Review: LG C8 OLED

04 May 2018 | Rasmus Larsen


C8 is the successor to last year’s C7 and LG’s most affordable 2018 OLED model with the Alpha 9 video processor. For the first time, C8 will also be available in a 77-inch size that will be significantly more affordable than any 77-inch OLED TV in the past. In another first, LG’s 2018 line-up supports auto-calibration on an underlying hardware level, which we will examine in depth. And of course, you still get 4K resolution, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and much more.

Without any major panel upgrades this year, we are curious to find out whether LG can improve further on OLED TV picture quality. And how does C8 compare to the Sony A8F? Let’s find out.

Also read: LG 2018 TV line-up


Price and retailers:

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Specifications

55"
OLED panel
4K UHD (3840x2160)
HDR (HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, Advanced HDR by Technicolor)
DCI-P3 color space
Stand (fixed)
Wall (VESA compatible)
(HxWxD) 70.7 x 122.8 x 4.7 cm (without stand)
16.3 kg (without stand)
HDMI (4x 2.0)
USB (3x)
Ethernet
1x CI+
Optical audio
HDMI-ARC (1x)
Headphone jack
40W stereo
DVB T/T2/C/S2
WiFi (ac standard)
MPEG4
HEVC
VP9-2
webOS 4.0
’Magic remote’
Manual
Remote control
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First impressions


LG C8 has a new stand that is quite dominant. Just below the TV panel there is a long cut-out, which serves to project sound from the speakers hidden inside the electronics box towards the viewer – for more direct sound. One thing to note here is that the slide stand makes it difficult to place a soundbar just in front of the TV. Of course, you can easily dismount the base and put the TV on a wall.

LG C8 is – like all other OLED TVs – extremely thin on the upper half but significantly thicker on the bottom half due to the electronics box that holds power supply, connection ports etc. As you may know, LG is also selling a ”wallpaper” W series OLED that has an external soundbar that holds all of the components to drive the TV but it is also a lot more expensive. LG B8, C8, and E8 still have the “hump”.

A few of the connection ports continue to face out towards the wall, which is unfortunate if you want to wall-mount the TV. Most manufacturers continue to ignore this glaring design fault and it has been ongoing for years so at this point it seems as if they just don’t care.




If you have never seen an OLED TV in the flesh, the panel’s slenderness will surely impress you but from a design point of view there is not much to add to the conversation here. Until manufacturers start throwing out analog circuits, TV tuners, and other legacy connections, the electronics box will continue to take up considerable space behind the TV – either that or a more modular solution.

LG Display’s OLED panels are some of the least reflective display panels on the market. The glossy coating ensures that colors and contrast stay very vibrant even in bright living room environments. However, there are reflections in the panel and there are no significant improvements to report this year.


LG C8 review



User experience & features

LG continues to use its in-house webOS platform across its TV line-up, and webOS has now reached version 4.0. LG has also partnered with Google and Amazon to implement Google Assistant and Alexa features into its TVs.

Operating system & smart-TV

webOS is becoming stale
LG’s webOS has a decent selection of the most popular apps, including Amazon Video, Netflix, HBO, and YouTube, but it does not offer the rich selection of apps that is available on platforms such as Android TV, FireTV, and particularly Apple TV. The webOS app store is not exactly pulsating with energy and after 4-5 years it is clear that LG has failed to attract developers.

webOS 4.0 looks familiar and there are no major new features included with the release – unless you count voice assistant features as part of webOS.

We should also stress that the latest version will only be available on the 2018 models. No software update has been announced for any of the previous generations of LG’s webOS TVs, which effectively means that your TV’s software will be outdated in less than a year. This is very bad practice and something that we will start putting the spotlight on in our TV reviews going forward.

Apps on webOS are based open web standards so most of them feel as if you are using a glorified website on a TV. It is not a particularly good experience but it works. Judging from Roku’s success in the market place one could easily be tempted to think that users simply accept subpar user experiences on TVs but a new generation of true TV operating systems such as Apple tvOS is emerging and already raising the bar.

The actual webOS interface is fast and smooth but apps can take many seconds to load. Apps remain in the TV’s memory and webOS technically supports multitasking but the memory is cleared as soon as you turn off the TV, meaning that apps have to load again almost every time you use them. This is in stark contrast to always-on devices such as Apple TV and FireTV.

