LG QNED81 review 4K edge-lit TV

LG QNED81 4K TV review: a summer sports & gaming companion


As the Australian sporting summer approaches with cricket and tennis dominating the airwaves, you might be eyeing a TV upgrade to make the action look as good as possible. For sports, you want a good-sized display that handles motion well, with a good viewing angle so that everyone has a good perspective from anywhere on the couch. It just happens that the LG QNED81 meets a lot of those criteria. It’s a decent TV straight out of the box supported by the slick WebOS interface.

As good as OLED TVs are, like the LG C3 and LG G3 models, they carry a high price tag. A TV with the best possible picture quality is an aspirational purchase not everyone can afford. This is where the QNED range comes in. Suited to watching sports and playing video games in well-lit rooms, the LG QNED81 makes it easy to get a good picture at a good price.

This particular model is an edge-lit LED variant. I’ll explain why this matters a little later on, but it basically means that you won’t get a deep black picture, which stands out when watching movies at night. Otherwise, when paired with a soundbar like the LG S77S, the QNED81 offers a decent big-screen home theatre setup at a competitive price.

LG QNED81 review

First impressions

I tested the 75-inch model, which is definitely a two-person setup, no matter how strong you think you are. LG has thankfully upgraded the stand for its larger TVs, yielding more stability during setup and when accessing ports. When I reviewed the 75-inch LG QNED91, last year’s Mini LED model, I noted that the stand was far too wobbly for my liking. The stand included with the QNED81 is much sturdier, which my anxiety-riddled brain is grateful for. Not that you want to handle a TV too much after setting it up, but it’s nice that I didn’t feel like I was at risk of sending it toppling over when plugging in an HDMI cable.

Similar to other modern LG TVs, the setup process is nice and easy. You can do things the old-fashioned way, or you can use the ThinQ app to quickly connect to Wi-Fi, log into accounts, and tweak settings.

This ease of use also extends to TV calibration of the picture settings. Unless you’re an enthusiast, the last thing you want to do after unboxing a big TV is spend ages buried in menus making incremental changes. Ideally, you just want to turn on the TV and start watching.

LG QNED81 cat
An important part of the review process is comparing the size of objects to your cat.

As a potential solution, LG recently introduced a personalised picture wizard that adjusts settings based on your input. How the picture wizard works is that you’re shown several slides containing images at different contrast, brightness, and colour temperature levels. By selecting the images that look best to your eye, the TV then calibrates based on your preferences. To ensure you haven’t botched the process, it shows you a before-and-after image before applying the changes. This preset then saves to your ThinQ account so you can apply it when you get another TV or upgrade down the line.

This process showed me two things. First, I actually really liked the picture settings out of the box. Coming from the Hisense U7KAU, which shipped with an over-saturated and high-contrast image, the LG QNED81 was vibrant yet realistic. My other takeaway is that the largely automated picture wizard setup is a great way to get you closer to your preferred settings, even if I still did a little bit of tweaking afterwards.

LG QNED81 specifications

Size reviewed75-inch
Sizes available55, 65, 75, and 86-inch
Display resolution3840 x 2160 (4K)
Backlight technologyEdge-lit LED
Operating systemwebOS 23
Processorα7 AI Processor 4K Gen 6
HDR formatHDR10, HLG
Inputs4x HDMI ports (2x 4K @ 120Hz, 2x 4K @ 60Hz)
2x USB
RF input
Optical audio
LAN port
Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac)
Bluetooth 5.0
Price (RRP)From $1,795
$2,995 for the 75-inch model
WarrantyOne year
Official websiteLG Australia


Gaming and watching sports

There are two main uses for TVs in our household: watching sports and playing video games. On both fronts, the LG QNED81 performs admirably. Kayo gets a heavy workout on any day ending in ‘y’, so the integrated WebOS app got an immediate tick of approval. Regardless of the sporting code, the action looked great on the panel.

One thing I look for in TVs is how well the image holds up at various viewing angles. Some cheaper TVs look dimmer and the colours distort unless you’re sitting directly in front. Due to space constraints, not every seat in our living space has a front-on view of the TV. Fortunately, the QNED81 has a good viewing angle, making it easy to watch even when you’re seated off to the side.

LG’s strong track record of supporting video games also continues with the QNED81. Of the four HDMI ports, two support 120Hz, so you can plug your PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles in and enjoy high frame rates. Not all games support the maximum refresh rate, mind you, but it’s nice to have the option. It’s easy to tweak settings via the quick-access game menu, including multiple night modes that dim the display for late-night sessions. LG also natively supports Nvidia GeForce Now, a cloud-based service where you can play PC games on virtual machines equipped with high-end graphics cards.

LG QNED81 gaming

Only having two 120Hz HDMI ports is limiting, though. Especially when one port also doubles as the eARC input for a soundbar. If you have multiple modern game consoles, this means routinely swapping plugs around, or otherwise settling for one of the less-optimal HDMI ports.

General use

This TV ships with the webOS 23 platform, which is LG’s in-house operating system. In addition to housing many popular Australian streaming apps, it natively supports AirPlay, making it easy to cast media from iPhones and iPads. It is possible to mirror the screen of compatible Android devices, although you might want to plug in a Chromecast or Fire TV dongle for smoother integration.

I’ve come to accept that no matter the TV operating system, there will always be some form of advertising involved. The home screen routinely pushes recommendations front and centre, including free streaming channels I’m not remotely interested in. I could whinge and moan about this at length, but in reality, it’s easy to ignore. Due to the speed, wide support of streaming apps, and ease of casting, it’s a nice platform to use.

