One of the great privileges of being a technology journalist is the gadgets. Not free gadgets, mind you – no one seems to like me enough to bribe me outright – but lent gadgets. The smart TVs, speakers, vacuums, VR headsets that are thrust into our hands for just enough time to like them, hate them, and review them before they’re cruelly taken away.
It makes the question of purchasing our own devices a tricky one, though. As the previous Home Cinema Editor for TechRadar, I had new, and often excellent, TV screens coming through my flat every couple of weeks.
If I timed my binges right, I could save up a good few episodes of Succession or a Blade Runner 2049 movie night for just when a review unit arrived, and make do with more casual viewing on a laptop screen in between test TVs. So investing in my own, permanent screen didn’t always feel like a tempting proposition when the kinds of displays I got to test were often worth double my monthly salary. Why buy something that can’t live up to the flashier models passing through so regularly?
It’s in that context I got to try out the LG C1 OLED, which is one of the best TVs of 2021. I’ve always had a penchant for LG screens when it comes to OLED, preferring LG’s slight pop of color over the more muted – if color-accurate – tones of Panasonic or Sony. All those years of bright cartoons have lodged somewhere in my brain, demanding vivid pictures at all costs.
It helps, too, that there’s a 48-inch version of the LG C1 OLED. I have one very specific place in my living room that can house a TV, at a maximum 48-inch/49-inch size, so going larger than that is not an option. Having had a 48-inch OLED on my shelf for a few weeks, I’m now convinced I need to commit to the enterprise.
I really can’t stress enough how much I love the 48-inch sizing option, allowing people to fit an OLED TV in their home much more easily. Countless shelves or countertops too small for a 55-incher can comfortably house its smaller sibling and, in the tight spaces of urban homes especially, that kind of additional flexibility can’t be overlooked.
The 48-inch OLED is a brilliant middle-ground, neither a small TV you have to squint at nor a great hulking beast that’s permanently jutting into your eye line. Most people don’t have dedicated home cinema rooms and it’s very possible for a large screen to dominate your living space.
There’s been huge interest over the years in Samsung’s The Frame, a designer-first TV that can blend into the background disguised as a picture frame. And many people opt for projectors for the same reason, in order to reduce the size and bulk of machinery around them on an everyday basis.
It’s why I’m hoping talk of 42-inch OLED TVs come sooner rather than later, as the general movement of the market towards ever-larger screens risks leaving space-constrained buyers without the chance to experience premium TV technology.
Saving up that allowance
For me, there’s a firm psychological barrier to hitting the $1,000 / £1,000 (around AU$1,400) mark, where that fourth figure just pushes past the realm of rational spending. It’s why Black Friday often has so many tempting TV deals, slashing the list price to something just within your budget and pushing you to act immediately. And while the 48-inch LG C1 is usually $1,099 / £1,099 / AU$2,500, just over that limit, UK sales have seen that drop to £999, or even £899 for brief periods.
Having missed my chance in this year’s sales – eternally blithering over the price I actually wanted to cap my spending at – I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the price of OLED TVs in the new year, as 2021 models gradually get cheaper ahead of their 2022 successors launching.
If the LG C1 drops to £999 again, I should really go for it, though I'm tempted to hold out for a bigger price drop. If I end up waiting too long, I may need to consider slightly cheaper options like the LG A1 (currently $799 / £799 / AU$2,100), which makes do with a cheaper processor and a bit more video noise in dark scenes.
Having said that, if I’m looking for a TV that will last me 5-10 years, I’m going to want a level of quality I won’t get tired of quickly. And that extra £200 for the LG C1 may be the difference between wanting to upgrade in 2027 or 2032. In the end, quality always pays off.
This article is part of TechRadar’s Tech Resolutions series, a motivating blast of encouragement showing you how to supercharge your new year with tech. Running from Sunday December 26 to Sunday January 2, our series will also reveal how we’re aiming to level-up our gadget lives in 2022. So whether you’re looking to become a Chromebook power-user, beat your takeaway obsession with a new air fryer, or use a smartwatch to propel you to new fitness heights, we’ll show you how to get your new year off to a flier. And when it all inevitably goes wrong, you can always blame the gadgets.