audio setting will produce some of the worst sounds you have ever heard in your life. I don’t have any misophonia sensitivities but AI Sound Pro produced a couple reactions that were pretty close to what I imagine people’s experience of it is. Any of the other presets (Standard, Music, Cinema, etc.) is preferable to whatever evil artificial intelligence is powering AI Sound Pro.

At their inoffensive best, the speakers are fine for watching things like sports but for music and movies it doesn’t take long before the absence of bass and a pronounced sibilance that ruins a lot of singing will have you reaching for the headphones. Fortunately, the OLED Flex’s base has a (poorly shielded and annoyingly noisy) 3.5mm jack as well as the expected Bluetooth support, so you can get away from those speakers pretty easily. While they might compare favorably to the speakers on LG’s regular OLED TVs, the OLED Flex’s Atmos speakers could easily be bested by a sub-$200 pair of speakers.

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The built-in bias lighting, likewise, is underwhelming. There is an X-pattern of LED strip lighting on the back of the Flex, which feels like a clever way to make use of the Flex’s enormous and highly adjustable stand. But the lights point straight behind the Flex so the light they cast will be almost entirely hidden behind the screen itself. They are nowhere near bright enough nor angled enough to create the wash of color that the advertising materials will show you, especially if your walls are painted anything but white.

A pale wash of red light spills from the darkened shape of a monitor stand against a wall while the screen shows an image of Darth Vader against a red backdrop

You basically have to stand next to the screen to really get much of an effect from the LED lights.

So the OLED Flex made an awful first impression. My goal had been to buy a device that did everything I could imagine wanting in my office, and that impulse had led me to buy the F-35 of TVs: an expensive, awkward oddity that wasn’t particularly good at any of the secondary roles that were such a huge part of the argument for buying it. What I was left with, then, was a TV with an adjustable curve. Which is probably what I should have expected from the beginning.

Using a special version of LG’s now-familiar Magic Remote, you can set the flex at 5-point intervals from Flat-to-100. Once you give the TV a setting, motors in the stand drive its arms to push the screen’s edges into position. The motors themselves are pretty quiet but occasionally you hear clicks and pops as the thick, plasticky screen is bent into its new shape that will absolutely feed any underlying anxieties you have about the OLED Flex’s longevity.

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When you turn the TV off, the arms bring the OLED Flex back to its flat setting, which makes me wonder about which part of the Flex LG is protecting by releasing this tension: the arms or the screen. Based on what options you choose, the Flex can go back to its previous curvature settings on startup or wait for you to make adjustments. Plus, it will store two preset curve settings for quick changes.

As I said, it’s all impressive, but I wasn’t sure it was more than a gimmick, especially since the display was underwhelming in so many other respects. I was set to return it but I needed to sit with it for a few days and just try it as a flat display before I made a decision. And across those few days, using it only as the kind of regular 42-inch TV I’d get to replace it, I realized that a flexible screen is way more impactful and comfortable than I ever would have expected.

Let’s talk for a second about my use-case. I have a nice home theater system with an LG CX OLED screen and a 5.1 surround system in the living room that awkwardly doubled as my office for the last four years. I just built a dedicated office in a corner of my loft, which meant that my workspace was moving away from the shrine to hi-fi AV equipment that I have built at the center of my home. The scenario I wanted to avoid was having the “good” home theater setup still located in the living room while feeling like my office was a lesser alternative, because one reason we decided to build this office was so that my work and video games would stop monopolizing the living room. So I wanted to have something in my office that would feel both as good as playing games in the living room while also feeling distinct from it. Yes, I am aware we are approaching Bourbon dynasty levels of privilege and self-indulgence.

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For streaming purposes, I needed a 16:9 display to avoid having the kind of weird window sizes that cause so many issues when streaming from a widescreen monitor, which ruled out a lot of interesting new monitors. Yet the display had to support variable refresh rates and G-Sync for gaming, the latter of which has become truly indispensable. I wanted an OLED because my vertical alignment (VA) and in-plane switching monitors (IPS) have always been so markedly inferior to my OLED TV in terms of lighting and color.

Above all, it had to be a display that was just as comfortable to use when sitting right in front of it using a mouse and keyboard, or when I was sitting a few feet away playing racing games with a wheel and pedals, or when I was sitting across in a lounge chair in a corner of the office. In other words, it needed to be as good at being a monitor as it was at being a TV and transition gracefully, without hassle, between those setups. Any 48-inch TV was ruled out by how impossibly overbearing it would be at desktop distances, and most smaller monitors were ruled out by how hard they’d be to see from distances greater than that.

What I noticed after using the Flex as a flat display was that, for one thing, I never stopped noticing the convex appearance of the image after using the curve. The minute I flattened the screen out, the image looked bowed toward me, like I was looking at it through a fisheye lens. I assumed that would go away once I went a few days without curving the screen, but it never did. The effect of having the edges of the screen so much further from my eyes than the center was not something my brain simply re-adjusted to. The sense of distortion was persistent once I had noticed it, even days later.

