If you’re looking for a TV with a picture so good that when watching David Attenborough’s latest documentary you feel like you’re actually in nature, then you need to check out LG’s latest OLED range.
LG is the king of OLED — considered the gold standard in TV display technology — and the company has imbued its latest range of high-end TVs with improved intelligence and features that make them a true standout.
If you’re willing to spend a bit of money, the C9 4K OLED TV is probably the sweet spot for performance and price and offers the most affordable OLED experience from LG this year, sitting below the E9 and W9 options.
I had the chance to try out the 65 inch C9 TV for a night recently (in a swanky hotel at LG’s expense) and was reminded just how crisp and eye-poppingly detailed a TV can actually look.
At $6399, it’s not exactly cheap (you can opt for the 55 inch at $3899), but it’s a TV that is fully future proof, offers a high-quality user experience that can be the vocal point for the smart devices around your home and is compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple AirPlay 2.
LG has been working with audio engineering company Meridian in recent years to improve its sound equipment, and along for the ride with the review unit was LG’s SL10YG soundbar ($1699) that pumped out a rich and well calibrated sound. The soundbar is designed to bounce parts of the audio off its surroundings to provide an immersive surround-sound audio experience.
It looks similar to its popular C8 predecessor, which was considered one of the best TV options out there for enjoying high-quality picture.
The C9 looks much the same with a super thin screen that can blend into any room. It has a stand on the back that LG has reduced in depth compared to last year’s model. Or there is the option of wall mounting if you purchase a special bracket from the manufacturer.
The C9 TV supports HDMI 2.1, which provides a better experience and picture quality when watching content from external sources thanks to the improved throughput provided by the upgrade in HDMI technology. It supports a faster refresh rate and more frames per second.
If you’re buying this TV, you’re doing so for the exceptional picture quality. As we have come to expect with LG’s top TVs, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos are back.
Dolby’s stellar high-dynamic range video format provides a hyper-rich colour gamut and deeper black. While Dolby Atmos is a multidimensional surround-sound technique that is object-based, rather than channel-based, and treats sound elements as virtual objects that can be placed anywhere. Coupled with support for HDR10, essentially the twin technologies ensure that given you have the right equipment, your movie watching experience is about as good as a TV can look and sound.
The most significant upgrade to the C9 is the Alpha 9 second generation intelligent processor, which can be found on board LG’s top range of 2019 TVs.
The AI processor is responsible for handling tasks like upscaling picture quality from non 4K sources and finetuning the settings to deliver the optimal picture quality.
It has a handy ability to apply real-time colour correction and adjust the brightness and contrast of the display depending on the ambient lighting in your living room. To test this out, you can hold your smartphone camera to the bottom of the screen and watch as the sensors pick up the change in light and adjust the picture to allow for greater detail to be viewed. It brightens the shadows to reveal more detail without washing out the picture and works quite well.
An improved Dynamic Tone Mapping feature also delivers a significantly higher baseline brightness level with high dynamic range (HDR) sources.
The C9 is part of LG’s ThinQ series of gadgets, which is the company’s branding for its smart internet-enabled devices. The company’s voice recognition — allowing users to deliver voice commands to a microphone in the remote control — is very impressive.
Depending on the command, it will be sent to either LG’s servers (for things like volume adjustment) or Google’s servers (for things like restaurant recommendations) to be handled. Rather amazingly, it even spelt my surname correctly when dictated to once.
UPDATES TO WEBOS
The TV is powered by LG’s WebOS platform, which comes with some new updates for its 2019 range.
Along the menu bar, which appears along the bottom of the TV, if you hover over an icon, a second layer of menu pops up with additional information. For instance, if you hover the remote control pointer over Netflix, a row of icons pop up linking directly to shows you’ve been watching on the streaming service.
The launcher bar also has a new Intelligent Edit feature, which when turned on will automatically and continuously arrange the menu bar in order of the most-used apps. Given the fact you can add specific YouTube channels to the menu bar, this is a handy feature because it has the potential to get pretty long.
SOUNDBAR WORTH CONSIDERING
The SL10YG soundbar also has AI smarts and Google Assistant integration. The soundbar is able to decode most surround audio formats and provides a dynamic, and you shouldn’t have to tinker with the settings to get the right level of dialogue and ambient sound.
The 5.1.2 channel soundbar (five channels and a subwoofer, plus two additional speakers adding height information in stereo) is a worthwhile addition if you are already spending big on a TV.
The 570W speaker system pumps out a level of volume that will suffice for most users. In a large space it doesn’t exactly fill the room, but sitting in front of the TV where the speakers are directed, it ensures you have a high-quality sound experience in a sleek device that rests under your TV and comes with a wireless subwoofer.
WHY OLED IS KING
The deep inky black, rich colour and sharp resolution of OLED displays are what all TV lovers should consider.
Brands differ slightly in how they aim to boost brightness, achieve perfect blacks and produce a wide colour gamut and offer different options at different price points.
An important distinction in TV screen technology is between LCD/LED and OLED screens and the different ways the TVs illuminate the pixels on the display.
LCD (liquid crystal display) and LED TVs can offer much higher screen luminance whereas OLED (organic light emitting diode) TVs offer precise control per pixel.
Instead of having a constant light source at the back and a panel to either allow the light or block it out like LCD and LED TVs, an OLED display will only light up each pixel that needs to be on.
As a result OLED is capable of a perfect black picture with no light leakage, providing better contrast. This “perfect black” is referred to as zero nits and is really only truly possible on OLED displays.
LG is the only maker of OLED panels, and many other brands buy them before applying their own technology to the end product.
However, Samsung — a bitter rival of fellow Korean-based LG — has backed a different horse. It has QLED displays (the Q stands for Quantum-dot) that use a film of tiny crystal semiconductor particles that can be precisely controlled for their colour output.
You can certainly find cheaper OLED TVs on the market (for instance HiSense is selling a 55 inch OLED TV for less than $1500), but if you’re looking for the real McCoy, it’s definitely worth checking out LG’s C9 range.