LG C1 Reviewed at $1,499.00 (55")
Product Name: LG C1
Product Description: 2021 4K OLED TV
Design - 9.3/10
Video Quality - 9.4/10
Ports & Connectivity - 9.3/10
OS, Apps and Features - 9.5/10
Price / Quality - 9.2/10
Reviewed at $1,499.00 (55″)
- Excellent contrast ratio
- Amazing black levels
- Very low input lag
- Wide viewing angles
- Slightly less bright than last year
- No HDR10+
- No DTS support
- Slightly increased burn-in risk
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We have been a little late to the LG party but as they say better late than never. And with LG having the most extensive TV lineup in 2021 we have a lot of ground to cover in the coming months in order to see what progress and new features, if any, LG has managed to add in their new releases. And what better way to start our foray into LG land by testing one of the most famous series in recent years. As such in our LG C1 review today we will be looking at the 2021 model and compare it with last year’s LG CX which was an already very stellar release.
The C series is undoubtedly one of the most fan favorite OLED models as it combines excellent image quality with good cost while keeping most of what is essential. The Z1 and the G1 may look fancy and pack more exotic features but it was always the C series that managed to retain the quality of the image while skipping on the rest of the not so trivial as far as image processing is concerned. And as they say “You don’t need to fix what is not broken” it seems that LG kept most of what made the CX such a good TV and made minor additions here and there to spice up things a little.
So what we have here is the vanilla OLED panel, as only the G1 gets the new OLED Evo one, with the updated a9 Gen 4 AI Processor 4K. The TV features Dolby Vision IQ that uses a light sensor to adjust the Dolby Vision dynamic tone mapping accordingly, once again we find the Filmmaker and HGiG modes available, there is support for AMD’s FreeSync and Nvidia’s G-SYNC while what seems to be new is the updated webOS 6.0 which looks different from previous years and the redesigned but fundamentally the same Magic Remote. Lastly for the first time in the C series you can find this one in 83″ if you are planning on going big.
At first glance there doesn’t seem to be a lot of additions or changes so let’s dive deeper to see what has ultimately changed and what has remained the same.
The last couple of years LG has kept the design of the C series almost entirely the same. As such the C1 seems to be identical to the 2021 CX and that of C9 from 2019. LG already had a good looking TV so they didn’t think any change was necessary. As such our review here will certainly have many similarities to the CX but we will make sure to change or add things as we see them through.
Being an OLED has certain advantages and the C1 features an extremely thin design mostly at the top half while the bottom half is a bit thicker as it houses all electronics and audio system. We measured that part to be around 1,86″ (4.7 cm).
The LG C1 features very slim borders like the previous CX and C9 making the image all the more immersive while at the back we find all connections being kept together in two separate groups on the lower right corner. The top half of the back face is made out of metal and holds the panel together while the lower half is made out of plastic and has a horizontal line type of design. The power cable is placed on the left side away from the rest of the connectors while the only other thing we find at the back is special holes for the VESA wall mount.
As for the stand again this seems to be the same as the one we saw before and as such it is quite wide covering almost the entire length of the TV making it necessary for you to have a furniture large enough to place the TV on. With such a large stand wobble was very little and certainly far less than some other designs we have seen recently. It is made out of metal and has a nice brushed metal texture to it making it look very nice.
The back of the stand is made out of plastic while it has a plastic cover that you can take out in order to pass the cables through there and keep them together and out of sight. Lastly we should mention that the stand is in general very low and if you happen to have or want to buy a soundbar you may have a problem with it obstructing the TVs IR sensor so you need to make sure you either get a soundbar that has an IR repeater or place the TV on a higher position.
And while the TV design seems to be the same what have changed is the design of the remote it comes with. The new Magic Remote 2021 seems to bring some fresh changes that go with the new trends in 2021. Not that the old Magic Remote was bad but after some years it really needed some upgrading. Most functions remain the same with LG’s unique pointer system, the same universal remote functionality and smart features.
