Over the last couple of years there has been an increase in the number of people looking to the TV market for their next desktop monitor. OLED technology is only just starting to appear in the monitor market in any mainstream way (e.g. the recently released Dell Alienware AW3423DW) and so many people have been turning to OLED TV’s instead. These offer the benefits of OLED technology like near-instant response times, pixel level dimming, true blacks, excellent contrast ratios and excellent HDR performance. Modern OLED TV’s also provide key gaming technologies like 120Hz, 4K, G-sync/FreeSync and other monitor-like capabilities. The key is that they also remain relatively affordable compared with high end flagship monitors.
The main challenge though in going this route though has been screen size. Since 2020 there have at least been some fairly reasonable size options in the OLED TV space, with 48″ models like the LG 48CX being a popular option. We tested the LG CX back in October 2020 and considered it specifically as a desktop monitor. We felt, as do many people, that 48″ is just way too big for a desktop monitor. If you’re looking for a screen for occasional desktop use, but mainly for gaming, consoles, movies etc then it’s certainly an interesting option, but we just feel that 48″ is too big, and is uncomfortable as a monitor. This year LG have tried to bridge the gap between monitor and TV even more with the introduction of their 42″ sized C2 model. It’s a smaller option and starts to become a bit more viable to many, but is this enough of a change? How is it as a desktop monitor and how does it perform?
We have the LG 42C2 OLED with us now for review and again we will be testing and evaluating the screen as a desktop monitor. We will put it through all our usual testing and measurements to see how it performs and whether we would recommend this as a new, smaller OLED TV option for these kind of uses. We won’t really be delving in to the TV features much like the tuner, Smart TV features, apps etc but you will find plenty of other reviews online focused on using the screen as a TV if you need.
Key Specs and Features
- 42″ OLED panel (primarily aimed at the TV space)
- 3840 x 2160 UltraHD “4K” resolution
- 120Hz refresh rate
- Adaptive sync VRR – including NVIDIA ‘G-sync Compatible’ and AMD ‘FreeSync Premium’ certifications
- 4x HDMI 2.1 connections with full 48Gbps bandwidth, 4K 120Hz for consoles, HDMI-VRR, ALLM and eARC
- HDR 10, HLG and Dolby Vision format support
- Pixel level dimming for exceptional HDR performance
- True blacks and basically infinite contrast ratio
- TV features including Smart TV apps, tuner etc
- 2x 10W Dolby Atmos speakers
- Limited stand with no adjustments possible
Other specs and details can be found on the LG product page.
Design and Ergonomics
The LG 42C2 is obviously a very large screen, far bigger than the majority of desktop monitors. This is probably going to be your first consideration when looking at this screen – have you got the space for it on your desk and is it too big for your common uses? We will talk about the size and its pros and cons in the different sections of this review.
The display has a very thin edges around all sides, with a border measuring ~6.5mm along the top, ~8.5mm along the edges and 10.5mm along the bottom. There is a small protruding section along the bottom edge housing the sensor for the remote and a single button which gives you very basic access to the screens menu and settings. Really you will want to be using the provided remote control for all operation of the screen.
There are two simple feet that you have to screw on to the bottom/back of the screen which is a fairly simple and quick job. Just prop the screen on a couple of cushions or something while you do that. Oddly the two feet are labelled A and B, but there’s no corresponding A and B on the screen to match them up to! Still, it’s easy to tell which one goes on which side. We don’t like the design of these feet and this “stand” as much as the older LG OLED screens where they have a bar across the bottom of the screen. That’s still featured on the larger models including the 48″ C2. On the 42″ model here it probably looks and feels a bit more “monitor like” we suppose, leaving a gap from desk to screen, but it isn’t as practical for hiding cables behind it. LG do provide a couple of cable clips to try and help you do this, but it’s not an easy job to really hide those behind the thin feet.
From outer edge to outer edge there is about 72cm between the two feet so you need to have a large desktop space to fit this screen. Remember, this is the smallest of LG’s OLED TV range at 42″. The “stand” (if you can call it that) doesn’t offer any ergonomic adjustments and so the screen feels quite weird at first being very vertical. There’s no tilt, height or swivel adjustments which we certainly miss when trying to use this on a desk as a monitor. We had to resort to a temporary workaround as you can see:
The lack of a functional stand is certainly a big difference relative to a monitor. Maybe height and swivel adjustments would have been impractical anyway given the screen is so large, but a tilt would have been very useful.
Thankfully LG have done away with the rather deep protruding section at the back of the screen like on some older models so you don’t need a particularly deep desk to accommodate the screen. Or rather, it can sit quite far back on the desk; you will still ideally want quite a deep desk so you can sit a sensible distance away from the screen. The back of the screen is encased in a matte black plastic, and there are VESA 300 x 200mm mounting holes if you’d rather wall or arm mount the screen instead of using the limited stand.
The screen doesn’t come with much, but LG do include an easy to use, intuitive and versatile remote as pictured below. This is slightly different from older generations of this remote like the one we have with our LG CX OLED, but it’s largely the same in function. The OSD is easy and quick to navigate thanks to the remote control, including using the pointer function. Sometimes you feel like you have to drill through various sections to get to the setting you want, and the software doesn’t remember where you were before, so it’s not as quick as it could be on some occasions. When using the ‘Game Optimiser’ mode you get quick access to that menu which is useful (more on that later).
The screen features integrated Dolby Atmos speakers which are considerably more powerful and capable than the kind of speakers you would typically find in a desktop monitor. This is certainly one big benefit with the screen being a TV. LG’s “AI Sound Pro” includes a range of modes that create a wide range of environments, including useful features like a mode to enhance voice quality and levels. For optimal sound you can also connect the screen to an external amplifier and speaker system using HDMI ARC/eARC, or even wirelessly using Bluetooth if you have suitable speakers. For other systems you can also output over the optical SPDIF connection although the pass-through of certain audio types will be more limited. Overall for desktop monitor use the sound system and speakers are far more capable here than you would get from a desktop monitor.
HDMI 2.1 and Connectivity options
We connected to the screen using an NVIDIA RTX 3090 and its HDMI 2.1 connection, allowing us to run the screen at the full 3840 x 2160 resolution, 120Hz and 10-bit colour depth from our PC. The 4x HDMI 2.1 ports on this screen offer the full 48Gpbs bandwidth, unlike the older CX model we tested in the past that had only 40 Gbps of the bandwidth available. Unlike many screens marketed with HDMI 2.1 they also support HDMI-VRR, ALLM and eARC which make the screen well suited to the latest games consoles. More on those later. Having 4 ports gives you plenty of options for connecting your PC, consoles and other devices.
We should note that as this is a TV, the screen does NOT feature any DisplayPort connection which does make it less accessible as a monitor to many people. you would also need to make sure you have a very modern graphics card with HDMI 2.1, which means forking out a lot more money on top of the screen, to be able to power it at 4K 120Hz for instance. Had the screen featured the more common PC DisplayPort 1.4 connection, this could have been available to many more graphics cards and systems. This is one of the limitations of using an OLED TV like this as a monitor right now, although other manufacturers such as Asus are looking to use the same 42″ OLED panel in a more monitor-like offering later in the year too. Those would then drop many of the TV-type features, so it depends what you’re after. From a PC usage point of view we would have loved to have seen DisplayPort available here.
Also keep in mind that LG do not provide any cables with the screen, so there’s an additional cost for an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable if you want to use HDMI 2.1 from a compatible modern graphics card properly. Other HDMI 2.1 devices like the PS5 and Xbox Series X come with a suitable cable at least, but for your PC you will probably need one.
You will see other options listed above. Note that the USB ports are not like USB hub ports you get on a monitor, they are more for playing media files from, like other TV’s you’re probably used to. There’s a good range of sound connections and the screen also features 2x 10W speakers with Dolby Atmos, which are far beyond anything you would get from a desktop monitor. That’s definitely a benefit of this kind of screen over a normal monitor.
OLED Evo, WBE vs WBC panels, and does it matter?
LG promote their new 2022 C2 OLED screens as featuring their new ‘OLED Evo’ technology. It’s all over their webpage and even on the box for the screen. Many people associated this branding with the new “OLED EX” or “WBE” panels from LG Display, which is a newer generation of OLED capable of offering improved brightness as a key improvement. LG Electronics as the TV manufacturer don’t use the OLED EX branding that the LG Display panel producers talk about, but many people assumed that the two were the same – if a screen is marketed as OLED Evo, it should feature an OLED EX panel and offer these new improvements, right?
Actually the early stock of the LG 42C2 screens were identified (by HDTVtest) as featuring the older generation “WBC” panels. This can be identified via the spectral distribution of the panel, and incidentally we have confirmed our sample also features one of these WBC panels. There was a lot of fuss made of this by many media outlets, going as far to suggest that people should wait for the supposedly “new and improved” panels later in the year when LG Electronics start using the WBE panels instead.
