Best 2021 OLED TV showdown: LG G1 Gallery vs. Sony A90J Master Series
Like other TVs we've tested in the past, we disabled several settings that could potentially interfere with screen testing the TV's native handling and capabilities. The LG TV was tested using the Filmmaker mode that turns off most processing to keep to the creator’s intent where this option was available. Alternatively, we also utilised ISF Expert (Dark Room) which was fairly close to the Filmmaker mode.
Similarly, we turned off other unnecessary processing options on the Sony A90J that could affect how we assess its panel's capabilities and leave the picture untouched as much as possible. For example, we disabled settings like Auto Picture Mode and Light Sensor that could induce uncertainties in how the TV's output is processed and affect the outcome scene by scene. For most people who use the TV both day and night, though, the embedded light sensor can be useful as it informs the TV of the current ambient light level, which allows it to optimise picture brightness on the fly. So you might want to keep that turned on for your convenience. As can be expected, Cinema mode offers the most pleasing colours, and it's hard not to go wrong by just selecting this mode for most of your viewing needs.
Regarding motion handling, we're purists and prefer to keep our shows as they are intended to be consumed such as movie content with 24p cadence and not having the TV smoothen things out (also known as the Soap Opera Effect). As such, we disengaged LG's TruMotion option and turned off Sony's Motionflow options. For content with a lot of action, you might prefer to have Black Frame Insertion (BFI), but it also usually reduces the brightness, so only engage it if perhaps you're watching a football match or other fast-moving sporting events. In LG's TVs, you'll find this feature called OLED Motion Pro and you can adjust the settings to taste. Meanwhile, on Sony, you'll find this option via the Clearness slider under Custom Motionflow settings.
1) Dark Room environment (+Colours, 4K, HDR and motion assessment)
Honestly, testing against the best of the best sometimes involves splitting hairs and nowhere did we feel it was as close as pitting two of the very best TVs money can buy. Both LG and Sony utilise similarly new OLED panels that transmit more light than the usual crop of OLED TVs, with newer processors (LG's Alpha 9 Gen 4 AI processor and Sony's Cognitive Processor XR, respectively) backing the new displays for next-gen processing capabilities. Both LG G1 and Sony A90J put up a brilliant performance show with marvellously deep inky blacks, fantastic contrast, and excellent expression of HDR highlights in Dolby Vision and HDR10 content. As a TV, you want the screen to excel well, and both score highly in this aspect.
Closer scrutiny would reveal that Sony's Cognitive XR processor's careful processing to consider how human vision perceives and reacts to content seems to have come through with colours and shades that tend to feel a tad more natural. On the other hand, LG is no less competent, but it looks ever slightly more saturated, and as a result, a minor tendency to hide details as your eyes are more focused on the overall punchiness of the scene. Without a side-by-side comparison, you would be pleased with either set.
At other times, the only difference discernable is that LG seems to prefer a slightly warmer colour tone than Sony. Strictly speaking, this is treading the boundaries of personal preferences that are easily tweaked in custom colour options than using it as a basis for choosing one screen over another. Plus, these minute differences are easily tweakable in the respective TV's colour control options to your preference. Both are stellar screens in rooms with little to no ambient lighting and is impossible to differentiate them apart without a controlled comparison like in our test lab.
Here's another scene from the same Mandalorian episode on Disney+, but captured in video form:-
There's very little to differentiate them, and anyone would be equally content with both options. Below, we fired up a 4K Blu-ray title that is Dolby Vision certified. Once again, we noticed LG being rendering the scene a tad more saturated in the reds, while the Sony appeared a tad brighter and more natural.
For the most part, we've not really encountered anything of concern, except for this one scene where Sony had a brighter rendition than LG. While the same high shutter speed setting used to capture all the movie test shots made this scene appear darker than it really is in actual viewing, it's interesting to note the difference captured by the camera. However, we're really nitpicking at this juncture as you really can't tell when you're in the thick of watching a movie.
