LG OLED42C3 Review: 4K 120Hz OLED TV

The LG OLED42C3 is a 42" 4K 120Hz OLED TV with a wide color gamut, an infinite contrast ratio, high peak brightness, instant response time and more!

Bottom Line

As expected from an LG OLED display, you get an incredible HDR image quality and buttery smooth gaming performance. The 42″ sized screen certainly feels better as a desktop monitor than 48″, but a lot of users will still find it too big. There are also a few alternatives and upcoming displays to keep in mind.

Design:
(5.0)
Display:
(4.8)
Performance:
(4.8)
Price/Value:
(4.5)
4.8

The LG OLED42C3 is an affordable 42″ 4K 120Hz OLED TV, ideal for those looking for a large format gaming display.

Image Quality

The main advantage of OLED panels is that they don’t rely on a backlight to produce the image; instead, each individual pixel is self-emissive, resulting in true blacks and an infinite contrast ratio. There’s also no backlight bleeding, haloing, glowing, or similar visual artifacts.

Further, the LG OLED42C3 provides you with vibrant and lifelike colors thanks to its wide 98% DCI-P3 color gamut and precise factory calibration out of the box. An sRGB emulation mode is also available for better accuracy when watching SDR content.

The display supports true 10-bit color depth for 1.07 billion colors with smooth gradients, while the 178° wide viewing angles ensure that the picture remains perfect regardless of the angle you’re looking at the screen.

Next, the 4K UHD resolution looks crisp and sharp even on the 41.5″ viewable screen of the OLED42C3 TV with a pixel density of 106 PPI (pixels per inch), which is comparable to that of 27″ 2560×1440 displays (108 PPI). So, you get plenty of screen real estate and crystal-clear details and text without any scaling necessary.

Keep in mind that 4K UHD is quite demanding on the CPU/GPU, so make sure your hardware will be able to handle your favorite games at decent frame rates.

One of the drawbacks of OLED technology is brightness. The LG OLED42C3 cannot get as bright as similarly priced LED-backlit displays. It has a peak brightness of 700-nits for a 10% white window, so you still get an immersive HDR viewing experience with vivid highlights.

Related:Is An HDR Gaming Monitor Worth It?

With a 100% white window, the brightness is limited to around 180-nits for SDR and 130-nits for HDR. A lot of users will still find the screen to be bright enough under normal lighting conditions, but if you’re in a particularly bright room without any means to block the light, it might be too dim for you, especially after considering the display’s glossy coating that makes the picture more vivid at a cost of being reflective.

Another thing to keep in mind is ABL (Automatic Brightness Limiter); it limits the screen’s brightness in order to preserve the panel but can cause noticeable jumps in brightness.

For instance, if you have an empty Word document across the entire screen, the brightness is limited to 180-nits. However, if you change the document size to around 50%, the brightness can go up to 230-nits.

This change in brightness can be annoying if you’re constantly changing the sizes of bright elements on the screen, but you can prevent it by enabling ‘Game Optimizer’, which will limit the brightness to ~180-nits.

 100% White Window Max Brightness (SDR)100% White Window Max Brightness (HDR)10% White Window Max Brightness (HDR)1 - 3% White Window Max Brightness (HDR)
Samsung QD-OLED Panels250-nits250-nits500-nits1000-nits
ASUS PG34WCDM270-nits270-nits750-nits1200-nits
ASUS PG27AQDM250-nits160-nits850-nits900-nits
LG 27GR95QE200-nits130-nits650-nits650-nits
LG 45GR95QE160-nits160-nits650-nits800-nits
Corsair Xeneon Flex190-nits160-nits650-nits800-nits
LG OLED42C3180-nits130-nits700-nits700-nits
ASUS PG42UQ200-nits120-nits800-nits800-nits
LG OLED48C3200-nits150-nits800-nits800-nits
Gigabyte FO48U110-nits110-nits500-nits600-nits
LG 48GQ900130-nits130-nits600-nits600-nits

*PC Mode, Game Optimizer enabled
**Uniform Brightness enabled

LG’s OLED displays use an RWBG subpixel layout instead of the more common RGB layout you find on most LED LCDs, but text is quite sharp and clear without any fringing.

As it’s the case with all OLED displays, there’s always the risk of permanent image burn-in and temporary image retention that occurs if static elements remain on the screen for too long.

However, as long as you’re careful, it won’t be an issue; don’t leave the image with bright static elements on for too long, play varied content and use LG’s integrated burn-in prevention features, such as pixel refresher, screen shift, etc.

Performance

freesync and gsync

Yet another big advantage of OLED technology is the instantaneous pixel response time speed that ensures there are no trailing or overshooting artifacts behind fast-moving objects, making the LG OLED42C3 ideal for fast-paced games.

Input lag performance is impressive as well with around 5ms of delay, which is imperceptible.

The TV also supports variable refresh rate via AMD FreeSync Premium, NVIDIA G-SYNC Compatible, or HDMI 2.1 VRR technology for tear-free gameplay up to 120FPS!