Despite much confusion in the market about the situation, what this “OLED Evo” term actually means officially is (as LG replied to HDTVtest when asked about it) “a combination of cutting edge picture algorithms powered by the α9 Gen 5 AI processor as well as OLED technology”. It’s not about the panel as such, it’s about the processing and resulting picture quality. They went on to say that “LG’s 2022 42 inch C2 model offers the same picture quality and longevity, regardless of the parts or panel it may come with.”
So from a marketing and branding point of view, both the WBC version currently being used, and the future WBE versions are referred to as “OLED Evo”. But should you wait for a WBE panel for the improved brightness? Actually, on the 42″ and 48″ models it shouldn’t make any difference as both should be capped to a similar brightness level due to the size, and neither feature the new “Brightness Booster” technology that the larger models offer. Had this been a 55″ or 65″ model we were talking about with the older WBC panel then yes, you may have missed out on the brightness improvement of the WBE panel. But on the smaller screens like the 42C2, it doesn’t make any difference anyway.
What about other benefits like supposedly improved lifespan and reduced image retention? HDTVtest showed through some initial testing that the image retention behaviour is likely to be very similar between the WBE and WBC panels, and claims about this and general lifespan probably remain to be substantiated. From a brightness and picture quality point of view there should be no improvements or changes. In fact one thing Vincent at HDTVtest did point out when comparing a WBE vs WBC panel side by side is that the newer WBE panel has a more noticeable pink tint when viewed from an angle. In which case one could maybe argue the older WBC panel is better and you should snap one up while they’re being used?
Either way, this is a non issue really for the 42″ model, don’t worry about it too much.
Text Clarity and using PC input mode
To get the most out of the screen for PC connections there is a step you need to first follow within the Home Dashboard. Click on the top right options button and then select edit inputs. You need to click on the icon next to the input you’re using and change it from the “HDMI” to “PC” icon. This enters that input in to PC mode, with the main (and important) benefit being that it gives you a full RGB 4:4:4 chroma instead of using chroma sub-sampling. This is the recommended setting when using the screen from a PC as a desktop monitor.
We did notice some small issues though with this mode, and it relates to the non-standard sub-pixel structure of this OLED screen. Rather than RGB sub-pixel layout that Windows is expecting, these LG OLED panels use a RGBW (RGB + White) structure. As a result, the rendering of fonts in Windows is not 100% perfect. It looks very good on the most part, and we suspect that from a sensible viewing distance for a screen this size it would be hard for many people to spot these issues. But during our testing and usage we did notice a few text fringing problems.
Some text showed a small amount of fringing on the edges and this meant the text didn’t look as sharp as it might on a normal monitor. It seemed to vary depending on the size of the text, and on the colour of the text and background. It was most noticeable with black text on a white background. We were using the screen at 3840 x 2160 resolution, with Windows scaling at 100% and with the sharpness control in the OSD turned down to 0.
Above is a zoomed in photo of the text of the title of this review (click for full size image). The top is the screen running in PC input mode and you can see some of the edges are showing some fringing and are not as sharp and clean as they could be. Interestingly if you switch the input to normal HDMI mode (i.e. not PC input) then this text rendering example seems to get a bit better. That’s shown on the bottom image. However, this mode isn’t as suitable for PC use as it is actually restricted to 4:2:2 chroma. This seems to be the reason why this black on white text looks a little clearer, it seems to be perhaps blurring and softening some of the edges.
The normal HDMI input mode does then show some issues with colour rendering because of that drop in chroma from 4:4:4 to 4:2:2 in other situations. We captured this in the below photos where you can see that the red and blue text on the red and blue backgrounds is more blurred and compressed on the 4:2:2 photos. That’s caused by the chroma sub-sampling. We’d recommend sticking with PC input mode for PC use.
Initial setup for PC connections
Before we started our usual measurements we made sure a few things were turned off in the OSD menu which could interfere with the measurements, or are otherwise just features we didn’t want to use. We would recommend you do the same in the PC input mode.
- Home dashboard > options menu in top right > edit inputs > change the label of the HDMI input you’re using to ‘PC’ as discussed above
- AI Service – AI Picture Pro and AI Brightness disabled
- OLED Care menu > Care Picture Settings left off (default)
- OLED Care menu > Device self care > Energy Saving > Energy Saving step – set to ‘off’ to disable the auto brightness control
- Devices menu > HDMI settings > HDMI deep colour > set this to 4K (i.e. turned on, as long as your graphics card doesn’t mess up when you do)
- Advanced Settings > clarity > adjust sharpness and turn it down from the default of 10 to 0, you don’t need this for PC connection but you can turn it up for other inputs if you wish, or perhaps for other preset modes you might use for gaming or movies
- Advanced settings > brightness > Motion Eye Care set to off
Brightness and Contrast
This section tests the full range of luminance (the brightness of the screen) possible, while changing the monitor’s brightness setting in the OSD menu – in this case the ‘OLED pixel brightness’ control is the one to use. This allows us to measure the maximum and minimum adjustment ranges, as well as identify the recommended setting to reach a target of 120 cd/m2 for comfortable day to day use in normal lighting conditions. Some users have specific requirements for a very bright display, while others like a much darker display for night time viewing or in low ambient light conditions. At each brightness level we also measure the contrast ratio produced by the screen when comparing a small white sample vs. a black sample (not unrealistic full screen white vs. full screen black tests). The contrast ratio should remain stable across the adjustment range so we also check that.
Graphics card settings were left at default with no ICC profile or calibration active. Tests were made using an X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter paired with the Calman Ultimate software for very high levels of accuracy. For these tests we switched to the ‘Expert bright’ preset mode as well, for reasons that will become clear in the following sections.
In SDR mode the luminance range of the screen is pretty decent, although it won’t get as high as many desktop monitors (commonly 350 – 450 cd/m2 nowadays) if that is a particular requirement you have. There should be a decent enough range here though for most users. At the top end the screen reached ~262 nits, and can reach as low as ~38 nits at the minimum adjustment which is decent. The OLED pixel brightness setting controls a linear relationship in terms of actual luminance output. We have provided a few recommended settings to achieve common 200, 150 and 120 nit brightness levels in the table as well.
Obviously one of the key benefits of this OLED panel is the fact it can generate true blacks. Each pixel can be fully turned off individually, resulting in basically an infinite contrast ratio. There’s no need for backlight local dimming here like there is on LCD’s and the black depth and contrast ratio surpass all LCD panel technologies including VA panels by a long way. Blacks look inky and deep, and you get local contrast between different areas of an image. This is further accentuated by the glossy screen coating which helps the blacks look deep.
Like most OLED screens there is a minor fluctuation of the backlight, and in this case it is every 8.33ms regardless of whether you are running at 60Hz or 120Hz input. You can see on the graph above that the 0V would be an “off” state, so the amplitude of this fluctuation is minor, and does not produce any visible flickering or anything like that in practice. It’s not the same as PWM on an LCD monitor where the backlight is rapidly switched fully off and on when trying to dim the brightness level. Obviously being an OLED panel there is no backlight here anyway, and this minor fluctuation didn’t cause us any problems in real use and would be considered flicker free.
Useful reading – OLED Dimming Confusion – APL, ABL, ASBL, TPC and GSR Explained
‘Auto Brightness Limiter’ (ABL)
This term has become a little mixed up in the OLED market and really it can be used for two different things. One is related to how OLED panels operate from a technical and physics point of view, the other has become associated with an image protection feature common on these LG OLED TV’s (and maybe others). We will look at what applies on this screen here:
1) On the one hand OLED panels all have an inherent limitation with the panel itself. The power consumption of these panels is highly dependent upon the content displayed. With a pure white image, every pixel must be lit, while with a pure black image every pixel is off. As the display has a maximum power usage, this opens up the capability for OLED displays to allocate more power per pixel to create a higher maximum luminance when not displaying a full-white image. This is different to LCD panels where a separate backlight unit sits behind the panel and can produce the same max luminance level regardless of the screen content, and how much of it is white in this example. On the OLED screen the percentage of the display that is lit up compared with a full white display is known as the Average Picture level (APL). You will see then on OLED panels that with a low APL (like a small 1% window size of white) the maximum peak brightness is achievable. This peak brightness reduces normally as the window size increases, as this is where the Auto Brightness Limiter (ABL) feature comes in. If you try and display a bright area over a certain window size you will find that the screen is dimmer than if that window size was smaller.
The point at which this ABL feature kicks in based on the size of the APL will vary on different panels. We will measure that later on in the HDR section for the absolute max peak brightness levels, but in normal desktop SDR usage it is unlikely to present a problem. At a calibrated 120 nits brightness level we measured the screen at varying white window sizes from 1% all the way up to 100%, and at no point did this ABL kick in, the 120 nits was maintained at all levels. If you were to run the screen at the max ‘OLED pixel brightness’ of 100 (and you probably won’t want to as it’s too bright) this ABL does come in at the largest window sizes. We measured a max luminance around 262 nits which was sustained for window sizes 1 – 75%. With the max 100% window size test this luminance dropped to 218 nits as the ABL kicked in a little. So unless you’re running the screen at a very high brightness, this ABL feature related to window sizes shouldn’t become a problem for normal SDR and desktop use. It becomes more relevant in HDR content that we will test later.
