I’m excited. You’re excited. And if you aren’t, you really should be. Welcome to the most epic TV battle of 2021.
This comparison pits the LG G1 OLED Evo against the Sony Bravia XR A90J OLED, the two best 4K OLEDs from each brand, with both representing the next generation of OLED and offering more brightness than any OLED TV we’ve seen before. Very exciting, if you ask me. In this comparison we’ll take a quick look at design and user experience, talk about how each TV achieves that new brightness, figure out which TV is actually brighter, as well as when and if that brightness matters, and look at picture quality as a whole before getting to some gaming stuff, all to determine which OLED TV deserves a coveted spot in your home.
Before we dive in, be aware that the Sony A90J can cost as much as $1,000 more than the LG (the Sony 65-inch TV is $4,000, while the LG G1 is $3,000). Prices always come down over time, but a key question to answer in this comparison is whether there can really be a $1,000 difference between these two advanced OLED TVs.
The LG G1 OLED Evo, part of LG’s gallery series, is really meant to be mounted on the wall. The TV has an even thickness across the back, so it doesn’t have that pencil-thin profile we often see with OLEDs, but it does come with a flush-mount wall bracket in the box and, frankly, looks better on the wall than the Sony. That’s because the Sony A90J has a more traditional pencil-thin form factor with a little bit of a bump toward the lower third of the TV that pushes it away from the wall.
While the LG comes out on top for wall mounting, the Sony is the better pick for stand mounting. If you want to use a soundbar, you can set up the TV’s feet so it leaves space for one under the TV and between the feet. If no soundbar is involved, the feet can be reoriented to sit the TV flush against its supporting media cabinet or stand, a setup that is clearly more attractive than the LG G1 and its add-on feet, which do not come with the TV, cost $100, and also leave so much space that you’ll be able to see cables if you don’t use a soundbar.
When I refer to user experience, I mean to encompass not just the two TVs’ respective smart TV platforms, but also all the menus and settings you have to interact with when setting up, adjusting, and customizing a TV.
As far as Smart TV platforms go, LG’s newly overhauled WebOS is solid. I like the dark theme, it is easier to read, feels a little more serious and less bubbly than before, is easy to navigate, and it offers just about everything you need — except HBO Max. For now, anyway.
The LG G1 also supports Alexa and Google Assistant, and has its own built-in A.I. assistant, which can tell you who is in the scene of a movie you’re watching, where the scene was filmed, and what the actors are wearing. It’s fairly advanced … when it works.
The Sony, on the other hand, runs Google TV, and I dig it. The more I use Google TV, the more I like it, and I’m glad the experience I’ve been getting on my Chromecast is finally built into a TV. The platform’s recommendation engine is getting better the more I use it, and if I want to use voice, Google Assistant is here.
Outside of the Smart TV stuff, I like to consider how you interact with the TV to get to certain settings, how you make adjustments, that sort of thing. I’ve found the LG has a LOT more settings built-in — and some of them are very useful., including the great Gaming Optimizer dashboard that we’ll talk more about later. Unfortunately, I’ve found that wading through this stuff can be a little sluggish, and the logic tree the menu is built on can be frustrating to navigate sometimes. Maybe that won’t be a bid deal for the average user — as a reviewer, I have to wade around in these menus for hours at a time, so maybe I’m just whining.
I have to argue, though, that Sony’s overall interactive experience is better. It’s very clear about where settings live, and it also pops out little explainer boxes next to each setting so you know what pushing that button or moving that slider bar is going to do for the image. The system is also a bit more responsive, which is something to which I am particularly sensitive. I don’t like to wait. I’m impatient, and the Sony A90J gets me.
Under the hood
Now let’s talk about panels and processing. This is normally not exciting stuff, but in this case, both elements have everything to do with picture quality and just how bright the TVs can get.
The LG G1 has what LG calls its OLED Evo panel. OLED evolved, right? And what that means behind the scenes is that there is a new panel in use that has been designed with purer red and blue pixels and a more accurate green pixel structure that veers away from yellow a bit. Combined, the panel offers more accurate AND brighter color. LG also leans on its Alpha 9 Gen 4 processor in conjunction with this new panel to judiciously juice up the panel to be bright where it needs to, when it needs to, and for as long as it needs to. The two factors combined are what constitute “Evo.”
Sony’s approach is a little bit different. It looks like Sony is probably using the same advanced panel that LG is — I do not have confirmation of that from Sony yet, and I may not get it — but I don’t think whether it does or doesn’t matters that much in the end.
What’s certain is that Sony is going a step further than LG by adding a heat sink to the panel structure that allows the panel to be driven harder without compromising the OLED materials in the process. I should also mention that the Sony’s color is pinpoint accurate when properly set up, so whether it uses the same panel as the LG doesn’t matter practically, because the Sony is exactly where it needs to be for brightness and color.
So which is brighter? I’m going to get to that in a minute. First, let’s talk about sound.
I know some of you may be thinking that if you’re going to drop thousands on a TV, why not at least splurge on a decent soundbar. I get it. But some folks just want a TV and no extra equipment, and if you are going to spend so much on a TV, I think it should sound good without a soundbar. Fortunately, both of these TVs sound great — but there is a clear winner.
