Best OLED TV 2020 | Reviews by Wirecutter
The LG CX is our choice for the best OLED TV of 2020 because it offers a superb image and the most future-proof array of features at a lower price than you’d pay for competing OLED TVs. The CX provides the same image quality as LG’s higher-end 4K OLED TVs and differs only in audio and styling options, which makes it the best overall value in the company’s OLED lineup. The CX supports all the leading high dynamic range standards (including Dolby Vision), and it looks great with both high-definition and standard-definition video. Even videophiles who demand the most accurate image will be won over by the LG CX and its vast array of calibration options, but thanks to the new Filmmaker Mode, which automatically adjusts the TV’s settings to the best options for movies, you may not need to pay for that calibration.
For our tests, we used Filmmaker Mode, which measured accurately for SDR and HDR video right out of the box. The CX produced the best pictures of any TV we tested, showing bright, detailed images with true-to-life color that looked fantastic. Even though Filmmaker Mode was very accurate, we still calibrated the CX, which has more advanced calibration controls than any other TV we’ve tested. This calibration process took the TV from having error levels that were invisible to the eye to having error levels that were even more invisible to the eye—in other words, the effort made for nicer-looking measurement charts in the Calman software we used, but it isn’t something you need to do.
Placed side by side with our favorite LCD TVs, the CX OLED produced an image that offered superior contrast ratios and viewing angles, and it was our clear favorite. Black areas of the picture looked perfectly black, without the shadow crushing we saw on some older OLED TVs. (Shadow crushing occurs where dark details that should vary in darkness appear instead as a solid black block.) In addition, 4K material appeared crisp and lifelike, and HDR content looked terrific, with highlights that jumped off the screen. We measured nearly 750 nits of brightness on our 65-inch review sample, and the CX’s wide-color-gamut support allows it to display colors that other TVs aren’t capable of creating. The end result is a stunning, true-to-life image that’s a noticeable step above what even the best-performing LCD TVs are capable of producing.
LG currently supports the Dolby Vision, HDR10, Technicolor, HGiG, and HLG HDR standards. The only format it doesn’t support is HDR10+ (there isn’t an OLED available in the US that offers support for both Dolby Vision and HDR10+). But HDR10+ support isn’t essential, since all HDR10+ content is also available in either HDR10 or Dolby Vision. And because HDR10+ offers the most performance gains on TVs with peak brightness below 500 nits, it wouldn’t benefit this LG model’s much brighter picture. LG also uses a more common Dolby Vision profile than Sony does on its OLED TVs; as a result, some Dolby Vision source devices work only with LG models and not Sony models. HGiG is an HDR mode designed to work with video game consoles; the Xbox One X currently supports it, and future consoles should, as well. The goal of HGiG is to make sure that all the details in HDR games are visible, without crushed highlights or shadows.
The CX has a 120 Hz refresh rate for smoother, cleaner motion. This year LG has improved its black-frame-insertion mode, which is designed to reduce motion blur, to include multiple levels. The low, medium, and high settings adjust the length of time that the black frames appear between frames of video, with longer periods increasing motion clarity but decreasing light output. In our tests, when we watched sports, the low mode worked wonderfully, and the image remained bright enough to easily enjoy, exhibiting a negligible change in overall brightness. The medium and high settings started to make the image darker than we preferred; some people are likely to notice flicker at these rates. An auto mode shifts between low and medium depending on the content as it tries to balance light output and motion clarity. You can also enable this mode for HDR video, but since it affects image brightness, we wouldn’t recommend it.
LG has done a good job of continually improving its video processing. In the images below you can see how well the CX’s Smooth Gradation processing removes visible banding in lower-bit-rate streaming content. When Smooth Gradation is off, the uneven steps in the gradient are easy to see, but when it’s set to low, the TV renders a smooth gradient without much loss, if any, in fine details.
What sets the LG line apart from Sony’s comparably priced OLED TVs is its full HDMI 2.1 compatibility, as well as its superior user interface and calibration controls. HDMI 2.1 offers a number of improvements over HDMI 2.0: eARC lets you send higher-quality lossless audio from the TV to a soundbar or receiver; automatic low-latency mode allows the TV to automatically enable game mode to attain lower input lag; and variable refresh rate can lead to less stuttering from supported game consoles. The HDMI 2.1 ports on the CX offer a bandwidth of 40 Gbps, which we discuss below.
The LG CX is just as accomplished at playing video games as it is in showing movies and TV. In addition to the HDMI 2.1 support that makes it compatible with all the newest gaming features that the upcoming Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will offer, it supports Nvidia’s GSync and AMD’s FreeSync if you want to hook up a PC and play games using those variable-refresh-rate standards. In our tests, input lag on the LG CX was as low as on any TV we have ever measured, coming in at 13 ms for 60 Hz content and only 7 ms for 120 Hz content. Since the absolute minimum for lag time with a 120 Hz display in our Murideo Seven measurement system is likely around 4.2 ms, the CX itself is adding only about 3 ms of lag. LG also includes features such as a slight pixel shift and dimming of static elements (like video game elements and channel logos) to reduce any chance of burn-in, which we already think is unlikely in normal use.
The CX’s WebOS streaming system offers easy access to the most popular audio and video services and is faster and more responsive than the Android TV interface on the Sony A8H. It doesn’t have as wide a selection of content as some other streaming platforms, but it does support all the major services, including Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, Hulu, Netflix, Vudu, and YouTube. (If you regularly use services that WebOS doesn’t support, you can always get an inexpensive standalone media streaming device.) The WebOS interface lets you easily set your favorites for quick access, and the integrated Google Assistant, combined with LG’s ThinQ AI technology, allows you to search for content and adjust control settings with your voice by speaking into the remote’s microphone.
As we mentioned above, LG includes more advanced calibration controls for those who want to have their TV professionally calibrated to perform its absolute best with all types of video. You can calibrate for SDR, HDR, and Dolby Vision and store different settings for each. In contrast, the Sony OLED models share settings across SDR and HDR, and they don’t offer the same level of access to calibration controls that LG’s models do. The 2020 LG OLED TVs also include direct LUT calibration; this feature, which I’ve written about in detail, can produce calibration results that are more accurate than those of a standard calibration. In addition, LG’s TVs offer the option for a calibrator to do custom tone curves, which allow you to squeeze every last bit of performance out of your OLED. You can also set up the game mode to be accurate; most other TVs still have a game mode that is tinted noticeably blue, forcing you to choose between image quality and responsiveness.
The CX has a thin, attractive design, and it’s easier to wall-mount than LG’s prior models because it uses standard VESA mounting holes instead of a custom bracket. If you are using the CX’s included stand, LG makes it easy to hide the cables so your setup will look nice and clean. If you want the cleanest-looking wall-mount setup, the more expensive LG GX model lies completely flush against the wall and comes with a wall-mounting bracket instead of a stand.
Finally, we like that LG supports its TVs with firmware updates that add new features and wider support for new formats. In 2017, for example, LG continually updated its firmware to improve motion quality and color accuracy as the year went on. A company providing this sort of support to improve its TVs even after their release is good to see.