LG OLEDC7P review

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The Good: The LG C7 is the best-performing TV we’ve tested to date. It delivers perfect black levels, wide viewing angles, accurate color and a great bright-room picture. It’s compatible with both major HDR formats, and HDR image quality is better than last year. Its striking design features a superslim panel.

The Bad: It’s really expensive, and prices are likely to drop. Other 2017 TVs we haven’t yet reviewed might perform even better.

The Bottom Line: The LG C7 is the best overall TV we’ve ever tested, but patient shoppers are likely to be rewarded by price drops in the coming months.

The LG C7 has the best image quality I’ve ever tested. It’s an improvement on the previous champs, LG’s OLED TVs from last year, and outperforms any LCD-based TVs I’ve seen, including Samsung’s new QLED-based Q7 model.

It’s also the cheapest 2017 OLED TV so far, with the exception of the B7, a nearly twin model which costs $50 less and is exclusive to club retailers like Costco and BJ’s. And it has the same picture quality as more-expensive models like the E7, which I reviewed at the same time.

In other words, the C7 is the high-end TV to beat in 2017.

The only catch is that it’s really expensive: as of April 20, 2017, the 55-incher costs $3,000 and the 65-incher costs $4,500. Before you dip into your retirement fund, you should know four things:

  • It will get cheaper. If it follows the trajectory of last year’s LG OLED TVs, the larger C7 will be discounted by at least one third by Black Friday 2017, and possibly more. It’s already dropped $500 in the last week from its initial price, and more adventurous shoppers can find even lower prices at unauthorized online retailers.
  • Last year’s models are almost as good, and still available for a lot less. The C7 isn’t that much better than 2016 models like the B6, which are still available for $1,500 $1000 less in both sizes.
  • There are some worthy competitors on the horizon. Competing high-end TVs, in particular Sony’s A1E OLED or (maybe) the best LED LCDs from Samsung and Sony, could beat it for overall image quality. They will probably cost even more, however.
  • It’s only available in 55- and 65-inch sizes. If you want a jumbo screen at 70 inches or more, you’ll either need to pay five-figure prices for the 77-inch LG G6 or G7/W7, or opt for far cheaper LCD options.

Don’t get me wrong, the C7 is still the favorite to end the year as my high-end TV pick. And if none of the issues above faze you, it’s worth buying now. But it’s worth even more to wait out its inevitable price drop(s), if you can. And if you can’t wait till fall 2017 for the C7’s price to come down, I don’t think you’ll regret buying a 2016 B6 now, before it completely sells out.

In the meantime, here’s what I found out about the C7 in hands-on testing with the 55-inch size. As usual, I compared it side-by-side to competing models — including LG’s 65-inch E7 OLED TV, its 2016 OLED sets and a Samsung Q7 QLED TV — in CNET’s lab. This review also applies to the 65-inch C7.

One gorgeous television

The C7 is a beautiful study in minimalism. There’s less than a half-inch of black frame around the picture itself to the top and sides, a bit more below, and — in a momentous first among TVs I’ve reviewed — no logo on the front of the TV at all.

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Seen in profile, the top portion of the C7 is razor-thin, just a quarter-inch deep, but has the typical bulge at the bottom that juts out another 1.75 inches. That bulge houses the inputs, power supply, speakers and other depth-eating TV components — stuff that’s consigned to a separate box on the company’s ultra-expensive “wallpaper” OLED TV.

The stand does have a logo. It’s silver and comprised of an angled base that keeps the set upright and lookin’ sharp if you decide against mounting it on the wall.

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The stand is the only real difference between the C7 and the B7; the latter has the old transparent-base stand seen on the B6 from 2016. The C7 and the E7, meanwhile, have the same stand, although the latter adds a sound bar below the screen.

Quick and responsive, smart enough

LG’s Web OS menu system feels more mature and snappier than ever on the 2017 models, but it lacks the app coverage of Sony’s Android TV and the innovative extras of Samsung’s Tizensystem. I do like using the motion-based remote to whip around the screen, something that’s particularly helpful when signing into apps using an on-screen keyboard.

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The scroll wheel is also great for moving through apps, like those seemingly infinite thumbnail rows on Netflix and Amazon. New for 2017, the remote has buttons that launch each one instantly, and both are welcome. I’m less of a fan of the prominent placement of the voice/search button, but that’s my only real issue with the clicker.

Both of those major apps offer 4K and HDR/Dolby Vision content on a handful of shows and movies, mostly original series. The Vudu app is a trove of (expensive) 4K and Dolby Vision movies too, and there’s plenty of 4K available for free on the YouTube app. A few other major non-4K apps are available, including Hulu and Google Play Movies and TV, but if you want more, your best bet is to get an external streamer.

