LG C9 (OLED65C9) 4K OLED TV Review

Feature-Packed and more refined, but no HDR10+

by Phil Hinton
SRP: £3,299.99

What is the LG C9?

The LG OLED65C9 is the entry-level Alpha 9 Gen 2, 4K OLED TV from the manufacturer and is joined by the E9 and W9 models, both of which offer different cosmetics and sound options when compared to the C9.

It also includes all the features that LG has to offer in 2019, including the Alpha 9 Gen 2 processor, ThinQ AI smart features, and High Dynamic Range support (HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma, and Dolby Vision with dynamic metadata). 

The C9 includes HDMI 2.1 connections, allowing the TV to support High Frame Rates (HFR) such as 4K at 120fps. There's also support for Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC), allowing the TV to send lossless object-based audio such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X back via HDMI eARC.

LG has also added support for Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and Automatic Low Latency Mode (ALLM), which is great news for gamers. In fact, about the only feature the current LG line-up doesn't support is HDR10+. When the C9 was released earlier in the year this may not have been seen as a major point, but given the now constant flow of new HDR10+ content coming to streaming and disc, the decision to not include it here may be an issue for some consumers. 

The LG C8 was our favourite all-round TV for 2018 due to its features and image quality, which was the best available at that time. WebOS is still one of the best Smart TV systems on the market which makes the C9 an easy to use and intuitive TV. LG has gone for future-proofing the C9 with the addition of HDMI 2.1 as well as adding a menu place for smooth gradation and Dynamic Tone Mapping Pro for improved HDR10 images. Plus, we can now customise the HDR tone map within the CalMAN AutoCal system based on the exact peak brightness performance of the panel. Also, enthusiasts can now use AutoCal and have the TV produce the test patterns which reduces the cost of entry for those at home who want to calibrate their own TVs.

The LG C9 is available in three screen sizes, the 55-inch OLED55C9, the 65-inch OLED65C9, and 77-inch OLED77C9. We are reviewing the 65-inch model here, but all should have very similar performance.

So can the LG C9 match last year’s success and how does it stand up to the new screens from Panasonic, Sony and Philips?

LG C9 Video Review


Design, Connections and Control


If you are familiar with the LG C8 you will not be shocked by the design of the C9, which is almost identical. It’s a classy look with the long gunmetal stand that is shaped to reflect the audio from the downward-firing speakers towards the seating position. This is a thin 2-inches at the front of the screen, but there is a very heavy central section to the rear which keeps the panel stable. There is also some cable management through the large stand section at the rear.

LG OLED65C9

The screen is almost bezel-less with a thin 1mm border around the panel and a 10mm black area of the screen between the edge and picture area. It is a sleek and minimalist design that works well with the only text being the LG OLED logo on the right side of the stand.

The connections are positioned to the rear right of the panel with sideways and rearward connections. Sideways we have a CI slot and three HDMI 2.1 slots with eARC/ARC on HDMI 2, and a USB port. Rearward we have the fourth HDMI 2.1 slot, two USB ports and antennas for RF and Satellite. We also have a 3.5mm audio out, digital audio out and an Ethernet port.

LG OLED65C9

The remote control is the now-standard LG Magic Remote. It fits neatly in the hand and is incredibly intuitive to use. It has direct access keys for Netflix and Prime Video with central direction and enter keys and an on-screen pointer.

Measurements

Out of the Box

As we always do within our reviews, we measured the out of the box picture presets to find those that get as close as possible to the industry standards. The idea is that a TV must get close to these standards in at least one of its picture modes so end users can view content as it was mastered and intended to be seen.

Calibration is not always an option for end users, so actually knowing how accurate the out of the box presets are is very important in any honest TV review. We see absolutely no point in assessing and reviewing TVs in only the perfectly calibrated picture modes as this doesn’t reflect what the vast majority of buyers will experience with the TV. We don’t only focus on the calibrated performance here at AVForums.

LG OLED65C9

Looking at the greyscale results first we can see that the LG C9 is incredibly accurate out of the box with a nicely tracked greyscale and DeltaE errors that are all under the visible threshold of three. It’s not all perfect and there are some issues with gamma not quite tracking to BT1886. However, the errors seen here within the graph are not obvious at all with content viewed on screen.

LG OLED65C9

With such an accurate grayscale out of the box, we were not surprised that the colour gamut results to Rec.709 HD were also excellent. The only issue seen within the graph is a slight hue error for magenta, but it is certainly not visible within viewed content. Obviously, there will be panel variations between C9 TVs that the public purchase, but if they get close to the out of the box results here, then LG are certainly pushing Panasonic for the out of the box accuracy crown.

 Out of the box image accuracy is stunning...

Calibrated

LG was the original OLED manufacturer to introduce the CalMAN AutoCal to their TVs and they have kept updating the system over the years to better benefit end users and this year they have introduced a built-in pattern generator to reduce the entry point costs, as enthusiasts will only have to buy the software and meter without the extra expense of a pattern generator costing thousands. We did a manual and AutoCal calibration on the C9.

