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Sony’s A1E OLED 4K HDR TV vs. LG’s C7 OLED 4K HDR TV: How They Compare

by on May 15, 2017
 

Stephan Jukic – May 15, 2017

Having recently published a review of LG’s “mid-range” 2017 OLED, the C7 and now being in the process of completing a review of Sony’s first-ever OLED TV, the new A1E, we were given a great chance to actually compare these two 4K OLED TV models and decide which one is the better overall performer.

Now, one might argue that the comparison is slightly unfair since the A1E represents the very peak of Sony’s flagship 4K TV model range while the C7 is LG’s least expensive 2017 OLED 4K HDR TV model, with several more such as the G7, E7 and flagship W7 Signature model above it in price and supposed display quality. However, it is exactly for this reason that the following comparison becomes so valid. Sony has priced its A1E OLED model quite steeply and the 65 inch versions of both that we’re specifically comparing here (though the display performance of 55 inch versions for each brand will be virtually identical in its metrics) are priced at dramatically different levels with the Sony model being the much more expensive OLED television.

The natural conclusion many consumers might draw from their price differences is that the Sony model delivers superior performance to at least partially justify a price that’s that much steeper and for this reason, we want to see if Sony’s TV even outperforms LG’s cheapest 2017 OLED model enough to make paying extra for the A1E worthwhile.

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Let’s take a look at how they measure up against each other across several key performance and design metrics.

NOTE: LG tends to manufacture its 4K OLED HDR TVs with remarkably similar display specs and completely identical smart TV and connectivity specs across all models for each year, so aside from differences on pricing, some aspects of motion handling and possibly minor peak brightness differences, many of the measurements for LG’s C7 below apply fully to the company’s other 2017 OLED 4K TVs.

Design

Design is one highly subjective measurement for 4K TV quality. Some people like curved displays, others prefer bulky TVs and others like some particular detail of a certain brand’s designs that just makes them stand out in their eyes. Thus, as far as this metric goes, the only things we can really objectively judge on design quality are characteristics of a TV which functionally improve or decrease its usability to consumers.

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LG-C7-Front

With that in mind, we’d say that the A1E and LG’s OLED C7 are pretty much on par with each other. The C7 offers a much more “classical” OLED 4K TV design that’s very similar to those we’ve seen in previous mid-range OLED 4K TV models from the company in past years, with a fairly narrow support that sits under the TV itself and a vertical flat screen like those found in most premium Sony, Samsung or LG LCD TV models. The A1E however delivers a sort of new take on TV design that works remarkably well but is decidedly unconventional. It stands up in the same way that a framed photo would with a rear support that goes from the top of the TV to whatever surface it’s placed on. Thus, the A1E actually reclines slightly when set on top of a surface from which it will be viewed. At first this takes a bit of getting used to but the overall viewability of the TV isn’t affected much at all. More interestingly, because of its design, the A1E can present only its display to a watcher even without being mounted to a wall.

Winner: LG’s C7 by a very slight margin due to its smaller footprint and perfectly vertical display.

Black level and OLED Dimming

There’s not much to say here. OLED is OLED and if there’s one thing it should be able to pull no matter what brand of TV it’s built into that’s the creation of perfect total blacks and dimming or brightening down to the single pixel level if necessary. Both the A1E and LG’s C7 pull this off identically with perfect infinite contrast and single pixel local dimming (as it applies loosely to OLED display technology). The LG C7 does gain one advantage on the A1E in one metric that relates to this one but we’ll cover that in further detail shortly.

 

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Winner: Perfect tie between the LG C7 and Sony A1E.

HDR & HDR Color

Sony’s picture processing engine has always been excellent in our view and in the ultra-premium A1E, the company installed their best version of it to date. This is called the 4K HDR X1 Extreme Engine with HDR Remaster, and it does as fine a job of processing light, shadow and HDR in individual pixels as needed for any piece of content. Both of these 4K TVs support or soon will support (depending on firmware update schedules) the same HDR formats, including HDR10, Dolby Vision, and the HLG broadcast 4K content format, so in terms of high dynamic range compatibility they’re about on par.

