Hands on: LG C4 review

A brighter C-series model, but the gap to the G-series is wider than ever

What is a hands on review?
LG C4 OLED TV photographed on a stand against a dark grey curtain
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

Early Verdict

It's too early to deliver a final verdict, but the C4 appears to be brighter than the C3 it replaces while retaining its predecessor's balance and refinement

Pros

  • +

    Brighter than the C3

  • +

    Still looks balanced and refined

  • +

    Some webOS and gaming upgrades

Cons

  • -

    Further behind the G-series

  • -

    Increased pressure from B4 below

  • -

    Unchanged design and audio hardware

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While LG’s C-series models are its most popular OLED TVs, the annual upgrade has become milder in recent years. At the same time, the G-series has stepped on with each new model.

It’s the same story this year: the new G4 features a second-generation MLA OLED panel and an all-new processor, while the C4 still does without MLA entirely and is powered by an upgraded version of last year’s processor. In fact, this is the first time that LG’s C- and G-series models have featured different processors – a further widening of the gap between them.

At the same time, the new B4 has closed the gap to the C4, most notably through the inclusion of four HDMI 2.1 sockets – a first for the B series.

So where does that leave the new C4? Will it be the ideal blend of performance, features and price that so many of its predecessors have been, or is it destined to lose out to the fancier G4 and upgraded B4? While we will have to wait until we have a final production sample in our dedicated test rooms for a full, independent test, a recent demo session suggests that the C4 is more of an upgrade than the spec sheet suggests.

Price and availability

While LG hasn’t yet revealed pricing for any of its 2024 TVs, we expect the C4 to be priced very similarly to how the C3 was at launch. It is worth noting, though, that the C3 was a fair bit more expensive than the C2 it replaced. Here’s the full LG C3 launch pricing:

  • LG OLED42C3: £1500 / $1400 / AU$2595
  • LG OLED48C3: £1600 / $1500 / AU$2895
  • LG OLED55C3: £2100 / $1900 / AU$3295
  • LG OLED65C3: £2900 / $2600 / AU$4295
  • LG OLED77C3: £4000 / $3600 / AU$6795
  • LG OLED83C3: £6500 / $5300 / AU$8995

We expect the LG C4 to go up against the Samsung S90D and the replacement for the Sony A80L, which hasn’t yet been announced. In the UK, it will also face challenges from the Philips OLED809 and the successor to the Panasonic MZ1500, which is also yet to be announced. Those models will all likely be in the same pricing ballpark.

As for availability, again, we're still awaiting an announcement. But LG's OLEDs usually go on sale in the spring, so we would expect to see the C4 in shops around April/May time.

Design

LG C4 OLED TV photographed on a stand against a dark grey curtain. On the screen is the new webOS 24 smart platform.

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The LG C4 looks identical to its predecessor. It’s always a bit disappointing when there’s no progress in design, but the C3 is a nicer-looking TV than most of its rivals so there’s no great need to complain here.

So, as before, the C4’s chassis is primarily super-thin, with the usual enclosure for processing hardware, connections and speakers shrunk to an impressively compact size.

The flaws of the existing design haven’t been addressed, though, by which I’m largely referring to the stand: the 48-inch and larger models all still have a central pedestal that looks smart and gives the TV a usefully compact footprint, but its design doesn’t allow for a soundbar to lie across it and there’s no height adjustability. The 42-inch model once again comes with feet instead. These look a little cheap and are again unadjustable, but some compact soundbars will fit between them and won’t obscure the screen.

Features

LG C4 OLED TV photographed on a stand against a dark grey curtain. On the screen is the new webOS smart platform.

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

As mentioned, the C4 is very similar to the C3 in terms of the spec sheets. It still has four HDMI 2.1 ports, which is good news for gamers, as even with a soundbar plugged into one of them, they will still be able to get a full-fat gaming experience from three consoles and/or gaming PCs plugged in simultaneously.

