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Should you buy a TCL TV? Our verdict on TCL Roku TVs and more

Should you buy a TCL TV? Our verdict on TCL Roku TVs and more
(Image credit: TCL)

TCL has built a reputation for making an abundance of affordable TVs. In 2017, the Chinese brand became the third-biggest brand in North America, and its LCD TV sales are, according to the company, growing rapidly year-on-year as they become increasingly available in the UK and other European countries.

TCL TVs might be cheap compared to those offered by the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG, it's no wonder people are tempted, but they don't scrimp on premium features – you'll see a few models with Dolby Vision HDR support, for example, and the company has recently thrown itself into the more premium QLED TV market.

But are TCL TVs any good? And should you buy one if you spot a good deal? While we haven't had the pleasure of these TCL TVs in our test rooms, we've run the rule over their spec sheets and found the best deals...

Short answer: If your priority is screen size and pixels-per-pound, these TCL TVs are certainly worth considering - especially if you don't own a video streamer and want a TV with a fair share of smart apps built into it, which is exactly what Freeview Play and Roku TV offer (they're both built into a number of TCL TVs).

Features: tick. But what about picture quality? As these TCL TVs are new to the UK market, we haven't gone twelve rounds with any. However, if their specs, and our experience of cheap 4K TVs are anything to go by, we'd temper expectations when it comes to ultimate 4K HDR performance.

For daytime TV and HD/SD streams, these TVs will likely be perfectly fine. However, those after the true splendour of 4K HDR content – from a 4K Blu-ray player, for example – might be better served by a more premium offering, such as one of these best TVs, which have all been tried and tested by yours truly.

(Image credit: TCL)

TCL TVs (UK)

2020 models: C71 and C81
The latest TCL 4K TVs to hit UK shores are the premium C71 and C81, which feature QLED (Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode) panels – a rival technology to OLED TV. 

Impressively, they all support the full suite of HDR formats: Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR and HLG. A Smart HDR mode aims to upconvert SDR content, too.

They also run on the Android TV 9.0 operating system (an Android 10.0 update is due later this year), with integrated Freeview Play offering direct access to a scroll-back live TV guide and catch-up apps. Disney Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are all correct and present at launch too, complete with 4K, HDR (including Dolby Vision and HDR10+) and Dolby Atmos playback of each service's compatible titles.

They feature built-in Google Assistant voice control, which can be activated or deactivated via a button on the back of the set. Amazon Alexa compatibility allows for voice control via Amazon Alexa devices, too.

The main difference between the two ranges: the C81 sports front-firing Onkyo speakers with a rear subwoofer.

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TCL 55C715K 55in 4K QLED TV: £599 at Amazon
A 55-inch QLED TV with a 4K resolution; HDR 10, HDR 10+ and Dolby Vision HDR support; Dolby Atmos support; and Android TV OS with Freeview Play for all the catch-up apps – iPlayer, Netflix, Prime Video and more.

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TCL 65C715K 55in 4K QLED TV: £799 £699 at Amazon
The same TV as above but in a larger (65-inch) size.

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TCL 55C815K 55in 4K QLED TV: £709 on Amazon
Want a slightly better sound? The C81 expands upon the above TVs' offering with front-firing Onkyo speakers with a rear subwoofer.

2020 models: EC78 and EP65
Beneath them are two 4K HDR Android TV series with LCD (not QLED) panels. They both come with Android 9.0, Freeview Play, Google Home and Google Assistant built-in. 

With Google Home and Google Assistant onboard, both can be controlled through selected Google devices such as Google Home Mini, Nest, Android OS mobile phones and TCL Google-enabled remote controls.

The EC78 series is the pricier of the two, combining what TCL calls its 'frameless ultra slim metal design', 4K HDR quality with Wide Colour Gamut, Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and Android TV with Google Assistant built-in. The EC78 range also includes sound by Onkyo, promising incredibly immersive sound during movies, music and gaming.

The EP65 series, meanwhile, features an elegant and slim design, 4K HDR picture quality with Google Assistant built-in, and Smart HDR for upgrading Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) content to HDR-like quality.

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TCL 55EC788 55in 4K TV: £469 at Costco
Android 9.0, Freeview Play, Google Home and built-in Google Assistant, as well as support for HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR formats. There's even sound by Onkyo. On paper, this is a very well spec'd TV.

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TCL 43EP658 43in 4K TV: £348 £329 at Amazon
Android 9.0, Freeview Play, smart apps, HDR10 support and two HDMI and single USB sockets. Similarly featured to the TV above but without Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and Onkyo-tuned sound.

