The Best Cheap 4K TV Is Better


Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

It seemed unbelievable last year, when a handful of TV companies started selling 4K TVs with HDR and Dolby Vision for around $600. TCL’s Roku-powered P-Series was the best of them, and this year, the company is selling an even better version called the 6-Series. The best part? Same price, more features.

At first, the new TCL 6-Series looks a lot like last year’s widely lauded P-Series on paper. Once again, you’ve got the Roku TV operating system and the Dolby Vision support that set the P-Series apart from other cheap 4K LED TVs last year. There’s also HDR10 support, except now TCL is also offering a set of proprietary technologies that it calls the HDR Performance Package Pro. This includes a new, TCL-specific HDR tech called HDR Pro Gamma—which is intended to tweak the HDR so it looks just as good in when you’re watching in a brightly lit room as when you’re sitting in complete darkness. The package also includes TCL’s NBP (Nano Band Phosphor) Photon technology which is supposed to deliver more accurate colors in the wider DCI P3 color gamut—as is TCL’s new iPQ Engine for video processing. All of these flashy buzzwords also give TCL an excuse to put more flashy-looking logos on the box.

Yet there are substantive upgrades inside. Like the P-Series before it, the TCL 6-Series features local dimming zones for better contrast. But whereas last year’s 55-inch and 65-inch P-Series TV featured 72 local dimming zones, this year’s 55-inch 6-Series features 96 zones. The 65-inch model comes with 120 zones. How could anyone say no to more zones?!

Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

The most noticeable upgrade, however, is the TV itself. It looks amazing. Borrowing from the designs of much more expensive sets, the 6-Series TV is all clean lines and brushed metal. It’s not thin compared to, say, an LG OLED TV that costs five times as much, but the 6-Series is sleek. Even the back of the TV—which most people never look at—is handsome. Overall, it’s a tremendous improvement over the P-Series, which suffered from a cheap plastic design. That TV definitely looked like something you found on the cheap end of the rack at Costco. The new 6-Series looks like it belongs somewhere in the middle of the lineup at Best Buy, at least.

All that said, you don’t buy a TV to stare at the spec sheet or marvel at the industrial design. You want to watch awesome action movies and see the big beautiful colors in eye-melting detail. While the TCL 6-Series looks a lot like the $3,500 Samsung QLED TV on the outside, it doesn’t perform quite as well, but the 6-Series is certainly good enough for most people. The HDR10 and Dolby Vision support—in addition to the word salad of proprietary TCL technologies—are certainly important to making the 6-Series performance stand out from the pack of other cheap 4K TVs. I’d argue that the 96 local dimming zones do a lot more to create a terrific picture, though.

Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

Colors just pop on the new 6-Series screen. And I usually hate it when people say, “Those colors sure do pop don’t they!” Yet, here we are. I watched the UHD Blu-ray version of Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 (with Dolby Vision) and marveled at how the red details on Drax’s skin just popped out from the blue. Similarly, the red trail left by Yondu’s whistle-controlled arrow brightly seared into the screen. Explosions looked awesome. Because those bright colors, they just pop out from the dark blacks on the 6-Series TV. More local dimming zones make this possible because they selectively light up the bright parts, while leaving the rest of the display dark. Meanwhile, support for Dolby Vision and HDR10, plus improved LED tech (that’s what all that phosphor nonsense is about) broaden the color gamut so reds and blues you’re not used to seeing on a cheap set are finally visible.

Another example of how the 6-Series can produce wildly vivid colors is apparent in the Netflix version of Coco. The new Technicolor Disney movie is simply a blast on the 6-Series, with every beaming Day of the Dead display more extravagant than the one before it. I’ve watched the exact same version of movie on a Samsung QLED display, and I honestly think Coco might look better on the TCL 6-Series. I also did a side-by-side comparison of the movie on the 6-Series and a comparably price (but less feature-filled) Vizio M-Series. The TCL wins hands down thanks to much richer contrast and preservation of details even in the brightest parts of the screen. I’d also add that you can crank up the backlight on the TCL much more than you can on the Vizio.

Photo: Adam Clark Estes (Gizmodo)

On that note, the TCL 6-Series isn’t just a terrific TV because the picture looks great. The Roku operating system is also a breeze to use. You get all of the perks of the latest Roku software, including the ability to search for content across platforms and watch live TV in the dedicated Roku Channel. Advanced settings are also easy to access and adjust with the Roku remote. If you prefer Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV, of course, you’re free to plug those in. But it’s always nice to see a stock smart TV platform that works as well as Roku’s.

The new TCL flagship does have its downsides. The speakers suck, although most TVs have terrible speakers these days. The picture does struggle with contrast on darker image, as I learned when watching the UHD Blu-ray of Fate of the Furious (with Dolby Vision). Greys and blacks bled into each other. You could certainly find an OLED TV that handles blacks better than the LED 6-Series. You should also plan on spending at least 1,000 more dollars on it, too.

I should also point out that the arrangement of the legs you see below is incorrect. TCL, like many other TV companies, has decided to push the legs out to the edge of the screen, so you’ll need an extra wide TV stand in order to set this puppy on a solid surface instead of mounting it on a wall. The widest surface I had was not wide enough, so I had to improvise by shaving off some plastic from beneath the TV’s frame and inverting the legs. I’m sure TCL does not approve of this, but I did what I had to do to enjoy this inexpensive TV.

And that’s what it all comes down to for me: Value. At $650, the new TCL 6-Series is an even better value than its predecessor. You can experience all of the fancy standards that typically only much more expensive TVs support and still have money left over to pay for several years’ worth of Netflix. So while I wouldn’t recommend the 6-Series to hardcore TV nerds who would otherwise consider some super thin LG that costs two paychecks, I would recommend the new TCL TV to just about everyone else. It’s a great TV, and it’s a great deal.


  • Awesome feature set and picture quality for the price
  • Clean but luxurious industrial design
  • Image struggles a bit between the grays and blacks
  • No but seriously it’s a great deal

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