Best TV: Sony AF8 vs LG C8 in the battle for 2018 4K UHD OLED supremacy

Ideally you'd buy both to watch the World Cup semi final (or EastEnders) but what if you were forced to make a choice?

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They’re the two the hottest UHD screens of the year, but which one is the ultimate best buy, and why? Steve May is your flatscreen fight night referee as LG C8 (OLED65C8) takes on Sony AF8 (KD-65AF8). It's the fight that will forever be remembered as… The Rumble in the OLED 4K UHD HDR with Dolby Atmos TV Jungle!

LG OLED C8 vs Sony AF8: Today's best prices on the contenders

Sony KD-65AF8 (RRP: £3,299) vs LG OLED65C8 (RRP: £3,295)

The Sony AF8 vs LK OLEDC8 is a clash that's grabbed the imagination of  OLED enthusiasts worldwide. These high-end 4K heroes have comparable firepower, but very different strengths. So which is the better buy? 

I've broken down the debate, rating each set for Design, Connectivity, Smart Platform, Gaming and AV performance, and there can be only one victor. 

Meet our combatants: The AF8 is Sony’s 2018 OLED high street hero. Available in 55-inch and 65-inch screen sizes, it sits below last year’s A1 mode, but is a lone OLED wolf in Sony’s TV, erm, pack. 

By way of contrast, the LG C8 is one in a plethora of premium OLED models from LG, with stablemates including the ‘Picture-on-Wall’  W8, ‘One Glass’ G8 and ‘Picture-on-Glass’ E8. It’s available in 55-, 65- and 77-inch screen sizes. In both cases, T3 reviewed the 65-incher but the models are all but identical aside from size.

The most important thing to note is that both models are 4K UHD HDR screens with advanced connectivity and Einstein-grade picture processing.

Sony KD-65AF8 v LG OLED65C8: Design

The Sony AF8 narrowly edges this one, for us…

This Sony set plays the fashionably minimalist card to perfection. There’s nothing unnecessary about the design, even the corporate branding is underplayed. The screen sits on a single pedestal, with the panel virtually flush. There’s no room for a soundbar to be plonked in front. Happily, it doesn’t need one, thanks to the wonder of Acoustic Surface technology. The panel itself vibrates to produce audio, so there’s no need for forward facing speakers.

The LG C8 takes a more conventional audio approach. Downward firing stereo speakers bounce off a plastic reflector which runs below the screen. This looks like a slim pedestal, but isn’t. The finish is a gunmetal grey, with a gloss grey back panel.  

Both sets look pretty damn fancy, but the Sony edges the round when it comes to design innovation.

Sony KD-65AF8 v LG OLED65C8: Video performance

This brings us to the BIG QUESTION: which TV has the best picture? It's not simple. From HD to 4K, SDR to HDR, not to mention the thorny issue of motion handling, this is a multifaceted discussion.

So let’s break it down a bit. For some time to come, the majority of content you’ll watch will be HD rather than UHD. So the presentation of 1080p content on a 2160p panel is crucial.

The AF8 is built around Sony’s X1 Extreme image processor. This has a host of image refinement built-in, including Object Based HDR Remastering with Dynamic Contrast Enhancement which does a spectacular job with Standard Dynamic Range material. This works brilliantly well, adding HDR theatrics to everyday programmes, and remarkably doesn’t introduce any element of artifice. 

LG’s C8 features the brand’s new Alpha 9 processor. It’s also astonishingly powerful, but it’s dynamic upscaling of SDR material really isn’t as satisfying as the Sony.

Things are rather less clear cut when it comes to 4K HDR presentation. Both TVs have comparable compatibility (HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision), plus some theme variations which shouldn’t influence your buying decision. 

Their HDR delivery is also similar. OLED screen peak brightness varies according to the size and duration of HDR highlights. Comparative measurements are typically conducted using windows of white on black, at 10 and 5 per cent screen sizes. In truth, neither is really indicative of how a specular highlight will actually appear on a screen in a movie of TV show, as they’re usually much smaller and fleeting (think car headlights, fireworks, Dwayne Johnson’s teeth). But at least the measurement offers a method of comparison. 

I got out my 'special equipment' and measured a peak of around 777 cd/m2 (aka 'nits') with a 10 per cent window, on our C8 sample, rising to a peak of 840 with a 5 per cent window.

