Looking for the cheapest route to 2017 LG OLED TV ownership? The 55in version of the C7 (known to its friends as the OLED55C7T) is it.
Actually, it’s one of two routes because, on paper at least, the 55in B7 is the same TV with a slightly different stand.
Whichever of the two you buy you should get the same performance. In fact, you should get the same picture no matter which 2017 LG OLED you opt for, from the cheap-ish B7 and C7 right up to the “Wallpaper” W7. The further down the range you go, the less advanced the sound is, but for those people planning to partner their new telly with a surround setup or soundbar, they should get everything they need from the C7.
So does that make the C7 (and, presumably, the B7) the pick of the LG range? Indeed it does.
Design: less is more
This might be the joint-cheapest 2017 LG OLED but, to our mind, it’s also the best-looking after the impossibly thin W7.
That’s because its speaker system is much smaller and less obtrusive than those of models further up the range. In fact, viewed face-on the speakers are invisible, leaving you a glossy 55in screen outlined by a super-thin bezel, all lifted off your surface by an elegant, silver stand.
Move round to the side and you’ll see that the majority of the C7’s chassis is a big slab of screen that’s just a few millimetres thick. Admittedly there’s a protrusion around the back that houses the speakers, connections and processing gubbins, but the uniform thinness of the rest of the set means it is very striking indeed, particularly if you wall-mount it.
Picture quality: the OLED awesomeness we know and love
While the likes of the Sony A1 have to wait for Dolby Vision to be added at a later date via firmware, LG’s 2017 OLED range has it out of the box, so it’s obviously this that you’ll want to try first. Essentially, all of those Netflix Originals that appear in standard HDR to most tellies will be streamed in Dolby Vision to the C7.
Honestly, on this evidence there’s not a huge difference between ‘normal’ HDR and Dolby Vision, but you can rest easy knowing that when the Dolby Vision logo appears you’re seeing precisely the picture that the director intended.
And what a picture it is. At this point, everyone knows the core advantage of OLED (that each pixel emits its own light, allowing pitch blacks to sit right next to pure whites and punchy colours), but that does nothing to diminish the thrill of seeing one of these TVs in action for the first time.
Imagine an entirely black screen, from the middle of which a bright white logo emerges - a traditional LCD TV with an LED backlight, even a brilliant, high-end model such as one of Samsung’s new QLEDs, needs to raise the backlight to get light to that logo in the middle. You can see it happening and it makes the black of the rest of the image a little less so.
The C7, just like any other OLED, doesn’t need a backlight and doesn’t need to raise the overall brightness of the screen to light the image in the centre. Instead, it just lights each pixel as needed, and the result is much more dramatic.
Of course, you’re not going to spend all of your time watching logos appear on black screens (although you might be surprised at how often you see them in TV shows and films), but it’s a great way to illustrate something that’s happening constantly. Every image you see on a screen contains bright bits and darker bits, and while a traditionally backlit TV has to compromise one to improve the other, an OLED can treat each independently without compromise.
In Marco Polo, for example (yes, we know it’s rubbish), there are loads of scenes with lanterns and fires lighting otherwise dark rooms, and on the C7 these are fabulously dynamic and dramatic. There’s actually been a 25% increase in brightness over last year’s OLEDs and, while an LCD still has an advantage when it comes to peak brightness, the combination of bright and dark elements (the contrast) is much more impressive here.
Dolby Vision isn’t the only HDR standard supported by the C7. In fact, all four of the major formats are supported, adding HDR10, Hybrid Log Gamma and Advanced HDR by Technicolor to the mix. In short, however, HDR is delivered now and in the future, the C7 will play it.
You won’t be watching HDR all the time, especially right now, but this LG has such a range of core qualities that whatever you play on it looks great. Colours are balanced, fine details are found and reproduced lovingly, edges are sharp and objects well defined. The panel’s responsiveness means motion is nicely controlled too, even with the motion processing switched off entirely.
The C7’s only issue in the picture department is the existence of the Sony A1, which takes what LG’s own OLEDs do and enhances it even further with better motion processing and even greater contrast enhancement, resulting in an even more dynamic picture. The Sony’s currently more expensive than the C7, though, which could be a step too far for many potential purchasers.
