The sharp and contrast-rich OLED TVs have long been limited to screen sizes from 55 ”and up. Virtually all OLED screens originate from the South Korean LG Display, which produces and cuts the panels in specific templates of 55, 65 and 77 ”. But now there is hope: After renewing the production line, the LG factory can finally offer a wider range of screen sizes, including an extra compact 48 ”variant!
This is undoubtedly good news for those who have wanted an OLED TV for special applications where you have less space, sit very close to the screen or just want a small TV for aesthetic reasons. Whether you want a good TV for the office, bedroom or gaming room, it is now free to enjoy the picture quality from OLED in a new, compact format.
Since it is the sister company LG Display that produces the picture panels, it comes as no surprise that LG Electronics is among the first to offer a TV in the new size. The 2020 model LG OLED48CX is the first 48 ”edition from LG. Next on the list is the Sony KD-48A9 which also uses a 48 ”panel from LG, where the Japanese have swung the wand over image processing and sound reproduction as they usually do. We can probably expect more manufacturers to offer 48 ”OLED eventually, but right now it’s about these two!
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The Sony KD-48A9 is the smallest model in the new Master Series, which is Sony’s very best OLED screens for 2020. More screen sizes are expected, but the youngest gets the honor of opening the ball! The image panel is as usual taken from LG, while Sony’s own engineers have concentrated on image processing and sound. Here, the Japanese once again use their innovative Acoustic Surface speaker technology, where the sound comes directly from the TV screen – which also contributes to a tight and sleek design.
Sony’s OLED screens have gradually acquired a fairly well – known form factor with a polished, discreet and all – black design. The A9 model stands on a flat and rounded aluminum base, and rests only a few millimeters above the table surface. It undoubtedly looks nice, but can also be impractical if you plan to put a soundboard in front of the TV.
The OLED panel is thin from the side, but the screen also has a thicker part where the electronics and speakers are located. (Photo: Sony)
The screen itself is slim like most OLED screens, but only at the edges: On the back is a fairly solid “box” full of power supply, connections, speakers and other electronics, which takes a little away from the otherwise slim impression. This also means that the TV will protrude a lot when mounted on a wall.
Ease of use and features
Like other Sony models, the A9 comes loaded with the Android system from Google (version 9.0). Combined with good processing power and memory capacity, this ensures that both menu selections and apps are loaded in no time. The Google platform is also characterized by a wide range of apps and streaming services, including Disney + and Netflix pre-installed – the rest can be easily found in the Google Play Store.
The A9 series has also received Sony’s new premium remote control with Bluetooth transmission. It has become far more comfortable to use, and does not even need to be pointed directly for the TV to respond.
The A9 also has support for Google Assistant voice control, and a built-in Chromecast that makes it easy to stream or share content via your Android phone. Apple users can enjoy support for Airplay and Homekit, which make it easier to control your TV and share content via iPhone.
Good format support – but lacks HDMI 2.1
The Sony A9 supports both Dolby Vision HDR as well as standard HDR10 and HLG. It also boasts Netflix Calibrated Mode, which offers studio-quality Netflix content. On the other hand, there is no support for the open HDR10 + with dynamic metadata, which Amazon Prime and Rakuten, among others, offer. Sony could with advantage support both, as among others Panasonic and Philips now do!
The Sony monitor has 4 HDMI inputs, 1 of which is equipped with the high-definition audio return channel eARC. On the other hand, it has to do without HDMI 2.1, which means that it also lacks some profiled gaming features: Here is neither VRR (variable refresh rate), ALLM (auto low latency mode), or HFR (High Frame Rate, 4K / 120 fps) which can all prove relevant in the gaming context.
Sony has launched several TV models as “ready for Playstation 5” including the LCD models ZH8 and XH90. We therefore scratch our heads a bit about why the KD-48A9 is not on the list of TVs with advanced gaming features. It would have been a great candidate for the next generation of gaming consoles! We measured the delay (input layer) to about 15 milliseconds in Game mode, which is a couple of milliseconds slower than we managed with the LG OLED48CX.
Based on previous experience with Sony OLED, we had relatively high expectations of what the KD-48A9 could last up with in terms of picture experiences. And we were definitely not disappointed! We recently tested the 65 ”edition A85 with good results, and there is no doubt that the A9 series is close to this one: the 48-inch uses Sony’s rawest image processor X1 Ultimate, which is full of image-enhancing features.
Since LG and Sony use exactly the same 48 ”image panel, it is no surprise that the image reproduction is also very similar. With both screens set in movie mode, they look almost exactly the same, and you should be good at distinguishing the difference at first glance! But as we get to know each other better, the Sony screen actually appears marginally better at some points.