What is different is the looks and to be honest we like the new one better while it seems LG decided to lower the number of available buttons but at the same time increase the dedicated ones. While before we had buttons only for Netflix and Amazon Prime now we also get Disney+, LG channels along with special buttons for both voice assistants. Also dedicated playback buttons are a thing of the past. The new Magic Remote may seem different but the changes are welcome ones and they don’t affect the overall usefulness or functionality of the remote.
Keeping with the tradition the C1 is a really well made TV and the redesigned remote makes it even better. Good work from LG here.
Processor technology used
We have reached the 4th generation of the a9 processor and while LG is not providing any specifics on what is different or improved compared to the a9 Gen 3 we saw last year it seems that AI remains one of the key aspects of the latest chip.
OLED technology had somewhat reached its peak and that’s why the OLED Evo was created. But one aspect that developers could still improve was on the processing chip responsible for all image and audio processing.
AI is the key word here as for one more year LG is heavily promoting the AI processing capabilities of these chips that use a combination of machine learning algorithms in conjunction to a huge image database in order to offer an improved overall image and superior AI upscaling.
The a9 processor features a few interesting technologies that are included in LG’s AI Picture Pro and AI Sound Pro suites. As such for image we get face enhancing technology, AI upscaling, object recognition and enhancement along with specific scene analysis.
As we usually do in these tests we did try several different source videos in multiple resolutions from low SD content and broadcasting material all the way up to 720p, 1080p and 4K resolution and what we experienced was pretty much the same with what we had seen in the CX. Up-scaling didn’t reveal any noticeable artifacts and the overall image was extremely good considering the original content.
But the a9 processor not only comes with image AI enhancements as it offers some more advanced audio features also like 5.1.2 up-mixing, voice enhancement, auto volume leveling and more that we will analyze a bit further down our article.
Lighting technology used
The C1 features an OLED panel with all the advantages this has. OLED panels feature self emitting pixels and as a result these TVs have no need for a backlight as we see in LED LCD models. Being able to control it’s individual pixels has many advantages with the most obvious ones being the extremely accurate light control and the infinite contrast they have with deep blacks being a sight that needs to be seen to be believed.
One of the main problems of LED LCDs is that that they show what is known as blooming that creates bright halos around very bright objects when seen in dark backgrounds. The C1 has no such problems as with its self emitting pixels it can accurately light the areas of the screen that are needed.
This year LG has two types of OLED panels with the new OLED Evo making its appearance on the higher tier G1 which enables it to be slightly brighter. On the other hand the C1 we have here is using the same type of OLED panel that has been used the last few years among all OLED releases.
Unfortunately no technology is perfect and while OLED has so many advantages it’s also more prone to permanent burn-in. Naturally if you watch different types of content the risk is much smaller but LG has also included a few features that can help minimize the risk of this happening. These include Screen Shift, Logo Luminance adjustment and an automatic pixel refresher.
Brightness / Contrast
One of the most important, but not the only one, factors of any HDR TV is its brightness and this is where OLED technology falls behind LED LCD as it cannot match the raw numbers we see in some of the top tier LED LCD releases. That’s the reason why the improved OLED panel with the addition of a heatsink was invented in order to be able to push the brightness more than usual. But the LG C1 keeps using the same old OLED panel we had seen before so let’s see if there is any actual difference this year.
On this part of our review we measured first the SDR brightness over a 10% window and the number we got was 406 nits which is in fact slightly lower than the CX. But since the difference is small and SDR does not require a lot of brightness anyway this was not such a big deal. Still it’s interesting to see the new C1 fared worse in this test.
When it comes to HDR brightness over a 10% brightness we measured 757 nits which is good but not exceptional. Once again we see the C1 being slightly less bright than the CX and since we are talking about OLEDs every nit really counts. We cannot say if the difference in brightness is due to the panel we have or if LG has made some tweaks to it but it seems that this year the C1 is not as bright as the CX was. Difference is small but not negligible. In general OLED may not be particularly bright but with its deep blacks it compensates for this minor disadvantage.