And there are a couple of ways that the C7 trumps Sony’s offering. For one, its upscaling is better, meaning standard-def content from either of the tuners or a DVD looks incredibly clean and controlled considering how low-res the source is. And two, LG’s 2017 OLEDs have exceptionally low input lag (we measured 21.3ms on this sample), making them ideal for even the most competitive of gamers. Even if you’re not that hardcore you’ll appreciate how punchy and detailed your games look on the C7.
Most modern TVs like to think they know best when it comes to picture settings, and the LG takes this to the next level by providing a unique combination of settings for each content type. The good news is that most of these are pretty good, but you can still improve on things.
Out of the box you’ll find that the Eco mode is selected - you should switch to Standard immediately and use it for most of your day-to-day viewing. You’ll also want to switch the Energy Saving feature off, as it can have a rather damaging effect on the picture.
The Contrast setting also needs to be dropped a few points to reveal more detail in whites, and reducing the coolness of the Colour Temperature from C20 to C5 gives skin tones a more realistic, organic glow.
Switching Dynamic Colour from Low to Medium adds a satisfying extra degree of punch, and we personally prefer the Real Cinema and TruMotion features switched off entirely – some people like the sharpening effect of this motion processing and are prepared to put up with the occasional artefacts it adds as a result.
When you play HDR or Dolby Vision content, the TV will switch to Cinema Home mode. This is generally great when watching in a fairly bright room, but switch to Cinema if you’ve got the lights off. You’ll also want to change the White Balance to Medium with both of these modes for best results.
LG OLED55C7T sound: a fair compromise
You could be forgiven for thinking that, because LG differentiates its OLEDs almost entirely on audio quality, the C7 must sound awful - but that’s definitely not the case.
This is a spacious sound with pretty decent dynamics, which means explosions and other big special effects stand out from the rest of the delivery with extra volume and punch. Voices are also clear and there’s reasonable detail by flatscreen sound standards.
The issue is that everything sounds as if it’s coming from behind the TV - which is largely because it is. That’s not a huge issue, but it does mean the audio is a bit indirect and doesn’t stretch into the room particularly well. And don’t get over-excited about the Dolby Atmos badge. It doesn’t really add anything.
In short, if you care about sound you’d be wise to add a soundbar or other sound system. But we’d also recommend doing that if you bought an LG G7, E7 or a Sony A1 because, even though they sound better than the C7 we’ve got here, they still can’t compete with a proper audio setup, and beautiful OLED should always be accompanied by awesome sound.
LG OLED55C7T features: WebOS is a lovely place to be
As with practically every 2017 LG TV, the C7 comes with the company’s own WebOS 3.5 at its core, and it provides a rather lovely user experience.
It’s a bright and friendly system, with sources, smart services and features all presented as colourful cards that can be rearranged, added and deleted as you see fit, and navigation is snappy too.
According to LG, this year’s incarnation of the platform is 40% faster, so streaming the likes of Netflix, Amazon Video and catch up services via apps is a cinch. There are dedicated buttons on the remote for Netflix and Amazon, and the number buttons can double-up as user-definable shortcuts to your other favourite apps and inputs.
In general, the remote is excellent, combining the motion-sensing pointer skills of LG’s existing Magic Remotes with a full suite of buttons in a smart and ergonomically sound size and shape. Basically, you can find what you want to watch with a minimum of fuss, and that’s all that really matters. We’d like an option to turn the motion-sensing feature off and use the remote as more of an old-school clicker, but on the other hand plenty of people will find the pointer functionality useful.
LG OLED55C7T verdict
The OLED55C7T (and therefore, presumably, the B7) is the pick of LG’s 2017 OLED range. It’s the most affordable model and has the weakest sound, but we’d recommend an audio upgrade regardless of which model you buy, and since the picture is essentially the same, you might as well get the cheapest one. You even get a prettier, more minimalist chassis to boot.
The real question is whether you should go for an LG at all, because the Sony A1 is even better, adding an extra layer of punch and dynamism to the already stunning recipe.
Ultimately, with not-that-big a gap between the official prices of the two models it’s the Sony that wins, but only just. Prices will inevitably fluctuate in the weeks and months to come, and if the gap gets bigger we could well see the C7 becoming the no.1 OLED for 2017. Right now, it will have to settle for a close-run second place.