We’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. The first OLED TVs arrived on the scene in 2007 and were tiny, not to mention ludicrously expensive. In 2012, the first full-size OLED TV arrived in shops, and that had a 55in screen. It's taken until now for a model between the two sizes to appear.
That model is the OLED48CX, a 48in OLED from LG. The Korean company was an early investor in OLED tech and is now reaping the rewards: to the best of our knowledge, every OLED TV you can currently buy – whether it’s branded Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Hisense or anything else – features an LG panel. Predictably, more 48in OLEDs are now on the way, but the 48CX is blazing the trail. And it’s doing so in some style.
At launch, the LG OLED48CX price is £1499 ($1500), which is pricey for a sub-50in TV. Sony’s top 49in TV, the KD-49XH9505 (XBR-49X950H in the US), launched at £1199 ($1000), while Samsung’s equivalent, the 49in version of the Q80T, is £1399 ($1100).
For some, the £300 ($300) saving over the 55in model will seem a bit lousy, but this is the first TV of its type at this size, so perhaps we should be grateful it’s only a little more expensive than the premium QLEDs and LCDs already on the market.
In the UK, the OLED48CX is available either as the OLED48CX6LA or OLED48CX5LB. The only difference is the finish: the 6LA comes in dark silver, while the 5LB is light silver. The TVs are otherwise identical.
In the US, this model is known as the OLED48CXPUB. It is not currently planned for launch in Australia.
As you might expect, the OLED48CX looks like a mini OLED55CX. Perhaps disappointingly, that means it also looks like last year’s C9: LG has chosen not to alter the appearance of its C-series between the 2019 and 2020 generations.
That’s far from a disaster, though. The C9 was a smart-looking TV and the CX is equally so. There are few ways a manufacturer can differentiate its TVs’ designs these days, but the smooth, sculpted pedestal is more elegant than the simple feet of most rivals and gives the set a marginally narrower footprint than some.
While OLED panels themselves are extremely thin, a TV is more than just a panel. The speakers, connections and processing bits and pieces still need to go somewhere, and on an OLED they tend to go in a plastic enclosure attached to the back of the panel. That means that even though the CX is just 6mm at its edges, much of its chassis is 4.7cm deep. That’s still thin by modern TV standards, but not by a huge margin.
As is the norm for LG’s OLEDs, the 2020 range consists of a number of models, with all except the B-series (this year, that’s the BX) having the same panel and processing tech. The only differences are the styling and the sound system. That means this 48in TV gives you the full 4K flagship experience at a smaller size.
The flagship processor is the third generation version of the Alpha 9. The main upgrades are to artificial intelligence, with features such as AI Picture Pro, which LG says will “enhance the resolution and sharpness of contents by an algorithm learned via a LG Deep Learning technique”, and AI Sound Pro, which “provides the optimal sound or Virtual 5.1 surround, depending on the watching genre”. Throughout testing, we find both features to be worth using.
Screen type OLED
Operating system webOS
HDR formats HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision
On the HDR front, LG continues to support HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision, but not HDR10+. HDR10+ continues to struggle to make headway, so the fact that it’s missing is no big deal, but it is worth pointing out that OLEDs from Panasonic and Philips do support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+.
LG’s 2020 OLEDs support the new Dolby Vision IQ format, though, which tailors the Dolby Vision performance to the ambient light in the room. It’s not as transformative a feature as Dolby would have you believe but, while we were initially underwhelmed when testing the LG GX, we can now see the benefits of Dolby Vision IQ in terms of some extra detail in dark scenes when there’s a fair bit of light in the room.
Somewhat confusingly, there isn’t a Dolby Vision IQ setting in the TV’s menus, but if you’re watching Dolby Vision content and the AI Brightness Control feature is enabled, you’re using IQ.
Of far less value than Dolby Vision IQ is Filmmaker Mode, another new feature added to LG’s 2020 OLEDs. This is a UHD Alliance-approved picture preset that’s supposed to deliver the picture precisely as intended, but isn’t metadata-led or tailored to the specific content being played. In fact, here it’s just a blanket set of picture settings that’s practically identical to those of the Cinema preset, and the result is a soft and insipid picture. It’s like an anti-HDR setting, and we’d avoid it.
LG was the first TV brand to offer officially certified HDMI 2.1 sockets. While such sockets aren’t actually a guarantee of support for all next-gen HDMI features, the CX and its siblings support all that matter right now and into the foreseeable future.
These include eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate). Those last two are specifically for gamers, with ALLM ensuring the TV’s low-lag Game mode is automatically selected when a compatible console is connected, and VRR dynamically matching the TV’s refresh rate to the frame rate being output by a console.
Xbox One X and One S gamers can take advantage of these features now, and both will be supported by the next-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X. It’s also worth noting that all current VRR formats are now supported by LG’s BX, CX, GX and ZX models, thanks to a recent software update that added official AMD FreeSync compatibility.
Marshalling everything is a mildly updated version of LG’s own webOS platform, which is second only to Samsung’s Tizen in the world of smart TV platforms. This is a clean, clear interface to navigate, and many find the pointer function of the ergonomic remote control makes operation even more intuitive (though we’d still appreciate the option to turn that feature off entirely. Picture settings are rather more confusing than they could be, but only a little tweaking is actually necessary.
There is one big webOS-related disappointment this year for UK buyers, though, and that’s that all of the UK’s core catch-up apps, including BBC iPlayer, are currently missing. LG and Freeview Play haven’t partnered together this year as they have done previously and, so far, LG has failed to add these services itself. Adding them is simple and affordable (the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K will do the job nicely) so we won’t dock the CX a star, but it’s poor form all the same.
