LG is determined to continue its pioneering role in OLED. But what can it improve on the success of the 2018 C8? Does OLED take major steps, or do we rather talk about small improvements? We got the LG OLED65C9PLA OLED TV to find out.
LG OLED65C9PLA OLED TV – specifications
- What: Ultra HD OLED TV
- Screen size: 65 inch (165 cm), flat
- Connections: 4x HDMI (v2.1, eARC, ALLM, VRR), 1x optical digital out, 3x USB, 1x headphones, 2x antenna, Bluetooth, WiSA, AirPlay 2 (via firmware update)
- Extras: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, Technicolor , HFR, WiFi (802.11ac) built-in, WebOS 4.5, USB / DLNA media player, DVB-T2 / C / S2, CI + slot, auto calibration
- Dimensions: 1,449 x 862 x 251 mm (incl. Base)  Weight: 33.9 kg (incl. Foot)
- Consumption: 137 / 0.5 watt (Energy rating A)
- List price: 3,499 euros
LG OLED65C9PLA – design
Little or nothing has changed in the design of the screen itself compared to the 2018 C8 . The screen still has a paper thin metal back, and the edge only has a bump protection in the form of the smallest, neatly rounded metal frame.
Yet there is one clear change in the design, and you notice that immediately install it as soon as you remove the heavy foot from the package. Not only is it considerably heavier than last year, it is also a lot more graceful.
Last year on the C8 you had to settle for a somewhat kitschy plastic base, on C9 you can see on the front only a nice, wide and flat, brushed metal base. In the back Is the foot deeper, there is the heavy counterweight. This foot gives the TV a more elegant and above all a more premium look, as befits an OLED. The device will certainly not fall over, but even with a slight push you make the screen wiggle, the connection between foot and device may be a little stronger.
The arrangement of the connections is taken from the C8, with the big difference that the C9 is now equipped with HDMI 2.1 connections. They offer support for ALLM, VRR, eARC and HFR 4K. In that area, the new models are ready for what the future can offer. ( read here which functions you need). Three HDMI connections are set aside, along with a USB connection. At the back you will find the fourth HDMI connection, twice USB, an optical digital output, headphone output, network connection and antenna connections. The connections at the back point to the rear wall, so you have to take that into account when you choose wall mounting.
The headphone connection is very deep behind the device and is difficult to reach. An adapter cable that you connect and then keep within reach will solve that. Or you opt for Bluetooth headphones.
Another bonus: the OLED65C9PLA (C9 series) is equipped with WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio Association). That means that you can connect WiSA compatible speakers completely wireless, and configure them from the menus of the LG. Very useful if you want real surround and no hassle with cables, but the WiSA offer is still very limited (Klipsch, Harman Kardon and B&O).
LG OLED65C9PLA – ease of use
WebOS got this year a new version: 4.5. The installation is largely unchanged, with one exception. You can now configure the remote during installation to also control your set-top box for digital TV (Belgium and the Netherlands). The ease of use remains excellent, the most important changes are simplifications to the interface.
The Quick menu where you, among other things, quickly adjust the image and sound mode now appears on the left instead of the right on the screen. From there you go to the general settings, or you go directly to them by holding down the settings button for a long time.
With the Magic Remote you point to the screen and control with small movements the cursor that appears on the screen. It is a handy way to control the TV although it may take some time to get used to it. However, the remote also has a full complement of keys, so that you can use it in the traditional way if you wish.
The three most important changes compared to last year are the three keys below. One became a shortcut for Rakuten TV (the caption says “Movies”), and the other two keys are for “play” and “pause.”
The remote can now also be configured to use other connected devices. To set this up, go to the “Home Dashboard” and click on “Settings, Device Connection”. Or alternatively, via the general menu, “Connection, Device Connection”. We got that to work easily for our Sony Blu-ray player. The most functions can be reached via the ‘more actions’ key, recognizable by the three dots, it is at the bottom right of the numeric block.
LG OLED65C9PLA – features
Smart TV platform
The colorful and handy interface of WebOS remains one of our favorites. In the new version, things have been simplified. On the Home screen, the ribbon with icons takes up a little less space on the screen, and the number of icons is greatly reduced.
The external inputs are now grouped on a new screen, the ‘Home dashboard’ . You reach that via the first tile on the Home screen, between the search function and TV. In the Home Dashboard you can also add smart devices that support OCF (Open Connectivity Foundation), making it an IoT dashboard.
In addition, you now get, just like with Samsung, a preview of content in a second ribbon, as soon as you select the YouTube or Netflix tile, for example. You can still switch tiles, but it is even easier to use ‘Intelligent Edit’, where the apps are simply ordered in order from most used to least used.
