TCL 6 Series 4K UHD HDR LCD TV Review (55R617, 65R617)
Stephan Jukic – October 26, 2018
TCL’s 2017 P-Series 4K HDR TVs were some of the best deals of last year in terms of value per dollar spent. They weren’t the best performers on the market by any means, but they were the absolute best performers for their amazingly low price when you considered the features they offered. The 2018 6-Series tries to pull off the same thing but with one more size range other than just 55 inches. It comes very close to doing so. This 4K HDR TV isn’t as good as the premium offerings of any of the other major brands in absolute terms but due to its own relatively low price, it has a lot to offer. Most importantly, the 6-Series models deliver excellent HDR performance, broad HDR support, very high brightness and some really good local dimming technology for high contrast. They’re also however weakened by a few aspects that we’ll cover below.
Also Read: Our in-depth review of Samsung’s Q7FN 4K HDR LCD TV, superb brightness at a reasonable price
• High peak and sustained display brightness
• Very good color rendering for normal and HDR content
• Great motion handling, especially for gaming
• strong local dimming and full-array LED backlighting
• Very robust contrast ratios and black levels
• Not nearly as bright as premium 2018 LED TVs
• Cheap physical design
• Typical narrow viewing angles due to VA display technology
• Rather crappy native audio
The TCL 6 Series is definitely worth its very reasonable and budget-friendly price tag and for this reason we absolutely recommend it to buyers who want some premium performance and features without spending over 1000 dollars on similarly sized premium 4K TVs from Samsung, Sony, LG or other premium brands. And the TCL 6 Series does indeed offer several high-level specs. On the other hand, if you truly do want a fully ultra-premium 4K TV design and performance, you’re better off going the extra mile (or dollars) and buying yourself a high-end model from any of the other brands mentioned above.
What We Liked
There are plenty of things to really like about the 6 Series 4K HDR TVs. These revolve mostly around their display performance and motion handling but also include these televisions’ combination of the above and one truly superb price tag. The HDR display and format support of these televisions is also really good when you consider what you pay for them. Here are the main benefits of the TCL 6 Series models. Most of these revolve around visual specs and qualities.
Display brightness and full-array LED backlighting
Full-array LED backlighting has traditionally been a “luxury” feature among the major brands behind today’s ultra HD TVs. In other words, it was something that these companies only gave to ther best and most expensive 4K TVs and often even for those models, Full-Array backlighting would be absent (as we saw in the 2017 premium QLED TVs from Samsung, for example). TCL apparently decided to take a page from rival budget 4K TV maker Vizio and say “screw that” with its own flagship TVs by giving them both low prices AND truly stunning backlight design with full-array lighting and plenty of local dimming zones as a result. This is what the 6-Series offers and it’s probably this 4K TV model’s single best feature. The full backlight of the 6-Series allows this television to offer high levels of peak brightness, but most importantly, it gives all of the 6-Series models some truly decent full-array local dimming (also called FALD) as well, by which the backlights can be shut off in specific zones for much better onscreen contrast.
In basic terms, with the 6-Series and its full-array backlight, you get a display lighting feature and FALD technology that would normally be found in today’s priciest 4K TVs but at a fairly modest price in this TV’s case.
The TCL 6-Series doesn’t reach anywhere near the peak display brightness of its competitors among the flagship 4K HDR TVs of Samsung, Sony or maybe even quite LG (LG’s OLEDs are now fantastically bright compared to older models) but it still gets incredibly bright for a television that’s as affordable as this model. Combined with the local dimming we mentioned above and the extremely strong black levels thanks to that dimming technology, this means that the 6-Series delivers superb luminosity across the board, even when viewed in brightly lit rooms. Overall, it performs about as well as much pricier models such as Samsung’s Q6FN or Sony’s X900F and outperforms a majority of 2017 4K HDR TVs. Compared to many 2018 models, the 6-Series is brighter than just about any similarly priced 4K TV for this year and that’s a major point in its favor.
Black Levels and Contrast
The contrast ratio and black delivery levels of any 4K HDR TV are exceptionally important components of display performance because they decide how rich and realistic shadowy scenes or dark content with contrasting bright content looks. On these fronts, the 6-Series is a very good performer in most ways. It could have done a bit better at how well it isolates backlight brightness to avoid a “halo effect” around bright objects against a dark background considering that it has local dimming but on the whole, what the 6-Series does deliver very robustly is a powerful level of deep black uniformity when needed while also creating very strong, high contrast ratios if the screen needs to display both bright video and dark segments simultaneously. We saw better performance at contrast with Samsung’s flagship 4K TVs but the 6-Series does a remarkably good job when you consider how much less it costs than these televisions. Overall, its performance is roughly comparable to that of the more expensive Sony X900F.
