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TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review

A potent mix of price and performance

TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © TCL)

Our Verdict

Sitting in the sweet spot between expensive, cutting-edge sets and bargain basement models, the TCL 6-Series offers the right mix of features and picture performance.

For

  • Pleasing picture
  • Good upscaling
  • Very competitive price

Against

  • Less intense colors
  • No headphone jack on the Roku remote
TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review: Specs

Price: $599.99
Model number: 55R625
Screen Size: 55 inches
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
HDR: HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision
Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
Ports: 4 HDMI, 1 USB
Audio: 2x 8-watt
Smart TV Software: Roku TV 8.0
Size: 48.3 x 31.1 x 12.4 inches [w/o stand]
Weight: 37.2 pounds [w/o stand]

The TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 offers a continued tradition of excellence from the Chinese TV maker. TCL has typically been thought of as part of a triumvirate of TV makers (some would say, second tier TV makers). Together with Vizio and Hisense, they have offered the most competitive prices while striving to follow the technology leaders, improving their pictures every year. The 4K TCL 6-Series continues that heritage, as one of the best TVs out there with an even better picture and lower price.

The 55-inch model of the TCL 6-Series we tested comes with all the features one would expect of higher resolution sets. The LCD panel uses a quantum dot film to broaden the array of colors it can display and has a full-array local dimming backlight with 120 contrast control zones. The set supports high dynamic range (HDR) video, HDR10, HLG (for streaming and broadcast HDR sources), and Dolby Vision, as well and Dolby Atmos sound. Topping off the list of features, the TCL 6-Series includes the Roku smart TV interface, which is still the simplest and yet most extensive service in terms of apps and streaming services available today.

Our TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review makes it easy to see that you can get great performance and smart features without the premium price of more expensive 4K sets.

TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review: Price and availability

With five different TV lines, the TCL 6-Series TV sits second from the top of the line below the more premium TCL 8-Series models (there is no 7-Series). As such, it offers some excellent features for the price, lacking only the cutting-edge mini-LED technology of the 8-Series (which only comes in 65- and 75-inch sizes).

The 55-inch TCL 6-Series lists for $599 but is available for less at several retailers. So in a big screen world of ever falling prices, that's still a deal. If you've got the money--and the space--even better is the $899 65-inch version of the same set. Compare that to the $2,000 price tag on the 65-inch TCL 8-Series. True, a 55-inch TCL 5-Series set is about $60 less than the same sized 6-Series, but you give up local backlight dimming, which makes a big difference in terms of revealing details in darker or more nuanced images. As such, the 6-Series seems to be a perfect combination of value and performance.

  • 55-inch 55R625: $579
  • 65-inch 65R625: $799

With very few differences between the 55-inch model we tested and the larger 65-inch model, we feel confident in extending our recommendations to both sets. Aside from a higher number of contrast control zones on the larger model, the features and capabilities should be the same.

TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review: Design

Like many models, the 55-inch TCL 6-Series is a primarily black set trimmed out with some subtle brushed chrome. It also has the typical Y-shaped feet, which in this case attach to each end of the set for a table-top placement.

(Image credit: TCL)

That can present something of a problem since it means you need to have a credenza or stand that is at least 49 inches wide for the feet to fit. (The feet themselves are 12-inches deep, front to back).

(Image credit: TCL)

Center stands can be more accommodating, in this regard, although then you can't slide a disc player or slim cable/satellite box directly underneath.

(Image credit: TCL)

You can, of course, install the set on a wall using a bracket. It weighs just 37.2 pounds, so it's easily maneuverable and works with standard VESA 200 x 200 millimeter brackets.

TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review: Ports

In terms of making necessary connections to video and game equipment, TCL hasn't left out anything critical. All the primary ports on the TCL 6-Series are on the right side of the back of the set, save for the power plug on the left.

(Image credit: TCL)

In addition to Wi-Fi (802.11ac) connectivity, the TV has 4 HDMI (one of which is ARC), one USB, and an AV output with an adapter for older video sources like VCRs. For cord cutters, there's an RF coaxial connection, as well as a mini jack for headphones or audio output, plus an optical audio output.

(Image credit: TCL)

TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review: Performance

As with other Roku integrations, the picture pre-sets for the TCL 6-Series TV are under the Roku settings menu. You get very basic options: Brighter, Bright, Normal, Dark, Darker. We tested in Normal mode and then selected Movie mode under advanced settings. (Movie mode turns off Action Smoothing and LED Motion Clarity to minimize distortions and the flattening effect these settings can have on a picture). There is no Filmmaker mode, a popular option that strips out all additional processing for a more pristine movie presentation, and has been showing up on smart TVs from many manufacturers.

