This is why the first 42-inch LG OLED TV costs as much as a 48-inch

When it comes to TV tech, size isn't everything – especially with cutting-edge OLEDs

LG C2 42-inch OLED TV on coloured background
(Image credit: LG)

The LG C2 could be one of the very best OLED TVs we'll see this year, but the leaked price is causing some consternation: the 42-inch and the 48-inch versions of the TV will both be the same price. That's according to a listing on the John Lewis website that lists both models at £1,399 ($1,900, AU$2,650). 

It could be a mistake, and we should note that LG hasn't formally announced the C2's pricing. But we actually predicted it would be pretty much like this, so it probably isn't very wrong – and it's because there's more to making panels than cutting them to a particular size.

Sometimes less is more

As we wrote a few weeks ago, with OLED TVs it's not always the case that smaller panels are cheaper to make. It's often the opposite, and as Matt Bolton pointed out: "When the first LG 48-inch OLED 4K TV launched a couple of years ago, it basically cost the same as the 55-inch model, due to how hard it was to produce."

Part of it is purely maths: TV displays are cut from giant sheets of glass in a high-tech game of TV Tetris, and smaller displays can end up leaving considerably more waste than the bigger ones – so where you might use 90% of the sheet when you're cutting out 55-inch displays, you might only get 70% utilisation for a 42-inch panel. 

New manufacturing approaches can help address that, but new machines cost money, which still means the cost of producing each panel is high. Every time we make a new size of OLED TV, it's a big and difficult effort, and so the first versions are always priced disproportionately high.

There's no competition in OLED screen manufacturing for TVs either – LG Display makes the panel in every single OLED TV available today, so whatever it needs to charge is whatever manufacturers need to pay.

It'll still be one of the best 40- to 43-inch TVs around, and the price of the 42-inch will come down eventually, and T3 predicts that it'll probably fall by £50 or £100 not too long after launch to differentiate it better from 48-inch model. But right now, the 42-inch LG C2 is in a category of one, so if you want a bedroom-/small-flat-friendly OLED TV… this is the price of entry.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com).