hccbestbuybadgev3LG's OLED division looks set to face unprecedented competition in 2019, with Sony, Philips and Panasonic all introducing expanded ranges with bespoke technological tricks. But if the Korean brand's 65in OLED65C9 auditioned here is anything to go by, those companies will find it hard to end LG's long-term hold of the OLED crown. This flatscreen is an appealing mix of premium performance and user-friendly smarts.

The OLED65C9's assault on your heart and mind begins with its sensationally thin screen and ultra-minimalist design. New from LG this year is a useful cable tidying system integrated into the rear of the stand, which creates an even slicker feel.

Looking at the TV, it's hard to believe it sits only one step up from the bottom of LG's 2019 OLED lineup. Only the B9 series – which uses a less powerful video processor – ranges below it. But while you can spend more on the E9 series, which features a prettier glass-backed design and more powerful speaker system, or the wallpaper-thin W9 models with external soundbar/processing units, there's nothing mid-range about this TV. Nor it's £3,300 ticket.

Smart Cookie
The OLED65C9 delivers a substantial number of feature and performance improvements over its C8 predecessor. At the heart of these enhancements is the second generation of LG's Alpha 9 processor, which powers an impressively upgraded version of the company's excellent WebOS smart engine, as well as refining almost every aspect of the TV's picture and sound quality.


Looking first at the new smart features, LG now builds in support for Amazon Alexa and Google Home voice recognition platforms – as well as its own, excellent ThinQ voice recognition tool.

When you select an app from the main row of launcher bar icons, meanwhile, you now get a second tier of icons linking directly to content available within the selected app (provided the app supports this feature).

You can now also ask the TV to automatically organise the apps in the Launcher bar based on frequency of use, with your favourite apps appearing first.

The old 'adverts' that used to dominate the left side of the launcher bar have gone, replaced by access to LG's Gallery feature. This, like Samsung's Ambient mode, fills the screen with digital artworks when you're not watching the TV.

Another WebOS addition is a link to a Home Dashboard. This presents on one screen everything connected to your TV, from smart and Bluetooth hardware to its AV inputs and Internet Of Things devices. It's the best attempt I've seen yet to fulfil TVs' potential as the central monitoring and control hub of connected homes.

A welcome surprise is the OLED65C9's use of four HDMI 2.1 ports, rather than 2.0. No other 4K TV to date provides such support for this latest step in HDMI's development. Some will argue it's not necessary to have 48Gbps HDMIs on a 4K screen – after all, HDMI 2.1 seems to have been developed primarily with 8K in mind. But HDMI 2.1 opens the door to higher frame rates, as well as data-heavy features such as eARC for passing lossless Dolby Atmos or DTS:X streams to compatible AV receivers or soundbars. It also makes the OLED65C9 the first LG TV to support automatic game mode switching and variable refresh rates. This is good news, particularly as the TV's Game mode measures just 13ms of image lag, although my review sample consistently struggled to sync properly in game mode with Xbox One S and X consoles – LG says this issue will be fixed via firmware.

While the new smart features introduced by the OLED65C9 are all welcome, there are a couple of omissions to point out. First, although LG is adding support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit functionality later this year, there doesn't appear to be a plan to support Chromecast. Second, the OLED65C9 doesn't play the HDR10+ format, and with Amazon Prime, 20th Century Fox 4K Blu-rays, IMAX 4K Blu-rays, Lionsgate 4K Blu-rays and, we've been promised, Universal and Warner Bros 4K Blu-rays now onboard with HDR10+, this has become more of an issue than it used to be.

Ai Overload
Exciting these new features might be, but the most important thing about the second-gen Alpha 9 processor is what it does to picture and sound performance.

Beginning with the latter, a new AI sound mode proves effective at analysing the qualities of an incoming signal and then optimising for the C9's speaker configuration. This results in the cleanest, most powerful and most dynamic audio performance I've heard from any generation of C Series LG OLED, and works well with the ultra-dense mix of Ready Player One's first race sequence (Ultra HD Blu-ray). The TV also carries Dolby Atmos decoding (but lacks any upfiring speakers) and has an on/off Dolby Atmos mode. I generally preferred the AI mode presentation, even with Atmos streams; an exception being some Dolby Atmos Xbox game titles, where the experience was unexpectedly three-dimensional and bass-rich.

More AI cleverness comes in the form of a new Picture AI mode, which uses a database of picture 'scenarios' to more quickly and accurately assess incoming video so that it can apply picture settings in real time. The lower the quality of your source, the more effective this mode is – chiefly because it manages to remove substantial amounts of source noise and compression artefacts without making images look soft.