2) What makes this a bit confusing is that in the OLED TV space the term “ABL” has become associated more with a more visible and noticeable image retention feature including on these LG OLED TV’s. This is actually called “Temporal Peak Luminance Control” (TPC) by LG but because it dims the screen it’s become associated with the term “Auto Brightness Limiter” (ABL). This image retention saving feature detects static content on the screen and unless there is a regular (but fairly small) change in the APL the pixels are dimmed in brightness to help avoid image retention problems. In the most common usage for a TV of video, movies, gaming etc the content and therefore the APL is changing regularly and so you should rarely see this TPC feature kick in, although if you leave something paused for a short while you might notice it. When the APL changes again, the screen brightness increases back to what it was before. If you’re using the screen for desktop PC usage then working with static content can result in this feature turning on and you will spot the overall image dim after a couple of minutes. Then maybe brighten again when you change something. This does mean that when using the C2 as a PC monitor this is fairly noticeable in general uses and can be annoying. It also makes the screen less practical for any colour critical work. There is no way to disable this without access to the service menu unfortunately, which requires specialist equipment to access. Even then, the feature is there for a reason so we wouldn’t really recommend disabling it even if you could.
Out of the box ECO Preset mode
The screen comes out of the box set in the ‘Eco’ preset mode. Apart from the settings listed a bit earlier in the pre-testing setup notes, which would have caused measurement problems and fluctuations, we left everything as default. Keep in mind this is the TV’s default mode, thankfully you can achieve far better with a few simple OSD changes so don’t panic when you see these initial results!
The default Eco mode is really not well set up for any kind of normal PC use! The image looks far too cool, too bright and everything has a cool, bluish tint to it. You can see from the measurements above that the gamma curve was close to our 2.2 target which was good news. The colour temp was way off though, being massively too cool and producing a noticeable bluish tint to grey and white test images. We measured a white point of 9407k, being 45% off our target of 6500k. This means the white backgrounds of office documents look way too cool and bluish. The greyscale was really inaccurate as well, as we said looking noticeable bluish across all the shades, particularly apparent for lighter grey and white shades and measuring 10.9 dE average.
The screen operates by default with its full native colour gamut. This extends a considerable way beyond sRGB (128.3% relative coverage) resulting in oversaturated colours, especially in green and red shades which look more vivid than they should for this SDR content. As a result when displaying sRGB colours they look inaccurate, and we measured a dE 6.7 average and max of 16.2! That’s not surprising and very normal for a wide gamut screen showing standard gamut content, but again shows that this is not at all accurate out of the box for typical desktop SDR work.
We should note that the coverage of wider colour spaces like DCI-P3 is good at 98.4%, and a pretty decent attempt at the Rec.2020 space at 74.4%. Adobe RGB coverage was a bit of a shame, as the screen cannot fully cover that reference space (94% coverage) and so it’s not that well suited to working in that colour space for professional or photo work. You’d probably want a professional grade desktop monitor for that kind of thing anyway. The LG 42C2 is more aimed at content consumption like gaming, HDR, movies and video; and the colour gamut offered is perfectly adequate (and fairly typical) for that use case.
Expert Bright Mode
With the default Eco mode being so terrible we tried some of the other preset modes. First up was the ‘Expert (bright)’ mode. Of note here was that in the OSD menu the colour depth was now set at 50 instead of 65 and the colour temp was set at ‘warm 50’ instead of ‘cold 20’ as it had been in the Eco mode. This gave us hope of a better, warmer colour temperature.
This mode immediately looked better to the naked eye. The overly cool and bluish appearance had gone, and we had a far better colour temp. In fact we measured a white point of 6393k being very close now to our target (2% deviance). Across the greyscale range the colour temp was also much more stable with a 6421k average (1% deviance). Gamma was still decent and close to our 2.2 target and only slightly low in places (2.16 average). The greyscale accuracy was now far better than the Eco mode, with dE 1.1 average. Already this mode was miles better than the default Eco mode!
With the OLED pixel brightness set at 90, the luminance was a bit too high for normal desktop use at ~235 nits, but you should be able to turn that down to something comfortable for your ambient light conditions and room. As always you get a basically infinite contrast ratio thanks to the true blacks of OLED
Colour accuracy was greatly improved largely thanks to the better colour temp in this mode. It remained “inaccurate” when viewing sRGB colours because of the active wider colour gamut of the screen, especially in green and red shades where the largest errors appeared due to the over-saturation there. There is a solution to this to improve sRGB accuracy though…
sRGB Emulation (using Expert Bright mode)
You can manually change the colour space within this Expert bright and other preset modes using the picture > advanced settings > colour > colour gamut option. The default is set to ‘native’ which is the full wide colour gamut of the screen (128% relative sRGB coverage). You need to switch to the ‘auto detect’ mode to enable sRGB emulation from a PC connection, which will be a more suitable mode for most people for SDR content and normal day to day PC usage. You might want to use sRGB gamut for your normal desktop usage, then have the ‘native’ mode active for gaming for instance. The HDR modes have their own settings as well, and you’d want to leave native gamut active there for HDR content. Thankfully you retain full access to all other screen settings, unlike many monitors where the sRGB mode is often locked in many places.
You can see that the gamma, colour temp, greyscale and everything else remains the same as in the native gamut mode (this was within the Expert Bright preset mode still).
The real change comes with the produced colour space and colour accuracy for sRGB content. You can see from the CIE diagram on the left that the colour space has now been very nicely mapped to sRGB, the triangle is basically spot on with the sRGB reference triangle. We measured a 99.0% absolute coverage, and only very minor over-coverage resulting in 100.7% relative coverage measurement. This was a very pleasing clamping of the native gamut back to sRGB.
The resulting sRGB colours were now far more accurate and we had an impressive dE average of 1.3 and maximum of only 2.3. This mode was far better for working with normal SDR content, day to day office use, and anything else based on the sRGB colour space. If you want to boost the vividness for gaming then you might want to switch back to the Native gamut mode for that when using ideally the Game Optimiser preset mode where you’ve left that running in native gamut.
We plan to create an additional guide for how to set the LG C2 OLED up optimally in different modes – keep an eye out for updates later on!
Adobe RGB Emulation
There is also a way to improve the performance a bit if you want to work in the Adobe RGB colour space, often used for professional and photography work. On the left above is the screens native colour gamut compared with the Adobe RGB reference and you can see that there is not a great match between the two. The display falls a bit short in green shades, which is why our measurement was only 94% coverage. But it also over-extends in blues a bit, but particularly in red shades, resulting in the 110% relative coverage measurement when using the ‘native’ full gamut of the screen.
Within the OSD menu is a gamut setting specifically for Adobe RGB which we measured on the right. You can see there’s still the same under-coverage in greens, that can’t be helped, the screen just isn’t capable of covering those shades no matter what. But this mode has now cut down the over-coverage in blues and reds very nicely, more closely matching the Adobe RGB reference space. It’s gone a little further than it needed to, resulting in an 88.4% coverage now, but it’s a better emulation of Adobe RGB if you want to work in that space.
This is probably not sufficiently complete coverage of Adobe RGB for professional users to consider using this screen for anything serious, apart from perhaps some light work in and amongst common gaming and multimedia uses. Things like the TPC feature (aka ABL – discussed more later) are also a pain for this kind of use, and so it’s not really well suited to proper professional use in our opinion.
Like the older generations, the LG C2 series will support hardware level calibration. Portrait Displays have not yet updated their Calman software to include details and options for the C2 2022 range, but we believe it should still work when selecting the 2021 models as the pipeline is the same for these new screens.
The screen features a built-in pattern generator for the software which means that you do not need an expensive external pattern generator. This hardware calibration allows you even better control over the setup if you have a compatible calibration device and one of the Calman software packages. Note that for many casual users, simple setting changes will be sufficient given the results we’ve seen above to get an accurate and comfortable setup. You can check our our comprehensive guide to using the Calman ‘LG AutoCal’ software here.
We will update this review with hardware calibration results at a later date once we’ve done further testing. We will also look at normal software level profiling to add to this review.
We wanted to test here how uniform the brightness and colour temp were across the screen especially as some users have reported issues with coloured tints on their screens, most commonly a bluish tint towards the edges. Measurements were taken at 36 points across the panel on a pure white background. The measurements were taken using an X-rite i1 Display Pro colorimeter with a central point on the screen calibrated to 120 cd/m2. The below uniformity diagram shows the difference, as a percentage, between the measurement recorded at each point on the screen, as compared with the central reference point.
It is worth noting that panel uniformity can vary from one screen to another, and can depend on manufacturing lines, screen transport and other local factors. This is only a guide of the uniformity of the sample screen we have for review.