Loaded and connected

Key TV features

Display technology: OLED
LED backlight: N/A
Resolution: 4K
HDR compatible: HDR10 and Dolby Vision
Screen shape: Flat
Smart TV: Web OS

OLED’s basic tech is closer to late, lamented plasma than to the LED LCD (QLED or otherwise) technology used in the vast majority of today’s TVs. Where LCD relies on a backlight shining through a liquid crystal panel to create the picture, with OLED and plasma, each individual sub-pixel is responsible for creating illumination. That’s why OLED and plasma are known as “emissive” and LED LCD are called “transmissive” displays, and a big reason why OLED’s picture quality is so good.

For its 2017 models, LG claims a bit more brightness and some other minor tweaks (see Picture Quality for more), but generally left well enough alone. There are no differences in image quality between any of the 2017 OLED TVs, according to LG, although they do have different audio capabilities. Step-up models have a sound bar, while the C7 does not. A quick listen proved the E7 does sound better than the C7, but a good external sound bar will trounce either one. This year LG dropped the 3D and curved screens found on some 2016 OLEDs.

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Unlike Samsung, LG TVs like the C7 support both current types of HDR video: Dolby Vision and HDR10. Software upgrades will add support for HLG (hybrid log gamma) HDR and Technicolor’s HDR format later this year, but for content is currently nonexistent for both. A Technicolor-approved picture mode will arrive via update as well.

  • 4x HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2
  • 3x USB ports
  • 1x composite video input
  • Ethernet (LAN) port
  • Optical digital audio output
  • 1x RF (antenna) input
  • RS-232 port (minijack, for service only)

The selection of connections is top-notch. Unlike many of Samsung’s sets, this one actually has an analog video input for legacy (non-HDMI) devices, although it no longer supports analog component video.

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Picture quality comparisons

The C7 is once again the best TV I’ve tested — ever. But since I have yet to review some other potential competitors, including Sony’s OLED TV, it doesn’t deserve the crown just yet. That said, its picture is spectacular enough to earn my highest score in this category: 10.

Compared to the 2016 OLED versions, which earned the same score, it delivers slightly more light output and looks better with HDR, but all told the overall differences are minor. It is significantly better than the Samsung Q7 QLED TV.

Click the image at the right to see the basic picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV’s picture controls worked during calibration.

Dim lighting: OLED ruled in the environment home theater fans like best: a dark room. Watching the “John Wick” Blu-ray for example, all of the LGs spat out that inky blackness I’ve come to expect, trouncing the depth of black seen on the Samsung and the Vizio. Dark scenes showed the most noticeable differences. In Chapter 5, as Wick (Keanu Reeves) dresses in his black suit, the black background and shadows looked dark as night, yet details around his face remained true. Shadow detail was very similar between the 2016 and 2017 OLED TVs, and superb overall.

In comparison, the LCDs appeared more washed-out, and there were elements of blooming — stray light that leaks from bright areas into dark– visible at times, particularly with graphical elements. That issue was nonexistent with the OLED sets. In short, with dark or dim rooms there’s no contest between OLED and the LCD-based TVs I had available to compare.

Bright lighting: LG claims a 25 percent improvement in light output over last year’s models. In my tests the 2017 C7 and E7 were brighter, but by no more than 15 percent, and often by less depending on picture mode and measurement conditions. The company also restricts its claim to certain picture levels, meaning the brightness improvement doesn’t apply to everything. Long story short: don’t expect to see much, if any brightness improvement.

The main thing to know, however, is that OLEDs are plenty bright for just about any lighting environment. They’re not the blinding light cannons that newer LCD-based displays can be, however, especially when bright content occupied a majority of the screen. Think a hockey match or “Frosty the Snowman” special.

Light output comparison

Light output in nits
TV Mode (SDR) 10% window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10% window (HDR)
Sony XBR-65X930D Vivid 926 492 HDR Video 923
Samsung QN65Q7F Dynamic 923 588 Dynamic 1,781
Samsung UN65KS8000 Dynamic 618 480 Movie 1,346
LG 55UH8500 Vivid 610 403 HDR Bright 601
LG OLED65E6P Vivid 447 137 HDR Vivid 691
LG OLED65E7P Vivid 473 152 Vivid 728
LG OLED55C7P Vivid 433 145 Vivid 715
LG OLED55B6P Vivid 422 119 HDR Vivid 680

All of the OLED sets preserved and reduced reflections very well — a bit better than the Vizio and a bit worse than the Samsung, whose handling of reflections is among the best I’ve ever seen. New for 2017, LG’s OLED screens themselves have less of a purplish tint in reflections, although both 2016 and 2017 OLEDs perform equally well at dimming reflections and preserving black levels.

Color accuracy: The LGs performed well in this area, although for some reason the initial color of the E7 was a bit worse than the C7. This led to a difference in post-calibration color as well, at least in my charts. Viewing program material, on the other hand, didn’t show any big differences, and both showed highly accurate color and excellent saturation with both Wick’s muted tones and the more vibrant palette of “Samsara.”

