While the debut versions of the PS4 and Xbox One lagged behind what TVs were capable of back then, the PS5 and Xbox Series X have caught most TV brands on the hop. Some of the graphics features the new consoles are touting have left an alarming number of TVs and TV brands (including, especially awkwardly, Sony) unable to keep up, even with their 2020 ranges.
In fact, only one TV brand has gone all out to wholeheartedly embrace the advances of the next gaming revolution: LG.
The South Korean brand’s 2019 OLED TVs were the first to introduce the latest high bandwidth HDMI 2.1 ports needed to unlock gaming goodies such as 4K playback at up to 120Hz, variable refresh rates up to 120Hz (including compatibility with the Nvidia G-Sync VRR system), automatic low latency mode switching, and 8K at up to 60Hz (though obviously this one only applies to LG’s 8K TVs).
The 48-inch OLED48CX is like LG’s other OLED TVs, only smaller.
What’s more, this support extended to all four of the HDMIs on 2019’s OLED TVs, too, rather than just one or two.
Not surprisingly, LG has kept this going with its 2020 OLED TV range – albeit with a couple of tweaks. First, the addition of support for AMD’s Freesync VRR system; second, a rather surprising reduction in the data bandwidth the 2020 HDMI 2.1 connections can carry, from the maximum 48GBps available on LG’s 2019 models to 40GBps.
What’s in a few GB?
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LG’s argument for crimping its 2020 HDMI data rates is that the extra 8GBps only really applies to 12-bit content delivery, at a time when no displays are actually running beyond 10-bit.
Otherwise, the LG peerless gaming-friendly OLED TV credentials remain the same for 2020 – including the fact that all four HDMIs support the 40GB data rates. Which is pretty handy given that devoted gamers may ultimately end up wanting to simultaneously connect PCs, PS5s and Xbox Series Xes to their shiny new TV.
There’s really only been one key element missing from LG’s impressive OLED gaming TV story: A more compact screen size.
Every LG OLED TV released to date has only been available in 55, 65, 77 or 88 inches – hardly ideal for bedrooms, studies, dedicated gaming rooms or spatially challenged living rooms. Such large screens don’t suit gamers who like to see the entire screen in one take even if they’re sat relatively close to it (as PC gamers, in particular, often are), to avoid having to flit their eyes around the screen.
Cue the OLED48CX.
The LG OLED48CX
As its name suggests, the OLED48CX is a 48-inch TV. This makes it the smallest OLED TV there’s been since Sony’s bonkers ‘we only made it because we could’ 11-inch XEL-1 from 2008.
From an aesthetic perspective, the OLED48CX’s smaller screen size is a mixed blessing. It’s less imposing on your room and looks seriously cute from the front. The chunky bit of its rear, though, containing stuff like its connections, speakers, drivers and processors, takes up relatively more of the back panel than it does on the bigger but slimmer looking CX models.
No size compromise
What you really want to know about the OLED48CX, of course, is whether shrinking its screen has had any impact on LG’s hugely impressive 2020 OLED picture quality (described in more detail in this review of the OLED65CX). Happily, the short answer is that in the vast majority of ways, it has not.
As usual with OLED technology, for instance, the OLED48CX’s contrast is stunning. For the most part its black colours actually look black. That immaculate blackness can be punctuated, moreover, by potentially even just a single pixel of light without that pixel having its luminance compromised, and without the blackness around it having to be made greyer (issues that would almost certainly crop up to some extent with an LCD TV).
Detail of the LG OLED48CX’s stand.
This truly pixel-level contrast looks particularly stunning with HDR content, of course, given the much wider range of light HDR content can carry.
As with the larger CX models, the OLED48CX typically delivers slightly deeper blacks than last year’s C9s, without sacrificing shadow detail. It also matches its larger kin with the intensity of its brightness, hitting between 750 and 800 nits (on a white HDR window covering 10% of the screen).
The OLED48CX’s colors deliver the same small but important improvements over those of the C9s, with better uniformity across the screen, more precision/less banding in HDR color blends, more consistently natural skin tones, and a more realistic look to relatively ‘extreme’ colors, such as bright blue skies. This latter improvement is particularly appreciated with game graphics.
Motion when watching 24fps movies also joins that of the larger CX models in looking more natural and convincing than it has on any previous LG OLED TV. Particularly if you use the new Cinema Clear motion setting.
The OLED48CX’s handling of motion with games is more complicated – in a mostly good way. After all, as mentioned earlier, it supports both 4K resolution at up to 120Hz, and variable refresh rates. Two capabilities that prove truly capable of taking the gaming experience to places it’s never gone before on a TV.
Regular readers of my Forbes channel will know that delivering these stunning gaming treats hasn’t been entirely plain sailing for LG’s CX models. When the first truly ‘next gen’ gaming source appeared, Nvidia’s RTX 30 game cards, both the C9 and CX OLED series suffered significant G-Sync compatibility issues with them (as discussed here). LG almost immediately began rolling out firmware updates to fix these issues, though, with mostly praise-worthy results.