First, we notice that the Sony screen has even better and more natural color shades. The color reproduction is incredibly rich and nuanced, without being oversaturated or unnatural. The Sony screen also has a superb noise reduction, which removes annoying compression noise without putting an artificial layer over the image.
The Sony KD-48A9 also has very smooth and seamless movements: It should be mentioned here that LG has also achieved major improvements in the last generation. Both TVs are very good at keeping focus during fast pans.
Although both screens are superb in sharpness, we find that the Sony screen manages to conjure up an even sharper and more detailed image. It can be about tiny differences in skin tones and facial pores, the way light hits and is reflected by a surface – but they are there! Although some of the differences are small, they barely go in Sony’s favor. Put another way: If the LG screen is a golden clean and freshly washed window pane, the window is open in Sony’s case!
Missing some gaming features
Many people are probably wondering how well the Sony KD-48A9 is suitable as a gaming screen, and the answer is that there are advantages and disadvantages. As long as we stick to today’s game consoles, well-known game titles as well as “normal” PC gaming or graphical use, the Sony screen will be an excellent monitor. For graphic processing, photography, etc., you can also take advantage of the excellent neutral color reproduction.
At the same time, it is clear that the KD-48A9 can not compete with the LG OLED48CX in some areas: the LG screen will feel even faster and more responsive with demanding game titles, and especially those that can benefit from 120hz frame rate. During testing with the Forza Horizon 4, which supports up to 4K / 120fps, we found the Sony screen to be a bit more choppy and uneven than the LG screen at its best.
The lack of 4K / 120fps is not a direct crisis, but may turn out to be a miss on the latest game consoles (Xbox Series X / Playstation 5) and the rawest game titles. Although the majority of games on the market work excellently at 60 fps, you may want to be “cautious” if you want to take advantage of the latest technical innovations.
The Sony KD-48A9 comes with Acoustic Surface Audio, which are Sony’s “invisible” speakers. Instead of mounting the speakers under the screen as others do, Sony has found a way to send the sound directly out of the TV panel! This is done with the help of small mechanical actuators, which cause the image panel to vibrate in sync with the audio signal. This in turn means that the sound (voices, etc.) is experienced as coming from the exact same place as the action, which has a positive effect on, among other things, speech comprehension.
The sound is also clear and distinct, with good fullness in both voices and sound effects. Here, there is significantly better fullness and clarity than what the LG competitor can keep up with! The sound reproduction is so good that we think many will be satisfied, without feeling the need for a separate soundboard: Especially in smaller rooms such as bedrooms etc, this will probably be experienced as a great advantage, as you get away with fewer boxes and wires.
Sony KD-48A9 is a compact and sleek looking TV with impressive performance: This small 48-inch is capable of providing a truly magnificent picture experience! The Sony screen can also last up with excellent built-in sound, as well as good smart solutions and app support. The only point where the KD-48A9 lags a bit is the limited connectivity options. While LG’s 48-inch boasts HDMI 2.1 and more gaming-friendly features, the Sony screen has to do without. It’s a bit disappointing, coming from the Playstation manufacturer itself! Especially when the competitor also costs several thousand bucks less. But as long as gaming is not the main focus, and you are just looking for an excellent compact TV, the Sony screen works right on target.
LG offers a wide range of OLED screens, but these have long been limited to 55, 65 and 77 inches, plus 88 “if we include the latest 8K models. Among all these, the C-Series has been among the most sought after, with a sensible balance between specifications, performance and price. Therefore, it is no surprise that this particular series is the first to come out with a 48 ”model! The LG OLED48CX has a lot in common with the other models, including the OLED65CX which we have tested before.
When it comes to appearance, the LG OLED48CX appears as a pure miniature copy of those of the other models in the CX series. The jam-thin OLED panel measures only about 6 millimeters at its thinnest. However, the TV as a whole is characterized by the electronics part (connections, power supply and speakers, etc.) taking up more space. The TV will therefore protrude approximately 5 centimeters from the wall if you wall-mount it. For table mounting, the LG screen is neat and stable on the included base: This has the same design as on the larger models, and is about as wide as the TV. We think LG could have chosen a narrower foot on a small model like this.
The LG screen is just over a meter (107 cm) wide, 61.8 centimeters high and weighs only 15.9 kilos. This is the first time the potent OLED image quality comes in such a small package. (Photo: LG)
Ease of use and features
The LG OLED65CX comes with the latest version of LG’s operating system WebOS (5.0), which is based on the Magic Remote remote control. It has a mouse pointer that makes it easy to click through the menus. The graphical user interface feels modern, clear and easy to operate – in fact, better than Android in our opinion.