2) Bright Room environment
The above spiked our interest to see how both TVs might fare in a really bright room setting. After all, both these models boast the most capable OLED panels available on the market. As we've come to know, OLED TVs are still no match for LED-backlit LCD models when viewing in a bright room or expressing bright content, and it showed in our quick trial. It wasn't until we engaged Vivid mode that both TVs appeared to cope well in a bright room, definitely something older OLED TVs would have trouble impressing upon you.
Once more, our camera captured the Sony A90J to be seen as the brighter and more capable screen in a room with plenty of direct lighting (the actual room lighting level is far brighter than seen in the shoot above). In actual viewing, while Sony is brighter, it wasn't to the same extent as the camera would lead you you to believe.
So there we have it, Sony and LG are quite evenly matched visually, most of the time.
Sonically, the Sony A90J Master is hands down the best you'll get to experience from a TV. The Acoustic Surface Audio+ has excellent audio delivery and presence and can even afford you some virtual surround sound through its 60W of audio power delivered via the entire screen, to you. You can read more about our in-depth experience with Acoustic Surface Audio+ from an older model, but the principles and experience are very similar. Even a Sony A8F from 2018 can still deliver a good showing over many other new TVs in the market, including the LG G1. So that's a testament to Sony's perfection of audio from screen experience.
Sony is also one of the few TVs that still incorporate a DTS encoder, and it's useful in the case where you don't intend to get an external sound system and only utilise the capabilities of the Sony A90J. Most streaming contents utilise Dolby Digital Plus so there's not much content encoded with DTS other than Blu-ray discs.
For those of you who've already invested in a hefty audio system or planning to go all out to outfit your home with multi-speaker audio system, you'll be glad to know that the Sony A90J even allows you to integrate its Acoustic Surface Audio+ as your sound system's center-channel. Dubbed the Center Speaker Mode, it does exactly that, turning your TV into a center-channel speaker via the direct audio input terminal clips found at the back of the Sony A90J.
As we've experienced first-hand, dialogue and audio are delivered right from the screen, resulting in better vertical audio imaging. Dialogue no longer seems to emanate from below the screen where your traditional center-channel speaker is normally placed. The other advantage is good center-channel speakers are usually quite obtrusive in size and presence, which the Sony A90J solves by eliminating them.
It's a nice feature, for some, though it can't outmatch the audio depth, details, and volume from a good standalone center channel speaker. Plus, managing volume levels are a little trickier as the A90J would manage the audio level of its built-in speaker, while the rest of your home's sound system would have to be controlled via the AV Receiver.
The LG G1 however, sounds ordinary in comparison, even with its AI Sound Pro processing. While my video walkthrough has shared what AI Sound Pro processing can do when the stars align, there's not a lot of times when we see this being well utilised and is more of a bonus feature, just like the Center Speaker Mode on Sony, which is heavily caveated in usage applicability. If you missed what this feature can do when it works right, I've bookmarked the audio test segment where I've tested it out:-
The bigger question is if the Sony A90J Master is worth two grand more than the LG TV by virtue of its excellent built-in sound system. While value is debatable and having the best integrated experience is always a premium, the simple counter answer is the LG G1 with a stand-alone audio system worth two grand will sound tremendously better than the Sony A90J Master.
LG's 2021 TV models are also Bluetooth Surround Ready, whereby you can throw in just about any Bluetooth speakers you've at hand, pair them with the TV and set them up to the sides or rear of your sitting position to enjoy true surround sound with your TV's main speakers. Now that's a quick and affordable fix for any show, anytime, without owning a multi-channel speaker system. The fidelity required by surround speakers are nowhere in the same ballpark as your left, center and right audio channels. Instead, surround audio is usually better appreciated for having the right volume levels and accurate audio placement. It's evident that LG is both practical and clever by incorporating such a feature that can be easily appreciated by the masses.
So here's how both TVs stack up in the performance arena for our various findings:-
|Test||LG G1 Gallery OLED Evo||Sony A90J Master Series|
Credit: Photo and video samples of demo videos used in the above illustrations can be found in the following reference and test materials:-
- Sony 4K HDR demo video
- LG's The Black 4K HDR 60fps demo video
- Dolby's "Universe" trailer clip and in 4K (Dolby Atmos and Vision coded)
- The Mandalorian series on Disney+
- Avengers: Infinity Wars 4K Blu-ray disc