There does remain at the time of writing, though, one further little niggle with the set’s G-Sync handling. Namely a noticeable stutter to motion when using G-sync with relatively data-heavy feeds. For instance, while things look fine with 4:2:0 8-bit 3840×2160 4:2:0 feeds, stepping up to 10-bits causes a clear stuttering effect to appear with horizontal motion. And this stutter remains in G-Sync with all 4:4:4 and RGB feeds in both 8-bit and 10-bit 4K 120Hz ‘formats’.
Getting back to the good gaming news, the OLED48CX continues to earn its gaming corn (if you’re fond of split-screen gaming with friends, anyway) with its OLED-inspired support for pretty much 180-degree viewing angles. Its measured input lag in its Game preset of just 13ms, too, is outstandingly low for such a processing-rich TV.
Also worth pointing out is that aside from a little color desaturation, the OLED48CX’s picture quality isn’t as heavily reduced in Game mode as it tends to be with LCD TVs.
Rear view and connections detail of the LG OLED48CX.
With HDR gaming set to become pretty much universal with the advent of the next generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles, it’s impressive to find the OLED48CX boasting an HGiG mode designed to take advantage of the efforts of the HDR Gaming Initiative Group. This mode essentially deactivates the screen’s dynamic HDR tone mapping in recognition of the fact that both the PlayStation and Xbox consoles now carry their own built-in HDR set up systems, with which the TVs’ tone mapping systems might interfere.
Last but not least on the OLED48CX’s list of game-friendly features is its support for Dolby Vision HDR. Dolby Vision adds extra color refinement and scene by scene image data to HDR streams, to help compatible TVs deliver better HDR pictures. And having long been a big deal on the movie and TV show front, Dolby Vision is looking set to become a big deal for gaming too, now that the Xbox Series X is promising to join PCs in supporting Dolby Vision for games too.
It’s a pity, perhaps, that LG still won’t embrace support for the HDR10+ HDR system which, like, Dolby Vision, can improve HDR playback by adding extra scene by scene information to the video stream. No gaming platforms have yet embraced HDR10+ though, and aside from Amazon Prime Video, video support for HDR10+ is also limited versus Dolby Vision.
At the time of writing, the OLED48CX still shares the shifting gamma levels issue (detailed here) when switched into any of its VRR modes that its bigger siblings do. Some people seem more sensitive to seeing this than others, but LG has confirmed that it is working on a fix for the issue, while acknowledging that this fix is difficult to achieve and so could take a while…
Profile view of the LG OLED48CX.
There are a few other more general niggles, too. For instance, even when using the mostly excellent new Cinema Clear motion mode, areas of very fast and complex motion can still exhibit a few processing nasties. Just occasionally, too, a very dark movie scene can suddenly exhibit slight but noticeable fluctuations in black levels.
It’s also worth pointing out that the OLED48CX’s relatively small screen can make it harder to appreciate its native 4K resolution from typical viewing distances than it is with bigger CX models. Though having said that, if you’re sat close enough to still appreciate the resolution, as gamers might well be, the OLED48CX’s sharpness and detailing is actually excellent. In fact, up close its pixels-per-inch impact is actually higher than it is with its larger siblings.
Handle with care
I guess one last negative point about the OLED48CX to mention is its potential (in line with all OLED TVs) to suffer permanent image retention if exposed for really extended periods of time to bright, static image elements.
LG provides measures to counter this problem, and my impression is that every generation of OLED screen technology reduces the likelihood of it occurring. But it might be something to at least bear in mind if you’re prone to daily multi-hour sessions of the same game.
Overall, though, the OLED48CX’s niggles are emphatically eclipsed by its brilliance. It really is hands down the finest ‘small’ TV I’ve ever seen – in terms of its picture quality, its features and even its audio.
The LG OLED48CX is a uniquely talented TV for gaming.
Its built-in speaker system does a better job of unlocking the immersive power of both films and next-gen games than you’d imagine possible from a 48-inch TV. In fact, it even carries built-in Dolby Atmos playback, which chimes perfectly with the increasing use of Dolby Atmos sound on both movies, TV series and games (on Xbox and PC, at least). Personally, though, I’d recommend using the set’s AI Sound mode rather than the Dolby Atmos mode, as this delivers a wider, more detailed, and more immersive sound stage.
The price is wrong
There is at the time of writing, though, one final problem with the OLED48CX that has nothing to do with its performance or features: Its price.
In the US it costs $1,499 – just $100 less than the 55-inch OLED55CX. And in the UK the OLED48CX is actually more expensive at £1,489 than the £1,399 OLED55CX. This clearly makes the 55-inch model much better value – unless you are absolutely 100% sure that the 48-inch screen is the one you need.
There are certainly reasons why some households and user profiles might want or need to limit themselves to a 48-inch screen. Including the wish I mentioned earlier of some gamers to be able to take in all the onscreen action at once (though don’t forget that many of today’s immersive game landscapes actually benefit from the sense of immersion a large screen brings).
I can’t help but think, though, that for anyone looking for a more straightforward TV/gaming display crossover, stepping up to the OLED55CX currently looks like a seriously tempting option.
While people as interested in AV as gaming might want to consider stepping up to the bigger and better value OLED55CX, the OLED48CX can nonetheless be considered the most all-round exciting gaming TV there’s ever been.