The LG G1 has a remarkable amount of bass capabilities considering how thin it is. You get more bass than you’d expect, and dialog clarity is never a problem. It also has a nice amount of refined treble that adds sparkle just where you want it and is never harsh. The only thing I don’t care for is LG’s AI Pro Sound processing, which brings what I feel is an artificial wash to the sound as it tries to create virtual surround effects. I think the standard sound mode with some of LG’s calibration optimizations sounds best.
The Sony A90J sounds better. The screen is the speaker system thanks to transducers mounted to the back of the panel itself. Add in a subwoofer system hiding in the back that Sony beefed up this year, along with Sony’s audio processing, and this TV sounds insanely good. Solid bass, incredible localization of sounds on the screen, and the virtual surround effects are super-impressive. At least, that’s how it played out in my room.
Let’s talk brightness. When I measured the LG in Cinema mode, I got about 400 nits in Standard Dynamic Range (SDR), about 830 nits in High Dynamic Range (HDR), and 860 nits in Vivid mode (those figures could be a little low, due to the nature of the light meter I used). The G1 probably gets closer to 900 nits in HDR.
Numbers aside, the G1 is significantly brighter than any prior year’s models. You don’t need a light meter to know this is true because it is quite obviously a brighter OLED TV. Also, the LG’s white balance, which influences color accuracy, was spot on out of the box. I didn’t have to touch a thing, and that’s never been true before. Not even with the Sony A90J. So, there’s no need to hire a calibrator.
On the Sony A90J in custom mode, I got to about 360 nits in SDR, 800 nits in HDR, and a whopping 1,250 nits in Vivid mode. Adjusting for the meter, that’s probably closer to 1,300 nits that we’ve seen measured by others. So, by the numbers, the LG looks a little more powerful until you get to vivid mode, and that’s where the Sony really goes beast mode.
Frankly, though, I would never use Vivid mode unless I was hosting a party in the middle of the day where I wanted the ball game to be piercingly bright, even though the sun was shining right on the TV. So honestly, I don’t care about that 1,300 nits number, nor do I care too much about comparing the brightness measurements because everything changes when you are actually watching TV and not a white box on a black background test pattern — which, by the way, is terribly unentertaining.
The LG and Sony have different ways of going about using their brightness powers for good, and there were a few instances where I felt like one TV was brighter than the other. On par, though, they felt very similar, even side by side.
The differences come down to how the TVs handle HDR highlights, where the TVs choose to clip, and how the HDR tone mapping is handled so you see details in bright areas and in shadowy areas, too. Both TVs are excellent. They are just … different.
Personally, I prefer the Sony A90J for overall picture quality, and I think the reason why comes down to Sony’s new Bravia XR Cognitive processor. Never mind the name and the manufacture claims, I just love what I see and I know it’s the processor doing it. When it comes down to fine details and upscaling, the Sony simply looks sharper.
The LG G1 is no slouch, mind you. It is also an amazing TV. I think which is best will always come down to one’s personal preference. Nobody buying either of these TVs is going to be anything other than blown away.
The LG G1 does have an ace up its sleeve that can not be denied: Gaming chops.
Simply put, the LG G1 OLED Evo is arguably the best gaming TV you can buy.
The G1 offers four HDMI 2.1 inputs, 4K 120 Hz gaming with HDR and variable refresh rate (VRR), and G-Sync and FreeSync support thrown in for good measur. More importantly, all of those features work right out of the box. Plus, LG has a killer Gaming Optimizer dashboard that gives incredible control over the gaming experience, from input lag reduction to raising black levels for really dark games so you can see your enemies before they’re right on top of you. Simply put, the LG G1 OLED Evo is arguably the best gaming TV you can buy, with the LG C1 series not far behind it.
The Sony A90J is also great for gaming, but it comes with a few limitations. One is that there are only two 4K 120 Hz ports, and one of them is the eARC port, which is a little limiting. The other issue is that it doesn’t look like Sony has variable refresh rate functionality totally sorted out yet. VRR support was and is supposed to come to 2020 TVs this spring. but I’m concerned it may be quite a bit later than that. There’s also the remote possibility there never will be VRR support. Who knows? But, if you take VRR out of the equation and you look practically at gameplay with the PlayStation 5 and even the Xbox Series X, it’s still an excellent gaming experience. I mean, 120 Hz gaming is super-smooth, with no blur. And the HDR effects are gorgeous.
Still, the LG G1 comes out on top.
Which TV is the better one for you! There is no one size fits all here — which one is best for you comes down to your needs. I will say, though, that if you have the means, and hardcore gaming features aren’t a priority, then I would purchase the Sony A90J because I simply adore the TV. It makes me feel things.
But for most folks, the LG G1 is by far the smarter choice. At least for now, it is far less expensive, it is a top-notch performer, and there’s no better gaming TV. It’s also still expensive, but far more attainable than the Sony. So, while I love the Sony A90J and would buy it in a heartbeat, I’m going to have to say that LG comes out on top in this battle because it brings that super-premium experience to a larger audience.
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