Wrestling the ‘budget’ mantle from LG’s B-series, the A1 is an attractive proposition for OLED bargain hunters
- LG’s cheapest OLED yet
- 20W built-in audio
- Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support
- No HDMI 2.1
- Does not use LG’s top processor
When LG announced it would be launching a new ‘cheap’ OLED at this year’s online CES show in virtual Las Vegas, the tech industry let out a collective gasp – its B-series TVs had long been the budget line, but now a new A-series was set to drive the entry price of LG’s OLEDs lower still.
First things first, the words ‘cheap’ and ‘budget’ are relative. And when the pricing for the new range of A1 models was finally revealed, this cheap new OLED transpired to be not quite as cheap as everyone had imagined. Indeed, those with dreams of a sub-£1000 LG option were to be disappointed, but in years to come, we may see the price creeping lower still.
Despite being an entry-level OLED, the LG A1 still promises premium quality 4K HDR pictures and perfect contrast levels, but with some trimmed-down telly tech to make the whole thing more affordable than its more luxurious LG stablemates. What is retained and what was considered too elaborate an expense? Let’s have a look…
LG A1 OLED (2021): Key specifications
|Screen sizes available:||48in OLED48A16LA,|
|Resolution:||4K/UHD (3,840 x 2,160)|
|HDR formats:||HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG|
|Audio enhancement:||Dolby Atmos, AI Sound|
|HDMI inputs:||3 x HDMI 2.0|
|Streaming services:||Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Now, Freeview Play, YouTube etc.|
|Wireless connectivity:||Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0|
|Smart platform:||LG webOS 6.0|
LG A1 OLED (2021): 4K playback and HDR support
It would be fair to say that LG is the current king of OLED, and that Organic Light-Emitting Diode technology is tried, tested and hard to beat when it comes to producing dazzlingly high-contrast images. Featuring millions of self-illuminating pixels as opposed to relying on backlights like LED screens, brilliant, natural colour and flawless, deep, dark blacks come guaranteed, which means that the A1 OLED is already set to impress.
Add to that the inclusion of Dolby Vision IQ to enhance images further by intelligently adjusting picture settings based on both the HDR content it’s showing and the ambient light of your surroundings, plus HDR10 and HLG support to boot, and the picture performance ought to be worth every penny of the entry price.
Controlling all this, and to make the A1 series as affordable as possible, LG has withheld its latest Alpha 9 Generation 4 chip found in all 2021 models above its B1 series, settling instead on its Alpha 7 Generation 4 AI processor 4K.
While a step down for those who demand the moon on a stick, the α7 Gen4 is still an absolute powerhouse of a processor and has proved itself at presiding over all upscaling and aforementioned automatic image adjustments with seamless efficiency, so you can cross that off your list of concerns.
LG A1 OLED (2021): Audio specifications
Then we come to the audio side of the equation, an area in which entry-level flat panel TVs traditionally tend to fail quite spectacularly. So, what do we get with the LG A1? Two channels, at 10W per channel, of downward-firing sound – which might not appear overly impressive, but factor back in the Alpha 7 AI processor analysing all audio sources and optimising according to content type and even the position of your A1 within the room, and you can expect the audio to be crisp and clear. Perhaps somewhat lacking in bass, as most 4K TVs tend to be, but not too tinny either.
Add to the audio mix virtual 5.1 surround sound, AI algorithm up-mixing and Dolby Atmos surround sound support, and the A1 presents a surprisingly meaty, immersive audio experience for what is considered a budget OLED model.
LG A1 OLED (2021): Gaming specs and webOS smart platform
That’s the cinematic side sorted, but what about those keen to engage in some next-gen gaming? Well, there’s bad news on that front. With no HDMI 2.1 ports, the LG A1 does not support 4K at 120Hz or VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), so those looking to get the most out of their PS5 and/or Xbox Series X will want to look elsewhere (perhaps the LG C1 OLED or Samsung Q80A) for their gaming goodness.
This brings us to the smarts of the A1 series. Here we find the latest version of LG’s acclaimed smart TV platform, webOS. Created in conjunction with the company’s bundled Magic Remote to make content search and selection as slick and simple as possible, it also had Alexa and Google Assistant voice search support.
For the easily distracted, the OS also allows users to (content-dependent) access additional information about whatever they’re watching, such as the actors and locations featured, and pandering to the shopaholic, even gain online access to purchase products seen on the screen.
In conclusion, then, the new LG A1 series may be at the bottom of this year’s 4K OLED pile, but it packs the specs and the smarts to deliver exceptional 4K HDR images while also making a decent fist of audio too. As mentioned, next-gen gamers will want to look to a higher-specced option, but for an impressive cinematic experience from a renowned manufacturer at an entry-level price of £1,100 (48in), the A1 is an appealing prospect.
LG A1 OLED: Price and competition
Priced from £1,100 for the 48in option and going up to £3,700 for the 77in, the new LG A1 series certainly does seem to represent good value for money compared to other OLEDs out there. But a budget range will never be able to tick all the boxes. So, if the A1 is not fuelling your 4K fire, what alternatives are available?
Fresh for 2021, Samsung’s stunning Q80A 4K QLED is £100 more at £1,200 for the 55in (available at Amazon). QLED stands for Quantum-dot Light-Emitting Diode, referring to a layer of microscopic dots that emit colour in reaction to light, giving the TV a much higher brightness than an OLED or conventional LCD panel. HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG support are also on board. For audio, the Q80A gives you the same 2.0ch 20W as the LG, but here an active voice amplifier and Samsung’s Object Tracking Sound (OTS) system work to deliver a 3D-like soundstage. But it’s the inclusion of 1x HDMI 2.1, 4K at 120Hz and VRR that makes all the difference here for next-gen gamers.
Also throwing its UHD hat into the ring is Sony’s XR50X90J, a slick 50in LCD that, although way down Sony’s 2021 4K TV pecking order, has the same premium Cognitive XR Processor as its more expensive siblings, so is capable of some pretty high-level 4K Upscaling. It’s also got the same image-enhancing XR Triluminos Pro tech, alongside a 3D Surround Upscaling feature for improved audio, plus Dolby Atmos support. Finally, its two HDMI 2.1 inputs have 4K at 120Hz support (but not VRR), making the X90J a decent next-gen gaming selection. Slightly pricier at £1300 from John Lewis, this Sony looks to be a solid 4K all-rounder.