As with all OLED TVs, the C1 comes with an Automatic Brightness Limiter (ABL) that lowers the overall brightness of the screen when large parts of it become very bright. This mechanism can be controlled by changing the Peak Brightness option and if you turn this off then in most cases you will get about half brightness output except from when almost the entire screen is bright which will limit the peak brightness to even much lower levels. If you use any other setting then in most cases you will get much higher brightness numbers close to the number we measured and with a full bright screen this number get lowered.
When it comes to contrast the C1, as with any other OLED, comes with infinite ratio as it can completely turn off it’s pixels and results in a completely black image instead of the greyish black we see in so many LED LCD TVs.
Another advantage of OLED technology is the extremely good viewing angles it can achieve with this being another area where LED LCD TVs fail to achieve the same results and have to rely in extra layers in order to somewhat improve on this but never can reach the numbers we see with OLED panels.
The LG C1 is capable at retaining its brightness, color accuracy and black levels at very respectable levels up to 45 degrees of angle with a maximum of 50 degrees before image starts to degrade too much. The C1 seemed to fare slightly better than the CX but we are talking about small differences here and this may just be because of the different panel and not due to some improvements on the technology itself.
With OLED’s amazing viewing angles it makes the C1 an excellent choice not only for home theater rooms but also for any family setup with all family members sitting in different positions in the living room.
For one more year LG is pretty clear with their support on the available HDR protocols and have pretty much stayed firm behind the Dolby Vision bandwagon the whole time. As such the C1 comes with support for the basic HDR10 that is needed for 4K UHD playback, it also supports the more advanced Dolby Vision which uses dynamic metadata for more accurate HDR representation and HLG that is used mostly for broadcasting.
The obvious omission is HDR10+ and we don’t see LG supporting it in the foreseeable future as this is pretty much Samsung’s territory while it seems to be also missing the Advanced HDR by Technicolor but this is hardly an omission as there was no real support for it to begin with.
Dolby Vision IQ is making a return from last year and this basically uses an external light sensor on the body of the TV and can automatically adjust the Dolby Vision dynamic tone mapping according to the ambient light in the room and also according to the material that is displayed on screen at each moment. Obviously this can be turned off if you don’t want the TV to go ahead with such processing that can really change the final outcome of the image.
Next we will be looking at the colors as the C1 obviously supports wide color gamut and can display more vivid and lifelike colors. According to our measurements the LG C1 covers about 98% of the DCI-P3 color space which is almost perfect and really close to what the CX was capable of. On the wider REC.2020 color space we got 74% coverage and once again this number was extremely close to the measurements on the CX.
No real changes in this part as the C1 seems to perform exactly the same as last year. Good color coverage over both color spaces while gradients were great even though we did notice some banding in the grey tones. This can be fixed with the Smooth Gradation option but you are going to loose some details on screen if used.
When it comes to it’s motion performance the C1 behaved really close to what we had seen with the CX in all our tests. The TV features what LG calls OLED Motion Pro and is using a 120Hz panel. But being an OLED it doesn’t need a backlight to light its pixels and while in theory this makes the C1 flicker free in reality this is not the case but the flicker is so small that is not visible to the naked eye.
The TV also comes with the usual Motion Interpolation features that can smooth motion and remove blur and judder from fast camera movements. Motion interpolation did a good job overall as we noticed only minimal artifacts from the process and these were mostly due to the very fast camera moves depending on each scene. Obviously using very aggressive settings will make the familiar “Soap Opera Effect” to appear so you have to adjust the settings accordingly. Motion Interpolation can be enabled by the TruMotion setting in the menu. You can set that to user and then adjust the De-blur and De-judder sliders according to your preferences.
