TCL Roku TVs for 2019 Hands-on: Get Ready to Be Wowed

(Image credit: TCL)

TCL has been a favorite brand here at Tom's Guide for over a year, thanks to the TV manufacturer's unique blend of performance, quality and affordable pricing. The TCL 6-Series remains one of the best TVs you can get for less than $1,000 and the TCL 43S517 Roku Smart 4K TV is still our best TV under $500.

But TCL's got new models on the way, and we got a sneak peek at the new and improved Series 5 and Series 6 models, as well as a unique demo of the new TCL 8 Series, the company's new premium-yet-affordable model line.

TCL 5 Series vs 6 Series vs 8 Series: What’s Right for You?

TCL 5 Series

TCL 6 Series

TCL 8 Series

Sizes

43", 50", 55", 65"

55", 65"

65", 75"

Pricing Info

starting under $300

starting under $600

65-inch: $1999 

75-inch: $2999 

Display

LCD w/ Wide Color Gamut

QLED with Wide Color Gamut

QLED with Wide Color Gamut

Dimming Zones

N/A

Up to 140

Up to 25,000

Dolby Vision

Yes

Yes

Yes

Dolby Atmos

Yes

Yes

Yes

Smart OS

Roku

Roku w/ Voice Remote

Roku w/ Voice Remote

Availability

Summer 2019

Summer 2019

Fall 2019

TCL 5 Series: Our new favorite value TV?

Pricing and availability: The TCL 5 Series Roku TV will be available in four sizes: 43-inch, 50-inch, 55-inch and 65-inch. Coming to stores this summer, the TCL 5 Series Roku TV will start at less than $300 for the 43-inch model.

The TCL 5 Series updates one of the best budget-friendly TVs with some of the stylish looks and finer features of the 6 Series.

(Image credit: TCL)

Along the bottom edge of the TV is a jeweled power button, looking a lot like the stylish 2018 6 Series. The bezel-less display uses what TCL calls the Full-View design, and it puts the display glass right out to the very edge for an elegant look that's usually restricted to more expensive TVs.

(Image credit: TCL)

But the finer touches aren't all cosmetic. The set also gets wide color gamut reproduction for fuller color, and boasts support for Dolby Vision, our favorite high dynamic range (HDR) format.

Like all of TCL's smart TVs, the 5 Series is a Roku TV, one of our favorite smart TV platforms. And if you've got an Amazon Alexa or Google Home smart speaker, you can even pair it to the TV for hands-free voice control that lets you adjust volume and settings, open and close apps and search for content.

TCL 6 Series: Now with Quantum Dots

Pricing and availability: Available in 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, the TCL 6 Series Roku TV will be available for purchase this summer, starting at less than $600 for the 55-inch model.

The TCL 6 Series updates one of our favorite TV values for 2019 by bringing in an impressive new technology: Quantum dots. The nano-scale crystals that make up each quantum dot react to light, emitting a brighter light with a wider color gamut. The result is better color than a standard LCD can display on its own.

(Image credit: TCL)

It's a technology best known for putting the Q in Samsung's QLED TVs, and shoppers might be surprised in the coming months to see the QLED term showing up on TCL 6 Series TVs. Despite Samsung's aggressive marketing, QLED isn't a brand, it's a technical term for a quantum-dot-enhanced, LED-backlit displays, meaning that Samsung's QLED lineup is about to face some stiff competition.

(Image credit: TCL)

The display is also backed up with dozens of dimming zones – between 100 and 160, depending on screen size – providing better contrast and brightness control.

You'll also get a double dose of Dolby technology on the 6 series, with Dolby Vision support for HDR content and Dolby Atmos object-based audio that offers a much more immersive listening experience.

The smart TV experience is also pretty excellent, with a microphone-equipped remote that adds voice control to the already-excellent Roku software. This lets you control many TV functions with a spoken command, whether it's adjusting the volume or searching for a specific show.

TCL 8 Series: A Premium Contender

Price and availability: The TCL 8 Series Roku TV is slated to begin selling this fall, with the 65-inch model (65Q825) selling for $1,999 and the larger 75-inch model (75Q825) for $2,999.

The TCL 8 Series is new for 2019, and represents a major effort by TCL to bring the company's blend of performance and price to the high-end home theater space.

(Image credit: TCL)

One of the premium aspects of the 8 Series is Dolby Atmos sound, which offers a more immersive listening experience thanks to a tall soundstage. Atmos sound simulates a larger, taller soundstage that makes the audio seem to wrap around you. In a demo of the Atmos audio, switching back and forth between Atmos and standard sound made it clear how well Dolby's audio technology enhances the content with more realistic sound.

The set gets two major enhancements over the basic LCD displays TCL has been known for. The first is quantum dot-enhancement, just like what we saw on the new 6 Series. Quantum dots have the unmistakable effect of boosting color and offering a wider range of colors for a more realistic picture. What looked great on the 6 Series looks even better on the 8 Series.

MORE: Best TVs of 2019

But the 8 Series also gets an impressive backlight that may be the best we've seen on a TV. Using what TCL calls Quantum Contrast, the backlight array behind the 8-Series' LCD panel goes well beyond the usual 100+ dimming zones offered on other TVs. Instead of a grid of individual lighting zones that measure an inch or two across, the 8 Series is backed with as many as 25,000 mini LEDs that measure a fraction of an inch across. While it's not quite the per-pixel illumination offered by OLED technology, it's a heck of a lot closer that we've seen any other LCD TV offer.

(Image credit: TCL)

The result is lighting that is restricted to tiny individual zones, allowing brighter, more uniform backlight for bright portions of the screen, dimmer lighting for darker portions and turning off the LED entirely for deeper black levels. In the demos we saw, the resulting black levels were superb, and haloing around brightly lit objects – a problem faced by even the best premium LCD sets – was minimized to almost nothing.

In a side-by-side demonstration against a leading competitor with a quantum-qot enhanced LCD, the difference was stark, with the 8 Series offering deeper black levels than even the competing set could offer. 

Obviously, we'll hold off on declaring this the best backlight ever until we get a chance to test it for ourselves, but at first glance, it seems that TCL has something impressive on their hands. It means that TCL isn't just putting its best foot forward for the new 8 Series, it's putting competitors on notice.