LG is bringing Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa integration to its TVs this year (English, French, and German). Unfortunately, the voice assistants are not yet active in our region so we cannot comment on the functionality other than embedding this video presentation from CES 2018.




LG has implemented a new ‘Gallery’ mode that shows you pictures or videos of landscapes when the TV is not in use. There are several beautiful photos available and the slow-paced videos in some way resemble what Apple is doing with the Apple TV’s slow-motion videos. You can also upload your own photos and LG will add more photos as time passed. It is a nice little feature but know that it consumes almost as much energy as watching TV.




As for webOS, there is really not much new to add to the conversation. If you liked webOS in the past, you will still like webOS. If you hated the way that you have to control a user interface by waving your hand around in the air, you will still hate it. The platform works, which is not always a given in the TV world, but it is starting to feel stale. This is the second year in a row without any major updates besides integration of voice assistant, which works only in select few markets.

It may sound a little hysterical but I think it is time to ask if webOS has a future on TV? If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have been more optimistic but I am beginning to doubt that LG can create a vibrant and evolving TV operating system when you consider how far along other TV operating systems such as Apple’s tvOS have come in a very short time. This is ultimately up to the individual consumer to decide but we are observing that more and more are connecting an Apple TV 4K to their high-end TV, despite the TV offered a handful of apps, which actually says a lot about the state of “Smart TV”.

Operation

LG continues to push its ‘Magic Remote’, a motion-enabled remote control that lets you move a cursor on the actual TV screen, kind of like a PC mouse but from afar – or a Nintendo Wii. While it is possible to use the left/right/down/up arrow keys, the cursor takes over as soon as you move your hand more than a few centimeters in the air. There is currently no way to deactivate the motion-enabled cursor from the user menu.

Peculiarly, Bang & Olufsen and LG Electronics’ TV partnership gave us a version of webOS that does not rely on the motion-enabled remote control. In my humble opinion this arrangement actually offers a better webOS user experience. The entire user interface on webOS is built around left/right/up/down navigation so why try to force a different input method on top of it?

LG’s Magic Remote was missing in the box when we had our sample delivered so we had to use a standard IR LG remote control. You can also set up a universal remote to control LG’s TVs or use a HDMI CEC-enabled solution such as the remote for Apple TV or Fire TV. These external boxes can control audio volume and even let you turn on and off the TV.


TV channels, recording & sound

The TV guide and all channel related features are more or less identical to last year’s version of webOS 3.5 so we will not clutter the space here by going through all of it again. The European 55- and 65-inch versions of C8 do not come with a built-in twin-tuner but the 77-inch does.

We have included pictures from a previous review below.




We were pleasantly surprised to hear the built-in speakers in action. The new stand design uses a channeling mechanism to direct sound towards the viewer. The effect is more direct sound with clear voices.

In addition, C8 has a better grip of the bass than LG’s previous C and B OLED ranges. We would not describe it as powerful but it helps add some depth to the sound experience. The built-in speakers are by no means great and we still recommend external speakers for the best movie experience but this is definitely an improvement over last year’s B7/C7 models and a decent solution for casual TV viewing.


Calibration


LG and SpectraCal/CalMAN have partnered to implement hardware-based auto-calibration in LG’s 2018 line-up of TVs, including the C8. This is the first time that auto-calibration can been done on an hardware level, which means that rather than adjusting the picture menu settings, the CalMAN software communicates directly with the TV on underlying level. This ensures faster and potentially more accurate calibration because the system can take hundreds or thousands of measurements over a short span of time, something that would simply not be possible manually. To use auto-calibration you need a pattern generator (such as VideoForge Pro) as well as a meter (X-Rite, Konica Minolta etc.). You also need the latest CalMAN software. We own all of this equipment since we use it for testing TVs so we were able to examine how auto-calibration works.

Seeing the TV and CalMAN automatically communicate and adjust the picture on-the-go – something that can easily take an hour or more to do manually, depending on how accurate you want the picture – is a joy to behold (most of the time). Of course, very few people have this kind of equipment but if you hire a professional calibrator with the right equipment, he will be able to calibrate your LG 2018 OLED even more accurately – in SDR, HDR10, and Dolby Vision mode. SpectraCal also makes the point that because all of this happens on the hardware level, you can actually better retain full HDR peak brightness and full color saturation compared to when doing this manually through the picture settings menu, simply because adjusting the menu settings typically reduce color saturation and brightness somewhat.