There is also the standard by now Black Frame Insertion (BFI) feature which basically is a motion interpolation technique that inserts a black frame between every two individual frames and this can really create much smoother motion. But while the end result is pretty good there are some downsides to this with the most obvious being the lower brightness being displayed due to the black frames. BFI can be enabled from the OLED Motion setting in the TruMotion menu and can be adjusted accordingly. Keep in mind that certain settings will not allow you to enable this feature, if you use the PC mode for example.
The C1 comes with support for all VRR technologies including HDMI Forum VRR, AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync making it an excellent choice for your gaming needs. All of them can be enabled in the new Game Optimizer menu that LG has created for the C1.
The last few years manufacturers push the envelope more and more when it comes to their TVs input lag performance and we have reached a point where we get amazing low values that can make these TVs excellent for gaming purposes. And if the previous models in the C series are any indication to go by then the C1 should at least in theory give us similar numbers.
According to our testing the C1 was able to give us an average of 10ms input lag average in both 1080p and 4K resolutions which is an actual improvement over the CX. With such a low input lag gaming can really be a pleasure but in order to get such a low value you have to keep in mind that you need to use the available Game mode as outside that the input lag will greatly increase to around 89.2ms.
We should also not forget to mention that the TV supports Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) that can be used with any devices that support that like the PS5 and Xbox consoles and can greatly benefit users. Once again we get HGiG Mode which is HDR Gaming Interest Group’s technology that ensures you enjoy HDR games the way that their creators and developers intended.
We connected our PS5 and used our copy of Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War to get a taste of how the C1 behaves and we really have nothing bad to say. The TV offers everything a player needs and more with instant response times and very fast rendering of all of our commands on screen. The C1 is one of the best OLED TVs when it comes to gaming and LG went to great lengths to provide this. It has everything the CX had and even managed to improve on the input lag numbers both in 1080p and 4K resolution.
Image quality impressions
Looking at the C1 as a whole we would say that there are not many differences compared to 2020’s CX. Using the same OLED panel meant that certain characteristics like deep blacks, amazing contrast and high viewing angles remained the same. By using a refreshed, 4th generation of the a9 processor meant that we get all the advanced AI controlled picture processing features and excellent AI upscaling while LG retained some special picture modes like the Filmmaker and HGiG ones for use in movies and games respectively.
The most noticeable differences this year are mostly found in the overall brightness output as for some reason the C1 is slightly less bright in both SDR and HDR content and this was really the only part where the C1 performed worse that last year. The difference is small but when we talk about OLED even this small difference can be important. On the other side the C1 improved even further its input lag numbers and if you add all the gamic centric features available the C1 is a real gaming powerhouse TV.
We do miss that there is no HDR10+ available but if you want both this and Dolby Vision unfortunately your choices are really limited. Overall the C1 continues from where the CX left off and if it was not for the slightly lower brightness then it would have been a really amazing choice rather than a really good one.
The C1 seems to come with exactly the same feature set we saw last year in the CX. Having an OLED means that there is extremely limited space to be utilized for the audio and there is so much that can be done with software that’s why the audio system we get is good for casual viewing but fails to offer any substantial audio immersion when it comes to movies.
With such similarities to last year this part of our review will more or less be similar to what we wrote in the CX. The C1 features a 2.2 channels audio system with a total of 40 watts of power. There is also the same AI Sound mode now labeled as AI Sound Pro that up-mixes 2.1 channel audio to virtual 5.1.2 surround sound which gives you the illusion of a wider sound stage and more immersive sound. In general we found the AI Sound Pro to improve the acoustic result slightly but this depends a lot on the source material and it will not be always the same good as you would expect.
And obviously you shouldn’t be fooled by this 5.1.2 channels marketing thing as the TV cannot really portray a fully immersive surround experience. It just doesn’t have the necessary hardware to do so and virtual technology can do so much.
