TCL on Tuesday launched the latest iterations of its popular 6-Series and 5-Series 4K HDR televisions. Both formations are available starting today, though TCL says the former will have “limited availability”; on Tuesday.
Prices for the 5-Series start at $ 400 for a 50-inch model, then move up to $ 450 for a 55-inch model, $ 630 for a 65-inch model, or $ 1,100 for a 75-inch model. The 6th Series, meanwhile, costs $ 650 for a 55-inch model, $ 900 for a 65-inch model, or $ 1,400 for a 75-inch model.
The 6-Series and 5-Series tend to be the most recommended TCL models for leading TV buyers, offering commendable performance and simple TV Roku software at reasonable prices in recent years. The 6-Series games are slightly lower than the company’s top 8-Series models, while the 5-Series sit slightly ahead of the more budget-friendly 4-Series and 3-Series TVs. Overall, TCL’s television business has seen growing success in the United States; today, the Chinese electronics firm only tracks Samsung in the American market share.
4K 4 Series TV: Motion up to mini-LED
The main addition to this year’s Roku 6-Series TVs is the mini-LED light bulb, which TCL initially introduced to the mass-market TV with its premium 8-Series sets last year. As the name suggests, mini-LEDs are essentially smaller variants of traditional LEDs – generally 0.2 mm or less. Because mini-LEDs are so mini, TV manufacturers can incorporate many more of them into their screens: there are more than 25,000 mini-LEDs across the back of the 8 series mentioned, and TCL says there are “thousands” on 6- Series dates.
The result, ideally, is a TV that can more accurately obscure some parts of the screen while leaving other parts on, thus improving contrast compared to a typical LED panel. The dark parts of a photo may look darker, the bright parts may look brighter and there should be no less “blooming” where a bright part of an image penetrates too far into what it should be a dark part. (Think of an image where the night sky that directly surrounds a bright moon is far lighter than the rest of the darkness around it.)
In the case of the new 6-series TVs, TCL says the mini-LEDs have power up to 240 dark local areas, i.e., areas of the screen that can be illuminated or dimmed by the backlight. This is significantly less than the 1,000 areas advertised in the 8 Series and less than some traditional top-level LED TVs, so the contrast performance here will probably not be anything to go by. This 240-zone figure only applies to the most expensive 75-inch model.
However, there is possible be an improvement over last year’s 6 Series TVs: while the previous 65-inch 6-Series model grew to 120 local dark areas, for example, this year’s 65-inch set has 160. The 55-inch by 6-inch TV, meanwhile, features 128 darker local areas compared to 100 last year.
Overall, mini-LED technology is something that correlates between aging LED light screens and more advanced display technologies like OLED and microLED, both of which can achieve superior contrast by fading each pixel individually. LG and, to a lesser extent, Sony have been the only TV manufacturers capable of putting OLED TVs at relatively affordable prices – although others like Vizio have begun to join them. MicroLED TVs may end up as the gold standard for screen quality – compared to mini-LEDs, microLEDs are around 0.01 mm – but they are still not available to the general consumer in part due to the high cost of production. Mini-LEDs offer softer benefits, but benefits nonetheless – and they are more affordable to produce, which is why we are seeing technology cheat on popular TVs like the 6-Series today.
Like last year’s model, the new Series 6 uses a QLED display. For the stranger, that is not same as OLED, which is essentially a different class of display and mostly superior. Rather, it is another replication of traditional LCD panels – one that, when implemented well, can produce more saturated colors through the use of a film with “quantum dot” filter light between the backlight and the LCD layer. In simpler terms, there is a reason to expect good color performance for the money, which happened with last year’s bands. High-quality LED panels can outperform OLEDs when it comes to peak brightness, though TCL has not revealed how much brightness noise the 6 Series can display.
Beyond that, TCL says the new 6-Series TVs support up to a 120Hz refresh technology and variable rate (or VRR) rate ranging from 48 to 120 frames per second. Both should help slow down the movement, especially with fast paced video games. (The company has previously announced that VRR will arrive as an update to select TVs with 6 series of 2019.) These are also the first TVs to bear the new THX Certified Game Mode label: this is a photo mode that aims to reduce latency and neighborhood games with a competitive mind without sacrificing much in contrast and color mode. We’ll have to see how well this all works in action, but it may come in handy with the upcoming Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Each 6-Series TV will come with four HDMI ports, all of which support Auto Low Latency Mode (or ALLM) – which allows compatible game consoles to switch to gaming mode on a TV itself – and VRR. One port supports eARC, an audio-over-HDMI feature that helps simplify connection to audio tapes and AV receivers. While these are obvious features that come standard with the HDMI 2.1 spec, none of the 6-Series TVs have a dedicated HDMI 2.1 port, so you will lose a future fix module compared to high-end TVs. covering the full spec.
The 6-series TVs themselves still have a brushed metal finish, with thin side borders, though they now include a smart cable management system inserted inside the booths of each model. They still support Dolby Vision HDR, HDR10, HLG and Dolby Atmos sound. And they all run Roku OS, which remains a direct platform for accessing streaming content, though one that is still missing in new apps like HBO Max and Peacock due to publishers disagreements.
5-series TV: QLED and local dimming
The more affordable 5 Series Roku TVs should be a step down in picture quality, but they now come with QLED panels for the enhanced color benefits mentioned above. They also include for the first time a feature of complete local darkness, this includes only 40, 48, 56, or 80 areas depending on the size model you buy, which is not a ton, but should help the TV- to perform better with HDR content. There are no mini-LEDs, however.
The 5-series groups have four HDMI ports that support ALLM, with one port supporting eARC. They support Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG as well but at a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz. So do not expect extreme softness during games. The design here is not as premium as the 6 Series, but its slopes are similarly slim, and it has the same integrated cable management system.
In more far-reaching news, TCL says it plans to provide more details on its 8-level premium TVs, which will include at least one model with an 8K resolution, later this year.