LG OLED65C9

Building on the incredibly accurate results out of the box, you can see that we now have reference level results with the greyscale tracking. Our DeltaE errors are now well under the visible threshold of three with an average error of just 0.22 across the board. Gamma is also tracking the way it should and while there is a slight darkening at 10% stim, AutoCal results were identical here.

LG OLED65C9

Moving to the Rec.709 colour gamut results and, again, we are looking at reference levels of accuracy here. There are a couple of points that are not quite directly on the square within the graph being shown, but we are looking at average DeltaE errors of 0.9, which is well under the visible threshold of three, and the biggest error in our colour checker results was 2.8 so we are extremely satisfied with our results here. The LG C9 is capable of reference levels of accuracy like the GZ2000, GZ950 and others.

HDR Results

Absolute blacks next to bright whites on the pixel level are what OLED is all about and like all other OLED TVs we have tested this year, the LG is capable of stunning dynamic range.

LG OLED65C9

This 65-inch C9 measured around 658 nits on a 2%, 5% and 10% window and like we keep saying within our reviews, this is only one small part of what makes up an HDR10 image as tone mapping and other factors also impact on how good the HDR image quality will be. LG has a new Dynamic Tone Mapping Pro feature for this year along with a unique Peak Brightness feature within the AutoCal system. LG’s tone mapping works on the basis that each C9 measures an identical 700 nits, but because all C9 TVs will measure differently from each other for peak brightness, because they are mass-produced items and there will be variance, you can now enter the exact peak brightness for your C9 and the tone mapping takes that into account to make sure the PQ EOTF is correct and the tone mapping fits your panel's capabilities.

LG OLED65C9

The EOTF does track and match content correctly with a decent roll off before hard clipping. The Dynamic Tone Mapping Pro also adds another level of picture tuning to the HDR10 images that can be switched on or off as you desire.
LG OLED65C9

The P3 colour gamut tracking is also decent and has the familiar magenta hue error in the saturation tracking chart, but most points from 75% and below are there or thereabouts on the graph. The C9 is not capable of covering the entire P3 gamut saturation points and like all OLEDs is limited in colour volume. HDR10 colour performance is, however, very good on the C9 with no obvious issues. We measured BT2020 coverage at 70% XY and 76% UV with P3 at 96% Xy and 98% UV.

 The ability to set peak brightness results to the custom tone map in AutoCal is a superb and unique feature

Performance

The C9 has a lot to live up to this year while trying to offer something new over the outgoing C8 it replaces. Like all the 2019 OLED TVs we have tested and reviewed so far this year, the LG is up there with the very best. We tested it side-by-side with the Panasonic GZ2000, GZ950 and Philips OLED934 and OLED854 along with the Sony BVM-X300 professional mastering monitor. The Sony is an RGB OLED with a 30inch screen size and 4K resolution, so it has better colour purity, better pixel density and more specular highlight brightness that simply blows the LG away (and that goes for every other 2019 OLED we also compared). You should not be surprised about this as there is no way a £35K professional monitor was going to be outperformed by a consumer-level TV, but there is an interesting angle of seeing where they do look similar. And in that respect, the LG C9 does match closely with SDR content, with some slight differences in colour tones, but with HDR content, just like the GZ2000, there are some colour hues that the C9 just can’t match on the professional monitor along with peak brightness. But for most content, the similarities are interesting to see.

Looking at the C9 in more detail, the panel uniformity of this 65-inch review sample was decent but there were visible bands apparent. This didn’t, however, show up in any dark content we viewed on the set and we only saw it when using a 5% slide. Uniformity at higher brightness levels was good. We also saw some evidence of flashing blacks but only with certain poorly compressed content. Otherwise, the C9 uniformity and panel are very good. With SDR content we did notice some black crush with some content, but with HDR content, where we used the custom tone map, we didn’t have any issues and just above black performance was very good indeed.

Motion with 24fps content was very good with no obvious issues with induced judder when TruMotion was switched off. You can, of course, add in interpolation and smoothing for video content if that is what you want to see with sports or other content. In the higher modes, there are issues with artefacts, so some experimentation will be required on your part. It is also good to see the Smooth Gradation addition to the menu system and not in the noise reduction menu like last year. It works well but would also appear to still add some noise reduction that scrubs some fine detail. Upscaling performance is also very good with no obvious signs of edge ringing or artefacts visible.