A firmware update in the coming months will also add support for Airplay 2. But whether there will also be an Apple iTunes app (such as with Samsung), LG did not yet tell us.
For an extensive tour through all functions, you should read our overview article about WebOS3.5 that still largely applicable.
The LG OLED65C9PLA is equipped with a full set of TV tuners, and the ability to record to USB hard drive. The media player plays all known music formats, including ALAC and FLAC. It is also extremely versatile for video, it plays all of our test formats, both in SDR and HDR and with all subtitles. With that he supplies one of the best media players on the market.
LG’s ThinQ AI has to provide an extensive list of voice commands, but for the time being the support of Dutch remains limited. You can already record searches, and then you get results for YouTube, Netflix, or you can search the internet. But you have to be patient to adjust the TV settings. LG announced that this is (for the time being) planned for September. The availability of Google Assistant, there is no planning yet.
For an overview of the future speech options, you can go to the overview article of WebOS3.5 .
LG OLED65C9PLA – Image quality
Also this year we see that LG is using a new OLED panel, but like last year, no specific improvements are mentioned. We therefore assume that the performance will be the same as that of previous panels. The measurements support that. Our test device showed very light vertical stripes in a completely dark gray image, but we were not bothered by real content. But the new panel is still sensitive to it, just like all its predecessors.
With the basic settings we have come to the following settings for this TV:
|General||Advanced operation||Image Options|
|Image Mode: Cinema
Aspect Ratio Setting: Original / Scan: On
Energy Saving: Off
AI Image: On
OLED Light: 80
|Dynamic Contrast: Off
Dynamic tone mapping: Off / On
Super resolution: Low
Color range: Auto
Gamma: 2.2 / BT.1886
White balance: Warm2
Maximum Brightness: Off
Color filter: Off
|Noise Reduction: Low *
MPEG Noise Reduction: Low *
Smooth Gradation: Low
Black Level: Automatic
Real Cinema: On
Motion Eye Care: Off
TruMotion: Clear (or adapted)
- The Cinema setting provides the be first start. The ISF presets are an alternative for those who want day and night versions.
- Dynamic Tonemapping shows considerably better white detail, at the cost of a bit of clarity, you can leave it activated.
- The effect of Superresolution and AI Image is very limited. You can keep it safely activated.
- Noise reduction and MPEG noise reduction are best activated when you start from a poor source (old DVDs or low quality YouTube).
- TruMotion: Clear gave the best results. Do not turn it off, you will lose too much detail. If you choose a personal setting, you can set the blur between 8 and 10, and dejudder between 7 and 9.
General image properties and image processing
The C9 series from LG is equipped with the second generation Alpha9 processor. Last year the first generation of this processor already delivered excellent results. This is an excellent basis for further development.
The processor recognizes the various video and film frame rates very well and, if necessary, ensures good deinterlacing, so that serrated edges are exceptional. With noise reduction, the institution that removes color bands in subtle gradations was given its own place (which was still hidden under MPEG noise reduction last year). “Smooth gradations” provides good results, as long as the color bands are not too wide. In the first episode of Game of Thrones S8, when Jon Snow is in the crypt of Winterfell, we saw that wider, darker color bands remained behind. The general noise reduction is fine, MPEG noise reduction (blocking) can be even better. Leave these three settings in the lowest position, higher positions are possible, but then you risk losing some detail.
The upscaling is excellent, but the improvements to the ‘AI Image’ setting were extremely difficult to detect. That setting should provide better detail, especially with low-quality images. The motion sharpness is fine. Keep TruMotion in the “Clear” position, especially for sports. Those who want smooth pan images must choose “Smooth”. Since last year, that fashion has produced considerably fewer image artifacts. You can also create a personal setting. The Black Frame Insertion technique (OLED Motion) is best off, it creates visible flicker, and provides little extra detail.
LG has also added a setting “Maximum Brightness” in the menu. You can activate it to make the image clearer, which can be useful if you watch TV on a sunny day.
Calibration is particularly good in the Cinema image mode. The gray scale is neutral and with a range of 2.2 the image is ideal for the living room. The gamma curve seems somewhat erratic in the brightest part, but that does not lead to visible errors. You also see almost all black details. If you look at darkening, you can possibly switch the gamma value to BT.1886 for a somewhat darker look. The color reproduction is very good, and skin colors are natural.
