TCL 6-Series Review: 4K, True HDR Gaming Under $1000

TCL 6-Series Review

As we make our way through the holiday season, packing our malls and Best Buys looking for the perfect gift, there’s something every one of us is on the hunt for: a good deal. That’s exactly what we have today with the TCL 6-Series set of televisions. I’ve scoured the internet looking for the best deal on a 4K true HDR TV and TCL has got the goods. If you’re looking for a new set this year, this is definitely something you won’t want to miss. This is our TCL 6-Series review.

Specifications

  • TCL 6-Series:
    • Pricing: $649 (55-inch), $999 (65-inch)
    • Screen Size: 55-inch or 65-inch
    • Viewable Display Size: 54.6″/64.5″
    • Description: Powerful Performance HDR 4K TV
    • Wi-Fi: 802.11ac 2×2 Dual Band (support 2.4GHz & 5GHz)
    • Processor Type: CPU: Dual-core / GPU: Dual-core
    • Smart Platform: Roku
  • Display
    • Clear Motion Index: 120Hz CMI
    • Panel Resolution: 3840 x 2160
    • Resolution: UHD
    • Display Colors: 1.07 billion
    • High Dynamic Range Format: Dolby Vision and HDR10
  • Audio
    • Audio Power (Watts): 8W + 8W
    • Audio Passthrough: Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos
    • Dolby Processing: Dolby Digital
  • Connections: AV Input: Composite Video + L&R Audio In (Mini 3.5mm connector), x1 RF Input (NTSC, ATSC), x1 Ethernet, x1 USB 2.0, x3 HDMI 2.0 w/HDCP, x1 SPDIF Digital Audio Optical, x1 Audio Output Headphone
  • Features: Advanced PQ Setting with Mobile App, Control Buttons (Power/Menu, <,>), Multilingual On-Screen-Display: (English, Spanish, French), Closed Caption. Parental Control (V-Chip), Accessible Menu System (CVAA), Sleep Timer
  • Dimensions and Weight
    • Product Size (WxHxD) with Stand: 55-inch: 48.5″ x 30.6″ x 10.7″ / 65-inch: 57.1″ x 35.7″ x 10.7″
    • Product Size (WxHxD) without Stand: 55-inch: 48.5″ x 28.1″ x 2.9″ / 65-inch: 57.1″ x 32.9″ x 3.0″
    • Product Weight with Stand: 55-inch: 38.2 lbs / 65-inch: 52.3 lbs
    • Product Weight without Stand: 55-inch: 37.1 lbs / 65-inch: 51.2 lbs

Allow me to give you a little backstory. We’re not a family that upgrades TVs often. My wife is a nurse and I’m a teacher and writer, so a TV purchase is no small deal. Our 1080p Toshiba was starting to get a little long in the tooth, however, and after a months of convincing, my wife finally gave me the greenlight to buy a new TV right around Black Friday. Always a deal hunter, I researched every single 4K “HDR” TV I could find and discovered something startling: almost all of them fell beneath the peak brightness standards VESA recently released. Put another way, retailers were only offloading instantly-out-of-date TVs under the $1000 mark and some that were over!

That’s when I stopped looking for sale TVs and just started looking for the best thing I could find under $1000. The answer, without question, is the TCL 6-Series.

TCLs latest line is currently available in two sizes. The 55-inch, the 55R617, and the 65-inch, the 65R617. These models come in at $649 and $999 respectively, though, given the season, may be on sale by the time you read this. Even if they’re not, it’s definitely worth giving them a closer look.

No matter which you settle on, you’re getting the same amazing set of features. 4K, 3840×2160 resolution, HDR10, Dolby Vision, high quality full array local dimming, Dolby Atmos support, and wired and wireless 802.11ac WiFi connectivity to support a full Roku smart TV experience. Taken as a whole and delivered with such quality, this is a home run of a package.

Whether you’re gaming or just like streaming Netflix, the picture on this TV is stunning. When you’re watching something made with 4K and HDR in mind, like BBC’s Planet Earth II, the level of detail and richness in color is jaw-dropping. The clarity is simply fantastic, particularly with nature content.

Before coming to the 55-inch version of this TV, I’d experienced 4K before but never full HDR. I scoffed when people told me how good HDR was but seeing is believing. In many ways, high dynamic range makes an even bigger difference than the added resolution, particularly if you’re watching from farther away. The picture here really doesn’t do it justice but gets at the heart of the matter: if you’re coming from an SDR screen, you probably have no idea how many colors you should be seeing.

