How to buy the best TV
How to buy the best LG TV
By Martin Pratt
Article 3 of 7
As is becoming customary for LG, OLEDs take the lead in 2020. The CX, BX and WX ranges are successors to TVs we saw last in 2019, while the number of 8K TVs being launched has increased to eight.
We've broken down each range in LG's 2020 line-up so you can see how they differ, and we'll be adding more details on the cheaper ranges as soon as we get them. Or take a look at the TVs released in 2019, which are still available and are cheaper than they've ever been.
In this guide:
Best LG TVs
There's no shortage of intriguing technology in LG's TVs, including an improved image processor, new HDR formats and object-based sound rendering.
Alpha 9 processor
LG's high-end 2020 TVs are powered by the third generation of the Alpha 9 processor, while lower-end OLEDs and LCDs will likely retain the second-generation Alpha 9. The latest version builds on its predecessors with several added features, most notably content enhancement and content optimisation. Both are designed to make the pictures being displayed look as crisp, accurate and lifelike as possible, regardless of the resolution.
TVs with this upgraded chip will analyse every frame of what you're watching and hone it to look as close to 4K or 8K as possible. What resolution the content is boosted to will depend on your TV. 8K sets rely on this sort of technology as there's no 8K content to watch, but if it works well then SD and HD footage will look better than ever on 4K TVs, too.
HDR10, Technicolor, Dolby Vision and HLG HDR formats
LG is covering most of the HDR bases with its TVs. The OLED models have four formats built in, so there won't be many devices or HDR content that they won't be compatible with.
HDR10 is the standard format at the moment, although Samsung and Panasonic's support for HDR10+ may change that.
HLG is the type of HDR that broadcasters will use when they launch HDR channels. It's not so useful now, but given that most of us keep the same TV for years, it's good to know that it will work with the new channels.
Unlike HDR10, Dolby Vision costs the manufacturer a licence fee to use. Cost aside, the key difference between it and HDR10 is metadata – this is the data that makes up the quality of the picture. HDR10 gets one dump of information for every film and TV show compatible with HDR; this means the HDR version of what you're watching will be the same regardless of the TV it's being displayed on.
Dolby Vision, on the other hand, can react to what's on screen by accounting for the brightness, colour and contrast of different TVs.
Similarly to HLG, Technicolor will help to simplify broadcasting HDR. It will also be able to upscale content to HDR quality.
If you're unsure what this technology does, then head to our guide on HDR.
Dolby Atmos and DTS audio
The sound-processing tech in LG's OLEDs should help to create a more immersive sound experience. It does this by creating object-based sound effects, which should make it seem as though the TV audio is all around you rather than coming directly from the TV. In theory, this means that the sound of a plane taking off on screen would seem to come from above you, or the sound of talking crowd would surround you if the action is taking place in a stadium, for example.
TVs get smarter every year, and the ThinQ technology that debuted in 2018 is still favoured in 2020. ThinQ-enabled TVs will be able to control other LG appliances, so your TV would alert you when your washing is done, or it could display the contents of your fridge.
Voice search will still feature, and you'll be able to search for specific channels and apps, or look up films of a certain genre or starring a specific actor. If you have an Amazon Echo or Google Home, you can use those to control your TV rather than the remote.
HFR (high frame rate)
This is a feature that comes part and parcel with HDMI 2.1 (yes, even your TV's inputs get updates), which is something many LG TVs support. HFR ups the number of frames a TV can display per second to 120. This should make high-speed action look silky smooth, with no hint of blur.
Sport is the natural fit for this technology. The tech demos showing it off are often tennis and football matches, where balls are travelling at high speed. It's unlikely to be used for TV or movies, which are displayed at around 24 frames per second. Upping this to 120 would look very unnatural.
It's strange to think that when you watch a film on your TV, it may not look the way the people who made it intended. That's why the likes of Martin Scorsese, Ava DuVernay and Rian Johnson put their weight behind Filmmaker Mode, which disables TV-added effects that can compromise that original vision.
It should make for a more cinematic experience, as motion-smoothing effects are blocked. In our tests we tinker with picture settings to get the best picture from each TV, and motion smoothing is something we often turn off ourselves. For anyone who doesn't want to delve into the deep recesses of TV picture settings, the Filmmaker Mode should be a welcome addition to LG's high-end TVs.
Dolby Vision IQ
HDR is designed to improve the contrast of whatever you're watching, but we sometimes think it makes things worse. Our most common complaint is how the deeper blacks and brighter whites can obscure detail. As HDR normally goes hand in hand with 4K, it's a crime to cover up the extra detail the higher resolution affords.
Dolby Vision IQ offers a solution by using the light sensors in the TV to adjust contrast based on your room's ambient light. We'll know how well this works when we test LG's high-end 2020 TVs, but it's a good solution in theory.