Luminance uniformity of the screen was very good on our sample, with 100% of the screen within a 10% deviance of the centrally calibrated area. The upper half of the screen was slightly brighter than the lower area but not by anything significant or noticeable. Excellent performance here.
We did find our screen showed some visible blue tinting along the right hand edge, perhaps 3 inches or so wide. We measured the colour temp across the screen which showed that this right hand edge was around 400k cooler (~6900k white point) than the rest of the screen. It was not a problem during most usage unless you had full screen white or light grey content, certainly not something you’d ever see in gaming or movies. But if you were using full screen office documents, you might notice this cooler strip along the edge. We will report back if we see any improvements over time with further usage and as the OLED panel is bedded in a bit more, as that could perhaps balance out the pixels and colours more.
It should be noted that if you display a full black image to test for backlight bleed there is none – as there is no backlight on this screen and each pixel is individually lit. Showing an all-black screen causes all pixels to turn off, and the screen shows true black as result, and looks like it’s just turned off.
Office and General Use
Size, resolution and text clarity
I would say I am borderline with the LG C2 as to whether this is too big for a desktop monitor or not. In my opinion, the older models including at the time the smallest 48″ option were just too big for the vast majority of people and we found them impractical for this kind of usage. The 42″ model is definitely better, but it’s still a beast of a screen on your desk. You will definitely need to consider 1) the desk space you have, 2) how deep the desk is and how far away you can sit from the screen and 3) whether the massive size is really practical for your common use types.
We will talk about gaming and multimedia later, but for office work it’s usable, but probably still too big for most people in our opinion. Like I said, I’m borderline personally, having been using it for a fair while to carry out this review. On the plus side, the 3840 x 2160 resolution is very usable at this size without needing any OS scaling (leave Windows at 100% scaling). That means you get a large desktop area to work with, and the text is of a sensible and comfortable size. You don’t have to worry about whether your application will handle the OS scaling properly, everything can be run at normal 100%. This means you get proper use of the full 4K desktop space, unlike most 4K monitors where you have to use scaling to make text readable and sensible, but in doing so cut down on that desktop real-estate. 40 – 42″ is about right to properly use 4K resolution comfortably we think.
The pixel pitch is 0.2421 mm here, so the text is the same equivalent size as a 21″ 1080p monitor (so smaller and denser text than common 23 – 24″ 1080p models which is nice), and also the same as a hypothetical 28″ 1440p model (so slightly larger text than a common 27″ 1440p screen). So it’s a comfortable and decent text size, and a good sized screen for 4K resolution without scaling for desktop use. On the other hand, the sheer size of the screen means you will be having to move your neck quite a lot to look around the screen and it’s not as comfortable as a normal desktop monitor size. It’s a good resolution and desktop space for split screen working and multi-tasking though. You will need to be able to position it a sensible distance away from your sitting position, probably a fair bit deeper than you might be used to having your monitor at. This makes it a bit more comfortable.
We talked earlier about some of the text clarity issues because of the RGBW (RGB + White) pixel structure. They are fairly minor, and generally not a problem but sometimes certain font sizes or font types show this up a bit more. The screen isn’t quite as sharp as a normal desktop monitor for these uses as a result (and yes, we are using 0 sharpness setting in the menu and we are in PC input mode). Using the PC input mode does at least allow you to use the screen at full RGB / 4:4:4 chroma though which is good news.
Limited ergonomics and the glossy coating
The lack of any ergonomic adjustments from the stand are also a problem, and the screen feels very vertical and unusual without a tilt range. We resorted to wedging things under the feet to tilt it back slightly which made it far more comfortable for office work. It doesn’t need much of a tilt, but a minor change can make a big difference to the usage. You may be better trying to wall mount it at a slightly higher position to reduce some of that problem but with the screen being so big, positioning is a challenge.
The glossy screen coating is another consideration that you don’t normally have to make with a desktop monitor as there’s not many glossy panels in that space. The LG 42C2 has a glossy panel coating which means you get more reflections than a traditional monitor with an anti-glare (AG) coating. You need to be more careful about positioning of the screen relative to windows and lights, but we didn’t find this too much of a problem during normal usage to be honest. Having a glossy screen does mean that the image looks clear and sharp, and it helps ensure those true deep blacks look deep and inky and are not impacted by any light diffusion of an AG coating – something some reviewers have observed with the OLED based Dell Alienware AW3423DW which has a hybrid AG/gloss coating. On balance having a glossy coating is probably the better solution here for OLED so you can enjoy the blacks and contrast properly.
Mode selection, brightness and low blue light
You will definitely want to change out of the default Eco preset mode for office work, that’s just horribly set up and far too cool and inaccurate. Switch to the Expert bright or expert dark modes where the colour temp is much better and the accuracy of colour temp, white point and colours is far better. You may want to switch the colour gamut to “auto select” to trigger the sRGB mode as well for normal SDR / desktop uses.
There is a decent enough brightness adjustment range when using the PC input mode and working with SDR/normal content. A setting around 38 should return you a luminance close to 120 nits. One thing which can come in to play for office applications, and any time you have lots of static content is the Temporal Peak Luminance Control (TPC) feature that we discussed earlier in the review – often referred to incorrectly and commonly as ‘Auto Brightness Limiter’ (ABL). For a screen calibrated to a luminance of around 120 nits for general work, the actual ABL feature isn’t needed as even a full 100% white image can be rendered at 120 nits, that isn’t what you will see happening here. What you will actually experience is when the Average Picture Level (APL) doesn’t change enough, an image prevention measure kicks in and the screen auto dims at random times and then increases brightness again later if you have a large enough change in the APL. This can be annoying to be honest. This can impact the overall brightness of the screen so could become annoying for colour critical or photo work especially where you’re trying to have consistency.
The screen has a blue peak at 457 nm, and although it is not part of the Eyesafe certified range of products, it does have a blue peak that is just beyond the supposed harmful range according to Eyesafe between 415 – 455nm, which is good news. You can see here by the way from the spectral distribution where the green and red peaks are merged that our sample is one of the WBC panels we talked about earlier. There is a low blue light setting in the OSD menu as well which you can click on and off. With it enabled the colour temp drops from our calibrated 6500k to ~ 5380k in Expert Bright mode.
Connections and PiP/PbP
The screen features some USB ports but these are for connecting media devices to the display like other TV’s. Unlike on a desktop monitor they cannot be used as a hub for the PC as there is no USB upstream to connect back to your PC, and so you cannot see the USB sticks in Windows, or plug things like keyboards and mice in to them to operate your PC.
There are unfortunately no other extras like, USB type-C connections, KVM switches, motion sensors or card readers on this screen which are sometimes useful for office-type uses. The stand offers no ergonomic adjustment so is very inflexible if you want to move the screen around. Wall mounting is a possible option instead if you want more flexibility. Unlike the older CX and C1 generations the new C2 does include ‘Multi View’ support, offering PiP and PbP modes – although the selection of inputs you can use is quite limited at the moment.
Image retention risks and OLED issues
We will not go too much in to potential concerns around lifespan of the OLED panel, colour shift, dark spots or image retention/burn-in here. You can read our OLED Displays and the Monitor Market article for more information about those potential issues. As a desktop monitor if you are going to use the screen for many hours per day, some of these things might become an issue in time. In our fairly short period of time testing and using the screen we noticed no issues in any of these areas. The TBC (aka ABL) feature was more of an annoyance and distraction to be honest, and although it’s there to try and help with life-span it might become an issue for some people for desktop type use, where it is more common to display a lot of static content.
If you are using the screen a lot as a desktop monitor and working with a lot of static content you will probably want to consider things like auto-hiding your taskbar, setting a screensaver to run etc. If you’re working with a lot of stationary windows for office work, internet browsing, photos etc then the risk of burn-in increases and to be honest that’s a bit of an annoyance with an OLED screen like this. These are things you don’t need to worry about with a typical desktop monitor but it’s always in the back of your mind when using an OLED screen. Leave the built-in prevention measures turned on to help, but you might want to read our article linked above to learn more about these risks and concerns.
The ‘screen move’ setting might be familiar to those who’ve used an OLED TV, which basically just shifts the image a couple of pixels at regular intervals to help avoid retention. This can be noticeable in desktop and general usage, but you shouldn’t notice it for any dynamic content. If it bothers you, there’s little harm in turning it off if you want.