Furthermore, the color quality delivered by both the A1E and the C7 is virtually identical. We noted a very slightly higher (less than 1 percentage point) level of DCI-P3 wide color gamut space coverage in LG’s C7 model but this difference is so small that it may vary to the Sony OLED’s favor in other units and in either case it will not be noticeable to even the sharpest naked eye. Both models obviously support 10-bit OLED RGB color value rendering for 1.07 billion colors but Sony’s A1E performs ever so slightly better at creating flawless color gradations without any visible banding whatsoever. On the other hand, LG’s C7 OLED delivered an ever so slightly superior delta E for accurate color delivery, though the difference is again so small that the naked eye of most viewers will be unlikely to notice a difference. In the case of either OLED TV, you’ll get color performance that’s equally visibly spectacular pretty much across the board.

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Winner: Tie between the Sony A1E and LG C7 model despite some minor quirks in one or the other TV’s favor. The A1E does however display superior 10-bit color rendering with no visible banding.

Brightness

Brightness is one metric of display performance where the LG C7 basically kicks the A1E’s ass in comparison to how closely they match in so many other display specs covered here. Measuring their comparative peak brightness levels under SDR and HDR content viewing conditions is where the A1E really underperforms the C7 since it can create a maximum sustained or peak brightness that’s almost uniformly inferior to the LG model under all display brightness percentage areas. Thus for example: the A1E’s SDR content peak brightness for a 10% window sits at 381 nits while in the LG C7 it reached up to 390 nits. In a sustained SDR 50% display brightness area, the A1E performs even worse, with a brightness measurement of 225 nits while the C7 LG OLED managed up to 375 nits. These are notable differences with all other things like color performance and black levels being pretty much equal in both TVs.

For HDR content display, which is where today’s HDR OLED TVs deliver typically higher levels of brightness, the LG C7 comes out as a winner once again: 10% peak brightness display in the A1E measured at 679 nits while in the C7 OLED it peaked at 732 nits. For sustained 50% display space HDR brightness, the A1E reaches up to 235 nits while the LG C7 model managed 292 nits. In the majority of all other measurements of peak and sustained brightness over 2%, 10% and 50% display areas, the C7 beats the A1E by a notable margin. One major exception to this LG OLED edge on brightness is performance when the entire screen of both TVs are set to emit peak or sustained highest brightness. At these 100% display surface brightness settings, the two OLED 4K TV models perform almost identically in both SDR and HDR, with a 5 nit higher level of brightness in the A1E under SDR content viewing conditions.

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Winner: LG’s C7 OLED HDR TV performs notably better on the majority of brightness measurements.

Motion Handling and upscaling of content

In terms of motion handling, both the A1E and the LG C7 are nearly equally matched across the board with one exception that we’ll get to momentarily. We come here again to the excellent picture processing engines of both TV models and how excellently they upscale non-4K content sources, even adding to them some touches of HDResque color, contrast and richness. In this area both the A1E and C7 are pretty much on par, upscaling 480p, 720p and 1080p content from well-mastered sources beautifully.

Both TVs handle motion blur better than any LCD TV we’ve yet seen could hope to match, with response times of less than a millisecond and beautiful, perfect motion interpolation for content sources with lower frame rates than these televisions’ native refresh rates of 120Hz. It’s only on 24p content playback that the Sony A1E falls just a bit flat since, unlike the LG C7, it does not support judder-free playback of 24p video via 60p and 60i signal formats, only through a 24p signal.

Winner: LG’s C7 model beats the A1E on one single spec for 24p content playback.