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TCL 65EP658 65in 4K TV: £599 £579 at Amazon
The same TV as above but in a bigger (65-inch) size.

2019 models: DP608, DP628 and DP648
Looking for an even bigger bargain? The TCL DP608, TCL DP628 and TCL DP648 TVs from last year are now even more attractively priced, having made way for the 2020 models above. 

With 4K resolution, HDR10 and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) support, as well as Freeview Play offering catch-up, on-demand services and live TV together in one place with no monthly costs, these TCL TV ranges are still as feature-packed as you could hope for at the budget end of the market.

There are Netflix and YouTube apps for 4K content and various apps that can be installed for SD and HD content. It's not clear whether Amazon Prime Video is available on TCL's TV offering – if it isn't, users of that video streaming service would have to get it through a budget video streamer, such as a Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV 4K Stick.

The DP648 models deliver TCL's Wide Colour Gamut and Brightness+ processing over the DP608 range, but brightness levels still max out at 320 nits, so these TVs might not make the most of HDR content. Again, at this price you perhaps shouldn't expect them to, but it does mean we wouldn't rush to pair them with a 4K Blu-ray player. If you did want to, all the sets' HDMI inputs are compatible with 4K passthrough from connected 4K sources.

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TCL 55DP628 55in 4K TV: £379 £319 at Amazon
This 55-inch TCL TV is cheap and feature-packed, with HDR10 support, Freeview Play, BBC iPlayer, Netflix 4K, YouTube 4K, and Alexa voice control via a third-party device. Not bad at all for the money.

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TCL 43DP628 55in 4K TV: £299 at Amazon
The same TV as above but in a smaller (43-inch) size.

TCL TVs (US)

TCL has five core TV ranges in the US – 3-Series, 4-Series, 5-Series, 6-Series and 8-Series – offering televisions in size from 32 inches all the way up to 75 inches. So how do the different TCL TVs compare? And which one should you go for? Let's take a look.

The TCL 3-Series (S303, S305, S325) is the HD (720p) LED TV range with wi-fi and Smart TV features. It's split into two categories – the S330 is based on the Android TV system and is available in 32in and 40in screen sizes, while the S325 is based on the Roku OS and comes in 32in, 40in, 43in and 49in sizes. Both offer plenty of built-in apps, including the major ones, but which one you opt for will probably depend on what screen size you're after. Note that the TCL Android TVs have Google Assistant and Chromecast built-in, while the TCL Roku TVs have three (rather than two) HDMI sockets.

The most affordable 4K TCL range is the 4-Series, and they too are split into Android TV- and Roku TV-based models, each available in 43in, 50in, 55in, 65in and 75in sizes. 4K and HDR support, and perhaps the larger screen size, are the biggest reasons to choose the 4-Series over the 3-Series.

Moving up to the 5-Series gets you first and foremost a more premium 4K screen panel courtesy of QLED (OLED-rivalling) technology, as well as a superior version of HDR support in Dolby Vision. These Roku TVs – available in 50in, 55in, 65in and 75in sizes – pit themselves as cheap Samsung QLED TV rivals, and in addition to their promise of enhanced picture quality they offer an edge-to-edge glass design and four HDMI inputs (including one HDMI eARC socket).

Another picture performance upgrade again brings you to the 6-Series (55in, 65in and 75in) and 8-Series (65in and 75in), which enhance their QLED screen panel with Mini-LED backlighting for greater contrast and colour reproduction. The 8-Series sets itself from its slightly lower-spec'd sibling with more advanced TCL picture processing that promises the very best TCL TV performance.

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TCL 55S434 4-Series 55in 4K TV: $399.99 $199.99 at Best Buy
If you're not familiar with TCL, they're a reputable budget TV brand. This nicely-priced 4K HDR screen boasts Android TV, voice control and access to a glut of apps including Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video and HBO Max. You'll need to sign into 'My Best Buy' or sign up to reveal the discount.

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TCL 65Q825 Series-8 65in 4K Roku TV: $1500 $1300 at Best Buy
Save $200 on TCL's most advanced 65in TV, exclusively at Best Buy. It marries the best of TCL's picture technologies with vast HDR support and Roku's smart experience – and its customer reviews are excellent.

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TCL 40S325 3-Series 40in HD TV: $299.99 $199.99 at Amazon
A dirt-cheap 1080p TV from 2019 with all the apps Roku has to offer (and that's a lot!) There's also Works with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant support for voice control using a third-party device.

