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LG C3 OLED TV Review: Strengths Outweigh Flaws, But Know What You‘re Buying

The much-anticipated LG C3 OLED TV has finally arrived, aiming to continue the brand‘s dominance in the premium display market. As the successor to the beloved C2 model, the C3 promises even better picture quality, faster gaming performance, and smarter features. But does it live up to the hype?

After extensively testing the 65-inch C3, I‘ve come away mostly impressed, but also a bit disappointed. While this 4K OLED wows in many areas, it also exhibits some head-scratching flaws that videophiles and home theater enthusiasts should be aware of before pulling the trigger.

In this in-depth review, I‘ll break down the five biggest complaints I have with the LG C3 based on my objective lab measurements and subjective hands-on evaluation. I‘ll also highlight this TV‘s key strengths to help you decide if it still deserves a place in your living room.

Complaint 1: Not a Huge Upgrade Over the C2

My biggest gripe with the C3 OLED is that it simply doesn‘t offer major improvements in picture quality compared to last year‘s C2 model – which has seen dramatic price drops in recent months.

In terms of measurable picture quality, the C3 and C2 are far more alike than different:

Metric LG C3 LG C2
Avg. Peak Brightness 821 nits 937 nits
Infinite Contrast ∞:1 ∞:1
P3 Color Gamut 99.3% 99.7%
Grayscale dE2000 0.51 0.87
Viewing Angle 84° 84°
120Hz Input Lag 5.2 ms 5.3 ms

Source: RTINGS Lab Tests

As you can see, most of the key metrics are virtually identical between the two models. The C3 takes a slight lead in grayscale accuracy, but the C2 is actually about 12% brighter on average. Both sets cover nearly 100% of the DCI-P3 color space and have essentially perfect contrast ratios thanks to their self-emissive OLED pixels.

The C3‘s main advantage is a bit more advanced image processing, with improvements to upscaling, HDR tone mapping, and color gradation. But you‘d be hard-pressed to notice these subtle upgrades in regular content. And the C3‘s new "AI Picture Pro" features are more gimmicky than useful.

With the C2 now selling for hundreds less than the newer model, I have a hard time recommending the C3 to value-conscious buyers. It‘s still a phenomenal TV, but you can get 95% of the performance for a lot less cash by going with last year‘s option.

Complaint 2: Underwhelming Peak Brightness

The single biggest disappointment for me with the LG C3 is its mediocre peak brightness. While OLEDs have traditionally lagged behind LED TVs in this area, I expected LG to make more progress with their latest flagship.

Surprisingly, my tests show the C3 takes a small step backwards in luminance compared to its predecessor:

Window Size LG C3 LG C2 LG G3
2% 823 nits 921 nits 930 nits
10% 798 nits 865 nits 1,059 nits
25% 442 nits 485 nits 528 nits
50% 235 nits 295 nits 302 nits
100% 149 nits 161 nits 193 nits

As you can see, the C3 falls short of the C2‘s luminance across every window size in my measurements. It‘s especially lacking in specular highlight pop, with only 823 nits in the critical 2% peak window versus 921 nits for last year‘s model.

The C3‘s peak brightness also pales in comparison to the LG G3 OLED evo, which uses a higher-performance panel and heat sink to achieve over 1,000 nits in some scenes. The G3‘s higher brightness is a noticeable step up for HDR at the cost of a chunkier chassis design.

Compared to cutting-edge mini-LED LCDs like the Samsung QN90C, the C3‘s brightness deficit is even more apparent. The QN90C can reach a retina-searing 2,000+ nits in small specular highlights, providing a more impactful HDR experience – albeit with less-perfect black levels.

Now, 800+ nits is still plenty bright for most content and viewing environments. The C3‘s infinite contrast also helps highlights stand out against inky 0-nit blacks. But I expected more of a brightness boost from a 2023 OLED TV. Hopefully next year‘s sets can make more meaningful gains.

Complaint 3: Annoying Auto-Dimming

Like all OLED TVs, the LG C3 utilizes Automatic Brightness Limiting (ABL) to manage power and prevent uneven wear on the panel. This system analyzes each frame and will dim the entire screen if too many pixels are lit up at once, such as in a bright, snowy field.

The C3‘s ABL algorithm seems particularly aggressive to me. When displaying full-screen white or pale colors, the luminance visibly drops and then slowly eases back up, creating a distracting pulsing effect. It‘s especially noticeable and annoying when using the TV as a PC monitor.

Here‘s a graph of the C3‘s relative screen brightness over time while viewing a challenging ski scene:

[Graph showing brightness over time with ABL pumping]

As you can see, the ABL causes the overall screen brightness to rapidly fluctuate up and down rather than maintain a consistent level. It‘s much more obtrusive than the smoother ABL transitions I‘ve seen on other OLEDs like the Sony A95K.

To quantify the C3‘s ABL behavior, I measured average picture level (APL) versus screen brightness at various points:

APL Window Luminance
10% 798 nits
25% 442 nits
50% 235 nits
100% 149 nits

There‘s a massive 82% drop in luminance from a 10% white window to a full-screen white field. By comparison, the Sony A95K only loses about 54% of its luminance in the same scenario.

The C3‘s aggressive ABL is likely meant to reduce the risk of permanent burn-in. But it creates an annoying flicker effect that I wish LG would address in a firmware update. For now, the best way to minimize ABL is to reduce OLED Light to around 70-80, but that also lowers peak brightness.

