LG OLED65C8 4K OLED TV
‘Entry-level’ for OLEDs still means a fine TV indeed. LG’s C8 OLED scores not only on the gorgeous picture, but with good smarts and networking too.
‘Entry-level’ for OLEDs still means a fine TV indeed, and LG’s update of its C series comes with good smarts (‘AI’ of course) and networking.
Eighth-generation, eh? How quickly the years pass. LG’s OLED TV offerings are now in their eighth year. The first we ever reviewed was third-generation — it was a full-HD model with a curved screen. LG has long since abandoned curvature (it really was just a stylistic fad, unless you live in a light-house), and all its OLED TVs are now Ultra-HD in resolution.
As in recent years, there are three series of OLED TVs. The C8 series (of which we are here reviewing the 65-inch model) has the rather immodestly-priced ‘entry-level’ models. But I’m told that the panels are all the same across the three series. What you get with the more expensive ranges are different styling and sound solutions.
But not different panel sizes. You can get the C8 series in all three sizes on offer: 55 inches, 65 inches and 77 inches. Respective prices are $4099, $6399 and then the big jump to $14,999.
Stepping up to E8 series will cost you $4999 for 55 inches, and $7699 for 65 inches. The W8 series — known as the LG Signature Wallpaper models — is $9999 for 65 inches and $19,999 for 77 inches.
Given one of our references for the last 12 months has been an OLED65C7 TV, this unit makes for an interesting comparison. The C7 was slid back on the test bench for a couple of weeks, putting the new OLED65C8 in front of it. (To be clear, the full model number is OLED65C8PTA. The last three letters differentiate models for different regions.) Equipment OLED TVs are slim. Almost unbelievably, the C8 is even thinner than the C7. Not that you can tell by eye, because both look so very thin. The upper section of the panel — nearly 60 percent of its height — consists of just the panel. The C7 was 4.3mm thick. The C8 is 3.6mm thick (see right; I’ve just used vernier calipers to check).
The borders around the picture — there’s no bezel as such — are only 10mm wide. The swelling of the bottom 40% of the panel height takes the TV to still less than 50mm thick. It can be wall-mounted.
The table-top stand lifts the TV by only 50mm from the bench. It runs about three quarters of the width of the TV, and features a concave curved upper surface that is more than decorative. It also serves
to redirect the sound from the downwards-firing tweeters (there are also two woofers) out into the room, providing improved sound compared to many thin panel TVs.
Four HDMI inputs are provided, three on the side and one on the back. There are three USB connections (including one USB 3.0 for recording and time shifting live TV), legacy inputs for component and composite video, and both analogue and optical audio outputs. Readers of this publication are likely to make use of the HDMI ARC facility, but the others are useful for connecting to older audio equipment.
The TV has a single tuner and offers full FreeviewPlus support. If there’s a picture-inpicture option, I couldn’t find it. But there is a zoom feature and the cute ability to capture an image from the screen.
One interesting point about this TV is the change in power consumption. When I reviewed the LG 65EF950T OLED UHD TV in April 2016 (LG used different naming conventions then), it scored 5.5 stars on the energy rating system, and consumed 386kWh per year. This one? Just 4 stars, and 554kWh per year, a 43% increase. Presumably the faster processor uses a little more, but I’m guessing that’s mostly due to the brighter panel. It does use 20kWh fewer per year than the 65C7.
A wizard guides you through set-up. Apparently the TV still has an analogue tuner, but you can select a digital-only TV scan. The wizard also takes you through network set-up. The TV features 802.11ac connectivity, plus Ethernet.
The quality of the picture was glorious, especially with colour and black levels. Want to watch one of those dark shows? Then turn out the lights and you’ll see limitless detail in all the dark areas of the picture, without the slightest touch of glow to distract you.
I usually recommend winding the ‘Sharpness’ control down to zero. The default sharpness on this TV was 25, and I confess it was very tempting to leave it at that. Yes, it was sharpened, but clearly all the picture processing happens in UHD-resolution space.