LG C8 review


Auto-calibration is not completely bug-free at the moment. Initially, the CalMAN software recognized the TV on the network but failed to connect to it. It took a second try. During SDR calibration, we encountered a bug where the LUT was not properly loaded in to C8, which effectively meant that the TV reproduced a ‘wide’ color gamut after SDR auto-calibration. The way that autocal is supposed to work is that the TV will initially switch (and be locked) to ‘wide’ color gamut, while the uploaded LUT profile is supposed to adjust the gamut to fit Rec.709 fir accurate color representation. Pulling the power cable from the TV and forcing it to do a hard restart solved the problem, and the LUT was correctly loaded for all future autocal sessions that we did. We also encountered a few bugs during HDR calibration where the patterns would suddenly look wrong, which resulted in wrong measurements and therefore wrong calibration. We are sure that SpectraCal will continue to improve these things and despite these troubles, autocal on an LG 2018 OLED TV is really impressive.

Autocal works with the following picture modes: Cinema, ISF Expert (Dark & Bright), Game, Technicolor, HDR Cinema, HDR Game, HDR Technicolor, Dolby Vision Cinema Home, Dolby Vision Cinema, and Dolby Vision Game. Having this available for Game mode as well as the HDR picture modes is a big plus. We did a auto-calibration pass for several pictures in row, something that would have taken hours to do manually, and in the graphs below you can see how big an improvement we got with the HDR Game mode, which is very poor out of the box. This was actually a quick pass where we set our dE target to “less than 3”. If you have more time you can aim for higher accuracy.

This is how calibration should work and despite being reserved for the few as it requires you to acquire expensive equipment or here a calibrator, it lays a new foundation that we hope SpectraCal will build on – and expand support to more TVs from more manufacturers – as we are moving into an era of HDR that requires colors to be accurate at far more luminance levels. Ensuring accurate HDR representation is very hard to do manually even with expensive equipment but autocal will make it possible.

With that being said, we should also compliment LG for offering several very accurate picture modes, including ISF and Technicolor (see the graph for ISF below – Technicolor is not included as it is very similar). Honestly, with so accurate colors out-of-the-box investing in a full calibration to gain the last few percentages seems like overkill for most users. LG’s HDR modes still need calibration, however. And now LG just needs to get rid of the Standard and Vivid modes…





Measurements


In our "measurements" section we include all measurements and our suggested calibration settings. If you want to learn more about our test methodology click here.

Measurements Out-of-boxCalibrated
Black level 0.00 cd/m2 0.00 cd/m2
Black level (HDR) 0.00 cd/m2 0.00 cd/m2
Brightness 288 cd/m2 217 cd/m2
Peak brightness (HDR) 838 nits (5% window – D65)
825 nits (10% window – D65)
882 nits (10% window - higher color temp)
Contrast Infinite Infinite
Contrast (HDR) Infinite Infinite
Input lag 100 ms (Cinema) 21.4 ms (Game Mode)
DCI-P3 95% -
Rec.2020 68% -

Power consumptionOut-of-box Calibrated
SDR 168 W 150 W
HDR 210 W (mixed content) 195 W (mixed content)
Standby 0.1 W

Group Setting Value
Picture profile ISF Expert Dark
Energy Saving Off
Aspect ratio settings Aspect ratio Original
Just scan On
Global OLED Light 62
Contrast 85
Brightness 50
Sharpness 10
Color 50
Tint 0
Expert Dynamic contrast Off
Super resolution Off
Color gamut Auto
Gamma 2.2
White balance Color temp Warm2
Method 2 point
R High -11
G High 10
B High -1
R Low -3
G Low 0
B Low 1
Picture options Noise reduction Off
MPEG noise reduction Off
Black level Low
Motion Eye Care Off
TruMotion Off / Custom (0, 5)
Motion Pro Off
Operation Time
Start-up (until picture comes on) 4 s
Start-up (until responsive) 5 s
Netflix app start-up 7 s
Amazon app start-up 8 s
Youtube app start-up 6 s
Video file / sourceSpecs Status
Amazon 4K HDR 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 10 bit colors - Rec.2020 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – HEVC Works
Netflix 4K HDR 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 10 bit colors - Rec.2020 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – HEVC Works
YouTube 4K HDR 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 10 bit colors - Rec.2020 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – VP9 Profile2 Works
Dubai 4K 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 23.976fps – 10 bit colors - BT.709 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 51.4 Mbps bitrate – HEVC - .ts file Works
Costa Rica 4K 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – BT.709 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 12.71 Mbps bitrate – VP9 - .mkv file Works
Terrifying Pyroclast 4K 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – BT.709 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – variable bitrate – VP9 - .mkv file Works
Big Buck Bunny HD (.ts version) HD (1920x1080 pixels) – 8 bit colors - YUV color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 2.5 Mbps bitrate – 60fps - HEVC - .ts file Works
LG Arctique 4K 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 8 bit colors – YUV color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 50.0 Mbps bitrate – 29.970fps - AVC - .mp4 file Works
Eutelsat 4K demo 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 10 bit colors – YUV color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 23.1 Mbps bitrate – 50fps - HEVC - .ts file Works
Cymatic Jazz HLG 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 60fps frame rate – 10 bit colors – BT.2020 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 20.8 Mbps bitrate – VP9-2 – HLG Works
Ghost Towns 8K 8K (7680x4320 pixels) – variable frame rate – 8 bit colors - YUV color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 20.7 Mbps bitrate – AVC - .mp4 file Fails
HFR (100fps) test file 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 100fps – 10 bit colors – Rec.2020 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 23.7 Mbps bitrate – HEVC - .ts file Works

