(Pocket-lint) - When the term "OLED" is uttered around people who like TVs, there's a twitch of excitement. An eye sparkles, an eyebrow raises, a corner of the mouth curls into a smile. That all comes down to the reputation that OLED has acquired: movie fans want to own an OLED TV, while LCD-LED TV manufacturers want to out-perform OLED TVs.
Where once the message was all about curved OLED, now it's only this C6 that offers a curved display in the LG range, which also houses a full line-up of flat OLED panels, too, in the G, E and B ranges. Of those four, the 55-inch LG OLED C6 - with its catchy OLED55C6V name - is the most affordable proposition, matching the price point of its flat B6 sibling. Is it the 4K OLED TV to buy?
LG OLED C6 review: Design
If you've been following the story of OLED over the past few years, you'll know that one of the advantages it offers is how flexibly it can be formed into shapes and how thin the panels can be. We've seen wavy OLED displays, OLED wallpaper and then there's the ultra-thin picture-on-glass design that LG's top G6 OLED model offers.
As amazingly good as the G6 is, the step down to the C6 model means you lose some of that jaw-dropping design, but really not as much as you might expect. And you save a whole bunch of cash in the process - and we're talking £1,500 (like-for-like 65-inch size).
The OLED55C6V may be double the thickness of the G6 through the panel, but it's still thinner than a pencil. Unlike the G6 (and step-down E6 flat-panel), however, the C6 carries all its connections and components on the rear, like many other televisions, rather than through an attached soundbar or separate connection box.
So while you have that wonderfully thin display, you return to a more conventional bump where the brains live lower down. For us this isn't a negative - just how thin do you need your TV to be? - because the LG OLED C6 looks good from all angles. Arguably it's not the best TV to look at from the rear, but for most households, that will never be an issue.
There's a very slight metal framing to the edges of that display, which carries a curve that's subtle enough to be barely noticeable when you're sitting in front of it.
The curved design might not be for everyone and that's a point worth considering. The curved argument has always been about making content more immersive for the viewer, but also better for those people at wider angles. That's true, but placement is important: with a light source on one side (like a window), there's definitely a sweet spot in the centre. At that point, reflections are well handled, but out at a wider angle and they are more of a problem.
The main run of connections are down the left-hand side and that's handy for anyone planning to wall-mount this TV, but they are close to the edge, and it's easy to have a rogue cable popping out the side in full view if you don't take care to secure them.
The C6's looks are boosted by its stand. Although much of the 2016 LG OLED talk has been about the soundbar base of the G6 and E6 models, it's worth looking at the C6's stand, because it's very neatly designed. With a solid central foot, topped with a transparent bar that supports the TV, it gives the impression that the TV is floating.
LG OLED C6 review: Setup, connections and remote
Continuing LG's webOS story, setting up the OLED C6 is fun, thanks to the return of Bean Bird. Lovely animation makes LG ownership rewarding the moment you plug it in, as running through the setup is interesting, rather than being a boring process. The C6 will want to know what's connected to it, will take over control of connected devices if it can, saving you from juggling between remotes.
There are three HDMI sockets (all HDCP 2.2 compliant) and three USB, as well as legacy connections for older kit you might have - although if you're looking at this level of television then we suspect you'll have all eyes on the HDMIs. You'll want to hook it up to your network for the best smart experience and Wi-Fi and Ethernet are provided to do so.
LG has offered a range of remotes over the past few years and with the C6 you get a combined motion and button remote, which can be used in either way. We much prefer the conventional clicking up and down through menus, rather than using a motion-controlled pointer. Thankfully the remote includes buttons for things like settings and input control, to make it easy to do the things you really need to do. What it really lacks is an "i" button so you can see exactly what you're looking at, especially in these early days of new UHD and HDR formats.
Another thing we don't like about motion is that it might detect you putting down the remote as a gesture. Sometimes a movement might see you scrolling a menu when you don't want to. So it's not the best remote you'll find for a TV and we wish there was a regular buttoned remote or the option to disable motion permanently. It's an oddity that in the E6 OLED you get a pair of remotes, including one more traditional by design.
LG offers you the chance to control your other devices with your remote. Conversely, anyone using a set-top box will probably opt to control the TV with that set-top box's remote instead.
LG OLED C6 review: Picture and performance
In 2016 the story is all about 4K (or Ultra HD) and HDR (high dynamic range). Which is exactly what the C6 is all about too.
The panel is packed with 3840 x 2160 pixels and pushing what LG is calling OLED HDR, making this set is one of the few TVs you'll find that supports Dolby Vision, as well as carrying the Ultra HD Premium badge.
That means LG's set supports a wider range of HDR formats than its rivals, although Dolby Vision is a rarity: in the UK only Netflix currently supports Dolby Vision HDR right now, with Marco Polo beign about the only programme available at the time of writing.
OLED's big sell is that the pixels themselves emit the light, rather than having to manage and direct light from another source, such as with edge-LED illumination, or full LED backlight array.
That means lots of things: firstly, that OLED provides inky deep blacks that are really black. Where LCD-LED TVs sometimes bleed light into black bars top and bottom (edge illumination), or show halos around high contrast elements (backlight array), like white titles on a black background, OLED performs much better - and that's true of the C6. Indeed, the picture quality is much like its G6 bigger brother. And that, as we said, is so good that it's almost silly.
For HDR that has an advantage: because the illumination is so well controlled across the panel, darks are really dark and highlights are naturally revealed. Turning to our favourite tricky scene at the opening of The Revenant that transitions from dark to light, the OLED handles this in a way that Panasonic's DX902 couldn't, even with its direct illumination.
