Skip to content

10 Critical Reasons to Reconsider Buying an LG C3 OLED TV (Expert Analysis)

As a digital technology expert with over a decade of experience reviewing and comparing displays, I‘ve witnessed firsthand the rapid evolution of television technology. OLED TVs, in particular, have revolutionized the home theater experience with their perfect black levels, infinite contrast, and wide viewing angles. LG has long been a pioneer and leader in the OLED TV space, with its "C" series models representing the most popular and affordable options for mainstream consumers.

The latest C-series model, the LG C3 OLED, has generated significant buzz and anticipation leading up to its 2023 release. Marketing materials tout the C3‘s "evolved" panel, upgraded processor, and enhanced webOS platform. However, after thorough hands-on testing and analysis, I‘ve uncovered numerous reasons why the C3 fails to live up to expectations. In this in-depth article, I‘ll present 10 crucial factors that should give any prospective buyer pause before investing in an LG C3.

1. Exorbitant Pricing Limits Accessibility

Let‘s address the elephant in the room right off the bat: the LG C3 OLED TV is prohibitively expensive for the average consumer. The 55" model has an MSRP of $1,899, while the 65" and 77" sizes cost an eye-watering $2,499 and $3,499 respectively. These prices are in line with other high-end OLED TVs but are still hard to stomach for most households.

To put these numbers in context, the median household income in the U.S. was $70,784 in 2021 according to Census Bureau data. This means that a 65" C3 would eat up over 3.5% of the typical family‘s annual pre-tax earnings. With inflation and cost of living on the rise, premium TVs like the C3 are increasingly out of reach for budget-conscious shoppers.

2. Underwhelming Audio Demands External Sound System

Despite its lofty price tag, the LG C3 OLED offers surprisingly lackluster built-in audio. The TV features standard 40W speakers with Dolby Atmos decoding. However, in practice, the sound is thin, harsh, and lacking in bass response. Dialgoue intelligibility is a particular weak point, with voices often getting lost in the mix during busy scenes.

The C3‘s poor built-in audio means that most users will want to invest in a soundbar or surround sound system for a more immersive, theater-like experience. This adds hundreds or thousands of dollars to the total cost of ownership. It‘s disappointing that LG didn‘t put more effort into the C3‘s speakers, especially considering many competing high-end TVs offer much better built-in audio.

3. Brightness Lags Behind Competitors

While OLED technology is renowned for its ability to produce perfect blacks, it has traditionally struggled to match the peak brightness levels of high-end LED LCD TVs. The LG C3 improves slightly on the brightness of its C2 predecessor but still lags behind top OLED and QD-OLED models from other brands.

In his review of the C3, Vincent Teoh of HDTV Test measured a peak sustained window brightness of 820 nits in Vivid mode. This falls short of the Sony A95K QD-OLED (890 nits), Samsung S95C QD-OLED (890 nits), and LG‘s own G3 (1040 nits) and Z3 (1500+ nits) OLED models. The C3‘s brightness limitations impact its ability to fully deliver the intentional impact of HDR content, especially in rooms with high ambient light levels.

4. Muted Color Volume in HDR

Another area where the LG C3 OLED trails its peers is color volume, or the TV‘s ability to produce bright, saturated colors. According to CalMAN measurements taken by Rtings, the C3 covers 98% of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut but only 70% of the Rec. 2020 gamut used for 4K HDR content. At 50% stimulus, DCI-P3 coverage drops to 80% and Rec. 2020 plummets to just 50%.

These color measurements lag significantly behind QD-OLED models like the Samsung S95C (88% DCI-P3 and 67% Rec. 2020 at 50% stimulus) and the Sony A95K (88% and 64% respectively). Colors on the C3 often appear undersaturated, especially in bright HDR highlights. This limits the wow factor and three-dimensionality of the TV‘s HDR presentation.

5. Concerns About Burn-In and Longevity

One inherent drawback of all OLED TVs is the risk of permanent image retention or "burn-in" over time. This occurs when static on-screen elements like channel logos or video game HUDs get "stuck" on the screen due to uneven wear on the self-emissive pixels. While LG has implemented several features to mitigate burn-in risk, it remains a concern for anyone planning to use an OLED as their primary TV for many years.

The organic materials used in OLED panels also degrade faster than LED LCDs, leading to gradual reductions in brightness and color saturation over time. In long-term stress testing, RTINGS found that an LG C7 OLED lost approximately 13% of its peak brightness after 4,000 hours of simulated usage. Fast forward to the C3, and it‘s likely that owners will experience similar or worse degradation over the lifespan of the TV.

6. Iterative Improvements Over C2 Don‘t Justify Upgrade

The C3 is a minor, iterative update to last year‘s C2 model, with few substantive improvements to picture quality or features. Both TVs use the same 4th generation "evo" OLED panel, with the C3 gaining a 70% brightness boost using a new "Brightness Booster Max" feature. The C3 also uses LG‘s latest Alpha a9 Gen6 processor, which offers incremental enhancements to upscaling, tone mapping, and dynamic HDR control.

However, these updates are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. The C3‘s measured brightness and color gamut are only marginally better than the C2, and its overall picture quality is still a notable step down from LG‘s G3 and Z3 OLED models. For most people, the C2 remains a better value, as it offers 95% of the C3‘s performance for significantly less money.