Note: We primarily used auto-calibration but the suggested picture settings above are based on a manual calibration. It is not possible to share picture settings from an auto-cal pass since these are embedded directly into the TV on an underlying hardware level (and many picture settings in the menu get locket). We only offer calibration settings for SDR, not yet HDR. For our calibration we did not use the ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the backlight setting according to your environment.


LG C8 review


Picture quality


There is no significant OLED panel upgrade from LG Display this year and if you take a look at our measurements table, C8 compares to last year’s B7 in most areas. We therefore turn our attention improvements in other areas than the OLED panel.

Before we dig in we want to set the tone. Over the last couple of years, OLED TVs have continuously been improved and consistently been awarded our Reference Awards. They deliver excellent SD, HD and 4K picture quality, and perhaps most importantly performance is very consistent.

The big breakthrough came with HDR. We believe that you get the best HDR picture quality on an OLED panel due to OLED’s pixel-level luminance and color control, which is fundamental to HDR performance as opposed to more isolated areas such as peak brightness and color volume, which are also very important factors but only if the foundation is in place first. And all of this applies to C8, too. Picture quality is excellent. We will examine HDR more in-depth later in this section.




LG’s C8, E8, G8, and W8 have a new brain in the form of the ‘Alpha 9’ video processor, which is up to 40% faster than last year’s chip. The B8 will use a scaled-down version called ‘Alpha 7’. All of that extra power is partly used for picture enhancement systems so they go towards things such as “intelligent” sharpness, contrast enhancement, noise reduction, and so on. These are enhancements that we prefer to turn off simply because they are remnant of the analog world and inferior displays.

If you watch mostly SD video or heavily compressed video, there are some benefits to gain. We found that the new ‘Alpha 9’ is quite effective at reducing noise. It also manages to reduce color banding (de-contour setting) inherently found in some video content, which can prove beneficial even for high-quality content. It passed our de-interlacing and upscaling tests. It also improves motion (which we will get back to in a moment), and it lets you upscale standard video content to HDR (which you shouldn’t do).

Let us try with the classic car metaphor. You wouldn’t take a Ferrari for a spin on the field to find and then go back to the car manufacturer to ask for off-road wheels. You would ask for a road instead. It is not any different with a TV. You don’t feed a TV with subpar video quality and then go back to the manufacturer and ask for better noise reduction or up-scaling. You feed it with better content. If you want smoother motion you should root for HFR (High Frame Rate). 24fps video is simply not smooth or sharp. If you want more impact and punch in brightness as well as more saturated and lifelike colors, you root for HDR. If you want finer details, less banding, and less detail artefacts, you root for higher resolution and bitrate.

Don’t get me wrong here. Alpha 9 is an improvement in several areas but we had just hoped that a new design would allow for some more fundamental improvements such as support for variable refresh rate (FreeSync and HDMI VRR), reduced input lag, QMS (quick media switching – i.e. no black screens when switching refresh rate) etc. Perhaps LG is just laying the foundation here. Alpha 9 already supports 4K + HFR (100 or 120fps video) – just not via HDMI. That requires HDMI 2.1 – and the same applies to HDMI VRR. Supporting 4K at 120fps also suggests that it can process 8K video at 60fps, and we suspect that LG is planning to launch its first 8K OLED later this year or in 2019. However, you will not get to enjoy 4K HFR (via HDMI) or variable refresh rate with C8. At this point in time, Alpha 9 is a nice addition to LG’s already-excellent OLED TV but it is not a breakthrough. We suspect that the breakthrough will come next year when HDMI 2.1 hopefully gets implemented.




