- OLED TVs offer several key performance benefits over LCD TVs, making them a great fit for buyers who want the best image quality.
- There are several great OLED TVs currently on the market, but the LG C9 presents the best balance between high-end picture and price.
OLED TVs have become very popular among home theater enthusiasts over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. Thanks to some key performance perks, OLED displays offer several benefits over traditional LCD TVs (including LCDs branded as LED and QLED). Though some models are still very expensive, OLED TVs have dropped in price quite a bit since the technology first launched, with some entry-level 65-inch OLEDs frequently hitting sale prices under $2,000. If you want the best home theater experience for high-end movie watching, streaming, and gaming, there’s no substitute for an OLED TV.
OLED stands for “organic light-emitting diode,” and while that just seems like technical jargon, it has serious implications for your TV watching experience. Instead of using a traditional LED backlight like those found on most LCD TVs, OLED screens are self-illuminating. This means that each individual pixel on an OLED TV can emit its own light or turn off completely when there’s black in an image, enabling an infinite contrast ratio.
As a result, OLED displays are capable of achieving true black levels – something even the best LCDs have a hard time producing. This pixel-level contrast also enables OLEDs to avoid other common LCD picture quality issues like blooming artifacts and uneven brightness across the screen. Viewing angles are also much better than typical LCD displays, making OLEDs a great fit for rooms where you need to sit at off-angle from the screen to watch TV.
As impressive as OLED displays are, they are prone to a few drawbacks. For one, OLEDs can’t get quite as bright as flagship LCD TVs. High-dynamic-range (HDR) performance is still exceptional thanks to OLED technology’s infinite contrast, but high-end LCD TVs with quantum dots (often branded as QLED) can offer a bit more punch in highlights, making them a better fit for rooms that let in a lot of ambient light.
Like plasma TVs of yesteryear, OLED panels also carry the potential for “burn-in” in extreme situations. This means that if a static image is left on the screen for hours on end – the CNN or ESPN logo in the corner, for example – a faint, ghostly image can be left permanently stuck on the TV. Thankfully, all OLED displays include special settings to help combat this, so most buyers with typical viewing habits shouldn’t really have to worry about burn-in.
Currently, LG and Sony are the only manufacturers selling consumer OLED TVs in the US, and both companies have models available at a variety of price points. Though image quality does vary a bit between some of the displays, physical design is actually the most telling difference between all of the OLEDs on the market now. The more affordable OLED TVs come with standard stands and builds, while the more expensive models step things up with premium design elements.
With all of that in mind, we’ve tested and researched several OLED options currently available in order to select the best models for a variety of needs and budgets.
Here are the best OLED TVs you can buy:
- Best OLED TV overall: LG C9
- Best high-end OLED TV: Sony A9G
- Best premium design OLED TV: LG E9
- Best OLED TV for large rooms: LG W9
Updated on 01/07/2019 by Steven Cohen: Added new picks and information on the best OLED TVs based on testing and research.
The best OLED TV overall
The LG C9 OLED TV presents the best balance between picture performance, smart connectivity, design, and value.
With the C9, LG continues its winning streak for producing top-quality OLED TVs, while also adding in a few extra perks here and there over last year’s already stellar C8 model. With the new α9 Gen 2 Intelligent Processor and the inclusion of HDMI 2.1 inputs, the set marries advanced scaling and future-proof connectivity with the already fantastic image quality an OLED panel provides.
The C9 offers pixel-level contrast with deep black levels and precise highlights. HDR format support is extensive with HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG capabilities, along with wide color gamut coverage. Peak brightness is also pretty high for an OLED panel, besting Sony’s models with a max of around 800 nits. Sure, there are several LCD TV models that can get brighter, but the C9’s infinite contrast ratio creates a more impressive sense of high dynamic range.
Thanks to the new α9 Gen 2 Intelligent Processor, the C9 is also capable of advanced upscaling. This feature can make lower-quality video content, like Full HD (1080p), look cleaner and sharper. That said, Sony’s OLED offerings are known for even better video processing, which gives them a slight edge in that department.