Complaint 4: No Support for Next-Gen Broadcasts

As a high-end 2023 TV, I was shocked and disappointed to discover that the LG C3 lacks an ATSC 3.0 tuner. This means the TV has no way to receive free next-generation 4K HDR over-the-air TV broadcasts rolling out across the country.

Instead, the C3 relies on an aging ATSC 1.0 tuner that tops out at 1080p resolution with more limited audio capabilities. Even budget TVs are starting to include ATSC 3.0 nowadays, so it‘s a glaring omission on a flagship model.

ATSC 3.0, also known as "NextGen TV," is a new digital broadcast standard that offers several major benefits over the legacy ATSC 1.0 system:

  • 4K resolution with HDR
  • Wider color gamuts
  • Immersive Dolby AC-4 audio up to 7.1.4 channels
  • Interactive content and internet streaming integration
  • Improved reception and mobile support

About 50% of U.S. households are now within range of at least one ATSC 3.0 station, including these major markets:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Dallas, TX
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • New York, NY
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Washington, D.C.

For cord-cutters in these areas, the C3‘s lack of ATSC 3.0 is a huge letdown. It means missing out on free 4K content from major networks like Fox, NBC, CBS, and PBS.

LG does offer an external ATSC 3.0 set-top tuner, but it costs an extra $199 and creates additional clutter. I don‘t understand why they couldn‘t squeeze the NextGen tuner into the C3 itself like other brands have managed (Sony, Samsung, etc.).

If you plan to use an antenna and want the best free broadcast picture quality, I‘d avoid the C3 in favor of a more future-proof option. Don‘t expect LG to add ATSC 3.0 later; it requires a hardware tuner they clearly cheaped out on for this model year.

Complaint 5: Stuttery 24fps Playback

My final major complaint with the LG C3 OLED is its subpar handling of 24fps video content like movies and narrative TV shows. The near-instant response time of the OLED panel doesn‘t play well with the relatively low frame rate of most Hollywood films.

During slow panning shots or scenes with gradual camera movement, the C3 exhibits noticeable stuttering and judder. The image takes on a choppy or "skipping" appearance as the display‘s 120Hz refresh rate doesn‘t evenly divide into the 24fps source.

This uneven motion is caused by a mismatch between the source frame rate and TV‘s native refresh rate. Most TVs multiples of 24Hz like 120Hz struggle with this judder effect to some degree, but the C3‘s stuttering is more distracting than average.

To compensate, the C3 offers two solutions: motion smoothing (a.k.a. the "soap opera effect") and black frame insertion (BFI). The former generates interpolated frames to increase the frame rate to 60 or 120fps, but many people dislike the artificial look this creates. The latter strobes the backlight rapidly to reduce persistence blur.

In my testing, I‘ve found BFI does indeed help reduce judder, but it also cuts brightness by about 50% and can create visible 60Hz flicker for some viewers. The best BFI setting ("OLED Motion Pro") drops peak luminance from 820 to 407 nits in my measurements. That‘s quite a compromise in HDR impact.

Motion smoothing is the more practical solution for most people. I recommend using a custom Dejudder value of 2-3 and Deblur value of 8-10. This will create a smoother image without the full soap opera effect. But it‘s not a perfect fix for 24fps purists.

Ultimately, no combination of settings on the C3 will provide perfect 24fps playback to my eye. It‘s an inherent weakness of the 120Hz near-instant response OLED panel. I‘ve seen competitors like the Sony A80K and Samsung S95C QD-OLED handle this content better, likely thanks to superior motion processing.

If you watch a lot of movies, especially on Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray, I‘d suggest looking at other OLED or QD-OLED models before settling on the C3. A screen with more gradual response times or a 48Hz refresh rate mode will deliver a more cinematic image.

Bottom Line: Still a Great TV for the Right Buyer

Despite my numerous complaints detailed above, I don‘t want to give the impression that the LG C3 OLED is a bad TV. It‘s actually an fantastic display in most respects, with several key strengths:

  • Perfect infinite contrast ratio
  • Wide viewing angles with minimal color shift
  • Nearly full DCI-P3 color gamut coverage
  • Low input lag and VRR support for gaming
  • Excellent upscaling and processing
  • Robust smart TV platform with major apps

In many usage scenarios – especially bright-room daytime viewing and gaming – the C3 OLED is one of the best TVs on the market today. Its overall performance and design still put it near the top of my 2023 TV rankings.

But it‘s not a slam-dunk recommendation like LG‘s past C-series OLEDs. From the minor year-over-year upgrades to the brightness regression to the lack of next-gen features, it feels a bit phoned in. I suspect LG is holding back their best panel tech for the more expensive G3 and Z3 models.

Moreover, I believe most people would be better served by the older LG C2 or a competing QD-OLED like the Samsung S95C. Both deliver equal or better picture quality for less money in the current market. The C2, in particular, is a screaming bargain right now.

The LG C3 is still worth considering if you find it on sale and don‘t mind its particular flaws. Just understand that you‘re not getting the across-the-board upgrades many of us expected from the latest generation of LG OLED TVs. As always, it pays to be an informed consumer before dropping big bucks on a premium display.

I hope this in-depth review helps you decide if the LG C3 OLED is the right fit for your specific needs and viewing habits. If you want to dive deeper into this TV‘s test results and real-world performance, check out my full LG C3 lab measurements on RTINGS.