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LG C3 (OLED42C3) review: The best small-screen OLED TV

Our Rating :
£999.00 from
Price when reviewed : 999
inc VAT

The LG C3 is an impressive OLED TV, and the 42in model is an outstanding choice for gamers and film buffs alike

Pros

  • Pixel-level light control
  • Top-notch gaming credentials
  • Excellent video processing

Cons

  • Sub-par colour uniformity at low luminance
  • Some near-black flashing artefacts
  • Constrained sound quality

The LG C3 is the 2023 model of one of the best-selling and most decorated OLED TVs on the market. Its C1 and C2 predecessors both received five-star ratings and Best Buy awards from Expert Reviews, and the C Series has become more popular than ever following the introduction of 42in and 48in options a couple of years ago.

I’m reviewing the smallest screen size here and, like the C1 and C2 before it, the C3 delivers excellent picture quality alongside superb next-gen gaming support. No other similarly sized television can match it in those departments, making it the top choice for those seeking a compact OLED that doesn’t compromise on performance.

LG C3 OLED: Key specifications

Screen sizes available:42in OLED42C34LA
48in OLED48C34LA
55in OLED55C34LA
65in OLED65C34LA
77in OLED77C34LA
83in OLED83C34LA
Panel type:WRGB OLED
Resolution:4K/UHD (3,940 x 2,160)
Refresh rate: 120Hz
HDR formats:Dolby Vision IQ, HDR10, HLG,
Audio enhancements:Dolby Atmos, 9.1.2 AI Upmixing, WOW Orchestra, DTS, IMAX Enhanced
HDMI inputs: HDMI 2.1 x 4
Tuners: Terrestrial, cable, satellite
Gaming features:Game Optimiser mode, ALLM, HGiG, VRR (HDMI Forum VRR, AMD FreeSync, Nvidia G-Sync), 4:4:4 Pass Through
Wireless connectivity:Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5, AirPlay 2
Smart platform:webOS 23
Freeview Play compatibility: Yes
Smart assistants: LG ThinQ, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa

LG C3 OLED review: What you need to know

The LG C3 sits one tier below the South Korean manufacturer’s flagship G3 OLED and doesn’t feature the brighter MLA (Micro Lens Array) panel technology found in its range-topping 4K OLED.

Nevertheless, the latest iteration of LG’s most popular C-series range is our go-to recommendation for viewers who want outstanding picture quality and an intuitive webOS smart TV experience without breaking the bank.

It’s available in six screen sizes (42in, 48in, 55in, 65in, 77in and 83in), all of which are powered by the company’s sixth-generation α9 AI Processor 4K, run webOS 23, support the HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision HDR formats and refresh rates of up to 120Hz.

There are a few important differences to note across the various models, however. The 42in and 48in options miss out on LG’s Light Boosting algorithm so can’t hit quite the same peak brightness levels as the larger models, and neither is compatible with LG’s USC9S soundbar, which was specifically designed for the 55in, 65in and 77in screen sizes.

The 42in model reviewed here also features a different stand from the rest of its stablemates, with left and right feet replacing the central mount found on the other entries in the range. Because of its compact nature, the 42in C3 can effectively double up as a gaming monitor as well as a traditional TV for enjoying films, TV shows and more.

LG C3 OLED review: Price and competition

At the time of writing, the 42in LG C3 costs £999, while the 48in model will set you back back £1,099. If you’re after one of the larger options, the pricing is as follows: 55in (£1,299), 65in (£1,699), 77in (£2,799) and 83in (£4,229).

Other 42in OLED alternatives include the Panasonic MZ800B (£799) and MZ980B, which is slightly more expensive at £1,199, the Philips OLED808 (£1,099), as well as the Sony A90K (£1,379), which was released in 2022 but carried over into Sony’s 2023 lineup.

All of those TVs use a WRGB OLED panel supplied by LG Display, but only the LG C3 provides four HDMI 2.1 ports, which is important to gamers with multiple source devices capable of 4K/120Hz gameplay like the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and high-end PCs.

LG C3 OLED review: Design, connections and control

The LG C3 has a minimalistic and sleek design, embracing a modern, almost bezel-less look that emphasises the screen itself. The 42in model is supported on a pair of L-shaped plastic feet at both ends of the screen and measures 932 x 170 x 577mm (WDH) with the feet attached. If you’d rather mount the TV on a wall, the C3 is compatible with a 300 x 200mm VESA bracket.

