TCL released the latest iterations of its popular 6K and 5 Series 4K HDR televisions on Tuesday. Both lineups are available as of today, though TCL says the former will have “limited availability”
Prices for the 5 Series start at $ 400 for a 50-inch model and then rise to $ 450 for a 55-inch model, $ 630 for a 65-inch model, or $ 1,100 for a 75 inch model. The 6 Series costs $ 650 for a 55-inch model, $ 900 for a 65-inch model, or $ 1,400 for a 75-inch model.
The 6 and 5 series tend to be TCL’s most recommended models for mainstream TV buyers as they have offered commendable performance and simple Roku TV software at reasonable prices over the past few years. The 6 series is just below the company’s best 8 series, while the 5 series is just ahead of the cheaper 4 and 3 series televisions. In general, TCL’s TV business in the United States has enjoyed increasing success. Today, the Chinese electronics company is only behind Samsung’s US market share.
6 Series 4K TVs: Switch to Mini LEDs
The most important innovation in this year’s Roku 6-series televisions is the mini-LED backlight, which TCL first introduced last year with its premium 8-series devices for mass televisions. As the name suggests, mini-LEDs are essentially smaller variants of traditional LEDs – generally 0.2mm or less. Because mini-LEDs are so small, TV manufacturers can put a lot more of them in their displays: there are more than 25,000 mini-LEDs on the back of the aforementioned 8-series, and according to TCL there are “thousands” on the 6 . Series.
The result, ideally, is a television that can dim some parts of the screen more precisely while keeping other parts lit, improving contrast compared to a typical LED LCD panel. The dark parts of an image can look darker, the light parts can look lighter, and there should be less “blooming” with a light part of an image going too far into a dark part. (Imagine an image where the night sky directly surrounding a bright moon is unnaturally brighter than the rest of the darkness around it.)
According to TCL, the mini LEDs in the new 6-series televisions supply up to 240 local dimming zones with a full array, ie areas of the display that can be illuminated or dimmed by the background lighting. That’s significantly less than the 1,000 zones advertised in the 8 Series and less than some traditional LED TVs, so the contrast performance here is likely not unusual. This 240 zone number only applies to the most expensive 75-inch model.
Still there is probably This is an improvement on last year’s 6-series televisions: While the previous 65-series model in the 6-series had a maximum of 120 local dimming zones, this year’s 65-inch device has 160. The 55-inch 6-series television meanwhile there are 128 local dimming zones compared to 100 last year.
In general, mini-LED technology is sort of a gap between aging LED-lit displays and more advanced display technologies like OLED and microLED, both of which can achieve superior contrast by dimming each pixel individually. LG, and to a lesser extent Sony, have been the only TV makers able to offer OLED TVs at relatively affordable prices – although others like Vizio are starting to join them. MicroLED TVs may be the gold standard for display quality – compared to mini-LEDs, MicroLEDs are around 0.01mm – but are still not available to the general consumer, in part because of the high manufacturing costs. Mini LEDs offer milder benefits, but benefits nonetheless – and they’re more affordable to manufacture, which is why the technology is slipping down on popular TVs like the 6 Series today.
Like last year’s model, the new 6 Series uses a QLED display. For the unknown, this is Not the same as OLED, which is essentially a different – and largely superior – class of display. Instead, it is a further iteration of conventional LED-LCD panels which, if implemented well, can produce saturated colors through the use of a light-filtering film of “quantum dots” between the backlight and the LCD layer. In simpler terms, there is reason to expect good color performance for the money, as there was with last year’s sets. High quality LED panels can also outperform OLEDs in terms of peak brightness, although TCL did not disclose how many nits of brightness the 6s can display.
In addition, according to TCL, the new televisions of the 6 series support a refresh rate of up to 120 Hz and a VRR technology (Variable Refresh Rate) of 48 to 120 frames per second. Both should help with calm movement, especially when playing fast-paced video games. (The company has already announced that VRR will be available as an update for select 6 Series TVs in 2019.) These will also be the first TVs to bear the new Certified Game Mode label from THX: This is a picture mode that allows for latency and lag are designed to reduce competitive games without losing too much contrast and color. We’ll have to see how well all of this works in action, but it could come in handy for the upcoming Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5. Every 6-Series TV will have four HDMI ports, all of which support Auto Low Latency Mode (or ALLM) – which allows compatible game consoles to switch to game mode on a TV themselves – and VRR. One port supports eARC, an audio over HDMI feature that simplifies connectivity to sound bars and AV receivers. While these are notable features that are standard on the HDMI 2.1 specification, none of the 6 Series TVs have a dedicated HDMI 2.1 port, so you get some degree compared to high-end TVs that cover the entire specification Lose some degree of future security.
The 6 Series TVs themselves still have a brushed metal finish with thin side edges, though they now include a clever cable management system hidden in the stands on each model. They continue to support Dolby Vision HDR, HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Atmos surround sound. And all of them are using Roku OS, a straightforward platform for accessing streaming content, though new apps like HBO Max and Peacock are still missing due to publisher disputes.
5 Series 4K TVs: QLED and local dimming
The cheaper 5-series Roku TVs should improve picture quality, but they now come with QLED panels to achieve the improved color benefits mentioned above. They also include, for the first time, a full array local dimming feature: this only includes 40, 48, 56, or 80 zones depending on what size model you buy, which isn’t a ton, but it should help TVs perform better with HDR content. However, there are no mini LEDs.
The sets of 5 have four HDMI connections that support ALLM and one connection that supports eARC. They also support Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG, but achieve a maximum refresh rate of 60 Hz. So don’t expect exceptional smoothness when gaming. The design here isn’t quite as upscale as the 6 Series, but the bezels are similarly slim and it has the same built-in cable management system.
In forward-looking news, TCL plans to provide more details later this year on its new premium 8-series TVs, which will include at least one model with 8K resolution.