Improvements for gamers
Refresh rate and input lag are vital to enjoying video games on modern TVs. Refresh rates refer to how often the image on the screen refreshes. If you watch a film, you usually get 24 frames per second, which sounds like a lot, but many video games rattle through 60 frames per second or even more.
If the refresh rate of a TV can't cope, then games begin to look jagged and are less pleasant to play. LG has worked with graphics card manufacturer Nvidia to improve the refresh rates on its TVs. They have worked together on input lag, too, which is how quickly the display responds to button presses on a game controller. A small delay can mean the difference between making a jump and falling short, and it's something gamers won't put up with. LG's TVs should provide a better experience for gamers with all this extra tech.
We learned plenty about LG's high-end TVs at CES 2020, but we'll need to wait a little longer before we hear about its cheaper ranges. We'll update this section as soon as we get more information.
When LG puts 'Signature' in the name of one of its TVs or appliances, it means it's something special. These devices represent LG at its finest, with the latest technology, cutting-edge features and striking designs. They usually cost a fortune, too.
The OLED RX looks unusual at first, with its huge sound bar base that's wider than the screen itself. But when you realise that the screen rolls up into that base, it starts to make more sense. Not everyone wants a large screen dominating their living room, so having one that can disappear entirely is a tempting prospect.
When it's fully unfurled, the RX should be a force to be reckoned with. It uses the latest third-generation Alpha 9 processor, which should optimise SD, HD and 4K content better than ever by analysing and sharpening everything on screen. It will provide a welcome boost to HDR, too.
The OLED display measures 65 inches. It's 4K rather than 8K, possibly because LG hasn't been able to roll up an 8K display yet, but that's not a reason to be put off – 8K content is scarce.
LG's other Signature OLED set for 2020 doesn't roll up like a scroll, but it is 8K. It's much bigger than the RX rollable OLED, too, at 88 inches.
Resolution and rolling aside, the two Signatures are similar. The third-generation Alpha 9 processor is present on both, but its importance, and challenge, is even greater here. It's not enough to make sure everything looks close to 4K; it needs to look 8K, otherwise the ZX is a pricey waste of space, as there's no actual 8K content available. You may be able to see some on YouTube before the year is out, but we can't be certain.
Filmmaker Mode is an interesting new addition. It's found on many of LG's high-end sets, and it's designed to strip away the post-processing effects that the TV adds to content, so that what you watch is true to the filmmakers' original vision.
LG's answer to the Samsung Galaxy Frame is its Gallery Design range. As with the Frame range, Gallery Design models aren't supposed to look like TVs at all – they're designed to look like pictures.
Thicker bezels mirror the look of a picture frame, and when the TV is turned off it will display real works of art to blend in better.
A clever feature of the Frame was how Samsung put all the connections in a separate box attached to the TV by one wire. It doesn't appear that LG has followed suit, which means any HDMI and USB cables will be connected to the back of the TV. The illusion of the Gallery range being pictures rather than TVs will be trickier to pull off unless you pass cables through the wall.
As for the TV itself, it's an OLED display with the third-generation Alpha 9 processor. It will be available in 55, 65 and 77 inches.
The original Signature TV is still an impressive-looking set, even if its style hasn't changed much since it debuted three years ago. It's known as the Wallpaper TV, and with good reason. The paper-thin OLED display is so flexible it can peel on to the wall. It's not quite as flexible as the rollable RX OLED, though.
The TV manages this feat by housing most of the components in a sound-bar-style base that's connected to the TV by one almost-transparent wire.
The look may not have changed, but the internals have. The WX now uses the third-generation Alpha 9 processor, so its picture quality should be sharper than ever, with particular attention being paid to HDR footage. It supports Filmmaker Mode, too.
Currently only a 65-inch model is listed, but in previous years we've seen 77-inch models, too, so this could also be an option.
Models in the Signature range all cost an arm and a leg, but the CX range is where LG's OLEDs become affordable. It's the successor to the C9 range from 2019 (the X is 10), and it doesn't look wildly different.
The big change is on the inside: the CX will use the cutting-edge third-generation Alpha 9 processor. It's the same one found in the entire Signature range, which will all cost significantly more than any model in the CX range.
Improved upscaling, adaptive sound and better HDR content are the hallmarks of the latest version of the processor. Filmmaker Mode filters down to these cheaper ranges, too, so you'll be able to watch films the way the cinematographers and directors intended by stripping away processing effects added by the TV.
The CX range is 4K and will be available in 55, 65 and 77-inch screen sizes.
The BX OLED range will be LG's most affordable. It's the processor that keeps costs down: rather than using the Alpha 9, the BX range uses the Alpha 7. It's not the same one used in 2019's B9 OLEDs, though; this is the third generation.
