In mid-fall 2018, the B8 costs $1,700 for the 55-inch size and $2,600 for the 65 inches. Yes, that can seem like quite a stretch, but relief could be on the way soon. For the last couple of years LG has dropped its OLED TV prices for Black Friday in mid-November. This year I wouldn't be surprised if the 65-inch B8 got down to $2,100... or maybe even less.
Read more: Best TV gifts for the holidays
If you've been eyeing a new OLED TV recently, maybe you're wondering about the C8, which costs slightly more and has a newer video processor than the B8. Lemme cut to the chase: in my side-by-side comparisons, that processor does help the image a tiny bit, making the C8 ever-so-slightly better than the B8 for image quality, but it's not worth the extra money in my opinion. Both TVs deserve a 10 in image quality, and the B8 is the superior value, so it gets the higher CNET rating overall.
If you're not familiar with OLED TVs, maybe you're wondering why the heck they cost so much more than LCD-based TVs. My favorite LCD so far, the TCL 6 series, costs less than half as much and has an excellent picture, while higher-end sets like the Vizio P series Quantum and Sony X900F are still hundreds less than the B8. The short answer is that if you want the best picture, OLED is worth it.
The B8 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.
Seen in profile, the top portion 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.
I wrote those exact words in my review of the C7 OLED TV from 2017. That's because the B8, eighteen months older, looks exactly the same as that TV. The biggest difference between 2018's B8 and the C8 is in the design of their stands. The stand is narrower on the B8, with a sleek, angled look (just like the C7's). The stand of the C8, on the other hand, is curved slightly and extends almost the entire length of the panel.
Tastes differ, but I actually like the cheaper B8's stand better. If you're wall-mounting and ditch the stand, the B8 and C8 look exactly the same.
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 -- although it's much snappier than the latter. 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.
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.
The B8 builds in Google Assistant, allowing you to speak into the clicker to search for TV shows and movies, control compatible smart-home devices, get the weather, order pizza and much more. You can also control some stuff on the TV using Google Home or Amazon Alexa smart speakers.
|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, 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 get LG's new Alpha 9 processor. The exception is the B8 reviewed here; it's the only 2018 LG OLED to use LG's older processor instead. 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.
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. Our 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.
In a side-by-side comparison lineup against the best LCD TVs I had on hand in CNET's lab, including the Samsung Q9 and the Vizio P Series Quantum, the B8 looked better. Yes, those sets delivered brighter highlights with some HDR material, but OLED's perfect black levels and superior contrast lent its image more impact and realism overall with both SDR and HDR.
Compared against the C8 OLED TV the B8 was very slightly worse, simply because I saw more contouring (banding) with a few extremely difficult scenes. In the vast majority of material they looked basically identical, with the more expensive C8 showing no advantage whatsoever. Both deserve a "10" in picture quality, but the C8 technically retains its crown as the best TV I've ever tested.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.
Dim lighting: Watching the incredible-looking Avengers: Infinity War Blu-ray all of the TVs in my lineup looked excellent, but as usual the two OLEDs stood above the rest. In the opening sequence where Thanos and the Black Order bully Thor and the other heroes, subtle OLED advantages included a bit more pop and life in high-contrast areas, like lights and fires against the shadows of the wreckage, and a slight improvement in depth and dimensionality in areas like the face of Heimdall. The letterbox bars stayed true black, while on the LCDs they were slightly brighter, taking away some of the image's contrast.
The local dimming LCDs in general did a very good job controlling blooming and maintaining contrast, but the OLEDs still looked better. As the Bifrost streaks through space, for example, the edge of the moon cased some blooming on all of the LCDs' letterbox bars (10:26), the shine from the moon bled out into space, and the LCDs' pause icons were significantly dimmer than the OLEDs'. That's a result of OLED's ability to illuminate (or dim) every pixel individually, which again contributes to contrast.
I looked hard for any real difference between the B8 and the C8 OLED TVs in this film and didn't see any. Both looked spectacular, and a step (at least) better than any of the LCDs.
Bright lighting: Like the C8, the B8 doesn't improve upon past LCDs for light output, as usual it can't compete with the raw brightness of the LCD-based models in our lineup, including the TCL 6 series at less than half the price.
That said, the OLED sets are still bright enough for just about any viewing environment. Yes, they do get significantly dimmer than the LCDs when showing full-screen white -- think a hockey game, for example -- but even in those situations they're hardly dim.
|TV||Mode (SDR)||10% window (SDR)||Full screen (SDR)||Mode (HDR)||10% window (HDR)|
|TCL 65R617||Brighter/Vivid||653||480||Brighter/Dark HDR||824|
|LG OLED65C8P||Vivid||419||141||Cinema Home||792|
|LG OLED55C8P||Vivid||418||140||Cinema Home||788|
|LG OLED65B8P||Vivid||393||130||Technicolor Expert||771|
All of the OLED sets preserved black levels and reduced reflections very well -- better than the TCL and Vizio, albeit worse than the Samsungs, whose handling of reflections is among the best I've ever seen.
Color accuracy: Before my calibration the B8's ISF Expert (Dark Room) was the most accurate for a dark room, edging out Technicolor Expert and Cinema. The best modes on the B8 sample I reviewed tended slightly toward blue, but that's not a big knock. See my calibration notes for more.
After calibration, the two OLEDs looked basically identical in terms of color, despite the B8's advantage in my post-calibration measurements -- neither one had a clear advantage. As usual OLED's superior black levels also improved the perception of color saturation compared to the LCD displays but, beyond that difference, the LCDs were just as accurate in program material. also looked basically as good.
