TVs are joining forces with smartphones in igniting the AI evolution and LG’s charging forth full steam.
Sure, the brand lends its legendary panels to other manufacturers but the secret sauce that LG’s keeping for itself is not panels at all, but the chips at the core that drive them. Everything’s getting smarter, so why not TVs right? After all, they’ve got to keep up with the variety of content we’re consuming these days.
We’re transitioning from cable to streaming at a rapid pace and TV makers are ensuring nothing gets in the way of our binge-watching habits. Throw in gaming, casting and the like and you’ve got a situation that requires serious brains to handle all that content. Samsung and LG are both gunning for top spot in this space, so let’s see if the latter’s made any headway in its mission.
Features: engage brain
Devices these days are rocking the ‘smart’ monicker like it’s going out of fashion. Some fully warrant the brag tag while others count on their marketing teams to convince you. TVs seem to gain a massive boost in performance from being clever and for that very reason, LG’s deployed its Alpha 9 processor to report for duty.
Consider the C8 your entry level ticket to a flagship TV chip. A four-part noise-reduction system, frequency-based image-sharpening, object-based contrast enhancement and adaptive colour mapping are all on the menu. This being the brand’s most advanced picture processing, it’s bound to astound. Spoiler alert: it totally does.
Design: the height of fashion
TV brands are embellishing their rectangular black slabs in all kinds of ways to up the style quotient and some have achieved great success. LG’s version of a slick telly is seriously seductive without trying too hard. The pedestal stand featuring a ribbed tunnel will have heads turning with its subtle style. While the top half of the telly is razor thin, it thickens up a bit around the bottom half owing to connections (four HDMIs, three USBs, aerial, satellite, optical and headphone) on the back of the panel. Considering how it’s out of sight for the most part, it’s hardly a bother. Unless you watch TV from the side. Which begs the question: what’s wrong with you?
Picture: a punchier OLED
There’s two ways to take full advantage of this TV’s tasty offerings. Cinema mode for HDR content and Standard mode for everything else. Given all its processing prowess, you’ll want to keep a close eye on these digital nannies so as to preserve the picture you see. It’s effective, but only when it isn’t performing over-enthusiastically.
We fed the C8 some 4K treats in the form of Marvel’s Spider-man and Planet Earth. Colours are adequately vibrant, details are nice and crisp, and contrast plays it part on point as well.
Brightness levels haven’t reached eye-searing Samsung levels yet, but there’s punch aplenty. Motion smoothening can go overboard so you’re best off without it.
Fuel it with quality content and the C8 seldom disappoints. There’s nothing a few remote presses won’t fix. The way it’ll upscale standard definition is just as impressive if not more. Blacks are as inky as can be and detail shines through without overshadowing the entire image. With an input lag of 21.4ms, it’ll keep gamers hooked for long hours too.
As mentioned above, we recommend the Cinema Home mode for HDR content and Standard mode for pretty much everything else, and both of these presets require only a little tweaking to look their best.
For Cinema Home (which you should only adjust while you’re feeding the TV an HDR signal) we suggest you up the Sharpness by around 10 points, move the Colour Temperature gauge to somewhere near the middle and turn off both of the noise reduction features.
There’s no perfect TruMotion setting either, as we’ve discussed, so you’ll want to experiment with that and make a selection based on personal preference.
To the Standard mode we suggest only very slight adjustments to the Contrast and Brightness, a Colour Temperature setting more towards the middle, and that the Super Resolution and noise reduction options be switched off.
Apply your preferred TruMotion setting here, too. Oh, and you’ll want to turn off the set’s Energy Saving mode.
Sound: not the upgrade we were hoping for
LG’s slapped a Dolby Atmos logo sticker on the box which will lead you to believe you can hold off on that speaker purchase. We’re afraid that’s not a plan we can vouch for. Audio is sufficiently loud and spacious, it just doesn’t deliver on its cinematic promise in any meaningful way. You’re bound to be left craving sound to match that screen.
Rivals have in fact outdone the LG with better bundled sound but they’re not winning any prizes in our books either. Most of your dough goes into delivering the best possible picture which makes the speakers feel compromised. You’ll want to invest in a solid sound bar at the very least to complete the experience. It’s a no-brainer.
Apps and usability: no changes necessary
We’ve been fans of LG’s webOS for a while now and the C8’s performance has bolstered our opinion further still. You get the apps you need in the form of Netflix and YouTube amongst other popular ones if that’s what floats your boat. Navigating through it all feels fantastically fluid and the point-and-click remote only enhances the experience.
The Gallery feature complements its aesthetic appeal too turning your TV into an art installation with 46 pictures to choose from. ThinQ AI brains inside that welcome voice commands work well but not well enough for us to summon the feature on a regular basis.
It’s still just that, a feature and not a leap forward in device control.
Siri on Apple TV has nothing to fear at this point.
LG OLED55C8PLA verdict
The C8 isn’t a game-changer if that’s what you were hoping for. It’s a step in the right direction though and improves on key aspects of its predecessor. That’s a whole lot of TV going by what we’ve seen from LG in the past. It really is all the TV you need rubbing shoulders with the best in the business and occasionally outshining some rivals.
The AI and voice-control aspects of the C8 are less life-altering and more an option that isn’t essential in its current state. But combine the sum of its parts, and the telly delivers in every department that truly matters. It won’t steal your life’s savings either and combined with a capable sound system, this is all the binge-watching fodder you should care for.