It effectively does the same thing as the Alpha 9, just not as well. However, in our tests the B9 OLEDs got almost the same score as the C9s, so the processor isn't the be-all and end-all for quality.
There's no Filmmaker Mode, but the BXs do benefit from Dolby Vision IQ. This boosts HDR performance by using light sensors in the TV to adjust the picture based on how bright your room is.
The BX OLEDs will be available in 55 and 65 inches.
It's not just OLEDs getting the 8K treatment – some LCD TVs benefit, too. This Nano 9 Series is likely to be LG's flagship LCD range, and has 33 million pixels packed into its 55 or 65-inch display.
This is a huge figure, but there isn't any content to take advantage of it, which is where the third-generation Alpha 9 processor comes in. Although it's found on 4K TVs too, it's got a tougher job on 8K models like this one. It needs to upscale SD, HD and 4K to look like 8K. If it can't, then TVs like this are pointless at the moment.
It shares its other features with LG's OLEDs, too. Filmmaker Mode is built in, as is Dolby Vision IQ, so its HDR footage should look impeccable. We too often find that the boost to black and white shades obscures detail when HDR is employed, but using the TV's light sensors to adjust the contrast on the fly should help to avoid this issue.
There will be 65 and 75-inch versions of this TV. There's also a Gallery version, which works in the same way as the GX Gallery OLEDs to make the TVs look more like pictures on your wall when not in use.
The Nano 8 Series gets the Alpha 7 processor rather than the Alpha 9. This isn't necessarily an issue, particularly when the Nano 8 doesn't have an 8K screen it needs to make the most of. The Alpha 7 should be more than capable of making 4K footage shine.
Filmmaker Mode and Dolby Vision IQ should make films look great on the display – the TV reacts to ambient light in the room to adjust contrast, and shows footage as the cinematographers and directors intended without the extra processing added by the TV.
You will be able to buy the Nano 8s in four sizes: 49, 55, 65 and 75 inches.
Information on LG's TVs which launched in 2019 and are still on sale.
- LG Signature R OLED
- LG Z9 8K OLED
- LG C9 OLED
- LG B9 OLED
- LG SM9800PLA
- LG SM9000PLA
- LG SM8610PLA and SM8500PLA
- LG SM8200PLA
- LG UM7660PLA
- LG UM7600PLB
- LG UM7450PLA and UM7400PLB
LG saves the Signature label for its most elite devices, whether it's a fridge, washing machine or TV, and the Signature R certainly earns the title. The vast OLED screen seems to achieve the impossible: it vanishes before your very eyes. At the push of a button, the enormous screen disappears into what seems to be the TV base equivalent of Mary Poppins' bag but, in fact, the screen is rolling up like a newspaper.
It solves a key problem faced by many who'd like a big TV but don't want it to dominate their living room when it's switched off. With the screen rolled up, the base looks like a stylish side table, and doubles as a sound bar you can connect to via Bluetooth.
All the rolling and unrolling could take a toll on the screen, but according to LG the panel can coil 50,000 times, which means it would last 34 years if you unfurled it twice a day.
The Z9 was LG's first 8K OLED. The gargantuan 88-inch display houses more than 33m pixels, and should be capable of displaying mind-blowing clarity.
The second-generation Alpha 9 processor will help it overcome the lack of 8K content problem, and by lack of, we mean none. Thankfully, the processor should upscale SD, HD and 4K video to something close to 8K quality.
Without it, you're paying a fortune for a TV with a headline feature you can't use. It would be like buying a house knowing that you couldn't access the top floor.
The C9 is one of the cheaper OLEDs, but it still has the impressive second-generation Alpha 9 processor.
Other than the new processor, not too much has changed from the 2018 C8 model. The C9 still supports Dolby Atmos and four HDR formats: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision and Technicolor. 2019 was more of an iterative year than an innovative one for LG's OLEDs.
It's still an OLED, but with no Alpha 9 processor, the entry-level OLED could be far behind the models higher up the range when it comes to picture quality, particularly when it comes to SD and HD content.
It has the Alpha 7 processor instead, which also powers most of the high-end LCD models. The first generation of this chip can be found on 2018's 8000, 8100 and 8500 LCD ranges, some of which did very well in our tests, so it's not a sign that the B9 will be poor quality.
In most other ways, the B9 is similar to the pricier C9. The same HDR formats are supported, Dolby Atmos is built in and you can control the TV with your voice.
LG called its high-end LCD TVs 'Nano Cell' in 2019, and it claims that this technology produces more accurate colour.
The 9800s are the top-end LCD sets and sit just below the B9 OLED. But despite having different screen types, they share the same second generation A7 processor. Upscaling is the big focus, and the new processor is designed to optimise picture and sound based on what you're watching. This 'adaptive improving' is known as AI upscaling. LG's flagship A9 processors do it, too, but it's unclear how the high-end processor improves over the A7.
