Is LG C2 42-inch OLED TV's older panel tech really a problem? No, here's why

Some 42-inch LG C2 models don't have a next-gen panel, but it's not the big problem you might've heard

LG C2 mounted on wall, showing football on the screen
(Image credit: Future)

With the highly anticipated LG C2 now available to buy, people are finally getting their hands on what's already turned out to be one of the best OLED TVs of the year: we gave it the full five stars in our own LG C2 review.

Two of the most exciting things about the LG C2 are that it uses a new brighter screen tech, and that the LG C2 range includes the first ever 42-inch OLED 4K TV model. But there's a twist! The 42-inch and 48-inch models won't actually offer the extra brightness that you get from the 55-inch and bigger models.

And as spotted by HDTVTest upon testing the 42-inch C2 for the first time, it's not just that the 42-inch model isn't brighter – the first models aren't even using the more advanced screen tech, so there's no way they ever could have been brighter.

LG has confirmed to Korean site KBench (via FlatpanelsHD) that it's using older 'WBC' OLED panels for the 42-inch models for now, but will begin to mix in the newer 'WBE' panels after the second quarter (so starting around summer).

This has led some to say that you should avoid the 42-inch OLED LG C2 for now, and wait until you can get a model with the newer screen tech.

But I don't think that's really worth doing, because the new screen tech won't make a big difference – you won't get a brighter screen from the 42-inch LG C2 when it starts using it.

For a start, how about some context: this isn't the first time LG has mixed older and next-gen panels in a TV. It's not even the first time it's done it with the C-series! Last year, LG introduced brighter OLED panels for the first time on the LG G1. Then it was discovered that it was actually also using those panels in the LG C1… but users weren't seeing any brightness increase from the C1 models that had the next-gen panel in.

Mixing and matching panels in this way is useful to LG in terms of keeping its manufacturing efficient: it meant that it had two sources of panels for the super-popular C1, so it could make and sell more of them. But you need people to have a consistent experience no matter which panel you've used, so they all have the same brightness, even though some of them could theoretically have gone brighter.

LG has been saying for weeks that the 42-inch and 48-inch LG C2 models won't have as bright screens as the 55-inch models and up. So even if it does start using more advanced panels three months from now, the TVs won't be any brighter – LG will make sure the TV has a consistent picture no matter when it was made.

That's why I think most people shouldn't wait for the newer panel type – if you're hoping it comes with a jump in picture quality, you won't find anything really noticeable.

Is there any difference?

There is one potential reason to wait for a 42-inch LG C2 that uses the newer panel, but it's very vague. Basically, LG Display has recently explained that some of the tech that's gone into its newer panel is designed to improve the longevity of OLED TVs, which have had a shorter lifespan than LCD TVs in the past.

However, we don't actually know how effective this is yet, so I wouldn't really say that you should put off buying on the off-chance that it's a game-changer. 

Having said all that, there is one good reason I think you should wait to buy the 42-inch LG C2: it's really expensive for a small TV. Because it's the first of its kind, the price probably won't drop massively, at least not for a while – but I think I'll wait to see what happens to the price before I consider buying one myself. And if I do get one, I won't think twice about the panel.

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.