What Hi-Fi (UK)
For the past few years, the C-class model has been the sensible choice of each new LG OLED range – the most affordable model with the latest panel and picture processing tech. Further up the range, you might get better sound and design, but not a better visual performance.
But for 2021, LG has introduced a new ‘OLED Evo’ panel that promises increased brightness and sharpness, and to get the Evo panel you have to step up to the G1. That’s disappointing because you could end up paying extra for a rather niche design you may not want. The 65in G1 commands a £500 premium over the C1, which does without the Evo panel and ‘Gallery’ design and while we can’t make a judgment on the value of the Evo panel until we’ve tested the non-evo C1, the G1 is the best LG OLED we’ve seen so far.
Playing to the gallery
The ‘G’ in ‘G1’ stands for ‘Gallery’, which refers to the picture frame-like design of the TV. Unlike most OLED TVS that combine an ultra-thin panel section with a thicker area housing the electronics, speakers and connections, LG’S G-series models have a uniform thickness (the G1 is 2cm thick) and a flat back.
LG expects the G1 to be wall-mounted, so instead of a pedestal stand or feet, it comes with a wall-mount in the box. Bespoke feet can be bought separately but they’re expensive (£99), inelegant and give the set a wide footprint .
Mount the TV as intended and it’s a delightfully minimalist proposition: a perfectly black OLED panel surrounded by a thin black bezel and an even thinner metal frame. There isn’t even an LG logo to blemish its face.
LG has released a new version of its Magic Remote this year. The new model looks less interesting than its predecessor, but it’s thinner and feels better in the hand. The buttons also feel nicer and there are more shortcuts.
After a break in 2020, LG has repartnered with Freeview Play for its 2021 TVS. That means the full set of catch-up apps (BBC iplayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5) are added to a strong app selection that includes Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Apple TV, all with full support for 4K, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Rakuten is available in HDR10 and Dolby Atmos; Google Play Movies & TV is present with HDR10 and 5.1; Now gives you contract-free access to Sky content; and Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music, Deezer and BBC Sounds give a thorough music offering. The only disappointment is that BT Sport, Apple Music and Tunein are missing.
This year’s LGS come with webos 6.0 installed, and this new version of the company’s operating system is a fairly major departure. Pressing the Home button no longer brings up a row of apps that overlays whatever you are watching, but instead takes you to a Home menu dominated by content recommendations from various streaming services. The idea is that it’s less about hovering over or clicking on a specific app to find something to watch, and more about the content being front and centre.
A new, tastier menu
That’s great in theory, but some service providers are resistant to having their content included, so Netflix is missing from the recommendations. The intelligence of the recommendations seems questionable, too. Though more work is needed, we rather like the new home menu overall and miss the pop-up row of apps less than expected. The rather convoluted menus have been replaced by a system with larger fonts, a less severe colour scheme and a more logical layout, all without sacrificing opportunities for tweaking performance.
For most, though, little tweaking will be necessary. Dolby Vision content will by default activate the Dolby Vision Cinema Home preset and AI Brightness Setting. That equates to a Dolby Vision IQ performance, which improves dark detail when viewing in a well-lit room without tampering with the performance.
The new AI Processor Gen4 has brought some improved features. On the picture front, the AI Upscaling, Clearer Text and Auto Genre Selection features are unchanged, but Object Enhancement has been upgraded and there’s a brand new Scene Detection feature. The new processor has also improved the de-contouring, which should result in less banding of colours, and to the dynamic tone mapping algorithm, which LG says results in better contrast and less haloing around bright objects. Ultimately, AI Picture Pro and AI Sound Pro do a lot of the hard work and while some will still feel the need to tweak, the out-of-the box performance should suit most people.
So what does the Evo panel bring to the table? By changing the OLED panel construction and adding a new luminous element – and then combining it with the new Gen4 processor – LG says it has managed to create a ‘brighter, sharper, punchier image’.
What hasn’t changed is LG’S commitment to next-gen HDMI features. The G1 boasts four 40gbps HDMI 2.1 sockets with support for EARC, 4K@120hz, ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate). VRR is supported in all three current formats, the most important HDMI VRR format, Nvidia G-sync and AMD Freesync Premium. Standard input lag for games, meanwhile, is around 13ms, though there is an Input Lag Boost mode that’s designed to bring the input lag of 60Hz games down to just 9.6ms.