The screen uses an OLED panel which is well-known for its near-instant response times. As a result it does not need to use overdrive technology in the same way as a desktop LCD panel would, or there at least aren’t any controls for the response time or overdrive in the OSD menu here. LG don’t quote a response time in their spec, but true <1ms G2G should be expected from this technology.
|(at native resolution)||Refresh Rate|
|Maximum Refresh Rate DisplayPort||No DisplayPort input|
|Maximum Refresh Rate HDMI||120Hz|
|VRR range||40 – 120Hz|
The screen has a native 120Hz refresh rate which makes it far more suited to gaming than common 60Hz TV’s. But this is a fair bit slower than most gaming monitors nowadays which can often do 165, 200, 240 or even 360Hz nowadays. You will not be able to push the same frame rates as a high end gaming monitor here, although the combination of near-instant response times and 120Hz on the C2 should produce excellent motion clarity still. Plus if you’re going to be running at 4K then getting much above 120Hz would be a challenge. The 4K resolution provides a sharp image and is suitable for a screen this large, particularly up close for PC gaming.
|VRR capabilities and Certification|
|AMD FreeSync Premium certification|
|Native NVIDIA G-sync module|
|NVIDIA ‘G-sync Compatible’ certified|
|HDMI-VRR (consoles via HDMI 2.1)|
To help support the 4K @ 120Hz the screen features adaptive-sync, giving Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) support for both NVIDIA and AMD systems which is great news. The screen has also been certified under the NVIDIA ‘G-sync Compatible’ and AMD ‘FreeSync Premium’ schemes to give added reassurance around VRR performance. There is also support for HDMI-VRR via HDMI 2.1 which is useful for the latest PS5 and Xbox Series X games consoles. We will look at console gaming more later.
OLED panel benefits for gaming and additional features
The OLED panel provides super-deep blacks and infinite contrast ratio which is of course excellent for gaming too. This helps ensure great shadow detail and true blacks. You may find optimal appearance in a darkened room though. The glossy screen coating helps ensure the colours “pop” and blacks look deep and pure, but can lead to some unwanted reflections depending on your viewing conditions. Be careful if you have windows or lights in front of the screen. The wide viewing angles of this technology are excellent and make the screen suitable for viewing from many different positions if you need. These wide viewing angles importantly include the freedom from things like the pale/white “IPS glow” that you get on darker content on that common LCD technology. There’s none of that here on the OLED panel.
Game Optimiser menu
The C2 includes a ‘Game Optimiser’ preset and separate settings menu for quick access to a range of settings and features for gaming. The screen can switch in to this mode when it detects a game, which is the better mode to use as it helps reduce input lag significantly. You will definitely want to use this preset mode for gaming.
In the dashboard menu there is confirmation of your current refresh rate, VRR , black stabiliser and low latency mode status at the top, and then you can scroll down to a range of different options. There’s a few preset modes for different game genres including standard, FPS, RTS, RPG and sports. The ‘OLED motion’ setting controls the Black Frame Insertion (BFI) blur reduction mode which we will test later on in more detail.
You can turn on features like VRR/G-sync (for console and NVIDIA graphics card users) or also FreeSync (for AMD users) if you scroll down this section. There are also modes that force a 21:9 and a 32:9 widescreen aspect ratio if you want to take advantage of the large screen size, but want a wider field of view. This will emulate having an ultrawide screen which some people may like, adding black bars at the top and bottom. This is a new feature that wasn’t available on the older CX and C1 generations.
Within the ‘picture’ section of the Game Optimiser menu there is a ‘Black stabiliser’ option which some gamers like to have on their display to adjust the gamma in darker areas and potentially help bring out details in darker scenes and darker games.
The screen also offers a motion interpolation technology via the TruMotion settings in the advanced > clarity menu which is designed to help motion look smoother and clearer by interpolating intermediate frames. This produces the “soap opera effect” where motion looks unrealistic and just odd, so it’s not to everyone’s liking. We don’t really like this technology at all and would recommend leaving it off. Although you may still wish to experiment with it via the TruMotion anti-blur settings. This setting is actually not available if you’re in PC input mode, so you would have to label your input as something else if you want access to this option which then moves you out of 4:4:4 chroma mode for PC use. It will add additional input lag as well due to the frame interpolation and additional processing needed. Several reasons why you probably don’t want to use it for PC gaming. Maybe you can experiment with it for TV/video usage.
The only option within this TruMotion menu that is available in PC input mode is the ‘OLED motion’ setting which is something separate, that’s the BFI (Black Frame Insertion) mode we will look at later. If you wanted to use any of the other TruMotion features (which we personally don’t like) you’d have to switch the input mode from PC to HDMI or something, but that’s not ideal for PC use.
There is also quick access to the Game Optimiser menu from a single click of the remote’s ‘settings’ gear icon once you are in that mode, allowing you to quickly and easily switch between presets or see your current active settings while you’re gaming.
Game Optimiser Mode Setup Measurements
We also took some measurements in the Game Optimiser preset mode as shown above. You can see that the colour temp setting in this mode is “0” and this leaves us with an overly cool default setup again like we had in the default Eco preset mode when we first powered the screen on. The gamma is good, but the overly cool setup means greys and whites look a bit bluish, and this impacts the greyscale accuracy. The overly cool setup and the over-saturation of the wide gamut panel mean that colour accuracy for sRGB content isn’t good either.
You definitely want to use this preset for gaming given it has a significantly reduced input lag. We would recommend changing the colour temp setting to something like warm 49 which we found to be ~6500k, and closer to the default Warm 50 mode that had produced nice accurate results in the ‘Expert bright’ mode earlier. This will help improve some of this accuracy.
We plan to create an additional guide for how to set the LG C2 OLED up optimally in different modes – keep an eye out for updates later on!
Graphics Card Considerations
The LG C2 OLED like all other TV’s unfortunately does not offer a DisplayPort input which is by far the most widely used video interface output on PC graphics cards, including older generation options. If you wanted to use high refresh rates and VRR from a desktop monitor its much easier to use from most systems as DisplayPort is commonly used on those displays as the connection of choice. More people can therefore have access to these gaming features without needing to invest at the same time in the latest and greatest graphics card, even if they’ve got an older card.
To connect a PC to the LG C2 OLED you are going to need a graphics card with an HDMI output, this will need to be v2.0 at a minimum which thankfully has become more widespread in recent years. If you want to use the LG C2 OLED for gaming, and ideally make use of features like the 120Hz refresh rate and G-sync/FreeSync to their full extent that you’re going to invest in the latest generations of graphics cards with HDMI 2.1.
You can use HDMI 2.0 but with colour sacrifice and chroma sub-sampling required to support the bandwidth properly which isn’t ideal. Below shows the options available depending on your HDMI output.
So basically in summary if you have only an HDMI 2.0 output graphics card you can run the screen at 60Hz and native resolution without much issue, which is fine for desktop use and movies. You cannot use the full 10-bit colour depth panel / 12-bit processing, but 8-bit is supported and should be sufficient for most people anyway who might buy this kind of screen. It’s not really the kind of screen you’d buy for high-end graphics or photo work anyway. The issue is that if you want to use 120Hz for gaming, and you definitely should if you want vastly improved motion clarity, then you have to make some sacrifices to the colour output to get there from HDMI 2.0. Chroma sub-sampling is explained in more detail in our review of the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ (where it is needed to reach the maximum 144Hz refresh rate at 4K) so we won’t go in to loads of detail here about what it is. In basic terms it will restrict the colour output to allow enough bandwidth to support the resolution and refresh rate, but this can lead to some loss of detail and clarity, especially evident when viewing text.
The issue is that many people don’t want to have to give up some of the colour quality in order to run at 120Hz and make full use of their nice new OLED display. They also want to be able to run at 4K, 120Hz and with 10-bit colour depth too for HDR content and gaming. That’s where HDMI 2.1 comes in, as it can offer far more bandwidth room and allows the screen to run at its full potential. You will just have to fork out a lot of additional money to get a card that supports it right now.
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The other aspect to all this is whether your graphics card can power the screen at 4K and 120Hz. That’s a huge drain on system resources and so you are going to need a powerful graphics card to run it anyway, and achieve decent frame rates and settings for games. Another good reason why you’re likely going to need to invest at the same time in a top-end card like the new NVIDIA RTX 3000 series. The screen can thankfully support variable refresh rates (VRR) from both NVIDIA and AMD cards, giving you future flexibility with graphics card vendor, and helping to eliminate tearing and provide a smooth gaming experience when your frame rates do fluctuate.
One other option open to users, especially for gaming, would be to lower the resolution and push higher refresh rates and frame rates that way. It will make it easier on your system, and you can also avoid having to sacrifice chroma and colour quality. We found the screen natively supported 1080p and 1440p resolutions from within Windows without us needing to create custom resolutions from the control panel. At 1440p and 120Hz you could run at 8-bit colour depth but with full range RGB chroma (no sub-sampling needed) from was good. Lowering another step to 1080p allowed for up to 12-bit colour processing too. The screen does have a very good upscaling algorithm as well, so this content can look pretty decent even when not running at native resolution, so it’s certainly an option if you have an older graphics card and maybe even if you have HDMI 2.1 but just want to drive higher frame rates and settings. You would probably have to switch between these resolutions in Windows before gaming though which could become a pain.
