LG C9 TV Review
This is the best TV we've seen so far this year
If you're shopping for a high-performance, top-tier TV, OLEDs should be on your radar. For a while, LG was the only company producing OLED TVs for a broad consumer market. And although consumers in 2019 have the option of getting competitively priced OLED TVs from Sony or Panasonic, LG remains the most prolific—and arguably the best—manufacturer of these stunning displays.
You don't even need to go that far back to see evidence of LG's OLED-powered dominance. In 2018, for instance, the LG C8 was the best TV we saw all year. Skip ahead a year, and the C8's follow-up is shaping up to be the best TV of 2019.
That TV, the C9 (available at Walmart for $3,496.99), is one of the company's more affordable OLED offerings, and it excels in almost every measurable way—from its spectacular picture to its extra-wide viewing angles. While it's true that you can stretch your dollar with bigger, more affordable 4K LED TVs, few will come close to the C9's exceptional performance, particularly in dedicated home theater settings.
The bottom line? There are craftier ways to spend your money on a great TV, but if you want a near-perfect one, the LG C9 is the way to go.
About the LG C9 OLED TV Series
The LG C9 is available in three sizes. For most people, the 55- or 65-inch C9 will be plenty big, but for folks who might be in the market for a truly gargantuan TV experience, LG is also offering a pricy, 77-inch version of the C9.
• 55-inch (LG OLED55C9PUA), MSRP $2,499.99
• 65-inch (LG OLED65C9PUA), MSRP $3,499.99
• 77-inch (LG OLED77C9PUA), MSRP $6,999.99
Especially for OLEDs, the different sizes of TVs in a series tend to perform identically to one another. The only noteworthy difference between each of the C9 models is screen size. Here's a rundown of what you're getting from each LG C9 TV:
• 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution
• Supports High Dynamic Range (HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos)
• Native 120 Hz refresh rate
• LG webOS smart platform
• DCI-P3/10-bit color space
• LG ThinQ AI functionality (with Alexa and Google Assistant)
• a9 processor (second generation)
Before testing each TV, we make sure the panel is on and receiving a continuous signal for at least 24 hours, allowing the pixels plenty of time to warm up. All of the SDR tests were carried out in LG's "ISF Expert (Bright Room)" picture setting. For HDR tests, our chosen picture setting was "Cinema Home."
I'll expand on our test results throughout the review, but for now, here are some key takeaways:
• HDR contrast (brightness/black level): 212.7 nits/0.002 nits
• SDR contrast (brightness/black level): 266.3 nits/0.002 nits
• HDR peak brightness: 714.6 nits (20%)
• HDR color gamut coverage: 97% (DCI-P3/10-bit)
• SDR color gamut coverage: 97% (Rec.709)
When it comes to ports, the LG C9 is loaded for bear. Here's what you'll see when you take a trip around the back of the C9's panel:
• 4x HDMI 2.1 (1x ARC)
• 3x USB 2.0
• Component, LAN ethernet port, RF input, optical audio output
What We Like
OLED TVs offer the best picture money can buy
If you've never seen an OLED TV up close, it can be hard to grasp what people are getting at when they talk about the tech's absolutely stunning contrast. Each one of the C9's 8,294,400 total pixels is self-illuminating, so the display doesn't rely on a backlight.
This means that, while non-OLED TVs are forced to render a dark, nighttime sky with anywhere from one to a few hundred separate light sources, an OLED has millions of light sources working together at any given moment. As you can probably imagine, a dark, nighttime sky on an OLED is a hell of a lot darker than the exact same image on a non-OLED TV.
To put it another way, when an OLED TV is on and displaying an 100% black image, it looks indistinguishable from its state when the power's off.
But it's not just a matter of darkness: With this level of contrast, every scene looks better, whether you're looking at a bright, sunny beach or the bleak, vastness of space. Colors, too, look better with an OLED's so-called infinite contrast, and because there isn't a backlight constantly flooding the picture, colors tend to look more vivid.
The LG C9 is demonstrates the magic of OLED better than my wordy descriptions ever could—better than any TV I've seen to date. Predictably, it aced all of our tests, delivering world-class performance in both SDR (standard dynamic range) and HDR (high dynamic range).
