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, the same as and better than 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 June 12, 2017, the 55-incher costs $2,500 and the 65-incher costs $3,500. Before you dip into your retirement fund, you should know three things:
- It will get cheaper. If it follows the trajectory of last year's LG OLED TVs, the C7 will reach its lowest price point around Black Friday 2017. It's already dropped $1000 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 $10 00 less.
- 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.
Updated June 12 with new pricing information.
Editors' Note May 22: Since this review was originally published the Design score has been reduced from a 10 to a 9 due to the superior design of the recently reviewed Samsung Q7 series, bringing the overall score down from 8.8 to 8.7. The review has not otherwise been changed.
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.
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.
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 Tizen system. 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.
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.
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Key TV features
|HDR compatible:||HDR10 and Dolby Vision|
|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.
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.