Video processing: This is the category where LG claims the new Alpha 9 processor on its step-up C8 and higher models will pay dividends over the older processor in the B8. In truth, I had a tough time seeing any difference in just about everything I watched.
The one advantage the Alpha 9 brings that I saw was in removal of the contouring artifacts in some material. I saw it most obviously in the amazing 4K HDR Blu-ray of "Blue Planet," (Disc 1, Episode 2: The Deep) where the lights cast by the descending sub (6:24, 8:26 and 9:04, for example) showed relatively abrupt transitions from light to dark on the B8, and smoother, more natural transitions on the C8. In many other areas of this challenging episode, however, those artifacts didn't show up on the B8 either, even when they appeared on other sets (most often the Vizio), or showed up on all of the sets equally. In short, contouring isn't a major issue on the B8, but the C8 does handle it slightly better.
With my standard motion tests the B8 and C8 performed the same. With the Real Cinema setting turned on, the C8 passed my go-to 1080p/24 film cadence test from I Am Legend in both the "Off" and the "User" (zero for De-Judder and 10 for De-Blur) TruMotion position. I'd probably choose the latter since it also delivered the TV's maximum motion resolution (600 lines) and correct film cadence.
I definitely wouldn't choose the mode that introduces black frame insertion, new for 2018. Labeled Motion Pro, it can be toggled on and off in the TruMotion User menu. Turning it on improved motion resolution somewhat, perhaps to 700 lines while also making those lines sharper. But it also dims the image by about 40 percent, adds a subtle pulsing effect to 24-frame motion, and introduces visible flicker to bright areas. The extra motion resolution isn't worth those trade-offs in my book.
The rest of the settings (with the exception of Off) introduced some form of smoothing, or soap-opera effect, and all maxed out at 600 lines of motion resolution. In comparison, the Samsungs and the Vizio PQ hit 1,200 lines, which might make them more appealing for sticklers who can't stand blurring. To my eye, however, the LG remained plenty sharp in motion with all the actual program material (as opposed to test patterns) I watched.
Input lag in Game mode with both 1080p and 4K HDR sources measured an excellent 22 milliseconds, basically the same as the C8 in 1080p and slightly better in HDR.
Off-angle viewing and uniformity: The B8 and C8 were the best TVs in my lineup in this category. One big OLED advantage over LCD is its superb image when viewed from off-angle, in positions other than the sweet spot directly in front of the screen. The OLEDs maintained black-level fidelity and color accuracy much better than any of the LED LCDs I've tested, all of which (including ones in this lineup) wash out in comparison.
Screen uniformity on the B8 matched the C8 as the best I've ever seen on an OLED TV. Very slight vertical banding was still visible on both in the darkest full-field test patterns, in some patterns, but it was exceedingly faint. That said, I didn't notice any banding or any difference between the two OLEDs' uniformity, with regular program material as opposed to test patterns.
The LCDs, for their part, showed much more noticeable uniformity issues than the OLEDs; for example, brightness variations across the screen.
HDR and 4K video: Despite the massive light output advantage of the LCDs' in my measurements, the two LG OLEDs consistently delivered the most impressive HDR images. OLED's advantage of perfect black levels without any of the blooming necessitated by local dimming LCDs overcame brightness and highlight advantage held by the brightest LCDs in my lineup.
I started with the spectacular 4K HDR version of Avengers: Infinity War. Yes, at times the LCDs did show an advantage in light output. In Chapter 3 when Banner picks up the cell phone for example, the sky behind his head (27:00) looked and measured significantly brighter on the Samsung Q9 compared to any of the other sets, including the OLEDs, and that gave it more pop. LIkewise many highlights, for example the sun at the beginning of Chapter 4 (27:30) were quite a bit brighter on the Q9 and the Vizio PQ compared to the OLEDs (and the others).
But in most other scenes the OLEDs looked the best. As the camera pans back from the sun to show Peter Quill rocking out in the cockpit, for example, only the OLED sets' letterbox bars and dark shadows remained true, creating superior contrast and a overall more impressive image despite the dimmer highlights. In this dark scene and many others, the Vizio and the Samsung Q9 looked great too, but compared to the OLEDs their images looked a bit more washed-out and less impactful.
Colors were also spectacular on the OLEDs, blending accuracy and deep saturation. As with SDR, however, I didn't see any major color advantage compared to the best LCDs in my lineup (namely the Q9 and the Vizio PQ).
One of the best examples of OLED's HDR contrast superiority came in "The Deep" during a section featuring bioluminescence (12:54). The sub shuts off its lights, leaving the black ocean lit up by neon blue jellyfish and stranger creatures. The LCDs struggled to suppress the blooms of light around the creatures balanced with the black background while the OLEDs had no such issues. In one scene that resembled a field of blue stars, the tiny blue creature-dots looked brighter, and the black seas darker, on the OLEDs. It wasn't even close.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.000||Good|
|Peak white luminance (SDR)||393||Average|
|Avg. gamma (10-100%)||2.40||Good|
|Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)||0.28||Good|
|Dark gray error (30%)||0.25||Good|
|Bright gray error (80%)||0.25||Good|
|Avg. color checker error||0.70||Good|
|Avg. color error||0.80||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||700||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||600||Average|
|Input lag (Game mode)||21.93||Good|
|Black luminance (0%)||0.000||Good|
|Peak white luminance (10% win)||771||Average|
|Gamut % UHDA/P3 (CIE 1976)||98.40||Good|
|Avg. color checker error||3.37||Average|
|Input lag (Game mode, 4K HDR)||21.93||Good|