Connectivity

Both Sony’s A1E and LG’s C7, along with all the rest of each company’s premium 2017 4K HDR smart TVs come with nearly identical and superb cutting-edge connectivity specs. Both TVs offer up the same HDR compatibility that we mentioned earlier above through their connectivity ports and settings and both 4K TVs deliver the same number of HDMI ports and USB ports. Beyond this however, a couple of physical connectivity differences favor one TV over the other. On the one hand, the Sony A1E offers single 3.5mm Analog Audio Out and IR In ports which the LG C7 lacks but on the other hand all four of the C7’s HDMI ports offer full HDMI 2.0 bandwidth size and only ports 2 and 3 in the Sony A1E offer HDMI 2.0 bandwidth.

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Winner: We’ll call this a tie between the two though the LG C7 offers more HDMI ports with 2.0-level throughput.

Gaming Chops

Gaming connectivity-wise, the two TVs are almost equally matched in terms of format support but with the C7 winning out on input lag. Both offer Game Modes and gaming functionality in Game Mode for 4K at 60Hz, 4K with HDR at 60Hz and also options for 4K with 4:4:4. However, the A1E also offers a setting for 8 bit HDR gaming in 4K resolution at 60Hz which the LG C7 lacks. On the other hand, while both TVs provide good input lag in these different gaming settings for gamers, the input lag of the LG C7 is consistently lower at 21ms than that of the Sony A1E, which measures at around 30ms almost across the board in its game mode.

LG OLED 4K C7 Input lag for gaming

Winner: The LG C7 4K HDR TV beats the Sony A1E on input lag performance.

Smart TV Functionality

We love both of the smart TV platforms in LG’s and Sony’s 4K TVs of today, and both have their distinct benefits. While the LG WebOS 3.5 platform of the C7 is definitely the more user-friendly of the two, Android TV comes with integrated access to the Google Play Store and its huge trove of smart apps. Sony has also improved usability in Android TV’s latest version by adding a quick list of frequently used settings for easy access and a microphone in the A1E’s remote for voice search of content. A ‘Chromecast built-in’ addition to Android TV or the A1E is also a useful piece of software technology.

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WebOS 3.5 in the C7 also comes with a microphone feature and excellent usability overall while including buttons for quick menu items. Again, we like both smart platforms in their own ways and can’t decide which is “better” in objective terms.

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Winner: Tie between Sony and LG on this one

Pricing

Pricing is where the LG C7 and Sony A1E 65 inch models (the ones specifically mainly being compared here) show the greatest disparity of all in LG’s favor. As our comparison above notes consistently, the two OLED TVs are remarkably similar performers with the C7 actually beating the Sony A1E on certain key performance metrics. Despite this, the Sony model is retailing for roughly $1500 more than its LG counterpart. That’s right, at least as of this writing, Sony’s 65 inch XBR65A1E sells for $5,498 while LG’s 65 inch OLED65C7P sells for “just” $3,996.99. This is a huge nearly $1500 difference for such minor performance variations between the two TVs.

Check the Sony A1E 4K OLED Ultra HD HDR LED TV (2017 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews
For the 55 inch versions of these two TVs, the price difference is much smaller but the cheapest new 55 inch Sony XBR55A1E model we could find retails for $3,498.95 while its 55 inch LG OLED55C7P counterpart sells for $2,796.99, or $729 less.

Winner: With pricing and performance balanced out, LG’s C7 is the much better deal against the Sony A1E OLED.

Final Opinion

There is no objective doubt about it based on all the information and comparisons we’ve covered above: Both the A1E from Sony and the C7 are superb pieces of 4K HDR display technology and either would make almost any consumer very happy in the living room. However, LG’s cheaper 2017 OLED HDR 4K TV the C7, in both its 55 inch and 65 inch versions offers the much better value if you want a new HDR OLED TV and some savings. It delivers the same as or slightly better than the Sony model A1E in almost all metrics of TV performance while costing hundreds or even more than $1000 less than Sony’s first-ever 4K high dynamic range OLED model.