SDR content looks excellent on the LG out of the box, with superb skin tones and a natural look to colours. Detail is strong with excellent image sharpness and processing with good shadow detailing and strong blacks. The dynamic range is amazing, just like every other 2019 OLED we have tested, and motion is good with no obvious issues but is perhaps just slightly behind the Sony AG9 and GZ2000. SDR content can look incredibly cinematic out of the box and when calibrated. When compared to the GZ2000 and GZ950 SDR performance was almost identical out of the box and more or less the same when calibrated. The Panasonic is just a little more natural looking when it comes to colour saturation and hues, along with a slightly warmer white tone, but we really are splitting hairs at this point. In isolation, you wouldn’t see any of these points.

HDR is also excellent with a superbly dynamic image that has excellent specular highlights and stunning blacks. After calibration and with the custom tone map set to our panel's peak brightness, the above black detail retrieval was exceptionally good and slightly edged the GZ2000 with some HDR scenes. Skin tones are lifelike and natural with strong saturated colours, that look good with no signs of posterisation within bright scenes or content with a strong light source. While a measurement with a 10% window was ‘only’ 658 nits, it is with actual content where we see what a set can actually do with HDR10 content. The tone mapping and relaxed ABL help build a fantastic dynamic performance and you can also add even more by selecting the Dynamic Tone Mapping Pro mode. We found it interesting with HDR10 content and there is no right or wrong when it comes to such features, so you can choose what suits and looks best to you. Dolby Vision content also looks stunning and the Panasonic TVs and LG C9 were extremely strong performers. We didn’t notice any issues at all, with strong blacks, superb mid-tones and excellent peak highlights that retain plenty of detail within strong flames, bright whites and clouds.

There is no doubt that the LG C9 is one of the best 2019 TVs we have seen and, when compared to its closest rivals, the differences at the top end, between the C9 and GZ2000 are so small that only those looking for the last increment of performance will find that the GZ2000 has just a slightly better SDR black level out of the box with no crush, and colours that are just that little more nuanced and natural compared to a more saturated look on the LG. With HDR the differences are even smaller with both performing to exceptionally high standards.

The sound quality of the LG C9 is good with a nice spread across the front soundstage and it can also present a decent surround like performance. Bass is lacking for intense action movie viewing but for all other content in a normal living room, the built-in speakers are perfectly adequate. The WebOS smart TV system gets a slight upgrade and is still one of the best operating systems out there with a slick and fast response and a good host of applications.

 The LG C9 is one of the very best OLED TVs available right now...

Verdict

The Good

  • Stunning black levels and shadow detail
  • Superb accuracy out of the box for SDR
  • Excellent HDR10 image quality
  • Superb Dolby Vision image quality
  • Dynamic Tone Mapping Pro is very good
  • Custom tone map setting is a great idea and works
  • HDMI 2.1
  • Excellent input lag
  • Excellent OS and Smart TV system
  • Good build quality and design

The Bad

  • No HDR10+
  • Slight black crush with SDR in some content
  • Some slight uniformity issues and black flashing on some content

LG C9 (OLED65C9) 4K OLED TV Review

This has been a long term review and we intend to keep using this C9 in future comparison videos and articles against its peers. It is a stunning OLED TV that offers excellent image quality that is right at the top of the tree along with Panasonic for accuracy to the standards.

Out of the box, image quality is stunningly accurate with only the odd instance of black crush getting in the way of a reference level performance, but you may never notice this when actually viewing the TV in normal lighting, and even then it’ll also take a keen eye in the dark with some content.

With HDR and using the new custom tone curve setting in AutoCal, we get some of the best HDR images we have seen from an OLED TV this year with excellent tone mapping to get the very best out of HDR10 content. Dolby Vision is also stunning with superb black levels, excellent above black details and lifelike skin tones and colours.

Add to this one of the most feature-packed operating systems in WebOS, with its fast and stable performance with all applications, along with easy to use controls and menus. Gaming is also a strong point with excellent motion and HDR performance, along with a lag time of just 12.8ms, which is one of the lowest available, so you’ll have no issues with any gaming on the LG.

Plus, we have four full HDMI 2.1 ports with 48Gbps the ability to display higher frame rates up to 120Hz, eARC (enhanced audio return channel), dynamic metadata for HDR, auto low latency mode (ALLM) and variable refresh rates (VRR).

It’s clear that if you are looking for an OLED TV this year and you want one of the best available, the LG C9 certainly ticks almost all the boxes for performance, image accuracy and features. It will be a difficult choice for many AVForums readers to make and even with all the peers sitting here in my testing room, I’m struggling to pick just one set as the absolute best. There is no such thing as a perfect TV, but the top end OLEDs this year offer some of the most accurate images we have seen yet, so the LG C9 comes highly recommended and could be your number one future-proofed choice.
Highly Recommended

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

10

Screen Uniformity

.
9

Colour Accuracy

.
9

Greyscale Accuracy

10

Video Processing

.
9

Picture Quality

10

SDR Picture Quality

10

HDR Picture Quality

.
9

Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box

.
9

Picture Quality Calibrated

10

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Smart Features

.
9

Build Quality

.
.
8

Ease of Use

.
9

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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