Important note: Before we get in to the measurements we wanted to highlight that we are in the process of switching all our response time measurements in these sections over to an improved ‘gamma corrected’ method. You may want to read through our article from Feb 2021 about Response Time Testing – Pitfalls, Improvements and Updating Our Methodology which talks about this a lot more. Basically this is an improved method for capturing G2G response times and overshoot, providing figures in these tables that are more reflective of real-world visual results. The measurements take in to account actual RGB changes and are closer to what you would see visually helping to analyse the visual performance more closely. The overshoot measurements are also improved dramatically, again to be more reflective to what you see visually. Our article linked above talks through why this is better and how we arrived at this improved method in much more detail.
We have been using this method for the last year but only really for our main measurement section (optimal refresh rate and overdrive mode) in the gaming part of our reviews, as taking the measurements was extremely time consuming and complicated. The other measurements in these sections where we examine the different overdrive modes and the different refresh rates were instead based on the “traditional response time” method, which is quicker and easier for us to capture considering there are loads of modes to measure. This is fine for quick comparisons and evaluation, and something that had been used for many years in the market, but not as “corrected” as the updated method.
We are in the process of switching over to using a new measurement device and software which helps massively to automate these measurements and calculations for us and makes it possible to now use this improved gamma corrected method for all the measurements. We will write a separate article about the new device and software in the future, but we have been testing and validating it against our existing equipment for the last 6 months and are happy with the accuracy and results it is producing. We will of course continue to provide pursuit camera photos which will help give you a view of real-world perceived motion clarity, to be compared alongside the device measurements.
Anyway, on to the measurements…
Above are the response times at 120Hz. Thanks to the OLED panel these are super-fast, with an average of only 0.6ms G2G measured! The best case was an incredibly impressive 0.3ms as well. All transitions can keep up easily with the frame rate demands of 120Hz, and in fact this screen could comfortably keep up with 1000Hz if the panel could support it! Let’s hope OLED refresh rates are driven much higher in the coming years, as it’s a really well suited technology for that. There is some minor overshoot in a few transitions but nothing that creates any visible artefacts or halos in real use.
It’s basically the same story at 60Hz, with the response times remaining the same at lower refresh rates. For VRR you get consistently fast and clean response times at all refresh rates, and even if you have a fixed 60Hz input you get the same super-fast response times.
This is an example oscillograph showing the response time from 150 – 255 which you can see is near instant on the rise time. Note the small fluctuating brightness in sync with a 120Hz refresh rate that we talked about earlier, that is common to OLED screens.
This is an example where there is some minor overshoot, where you can see the first peak shoots up a little higher than it should before flattening down. This does not create any visible issues or halos in real use as the overshoot is minor anyway.
Motion Clarity – Pursuit Camera Photos
We captured some pursuit camera photos of the screen at both 60Hz and 120Hz, designed to capture real-world perceived motion clarity. Despite the amazing pixel response times you still get large amount of blur at 60Hz due to the sample-and-hold nature of the OLED screen, don’t expect miracles just because it’s got fast response times. There are major and obvious benefits in motion clarity as you increase to 120Hz mode though and this is strongly encouraged for gaming wherever possible. There are no overshoot artefacts, halos or trails here at all.
Read our detailed article about input lag and the various measurement techniques which are used to evaluate this aspect of a display. The screens tested are split into two measurements which are based on our overall display lag tests and half the average G2G response time, as measured by our oscilloscope. The response time element, part of the lag you can see, is split from the overall display lag and shown on the graph as the green bar. From there, the signal processing (red bar) can be provided as a good estimation of the lag you would feel from the display. We also classify each display as follows:
- Class 1) Less than 8.33ms – the equivalent to 1 frame lag of a display at 120Hz refresh rate – should be fine for gamers, even at high levels
- Class 2) A lag of 8.33 – 16.66ms – the equivalent of one to two frames at a 120Hz refresh rate – moderate lag but should be fine for many gamers. Caution advised for serious gaming
- Class 3) A lag of more than 16.66ms – the equivalent of more than 2 frames at a refresh rate of 120Hz – Some noticeable lag in daily usage, not suitable for high end gaming
For the lowest lag performance you will need to ensure you are running in the ‘Game Optimiser’ mode for a start. Without this on and outside of the game preset mode the lag is super-high like with many TV’s and you will definitely want to avoid that for gaming. The more processing features you turn on in the menu as well, the more lag you will potentially add outside of this game mode. There is also an additional “reduce input delay (input lag)” setting in the game optimiser menu with options for ‘standard’ and ‘boost’ available. This seems to make a small improvement to the lag figures. 120Hz is definitely faster than 60Hz mode, providing an impressive 4.3ms total lag in the best case. This is much better than older TV’s and there’s a real focus on making this suitable for fast paced gaming from LG. They’ve done a decent job here, although it isn’t quite as fast as gaming monitors still which are regularly <1ms signal processing lag. T
Black Frame Insertion (BFI) – ‘OLED Motion‘
The LG C2 models feature a black frame insertion function, which operates a bit like a strobing blur reduction backlight on an LCD screen. With there being no backlight here to strobe on and off, instead a black frame is inserted in to the image periodically to “clean” the human visual system for moving content and improve perceived motion clarity. This mode is available via the Advanced Settings > Clarity > TruMotion > OLED Motion setting with a simple on/off toggle. There is no control over the timing or length of the black frame, but you do still have access to other screen settings including the OLED light level so you can make the image brighter or darker as you wish.
Unlike the previous CX and CX1 generations of this screen this BFI mode seems to be only work at 60Hz which is odd. It’s still available to turn on in the OSD menu when operating with a 120Hz input but doesn’t actually activate the BFI feature (confirmed with an oscilloscope and visual observations). We noticed a minor increase in screen brightness by about 15 nits when enabling this mode at 120Hz which implies maybe it is a setting that is supposed to do something, and there’s nothing in the user manual that states whether it is supposed to work at 120Hz or not. Perhaps this is a bug, or something that LG plan to add later, but it seems odd to not feature it when it was included on the older generation screens.
At 60Hz when OLED motion is activated there is a very noticeable flickering to the screen, and this may put a lot of users off we think. It operates at 60Hz, inserting a new black frame every 16.67ms in sync with that refresh rate. Fans of true 60Hz “strobing” will be pleased, but it does create a lot of flicker at such a lower refresh rate. It has an impact on screen brightness as well, but we measured a maximum luminance of ~127 nits at 100% OLED light level, and a minimum of ~25 nits at 0%. This 60Hz frequency is optimal for a 60Hz input, and on the older CX model there had been two settings – ‘medium’ which added a black frame at 120Hz and created a noticeable ghost image, and ‘high’ which operated at 60Hz like it does on the C2 here, and was much cleaner. LG have done away with the 120Hz option here which is for the best when it comes to motion clarity.
The BFI mode does a pretty nice job of cleaning up the motion clarity though, making moving objects sharper and clearer, and easier to track across the screen. You can see pursuit camera photos above capturing real-world perceived motion clarity at 60Hz with this mode turned off and on. One other benefit of OLED and this method of blur reduction is that there’s no strobe cross talk and no ghosting images across any part of the screen. The top, middle and bottom regions all look the same and this creates an overall very pleasing blur reduction option. It’s a shame this can’t operate at 120Hz though on the C2 display which would be even clearer and sharper. Let’s hope LG maybe add this later!
The LG 42C2 is very well positioned to handle the latest games consoles as were the previous CX and C1 generations. The screen features a native 3840 x 2160 “4K” resolution and 120Hz refresh rate and has 4x HDMI 2.1 ports with proper HDMI 2.1 capabilities (unlike many HDMI 2.1 advertised screens). These ports are also the full 48Gbps capacity links, allowing for 4K 120Hz 4:4:4 chroma where supported by the console and content. This is available from the Xbox Series X (not that there’s really content that gives you this), but the PS5 is limited to 4:2:2 chroma anyway due to the console itself.
|Native panel resolution||“4K” 3840 x 2160|
|Maximum resolution and refresh rate supported||4K @ 120Hz|
|PlayStation 5 support||4K @ 120Hz, 4:2:2 chroma (console limit)|
|Xbox Series X support||4K @ 120Hz, 4:4:4 chroma|
|Virtual 4K support||Not needed|
|4K at 24Hz support|
|4K at 50Hz support|
|HDMI connection version||v2.1 (4 ports)|
|HDMI connection bandwidth||48 Gbps|
|HDMI-VRR (over HDMI 2.1)|
|Adaptive-sync (FreeSync) over HDMI|
|Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)|
|Display aspect ratio controls|
|Dolby Vision 120Hz|
|Ultra high speed HDMI 2.1 cable provided|
The screen also importantly supports HDMI-VRR which means Xbox Series X already offers VRR support for your gaming. Sony have announced that VRR is going to be available “in the coming months” which is very likely to require the this version of VRR as well, which means the screen should be ready to support that from the PS5 once Sony add it. Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) is also available which switches you to the game optimiser mode when a game is detected, helping to minimise input lag and turn off some of the screens processing. One thing to note is that the screen does not come with an Ultra-high speed HDMI 2.1 cable sadly, so if you want to connect your PC for 4K 120Hz from a compatible graphics card, you will need to get your own cable. See our guide here about how to buy a proper HDMI 2.1 cable.
