Sony’s A1E OLED 4K HDR TV vs. LG’s C7 OLED 4K HDR TV: How They Compare
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Winner: We’ll call this a tie between the two though the LG C7 offers more HDMI ports with 2.0-level throughput.
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.
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.
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.
Winner: Tie between Sony and LG on this one
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.
4.7 – 4 Reviews
Winner: With pricing and performance balanced out, LG’s C7 is the much better deal against the Sony A1E OLED.
Audio Comparison between the Sony A1E and LG C7 4K OLED TV.
To clarify the question of which one of these two TVs delivers better overall audio, the A1E wins without a doubt as the more powerful TV in terms of superior native sound power. In fact, we thought it was one of the best of any 2017 4K HDR TV we’ve reviewed so far. The fact that the speakers are literally inside the screen makes the audio literally seem to come from the sources of action and people speaking on the TV. This creates a great natural feel. That said, the A1E delivers audio that’s only moderately better than that of the LG C7 and more importantly, still not as good as what you’d get from any decent sound bar or external speaker system which would cost well below $300. In other words, its audio superiority doesn’t justify this TV’s much higher price.
Winner: The Sony A1 but its native sound quality performance isn’t good enough to justify its much higher price at the time of this writing.
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.
4.7 – 4 Reviews