LG C3 vs LG G3: which 2023 OLED TV should you buy?

LG G3 vs C3 head to head
(Image credit: Future)

LG's 2023 OLED TVs are now available to buy, and that means it's time for the annual question: should I buy the flagship G-series model or save some money and go with its C-series sibling?

The new models in each series are the G3 and C3 respectively, and there's a bigger gap between them than there was between any of their predecessors.

That's because the G3 features a brand new panel technology called Micro Lens Array (MLA), which allows the set to hit peak brightness figures far beyond those achievable by any OLED TV before it. The C3 does without this new tech as well as the brightness-boosting heatsink that's also present in the G3.

If that's making this comparison seem like a foregone conclusion, just hold your horses there, cowboy, because last year's G2 was also better than the C2 on paper yet it's the latter that won numerous What Hi-Fi? Awards and still sits at the top of our list of the best TVs you can buy right now.

Why? Pricing. The G2 is the better TV but the C2 is a near-perfect intersection of performance, features and price that it's the one we recommend for most people.

So, is it the same situation with 2023's G3 and C3? You're about to find out.

LG OLED G3 vs C3: price

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42£1500 / $1400 / AU$TBCNo such model
48£1600 / $1500 / AU$TBCNo such model
55£2100 / $1900 / AU$TBC£2600 / $2500 / AU$TBC
65£2900 / $2600 / AU$TBC£3500 / $3300 / AU$TBC
77£4000 / $3600 / AU$TBC£5000 / $4500 / AU$TBC
83£6500 / $5300 / AU$TBC£7500 / $6500 / AU$TBC

The above table shows launch pricing for the new C3 and G3 OLED TVs and, as you can see, there's a pretty big gap between the two. That said, the gap isn't actually bigger this year than it was between the C2 and G2, despite the larger specification gap that now exists.

Of course, prices will fluctuate over the course of the year and both TVs will become cheaper, but the odd potential error aside, the G3 is always going to be a good chunk more expensive than the C3.

** Winner: LG C3 **

LG OLED G3 vs C3: build


(Image credit: Future)

Both TVs look essentially identical to their respective predecessors, and that's no bad thing in either case.

As a 'Gallery' model, the G3 is designed to be wall mounted so has a picture frame-like uniform thickness of just 2.4cm (1") and comes bundled with a mount that allows it to sit more or less flush with a wall. If you're not going to mount it on a wall, you'll need to budget for a separate stand – either the rather expensive official one or a third-party alternative that connects to the set's standard VESA points.

The C3, on the other hand, is your more traditional TV package, with an included stand. This stand has a usefully compact footprint so that the TV can be placed on quite narrow furniture. The chassis itself is pretty spectacular – at 4.5cm (1.8"), it's thicker than the G3 in some parts, but it combines this thicker section with a brilliantly thin panel section. It's also astonishingly light by the standards of large TVs.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, though, and which set you feel is more stylish will probably also depend on whether you're planning to wall mount your new TV. On the other hand, the G3 does have one undeniable design advantage – a new and very effective anti-reflective coating. It's this that gives the more expensive model the win in this round.

** Winner: LG G3 **

LG OLED G3 vs C3: features


(Image credit: Future)

The big difference between the two sets in terms of features is the panel technology, with the G3 boasting both MLA technology and a heatsink and the C3 having neither. We'll cover the impact this has in the next section.

Another, smaller difference between the two models is that the C3 has a 2.2-channel 40W sound system, while the G3 has a 4.2-channel 60W system.

Otherwise, the two TVs have essentially the same feature set. Both are powered by the new Alpha 9 Gen 6 processor, which adds a handful of new picture-processing features. These include AI Super Upscaling Pro, which is designed to upscale sub-4K sources while reducing noise but preserving intentional film grain; OLED Dynamic Tone Mapping Pro, which breaks the image down into 20,000 zones (rather than the 5000 of before) for separate HDR optimisation; Object Enhancer, which sharpens foreground characters and props; and HDR Expression Enhancer, which applies specific tone mapping to those foreground elements.

The processor can also up-mix all sound to 9.1.2 virtual channels, and the audio systems of both models can be used in conjunction with one of LG's new soundbars.

The operating system is the same across the entire 2023 LG OLED range, with the new webOS 23 bringing a more organised approach to the somewhat cluttered and dense home screen of last year's models. It includes all the relevant streaming options, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Apple TV+ and more, but instead of multiple, sometimes slow-to-load pages of additional content and features, these elements are instead bundled into folders called Quick Cards. When testing the G3 and C3, we found this made the user experience significantly snappier than that of last year's models.

Both the C3 and G3 are flawlessly well-specified for gaming. Both boast four HDMI 2.1 sockets with full support for the advanced 4K/120Hz, VRR and ALLM features of the Xbox Series X and PS5. Dolby Vision gaming is supported, too, and right up to 4K/120Hz, and there's an HGiG mode for improved HDR tone mapping with many games.

Gamers who prefer a desk over a sofa setup may gravitate towards the C3, as it has that desk-friendly 42-inch model, making it a perfect monitor stand-in.

LG's fan-favourite Game Optimiser makes a return on the C3 and G3, with quick access to the likes of HDR game settings, frame rate information and a toggle for ALLM. This gaming hub includes a few new features this year, most notably a new game audio sub-menu for adjusting game-specific sound settings.