It's true that contemporary OLED panels don't get as bright as some of their high-end, non-OLED competitors—and more on that later—but even the LG C9's measured peak HDR brightness of around 700-750 nits is plenty bright when contrasted with a black level of, essentially, zero nits. HDR content on the C9, therefore, looks immaculate. When it comes to content mastered in SDR, you can expect more of the same: modest brightness coupled with inky, rich black levels deep enough to give those highlights an added pop.
The C9 also covers about 97% of the expanded DCI-P3/10-bit color space—something to hang your hat on while you're watching bright, colorful content dance across your screen.
We still love LG's smart platform
I cannot recall a time where LG's webOS smart platform—and the company's software on the whole—failed to impress us. In 2019, I remain impressed.
Thanks to some nifty design and a powerful processing chip, the C9's clean, well-organized menus zip along with grace. Jumping from HDMI inputs to preloaded streaming apps like Netflix is a simple task, whether you're using the point-and-click feature of LG's motion-guided "Magic Remote" or simply clicking away on the remote's directional pad.
Cinephiles will appreciate the breadth of calibration options should they decide to get their fingers greasy under the hood, and casual users will no doubt feel comfortable putting the C9 in one of LG's preset picture settings, not needing to worry about further maintenance down the road.
In addition to boasting a bevy of built-in apps right out of the box, the LG C9 also features Alexa and Google Assistant support, provided you've installed the proper firmware updates.
Ultra-smooth motion and ultra-wide viewing angles
Whenever I'm doling out TV recommendations to friends and family, I often get two questions: "how's the motion?" and "how's the viewing angle?" Nearly everyone, it seems, has had the misfortune of wincing at a TV with awful motion or a TV with too-narrow of a viewing angle. On the whole, its probably easier to acclimate yourself to a TV with a wonky color temperature than it is to acclimate your eyes to bad motion or narrow viewing options. Fortunately, OLED TVs excel in these two areas in particular, given the nature of the technology itself.
Like nearly every OLED TV we've tested, the LG C9 is capable of viewing angles that are far wider than typical LED TVs—an important distinction for big-screen TVs meant to accommodate a room full of people. In fact, the C9 holds up so well during off-angle viewing that you practically need to be standing directly at its side in order for your eyes to notice a serious drop in contrast quality.
Similarly, if you've been burned by bad motion in the past, you'll be thrilled to know that the C9's native 120Hz refresh rate delivers judder-free, silky-smooth motion handling without the need of uncanny motion-smoothing software.
What We Don't Like
It doesn't get as bright as some of its high-end competitors
As I touched on earlier in the review, the C9 met our expectations when it comes to peak brightness: Like most high-end OLED TVs, it gets bright enough for most conditions, but not nearly as bright as some of its high-end, non-OLED competitors.
If you've got a dedicated home theater set-up, you needn't worry—this TV will be plenty bright in dim or dark rooms. If you're planning on setting up your new TV in a room that gets a good amount of sunlight, however, you might want to consider a TV with a higher peak-brightness ceiling.
OLED TVs are still too pricey for most people
Although OLED displays have steadily dropped in price over the last several years, they remain a pricey proposition for most of us. Today, you could conceivably land yourself a 55- to 65-inch 4K TV for far less than half the price of the C9—and there's a good chance it would perform dutifully for years to come.
Even the 75" version of the impressive Vizio P-Series—which gets significantly brighter than the LG C9—is priced well below the 55-inch version of the latter. With the C9, you're paying a premium for performance, and it's ultimately up to you to decide whether it's worth cutting a few corners in order to save some money.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—if you have the means, it's the best TV money can buy right now.
In 2017, the LG C7 was the best TV we tested. In 2018, it was the LG C8. As of now, it looks as though the LG C9 will end up being our #1 TV of 2019. While there might be TVs that technically outperform it, you're going to struggle to find them for under $5,000.
There are some drawbacks to mention, but they're inherent to OLED, not to the C9 in particular. First, while the 55- and 65-inch C9 TVs are priced competitively, the 77-inch model (at $7,000) is quite a bit more expensive than comparable top-tier LED/LCD TVs in the same size. If you're more concerned about size than anything, you could save a few thousand dollars by buying an LCD TV. Likewise, if you really want intense brightness and saturated colors, you might want to shop around for some of this year's quantum dot-equipped sets (we'll have reviews as those TVs hit shelves).
That said, there's nothing quite like the deep, mind-bending black levels and picture-perfect color production of an OLED display, and the C9 is undoubtedly one of the most affordable ways to start living the OLED lifestyle in 2019. We're unlikely to see a better TV for a better price this year.
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