Meanwhile, gaming performance is strong as well. The panel offers very low input lag and includes compatibility with Variable Refresh Rate and Nvidia G-Sync technology. When activated through supported gaming devices, these modes can help to reduce screen tearing and stuttering, ensuring a smoother gameplay experience.
When it comes to smart TV connectivity, the C9 is powered by LG’s webOS and ThinQ platforms, enabling extensive streaming app support and voice control via the included magic remote. The magic remote also features a unique pointer function which allows you to navigate through menus by holding the remote up and pointing it around to move a virtual cursor on the screen. The TV includes integrated options for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa too if you prefer to use those digital assistants.
Compared to other OLED models on the market, the C9 hits the best balance between cost and performance. It’s still not exactly cheap, but it is about $1,000 less than Sony’s flagship A9G OLED. Though the A9G has a more stylish design and is capable of a slightly more accurate picture, the C9 actually has the A9G beat when it comes to brightness. The C9 also boasts HDMI 2.1 inputs while the A9G has older HDMI 2.0b inputs.
All things considered, the C9 hits all the sweet spots that buyers should look for when purchasing a great OLED TV. There are more expensive models with a few design perks, and one slightly more affordable option with a less powerful processor – but the C9 is the best overall OLED you can buy right now.
Pros: Can get a little brighter than Sony OLED TVs, HDMI 2.1 inputs, webOS smart TV platform, integrated Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support, VRR and Nvidia G-Sync compatibility, solid pricing.
Cons: Processing and image accuracy aren’t as good as the Sony A9G.
The best high-end OLED TV
Sony’s A9G is the current premium TV champ when it comes to image accuracy, but that advanced picture performance comes at a steep price.
Though it actually features the same panel that LG’s OLED models use, Sony’s flagship A9G benefits from the company’s advanced image processing powered by its X1 Ultimate Processor. Don’t get me wrong, the α9 Gen 2 Intelligent Processor used on the C9 is no slouch either, but Sony’s solution offers a slightly better image. The physical design of the TV is also a bit more premium, thanks in part to its unique audio system. Whether those enhancements are worth the extra money that the A9G costs over the C9, however, will really come down to how demanding your viewing and style needs really are.
The A9G delivers the same inky black level performance that LG’s OLED TVs provide, but beyond just getting dark, the A9G is also able to retain shadow detail a bit better than LG’s models. Highlight detail in very bright images is also preserved a little better on Sony’s display, but peak brightness is a tad dimmer than it is on the C9. So, while highlights aren’t as punchy as they are on the C9, you actually get a slightly more accurate image with the A9G.
In fact, during side-by-side demos I’ve attended, the A9G has come the closest to matching the look of professional broadcast monitors used by Hollywood colorists. This means, that when calibrated, movies on the A9G look closer to how the director intended than they do on pretty much any other TV on the market.
The display’s design is also a bit more premium than LG’s B9 and C9, though LG’s more expensive E9 and W9 still take the crown when it comes to high-end looks. Unlike traditional TVs, the A9G also features a unique audio system with acoustic surface technology. Instead of typical speakers, this process creates sound from the screen itself with centralized dialogue.
When it comes to smart TV streaming, the A9G runs the Android TV platform for simple and responsive access to a great assortment of apps. AirPlay 2, HomeKit, and integrated Google Assistant voice control capabilities are all featured as well. Unlike LG’s OLED models, Amazon Alexa isn’t built-in, but you can still pair the TV with a separate Alexa device if you’d like to use Amazon’s assistant.
Though most buyers who want an OLED will be better off saving some cash and going with LG’s more affordable C9, the A9G still earns a clear spot for enthusiasts who want the most accurate picture.
Pros: Advanced processing powered by Sony’s X1 Ultimate processor, superior image accuracy, Android TV with integrated Google Assistant, acoustic surface audio technology.
Cons: Very expensive, can’t get as bright as LG’s C9 OLED.
The best premium design OLED TV
With a gorgeous picture-on-glass screen, the LG E9 is one of the prettiest OLED TVs to look at – whether it’s turned on or off.