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Check the LG C7 4K OLED Ultra HD HDR LED TV (2017 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews
Story by 4k.com

21 comments
 
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  • Robert Zohn
    May 15, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Great review Stephen that matches our findings.

    One comment is that on our testing, although LG’s 2017 OLED TVs do measure slightly higher peak luminance with a 10% window, Sony’s A1E OLED seems to have a higher peak luminance when playing HDR content in the specular highlights. I assume Sony’s HDR processing is reserving the power for where and when it’s needed.

    Reply

  • John Davies
    May 15, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    In the motion section, you make no mention of BFI, which will be important to some people, including gamers. There are several reviews from gamers of the A1E on YouTube with some very happy gamers.

    Some owners say that the Sony TV is particularly adapt at minimising banding with poor quality sources. You don’t really develop how Sony’s picture processing engine makes a difference to the image, which possibly could help justify the price premium.

    Overall, I didn’t feel that there is enough evidence to justify your conclusion, particularly with the comment that the A1E has higher specular highlights for HDR, which also has been raised in forums.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      May 15, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Hello there John. This is a good point and to state it for the article, yes the A1E comes with BFI while the LG C7 does not, for what it’s worth to some users of either. However, we still feel that in overall general performance for a majority of users who won’t care about these details, the much larger price of the A1E makes it the inferior choice if performance and price are balanced against each other. In overall motion handling for a majority of content, both TVs perform almost identically and the slight extra smoothness given by BFI is a marginal bonus for a price that’s $1500 higher when the 65 inch models are compared.

      As for picture processing, both TVs handle it very well, almost equally by all major metrics of color delivery, upscaling, motion handling and so forth, so again, small differences that some users on other sites may have noticed do not strike us as being sufficient for saying that the extra price of the A1E is justified when compared to what the C7 delivers.

      Reply

      • Vega
        May 15, 2017 at 4:10 pm

        Yes, also not to mention that in my testing of the A1E, BFI at 60 Hz comes with some serious flickering that made it unusable for me.

        Reply

      • CanisMajoris
        May 16, 2017 at 6:20 am

        Pretty horrible comparison overall. No mention of much better motion interpolation on A1 as well as better upscaling and much better sound quality. Also design to LG must be a joke.

        Reply

        • Stephen
          Stephen
          May 16, 2017 at 8:33 am

          Hello Canismajoris, no actually, we’re very certain of the specific metric comparisons here. The A1E and C7 perform almost identically well on motion interpolation, enough so that the vast majority of viewers would not at all notice a difference, and even the BFI of the Sony model makes far too little difference for the much larger price. As for audio quality, we didn’t cover this in the post but while it is indeed superior in the A1E and especially in how well it’s directed, the superiority is minor. Would you pay nearly $1500 more for a bit of extra audio power when you can just get a great sound bar for either TV at a much lower cost?

          Reply

  • Jane
    May 16, 2017 at 6:02 am

    I thought the price difference between the two could be due to the new sound system in the Sony which should be far superior.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      May 16, 2017 at 8:36 am

      Hi Jane. we didn’t cover that aspect in the post, maybe we should have as well but while the Sony model definitely delivers moderately better audio quality and sound direction that’s particularly well delivered, the quality is not nearly superior enough in our view to justify paying $1500 more for the 65 inch model. For either TV one could get an excellent sound bar for only a fraction of that extra money that the A1E costs.

      Reply

      • Roberto Blanco
        May 17, 2017 at 10:12 am

        the next sony oled tv after the A1 will cause a new big bang with its brightness

        Reply

      • Scott Cooper
        May 21, 2017 at 11:15 am

        You didn’t mention it because you couldn’t give the win to LG correct?