This is also where the screen’s brightness comes into play. To be HDR the way most people talk about it, it’s widely accepted to mean 1000-nits of brightness or more (compared to the 250-300 of a standard dynamic range TV). This is bright. So bright, in fact, that it can simulate light in a way that makes you want to squint at its highest. These sets are more than twice as bright as the next best sale price TV under $1000 I found this holiday season and look fantastic. The realism they’re able to pull off is wonderful.

One of my big concerns going into this review was how good 1080p would look. Outside of Netflix and some other streaming services, the amount of 4K content is still trickling out; 1080p is still going to make up a good chunk of your viewing time and I’d heard horror stories about bumping to 4K feeling like a downgrade because of poor built-in upscalers.

Thankfully, the upscaler in the 6-Series is great. It looks perfectly fine and by touching up the sharpening in the OSD, it actually looked crisper than on my old native 1080p TV! I didn’t expect that and it was one of the happiest surprises of the entire test period.

The local dimming on these screens is also leaps and bounds ahead of lesser TVs. Local dimming is a method of darkening blacks and deep colors on the screen by having dozens of isolated lighting zones behind the screen (compared to a single backlight or edge lighting). The 55-inch model comes with 96 zones of local dimming; the 65-inch has a full 120. They’re extremely responsive, so when darks and blacks appear on the screen, they look completely dark. It’s a way for LCD screens to approximate what much more expensive OLEDs can do with their pixel-by-pixel power without paying that premium and it’s a wholesale success.

For gaming the TCL 6-Series is a real performer. Using an Xbox One X, it almost feels like stepping into a new generation compared to that console at 1080p. Checkerboarding or not, when you’re playing a game at 4K with full HDR, the picture is simply phenomenal and rivals my high-end gaming PC. Rather than park myself at a desk, I can kick back on my couch and enjoy that beautiful wide color gamut and crisp resolution.

Input lag is a bit of an issue but only if you’re outside of game mode. Like all high-end smart TVs, there’s a lot of processing going on behind the scenes to deliver that exceptional picture. This adds input lag, which is the delay between pushing a button on your controller and seeing that reaction on screen. At 4K without game mode, the TVs come in at approximately 122ms of lag time. With game mode, this drops dramatically, all the way down to under 20ms. At that response time, I find it imperceptible even playing games like Battlefield V or Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.

Finally, I may be late to the game, but I adore Roku. After creating an account, it presented me with more streaming services than I knew existed, including many that specialize in 4K content. Where it really shines, though, is in making it easy to find whatever I’d like to stream right away. The easy search functionality lets you pull up content by title, actor, or other modifiers and then shows you what services you can buy it from. I usually avoid differentiating my services but this makes it so easy that I can watch what I want, when I want, and get down to enjoying my movie. You can also create custom lists of content you enjoy so you never miss another show.  I don’t know how I’ve missed this for so long!

Final Thoughts

As a gamer and video streamer, the TCL 6-Series has absolutely blown me away. In both features and performance, it rivals much more expensive televisions while sacrificing almost nothing. The picture is absolutely fantastic and the true 1000-nit HDR is a bigger upgrade than I imagined it could be. If you’re in the market for a new TV under $1000, this is the one to buy, sale or not.

Pros

  • True, 1000-nit brightness HDR
  • Wide Color Gamut
  • Great response time in Game Mode
  • Excellent 96/120-zone Local Dimming
  • Stylish looks
  • Lag-free performance in Roku interface
  • Roku makes accessing content, building a history/feed easy

Cons

  • Some glare
  • Off-axis color shifting

Both a review sample and purchased sample were used in the evaluation process when building this review.

Written by
Chris cut his teeth on games with the original NES. Since then, games and technology have become a passion. He currently acts as the Hardware Editor for MMORPG.com and GameSpace.com. You can reach him at Chris@MMORPG.com.

4 Comments

  1. Even with the limitations of watching the screen through a lower quality screen, the quality is obvious! A very tempting piece of hardware.

  2. I know what is a high contender for my money in January…lol

  3. We own a 4 series and a 5 series and really love TCL as a brand.
    The quality to price ratio is off the charts.
    Really looking forward to a 65″ series 6 upgrade over our 4 series! =D

  4. We actually have the 55″ TCL-6 hooked to my PS4 PRO and I love the clarity…

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