So yes, there was a very slight amount of edge enhancement ringing or ghosting, but it was only a UHD pixel in thickness, not a FHD pixel in thickness. A circle on the test pattern normally shows jaggies when subjected to sharpening. The anti-aliasing filter on this TV clearly works down to UHD level, resulting in a noticeably sharper but still smooth circle. I could happily leave the sharpening on the default.
I used the test material on a Sony UHD Blu-ray disc (key in ‘7669’ from the main menu) to see how the TV handles high brightness levels with HDR content. That is, what does it map onto its display? The maximum brightness of the panel is not formally specified, but I understand it to be 1000 nits. The test shows up to 10,000 nits, the (so far theoretical) maximum of HDR. The brightness bars on the test still showed a difference between 3000 and 4000 nits. Lower values were nicely proportioned across the available brightness range.
Does this means a darker picture for content that tops out at, say, 1000 nits? That certainly didn’t seem to be the case in use. I figure that the TV uses some form of dynamic processing, changing the mapping of signal brightness to screen brightness according to what’s in the signal. If you are getting a signal which makes full use of the HDR (or Dolby Vision) range, then I think LG’s balancing between text-book accuracy and providing more discrimination at the high brightness level is just about right.
Kind of confirming this, a grey-scale test pattern on regular Blu-ray — which cannot offer HDR — scales the levels so that whiter-than-white is brighter than full white, and blacker-than-black is (very slightly) darker than full black. A more naive (and traditional) treatment of this signal would have both whites displaying at the same level and likewise for both blacks.
4K OLED TV
Australian (576i/50) DVDs were auto-deinterlaced competently, with the film/video status detection working almost perfectly on my various test clips. It was pretty nearly as good as it gets. It also did quite a bit of picture processing along the way as it scaled the image up to Ultra-HD (I fed it in at 576i/50). There was a lot of sharpening, but again artifacts were limited and barely visible. This made DVDs and SD Digital TV rather more pleasant to look at than is typically the case on 65-inch televisions.
My clips from the 1080i/50 Blu-ray version of Miss Potter were quite interesting. Again, handling was almost perfect. The hardest section for auto-deinterlacers to handle is at the start of Chapter 10, where the camera pans down onto Miss Potter’s country home. The pan slows as the house nears the middle of the frame. Normally there’s around a second of break-up around the windows as the deinterlacer gets confused into treating the film-source content as video. The LG also did that, for perhaps half a second right at the end. But for another second before that, there was a noticeably softening of the image. It was as though the sharpening circuitry was switched off for that brief moment.
All that’s by way of observation rather than substantive criticism. I doubt anyone would notice other than a reviewer who watches the same clip a couple of dozen times every year, examining it closely for odd behaviour.
Finally, motion smoothing. LG’s implementation has been getting better over the years, and it has in recent years largely managed to avoid the glassy, studio look of some. Nonetheless, it still produces heat-haze artifacts in both the ‘Smooth’ and ‘Clear’ settings. The latter tends to be the default. But there’s also a ‘User’ setting. I spent a quite bit of time with my favourite section of the Blu-ray of The Fugitive (the start of Chapter 21) in a loop to play with this, and then I repeated the exercise near the start of the Ultra-HD Blu-ray of Dunkirk. There’s a horizontal pan as the main protagonist enters the beach for the first time.
In both cases, it was clear that the ‘Smooth’ and ‘Clear’ settings both had the ‘De-judder’ setting up at the maximum of 10/10. The actions of the ‘De-Blur’ circuit were unclear on these settings. (If there’s motion blur on film, there’s no judder. If there’s judder, it’s
“LG is pushing ‘ThinQ’ technology, which it positions as a kind of AI. The main thing it offers is a bit of context sensitivity when you’re doing things like voice search.”
because the shutter speed was too fast, eliminating motion-smoothing blur.)