If you want to learn more about how to select a display or monitor for games consoles, check our our details article here.
HDR – High Dynamic Range
|HDR Technical Capabilities|
|HDR formats supported||HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG|
|Local dimming||Yes, pixel level OLED|
|High number of local dimming zones||Pixel level, 8.29 million|
|Increased peak brightness||717 nits measured|
|Increased dynamic range (contrast) max||Infinite|
|Increased “local” HDR contrast ratio max||Infinite|
|Wide colour gamut >90% DCI-P3||98.4% measured|
|10-bit colour depth support||12-bit processing also|
The screen is perfectly positioned to handle HDR content and surpasses anything available currently in the desktop monitor space. OLED technology has long been regarded as the best technology for HDR thanks to its pixel-level dimming capability. This allows each pixel to be individually lit, meaning you don’t need backlight local dimming zones or need to worry about issues like blooming or halos like you get on other technologies. Technically the contrast ratio you get for normal SDR content is infinite:1 as well (for maximum “dynamic range”), but in HDR mode these OLED screens are capable of offering increased peak brightness as well. Let’s compare it to the desktop monitor market though first.
Marketing image provided by LG to illustrate local dimming capabilities
Most desktop monitors, even those advertised with the very lapse and pointless VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification lack any form of local dimming for HDR. So by their nature cannot actually improve the dynamic range of the display! Sure, they can accept an HDR input source (usually just HDR10) and some may offer slightly brighter screens, maybe 10-bit colour depth, maybe a wider colour gamut but they don’t always and the HDR 400 spec doesn’t require any of that either! But without local dimming there’s no improvement to the dynamic range at all and you are basically limited by the LCD panel’s native contrast ratio. For a TN Film or IPS panel this would max out at around 1000 – 1300:1 and for a VA panel maybe around 3000 – 5000:1. Local dimming is a vital component of HDR.
Some screens might carry the higher HDR 500 or HDR 600 certifications though which do at least require some form of local dimming, making it at least viable for the dynamic range to be improved. Those specs also require a higher peak brightness of 500 or 600 cd/m2, 10-bit colour depth and wide DCI-P3 gamut so you can at least expect a better HDR potential from HDR 500/600 screens. However, all of these screens feature only fairly simple edge-lit local dimming of the backlight in a very limited number of zones. This is normally something like 8 zones, maybe 16 or 32 if you’re lucky. In theory this can allow for improved dynamic range across the screen as a whole, with the backlight being capable of dimming darker areas while brightening others. In practice you don’t get much of an improvement in “local HDR contrast” between adjacent areas of light and dark, and it’s not capable of picking out smaller highlights or sample areas very well.
For the top-end HDR experience in the monitor market today you’d be looking currently at some of the niche and very expensive top-end models with a Full array Local Dimming (FALD) backlight. We’ve reviewed models like the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ and PG35VQ in the past with 384-zone and 512-zone local dimming backlights for instance. These meet the upper tier HDR 1000 standard so can reach even higher peak brightness of 1000 cd/m2, along with wide gamut colour space and 10-bit colour depth. These FALD options, and some newer “mini LED” options like the Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX we’ve also reviewed for instance (HDR 1400 with 1152 zones) have even more (and smaller) dimming zones and represent the best available HDR options on desktop LCD monitors today. The problem is these models are very expensive and top-end, and even with many hundred zones, it can still leave you with some issues for HDR content. Blooming and halos are still a problem when smaller highlights are needing to be brightened, and while the more zones the better, it will never be as optimal as per-pixel dimming like on OLED.
So the dimming capabilities of the OLED panel here easily surpass all desktop monitors when it comes to HDR, and the true black and infinite contrast make it ideal for improving the dynamic range. This particular LG C2 OLED also has the necessary wide gamut and 10-bit colour depth support (with 12-bit processing) so it offers the boosted colours and appearance associated with HDR content too. Being a TV it is also more equipped than most LCD monitors, even those at the top end, at handling different HDR standards, being able to support HDR 10, Dolby Vision and HLG standards.
Pre-measurement notes and settings
When you input an HDR source, including activating Windows HDR mode from a PC the screen auto-switches in to the HDR preset modes. You can customise each HDR preset if you want, and you will need to remember to do things like turn sharpness down from 10 to 0 for a PC connection like we did in the SDR modes before.
Note that the only thing we disabled for these measurements was the ‘Dynamic Tone Mapping’ (DTM) function in the menu, which we will examine in a moment. This can skew gamma curve and brightness measurements and for those focused on “artistic intent” it is probably something you don’t want to have on. If you’re watching HDR content in a daytime conditions or a room that isn’t very dark, you may want to turn this feature on as it boosts the brightness in darker shades quite nicely to help bring out shadow detail better. It won’t be as “accurate” per se, but it’s probably down to user taste.
Useful reading – OLED Dimming Confusion – APL, ABL, ASBL, TPC and GSR Explained
Default HDR Mode – Standard
The default HDR mode is called ‘standard’ and like the default SDR mode (Eco mode), is set up far too cool. The colour temp and white point are 47% out from our target of 6500k and create a cool and bluish appearance to the image. (Note that the vertical scale of the middle RGB balance graph has been changed here to capture all the lines). The gamma is pretty good although it is a bit low in medium to light grey shades and this can result in a little loss of light grey shade detail. But is does mean that the highlights look a bit brighter and more defined. Because of the overly cool setup, the greyscale was very inaccurate compared with our 6500k target.
The colour gamut in the native mode is compared here against the Rec.2020 space that HDR content is mastered in. There’s a fairly typical coverage of the Rec.2020 space at 74.4% here, nothing amazing here but in keeping with other OLED screens. Colour accuracy in this ‘standard’ mode is poor though because of the overly cool default setup.
There was a reasonable peak brightness here from the panel at 717 nits, and this was possible for small sized windows and also up to 10% white window. Thanks to the OLED panel you don’t get any halos or blooming, and so these highlights stand out very nicely and produce an excellent observed contrast thanks to the true blacks of the panel. The peak brightness is basically the same as the CX and C1 generations, and some people may be disappointed that it cannot get higher, especially when you can get much higher peak brightness specs from Mini LED/FALD backlit LCD displays. In fact you can find some LCD screens like the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 for instance that can reach 2000 nits.
There was much promotion by LG of a 20% improvement in peak brightness with their new “OLED Evo” technology, so why isn’t that seen here? Actually that brightness improvement is possible thanks to LG’s “Brightness Booster” technology, which is only being added to the C2 screens 55″ and larger. It is not featured on the 42″ or 48″ models due to their size and due to heat dissipation concerns and burn in risks. So 42″ users will have to live with the peak brightness being basically the same as the older generation CX and C1 models which is a shame. We would have loved to have seen boosted brightness here as well.
Film Maker Mode
For a more accurate HDR experience you can switch to the ‘Film Maker’ mode which has a colour temp and white point much closer to 6500k as we wanted. This results in a significantly improved greyscale accuracy as well.
Colour accuracy is now much better as well. The pure red and pure green shades of the Rec.2020 space cannot be produced given the screen cannot cover all that colour space, which is where the main errors are in this graph. If we ignore those shades, the average dE was now 1.8 which was excellent.
For those who might be specifically interested in content created and mastered in the smaller DCI-P3 reference then we have provided measurements against that specific colour space instead of Rec.2020. You can see that the displays colour gamut on the left very closely matches DCI-P3, and we had a 98.4% absolute coverage which was very good. Accuracy of DCI-P3 colours was good overall with an average dE of 2.3.
Peak brightness performance was very similar in this mode as well.
We plan to create an additional guide for how to set the LG C2 OLED up optimally in different modes – keep an eye out for updates later on!
Dynamic Tone Mapping Impact
We turned dynamic tone mapping (DTM) ‘off’ for the testing above, but thought we would test its impact in a bit more detail. This DTM can be useful if you’re using the screen in a brighter room or during the daytime and it can help particularly with making darker parts of the image a bit easier to see and improving shadow detail. The processing of this DTM will move the picture further away from “creator intent” which some people like to try and avoid, but then given HDR is supposed to be viewed in a dark room as well, we expect most people’s viewing conditions are already away from creators intent anyway. It’s the kind of thing you can experiment with to see what you prefer for your personal viewing conditions and preference, it has a simple on/off control in the OSD menu.
Testing was carried out in the Film Maker mode at default settings:
With DTM turned on you can notice a fairly obvious change to the brightness of the screen to the naked eye, particularly in darker content. The top graphs tracking the PQ EOTF and luminance levels show that the brightness is increased a little beyond the target in dark to mid grey shades which is what is making it brighter to the user. With DTM turned off in the bottom graphs you can see that darker greys follow the PQ EOTF properly, although the roll-off point is more gradual and curved that the target when you reach a grey shade of 60 (measured along the horizontal bottom axis). This has the effect of making the brightest shades a bit more distinguishable than they otherwise would be and compensates a little for the (relatively) low peak brightness capability of the OLED panel, making highlights stand out a bit more.
