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.
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.
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.
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.
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.