The LG C1 is still the TV to beat, thanks to its incredible picture, alots of features, and sleek design.
OLED TVs have the awesome picture quality available, and there are now more options in OLED than ever before. From the less costly LG A1 and Vizio H1 to the pricey Sony A90J and LG G1, high-end shoppers who’ve decided on an OLED TV face another difficult decision: which OLED TV? I haven’t reviewed all of them, but based on what I’ve seen so far, the LG OLED C1 is the best option for most buyers, especially for gamers – the widest range of screen sizes, and a reasonable price.
I compared the C1 to its predecessor, the LG CX, as well as a TCL 8K QLED TV with Mini-LED that costs roughly the same, and the C1 came out on top. It and the CX were neck and neck in terms of picture quality, but the C1 won out thanks to its versatile gaming options. The Samsung QN90A QLED is brighter and superior in some ways, but the C1 has a better overall picture quality. The C1 is also significantly less expensive than the LG G1, and the image quality on both 2021 OLEDs was nearly identical. I haven’t yet reviewed the Sony A80J, which is currently a little more expensive than the C1, but I’d be surprised if it’s significantly better.
In short, the LG C1 is my top pick for 2021 if you want the superiority of OLED image quality.
I tested the 65-inch OLED C1 in person, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have the same specifications and, according to the manufacturer, should provide very similar image quality.
Learn about the LG C1 series.
The C1 has more sizes and better image quality features than LG’s most affordable OLED TV, the A1 series. The A1 lacks HDMI 2.1, has a less powerful processor, fewer HDMI inputs (three instead of four), and a refresh rate of 60Hz.
The C1 also comes in a wider range of sizes than the more expensive G1 series, which includes the Evo panel as well as a slimmer, wall-mount-centric Gallery design. The C1 also lacks a far-field microphone for hands-free voice communication and a Next-Gen TV tuner, both of which are minor extras found on the G1.
A fundamental difference between OLED and LED LCD technology is evident in today’s televisions, including those made by Samsung and TCL.
Although high-end LCDs are brighter than OLEDs (especially with HDR), the picture quality on the OLED TVs I’ve reviewed is overall superior.
OLED TVs in general are more prone to both temporary and permanent image retention, also known as burn-in, than LCD TVs. However, we at CNET do not believe that burn-in is a reason for most people to avoid purchasing an OLED TV. For more information, see our OLED burn-in guide.
Slim, sleek and familiar
The C1’s design will be familiar to anyone who has seen any mainstream LG OLED TVs in the last few years. With a slim border around the screen on all four sides and a tiny, discreet LG logo, the watchword is “minimalist.” The top two-thirds of the TV are razor-thin when viewed from the side, while the bottom widens to accommodate the guts, inputs, and other connections.
The stand is essentially the same as last year’s CX, running almost the entire width of the panel in front and incorporating a very heavy base at the back that kept my review sample admirably steady. The color of the back has changed to a stark white, similar to some older LG OLEDs.
LG redesigned the remote. It kept my favorites, such as the scroll wheel and motion tracking, while slimming it down slightly. The most noticeable change is the addition of four shortcut keys at the bottom for streaming services and two more for the built-in voice assistants, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
Both Google and Alexa can do all of the usual assistant things, such as controlling smart home devices, answering questions, and responding via a voice coming from the TV’s speakers (yep, both voices). “What’s the weather?” works as expected, complete with onscreen feedback. Like many other TVs, the C1 supports Apple’s AirPlay 2 system, allowing my iPhone to share photos and videos from the Photos app on the screen and mirror my Mac and phone screens.
LG’s WebOS menu system has been updated for 2021, and I’m not a fan. The small, unobtrusive overlay at the bottom of the screen that allowed you to keep track of what you were watching is no longer present. Instead, there’s a full-screen homepage, similar to Roku, Fire TV, or Google TV. However, it has fewer apps and more junk. The top two-thirds of the screen are dedicated to the weather, setup instructions, a search bar, and a Trending Now section with a random selection of TV shows and movies. Below that is an app row, followed by sections devoted to inputs and specific streaming apps. In general, it appears to be a jumbled mess with too much going on; most systems are simpler and easier to grasp.
The C1 lacks nothing that I’d expect from a high-end television. Aside from the Evo panel, the C1 shares the same image quality features as the G1, beginning with the new Gen 4 a9 processing chip, which adds scene detection and improved object enhancement over the previous year’s model. Both the G1 and C1 have a refresh rate of 120Hz. Meanwhile, the entry-level A1 OLEDs have a more basic a7 processor and a refresh rate of 60Hz.
The picture settings on LG’s OLED TVs include a Filmmaker Mode, as they did last year. It does, as promised, disable the soap opera effect for film-based content (yay), but so do many other C1 modes. While Filmmaker Mode is very accurate, it is also quite dim for standard dynamic range, so I ended up using Cinema and ISF Bright for most critical viewing. A Game Optimizer menu with its own set of picture modes is new for 2021; see below for more information.
Comparisons of image quality
The C1 is a fantastic performer, every bit as capable as the best televisions I’ve tested. I wasn’t able to directly compare it to the G1 for this review, but based on my measurements and comparisons of both panels to the 2020 CX, the C1 and G1 have nearly identical image quality. As I mentioned in that review, the G1’s Evo panel doesn’t provide a significant brightness advantage over other LG OLEDs, including the C1. Both 2021 OLEDs are excellent and the best-performing TVs I’ve reviewed, just edging out the CX.
I also compared the C1 to the best-performing LCD TV I had on hand for this review, the TCL 65R648, which costs roughly the same as the C1 and has 8K resolution. In case you’re wondering, when watching HD or 4K content, I saw no sharpness or resolution advantage with the 8K TCLs over the 4K OLEDs. The TCL uses Mini-LED and full-array local dimming, but it doesn’t perform as well as the Samsung Q90A, for example, with more blooming issues.
I didn’t have a direct comparison with the Samsung Q90A, but it’s still the best LCD-based TV I’ve reviewed. However, when compared to the G1, the Q90A falls short of the C1, which has perfect black levels, excellent mixed-scene contrast, and better off-angle viewing than any LCD I’ve tested.