Movies and Video
The following summarises the screens performance for videos and movie viewing:
|Category||Display Specs / Measurements||Comments|
|Size||42″||Very large for a desktop monitor even with this latest smaller sized OLED option. Good for movie and video viewing though|
|Aspect Ratio||16:9||Well suited to most common 16:9 aspect content and input devices|
|Resolution||3840 x 2160 “4K”||Can support Ultra HD “4K” and 1080p content natively|
|HDCP||Yes v2.2||Suitable for encrypted content including the latest v2.2|
|Connectivity||4x HDMI 2.1||Good range of HDMI connectivity for consoles, Blu-ray players etc. While they are all v2.1 they are all backwards compatible with earlier versions. You will need a modern graphics card to use the screen fully and properly from a PC|
|Cables||None||In an effort to keep costs down as much as possible, no video cables are provided unfortunately|
|Ergonomics||None||No adjustments from the stand so might be tricky to position for a variety of viewing positions. Wall mounting is an option popular with many owners|
|Coating||Glossy||Provides clear, non-grainy image and but may lead to some unwanted reflections in some situations depending on your ambient lighting. Better viewing in a darkened room|
|Brightness range||38 – 262 cd/m2 (SDR)|
~707 cd/m2 (peak HDR)
|Reasonable adjustment range offered in PC mode although not super bright. When in HDR mode the peak brightness is decent, more on that in the previous section. Flicker free backlight operation with no PWM|
|Contrast||Infinite||Amazing contrast thanks to the self-emitting OLED panel where pixels are turned fully off for full black. Produces incredible contrast ratio and shadow detail|
|Preset modes||Cinema (plus others)||There is a cinema mode available which has a pretty decent setup and allows access to more settings than the default profile. Film maker mode is also available. May be useful to use if you want something else set up for movies away from your desktop profile. When an HDR or Dolby Vision input signal is detected the display will also switch in to the HDR / DV mode which can be customised separately as well.|
|Response times||0.6ms G2G at all refresh rates with very low overshoot||Response times are excellent and near-instantaneous thanks to the OLED panel. Don’t expect wonders for motion clarity at 60Hz though still. Refresh rate plays an important role here. You do get some additional judder on 24p content for panning shots in movies as a result of the response times being so fast. You may want to experiment with the TruMotion anti-judder settings here if it’s a problem|
|Viewing angles||Excellent||Super-wide viewing angles thanks to the OLED panel and no glow like you would get on an IPS panel on dark content|
|Backlight bleed||None||No bleed as when an all black image is shown, the pixels are turned off thanks to the OLED panel|
|Audio||Headphone output and very good Dolby Atmos speakers||Being a TV this screen provides very good integrated speakers well beyond anything you’d get from a normal desktop monitor. The α9 Gen 5 AI Processor up-mixes 2-channel audio into virtual 7.1.2 channel sound. A headphone jack is also provided|
|Aspect Ratio Controls||16:9, original, 4:3, vertical zoom and 4-way zoom settings||Good options to account for non-16:9 format inputs via the “original” and “4:3” modes if needed. Many inputs will be the native 16:9 though|
|PiP / PbP||Both supported||The C2 series has added “multi view” allowing for PiP and PbP, although the available inputs are a bit limited at the moment|
|Additional features||Remote control|
Smart TV features
|Being a TV there are also a range of extra features that will be very handy for movie viewing. The packaged Smart Remote is versatile and efficient. There are many in-built applications like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Disney+ etc as well for easy access and use.|
|HDR support||See earlier section||see earlier section for detailed analysis|
There was a lot to test, measure and consider when reviewing the 42C2 OLED and the main question we were trying to answer here is whether this makes a good desktop monitor or not? Short summary, yes, we think it does – with some caveats.
The main issue we had with the older CX and C1 generations was the size of the models available. Even the smallest 48″ models were just too large for a desk in my opinion. It’s just too big, cumbersome, difficult, and sometimes painful to use something that big on your desk as a monitor. The text size also wasn’t great as 4K on a 48″ screen is a fairly low pixel density. LG’s new 42″ size is definitely a much better option, and having used the screen for many hours over the last couple of weeks we have found it usable and comfortable on the whole. You will need to consider if you’ve got the space for it, whether your desk is large enough and whether you can sit a sensible distance from it, but if you can then we don’t think that 42″ is too large nowadays. It gives you a very usable screen size for 4K resolution at 100% scaling, with a nice boost in desktop space as a result compared with 4K monitors where you lose a lot of that space due to the need to use scaling on a smaller screen. The text size and pixel density was more akin to modern monitors and that was definitely welcome.
For general everyday usage there were some drawbacks though. Text sharpness and clarity wasn’t perfect because of the unusual pixel structure, the TPC OLED protection feature (aka ABL) feature was sometimes annoying when dimming the screen, and the lack of any ergonomic adjustments without even a small tilt range made it a bit uncomfortable to use. The glossy coating was also sometimes a bit of a challenge with reflections, although it is still preferable to use this coating option for optimal picture quality and when considering other uses like HDR and gaming. The lack of some monitor-type features like DisplayPort, USB type-C, USB ports, KVM switches etc are also a shame, but on this screen they’ve been replaced instead with more TV-like features like smart TV apps, decent speakers etc – after all, this is still an LG TV range product. The default setup is really poor, but easily adjusted and improved thankfully to a decent standard, and there’s a proper sRGB emulation mode too which is great news. Of course in the back of your mind you still have that concern around image retention and burn in that could be an issue to some users when using the screen for lots of static content. So for general monitor usage, while it’s definitely better than the older generations thanks to the smaller size, you have to live with a few shortcomings still.
If we think about gaming, HDR and multimedia then the C2 really shines and in many ways sets itself apart from normal desktop monitors. The instant response times, true blacks and infinite contrast ratios of OLED technology are superior to nearly all desktop monitors, which are still reliant on LCD technology. You won’t get anywhere near this performance from the LCD market. Thankfully you also still get excellent gaming features like 4K @ 120Hz refresh rate, decent VRR support and G-sync/FreeSync certifications too. The refresh rate won’t keep up with the latest gaming monitors, and motion clarity and frame rate support won’t be quite as good as a result. The lag is low, but not as low as modern gaming screens so if you’re focus is on competitive gaming, FPS or achieving absolute optimal gaming performance then you will still find better in the monitor market. But then that’s not really the gaming niche this screen is going after, it’s more for people who want to play a variety of games, including PC and console games, and in various genres. We would love to see refresh rate increased for future LG OLED generations as 120Hz feels a bit limited for PC gaming nowadays – can we have a 240Hz OLED please LG?
One gaming area that was a bit disappointing was the BFI blur reduction mode. If you like pure 60Hz strobing then the performance for that is very good, and OLED is very well suited to handling this kind of feature. We found the obvious flickering too distracting. We have no idea why the 120Hz BFI mode doesn’t currently work, but we hope LG haven’t removed it and will update via a firmware later on, as that’s likely to be a far more usable mode. For now, it’s a missing feature that the older CX and C1 models had. Not everyone likes these modes, but keep this in mind if you do.
The screen is well equipped to handle games consoles with 4x proper HDMI 2.1 ports, full bandwidth and all the HDMI 2.1 related features you could want. It really is a great screen for modern consoles from all aspects. The lack of DisplayPort connectivity does make the screen a bit less accessible for PC gamers, and you will need to keep in mind you’ll likely need to fork out for a top of the range graphics card with HDMI 2.1 to realise the full potential of this screen and to power it.
HDR performance is excellent as you’d expect from an OLED panel. The multi-format support, per pixel dimming, true blacks and infinite contrast ratio come in to play again here to create an amazing experience. Sadly the 42″ and 48″ models of the C2 range lack the 20% brightness boost of the new C2 range, so the peak brightness capabilities is still similar to the older models. Still, HDR is something this screen does very well for gaming and video.
All in all the 42C2 feels a lot more like a monitor/TV crossover than the CX and C1 generations thanks to the new 42″ size. The performance is largely similar to the older models when it comes to gaming, HDR and general usage so if you already have an older model it’s probably not worth upgrading to a C2. But, if you were holding off because the old models were too big, or have been on the fence considering an OLED TV as a monitor then this could be a great time to look at the C2. It’s pretty reasonably priced when you consider the features, specs and capabilities and line that up with a high end gaming monitor. It’s available from various places in the UK including Amazon at a price of £1399 GBP at the time of writing (affiliate link). You can keep an eye on availability and pricing of all the C2 models in your region on Amazon here (affiliate link).
- Further reading – if you’re after a different gaming screen you should also check out our TFTCentral Recommendations List for Gaming Monitors
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