** Winner: LG G3 **

LG OLED G3 vs C3: picture


(Image credit: Future / Netflix, Drive to Survive)

As expected, picture performance is where the biggest differences between these two sets lie. 

Both are what LG calls OLED Evo models, which means they use the latest WOLED (as in 'white' OLED) panel technology from LG Display (which is distinct from LG Electronics) but, as mentioned,  the G3 has a couple of extras that the C3 doesn't. For starters, as was the case last year, the G-series has a heatsink that the C-series does not. This allows the set to be pushed harder (i.e. brighter) without any extra stress being applied to the light-emitting OLEDs.

More excitingly, the G3 also gets a brand new panel technology called Micro Lens Array, or MLA for short).

MLA refers to a layer of microscopic lenses (as the name may suggest) that focus the light output from the television towards the viewer. This takes advantage of existing light output (in other words, the OLEDs themselves don't need to work any harder than they did before) and boosts it without the need for further power consumption or any increase in the possibility of OLED burn-in from overexertion. It's an admittedly smart solution from LG, and the company claims it produces serious results.

The intention of including MLA is to increase brightness on these OLED panels, which has been viewed by some people as a longstanding flaw of OLED technology.

The addition of MLA to the G3's panel means that it's able to hit a peak brightness figure of over 2000 nits, albeit in its rather garish Vivid mode. The more authentic Cinema and Filmmaker modes can still hit peaks of almost 1500 nits, though, which is a huge improvement over the roughly 1000-nit limit of the G2.

It's worth remembering that the G2 was already brighter than the C2, which was limited to around 800 nits, and LG has said that the C3 isn't brighter than the TV it replaces.

Having now fully tested the G3, we can say for sure that its extra brightness is significant, even in our preferred Cinema mode. Highlights sparkle that much more and, contrary to some expectations, bright colours are actually more vibrant than before, adding up to an image with significantly more punch. Blacks are still as inkily deep as is expected from OLED, but there's more shadow detail so you miss less in dark scenes.

The only way in which the G3 isn't better than the G2 is in low-light colours, which are peculiarly pale.

We've also now fully tested the C3 and, in short, it performs very similarly to the C2 it replaces. That makes it a very natural and authentically balanced picture performer, but it clearly lacks the dynamism and impact of the MLA-boosted G3. That's to be expected, but more of a problem for the C3 is that some other brands have upped their game this year, and the C3 has now fallen behind rivals such as the Sony A80L.

In short, the C3 is still a very good TV, but you can now buy better for the same money, and the G3 is also worth the extra money if you can afford it.

** Winner: LG G3 **

LG OLED G3 vs C3: sound


The G3 is LG's brightest 4K OLED to date (Image credit: Future)

While the G-series is more expensive than the C-series, there have been times in the past when the latter has sounded better than the former. 2021's C1 was a more engaging performer than the G1, for example. Last year's G2 did sound better than the C2, though, with a louder, more impactful sound.

Things have flipped back this year but, to be brutally honest, neither TV sounds very good. LG appears to have gone for a smoother, more rounded-off sound for both models, but in doing so it's sacrificed a lot of punch and excitement, resulting in a rather dull delivery overall. This is particularly true of the G3, which is very boring indeed, but the C3 isn't that much more engaging.

Both models can be made to sound a bit more exciting through the enabling of the AI Sound Pro feature, but this is also bafflingly harsh to a degree that we find unlistenable. Meanwhile, the Dolby Atmos mode, which is on by default, adds space and weight to the presentation but also makes both sets prone to flappy distortion at the bottom end. Listening with both settings switched off is the least bad option.\

To be clear, both sets are perfectly capable of delivering clear, intelligible sound for everyday TV, but neither has the enthusiasm to satisfyingly deliver a movie soundtrack. A soundbar is a must, regardless of which model you buy.

** Winner: LG C3 **

LG OLED G3 vs C3: verdict


(Image credit: Future)

LG's strategy with the G3 and C3 is pretty clear-cut. The flagship G3 gets the majority of the upgrades, with the new MLA tech (and a heatsink) stealing the spotlight and leading to a much brighter OLED TV than LG has ever produced before. Having fully tested the G3, we know that it delivers on its promise and is a delight to watch thanks to its supremely impactful picture.

The C3, on the other hand, is a fairly minimal upgrade over last year's C2. In short, LG has increased the performance gap between the C3 and G3.

Last year's G2 was brighter than the C2, but we felt that for most people, the C2 was the better buy. This year, the G3 is more obviously better than the C3, and it's absolutely worth stretching to if you can.

Do make sure you also budget for a dedicated sound system, though.

** Overall winner: LG G3 **


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Tom Parsons

Tom Parsons has been writing about TV, AV and hi-fi products (not to mention plenty of other 'gadgets' and even cars) for over 15 years. He began his career as What Hi-Fi?'s Staff Writer and is now the TV and AV Editor. In between, he worked as Reviews Editor and then Deputy Editor at Stuff, and over the years has had his work featured in publications such as T3, The Telegraph and Louder. He's also appeared on BBC News, BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4 and Sky Swipe. In his spare time Tom is a runner and gamer.

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