Hands on: LG C1 OLED TV review

The LG C1 OLED TV is almost ready to dazzle your eyes, and that’s good news if you’ve been waiting to see what’s next after the five-star LG CX OLED TV that launched a year prior.

We got to see LG’s C1 OLED in person, in both the 65-inch and 83-inch sizes, shortly after it was announced at CES 2021. There will also be 48-inch, 55-inch and 77-inch versions of this OLED TV series, and all have the same specs as the sets we got to demo.

The brand new 83-inch C1 OLED looks incredible; we nearly forgot we don’t have room for a TV so large, then naturally daydreamed about moving just to fit it. It doesn’t get bigger than this among 4K OLEDs. LG reminded us that this is the biggest non-8K OLED TV on the market.

The C1 OLED builds on the wow factor of CX series with upgrades beyond size, though. Its new a9 Gen 4 AI processor further optimizes picture quality and enhances audio upmixing with a virtual 5.1.2 surround sound. It also tweaks the little things: LG’s webOS UI and Magic Remote got small refreshes in the name of navigation simplicity. A Game Optimizer menu supporting variable refresh rates (VRR) is here, but HDR10+ and DTS:X aren’t part of this television’s specs.

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LG C1 OLED price and release date

What’s unlikely to change is how much money you’ll pay. While LG has yet to confirm any C1 OLED prices officially, we have a good idea considering the CX series cost $1,499 / £1,499 (48 inch), and went up to $3,499 / £3,499 (77 inch). You can be sure it won’t be a budget set, then (you’ll need the new LG A1 OLED for that).

(Image credit: LG)

That may be worth it for the sequel to last year’s best TV, although you’ll have to be okay with the fact that this is no longer being touted as LG’s hands-down best for 2021. The new LG G1 series – with its luminance-enhanced OLED evo display technology – is out to claim the crown.

We’re expecting both sets to launch in the first half of 2021.

LG C1 OLED picture quality, specs and features

LG TVs get top marks for a specific reason: its OLED displays set the bar on color and contrast with excellent black level performance and smooth motion care of AI-backed picture processing. Samsung’s LEDs and newer QLED TVs have always played catch up when it comes to black level performance, and LG’s new televisions for 2021 don’t back down here one bit.

(Image credit: Future)

While our demo was brief, we did see some of what the new a9 Gen 4 AI processor can do. It’s there to help the TV optimize the look of content, so when the AI recognizes a specific type of scene, the picture will be analyzed and tweaked to adjust color and remove noise. The CX series had the a9 Gen 3 doing the same thing, but this processor is said to be on another level.

The 83-inch LG C1 OLED we saw was playing cinematics from a rally racing video game, and the muddy chaotic mess of the race track and the gunked-up cars looked spectacular on the big screen. While even the CX had rare glitches when presenting very complex motion, we didn’t see any of that here. We’ll be sure to dive in further with our full LG C1 OLED review.

The C1 series uses Nvidia G-SYNC, FreeSync and the aforementioned VRR, all of which can be managed in the new Game Optimizer menu. Here, game-related settings are housed in one place. You can also set the genre (standard, FPS, RPG, or real-time strategy), as well as turn the OLED Motion Pro setting on and off and reduce input lag and blue light coming from the display. Samsung’s Game Bar is doing a lot of the same thing by centralizing TV game controls. 

There are four HDMI 2.1 ports again – all in the rear of the TV this time – so you’ll get support for 4K/120Hz for optimal settings on the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The rest of the key LG C1 OLED indicate support for HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision and Atmos, leaving out HDR10+ (which LG doesn’t support yet) and DTS:X (which LG dropped a few years back). 

LG C1 OLED audio, mounting and software

The C1 OLED features a virtual 5.1.2 surround sound up-mixing that taps into the power of the a9 Gen 4 processor. It seems promising, even if we didn’t get to hear it in all of its glory. While we’re keen on recommending the best soundbars, you may be able to get away with the built-in down-firing speakers on this television if you’re not picky.

(Image credit: Future)

The other audio feature present is Auto Volume Leveling. LG promises that this will maintain a consistent volume level when switching between TV channels and streaming apps. Everyone who is irked by extremely loud volumes when switching between sources will love this.

There are three options for setting up the LG C1 in your home. It comes with a center-aligned TV stand, is VESA-compatible for a wall mount, or can be situated on the optional LG Gallery Stand. Thiseasel-like stand drives home the analogy that TVs are like picturesque art, though LG notes that it’s best suited for the 55-inch and 65-inch versions of its new TVs.

LG’s webOS 6.0 platform debuts on its 2021 TVs with a new home screen for simpler content discovery and faster access to apps, while the refreshed Magic Remote now includes hot keys to popular apps. 

Google Stadia comes built-in for cloud gaming without a box, while two smart assistants are here once again in 2021: Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. There’s no Siri (as always, you’ll need an Apple TV 4K for that), but LG’s newer TVs do support AirPlay 2 and HomeKit.

(Image credit: Future)

Early verdict

LG C1 OLED looked impressive at first sight during our demo, enough to be a contender for the best TV of 2021 when it finally launches. It builds on the excellent picture quality of the LG CX series with slightly more powerful processor, the a9 Gen 4. We’ll have to investigate how much of a difference is made by its souped-up scene detection AI in a full review.

We know it’s going to be expensive, even if we don’t know the official LG C1 price yet. That new 83-inch OLED is a stunner, but it’s going to come with inevitable sticker shock when the pricing is confirmed. 

There’s also the realization that this won’t be LG’s top-of-the-line 4K TV in 2021, with the LG G1 series taking the display type up a notch with an OLED evo panel. For mainstream consumers with a big enough budget, however, the C1 seems like it’ll be the one within reach.

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