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LG OLEDC8P review: LG's OLED takes commanding first-half lead for best 2018 TV

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LG OLED65C8PUA

(Part #: OLED65C8PUA/US)
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The Good The LG C8 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. Uniformity and video-processing options are slightly better than last year. Its striking design features a super-slim panel.

The Bad The C8 is expensive, and a cheaper LG OLED is due later in 2018. It can't get as bright as competing LCD TVs.

The Bottom Line LG's C8 OLED TV sets the standard against which all high-end TVs will be judged.

8.6 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 10.0
  • Performance 10.0
  • Value 5.0

OLED is officially a mature TV technology. 

For the last four years, LG's TVs with OLED panels -- that's organic light emitting diode screens -- have taken top honors for picture quality in CNET's reviews. Every year they beat the best LCD-based TVs, and every year I call the newest LG OLED the best TV I've ever tested.

That's the case once again. As of April 2018, the LG C8 is the best TV I've ever tested, beating the 2017 Sony and LG OLED TVs by a hair. And it's a thin hair: The C8's main advantages are really minor, including slightly better screen uniformity and ephemeral new video processing options.

Anybody who bought a 2017 OLED TV can rest assured that the newest version isn't significantly better (and has an uglier stand). For anybody who wants to save money by getting a 2017 OLED TV on closeout now, rather than waiting until this fall for the C8 to drop in price, consider this review a green light. (Note that Thanksgiving week has been the best time to buy LG's OLED TVs in recent years.)

The C8 is the cheapest this year with LG's new Alpha 9 processor, something that will be missing from the B8 when it appears this summer. But the B8 will be less expensive. And that processor isn't worth much extra money in terms of real-world performance, from what I've seen. In other words, the B8 is definitely worth waiting for if you want the best price on a 2018 OLED TV.

And for people who just want the best TV, regardless of price, it also pays to wait. Samsung's Q9 costs more than the C8, but promises a brighter image and the best quantum-dotlocal dimming tech that LG's arch-rival can muster. It's the only 2018 LCD TV that I think may have a chance to equal an OLED. Meanwhile cheaper models such as the Vizio P-series Quantum could also make a play for videophiles who crave brightness -- or fear OLED burn-in.

It's early in the game, but the LG C8 is still my favorite to win the 2018 picture quality championship.

LG OLEDC8P series

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sleek looks beyond the weak stand

I've loved LG's minimalist OLED designs in the past, but the 2018 C8 is more of a miss in my book. The included stand is really wide, almost the same width as the panel, and it scoops up to either side. I much preferred the cleaner look of the narrower, angular stand on the C7 from last year.

Of course you could always ditch the stand, wall-mount the TV and bask in its glorious minimalism. There's less than a half-inch of black frame around the picture itself to the top and sides. Then there's a bit more below, but no trace of silver, no "LG" or any other logo at all.

LG OLEDC8P series

Sarah Tew/CNET

Seen in profile, the top portion is razor thin at just a quarter-inch deep. But it 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. It's plastic, but the backside above it is sheathed in silvery metal.

New for 2018, LG updated the screensaver that appears when the TV isn't receiving a signal. Now it's an actual framed picture, including paintings and photographs of landscapes, and the frame itself changes too. My first thought is that LG wants to ape the panache of Samsung's The Frame in software form.

Smart TV: Decent but not innovative

LG's Web OS menu system feels nice and snappy but it's basically unchanged from last year. It still lacks the innovative extras and app-based setup of Samsung's 2018 Tizen system, and falls well short of the app coverage of Roku TV or Sony's Android TV. If you want more apps, your best bet is to get an external streamer, but it's worth mentioning that only one, the Apple TV 4K, can support Dolby Vision.

LG OLEDC8P series

Sarah Tew/CNET

The remote is the same as the 2017 model's. I like using its motion control to whip around the screen, something that's particularly helpful when signing into apps or searching 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.

Both of those apps get dedicated launch buttons on the remote, by the way. But unlike Sony's 2018 remote there's no special logo-infused key for Google Assistant. LG's 2018 sets will soon include Assistant, which you can access by pressing the plain-Jane mic button, but it wasn't yet active when I reviewed the TV. I'll update this section when I get the chance to test it.

Features and connections

Key features

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

OLED's basic tech is closer to late, lamented plasma than to the LED LCD (QLED, quantum dot or otherwise) technology used in the vast majority of today's TVs. LCD relies on a backlight shining through a liquid crystal panel to create the picture, while each individual sub-pixel is responsible for creating illumination on OLED and plasma screens. 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.

LG's 2018 OLED TVs have the same light output and color gamut capabilities as 2017 models, so the biggest picture quality difference is that the 2018 TVs (aside from the B8, due later this year) get LG's new Alpha 9 processor. The company claims the chip improves noise reduction, sharpness, contrast and color (the latter with superior color mapping). LG also added black frame insertion to all of its 2018 OLED TVs, including the B8. See the picture quality section below for more details.

Unlike Samsung, LG TVs like the C8 support both major current types of HDR video: Dolby Vision and HDR10. The set also supports HLG HDR as well as Technicolor and Philips' HDR format. But you should think of them as future-proofing features as there's no content you can watch in those formats yet. A Technicolor-approved picture mode is also available.

New for 2018, LG's TVs are also compatible with HFR (high frame rate) video, although only through built-in streaming apps, not on external devices connected by HDMI. The presentation of higher frame rates in a handful of movies -- for example, The Hobbit and Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk -- is controversial. Many viewers simply don't like the effect, which can give films a similar look to the much-maligned soap opera effect. That said, it might become more widely accepted in sports and gaming content. Again there's no HFR content available yet, but LG says it might appear later in 2018.

LG OLEDC8P series

Sarah Tew/CNET

In addition to its standard burn-in prevention measures, LG's added one called "Logo Luminance Adjustment." It's designed to automatically detect a static on-screen logo and, after two minutes, start decreasing its brightness over about a minute and a half, after which the logo should be 20 percent dimmer. CNET's initial tests of the feature found it does reduce logo brightness a bit, but we don't expect it to be a cure-all given the relatively mild percentage decrease.

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.

LG OLEDC8P series

Sarah Tew/CNET
  • Four HDMI inputs with HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2
  • Three USB ports
  • One composite video input
  • Optical digital audio output
  • One RF (antenna) input
  • RS-232 port (minijack, for service only)
  • Ethernet (LAN) port

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