I watched the LG G3 and C3 OLED TV side-by-side — here’s the winner

The LG C3 OLED vs the LG G3 OLED hanging on a wall.
(Image credit: LG)

One perk of working with technology is I get to see a lot of good products. That also means that I get to see a lot of less-good products — but thankfully, that wasn't the case with the LG G3 OLED and LG C3 OLED, two of the best OLED TVs in 2023. 

LG’s top-of-the-line and next-to-the-top-of-the-line models, respectively, these are two excellent 4K sets that represent their pricing tiers at their best. Both pass the OLED test, have identical menu systems and smart interfaces with webOS 23, and use LG’s famous Magic Remote.

But having instant access to both, which do I prefer?

To find out, I hunkered down and fired up the 65-inch version of each set with a roster of the same movies and shows and watched them side-by-side. 

With some content, there's no difference...

The most shocking part about seeing these two titans side-by-side is that, sometimes, there was no meaningful difference between them. 

Sometimes there was no meaningful difference between them.

For example, The Big Nailed It! Baking Show, a serial-competition extension of Netflix’s popular (and frequently insane) baking game show, looked practically identical on both. The Nailed It! set is a typhoon of color anyway, and setting against it the bonkers cakes and even more colorful personalities of the contestants and delectable host Nicole Byer, took full advantage of OLED’s advanced color capabilities and was a joy to behold on either set.

More traditional movies were similarly hard to distinguish, with last year’s Top Gun: Maverick equally thrilling on the G3 and the C3, whether the screen was full of dogfighting jets, Tom Cruise breaking all the rules, or Jennifer Connelly just radiating charisma and sex appeal. And watching Mike Stoklasa, Jay Bauman, and the rest of the RedLetterMedia crew dissect that film and others on their indelible YouTube series was just as much fun in both cases. 

So here's the takeaway: If you groove more on watching more conventional things, the G3 probably isn’t worth the extra $800–$1,000.

...other times, the difference is night and day

With HDR content it’s unavoidable to the naked eye: The G3 is noticeably brighter than the C3.

But as soon as you move past the ordinary stuff, its contributions become clear. We showed it in the technical tests we described in our reviews, but with HDR content it’s unavoidable to the naked eye: The G3 is noticeably brighter than the C3. 

And though it’s true that perception of brightness scales logarithmically, so that higher brightness levels don’t always look substantially brighter, the G3 blazed straight through the science.

Babylon 5: The Road Home popped substantially more on the G3, with the various energy waves and explosions of that alternate-reality-tripping sci-fi tale blazing out of the screen in a way they didn’t quite on the C3. The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Avatar: The Way of Water, which are both hypersaturated with color, gained a compelling additional punch thanks to that additional light from the G3’s Brightness Booster Max system. The effects on Denis Villeneuve’s Dune can be a bit subtler (though it made Arrakis seem to be just that much more desolate), but the pinpricks of light perforating the shadowy Gotham City of The Batman is key to that film’s visual success, and the G3 brought them out just a little bit more. 

The G3 was simply more fun to watch with HDR content.

The winner is the LG G3 OLED, but not by much

If you can only choose between these two models and price wasn't a factor, I’d pick the G3. But it was far from the slam-dunk I was predicting when I started this content-injection adventure. I didn’t realize before how much of what I watch doesn’t need the few fancy extra bells and whistles of the more expensive set. Or how, even when two competing TVs are right next to each other, it’s not always easy to tell the difference between what you see on the screen and what leaps out of the specs.

TV technology has advanced a great deal in the last several years, so now even lower-end OLED sets can be completely satisfying. Even my mother, who is far from any kind of a videophile, has conceded that the entry-level Vizio OLED she bought last year has transformed the way she watches TV. And, I have to say, when I’m at her house, it looks pretty good to me, too.

If you can afford the LG G3, and if you like the kinds of movies and cinematic shows that will take advantage of its blazing brightness, it is undoubtedly a fantastic way to go.

If you can afford the LG G3, and if you like the kinds of movies and cinematic shows that will take advantage of its blazing brightness, it is undoubtedly a fantastic way to go. But so is the C3, and so are all of the models Tom’s Guide has named the best TVs on the market. 

Whatever you can afford, know that you’re getting something much better than you could have picked up even in 2020. Buying a terrific TV has never been easier. A shame that figuring out what to watch on it has also never been harder.

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Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray is the head of testing for Future, coordinating and conducting product testing at Tom’s Guide and other Future publications. He has previously covered technology and performance arts for multiple publications, edited numerous books, and worked as a theatre critic for more than 16 years.