7. Clumsy and Frustrating Smart TV Experience

LG‘s webOS smart TV platform has long been a weak spot compared to more intuitive and responsive systems from competitors like Roku, Google, and Samsung. The C3 ships with webOS 23, which offers some interface refinements and a new "quick cards" feature for aggregating content recommendations. However, the overall user experience is still clumsy, confusing, and laden with intrusive ads.

Navigation feels sluggish, even with the C3‘s upgraded processor, and the layout lacks the simplicity and customization of other platforms. The overhyped "Magic Remote" is also a constant source of frustration, with imprecise motion controls and an anachronistic scroll wheel. Voice commands are hit-or-miss and lack the flexibility of Google Assistant or Alexa found on other systems.

8. Lacks HDMI 2.1a Support for Dolby Vision Gaming

One of the most anticipated new features coming to high-end TVs in 2023 is support for HDMI 2.1a, which enables Dolby Vision gaming at 4K 120Hz. Microsoft has already announced that its Xbox Series X and S consoles will support Dolby Vision gaming later this year, but the LG C3 OLED won‘t be compatible due to a lack of HDMI 2.1a support.

This omission is especially disappointing for gamers, as Dolby Vision promises to deliver a superior HDR gaming experience compared to the more common HDR10 format. LG‘s higher-end G3 and Z3 models do include HDMI 2.1a ports, leaving C3 buyers out in the cold. It‘s likely that many other 2023 TVs will also adopt HDMI 2.1a, making the C3 feel even more outdated by comparison.

9. Environmental Concerns With OLED Technology

While OLED TVs offer unique picture quality benefits, they also raise some legitimate environmental concerns. The organic materials used in OLED panels are more resource-intensive to produce and recycle compared to traditional LED LCD panels. According to a 2020 life cycle analysis by Ernst & Young, a 55" OLED TV consumes approximately 57% more primary energy over its lifetime than an equivalent LED LCD TV.

OLED panels also contain potentially toxic rare earth elements like indium and yttrium, which can pose health risks to workers involved in their production and disposal. While LG has made some strides in improving the eco-friendliness of its OLED TVs, such as reducing the use of hazardous substances and increasing the recyclability of packaging, the technology still has a larger environmental footprint than conventional LED LCDs.

10. Better OLED TVs Exist for Similar Money

Perhaps the most damning indictment of the LG C3 OLED is the fact that significantly better options exist for similar or slightly more money. The Samsung S95C QD-OLED and Sony A95L QD-OLED both offer superior brightness, color saturation, viewing angles, and gaming features compared to the C3. The S95C, in particular, delivers over 20% higher peak brightness and a much wider color gamut.

LG‘s own G3 OLED gallery series model is another compelling alternative for those who can stretch their budget a bit further. The G3 offers a 20% brightness advantage over the C3, along with a sleeker, wall-hugging design and superior anti-reflective coating. It‘s also one of the only OLED TVs to support Dolby Vision gaming at launch. Considering these advantages, the G3 is a better buy than the C3 for discerning videophiles.

Spec Comparison Table

Specification LG C3 OLED Samsung S95C QD-OLED Sony A95L QD-OLED LG G3 OLED
Size Range 55" – 77" 55" – 77" 55" – 77" 55" – 83"
Peak Brightness 820 nits 1400 nits 1300 nits 1040 nits
Typical Brightness 196 nits 218 nits 202 nits 224 nits
Contrast Ratio Infinite Infinite Infinite Infinite
Color Gamut (DCI-P3) 98% 99% 99% 99%
Color Volume (DCI-P3) 70% 88% 88% 75%
Viewing Angle 178° 178° 178° 178°
Response Time 1ms 1ms 1ms 1ms
Input Lag (4K/120) 5.2ms 5.4ms 8.5ms 5.2ms
HDMI Inputs 4 4 4 4
HDMI 2.1 Yes Yes Yes Yes
VRR Yes Yes Yes Yes
ALLM Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dolby Vision Gaming No Yes Yes Yes
Operating System webOS 23 Tizen 7.0 Google TV 12 webOS 23
Total Thickness 1.8" 1.6" 1.6" 0.9"
Price (65") $2,499 $2,999 $3,499 $3,299

Conclusion

The LG C3 OLED TV is a classic case of a product failing to live up to its hype and marketing claims. While it delivers the core strengths of OLED technology, such as perfect black levels and wide viewing angles, it falls short in several key areas compared to its peers. Its peak brightness, color volume, and overall HDR impact lag behind QD-OLED models from Samsung and Sony, while its smart TV platform and gaming features feel outdated compared to the competition.

The C3 is also difficult to recommend due to its poor value proposition. The minor iterative upgrades over the C2 don‘t justify the price premium, and videophiles would be better served by stepping up to the G3 or splurging for a QD-OLED. For more budget-conscious buyers, an LED LCD model or last year‘s C2 on clearance are likely better options.

Ultimately, the LG C3 OLED TV is a tough sell in today‘s competitive and fast-moving TV market. It‘s not a bad TV by any means, but it fails to stand out or offer compelling advantages over its rivals. Unless you find a killer deal or have some specific niche requirement, I‘d advise looking elsewhere for your next TV upgrade. The C3 is simply too expensive, too iterative, and too compromised to earn a strong recommendation.