When I received the 55" LG C9 OLED TV, a couple of online media outlets had just claimed it to be the best TV of 2019. That made me even more intrigued to set it up and see for myself. So I got it ready in my theatre room, and spent the last month testing it out.
If looks could kill, the LG OLED C9 would slaughter the competition. While aesthetic appeal is largely subjective, compared to any OLED TV on the market, I find the C9 to be more attractive than even LG's own higher-priced E9 series. It literally looks like a sheet of glass with a sleek base.
It's only a slight refinement from last year's C8, but there are noticeable and welcome improvements nonetheless.
One thing I didn't like about the looks has nothing to do with the TV itself, but rather the packaging design: it requires two people to take the display out of the box, and you need some dexterity as there aren't many places through which you can slip your fingers to take the panel out safely. If you're getting it professionally mounted, though, or have a friend there to help, this likely won't matter.
While the appearance of the C9 offers minor refinements over last year's models, the HDMI selection presents a major upgrade. For 2019, they all use partial HDMI 2.1. The new standard supports 4K at 120Hz, provides a fatter pipe for dynamic HDR information, and handles uncompressed audio for soundbars and surround-sound systems using Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), the new version of the return-channel technology that lets you reduce cable clutter by running a single cable between the TV and soundbar. I still don't like it, since I find eARC, just like its ARC predecessor, to be finicky and unreliable. Nonetheless, it's there.
The new connection standard also supports Quick Media Switching (QMS), which adjusts the TV's resolution and frame rate to match whatever content you're putting on screen. If you've ever tried to play a 24Hz movie on a 60Hz panel, you may have noticed that the display goes blank as you move from one content mode to another. QMS eliminates this buffering step, making it all the more seamless to enjoy all media sources on your TV.
Those HDMI 2.1 connections also promise enhancements for gaming, with an automatic low-latency mode (ALLM), which switches to game mode when it senses that a game console is connected and active. There's also variable refresh rate (VRR) support, which lets gaming hardware cut loose while maintaining buttery-smooth action and eliminating dropped frames with a technology similar to AMD's FreeSync.
LG's Alpha 9 Gen 2 processor does more than just handle new smart TV features. It also enhances the picture quality through improved noise reduction, superb upscaling, and AI-powered brightness control that keeps the display looking the same under changing lighting conditions. It still, however, doesn't surpass the subjectively better Sony Master Series A9F OLED, which set the bar for premium HD to 4K upscaling.
Playing native 4K movies is a different story. Whether it's showing a scene from Blade Runner 2049, a 4K stream from Netflix, or even the venerable Creepshow series from Amazon Prime 4K, the native 4K presentation on the C9 looks fantastic.
The overall quality is superb, with rich, inky blacks, vibrant colours, and perhaps the best HDR experience you'll get from a 4K TV, with broad support for formats like HDR10, Dolby Vision, and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) for live content. There is no HDR10+ for LG TVs, however. You should go with Panasonic if full HDR compatibility is needed.
Because OLED is a self-emissive display, viewing angles are also one of best I've seen, maintaining colour consistently from the optimal dead-centre viewing position out to nearly 180 degrees (the viewing angle when I'm sitting in my massage chair) with no colour shifting or negative effect. In fact, at the steepest angles, the larger problem was the reflectivity of the screen itself.
Two areas where even the best TVs struggle are in upscaling from lower-resolution content and in maintaining clarity when showing fast action. In both instances, it's not uncommon to see blurred movement, hazy details, and digital artifacts. Although the C9 managed to keep things clean and clear, it doesn't come out on top when dealing with upscaling or fast motion. It comes close, though. Still, while I can accept this less than stellar performance compared to the LG B9, I'm a tad disappointed that it is not visually better considering that this is the more premium offering from LG.
Another Notable Feature
The biggest "wow" for me is the ability for this TV to do AirPlay 2. This means I can cast audio and video from iOS devices to the TV without needing to buy an Apple TV 4K. Some of you may dismiss this feature, but it is an important one, in my opinion. I can now play my "The Simpsons Tapped Out" game on a 55" TV.
Although many call the C9 the best TV of 2019, all of the comparisons were done far too early in the year. The biggest problems with this TV are in the image retention and HDR compatibility. HDR compatibility, as previously mentioned, does not cover HDR10+. Upscaling capability is bested by both the Panasonic HCXi and Sony's X1 Ultimate processors. Out of the box colour accuracy is rather impressive, but the Panasonic GZ2000 still wins it.
Can I recommend this TV to readers? Of course! In terms of pure picture quality and feature set, it is indeed one of the best offerings of 2019. And the price isn't insane either at about $2,300 for the 55" version (about $3,200 for the 65" and $8,000 for the 77"). No, you're not getting the Bugatti of TVs. But you're still getting a Rolls Royce.