Let us turn our attention to motion performance. As mentioned, LG’s 2018 TVs are the first to support video at up to 100 and 120 frames per second. This should not be confused with manufacturer’s claims of 100 or 200Hz panels. 100/120fps is also referred to as ‘High Frame Rate’ or HFR and is a development that will finally bring about silky-smooth and ultra-sharp video motion. C8 supports HFR via USB and apps/streaming and our tests on C8 show that it HFR video delivers a striking and very visible improvement in motion. Unfortunately, the 2018 LG OLED generation does not support HFR via HDMI, which puts a damper on things.




With that being said, we are happy to conclude that LG has also improved non-HFR motion performance this year. C8 has better motion resolution than last year’s models, and if you want to tweak things further the TruMotion system lets you nudge up the de-blur setting to further improve motion detail without introducing critical motion artefacts. I still prefer to deactivate TruMotion, though.

The market has been pushing LG and LG Display to include black frame insertion (BFI) in the OLED panels for a few years now but having the technology implemented in the LG 2018 models (including C8), we can see why LG has been hesitant. By inserting very short black frames into the video stream, BFI technology can help improve motion resolution. Unfortunately, activated BFI also makes the OLED panel flicker so much that it is close to impossible to enjoy the great picture quality. We strongly advice that you to leave ‘Motion Pro’ off, which is the default setting for a reason. Don’t ruin your eyes – and don’t buy a 2018 OLED based on this development.

We compared LG C8 head-to-head with the Sony 2018 A8F OLED and motion performance was almost identical. A8F had a slight edge perhaps but it was incredibly close, which is probably a result of ‘Alpha 9’. We also compared HDR video performance and again, things were incredibly close. We were slightly limited by the fact that our C8 had a 55” panel whereas Sony A8F had a 65-inch panel but performance was so identical that you would have to have the two TVs side-by-side to really spot any significant differences. LG had slightly higher peak brightness in some instances but Sony at times retained better saturation in the brightest colors. We call it a draw. We have included a few photos for your pleasure below be please note that it is not practical to take SDR photos of HDR video. Please don’t read too much into them. The motion photo also suggests that there is a major color temperature difference between the two calibrated TVs but it was much less pronounced in practice.




LG C8 also supports Dolby Vision, whereas the update is still pending for Sony A8F (DV on Sony is always just around the corner…). Dolby Vision has been a hotly discussed subject over the last year. Most would probably agree that the premium HDR format does offer meaningful advantages over the baseline HDR10 format but the nasty “raised black” bug has put a damper on excitement. Dolby has vowed to fix it by issuing new firmware to TV manufacturers but owners of 2016 and 2017 TVs are still waiting anxiously for it to arrive.

We had expected the bug to be fixed in the 2018 LG OLED line-up but unfortunately that is not the case. We continue to observe issues with raised blacks in the black bars in movies like Netflix’s Bright. And to be clear; the issue appears to affect HDMI sources only (we used the Apple TV 4K). Playing the same content via the built-in Netflix app on LG’s TV does not replicate the issue. This is obviously disappointing.

We reached out to the company and one of LG Electronics’ Korean engineers responsible for TV development got back to us and explained that LG is aware of the issue, which is believed to be caused by both LG’s TVs and Apple TV 4K. He says that a coming tvOS update (version 11.4) is expected to fix the issue once the software is released. Additionally, the following statement was sent to FlatpanelsHD.

- ”We’d got the issue of Apple TV’s Dolby Vision in the last December first in 2017 models. The issue was caused by both LG TV and Apple TV, and Dolby engineers worked for it with us.”

However, this does not match what FlatpanelsHD is observing. We are already running tvOS version 11.4 (beta) on Apple TV 4K. At the time of review, we also had the Loewe bild 5 OLED. Loewe was – like LG – one of the first manufacturers to implement Dolby Vision and interestedly it does not suffer from the “raised black” issue. The black bars were inky black on Loewe bild 5 in all of our tests. Furthermore, comparing the two TVs revealed that the raised blacks on LG C8 actually extend up into the darkest parts of the picture. We have tried to capture it on camera while watching Godless (Left: LG C8 (2s exposure) – Right: Loewe bild 5 (2s exposure)) on Netflix (via HDMI input). Please note that we have deliberately overexposed the photos with our camera to better illustrate the issue as these scenes are very dark in nature so please ignore colors (blown out colors caused by long exposure shot), details, and factors others than the raised blacks.