The OLED panel is extremely thin, but there’s an unavoidable protrusion along the chassis to accommodate the internal components and connection ports. These include four HDMI 2.1 inputs on the left side of the display, one of which supports eARC, three USB inputs, a Common Interface slot, an Ethernet port, and two RF inputs.

On the wireless front, there’s support for Wi-Fi 5, Bluetooth 5.0 and Apple AirPlay 2, while Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice assistants are supported, too.

As always, the supplied Magic Remote is a joy to use, featuring an on-screen pointer and direct access buttons to some of the more popular streaming services.

LG C3 OLED review: Smart TV platform

LG’s webOS interface is renowned for its ease of use and intuitive design, particularly when used in conjunction with the Magic Remote, and has long been a standout contender among TV operating systems. However, the shift to a full-screen interface, initiated in webOS 22, received mixed reactions from users. In response to this feedback, LG has made significant improvements in the latest version, webOS 23, while maintaining the full-screen layout.

The webOS 22 interface was criticised for its extensive vertical scrolling to access different content categories, which could become less responsive over time due to heavy caching and loading demands. In contrast, webOS 23 introduces a more streamlined home screen design that significantly reduces clutter. A notable feature is the introduction of “Quick Cards” – folders that categorise apps by genre, streamlining access to content. Below these Quick Cards, users will find a row of popular streaming apps, which can be arranged according to personal preference.

READ NEXT: The best smart TVs to buy

Further enhancing the user experience, the second page of the webOS 23 interface neatly organises recommended and trending content by streaming apps, not only facilitating faster loading times but also contributing to a more responsive user interface.

LG has ensured that all major streaming services and UK catch-up TV apps are readily available, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, YouTube, Rakuten TV and BBC iPlayer. This comprehensive range of apps underscores LG’s commitment to providing a diverse and accessible entertainment experience for its users.

LG C3 review: Image quality

The new α9 AI Processor 4K Gen6 processor brings several improvements to the LG C3 compared to its predecessor, the C2 OLED. For starters, the TruMotion frame interpolation algorithm on the C3 is less prone to incurring micro-stutter artefacts in 50Hz broadcast content than the C2, particularly in scenes containing rapid head movements and hand gestures.

Beyond motion handling, the α9 Gen6 chipset also enhances the C3’s upscaling capabilities, evident both on test patterns and in real-world standard-definition and high-definition broadcast material. The upscaling was generally sharper, although it occasionally resulted in scenes with abundant fine details appearing slightly overprocessed, even with all edge enhancement controls disabled.

In addition, the upgraded chipset helps the LG C3 present above-black scenes with marginally smoother gradation compared to the LG C2. However, the C3 manifested a slightly increased occurrence of near-black flashing artefacts in selected real-life content, a deviation from its predecessor. On the upside, the enhanced near-black precision afforded by the C3’s new processor allows for more accurate calibration, particularly in luminance tracking just above black.

Our 42in LG C3 review unit exhibited very good screen uniformity which was free from any noticeable dirty screen effect or banding. There was some minor pink tinting along the edges, a characteristic often observed on WRGB OLED panels these days. However, the colour non-homogeneity took a turn for the worse at lower luminance levels. The sides of the screen – particularly on the left – appeared cooler compared to the centre when displaying full-field slides just above black, which was occasionally perceptible in real-world content such as darker scenes in the film Dune.

LG C3 OLED review: HDR performance

Our 42in LG C3 measured 680cd/m2 nits on a 10% window after calibration to the D65 white point and 105cd/m2 nits when measured across the full screen. These figures are marginally lower than those I recorded for the 42in LG C2, but the C3 was able to reach higher brightness levels on a 25% window, resulting in more impactful HDR presentation in scenes with higher average picture levels (APL).

The TV’s coverage of the DCI-P3 colour gamut was measured at 99%, while Rec.2020 coverage stood at 75%. These results are par for the course for a WRGB OLED panel from LG Display. Consistent with other LG OLEDs in recent years, the C3 model dynamically adjusts its tone curve based on MaxCLL (Maximum Content Light Level) metadata. By doing so, it’s able to effectively preserve more detail in specular highlights in HDR content, especially in scenes with elements up to 4,000 nits.