Overall, the TCL 6-Series revealed moderate brightness levels, delivering maximum brightness of 385 nits, less than a recently tested Hisense R8F Roku TV with 435.7 nits and a Vizio P-Series Quantum X (PX65-G1) at 567 nits. Where the TCL 6-Series really excelled, though, was in terms of color accuracy and contrast. It was decidedly closer to faithful colors with a Delta E of 2.2—better than the aforementioned Hisense and Vizio sets. And contrast was an impressive 2592.6:1. Translation: what you'll see are more picture details in complex light-and-dark scenes and faithful colors from verdant greens to ruby red tail lights.

In the 4K Sanctuary episode of the Mandalorian, for example, the TCL 6-Series lacked some of the punchiness or intensity of say, an expensive OLED, but it delivered more details, such as the subtle shading revealing two moons above an alien daytime sky and the mist rising off the rice paddy ponds. Colors looked realistic with verdant greens in the forest scenes and the reds of lights and laser blasts staying sharp without blooming or blowing out the rest of the scene. And thanks to local dimming, the top and bottom bars of the letterbox format remained solidly black, eliminating any possible distraction.

(Image credit: TCL)

Nostalgic scenes in a 4K disc of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood looked nicely detailed, like the reflections in the hood of Sharon Tate's Porsche, the skin tones of the actors, and the colors of California cruising cars, from Mustang red to VW Bug burgundy. In some scenes the contrast seemed pushed to its limits, such as the Western movie scene with DiCaprio holding the girl hostage in the bar: several times the dark background contrasted too severely with the foreground. How much you'll notice this will depend on how closely you're looking for it. For example, in the 4K disc of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Darth Vader’s burnt out helmet looked for a moment false against the white of Ren's spaceship interior, but the effect is fleeting.

What we found really impressive with the Skywalker disc, however, was the virtual absence of any visible banding in the skies above the market scene. Color transitions were smooth and unperturbed, demonstrating how sophisticated TCL's processing and software has become. We also took note here of the fact that the horizontal off-axis viewing was quite good, with a big reduction in the loss of color and brightness as you move to one side or the other of the picture.

For cord cutters—and those viewing traditional HD 1080p and 720p material--we tested the set with a Mohu ReLeaf HD antenna for local HD broadcasts. The local NBC primetime lineup looked smooth and clear with no noticeable artifacts or other distortions resulting from upscaling. The only slight imperfection after hours of viewing was a slight and very small area of darkening in the corners of the screen. It's also notable that the TCL 6-Series' tuner performed well, pulling in stations such as CBS with the antenna that others in the same location and situation could not.

Finally, gamers will be pleasantly surprised to note that the TCL 6-Series is a more than capable machine for Call of Duty missions. There is a specific gaming setting on the TV to turn off a lot of the video processing, and it quickened picture response, turning in a fast 13.1 milliseconds lag time. For comparison, that's less than half the lag time of a Vizio PX65-G1 (35.1 ms) we recently tested.

TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review: Smart TV features

The TCL 6-Series relies on the familiar red Roku screen for its smart TV features, which is a good thing. Roku scans your TV's input sources, looking for game consoles like a PlayStation and inputs like a TV antenna, then adds them to the main screen above the likes of Netflix, Prime Video, et al, so that everything is in one place. With literally thousands of apps and streaming sources, far more than any competing smart TV platform, Roku offers the most smarts, and yet Roku also stands on top in terms of simplicity and design.

(Image credit: TCL)

From the start, the Roku software makes setup dead easy: pair up the remote, make the usual language and location selections and establish an Internet connection with your home network. You do have to switch to an online setup portion on your phone or PC for the Roku section of linking to your account, but once you've done so, it adds channels you already subscribe to (Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, et al) to the TV with the most extensive library of streaming options--save for NBC's Peacock and HBO Max.

For the uninitiated, a canned video walks you through the remote control and Roku features. It includes other options, like Roku's Featured Free section, the mobile app options (including adding headphones), and how to search using your voice.

As with all smart TVs, there are issues about privacy. While using the antenna to set up local stations, the TCL 6-Series set warned us about automatic content recognition (ACR) and the fact that it would track what we watched through the antenna and connected devices. You can switch it off in the privacy setting section.

Conversely, it makes it especially easy for cord cutters. Roku automatically builds an electronic program guide based on the channels it finds during its initial scan. Better still, the TCL 6-Series set has Roku's Live TV Pause feature. By plugging your own 16GB thumb drive into the USB port, you get 90 minutes of DVR-like stopping and restarting of programs. You can' t use it to record shows in advance, but the pause feature is handy and it certainly offers enough time to get the laundry or to deal with a takeout delivery. By the way, a larger thumb drive won't buy you more time; 90-minutes is the maximum.

TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review: Audio

No one is going to throw away their stereo in favor of the TCL 6-Series' built in sound system. But the 8-by 8 watt system proved adequate enough to fill most viewing rooms with sound. If you push it beyond, say, three quarter's full volume some distortion starts to interfere with your sonic enjoyment.