Dolby Atmos is once more available and can be used either through some streaming service or through the HDMI eARC connection. Obviously the TV lacks the necessary hardware to make Dolby Atmos real justice but nevertheless support is there for you to have. Overall not much have changed in this one year. The C1 can reproduce very clear sounds, it can get very loud and without much distortion even if you are sensitive with the volume button.
A feature that we first saw last year and obviously would make a comeback is Bluetooth Surround ready which means that you can use the TV’s Bluetooth to connect rear speakers to your TV setup. But there is a catch here as you cannot use this as a 4.2 channels audio setup in order to playback 5.1 surround audio. The TV will use legacy 2.0 channels audio and up-mix it to the 4.2 channels available so the end result is not as good as a real 5.1 surround mix.
After LG dropping support for DTS last year it seems that this is going to be a permanent thing as the C1 has no DTS whatsoever which is really disappointing to be honest even if Dolby audio is the prevalent format these days.
Nothing to add here really as the C1 provides exactly the same feature set and overall experience with sound we got last year with the CX. Its performance was good enough for casual viewing but for anything more you will at least need a soundbar. Having no DTS is really disappointing and the C1 looses a few points because of this.
Ports and Connectivity
Ports and connections on the C1 seem to be very similar to previous C series models so this part of our review will also be similar to what we said previously. All connections on the C1 are placed on the lower right corner of the back side of the TV separated into two groups with one looking sideways and the other looking backwards making them harder to use if you plan on wall mounting the TV.
Let’s start from the ones that look sideways and here we get a single USB port along with three HDMI ports with HDMI 2 also getting ARC/eARC support. At the back we get another HDMI port, a couple more USB ports, a digital optical audio output, an analogue stereo audio output, an RS-232C port and the usual antenna/cable connector.
One interesting fact about the HDMI ports is that while these are HDMI 2.1 they don’t support the full 48Gbps bandwidth and instead cap at 40Gbps but this is not a big deal as having 12 bit enabled ports would go to waste as there is no panel capable of 12 bit yet. The HDMI ports being v2.1 means that they support all new and old features including 4K@120,ARC, eARC, ALLM, VRR, G-Sync, FreeSync, HFR and HDMI-CEC.
One thing that seems to be missing from the 2021 C1 is the composite audio/video input and this is something we have noticed in general as manufacturers slowly are phasing out the analog ports in their new releases. So if you happen to have some older equipment that does not have a HDMI I think you should think twice or it’s time to start updating as this will surely extend to more and more audio/video products in the future.
As for the TVs wireless capabilities we get built-in WiFi (802.11ac) along with the newer Bluetooth v5.0.
OS, Apps and Features
While in terms of hardware things are not that much different from last year it is in the software where we find the most drastic changes as the new 2021 webOS 6.0 is a major departure from what we have previously experienced from LG’s smart TV platform.
You see, up until last year webOS was using a single row of tiles on the lower part of the screen where everything was grouped together. Now in webOS 6.0 this has changed as the UI is taking up the whole screen and provide you with far more visual information than any of the previous versions ever did. We do get that some may prefer the old design that could still allow you to watch what was on screen but this is completely a personal preference.
The new webOS reminded us a bit of what Google TV is doing. It seems that smart TV platforms opt for a more personalized experience and as such the new webOS 6.0 tries to provide you with options that are tailored for your viewing habits. As such there are personalized ads, recommendations based on your viewing patterns both for streaming services and broadcasting channels and even shopping suggestions.
When you first look at the new design you will certainly feel like it’s a cluttered mess but if you spend a few minutes with it most of its architecture will dig in and you will get the hang of it fairly fast. By pressing the Home button the main webOS page opens where you still get a single row of your apps on the bottom that you can re-arrange any way you want.
On the top you get three big tiles for sponsored content, weather and time along with search. Below a single row with recommendations depending what LG’s algorithm believes you would like to watch. Under the apps row there are many more options to choose from like the Home Dashboard, broadcasting channels, shopping recommendations, Sports Alerts messages and much more.
