LG C1 OLED (2021) full review
The C1 is the unofficial flagship for this year’s LG OLED TV range. Sure, the Gallery G1 is more expensive and boasts LG’s latest Evo panel, but it’s the C1 that everyone’s been waiting for and with good reason.
It combines a feast of image improving technologies, powered by ThinQ AI and Deep learning, with a radically different full-screen webOS and wafer-thin form factor. It ticks all the right boxes and then unboxes more boxes to tick.
This is the follow-up to the 2020 CX model. There are five sizes to choose from but I've tested the 65in C1 here.
Design & Build
The C1 adopts a familiar LG OLED TV profile: super-slim panel with electronics and connectivity bundled across its lower third. The panel is so slim you’ll fear it’ll snap when handled, but in reality, it’s reassuringly robust. Square on, the look is suitably minimalist.
The centre-weighted stand features an almost full-width lip that effectively joins the screen to your AV furniture.
The C1 comes with the latest version of LG’s Magic Remote controller. This slightly downsized wand is less of a handful than its predecessor and offers dedicated buttons for Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Rakuten TV, along with Google Assistant and Alexa.
If there’s one area where LG has been comfortably ahead of the competition, it’s connectivity. Here, all four HDMIs are the latest v2.1 specification, which means they support [email protected] (at 40Gbps @ 10-bit 4:4:4).
Translated, the C1 can cope with the widest range of display outputs from a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X.
There’s also a digital optical audio output, three USBs and Ethernet. Wireless connections are covered by Bluetooth (v 5.0), AirPlay 2 and Wi-Fi. As evidenced by that remote, the set responds to voice commands via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
There are big changes from LG on the smart platform front this year. The old style webOS has been replaced by a slightly more generic looking full-screen v6.0 iteration. This affords more space for content curation, apps and associated functionality.
However, it’s not yet fully honed. A lack of customisation means you can’t dictate what shows are recommended, so you’ll be pushed content from streaming services you haven’t necessarily subscribed to.
Streaming app support is comprehensive. Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Now (formerlly Now TV), AppleTV+, plus others are all here. LG is also going steady with Freeview Play once again, so all the key UK catch-up TV apps (BBC iPlayer, ITVHub, All4 and My5) are on-board too.
LG has similarly given its menus a spruce up for 2021, complete with Game Optimizer. This groups key gaming parameters in one place for simplified adjustment, including Game Genre selection, and various flavours of VRR.
Input delay is low. I measured lag at 12.6ms (1080/60) with Game mode on.
The obvious first question to answer, before we dig deep, is just how significant is the absence of LG’s next-gen Evo panel to the C1’s overall performance. The answer is, perhaps surprisingly, not overly so.
There’s no doubt that the panel on the LG G1 offers greater luminosity, but the C1 isn’t exactly a slouch. I measured peak HDR brightness at around 750 nits, compared to 800 nits on the G1.
This isn’t a TV that requires any great effort to look great either so there's little need to fine-tune the settings. The C1 employs a full armoury of AI enhancements to great effect, using Deep Learning and ThinQ big science to analyse and optimise images in real-time.
The set’s AI Picture Pro mode applies noise reduction and sharpness, while AI Brightness gives an HDR-style boost to SDR programmes. Upscaling is extremely effective, in many ways bringing HD material in line with native 4K when viewed from a typical sofa distance.
Doing much of the heavy image lifting is the latest edition of the brand’s Alpha 9 picture engine, now in its fourth iteration. Clarity, colour vibrancy and noise handling are all first rate.
The TV supports regular HDR, HLG and Dolby Vision IQ, but not HDR10+. The omission of Prime Video’s preferred dynamic metadata standard seems churlish and must count as a demerit.
When it comes to darker scenes, I saw a noticeable reduction in halos, which can typically be seen around bright objects on a dark background. This affords OLED’s self-lit pictures even greater subjective crispness.
If overall image clarity and depth have levelled up, motion handling also deserves plaudits. The C1 is a good choice for armchair sports enthusiasts.
When it comes to sound, the output power is rated at a healthy 40W. The set actually has a fairly routine downward-firing speaker array but uses advanced DSP to push audio upfront. Dolby Atmos content sits forward and is full-bodied, while AI Sound Pro processing upscales stereo and 5.1 surround mixes.
Price & Availability
The C1 is available in a large range of screen sizes at 48-, 55-, 65- and 77in. There’s even a monstrous 83-incher due later this year, so all bases are covered.
I've tested the middle of the pack 65in option here but here are the full model numbers with pricing:
- OLED48C1 - £1,299/$1,499
- OLED55C1 - £1,699/$1,799
- OLED65C1 - £2,499/$2,499
- OLED77C1 - £3,999/$3,799
- OLED83C1 - £TBC/$5,999
Check out our chart of the best TVs to see what other options you have.
The LG C1 is a hugely impressive 4K OLED screen. Although there's no HDR10+ support, its HDR images are wonderfully dynamic, and regular SDR shows benefit from a high average picture level and highlight boost.
To see the TV at its best, I recommend the Standard and Cinema Home Dolby Vision presets.
The new full-screen webOS smart platform also gets the thumbs up, and it’s a relief to see a full complement of catch-up TV and streaming apps once again available from the brand.
It's also got four HDMI 2.1 ports supporting 120Hz gaming with next-gen consoles, combined with low input lag.
When I reviewed its more expensive G1 stablemate with its Evo panel, I wondered how close the C1 would come. As it happens, the answer is ‘very’.
The C1 is therefore highly recommended with its more affordable price and is the OLED TV to beat in 2021 so far.
LG C1 OLED (2021): Specs
- Display technology: OLED
- Resolution: 3840 x 2160 4K UHD
- HDMI: x4 version 2.1
- HDR support: Dolby Vision IQ, HDR10, HLG
- Software: webOS v6.0
- Terrestrial tuner: Freeview Play
- Dimensions:1449 (w) x 830 (h) x 47 (d)mm
- Weight: 24kg (no stand)
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