LG OLEDC7P review: Best high-end TV of the 2017, but there is another

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The Good The LG C7 is tied with other 2017 OLEDs as 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 super-slim panel.

The Bad The less expensive LG OLEDB7A has the same image quality.

The Bottom Line The LG C7 is the best overall TV we've ever tested, but the nearly identical B7A is a superior value.

8.7 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 10
  • Performance 10
  • Value 6

Updated November '17 for the 2017 holiday season

The LG C7 has the best image quality I've ever tested. It performs just as well as the more-expensive LG E7 and Sony's XBR-A1E OLED TVs, and better than any LCD-based TVs I've seen, including Samsung's new QLED-based Q7 model.

But if you're in the market for a high-end TV, the B7A, which I did not review, is a better value. It offers the same image quality as the C7 and costs less. How much less, exactly, depends on when you read this. During LG's Black Friday sale the B7A was $200 and $400 less for the 55- and 65-inch sizes, respectively, but a day after the sale ended the difference was just $100 for both sizes.

Aside from price, the only differences between the two are cosmetic (different stands) and audio-related (the B7A lacks Dolby Atmos decoding and has a different speaker configuration). I don't think those features on the C7 are worth the extra money to most buyers, even if it's just $100 more. Check out my take on the LG B7A for more details.

Then again, maybe you value those differences enough to pay the extra money for C7. Or maybe you want an even more-expensive OLED for some reason. Or maybe you're fine with merely "excellent" as opposed to "best ever" picture quality. If so, there are plenty of non-OLED choices that cost half as much or less, including the TCL 55P607 or Vizio M series.

But if you're in the market for a high-end TV, it doesn't get any better than OLED. And with current holiday pricing, now's the time to buy. My pick would be the B7A just because it costs less and offers the same picture, but beyond that it's tough to go wrong with the 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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The stand is the only real difference between the C7 and the B7A; 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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

LED LCD vs. OLED: TV display technologies compared

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.

The C7's Dolby Atmos capability only matters if you have a Dolby Atmos sound system and you want to use the TV's built-in apps to pass the Atmos soundtracks. If you'd rather use an external streaming device, or don't care about Atmos, it's not a big deal and you're fine with the B7A. About that TV's different speaker configuration, LG says: "Although total audio power is 40W for each, the C7 has 2 woofers (2.2 channel) while the B7A does not (4.0 channel)." In other words, the C7 might have slightly better bass. Big woop.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Unlike Samsung, LG TVs like the C7 and B7A support both current types of HDR video: Dolby Vision and HDR10. The set also supports HLG HDR, and will support Technicolor HDR later in 2017, but for content is currently nonexistent for both. A Technicolor-approved picture mode was added in October 2017.

  • 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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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