LG also now has a dedicated Game Optimiser menu that gives you quick access to all those game-related settings as well as features that adjust gaming picture performance, though our preference is to use the picture calibration features of your console and the TV’S HGIG setting for greater accuracy with HDR games.
Sharper and brighter
So, are the G1 and its OLED Evo panel genuinely better than LG’S previous OLEDS? The answer is a resounding yes. Kicking off with
The Witcher from Netflix in Dolby Vision, the core character of the G1’s picture is the same as the CX’S, but it’s sharper, more detailed, significantly brighter and punchier. Overall, it’s a more enticing, exciting and three-dimensional picture. The improved de-contouring does its job, too, as there’s an increased smoothness and subtlety to the shading of whites, blacks and colours. The picture is remarkably clean and controlled as well as being beautifully crisp and impactful. It’s all gain with no pain.
Switch to the 4K HDR10 Blu-ray of Blade Runner 2049 and the good news continues. That improved dynamic tone mapping algorithm delivers the promised contrast enhancement. It’s not that the TV goes vastly blacker or brighter, but the subtle improvements at each end give a more dynamic and exciting image. There’s also a subtle extra layer of depth and lusciousness to colours.
The set’s extra sharpness works in conjunction with the improved contrast to make the solar fields at the opening of the film appear grander in scale, and the tower that passes in the foreground is more pronounced against the backdrop.
As we switch between movies, we’re impressed by the G1’s approach to colours. The bright colours of Ego’s planet in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 are more vibrant and richer, but conversely more subtle and nuanced with the gold of Queen Ayesha’s throne room. It’s even-handed with 1917, too, putting in a natural and authentic performance. Skin tones also benefit from the set’s enhanced sense of shading.
Play content in lower resolutions and standard dynamic range and there’s still much to love about the G1’s delivery. The upscaling of 1080p is particularly impressive, with our Fargo Blu-ray being delivered with crisp definition and lots of detail, but without the intentional film grain being exaggerated as it can be from rival sets.
There is admirable cleanliness and control to standard-def broadcasts, too. The G1 puts in a smooth performance, with as much detail as can be hoped for from a low-quality signal. LG has long been admired for the quality of its upscaling, but the G1’s de-contouring makes shading smoother still. It digs up more dark detail without sacrificing the overall perfect black level and produces a marginally brighter, punchier picture.
If we’ve one minor complaint, it’s that the G1 lacks a best-ofboth-worlds motion setting. The default Natural setting is largely brilliant, sharpening and smoothing most motion without making things look unnatural, but it does get caught out at times. Some may switch to the Cinematic Movement setting or just turn Trumotion off, but none of these options results in the same near-perfect balance offered by the best Sony and Panasonic TVS.
While the G1’s picture performance is an unequivocal success, assessing the audio performance is far trickier. On the one hand, the sound is clear and direct, which is impressive given that the speakers are essentially invisible. The Atmos virtualisation is effective at delivering width and height, although you don’t get a sense of surround sound.
It’s tonally balanced and consistent, too. Many TVS have a gap in the lower-midrange where the main drivers hand off to the subwoofer, but the G1 is smooth and even, resulting in a natural richness to dialogue.
That’s all good news – but the G1 also sounds rather boring. For starters, the Dolby Atmos mode is quiet compared to standard stereo, but the TV is also lacking in drive and dynamics, regardless of the sound mode you’re in. It’s a delivery that’s quite badly lacking excitement.
Compromises in the right place
But with clarity being more important than excitement, you could argue that LG has compromised in the right place. The G1 also gets a lot right, given the physical limitations of the drivers. We usually recommend that a new TV should be partnered with a soundbar or home cinema system, and the G1’s lack of visible speakers makes it suited to being partnered by a discrete sound system. However, some may be drawn to the G1’s minimalist appearance and won’t want to add a soundbar to this set-up.
Whether the G1’s somewhat unexciting audio performance is a deal-breaker will depend on your expectations. We would have recommended that it be partnered with a separate sound system, so won’t mark it down for sound, particularly as the speakers are clear and direct, despite being almost hidden in the chassis.
The question of whether you should buy the G1 over the C1 will remain until we can test the latter, but the G1 takes the picture performance of last year’s GX and CX and improves upon it in almost every way without introducing any flaws. That makes it the best LG OLED that we’ve so far tested, and that is saying something.
“The core character of the G1’s picture is the same as LG’S previous OLEDS, but it’s sharper, more detailed, significantly brighter and punchier too”