        Reply

        • Stephen
          Stephen
          May 21, 2017 at 9:41 pm

          Hello Scott, mention what? The sound quality? As I explained clearly in an earlier comment response. the sound is secondary to picture quality by a wide margin, especially when one considers the high affordability of excellent sound bars (we’re actually doing a post on those for 4K TVs shortly) Yes, the A1E offers superior audio performance, especially in terms of directionality but no, this feature does not justify the much higher price (considering the near equivalence of so many other more important metrics of more crucial display performance). We have no paid or false bias in favor of LG or any other brand. We’ve criticized their 4K TVs and other products many times when we’ve though it legitimate to do so. Here is just one example that caused a bit of a stir. However, in this case, we sincerely consider the two TVs to be close enough in quality that the A1E 65 inch model’s nearly $1500 higher price tag isn’t worth it –or the nearly $500 extra that the 55 inch A1E costs.

          Reply

  • Sage
    May 17, 2017 at 3:16 am

    I was told an OLED tv is easier on the eyes if you do Not want brightness. I looked at these tvs today at Best Buy & was surprised by the outrageous prices. Due to a sale on LG the Sony was $2500 higher but the LG had a chrome frame. Very tacky & completely unacceptable. I decided to just wait & look at some “regular” tvs or see what else goes on sale …

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      May 17, 2017 at 11:47 am

      The chrome frame does indeed strike me as tacky, exactly the opposite of the unobtrusiveness you’d want for bezels around a display.

      Reply

  • Michael Gill
    May 21, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    Thank you for this review. You’ve helped me decide. I will be getting the LG C7. The only reason I was interested in the Sony oled was picture quality and color accuracy for which Sony truly shines. But that price point at any size is too steep for me. I have a great surround system already so audio from the TV is a mute point for me. Imo first true review I’ve seen including you tube. Thanks again.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      May 22, 2017 at 3:25 am

      You’re welcome Micheal and thank you for your feedback. Despite the claims of unfair bias in favor of LG, we tried to write this comparison with as much possible objective analysis as we could. Our views of each segment are as sincere as we were able to measure or perceive them and frankly, the two TVs are so close on performance that the price premium for the A1E doesn’t strike me as fully justified if one wants great OLED without brand preference. At no point do we claim the A1E is in any way a bad TV. It’s not, it’s downright superb, but the C7 is too and it costs quite a lot less. This makes it the winner in our books.

      Reply

  • Michael Gill
    May 21, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    One thing you didn’t mention was upscaling 480p sources like you get on cable to 4k and SDR to HDR. How did each compare or compete? Thanks.

    Reply

    • Michael Gill
      May 21, 2017 at 10:55 pm

      Nevermind, read through the article again and saw your views. My bad.

      Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      May 22, 2017 at 3:29 am

      Hey again Micheal. maybe your most recent comment refers to this question, but yes, we covered upscaling and to repeat the point made, the two TVs upscale pretty much equally as far as we could detect for all content sources, including the same 480p content for both models. Of course though, poorly mastered or edited video sources will look bad on any 4K TV, even the best models, so this should always be kept in mind.

      Reply

  • Rahul
    May 30, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    I have heard from some of my friends that the A1E will be better when watching fast moving sports, like race cars or football or soccer. Even when watching movies like Fast and Furious where the action scenes are fast moving you will see the LG perform lower than the A1E. Have you tested the juddering in the LG vs Sony?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      June 9, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      Hey there Rahul. We honestly couldn’t note any difference at all between these TVs on how well they handle fast-paced sports content and so forth. Both handled motion blur equally superbly and motion interpolation for ordinary lower frame-rate content. The one area in which the A1E lags a bit behind the LG model is in playback of 24p content without judder. It isn’t equipped to support it from external sources like satellite broadcasts and so forth. Only from native apps in the TV and from Blu-ray disc media as far as we saw. This seems to be the case for all 2017 Sony TVs for some odd reason.

      Reply

  • Hooroo
    July 10, 2017 at 6:38 am

    The LG C7 has a 3.5mm jack.

    Hooroo 🙂

    Reply

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