And here’s another example of raised blacks while playing Netflix’s Bright in Dolby Vision on LG C8. Again, the Loewe bild 5 did not suffer from the issue. The issue can also be replicated on C8 with several 4K Dolby Vision titles in iTunes.


LG C8 test


With that being said, HDR still looks extremely impressive. OLED continues to deliver the best HDR picture quality out there due to the true black (except for certain Dolby Vision content), vibrant colors, and most importantly pixel-level luminance and color control. Some high-end LCD TVs can hit higher peak brightness levels but most people seem confused about how that actually plays out in practice. The best LCD TVs have only a couple of hundreds dimming zones that cover more than 8 million pixels, meaning that a bright object has to be fairly large in order for the LCD TV to illuminate it precisely and to full capacity. And even then, you will often see blooming or other light artefacts around the bright object. LCD TVs can also only maintain peak brightness for only a very short period of time – and take a little time to reach full peak brightness – because voltage is boosted into the LEDs.

There are no such issues on OLED TVs because each individual pixel is a separate light emitting diode. We have seen several demonstrations where specular highlights on OLED TVs look both brighter and far more intense than on a flagship LCD TV, despite the LCD having higher peak brightness on paper. A night sky, lights glowing in the dark, a car’s headlights, a flashlight etc. LCD TVs on the other hand can hit higher peak brightness in overall bright scenes such as an outdoor scene where OLED TVs reduce brightness due to power constraints (so-called an ABL – automatic brightness limiter). You can see how peak brightness drops as you fill more and more of the LG C8’s OLED panel with a bright box in the graph below. “Window 2%” means that 98% of the screen is black with a white box taking up the remaining 2%. “Full 100%” means that the full screen is white. As you can see, OLED panels start to reduce peak brightness between 10 and 25%.


LG C8 review


As said, there are no major OLED panel improvements this year. Peak brightness was measured to 838 nits (5% at D65), which is about 100 nits higher than we measured on B7 last year and a nice bonus but hardly a big step forward. DCI-P3 coverage was a single percentage point higher but this may just come down to panel variation. LG explains that it has made some refinements to how the Alpha 9 processor retains highlight details (in the sky, clouds etc.) and compared to at least the 2016 OLED generation we do see visible improvements. It is hard to say how much improvement there is over last year’s models without having one side-by-side. It is a little disappointing that LG is not delivering meaningful panel upgrades this year as there is plenty of room for improvement in the HDR standards that can define up to 100% Rec.2020 colors and up to 10,000 nits peak brightness.

Over the last couple of years, we have tested tons of HDR TVs and the short version is that OLED TVs are far from perfect in this regard – and development seems to have hit a roadblock in recent years – but they still excel when compared to even the best LCD TVs out there. HDR is a very important step for the TV industry and probably the one single factor that you should focus on most when buying a new TV. There is still a lot of potential in HDR and we may have to wait for new display technologies to unleash the full potential but right here and now OLED TVs deliver the best HDR picture quality across movies, TV series, games, and other types of content.

Also read: The best gaming TVs

Speaking of games, this is one area where HDR probably has the most to offer right now. The beautiful game worlds that developers have dreamt up can look extraordinary when presented in an expanded color and luminance range. As for C8’s performance in the area of gaming, picture quality is stunning, the Game mode is once again bright and sparkling, and input lag was measured to 21.4 ms, which is very good but not an improvement over last year. As discussed earlier, the next big step is to start supporting HDMI 2.1’s VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) – and FreeSync – but of the 2018 TV line-ups only Samsung will offer support for those features.




LG Display explains that it has made a minor modification to the subpixel structure of the 2018 OLED panel to make the red subpixel larger. This is to further reduce the risk of burn-in. After a 4-5 hour calibration session (to experiment with the nuances of autocal) that involved having 10% APL windows on LG C8 for prolonged periods of time, the 10% window stayed visible on certain grey tones. It remained visible for a couple of hours but had disappeared the next morning as the TV had run its “pixel refresher” overnight. We re-checked again just before we finished our review and there was nothing to see. Retention on an OLED panel is a risk but permanent burn-in does not seems to be a major issue when using OLED as day-to-day TV, considering that there are already millions of OLED TVs out in consumers’ living rooms and very few reports of burn-in. We will continue to monitor development in the area.