Some gamma shifts can be observed with VRR enabled as near-black shades get brightened up in some scenes. LG’s ‘Fine Tune Dark Areas’ feature is meant to alleviate this issue a bit, but it comes at a cost of image quality/accuracy since lowering the setting affects shadow details, while increasing it elevates blacks.

Regardless, this issue is only noticeable in certain scenes of some games, so it’s manageable.

While the TV doesn’t use PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) to regulate brightness, there are slight fluctuations in brightness every 8.33ms, but they’re not noticeable in real use and won’t bother those sensitive to flickering.

Features

LG Game Optimizer

The LG OLED42C3 uses WebOS 23 and has the Alpha 9 Gen 5 processor for smooth navigation through its smart features. You also get the LG Magic Remote controller.

There are various picture presets in the OSD menu, such as Game, Cinema, Filmmaker Mode (for the most accurate representation of the creator’s intent), Expert (Bright Room, Dark Room), etc.

Additionally, besides the standard image settings, you’ll find plenty of advanced adjustments, including sharpness, gamma, color gamut and more.

The C3 series also includes the 21:9 and 32:9 Wide Aspect Ratio feature in the OSD (On-Screen Display) menu, allowing you to place black borders at the top and bottom of the screen and extend the image horizontally for a wider field of view in compatible games – without having to fiddle with custom resolutions.

Other noteworthy supported features include Black Stabilizer (improves visibility in dark scenes), built-in Google and Alexa voice assistants and 24p judder-free video playback from any source. Besides the standard HDR10 support, the OLED42C3 also supports Dolby Vision at 120Hz and HLG HDR formats.

Design & Connectivity

LG OLED42C3 Design

The stand of the monitor is quite slim and unlike the previous series has two legs to better fit on a regular desk. It has no ergonomic adjustments, but there’s a 200x300mm VESA mounting pattern.

The screen has a glossy screen finish, which makes the image pop more, but it also makes it reflective. It won’t be an issue as long as there’s no strong lighting directly hitting the screen though.

Connectivity options include four HDMI 2.1 ports with full 48 Gbps bandwidth, ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and VRR support, Ethernet, tuner, a digital audio jack, three USB 2.0 ports, WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0 and dual 10W speakers with Dolby Atmos, Digital and TrueHD 7.1 support, DTS:X, DTS:HD 1.1 and DTS 5.1 support.

Price & Similar Monitors

At the time of this writing, the LG OLED42C3 can be found for $900 – $1,150, which is excellent value for the money.

ASUS offers a monitor based on the same panel, the PG42UQ. It uses a heatsink for a bit higher brightness and it’s overclockable to 138Hz. Further, it has a matte anti-glare coating instead of a glossy finish like the 42C3, so it’s better at handling reflections, but the image isn’t quite as vivid in a dark room.

The ASUS PG42UQ also doesn’t have any smart TV features and it doesn’t support Dolby Vision yet it’s considerably more expensive (~$1,400).

If you want a small OLED monitor, be sure to check out the Dell AW2725DF with a 27″ 1440p 360Hz or the Dell AW3225QF with a 32″ 4K 240Hz QD-OLED panel.

You can also find excellent ultrawide models, such as the Dell AW3423DWF, the Samsung OLED G9 and the Corsair Xeneon Flex.

Be sure to check out our best HDR monitors buyer’s guide for more options and information.

Conclusion

Overall, if you want a large gaming display, the LG OLED42C3 is your best option as the monitors that use the same panel are unjustifiably more expensive, while the similar LED and mini LED options offer significantly inferior performance and image quality.

For most people, however, 42″ sized displays are too big for regular desktop use, in which case we recommend one of the smaller widescreen or ultrawide OLED options available.

Specifications

Screen Size41.5-inch
Resolution3840×2160 (Ultra HD)
Panel TypeOLED
Aspect Ratio16:9 (Widescreen)
Refresh Rate120Hz
Response Time (GtG)<1ms (GtG)
Motion Blur ReductionOLED Motion Pro (60Hz)
Adaptive-SyncFreeSync Premium Pro (40-120Hz)
G-SYNC Compatible
HDMI 2.1 VRR
Speakers2x10W
Ports4x HDMI 2.1
Other PortsEthernet, Tuner, Composite-in, Analog
audio-out, Digital audio-out, 3x USB 2.0
Brightness (1 – 3% White Window)700 cd/m²
Brightness (10% White Window)700 cd/m²
Brightness (100% White Window)130 cd/m² (HDR)
180 cd/m² (SDR)
Contrast RatioInfinite:1
Colors1.07 billion (true 10-bit)
98% DCI-P3
HDRHDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision
VESAYes (300x200mm)

The Pros:

  • Infinite contrast ratio for true blacks
  • Wide color gamut
  • Low input lag, rapid response time
  • HDMI 2.1
  • VRR up to 120Hz at 4K
  • Plenty of additional features, including BFI

The Cons:

  • Stand not adjustable
  • Risk of permanent burn-in and temporary image retention
  • Too big for regular desktop use for most users
  • Text clarity issues due to the uncommon subpixel layout
  • Burn-in not covered by warranty

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Rob Shafer

Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.