There are 6 preset sound modes: Music, Theater, Normal, Speech, Big Bass, and High Treble. The movie sound setting has a dialog enhancer and virtual surround setting. We didn't find that the virtual surround theater mode delivered very expansive sound, and certainly you won't confuse it with a full-fledged surround sound system. It tends to sound thinner and lack the resonance and richness of a full-sized sound bar or surround system.

We recommend sticking with the Music and Theater sound modes on the TCL 6-Series. Vocals on pop songs (okay, we played Aha's Take on Me in 4K--again) were faithful enough. The music setting has a bump up in the upper mid-range and lower bass frequencies. The theater setting tends to kick the bass up even more for explosive soundtracks, and drops the high end. Dolby Atmos is supported, as well, but the soundtracks still seemed more focused toward the center of the screen rather than 3D.

For fuller, richer sound, we recommend adding one of the best soundbars, with Dolby Atmos support for the best experience.

TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review: Remote

The TCL 6-Series comes with a standard small Roku remote. Controls include power on/off, back and home buttons, a four-way directional pad and standard playback controls. There's also a mic button for voice commands and searches, and four dedicated buttons for Netflix, ESPN, Hulu, and Roku channels. On the right side you'll find tiny volume controls and a mute button, which may be more difficult for larger hands to master.

(Image credit: TCL)

Roku's star button on the remote gives you quick access to TV-specific settings including picture mode (Normal, Movie, Sports, Low Power, Vivid), sound mode, and features like a sleep timer. One item missing: There's no headphone jack on the remote. So if you want to do any private or late-night listening, you will have to use the smartphone app and plug your earbuds into your phone.

Roku's voice search for TV and movie material gets better and better. Press and hold the mic button and say, “Switch to channel 7" to go directly to a local show. “Find Fellini movies” will send the TV rummaging through all your sources to list everything from 8 ½ to documentaries on the director. Roku will even find programs on services you may not subscribe to; for example, we hadn't signed into Criterion but Roku found movies we wanted there and suggested we subscribe. It also found free showings of La Strada on Kanopy and suggested we join up.

On the other hand, Roku's voice search is no digital factotum on the order of a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. It can't answer grad school history questions or tell you jokes. You can, however, use Assistant or Alexa by adding the TCL set to their respective apps or pairing the TV with an Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker.

TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 review: Verdict

The TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 offers a great blend of satisfying picture quality and rich smart TV functions, making for a standout value at a reasonable price. This may turn out to be one of the most competitive years for big screen TVs, which is good news for shoppers. There are quantum dot sets like this model from TCL, presenting an enviable picture for a very reasonable price.

We think the TCL 6-Series Roku TV R625 beats out the competing Hisense R8F Roku TV in terms of picture quality. Additionally, it matches the more expensive 55-inch Vizio P Series set and bests it when it comes to smart TV features. So the TCL 6-Series sits in something of a sweet spot right now. Sure, companies are coming out with budget OLED sets, in case you had your eyes on that technology, but even a bargain 55-inch Vizio OLED will set you back more than twice as much as this set.

  • wilfreeman
    Unfortunate timing with this review? Didn't TCL just officially announce the 6-Series would be getting mini-LED tech?

    As far as I can tell, the main difference now will be the software. They won't cannibalize potential sales for the 8-Series, so the 6-Series will still be limited to (at most) 240 CCZs, but the underlying tech appears to be the same.

    It makes sense, from a manufacturing efficiency standpoint, to use the same backlights in both Series. But I can't help feeling that this is a blunder. Intentionally crippling a product's capabilities usually leads to angry customers...
    Reply
  • moses1212
    Did you have issues with the built in Amazon app not playing in HDR. Also can you test HDR content with HDR set to bright and see if you get fluctuating in brightness that alot of us are seeing? I specifically saw it using Disney+ with Xmen Apocalypse using the built in app, and other movies from other sources. The fluctuating does not happen in DV.
    Reply
  • usagicassidy
    wilfreeman said:
    Unfortunate timing with this review? Didn't TCL just officially announce the 6-Series would be getting mini-LED tech?

    As far as I can tell, the main difference now will be the software. They won't cannibalize potential sales for the 8-Series, so the 6-Series will still be limited to (at most) 240 CCZs, but the underlying tech appears to be the same.

    It makes sense, from a manufacturing efficiency standpoint, to use the same backlights in both Series. But I can't help feeling that this is a blunder. Intentionally crippling a product's capabilities usually leads to angry customers...

    Good call on noticing and saying something! I wouldn't have realized if I hadn't seen your comment. I was just about ready to purchase it and then had to go back and re-read and was like "oh yeah...there's not a single mention of Mini-LED. Pretty bizarre to post a review of last year's model right when the new model goes on sale.
    Reply