MORE:

Best TV 2020: budget to premium 4K Ultra HD TVs

How to choose the right TV

Best TV deals 2020

  • hybridauth_Google_101888933069938064971
    What a misleading article! It doesn't answer the question and it doesn't give your verdict.

    You haven't tested any of these TVs so don't know if they are any good.

    This is just an overview of their range.

    I have no object ion to you providing an overview of a product range. In fact they can be very useful for comparison purposes, but please be honest with what you are providing.

    I expect higher standards of journalism from your (normally excellent) magazine/website. Please don't lower your standards to "click bait."
    Reply
  • LowFiWhat
    To be clear, TCL 6 Series is on the R625 model in the United States now. This seems like a copy/paste article from Jan 2018. The upcoming 2020 6 Series will have the mini-LED technology from the 2019 8-series to pair with quantum dots (available on 2019 R625 model). In this price range, few TV's offer the best bang for the buck.
    Reply
  • SMTIPS
    I've owned this 55R635 for less than a month. It was fine for a week. Then audio sync issues started no matter what I watch on it. Then I started researching and Roku forums are full of complaints about it. There are 11 pages of complaints. There seems to be no fix for it. This has been going on with Roku/TCL TV's for well over a year.
    I spent HOURS last night trying to adjust and correct this, both through my new Denon 650H receiver and through the TV and through Prime Video/Firestick settings. There is no fix for it. The only possible fix I've seen is to completely disable all Roku by resetting and not connecting it to the internet and just using your own devices (Firestick, Streaming Box, DVD etc.).
    This is really unacceptable. Half the reason I bought it was for the "cool" factor of the Roku built in to this TV and the high ratings of the Roku app. I could buy any TV but this one had what I wanted. And now in less than a month I'm extremely unhappy with it. To get proper audio syncing I have to disable the entire Roku feature of this!!Reconsider your choice on purchasing this TV. Neither TCL nor Roku has offered any explanation or fix for this issue and it's been happening to many customers since at least 2018.
    Reply
  • philc
    I had a similar issue with one of my TCL unit, after much gnashing of teeth and some mild profanity I discovered the audio reset located at the back if the TV (requires such as a ball point pen) . I left the TV plugged in, used a ball point pen, pushed the reset in...sound reverted back to normal. I do not have cable hooked to the TV and am streaming from my wireless network. I also determined later that the issue may well have been created by my service provider which unbeknownst to me was, at the time, doing a firmware update..This may not have been the case in your situation but I am reasonably certain this was the issue with the audio problem that I had. Aside from that kerfuffle I have had no physical issues with this TV since I've had it, which is going on 2 years.
    Reply
  • rhdmsw
    Bought a 75 inch in 2000, the TV didn't last 2 years without problems. TV Video wouldn't work. Called TCL support and they ran me through diagnostics and troubleshooting. Still couldn't get the picture to come on. End answer was "sorry, your out of warranty".
    Everyone needs to know what garbage TCL is putting out on the market. Stay away and buy something else.
    Reply
  • SMTIPS
    philc said:
    I had a similar issue with one of my TCL unit, after much gnashing of teeth and some mild profanity I discovered the audio reset located at the back if the TV (requires such as a ball point pen) . I left the TV plugged in, used a ball point pen, pushed the reset in...sound reverted back to normal. I do not have cable hooked to the TV and am streaming from my wireless network. I also determined later that the issue may well have been created by my service provider which unbeknownst to me was, at the time, doing a firmware update..This may not have been the case in your situation but I am reasonably certain this was the issue with the audio problem that I had. Aside from that kerfuffle I have had no physical issues with this TV since I've had it, which is going on 2 years.

    This was not the issue. I had no TV provider, period. This was happening directly with a Gigabit wireless connection, I don't pay any provider. It happened on all channels on the Roku, and on the Fire Stick. This is a flat out blatant issue with Audio on TCL TV's, from my research anything Series 5 and above (does not happen at all on TCL 4 series, I've tested 3 of them I and my friends own).

    The problem was never solved. My only solution was to stop using channels through the TV, plug my fire stick directly into my Denon receiver, and use any channels I want through it. This solution completely bypasses the audio processing on the TV and puts it directly through the receiver. I feel bad for people with a sound bar or some small speakers they can't plug devices directly to.

    I will re-iterate, do NOT buy a TCL TV if you want a trouble free experience. These guys have done nothing to improve this, for your entertainment just do a search for "Audio Sync issue TCL" and you will find many many people with exactly the same issues. It can't be blamed on a service provider.
    Reply