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

Picture quality comparisons


The C7 is once again the best TV I've tested -- ever. It shares that honor with the more-expensive E7 and Sony XBR-A1E 2017 OLED TVs.

Compared to the 2016 OLED versions, which earned the same score, it delivers slightly more light output and looks better with HDR, but all told the overall differences are minor. It is significantly better than the Samsung Q7 QLED TV.

Click the image at the right to see the basic picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Dim lighting: OLED ruled in the environment home theater fans like best: a dark room. Watching the "John Wick" Blu-ray for example, all of the LGs spat out that inky blackness I've come to expect, trouncing the depth of black seen on the Samsung and the Vizio. Dark scenes showed the most noticeable differences. In Chapter 5, as Wick (Keanu Reeves) dresses in his black suit, the black background and shadows looked dark as night, yet details around his face remained true. Shadow detail was very similar between the 2016 and 2017 OLED TVs, and superb overall.

In comparison, the LCDs appeared more washed-out, and there were elements of blooming -- stray light that leaks from bright areas into dark-- visible at times, particularly with graphical elements. That issue was nonexistent with the OLED sets. In short, with dark or dim rooms there's no contest between OLED and the LCD-based TVs I had available to compare.

Bright lighting: LG claims a 25 percent improvement in light output over last year's models. In my tests the 2017 C7 and E7 were brighter, but by no more than 15 percent, and often by less depending on picture mode and measurement conditions. The company also restricts its claim to certain picture levels, meaning the brightness improvement doesn't apply to everything. Long story short: don't expect to see much, if any brightness improvement.

The main thing to know, however, is that OLEDs are plenty bright for just about any lighting environment. They're not the blinding light cannons that newer LCD-based displays can be, however, especially when bright content occupied a majority of the screen. Think a hockey match or "Frosty the Snowman" special.

Light output comparison

Light output in nits

TV Mode (SDR) 10% window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10% window (HDR)
Sony XBR-65X930D Vivid 926 492 HDR Video 923
Samsung QN65Q7F Dynamic 923 588 Dynamic 1,781
Samsung UN65KS8000 Dynamic 618 480 Movie 1,346
LG 55UH8500 Vivid 610 403 HDR Bright 601
LG OLED65E6P Vivid 447 137 HDR Vivid 691
LG OLED65E7P Vivid 473 152 Vivid 728
LG OLED55C7P Vivid 433 145 Vivid 715
LG OLED55B6P Vivid 422 119 HDR Vivid 680

All of the OLED sets preserved and reduced reflections very well -- a bit better than the Vizio and a bit worse than the Samsung, whose handling of reflections is among the best I've ever seen. New for 2017, LG's OLED screens themselves have less of a purplish tint in reflections, although both 2016 and 2017 OLEDs perform equally well at dimming reflections and preserving black levels.

Color accuracy: The LGs performed well in this area, although for some reason the initial color of the E7 was a bit worse than the C7. This led to a difference in post-calibration color as well, at least in my charts. Viewing program material, on the other hand, didn't show any big differences, and both showed highly accurate color and excellent saturation with both Wick's muted tones and the more vibrant palette of "Samsara."

Video processing: All of the OLEDs were very good in this category. They passed my go-to 1080p/24 film cadence test from "I Am Legend" in both the "Off" and the "Custom" (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.

The rest of the settings (with the exception of Off) introduced some form of smoothing, or soap opera effect, and none bested that motion resolution score. Sticklers for blurring will note that the Samsung beat the LG with a score of 1,200 lines.

Input lag with both the C7 and E7 are improved from last year, measuring an excellent 21 milliseconds each in Game mode. I didn't measure 4K or HDR lag this time around, but I plan to soon, and I'll update this review when it happens.

Off-angle and uniformity: Another 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 the Vizio and Samsung in this lineup) wash out in comparison.

Screen uniformity on the 2017 OLED sets was solid but not perfect, with dark, full-field patterns showing faint vertical banding, particularly the E7. It wasn't visible in program material I watched however, for example the tracking shot of the assault on the house in Chapter 5 of "Wick." The LCDs, in particular the Samsung, showed much more noticeable uniformity issues, for example brightness variations across the screen.

HDR and 4K video: OLED looks great with 4K Blu-ray played in high dynamic range, too.

Despite their light output inferiority compared to the Samsung Q7 QLED TV on paper, in person the LG OLED sets looked better in pretty much every way. The OLEDs even measured brighter in highlights than the Q7, according to spot measurements I took of the 4K BD version of "John Wick," like the fluorescent lights above the garage and the burst of sunlight during his tarmac doughnuts.

As I've seen before, the maxed-out backlight required by HDR exacerbates LCDs' inherent flaws, brightening areas that should be darker, like shadows and letterbox bars, and making blooming more noticeable. In contrast, so to speak, the OLED sets created an inky black canvas for the brilliant highlights of HDR to show up even more strongly.

One advantage Samsung claims over LG is in HDR color volume, which it says should make bright highlights more colorful. I didn't see any differences in "Wick," so I turned to a scene recommended to me by a Samsung technician, the Doomsday fight from "Batman vs. Superman."

Comparing the 2017 OLEDs to the Samsung Q7 in ultrabright areas of color, like the orange lightning around Doomsday (2:32:27) and his eye beams (2:33:51), there was almost no visible difference in color at first glance. Only when I paused the action and looked very closely did I see that the Samsung maintained saturation a bit better than the OLEDs in those flashes. The difference was fleeting and restricted to ultrabright spots of color, however, and any Samsung advantage in color volume was far outstripped by OLED's other strengths.

Between the four OLED TVs HDR differences were minor, but I give the nod to the 2017 sets. I measured slightly brighter highlights in the E7 and C7 than in their 2016 counterparts, and I also noticed a greenish tint in the 2016 sets' default color compared to the 2017 models (and the Samsung), which were more accurate in midtones.

The biggest difference, however, was in color volume and detail in bright areas. In Chapter 1 of "Batman vs. Superman," for example, the silhouette of young Bruce Wayne ascending into the brilliant sky was better-defined on the 2017 models (and the Q7), while the fiery explosions in Chapter 7 (1:18:28) and the highlights of the Doomsday fight were more colorful and detailed on the 2017 TVs.

I also checked out some streaming in HDR on the OLEDs, including "Mad Dogs" on Amazon and "Jessica Jones" on Netflix, the latter in Dolby Vision. Differences followed the trends I saw with 4K Blu-ray, although for some reason the B6 looked less saturated with "Mad Dogs" than the other TVs. Comparing Dolby Vision on the E7 and C7 directly to HDR10 on the other sets (distributed from a Roku Premiere+), differences were very difficult to discern.

LG C7 Geek box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 433 Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.24 Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.220 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.059 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.006 Good
Avg. color error 1.160 Good
Red error 1.638 Good
Green error 1.17 Good
Blue error 1.183 Good
Cyan error 1.271 Good
Magenta error 0.967 Good
Yellow error 0.729 Good
Avg. saturations error 1.27 Good
Avg. luminance error 1.7 Good
Avg. color checker error 1.16 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 600 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 600 Average
Input lag (Game mode) 21.33 Good
HDR default (Cinema)

Black luminance 0 Good
Peak white luminance (10% win) 701 Average
Gamut % DCI/P3 (CIE 1976) 99 Good
Avg. saturations error 3.7 Average
Avg. color checker error 3.1 Average

LG_C7_final by David Katzmaier on Scribd

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