LG stays with HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. The support for Technicolor HDR remains useless (no content) until further notice. Unfortunately, HDR10 + also remains absent. Now that there are manufacturers that support both, we think it is a shame that HDR10 + is missing, although Dolby Vision remains the most popular choice (for dynamic metadata).
LG does offer an adjustable ‘Dynamic Tonemapping’ which imitates the effect of HDR10 +. The algorithm was improved to take more account of the full image signal rather than just taking into account the brightest pixel. The result is also better, images lose less brightness compared to last year (although that is inevitably still the case), but you can clearly see all the white detail. The image below shows, for example, clear improvement in the representation of the clouds and the reflections on the sea. Although it is not necessary to activate Dynamic Tonemapping, it does not seem to be a problem to do so in most cases.
We saw that even with dynamic tonemapping activated, the TV did not have brighter white detail then shows what the metadata indicates. Strictly speaking, it is only a problem if the metadata of the video is erroneous, and more specifically, considerably lower than the actual video content. In that case Dynamic tonemapping does not solve the problem, while it could actually. It therefore seemed logical to us that LG would lift that limitation.
Another new setting: “AI Brightness”. You cannot activate this in the Cinema preset, but in Cinema Home for example. The TV then takes the light sensor into account and makes black detail brighter so that you can better see all shade nuances in ambient light. The result is excellent, without changing the style of the scene excessively.
The screen delivers a peak luminance of about 777 nits on a 10% window. On a completely white screen the maximum lights around 146 nits. Those values are perfectly comparable with last year. Color range clocked at very well-known values: approximately 96% DCI-P3 and 70% Rec.2020 . The calibration is particularly good, with a neutral gray scale. In the Cinema preset, the OLED65C9PLA neatly follows the required brightness curve, and only rolls out rather late. Only above 400 nits the image becomes slightly darker due to the tone mapping. All white detail remains visible, even with different metadata.
LG provides extensive possibilities to automatically calibrate the screen. In addition, an internal pattern generator was added this year so that the cost of doing a calibration as an end user is considerably reduced. LG also provides particularly in-depth access to the television so that you have perfect control over the result during calibration.
Reflections and viewing angles
OLED screens have an excellent viewing angle, so whoever sitting in front of the image can enjoy excellent contrast and colors. The LG repels reflections well, but attention to the correct lighting remains required.
In cinema mode we measure a lag of 91.8 ms, as with all manufacturers this is quite high. The lag drops to 12.8 ms in game mode, which is a fantastic result. The C9 supports VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode). You activate both features via the image settings: “Additional settings, Instant game response”. When ALLM is activated, the TV automatically switches to game mode when it receives an ALLM signal. You can then safely switch to a different image mode, while maintaining the low input lag. ALLM therefore remembers that you prefer that mode.
LG OLED65C9PLA – Audio quality
The C9 supports Atmos, and the 2.2 channel 40 watt sound system guarantees excellent sound performance. Enough volume, and even a nice bass line ensure a fun film experience. Optimize the sound with “One Touch Sound Tuning”, you then use the Magic Remote to adjust the sound profile to the room acoustics. As with almost all televisions, the bass becomes a little less accurate if you turn up the volume, but we never found it flagrantly annoying.
The AI sound setting provides an improved surround experience, but it couldn’t really convince us. Our preference went to the Dolby Atmos setting, and the cinema and music preset. We suspect that most viewers will enjoy the sound of the C9, even for some music.
For the lag measurement we use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter. For all other measurements, we rely on a Spectracal C6 HDR2000 Colorimeter, Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and the Spectracal Calman for Business software. We use an HDFury Vertex to analyze possible HDR problems.
LG OLED65C9PLA – Conclusion
With the OLED65C9PLA, LG has created a very nice and good reference against which other OLED models will have to compete this year. To really complete the picture we would have liked to see HDR10 + in the list of HDR formats. That is immediately the most important comment we have. ThinQ AI still only partially works in Dutch, we hope to see this resolved this year. It is difficult to ignore the price, especially given the steep fall in prices of last year’s models.
The stylish C9 series has more than just the looks. The image quality is excellent in both SDR and HDR. The particularly good calibration guarantees impressive images. The second-generation Alpha9 processor builds well on last year’s performance, and delivers a number of small but handsome improvements: AI brightness enhances HDR display in a lot of ambient light, ‘smooth gradations’ efficiently removes most color bands, and dynamic tone mapping delivers clearer images . Basic performance is unchanged from last year, so LCD TVs continue to claim the brightness crown, but OLED remains the champion for contrast and black display. WebOS also got some small but well-chosen improvements, and it strengthens its place with the best smart TV systems.