However, you do get Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV and Disney+, complete with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos where the content allows. Google Play Movies & TV is present, too, although we were unable to coax an HDR signal out of this app during testing.
In the UK, Now TV and Sky Store are present, but BT Sport is not, and users in the US will find Hulu and Vudu in the app selection, but not Vimeo.
The only music apps available are Spotify and Deezer, but we wouldn’t recommend using your TV for music playback. Bluetooth 5.0 and AirPlay 2 are on board so you can send music (and video, with AirPlay 2) to the TV from a portable device anyway.
The promise of the OLED48CX is a proper flagship OLED performance at a sub-50in size for the first time and, having tested it alongside an OLED55CX (see our review here shortly), we can confirm that that is exactly what it delivers.
Kicking off with Lost In Space in Dolby Vision from Netflix, we notice that the 48CX skews just a touch towards black depth while the 55CX leans slightly more towards dark detail, but the differences are small enough to chalk up to sample variation. You can tweak the brightness to dig up a little more detail from the 48CX’s blacks anyway, but that rather defeats the point of the Dolby Vision format.
Besides, we’re drawn to its extra depth, which is contrasted beautifully by the punchy white lights of the interior of the Robinson family’s ship. Colours here are lush and vibrant, too, but also effortlessly natural, with skin tones coming across as entirely realistic.
Switching to the 4K, HDR10 Blu-ray of Blade Runner 2049, the same tiny differences between the 48CX and 55CX are present, and here we do add a couple of points of brightness to dig up a little more of the shadow detail in Sapper Morton’s gloomy kitchen. Besides that, the only changes we make to the Standard preset are the same as those we made to the OLED65GX: a few points off Colour, switch Dynamic Contrast to High and turn off the noise reduction features.
The picture produced is an absolute joy. Beautifully crisp, natural and detailed, with perfect, inky blacks the likes of which haven’t previously been available from a TV this size in the 4K era. The same can be said of the viewing angles, which are practically perfect.
There’s plenty of detail in the many dark scenes (the one in which K meets Dr Ana Stelline for the first time is a great example), and loads of punch to provide that enticing, exciting contrast when we get to downtown LA.
It’s worth remembering that because the 48CX packs the same resolution as the 55CX into a smaller panel, pixel density is actually increased, and that makes the image look even more solid and three-dimensional, although you need to be sitting quite close to the screen to appreciate that benefit. And, of course, what you gain in crispness by going smaller, you lose in cinematic scale.
We noted in our review of the OLED65GX that LG has made big gains this year in terms of motion processing, and that’s reinforced by the 48CX. Motion is handled well – vastly better than it was by last year’s LG OLEDs – but Sony still has the upper hand here, as a comparison with the KD-55A8 proves.
While steady panning shots are handled more or less flawlessly by the LG CX’s default Natural setting, and there’s no introduction of artificiality (the so-called soap opera effect), there is a bit of shimmer in tricky moments, such as the lights in the distance as K flies towards Sapper’s farm, and when K’s suddenly powerless car hurtles towards the ground in a later scene.
You can fix these slight imperfections by switching TruMotion off entirely. This allows a bit of judder and blur in, but many will find this unprocessed motion to be preferable. Alternatively, there’s the Cinema Clear option, which offers a little of the sharpening and smoothing of Natural but with a little less shimmer. It’s worth firing up a particularly challenging film, such as 1917 or Blade Runner 2049, and trying these three TruMotion modes to establish which best suits your taste.
Dropping down to the 1080p, SDR Blu-ray of True Grit, the CX again offers a detailed and punchy picture that’s also smooth and natural. The courtroom scene near the start is a tricky test, as it combines dark wooden desks and black suits with bright sunlight pouring in through a window behind Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and a number of bright lamps. This is a real struggle for backlit LCD sets, but a self-emissive OLED such as this has no problem.
Even standard-def content looks decent via the CX. LG’s OLEDs have long been applauded for the quality of their upscaling, and the 2020 sets are even clearer and cleaner in their delivery of low-quality signals.
Before doing any critical listening to the CX (or its 2020 siblings) it’s worth dipping into the AI Service menu and performing the AI Acoustic Tuning, which involves the TV outputting an audio signal that’s recorded by the remote control and then analysed by the TV so that its sound profile can be adjusted to your room. In our testing, this reduces treble brightness and produces an overall smoother, more dynamic and more direct sound.
It’s a solid sonic performance overall, although the speakers struggle with the challenging soundtrack of Blade Runner 2049: the bassy start to chapter 2 is an unpleasant mess of flapping woofers. That said, there’s plenty to like overall. For a TV this size it’s pretty punchy and engaging, and the Dolby Atmos setting creates a reasonable amount of space and height.
It’s definitely a bit thinner-sounding than the bigger 55CX, and the tonal differences are arguably more pronounced when playing music using the Music preset (we use AI Sound Pro for most other content), but that’s no surprise – bigger TVs usually sound better than smaller ones, even if both have the same power output and drivers, as is the case here.
We would recommend that either TV be partnered by a good soundbar at the very least. The Sonos Arc would be an excellent choice here, but the Sonos Beam will also work well if you'd prefer something smaller and more affordable.
There are plenty of people who want the best TV possible but don’t necessarily want to go big, and those people have been rather left out through the 4K TV era. Finally, though, we have an OLED TV smaller than 50in, and what a TV it is.
This is not a downgraded flagship TV – it’s a downsized flagship TV. It has the same brilliant picture quality and feature set of LG’s flagship OLEDs in a smaller, more manageable form, and that’s cause for celebration.
It’s expensive for a TV this size, but if you’re looking for the best sub-50in TV you can currently buy, this is it.
- Picture 5
- Sound 4
- Features 4
Read our Sony KD-49XH9505 review