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More subjectively, I found it way easier to work and play with the curve than without it. It was easier on the eyes, perfect for longer and more focused sessions. Likewise, when I had the curve at its maximum and was sitting up close, it really did cut out a lot of distraction. I’m someone who can’t help but look up and engage every time someone enters or leaves a room, but with the screen wrapping to the edges of my field of view, I was completely absorbed. I don’t know that I buy the notion that a curved screen makes you feel that much more immersed in a game’s action but from up close it definitely makes your surroundings less intrusive.

Meanwhile, what is filling your vision is undeniably a tremendous image. There are a countless reviews of regular LG C2’s from people who can better speak to what sets it apart from other TVs, but what’s maybe the most revelatory thing about the Flex is that you are often looking at a great 4K screen from only a few feet away and the image doesn’t feel like it loses any clarity or sharpness. In terms of viewing angle the Flex looks bigger to me than the TV in my living room looks when I am sitting on my couch about six or seven feet from the screen, and yet that size doesn’t reveal any weaknesses in the display, nor does it feel like I am sitting too close to the front of a movie theater. It just rewards you with more detail.

That’s a double-edged luxury in games like Fortnite, which looks absolutely phenomenal at 4K with a ton of fancy graphics options enabled. The busier graphics and the huge screen size introduces a lot of distractions, like the too-vivid and arresting wildlife that will constantly pull your eye toward it when you are scanning for movement in the distance. It’s embarrassing how often I’ve checked to see what caught my eye and, through a sniper scope, seen a fuchsia butterfly carelessly flitting over a bed of flowers. But the perfect detail and legibility is a necessity for strategy games, with their info-rich displays and reams of text. While playing games like Total War and Steel Division has always been a fun novelty in the home theater setting, they’ve never quite felt right. I always felt like I was simultaneously too far from the screen and yet also too close to see what was going on. That problem disappeared with the Flex, which is what decisively sold me on it. If the Flex can make playing Crusader Kings 3 just inches away from a 42-inch display not only not ridiculous but perhaps more comfortable and convenient than a regular monitor, then something special is going on.

As for doing work, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was to be writing on the Flex’s 4K display, but I was even more delighted by a feature that is unique to the Flex in LG’s lineup: in addition to changing aspect ratios like the rest of the C2 TVs, the Flex can also scale its display from 42-inches to 32 and 27-inches, effectively leaving the edges of the screen black while shrinking the display area to a more typical monitor-like size in the middle without losing any appreciable fidelity or clarity. This proved to be just about perfect for writing and office work, one of the few unique Flex features that truly lived up to its promise and did a lot to eliminate the tradeoffs between a TV and a monitor. Writing late at night in a dim room, it felt like I was just working on a typical 27-inch display, so completely did the unused margins of the OLED Flex disappear. 

A split display of a discord window and a text document side by side in windows across a 27-inch dispay area withing a 42 inch screen.

Look getting an exposure value where you could make out the display and the shape of the black screen was hard, okay?

Likewise, when I changed the aspect ratio on the Flex to an ultrawide setting (like the C2, it supports 21:9 and 32:9) my graphics card detected the new resolutions as native options so I could basically turn the screen into different types of ultrawide display without much hassle and surprisingly little distortion, great for those times when I need to have a ton of windows open and visible across the screen. Whether there are long term concerns about pixel health if you use this feature extensively, I couldn’t tell you, but these are great now-and-then options to have. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say it’s like several displays in one but it’s capable of doing a hell of a lot more than any one display I’ve ever owned.

So is it worth it? It’s a unique device and one that is tailored to really unusual requirements or preferences that have already ruled out a lot of the obvious alternatives. Most people need either a monitor or a TV and, if they do need to split the difference, a good wall or desk mount can provide most of the important adjustment options people need to enhance the usability of a TV or a monitor. Even the most lavish setups in this vein will come in for less than the OLED Flex costs. However, those will also still come with a few compromises that the Flex does not, and if you can’t or won’t make those compromises, the Flex suddenly becomes one of the best selections out of a very small set of options (many of which are just LG OLED screens in different form factors or wearing different badges).

Ironically, I think the people for whom the Flex is perfect are the ones least likely to ever drop this kind of money on a display: folks living in small apartments where a room has to pull double duty between being a workplace and a leisure center. This thing would have been a godsend in the little one bedrooms and studios we lived in when we first moved to Boston, clearing up a lot of horrible clutter and bad room layouts, but it also costs more than I ever paid in rent in any of those places. It might well have paid for itself in terms of convenience but there was absolutely never a time I would have felt good buying something like the Flex even if, in the end, it had felt like the perfect response to the problems posed by a small living space.

However, there are scenarios where you want a good monitor for your desk and a good TV for the room your desk is sitting in. The OLED Flex doesn’t make you prioritize one over the other, and for the moment that seems like it makes it unique in the space. It’s not a cost-effective solution but multi-classing never is. But it sure is nice to be ready for any kind of adventure.