That also goes for the Magic Remote, LG’s input device of choice in recent years. Its pointer-based controls let you aim at selections, but I much prefer using the conventional on-remote buttons. Over time, I’ve gotten used to the remote’s odd concave design that houses the enter button. My vendetta against glossy finishes on devices designed to be handled continues, however. It’s a small annoyance when compared to the TV’s overall functionality.

Living on the edge

Earlier, I mentioned it’s worth knowing that the QNED81 is an edge-lit TV. One important reason for this is that there are also Mini LED TVs under the QNED banner, like the QNED86. Edge-lit and Mini LED refer to different types of backlight technology that produce the image on a TV’s panel.

Mini LED TVs are more expensive but produce brighter images and have better control over which parts of the TV get lit up. Edge-lit, on the other hand, is more affordable, but the trade-off is that large sections of the screen light up, even when only a portion of a scene contains light. This creates a halo-like effect known as blooming, where light bleeds further than it does in the source material. This is particularly noticeable when watching movies in the letterboxed format, where the black bars frame the top and bottom of the picture. Instead of staying a deep black, the black bars shift to various shades of dark grey as light moves throughout a scene. This is because an edge-lit panel doesn’t have the level of precise control to only illuminate what is needed.

If you watch movies at night on the LG QNED81, you’ll notice this more acutely. It’s less of an issue depending on what you want to watch, however. TV shows or videos that take up the full screen won’t be as bothersome, although you won’t get the full benefit of HDR. Sports broadcasts are typically evenly lit, and the QNED81 handles motion well, making this TV a decent pick for the sports-mad household. You might want to keep the curtains shut, though, as sunlight reflections show on the screen.

LG S77S soundbar

In recent years, progressively more manufacturers claim their TVs have better and more powerful, built-in speakers. No matter what they say, I heartily recommend you get a soundbar.

Along with the LG QNED81, I also tested out the $895 LG S77S soundbar, which immediately enhances the overall experience. A great-looking picture is only half of the equation. No matter what you’re watching or using your TV for, good quality audio is just as important to get the most out of your home entertainment setup.

Although the TV’s built-in speakers provide a reasonable amount of volume and clarity for dialogue, there’s not much depth to the sound profile. Plugging in the soundbar, which comes with a wireless subwoofer, leads to a legitimate night-and-day difference. The LG S77S is a 3.1.3 channel system, meaning that it includes up-firing speakers to produce a multi-directional soundscape enabled by the Dolby Atmos codec. Even when not viewing Dolby Atmos-compatible content you still benefit from more depth and bass. Natively, the LG QNED81 doesn’t support Dolby Atmos but it can pass the codec from compatible media to the soundbar so you get the wider soundscape.

Watching the intro of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, you’re able to better appreciate John Williams’ iconic score, with the soundbar pumping high-quality volume throughout the room. It’s exhilarating hearing the high screech of a TIE fighter followed by a deep rumble as it zooms across the screen. John Wick 4‘s frenetic gun fu action scenes also sound great, with the subwoofer’s bass punctuating fight sequences without overpowering everything else.

An odd quirk of LG’s soundbar ecosystem is that it uses a separate app to the ThinQ software employed by most of the brand’s other smart appliances. Although the app isn’t essential, largely due to how seamlessly it pairs with an LG TV, downloading an additional app is a hindrance.

Paired with the soundbar is a mini version of the Magic Remote, although it’s much easier to adjust sound settings via the TV. If you do use the soundbar remote, cycling through settings activates a voice announcing each mode. Unless you remember how many button presses gets to the setting you want, you need to wait for the voice confirming your selection, which is a bit slow. The remote on my older LG soundbar has dedicated buttons for ‘standard’ and ‘cinema’ modes, which is easier and more user-friendly than waiting to be told your selection. When paired with an LG TV, it’s as simple as navigating to the sound settings on-screen.

LG Magic Remote and sounbar remote
The Magic Remote (left) compared to the soundbar remote (right).

I mentioned earlier the trouble of only having two 120Hz HDMI ports available for game consoles and soundbars. Fortunately, the LG S77S supports 120Hz passthrough, bypassing the issue entirely. In my case, I could plug the soundbar into the dedicated eARC port, and then plug an Xbox Series X directly into the soundbar. This meant I could still play Xbox games at 120Hz on the TV, get the best possible audio quality, and use the TV’s other 120Hz HDMI port for my PlayStation 5.

Who is the LG QNED81 for?

If you want a TV that looks good out of the box with natural and vibrant colours, the LG QNED81 fits the bill. When paired with a soundbar like the LG S77S, you also benefit from a richer home theatre experience.

Make sure to shop around for a deal: JB Hi-Fi listed the 75-inch size for $2,195 at the time of writing, and many retailers offer bundles or discounts on soundbars too.

This is one of the better TVs out there before you start paying more for premium Mini LED and OLED technology. It’s easy to use, supports a lot of streaming platforms and casting options, and will set you up nicely for the upcoming sporting summer. Support for 120Hz refresh rates also means the QNED81 is a decent TV for gaming.

With vibrant colours, 120Hz support, and a wide viewing angle, the LG QNED81 is a solid TV for sports and gaming before you start paying more for Mini LED and OLED models.
Value for money
Ease of use
Vibrant, realistic colours
webOS 23 supports lots of streaming services and casting options
Wide viewing angle
Noticeable blooming effects when watching movies
Reflective screen