Video processing: All of the OLEDs were very good in this category. They passed my go-to 1080p/24 film cadence test from “I Am Legend” in both the “Off” and the “Custom” (zero for De-Judder and 10 for De-Blur) TruMotion position. I’d probably choose the latter since it also delivered the TV’s maximum motion resolution (600 lines) and correct film cadence.

The rest of the settings (with the exception of Off) introduced some form of smoothing, or soap opera effect, and none bested that motion resolution score. Sticklers for blurring will note that the Samsung beat the LG with a score of 1,200 lines.

Input lag with both the C7 and E7 are improved from last year, measuring an excellent 21 milliseconds each in Game mode. I didn’t measure 4K or HDR lag this time around, but I plan to soon, and I’ll update this review when it happens.

Off-angle and uniformity: Another big OLED advantage over LCD is its superb image when viewed from off-angle, in positions other than the sweet spot directly in front of the screen. The OLEDs maintained black level fidelity and color accuracy much better than any of the LED LCDs I’ve tested, all of which (including the Vizio and Samsung in this lineup) wash out in comparison.

Screen uniformity on the 2017 OLED sets was solid but not perfect, with dark, full-field patterns showing faint vertical banding, particularly the E7. It wasn’t visible in program material I watched however, for example the tracking shot of the assault on the house in Chapter 5 of “Wick.” The LCDs, in particular the Samsung, showed much more noticeable uniformity issues, for example brightness variations across the screen.

HDR and 4K video: OLED looks great with 4K Blu-ray played in high dynamic range, too.

Despite their light output inferiority compared to the Samsung Q7 QLED TV on paper, in person the LG OLED sets looked better in pretty much every way. The OLEDs even measured brighter in highlights than the Q7, according to spot measurements I took of the 4K BD version of “John Wick,” like the fluorescent lights above the garage and the burst of sunlight during his tarmac doughnuts.

As I’ve seen before, the maxed-out backlight required by HDR exacerbates LCDs’ inherent flaws, brightening areas that should be darker, like shadows and letterbox bars, and making blooming more noticeable. In contrast, so to speak, the OLED sets created an inky black canvas for the brilliant highlights of HDR to show up even more strongly.

One advantage Samsung claims over LG is in HDR color volume, which it says should make bright highlights more colorful. I didn’t see any differences in “Wick,” so I turned to a scene recommended to me by a Samsung technician, the Doomsday fight from “Batman vs. Superman.”

Comparing the 2017 OLEDs to the Samsung Q7 in ultrabright areas of color, like the orange lightning around Doomsday (2:32:27) and his eye beams (2:33:51), there was almost no visible difference in color at first glance. Only when I paused the action and looked very closely did I see that the Samsung maintained saturation a bit better than the OLEDs in those flashes. The difference was fleeting and restricted to ultrabright spots of color, however, and any Samsung advantage in color volume was far outstripped by OLED’s other strengths.

Between the four OLED TVs HDR differences were minor, but I give the nod to the 2017 sets. I measured slightly brighter highlights in the E7 and C7 than in their 2016 counterparts, and I also noticed a greenish tint in the 2016 sets’ default color compared to the 2017 models (and the Samsung), which were more accurate in midtones.

The biggest difference, however, was in color volume and detail in bright areas. In Chapter 1 of “Batman vs. Superman,” for example, the silhouette of young Bruce Wayne ascending into the brilliant sky was better-defined on the 2017 models (and the Q7), while the fiery explosions in Chapter 7 (1:18:28) and the highlights of the Doomsday fight were more colorful and detailed on the 2017 TVs.

I also checked out some streaming in HDR on the OLEDs, including “Mad Dogs” on Amazon and “Jessica Jones” on Netflix, the latter in Dolby Vision. Differences followed the trends I saw with 4K Blu-ray, although for some reason the B6 looked less saturated with “Mad Dogs” than the other TVs. Comparing Dolby Vision on the E7 and C7 directly to HDR10 on the other sets (distributed from a Roku Premiere+), differences were very difficult to discern.

LG C7 Geek box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 433 Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.24 Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.220 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.059 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.006 Good
Avg. color error 1.160 Good
Red error 1.638 Good
Green error 1.17 Good
Blue error 1.183 Good
Cyan error 1.271 Good
Magenta error 0.967 Good
Yellow error 0.729 Good
Avg. saturations error 1.27 Good
Avg. luminance error 1.7 Good
Avg. color checker error 1.16 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 600 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 600 Average
Input lag (Game mode) 21.33 Good
HDR default (Cinema)
Black luminance 0 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 701 Average
Gamut % DCI/P3 (CIE 1976) 99 Good
Avg. saturations error 3.7 Average
Avg. color checker error 3.1 Average

(cnet.com, https://goo.gl/yURjpp)

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