It seemed to me that 0/10 for ‘De-judder’ was the same as having it off. Pushing it up to 3/10 seemed to generate one intermediate frame for each two real frames, leaving some judder visible on sharp objects, but reducing its impact. There was virtually no heat-haze distortion. Going to 5/10 seemed to add another intermediate frame, smoothing things further and adding a little visible distortion from time to time. There may have been one more level around 7 or 8/10. Going to 10/10 movement was superbly smooth, but distortion was a little too obvious for my taste, and seemed to have a wider effect. For example, soon after the start of Chapter 21 in The Fugitive, a train passes over a bridge behind Harrison Ford. Its passage somehow makes the rivets on the bridge become unsteady in the picture when motion smoothing is up high.
I notice that one competing brand has been offering a ten-year warranty against burn in on its premium models. It sells no OLED TVs. In practice, I’ve had no appearance of burn in on either this TV or its predecessor. I haven’t tried to defeat the screen saver, and take moderate care not to leave Blu-ray menus displaying statically on the screen for hours. So I wouldn’t consider it a problem. That said, that other brand does have features including the static display of artworks. They can be left on all the time without fear. It would be unwise to do that with an OLED TV. It’d also be a good idea to leave the screen-saver switched on in your disc spinner.
There are only three things with this TV that bring it short of a very nearly perfect network media player. The first two are standards it does not support — no Apple AirPlay, no Google Chromecast. You can use Miracast and DLNA to send media to the TV. The third deficiency is that the Ethernet connection still operates on the old 100Mbps standard, not the now common Gigabit standard. That wasn’t so important a couple of years ago, but home-made 4K video at bitrates of 100Mbps or even higher are now common. Using my usual 100Mbps test clip, the LG C8 was stuttering as it frequently paused to buffer. The Wi-Fi connection was better, although it also had some small glitches. Anything of 50Mbps or less was handled perfectly both by Ethernet and Wi-Fi.
Everything else it played. All my music (short of DSD) and all my photos (including PNG format) and all my network videos. That last included SD and FHD MPEG2 material recorded from TV, MPEG4 AVC material, H.265 material. Some of it was encoded with standard dynamic range and standard colour gamut. Some was HDR. Some was Dolby Vision. Some was Dolby Atmos. Some used the BT.2020 colour standard.
What more could you want? How about 360 video? Yes, that worked as well with appropriately-coded material draggable to view from any direction.
And then there are streaming services. This is a ‘Netflix Recommended’ TV, and has a Netflix key on the remote, along with an Amazon Prime key. Also supported: Stan, Bigpond Movies, 9Now, YouTube, Google Play, SBS on Demand, ABC iView, Spotify, and... Eros Now. (Appearances aside, that last one is a streaming service for Bollywood movies.) There’s a ‘TV Cast’ app, too. Install that and the matching app on an iOS or Android device, and you can cast video from your portable device.
At some point over the past few months I gradually became aware that Netflix on my 65C7 always delivered the two-channel audio track rather than 5.1 channels to the connected home theatre receiver. The Netflix app on the 65C8 doesn’t have that problem.
The TV supports a USB computer keyboard /mouse, so the web browser is quite functional.
One final bit on the smart TV thing, LG is pushing its ThinQ technology, which it positions as a kind of AI. The main thing it offers is a bit of context sensitivity when you’re doing things like voice search. As usual, much of the voice control function is kind of pointless. You can press a button on the remote and say Mute, or you can press the Mute key. But once you learn some of the functions there are useful shortcuts. ‘Volume 80’ saves holding down the volume key. ‘Network settings’ jumps you right there, rather faster than navigating.
The LG OLED65C8 TV is a fine, fine TV, a little better than last year’s offerings, with a picture that is matched only by other OLED TVs.
Other inputs Three USB inputs (one side, two rear), antenna in, and one AV minijack composite/component.
HDMI inputs All four HDMI inputs (three side, one rear) fully support Ultra High Definition. For ARC, use HDMI input 2.