There are some minor gaming upgrades, too, including full Nvidia G-Sync VRR certification (rather than ‘G-Sync Compatible’ certification), and 144Hz compatibility (up from the 120Hz of the C3), which will be music to the ears of hardcore PC gamers with similarly hardcore rigs. Dolby Vision gaming will be supported up to the new 144Hz limit, too, but there’s currently no source available that will be able to take advantage of that as the only Dolby Vision games machines are Xbox’s Series consoles, which top out at 4K/120Hz.

We had hoped that the C4 would get the first-generation MLA technology of last year’s G3, but that has turned out to have been wishful thinking. Fears that the C4’s panel technology is identical to the C3 have been put to rest, though, with LG’s David Seperson telling us that "all of the C4s will get brighter this year than they were last year". 42- and 48-inch OLEDs are traditionally a fair bit less bright than their larger counterparts, but Seperson suggests that these versions of the C4 have received a particularly pronounced brightness boost and will only be slightly less bright than their siblings.

The C- and G-series models usually have the same processor, but this year LG has gone rogue: while the G4 features an all-new Alpha 11 chip, the C4 gets an upgraded version of the Alpha 9 that powered last year’s C3. So, while the C4 will benefit from some new processing features, such as virtual 11.1.2 sound upmixing (up from the 9.1.2 of the C3) and enhanced voice remastering for greater dialogue clarity, it misses out on big G4 features such as the ‘Peak Highlighter’, which boosts the intensity of bright highlights.

With each new year comes a new version of LG’s webOS TV operating system, and so it proves once more. webOS 24 isn’t a huge departure from its predecessor, but it does include some quality-of-life adjustments, most notably with personalised recommendations returning to the first page. Those recommendations can be made more personal, too, thanks to the introduction of dedicated user profiles. No longer will your recommendations be ruined by your partner’s worrying obsession with Below Decks.

Picture

LG C4 OLED TV photographed on a stand against a dark grey curtain

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

While no C3 sample was provided for a side-by-side comparison during the hands-on session, I’ve tested three different versions of it over the last year and I feel confident that the C4 is brighter. It’s obviously not up there with the new G4, which was in the same room at the time and benefits from a second-generation MLA OLED panel, but there was a pop and intensity to the delivery that I believe goes further than the C3.

This extra punch is welcome. Last year’s C3 was very good but a little subdued compared with rivals such as the Sony A80L, and it seems that LG is taking steps to address that. I’m particularly keen to see the 42-inch and 48-inch models in action, given the suggestion that they have had more of a boost and are now close to their larger siblings in terms of outright brightness.

It’s also worth noting that additional brightness isn’t a benefit in isolation: because the perfect blacks of an OLED TV aren’t compromised by its ability to go brighter, contrast is improved, making the image more dynamic and seemingly more three-dimensional. There was certainly an impressive solidity to the footage shown on the 77-inch C4 sample used for the demonstration. That said, as ever, it is worth remembering that the demo clips used will have been carefully selected to show the C4 in its very best light.

Even so, the C4 looked crisp, detailed, punchy and with the sort of colour balance we’ve come to expect from LG’s TVs: rich, but also balanced and natural.

Sound

Unfortunately, the C4’s sound wasn’t demonstrated at all during the demo session, so I can only speculate on that at this stage. I do know that the actual audio hardware is the same as before, so any improvements will need to be made via software.

Software can make a huge difference to the audio performance of something such as a TV, and it will need to do so here – the C3 was a disappointingly dull-sounding TV, particularly when compared with rivals such as the Sony A80L.

Early verdict

As ever, we will need to wait until we get a full production sample of the LG C4 into our dedicated test rooms for comprehensive, comparative testing before we can deliver a final verdict, but it certainly looked good during the admittedly limited hands-on session.

LG’s promise of extra brightness appears to be true, and first impressions are that this is being used to produce a more exciting performance that could trouble the Sony A80L. Of course, Sony will also presumable launch a successor to the A80L this year (the company is yet to announce its 2024 TVs), so the question is how well the new C4 will perform against that, as well as this year’s other new mid-range OLEDs. Stay tuned for those comparative reviews.

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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.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.