There are a few shortcomings though. OLED isn't as bright as LED, so you'll find that within that HDR richness, you don't always get the same handling of very bright elements. There can be some loss of detail as things blow out at the top levels, but all these things need to be relevant: the picture is still exceptional, but the wow factor you'll get from Samsung's flagship LED HDR TVs is perhaps more prevalent, even if it can be too bright at times.
The message with HDR has always been that you see what the director intended, yet there are still HDR viewing modes - standard, dark and vivid, which throws that notion out of the window. When connected to an HDR source, the default HDR picture mode takes over and you can choose how that HDR looks; the same applies to Dolby Vision too - you might be reading a constant stream of metadata to dictate how the picture should look, but you still get to mess around with it.
Mentioning Dolby Vision (DV) we're gifted a scene in Marco Polo with bright windows illuminating a darker room. It's an HDR classic scene, but also shows how Dolby Vision performs better than HDR10. A similar scene in The Man in the High Castle (just swap Mongols for Nazis), sees an HDR10 rendering where shadow detail gets a little lost and the intense brightness of the window is less well handled than the Dolby equivalent. DV may be better, but there's so little content in this format, so we'll have to wait to see it reach full potential.
There's also some tripping up of motion control in detailed pans. The downside of everything being sharper and more detailed is that it's more noticeable when there's a clash of panning verticals. TruMotion control is a must and the custom user settings will let you tweak things to smooth it out and find a point that suits your tastes.
An advantage of those deep blacks is that OLED creates vibrant colours, meaning there's amazing punch to everything. From HD Grey's Anatomy streamed via Chromecast, to the full HDR glory of an Ultra HD Blu-ray, colours are always impressive on the OLED C6.
There are some settings that will throw things off – be wary of the eye-saving option (think Night Mode) as this makes everything much warmer to cut out the blue light. Ensure you don't have it turned on when you're trying to tweak your TV's picture settings, as you'll never be able to get rid of the yellow hue. Tuning the display to your preference is something you'll want to do as out of the box things are a little warm and dark - and can benefit from a bit of a lift, as long as you don't try to force the screen too bright and destroy the deep blacks.
LG OLED C6 review: Sound
If there's a shortcoming of this TV, then it's the sound performance. Where the flagship OLED G6 and E6 TVs come with a more substantial soundbar, the C6 offers 4-channel 40W speakers.
The result is that the OLED C6 is a little thin in terms of sound, lacking the bass to provide an earth-moving experience. You'll want to pair this screen with a separate sound system to get the most out of the content you're watching and bring a little depth back to things.
LG OLED C6 review: Connected services and Freeview Play
If you're not hooking up to set-top box then you might be missing out on some of the next-gen content out there now offered by the likes of Sky Q. However, in the UK, LG is offering Freeview Play as the electronic programme guide (EPG) on the C6 - something it doesn't even offer on the top-end G6 (an odd decision). That means you have access to a range of catch-up content, without having to open up each app directly.
This is the same system that underpins Panasonic's UK EPG and, although it's currently less well-specified than the rival YouView offering (on Sony TVs), it still has a lot going for it.
Sadly, at the time of writing, the update for the LG C6 hasn't happened yet, so we can't comment on how well Freeview Play is integrated into this TV. As it currently stands, there's a basic Freeview EPG which is fairly standard and unexciting. We suspect that if you're paying this sort of money for this level of TV, you'll be using your own set-top box anyway, so it might be a moot point.
The story of a modern TV isn't just about broadcast, however, it's about streaming too. With Netflix offering not only Ultra HD content (and plenty of it), it also offers HDR content, and uniquely, Dolby Vision. Netflix is especially well handled, as the OLED55C6V is one of the few TVs to meet the Netflix Recommended standard, meaning instant on and other features, giving a slightly enhanced Netflix experience over some other brands of TV.
Add into the mix Now TV, Amazon Video and plenty of other apps and you're looking at an experience that's fully connected and full of content to exploit the TV's skills.
Not only that, but LG's webOS interface makes an impact even if you're mostly using a set-top box, thanks to the ribbon design. One press of the button and you can be switching to your favourite app quickly and easily, with enough customisation to ensure that you're being offered the things that you want to see first and foremost.
WebOS remains one of our top options for TV interfaces, but currently the Freeview EPG is the weak part of the puzzle.
The LG OLED C6 is an excellent example of the skills that OLED offers. The picture quality is stunning regardless of the source, with vibrancy in colours, blacks so deep you'll fall into them and a handling of HDR and Ultra HD content that will put a smile on your face.
Available in both 55- and 65-inch sizes, what's remarkable about LG's OLED range is that all the displays are similar in performance, with the price and model differences mostly coming down to design and audio. If you're looking for a great picture, you won't be disappointed. Which makes us think the C6 is the more logical purchase than the super-expensive G6 flatpanel.
If there's one weakness in OLED picture quality then it's brightness. The C6 is plenty bright enough, but can't come close to the HDR peaks as found in, say, the Samsung KS9500.
However, having seen a number of curved OLED TVs from LG in the past, the C6 is a stronger package than the brand's 2015 line-up. The sound quality isn't exciting, thogh, so an external speaker setup is very much recommended to complete the package.
There's another downside too: price. OLED isn't cheap and for the price of this 55-inch model - some £2,299 - you could choose from a wide range of larger TVs adept in many areas and have enough change to buy yourself an Ultra HD Blu-ray player.
Ultimately, however, the LG OLED C6 is an exercise in excellent picture quality. If curved is your thing and you have something of a healthy TV budget, then this is a set that comes highly recommended.