LG OLED65CX TV First Impressions
LG’s OLED TVs are always a subject of great excitement for AV fans. LG’s 2019 C9 models, though, were so good that they got us wondering just how much further LG could take OLED technology (at least in its current form).
However, having recently spent some serious time with one of LG’s upcoming 2020 OLED models, the 4K-resolution OLED65CX, it seems that rumours of OLED technology having reached the limit of its capabilities may have been greatly exaggerated.
Not that there’s much new going on with the LG OLED65CX’s design. With its ultra-thin edges and silvery, centrally mounted stand it’s a chip off the old LG C-Series block. Fortunately that ‘old block’ happens to be seriously gorgeous.
It doesn’t take long sizing up the OLED65CX’s pictures side by side with a 2019 C9, though, to see that there’s plenty of hot new stuff going on under the hood.
The key to this is LG’s new third-gen Alpha 9 processing system, which brings in a host of enhancements and tweaks to last year’s version. Arguably the star of these upgrades is LG’s improved dynamic tone mapping for high dynamic range sources. This somehow manages to make HDR look generally brighter and more contrasty/punchy without the screen actually delivering any more measurable peak light output than we got from 2019’s OLED panels.
It sounds like some kind of sorcery, I know, but side by side viewing really does show the OLED65CX delivering more intensity in small bright HDR light peaks, and daylight shots that look brighter for longer across the whole screen. This is significant stuff given that one of OLED’s traditional disadvantages versus high-end LCD TVs is that they can’t hit the same sort of pure brightness levels.
Underlining the OLED65CX’s tone mapping enhancements are better black colours during dark scenes. Last year’s C9s actually lost a little black level versus LG’s previous generation, but it’s back with the CX. Only this time OLED’s trademark deep blacks seem to be delivered without crushing out much shadow detail.
The Gen 3 Alpha 9 processor also offers improved motion handling. A Cinema Clear setting seems to do a great job of removing judder caused by the OLED panel’s traits without losing the sense of natural judder associated with 24p cinema content. Plus there’s a new Motion Pro system that offers the sort of natural motion when watching films you get if you insert black frames without losing as much brightness as this approach usually causes.
The improved motion performance contributes to a noticeably sharper, crisper look to the OLED65CX’s pictures than I’m accustomed to seeing with LG OLEDs. Especially when it comes to upscaled HD/SD images.
The extra brightness LG’s latest processor has managed to find feeds into the CX’s colour, too. Bright tones look both more intense and, more importantly, more natural. For instance, bright blue skies tend to look more authentically blue (rather than cyan as they’ve typically looked on LG OLEDs before).
It was interesting to see, too, how much more consistent subtle background colours tend to look as your eye tracks them across the screen. There’s pretty much no sign of LG’s old tonal shifting while showing what should be uniform colour tones. And on the OLED65CX I saw, this seems to be achieved when using regular picture presets, rather than only after in-depth calibration.
I saw one or two subtle signs of colour striping in areas of subtle HDR blends. But this was much less apparent than it was with 2019’s LG OLEDs. In fact, noise of all sorts is much less noticeable in the OLED65CX’s pictures than it was in those of its predecessor.
While the OLED65CX does not, sadly, see LG adding support for the premium HDR10+ HDR format to its support for Dolby Vision, HLG and basic HDR10, the OLED65CX features a trio of interesting new picture setting options: Dolby Vision IQ, Filmmaker Mode, and HGiG mode.
The first of these combines the extra HDR image data Dolby Vision can provide with input from an ambient light sensor on the TV, so that the DV images can be adjusted to retain their natural look no matter how bright or dark your room.
Filmmaker mode strips back pretty much all of the TV’s processing to deliver what the Hollywood filmmaking community behind it believe is a purer picture that gets closer to the look they created in their mastering suites. And the HGiG mode seeks to improve the performance of HDR with gaming sources.
Of these three new modes, I was only able to try the Filmmaker one. Personally I’m not yet convinced that I’m a fan of turning off so much of LG’s increasingly clever video processing, and found the Filmmaker mode to look rather dark and a little pale. Though it did, on the upside, deliver some impressive colour tone and shadow detail subtlety.
One last thing to mention is LG’s latest ‘AI’ sound and picture modes. These proprietary systems use machine learning (essentially vast quantities of before and after comparisons) to analyse incoming sources and map them as effectively as possible to the TV’s capabilities.
The audio AI version worked well last year and has been tweaked for the OLED65CX to enhance vocal clarity and placement. The new AI Picture mode appears from the early look I’ve had at it to be vastly more useful and effective than the rather messy and overcooked feature we saw in 2019. Not least because it sensibly seems to do much less with native 4K sources that don’t really need much ‘help’.
There doesn’t seem to be anything much new happening at the panel level in LG’s 2020 OLED TVs. So I guess you could say we’re talking more evolution than revolution. Nonetheless, from what I’ve seen so far the LG OLED65CX’s new processing seems set to deliver a bigger improvement than I’d honestly expected to see. Which bodes very well when you consider how good LG’s 2019 models were.
Look out for a full LG OLEDCX StereoNET review in the next couple of months.
I’ve spent the past 25 years writing about the world of home entertainment technology. In that time I’m fairly confident that I’ve reviewed more TVs and projectors than any other individual on the planet, as well as experiencing first-hand the rise and fall of all manner of great and not so great home entertainment technologies.