In addition, LG has implemented a logo light limiter that identifies a channel logo and darkens it. There are ‘high’ and ‘low’ settings but even the ‘high’ setting has a limited effect. You can clearly see that the logo gets dimmed but it is not like it is invisible. Dimming the logo does not affect the rest of the picture. Now that LG has developed an algorithm to detect logos why not just fade the logo to an almost invisible state?

In the past, OLED TV panels have struggled with light homogeneity at the very darkest tones and to a smaller degree color tint in some areas of the panel. If our samples of Sony A8F and LG C8 represent actual TVs that consumers can get their hands on, LG Display has made further improvements. Our C8 sample exhibited some very mild vertical bands on some of that darkest grey tones but it was impossible to observe with actual content. The panel was slightly brighter in the right and left sides but again this was not an issue in use. It did not have any tint issues either. While not perfect yet, our C8 sample delivered excellent uniformity that we think even the most discerning users would accept.




Viewing angles on OLED TVs are extremely wide and you can enjoy even HDR video form virtually any angle, which is impossible on an LCD TV. Black levels remain unchanged even from extreme angles and colors mostly retain saturation and tone to the degree where it is negligible. The anti-reflective filter has a mild tint if you look at the screen from an angle of around 40 degrees or more but we feel that it is a non-issue.


Conclusion


LG OLED TVs are widely considered some of the best TVs around so it is only natural that we have high expectations. However, those high expectations do not extend to LG’s webOS that is far behind and offers only a fraction of the apps found on true TV operating systems such as Apple tvOS. LG’s webOS is starting to feel a little stale, despite a new ‘Gallery’ mode and Google Assistant / Alexa integration (that is not yet active in our region). The fact is that there have been no major upgrades in the last two years and LG continually refuses to update the webOS platform from year to year, which is something we will punish in our reviews going forward (see info box).

Picture quality is an entirely different story. While there are no significant OLED panel upgrades to speak of this year, C8 delivers some of the best picture quality you can find today. The ‘Alpha 9’ now matches – or exceeds – Sony’s video processor, and after comparing LG C8 and Sony A8F side-by-side we have seriously considered whether C8 should take over our Reference Award. It delivers excellent HD and 4K picture quality, and the best overall HDR we have seen to date, mainly driven by its pixel-level luminance and color control. It is a great TV for enjoying channels, streaming, movies, gaming etc. Motion has been improved and the auto-calibration feature is very cool, despite C8 having several very, very accurate picture modes. We are also excited about the fact that C8 exists in a 77” version that is actually within reach. And the speaker system has been improved.

However, one pesky issue remains in the form of Dolby Vision’s “raised blacks”, and since LG’s TVs default to Dolby Vision when playing from a HDR source that offers shows or movies in more HDR formats than one, it is very hard to avoid. To be clear, it only happens occasionally but it is one of those things that is hard to ignore once you are aware of it. It surprises us that LG OLED TVs continues to be affected considering that the Loewe bild 5 TV we had in for testing at the same time had no issues with “raised blacks” in Dolby Vision. This is why we currently cannot consider it a reference TV.

LG C8, E8, G8, and W8 deliver identical picture quality whereas the B8 has a scaled-down processor. We don’t regard it as a major step forward and the 2018 generation is expensive right now but if history is any indicator, prices will drop significantly later this year. C8 is one of the best TVs you can get your hands on and it deserves our Highly Recommended Award.

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Change in test parameters: Starting this year we will make a change to a test parameter that relates to the features score, following years of poor practice in the TV industry. Unless a manufacturer of a given “Smart TV” can provide FlatpanelsHD with assurance that the TV platform will be updated to the next major version, the feature score will be lowered by 10 points. We hope that our initiative can help highlight the problem, start a discussion, and change the practice.

LG has not been able to give us such a guarantee for webOS.


Price and retailers:

US retailer
UK retailer
DE retailer



Excellent HD & 4K
Excellent HDR
Reference picture quality
Improved motion
Low input lag


Dolby Vision “raised blacks”
Rear-facing ports
webOS becoming stale
webOS is not getting updates



Nearest competitors






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