The processor isn't the only thing impacting sound: the 9800s support Dolby Atmos for a simulated surround sound experience.
The SM9800PLA TVs are available in 55 and 65 inches.
On paper, the 9000 range looks to be very similar to the 9800s above. The processor is the same, it has a full-array backlight for improved contrast control, and it's a Nano Cell set, so we may see more vivid colours that we're used to on LG's LCD sets.
The only significant difference seems to be the variety of sizes. Where the 9800s are only available in two sizes (55 and 65 inches) the 9000s come in five (49, 55, 65, 75 and 86 inches).
LG is taking a leaf out of Samsung's book and try to help its high-end sets blend in better with the room they are in. It has partnered with Tripadvisor to present a gallery mode that displays seasonal landscapes when the TV's not in use - it even mimics a picture frame on screen to help it look more like a real hanging photograph.
TVs in this range are either classified as 9010 or 9000, but only the size of the display differs.
It appears that only stand design separates these two Nano Cell TVs. The 8500 has feet at either end of the screen, while the 8610 has a central stand similar to the SM9000 above it.
The features seem to be on par with pricier Nano Cell models. The Alpha 7 processor is built in, as is Dolby Atmos surround sound technology.
Normally we'd say that these cheaper models would have had less time being calibrated. The time spent tweaking the colour balance, contrast and sharpness is what often separates the best TVs from the magnificent ones, but all LG's Nano Cell sets have a new auto-calibration feature from CalMAN, which is software designed to tweak the colours for you in a way that you'd typically need to be an expert to do.
It's still possible that less work has been done behind the scenes in LG's own labs to tune the picture, but the CalMAN software is a welcome addition for anyone who wants to feel like they are getting the best picture without spending hours pouring through menus.
Both ranges are available in 49, 55 and 65 inches.
The cheapest series in the Nano Cell range is also the most different. It doesn't have the A7 processor, instead it has to settle for the more generic sounding quad core processor. It's still doing fundamentally the same thing, reducing distracting noise on screen, boosting the colours and upscaling lower resolution content to close to 4K, but there's no mention of the sound optimisation that comes with the A7 processor.
Processor aside, not much else appears to have changed. The same four HDR formats are supported as is Dolby Atmos, a type of audio processing that does a better job of placing sound in the space around you rather than having everything coming directly from the TV.
If our testing finds that losing the A7 processor doesn't make much difference to the picture quality, then this cheaper range of Nano Cell TVs could be an appealing option.
The SM8200PLA range is available in 49, 55 and 65 inches.
Models with UM in the name aren't Nano Cell TVs, but they are still 4K HDR, with the same suite of smart features as even LG's OLEDs.
What they lack is the A7 processor and Dolby Atmos sound processing. Instead of Atmos, the TVs use DTS Virtual:X audio processing to create a simulated surround sound effect, so it should still seem as though the sound is all around you rather than coming in a straight line from the TV.
Unlike some of cheaper models from the UM 4K range, the 7660 has LG's superb Magic Remote, which means you'll be able to issue voice commands to search for shows and change channels by pressing the microphone button on the remote.
The UM7660PLA is only available in 55 and 65 inches.
Generally the bigger the number a TV's model name the more high end it is, but the 7600 looks better on paper than the 7660. That's because it has the A7 processor, which is more than we can say for some of LG's high-end Nano Cell LCD TVs.
It's peculiar to have a lower-end TV with better specs than a pricier model, but it's also interesting and it could mean that the 7600 range outperforms some of the Nano Cell TVs in our testing.
The A7 processor isn't the only high-end feature that should help the 7600 punch above its weight. It also has Dolby Atmos audio processing technology to create a surround sound effect and it comes with the Magic Remote, so you'll be able to issue voice commands to the TV without having to fork out the extra money for the premium remote.
Often LG's more advanced sets are only available in 49 inches and above, but the 7600 starts at 43 inches and goes all the way to 86 inches.
There isn't much difference between these two ranges, but it's possible that the 7400 will have a superior viewing angle. LG promises that even if you're sat at a 60-degree angle to the TV the colours will be 100% accurate. Usually at these sorts of angles we start to colours fade and appear washed out.
The improved colour accuracy is down to the 7400's IPS panel. Otherwise the two ranges are largely the same. DTS Virtual:X surround sound should make the audio more immersive and less like a tunnel of sound direct from your TV, but only the 7450 will have the Magic Remote for voice control. You'll need to buy it separately if you go for the 7400.
The 7450 range is available in 43, 50, 55, 65 and 70 inches, while the 7400 range is available in 43, 49, 55 and 65 inches.