Outside of the B9, all of LG’s OLED TVs actually feature the exact same picture quality performance. This leaves physical design as the main factor that differentiates the rest of the lineup. Instead of the fairly standard pedestal stands that come with the B9, C9, and even Sony’s high-end A9G, the LG E9 sticks out from the pack with a stunning glass design.
Called “picture-on-glass” by LG, the E9 affixes its OLED panel directly on a pane of glass with a very thin profile and virtually bezel-free design. An attachable stand can then prop the display up from the back, but the stand itself is not visible from the front. This almost makes it look as if the screen is floating, giving the TV a unique appearance that simply screams premium.
Compared to the C9, the E9 also steps things up when it comes to integrated audio, swapping out the C9’s Dolby Atmos 2.2 Ch 40W speaker system for a more powerful Dolby Atmos 4.2 Ch 60W speaker system. A separate surround sound system or a dedicated soundbar will still offer you better sound quality, but the upgraded audio is a nice addition for buyers who don’t want to pay more for additional speakers.
Outside of physical design and audio, however, the E9 is basically the same as the C9. You’ll get the same fantastic OLED pixel-level contrast, extensive HDR support, great wide color gamut coverage, webOS smart TV connectivity, and magic remote – but you’ll get it all with the added benefit of a bit more wow factor when it comes to style.
Whether that wow factor is worth the price premium the E9 carries over the C9, though, will ultimately come down to your priorities. Image quality is the same, but if you want a TV that can double as a genuine design piece in your living room, then the E9’s premium styling could be worth the extra cost.
Pros: Gorgeous picture-on-glass design, upgraded audio system over C9 and B9 models.
Cons: The display’s premium design comes with a premium price tag.
The best OLED TV for large rooms
No OLED display fills a large room quite like LG’s unbelievably thin 77-inch W9 Wallpaper TV.
If 65 inches isn’t big enough for you, LG currently offers an even larger 77-inch option for its C9 and W9 OLED TVs. While the C9 is a whole lot more affordable, if you’re aiming to fill a large room with incredible picture, style, and sound, then the W9 is simply in a class of its own. Of course, so is its price.
Again, like the E9, the W9 also offers the same exact picture quality as the C9. Where things get interesting is when it comes to physical design. The W9 features a picture-on-wall design with an almost impossibly thin panel that measures just 0.15 inches thick. This allows you to hang the screen flush on your wall using a special magnetic bracket system. As a result, the TV looks like a piece of art hanging in your living room.
In order to get the panel so thin, LG has had to relocate the display’s video connections and speakers to a separate soundbar unit that comes with the TV. The dedicated soundbar also gives the W9 better audio quality than other LG OLEDs. Outside of sound, the display boasts the same image and connectivity options found on the C9 and E9, with an infinite contrast ratio, wide colors, webOS, and a magic remote.
Yes, most buyers who want a 77-inch OLED will be better off going for the 77-inch C9, which is currently available for nearly half the cost of the W9. There’s a 77-inch version of Sony’s A9G that also costs a few thousand dollars less than the W9. At the end of the day, though, the 77-inch W9 represents the current pinnacle of ultra-large OLED 4K TV design. For buyers with really deep pockets, it’s the best OLED TV you can get to hang up in a big living room.
If you need the absolute largest screen, however, then there actually is one even bigger OLED TV option out there. The LG Z9 OLED is currently available in a massive 88-inch screen size. It’s also the only OLED TV model on the market right now to offer 8K resolution instead of 4K. All those extra pixels and inches come with a very hefty increase in price, though, as the Z9 currently sells for an insanely expensive asking price of around $30,000. I reviewed this TV and found it to be the most impressive display you can buy – bringing OLED picture quality to a screen size so big it offers a projector-like sense of immersion. That said, its prohibitive cost makes the W9 look like a genuine bargain in comparison. It also isn’t designed to be wall mounted, so the W9 is still the best premium OLED for that purpose.
Pros: Immersive 77-inch screen size, stunning picture-on-wall design.
Cons: It’s one of the most expensive TVs you can buy.