LG’s colour-boosting algorithm also helps the C3 present bright HDR colours in a more saturated manner than competing 42in OLED TVs from other manufacturers, enabling it to retain creative intent to an impressive degree.

LG C3 OLED review: Gaming

In Game Optimiser mode, the LG C3 achieved an input lag of 13ms at 60 frames per second (fps). This figure could be further reduced to 9.2ms by activating the [Boost] mode, which effectively doubles the frame rate to 120fps. When fed a true 120fps video signal, the LG C3 achieved an input lag of just 4.8 milliseconds, positioning it as one of the most responsive consumer TVs currently available.

Some users prefer to engage Filmmaker Mode combined with Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) during HDR gaming, which utilises LG’s advanced colour-boosting algorithm that’s absent from the standard Game Optimiser mode.

Although it’s not possible to force ALLM with standard testing tools such as the Leo Bodnar 4K Lag Tester, an alternative measurement method was found by engaging the 4:4:4 Pass Through setting while in Filmmaker Mode, resulting in an input lag of 21ms at 60fps and 13ms at 120fps. While these figures are slightly higher than those in Game Optimiser mode, they come with the benefit of enhanced colour saturation and brightness during HDR gameplay.

The LG C3 is equipped with four HDMI 2.1 ports, each supporting the full HDMI 2.1 bandwidth of 48Gbits/sec, while also accommodating 24Gbits/sec of Display Stream Compression (DSC). Consistent with its predecessors in LG’s line of C-series OLEDs, the C3 offers excellent support for HGiG-compliant games, accurately tracking the HDR10 ST.2084 PQ curve up to a hard-clipping point set at 800 nits for both Maximum Tone Map Luminance (MaxTML) and Maximum Full Field Tone Map Luminance (MaxFFTML) to ensure faithful reproduction of HDR games according to the creative intent.

In terms of the general gaming experience, the LG C3 excels by simply being reliable and user-friendly. It supports various Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) formats, including Nvidia G-Sync, effectively reducing tearing and frame drops. However, similar to other consumer OLED TVs, some VRR flicker is still visible in certain games, particularly during less dynamic scenes or on static menus.

The new 4:4:4 Pass Through setting on the LG C3 not only enables full 4:4:4 chroma reproduction but also marginally improves native 10-bit gradation. Furthermore, the TV supports 4K 120Hz Dolby Vision gameplay from devices such as the Xbox Series X. However, the Dolby Vision Game Optimiser mode tends to be overbrightened out of the box, necessitating calibration through tools such as CalMAN Autocal for optimal performance. As a result, HDR10 remains the recommended format for HDR gaming on LG OLED TVs for most users.

READ NEXT: The best TVs for gaming

LG C3 OLED review: Sound quality

The physical dimensions of the 42in C3 harm sound quality when compared to larger models in LG’s OLED TV lineup, with its acoustic capabilities limited by the size and power of the built-in 2.0-channel speaker system.

Although the TV managed to deliver dialogue clearly, the soundstage was relatively narrow, a consequence of the smaller cabinet size, as it restricts the separation and spread of sound, hindering the overall immersive audio experience. Additionally, the depth of bass frequencies was somewhat deficient.

READ NEXT: The best soundbars to buy

These findings reflect the trade-offs in audio performance associated with the more compact form factor of the 42in LG C3 OLED. While it excels in delivering clear dialogue and supports numerous audio enhancements, including Dolby Atmos, IMAX Enhanced and 9.1.2-channel AI upscaling, there’s only so much it can do with two speakers and 20W of amplification.

Its narrower soundstage and limited bass depth may prompt users to seek external sound solutions, such as a soundbar or home theatre system, for a more robust audio experience. Due to its support for WOW Orchestra, which allows integration of TV sound with that generated by a compatible soundbar, it’s worth considering an LG soundbar if you do decide to go down that route.

LG C3 OLED review: Verdict

The LG C3 is comfortably the best TV in the 40in to 43in size class in terms of picture quality. Its OLED panel’s pixel-level light control unlocks true blacks, vibrant colours and wide viewing angles, and excellent images are complemented by classing-leading gaming features including supremely low input lag, well-implemented HGiG and 4K 120Hz Dolby Vision support.

It’s not without its flaws, but there’s no other sub-45in TV that can outperform it when it comes to overall picture quality and gaming prowess.

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