LG’s rollable 4K OLED TV might have grabbed a lot of headlines at CES 2019 but, assuming its a) very expensive and b) not out until the second half of this year, it’s the company’s bread and butter OLEDs will be the big sellers this year.
And if previous years are anything to go by, the sweetspot will most likely be the C9 range. LG’s C8 line from 2018 won all manner of awards at both 65in and 55in screen sizes, so we're keen to see what the new range has to offer. In fact, we're so keen, we made a bee-line straight for the 65in version for some hands on time at the LG booth.
Design and build
While the general appearance of the C9’s 4K OLED panel looks identical to its C8 predecessor, 2019 sees a tweak to the TV’s stand. Well, it does on the 65in and 55in C9s. The 77in model has the same stand as the C8 with a recessed channel that runs along the width of the TV.
The stand fitted to the LG OLED55C9 and OLED65C9 models resembles the narrow, angled Blade-slim design from 2017. We assume the size of the 77in C9 means the old-style stand offers more support, but we’ve asked LG for clarification.
LG’s taking a two-pronged approach to boosting the performance of its OLED TVs in 2019 including the OLED65C9 and it's all powered by the company’s second generation Alpha 9 processing engine.
The first new element introduced by the new Alpha 9 chip is what LG calls ‘AI picture’. The TV’s processor optimises picture quality by consulting a look-up table of content and comparing it to the incoming signal. The TV then adjusts the picture automatically - it’s a similar approach to that taken by some rival TV manufacturers including Sony.
AI picture also features an advanced ambient light sensor built into the panel. It adjusts the TV’s tone mapping curve based on your lighting conditions and works on two levels depending on the content being shown. With SDR content it adjusts the general overall panel brightness, but with HDR content it can adjust the picture to an ever finer degree.
Going hand-in-hand with AI picture, is AI sound. With AI Sound, 2019 OLED models can now take a stereo signal and upmix it to virtual 5.1. The TVs can also recognise your room environment and acoustics and alter their sound accordingly. You did have the ability to tweak the audio in LG’s 2018 OLED TVs, but we’ve been told AI Audio takes the calibration to a higher level. Like its 2018 equivalent, the OLED65C9 supports Dolby Atmos.
WebOS, is still the OLED65C9’s primary operating system, but LG’s has also added what it calls a Home Dashboard. It’s a menu screen from which you can see and manage all your connected devices, including any sources you’ve got hooked up via HDMI, Bluetooth and any other smart home devices.
The Launcher Bar that runs along the bottom of the 65in C9‘s screen remains largely unchanged although a side by side comparison with last year’s C8 model will highlight a couple of small tweaks. The wedge of tiles that used to appear on the left side of the screen have been removed while the main tiles are slightly shorter on the 2019 version.
LG’s also added some extra functionality to the Launcher Bar. You can now access content through compatible apps without having to open them. Hover over the Netflix tab, for example, and you’ll be greeted with new and recommended content based on your viewing habits. In theory it should help you get to content quicker and more efficiently.
When setting up the OLED65C9’s you’ll come across a couple of neat new features. Intelligent Edit automatically populates the Launcher Bar over time with your most frequently used apps, so long-term it should be quicker to navigate around all your favourite content providers.
There’s also an ‘Add YouTube channel’ feature which does exactly what it says on the tin. You can attach your favourite channels to the launcher so you can start watching with a minimal button presses. LG’s hoping both of these features will help refine the user experience.
LG ThinQ AI powers the OLED65C9's smart capabilities. Press the mic button on the C9’s Magic Remote an you can interact with ThinkQ AI and the TV decides whether it can carry out your commands or if it needs to be passed on to Google Assistant. If you want to use the Alexa virtual assistant, you need to press the dedicated Alexa button on the remote.
LG’s promising more contextual conversations and interactions with its 2019 models. ThinQ AI will remember previous questions and there’ll be greater flexibility and more natural responses.
The OLED65C9 supports Apple AirPlay 2 but unlike Samsung’s 2019 TVs it doesn't have the iTunes store built-in.
The OLED65C9 has four HDMI 2.1 inputs. The HDMI 2.1 standard features across all LG’s OLED models for 2019, enabling support for high frame rates (HFR) up to 120 frames per second. The sockets also bring with them eARC support.
We were treated to a chapter or two from The Great Wall in 4K HDR. And although the film lacks substance, we saw nothing but positives on the picture quality front.
Black levels still had the inky quality we’ve come to love from LG’s OLED TVs but there was plenty of detail in the picture too, especially throughout big battle scenes. Edge definition appeared excellent and motion was solid.
When faced with bursts of bright neon colours, the TV seemed to have plenty of brightness and punch at its disposal. Viewing angles appeared as impressive as ever with no real loss of quality when moving around the booth and observing from a range of different angles.
The CES show floor isn’t a great environment to showcase audio and we were limited to listening to Amazon's Audible service.
It sounded perfectly listenable, with decent weight to voices but we’ll be able to report back on how it handles more explosive action scenes fully once a TV arrives in our test rooms, hopefully in the first quarter of this year.
On the face of it, LG appears to have refined the C9's picture quality for 2019 and we were hugely impressed by what we saw on the stand. There's a good chance LG will be up there battling for top spot, but the big question is, how much have Sony, Panasonic and Samsung upped their games? All will be revealed in the coming months.