Usually, choosing an inexpensive TV means accepting the fact that you'll get fewer features. TCL is trying to break that stereotype. Its modestly priced, 55-inch 55P607 is a 4K set with high-dynamic-range (HDR) support. The combination means this LCD TV is ready for the best, highest-resolution content available, with more colors and better brightness.
The 55P607 is even compatible with Dolby Vision, a proprietary version of HDR that has been appearing in more top-tier sets. And because this is a Roku TV, you get an intuitive smart-TV interface with plenty of streaming channel options.
All of this does bring a slight price premium — $649, compared to similar 4K sets such as the Insignia 4K Roku TV (which is about $150 less) — but TCL delivers a better picture for the money.
Design: Black on Black
The TCL's plastic black-on-black chassis doesn't distinguish it from other sets on the market and it sits on two plain, arched feet, like many models. At 3 inches deep, it's not the thinnest, either.
On the other hand, everything is where it should be on the TCL 55P607, with three HDMI ports and connections for a coaxial cable (for an antenna or set-top box), as well as Ethernet and Wi-Fi support for getting online.
Performance: Punchy, with Flaws
There is no question that by supporting HDR content, the TCL 55P607 delivers a punchier picture than other bargain 4K sets from the likes of Insignia, Westinghouse and Toshiba, which do not have HDR compatibility. There's a demonstrable difference, with TCL revealing more intense colors, particularly with red and green objects that appear to jump off the screen.
Even in our standard HD color tests, the TCL Roku TV did well, reproducing 99 percent of the Rec. 709 color specification with reasonable color accuracy and a Delta-E score of 2.2 (lower numbers are better). Compare that to the Insignia Roku TV, which reproduced 96 percent of Rec. 709 and had a Delta-E score of 2.
Watching the 4K Blu-ray Disc of The Martian in TCL's Movie mode, the 55P607 looked decidedly sharper than comparable sets of this size. Where it stumbled (not surprisingly) was in comparison to high-end 4K sets such as the $3,000 Samsung Q7F. Where pricier sets handle most material effortlessly, the TCL can produce some blotchiness on faces and in solid-color backgrounds. Colors can also look exaggerated, and in scenes with a lot of motion (such as the Martian sand storm), the TCL 55P607 can generate some small artifacts that tend to make an image look blurry.
By supporting HDR content, the TCL 55P607 delivers a punchier picture than other bargain 4K sets from the likes of Insignia, Westinghouse and Toshiba.
The TCL 55P607 can also sometimes act like the insecure kid in the playground who tries too hard to impress. In scenes from the 4K version of Mad Max: Fury Road, the TCL did well enough in a brightly lit room, turning in 464 nits in its brightest mode compared to, say, Insignia's 4K Roku TV, which came in at 351 nits. However, the TCL's brightness levels were sometimes pushed to excess, washing out details in brightly lit areas like the orange desert under the Mad Max sun. The powder-caked faces of the warriors also suffered from a loss of detail, and there was some banding across the screen rather than a seamless transition between colors.
The TCL 55P607 was also less adept than more expensive models at upscaling standard HD material to suit its Ultra HD display. There were halo effects, for example, when the bright white Space Shuttle appeared against what should have been the darkness of space in Gravity (Blu-ray Disc). And there was some reddish flaring on the right side of the screen — remnants of previous images. At one point, the 55P607 had so many stars in the sky, deep space looked gray rather than black.
Audio: No Great Shakes
Not surprisingly, high-fidelity audio is not a focus of this modestly priced set. Deeper bass sounds, such as those of thunderous explosions, sounded muffled on several soundtracks. There was also a lack of dynamic range, so that just as a theatrical score was about to reach a thrilling crescendo, the audio seemed to hit a ceiling, stifling the climax.
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On the other hand, the TCL 55P607 didn't generate distracting distortion and could be turned up loud enough to fill the average living room with sound.
Smart-TV Features: Roku Does It Right
No one has tamed the smart-TV interface with its multiple entertainment sources like Rokuhas. Roku's graphics and menus, which were designed for big-screen TVs, make it easy for you to quickly tune in shows — rather than wasting time trying to find the programs you want. So having Roku's large, easy-to-follow icons and channels is a definite plus for the TCL 55P607.
Further buttressing its list of convenient features and controls, the TCL 55P607 includes the more advanced Roku remote control. The remote can understand basic voice commands via a built-in mic; search is available across scores of streaming channels, but not broadcast stations.
Better still, there's a mini jack on the remote for the included earbuds, so you can do some late-night viewing at full volume without disturbing the neighbors. (The Insignia 4K Roku set does not include these more advanced Roku features.)
TCL also makes a version of this set, the 55P605, exclusively for Best Buy. It lacks the advanced Roku remote features of the 55P607, but it retails for $599.
No one has tamed the smart-TV interface with its multiple entertainment sources like Roku has.
For the price, there's a lot to like about TCL's feature set and capabilities. It can take you to the realm of 4K content and even handle next-gen programming that adheres to the Dolby Vision and HDR10 high-dynamic-range formats. The TCL 55P607 further boosts its appeal by including the Roku smart-TV interface and controls. Is this the best 4K picture available? No, but it's a big improvement over lesser HD TVs — and other inexpensive 4K sets.