The app selection is very good: In addition to Netflix, you get access to HBO Nordic, Amazon Prime, Rakuten, Apple TV + and not least Disney +. The TV also supports AirPlay and Homekit, so it can display content from Apple iOS devices and be part of a Homekit-controlled smart home.
Unlike Sony, the LG screen is more or less “tailored” for gaming and modern video sources. OLED48CX boasts of supporting HDMI 2.1 – not just on one, but all four inputs! It provides very good connection options: Here you are free to connect everything from state-of-the-art game consoles to packed gaming PCs at each input. Here, LG is clearly in front of the Sony screen, which is only equipped with the older HDMI 2.0 standard.
The LG screen is also packed with gaming-friendly features such as AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, which ensure smooth and clean reproduction of various types of computer graphics. Both Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X will be able to display 4K video at up to 120 frames per second, and then it’s nice to have a TV that supports this. The LG screen also has an excellent low input layer (delay on the input), which we measured at about 12 milliseconds.
This is our first encounter with a 48-inch OLED TV, and we were naturally excited about how this compact crab behaves in practice! The picture experience is about as expected from an OLED in a smaller format, but also offers some surprises.
The first thing we take inward is of course the image sharpness. The 48-inch has a significantly higher pixel density (PPI) than a corresponding 55 “or 65” with 4K resolution, and it gives an image that simply looks raw sharp! The image is crystal clear, seamless and packed with information: Here you can sit quite close to the screen without seeing a hint of pixel structure, which makes the screen suitable as a PC or gaming monitor.
Note that 48 inches is quite large in a monitor context: You should provide a certain seating distance (about 1 meter) to be able to take in the whole picture at once, without having to move your gaze or turn your head…
When it comes to overall picture quality, the LG screen has all the well-known and beloved OLED qualities in order. The black level is almost bottomless, and the ability to turn off and on each small pixel individually, gives a very contrast-rich image. Without the need for backlighting, the light distribution is also significantly smoother than typical LCD screens. This is characterized by the fact that we can look at the screen obliquely from the side without the color reproduction or the grayscale being affected by the viewing angle. This is a big advantage whether the TV is small or large, as it allows more flexible placements and seating positions.
Just like with the other LG models, we preferred the picture setting “Cinema Home” as our favorite picture mode for most video content. This is a nice setting that suits most things, with beautiful, neutral colors and smooth movements. The disadvantage of the cinema setting is that it is not particularly bright. Those who watch a lot of TV in daylight will probably therefore prefer the standard or dynamic setting. But these are not particularly strong either, and you should therefore have the option of sun protection and dim lighting to get the best possible images out of the screen. Then you get in return super gorgeous pictures in the high-end class!
Excellent gaming screen
At the time of this test, we did not yet have access to the latest game consoles Xbox Series X or Playstation 5. However, we got to check the performance of a relatively capable PC, with Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card and games like Forza Horizon 4! OLED48CX immediately gave a very good impression, with an excellent smooth response and little delay, which makes it excellent for gaming.
One thing is to enjoy modern games with the contrast and black level of the OLED: the LG screen also excels with very good sharpness and smooth movements. The low delay combined with the capacity for high frame rates (up to 120fps / 120hz) makes this a very responsive gaming monitor. We also verified that the LG OLED48CX supports and renders 4K graphics at up to 120 frames per second, which is quite noticeable in a fast-paced car game! The LG screen has visibly better motion sharpness than its competitor from Sony, which has to settle for 60 fps at the same resolution. This will definitely be an advantage on game titles that support this.
On the Forza Horizon 4, we could immediately determine that the LG screen’s higher and variable frame rates (up to 120 fps) resulted in a smoother and sharper gaming experience. As long as you have the hardware in order, this is definitely preferable! (Photo: Audun Hage)
Compared to Sony’s advanced integrated speakers, the LG OLED48CX has to do with a relatively standard sound system: Here you only get stereo speakers without any extra subwoofer on the back. These sound rather slender, laid-back and sad compared to Sony: the voices sound hollow, and never really “come out”. We guess most people will be tempted to expand with a separate sound solution. The LG screen supports HDMI eARC, so it will be a narrow matter to upgrade with an Atmos-compatible soundboard.
The CX series from LG is already one of our favorites when it comes to image quality and technical features: With the introduction of the new 48 ”variant, the same performance becomes available in a more interior-friendly and less space-consuming format. The LG OLED48CX is not dramatically much cheaper than the big brother of 55 ”, and in principle we recommend going for the larger variant. But for those of you who have special preferences, are looking for the ultimate “gaming monitor” or just want the best TV in the least possible space, the LG screen is a safe recommendation!