By way of contrast, the Sony AF8 offered 776 cd/m2, but managed to peak at 900 cd/m2 (with Peak Luminance set to High) in the smaller window. 

The near black performance of both sets, that’s to say their ability to resolve detail in low luminance areas, is largely indistinguishable. 

To be honest, side by side, this nitpicking doesn’t amount to much. Both screens look absolutely sensational with native 4K HDR content and brilliantly tone map material mastered beyond their reach. 

Perhaps a more clear cut differential can be found in their motion handling abilities. While both the AF8 and C8 offer variable levels of clever interpolation, Motionflow and TruMotion respectively, the Sony consistently delivers cleaner fast motion. 

All things considered, I think the Sony cumulatively edges it here, with its better HD upscaling performance being the most crucial 'real world' difference.

Sony KD-65AF8 v LG OLED65C8: Audio performance

While the C8 makes a valiant  noise, thanks to its sonic reflector, it ultimately doesn’t have the range or presence to challenge Sony’s Acoustic Surface wizardry. With vibrating actuators and mid-range rear woofers, the Sony is demonstrably better, sounding defined and more impactful. 

Both sets can decode Dolby Atmos. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they can actually do anything with this, but they will route the bitstream out in a Dolby Digital + container to any awaiting Dolby Atmos sound system you might have.  

Sony KD-65AF8 v LG OLED65C8: Smart platform

LG redefined the smart TV business with webOS. Combining ease of use with powerful functionality, the platform truly felt like a smarter way to use connected TVs. Now in its third iteration, the webOS interface is only marginally different, but has an expanded repertoire of usability, including being able to play back 360 degree videos from YouTube. 

The C8 also comes with a Freeview Play tuner, which integrates catch-up TV through a roll back programme guide. All the required streaming services are on board, plus Now TV.

The Sony AF8 uses the Android OS. It’s rather less intuitive than webOS, but offers powerful search functionality. Unfortunately, because of some undisclosed brouhaha between Google and Freeview, there’s no Freeview Play tuner, so Sony uses a YouView app to offer catch-up TV services instead. 

This year, both platforms have added Google Assistant AI to their smart mix. Not only can you ask your TV to find your favourite shows or stars, Google Assistant also opens the door to smart home control of lighting and thermostats. 

The C8 goes one step further, adding support for LG’s ThinQ brainchild. This adds another level of voice control, as well as specific voice navigation of the set itself 

While there’s not much between either offering, webOS’s sophistication and ThinQ smarts enables the LG C8 to take this round on points.

Sony KD-65AF8 v LG OLED65C8: Gaming performance

The OLED C8 is clearly superior when it comes to gaming

There’s no ambiguity here, as the LG C8 smashes it. In Game mode, the C8’s input lag is a Fortnite-friendly 21ms (anything under 30ms can be considered good by telly standards). In comparison, the Sony AF8 in Game mode trails in behind, with a tardy 47ms.

Sony KD-65AF8 v LG OLED65C8: Connectivity

Both the LG and the Sony offer a quartet of HDMIs, but only two of the four HDCP 2.2-ready 4K inputs offered by Sony support full fat 4K 60p at 4:2:0, or 10-bit at 4:4:4 and 4:2:2. 

The LG has no such silly restriction. This perhaps doesn't mean much right now, but it represents a long-term advantage for the C8.

Sony KD-65AF8 v LG OLED65C8: Verdict

And the winner is…

So there you have it. Looked at one way, our scorecard has the rivals standing dead even, with three rounds apiece. The Sony AF8 owns Design, Video Performance and Audio, while LG dominates Connectivity, Smart Platform and Gaming. 

Of course, the ultimate winner depends largely on how we weight each category and for me design and image quality with TV and movies are surely the most important factors. On that basis, although the LG is a more fully-featured TV, the Sony claims top spot. If you're a hardcore gamer, you might reach a different conclusion. 

So Sony wins, but neither of these TVs is going to make you look like a loser when people see them in pride of place in your lounge, as both offer astounding levels of performance. The real differentiator – gauche and vulgar though it may be to mention it – is how big a discount you can secure on the RRP for each…

• The only other thing to add? Read our Panasonic FZ952 review and you'll find another OLED TV for about the same price, that's equally deserving of your cash. It's been tuned by Hollywood experts, no less…