Overall we can say that we like what LG did with the new webOS 6.0. It feels fresh although a bit more cluttered for those not interested in so much information the new UI provides. Also if you are used in the UI of the previous years it will certainly take some time to find your bearings.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the new 2021 version of webOS is app support and as such you will find all the apps you may need with more available from the online store for downloading. All the big players are present with Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Prime, HBO, Vudu, Hulu, Google Play Movies, Disney+ and Apple TV+ just to name a few of the most notable ones.
Other available apps include Apple Airplay 2 and Apple Homekit. With Airplay 2 you can stream content from other Apple devices on your TV while HomeKit lets you control certain aspects of the TV through your mobile device.
One interesting feature that makes a comeback this year is Sports Alert. You can set your favorite team on the TV and the C1 will inform you when a match will be shown and in which channel while can also give you score updates and the likes. The Sports Alert feature seems to be working with the internal tuner and it gives you the ability to choose from a wide range of teams and sports. Obviously it still doesn’t include every sport and every team out there but there are plenty to choose from the list available.
And since we are talking about a smart TV platform we could not go by without mentioning voice control functionality. LG has included not only their own ThinQ AI that you can use to search for various information but also the two most used voice control platforms including Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. By using the Magic Remotes built-in microphone you can issue your commands like search for a specific TV show or control your TVs volume and change channels.
There is also mobile app support if you prefer that instead of using the included remote. LG is using their ThinQ app that is supported both by Android and iOS devices and with it you can issue some basic commands to your TV.
For another year we find what LG calls Home Dashboard which is a nice little feature that lets you have an overall look at all the connections of the TV. Although not much have changed here Home Dashboard has now been fully intergraded into the webOS 6.0 Home screen making its access faster than before.
Before closing we need to mention about the new Game optimizer feature that was added with a firmware update lately and with it you can check specific settings during gaming including fps, VRR options, colors, sound and many more. It is in a way similar to what Samsung has done and it shows that manufacturers have put a lot of effort to offer more practicality and accessibility to gamers which was to be expected with the new generation of consoles now out in the market.
Closing we can say that we liked the new webOS although you will need some time to get used to the new whole screen UI it comes with. Some will like it while some will definitely still prefer the old one. But at least it shows that LG tried to give the C1 a breath of fresh air and in our opinion they succeeded. We must embrace what is new and the new webOS is certainly a good basis for the next few years and what these will bring.
When you first look upon the new C1 most will think that it is a repackaged CX and not without reason. Excluding the redesigned remote the TV itself is basically the same one and it shows that LG feels very comfortable with the design they have. But while it seems to be the same old TV we had from last year the new C1 is the most feature complete release of them all. Coming with the 4th generation of a9 processor and all its AI features it comes with the C1 is a real processing powerhouse. New and old features include the Filmmaker mode, the HGiG mode, Dolby Vision IQ, out of the box support for G-Sync and FreeSync, the new Game Optimizer and obviously the completely redesigned webOS 6.0.
But as every TV is compared to its predecessor how does the C1 actually performs compared to last year? Well in the most part the same but with a few notable differences. The first one is brightness as the C1 seems to be slightly less bright than the CX. The difference is not so big but it is there and should be mentioned. On the other hand the C1 has lower input lag managing to reach the 10ms threshold. In most other cases the two TVs performed fairly similar and any differences were most probably due to panels differences other than LG actually changing something meaningful.
The C1 is an amazing TV really. It comes with all the strengths of OLED technology and LG has crammed so many features in it that it is an excellent choice either you want to use it in a home theater or for gaming. Does it provide the best picture quality money can buy? Obviously not, as the new improved OLED panel in the LG G1 is meant for that but the LG C1 continues to provide what the C series was always famous of. An amazing price to performance ratio which instantly makes it a favorite among home theater fans. And we couldn’t argue with that at all.
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