Support for Multiple HDR Standards
One thing that the TCL 6-Series also offers in terms of HDR performance is support for Dolby Vision HDR as well as HDR10 and Hybrid Log Gamma standards capability. This is something that not all name brand 4K HDR TVs offer (Samsung’s entire lineup of televisions being a good example), so if you want maximum possible HDR settings coverage in your own home theater system, the TCL 6-Series models won’t let you down on their support specs.
Motion handling and Gaming Excellence
Motion handling was one of the few serious weaknesses of the 2017 TCL P-Series (which we also considered to be one very great 4K HDR televsion for its price). For the 2018 successor, the S-Series, this problem is no more. The 6-Series handles motion blur and frame rate interpolation exceptionally well or at least reasonably well and its display response time is excellent. Motion interpolation of content that plays more slowly than the TVs native 60Hz display panel refresh is also very good and this is an entirely new feature for the 2018 model. As we said, the 2017 P-Series that is this model’s predecessor completely lacked this feature.
And, as we said above, as a TV for gaming use with consoles or PC rigs, the 6 SERIES is simply superb. TCL’s TVs are almost always great in this regard so this was no surprise to us. In basic terms, for use with consoles playing games in 4K or 1080p and with or without HDR and other color/contrast formats, the 6 SERIES delivers wonderfully low input lag pretty much across all settings. The one exception to this is the 6-Series performance when it comes to gaming with the TV’s game Mode disabled or trying to play console games if the motion interpolation feature we mentioned above is turned on. In both of these cases, the 6-Series switches over to a far-too-high input lag of over 100ms.
The bottom line for this television is that for both handling of fast-paced action content motion from almost any content sources and for playing console games in an assortment of HDR, color, resolution and frame rate settings, the TCL 6-Series is a very strong performer.
Smart TV Platform
All of TCL’s TVs come with the Roku TV smart platform that’s pretty much identical to the version of it found in Roku’s own streaming media devices. We’ve reviewed these before and absolutely love them partly due to the sheer quantity of content options they offer and partly because of how user-friendly Roku TV is (even grandma will get the hang of it in no time). Since the 6-Series offers the same exact platform, you’ll get one of today’s best smart entertainment platforms for the consumer market built right into your TV right out of the box. We consider this a great bonus feature of the 6-Series.
What We Didn’t Like
The Samsung 6 SERIES TV also isn’t without some minor to moderate flaws. None of the unlikeable things that we found about this TV are in any way real deal-breakers in our opinion, especially with the 6 SERIES’s very reasonable price tag being considered, but they are worth mentioning just in case some consumers hate the following:
Some Color Weakness
The TCL 6-Series 4K HDR TV does indeed offer full-blown high dynamic range support and even includes both HDR10 and Dolby Vision dynamic range support for color and contrast top the best of its ability for these standards. However, despite its display functionality for these technologies, how well the television actually lives up to their specs is a bit weak as far as color is concerned. The 6-Series does indeed offer up 10-bit color and wide color gamut DCI-P3 color spectrum coverage (both of which are crucial specs of HDR color delivery) but its delivery of wide color gamut in particular isn’t the best on today’s market. Pretty much any mid-range or better Samsung, LG or Sony HDR 4K TV beats the 6-Series on how well it delivers rich, dynamic color for HDR or even SDR content in our opinion. The difference is small but many viewers will probably notice it.
Problematic Local Dimming
Yes the 6-Series does offer local dimming backed by the power of full-array LED backlighting, as we explained above, but the quality of this local dimming isn’t quite as good as we expected it to be considering the FALD it delivers. In other words, while multiple local dimming zones and a full array of LED backlights should offer extremely crisp contrast, they don’t quite pull it off in the 6-Series. This model delivers high contrast and gets very nice levels of peak and sustained display brightness but a noticeable halo effect is created around the edges of contrasting pieces of content. The halo effect is small but somewhat visible.
Viewing angle problems
Vertical Alignment, or VA for short, is the technology used in the organization of pixels on many of today’s TV screens, including all of TCL’s models. It means that the pixels in the screen are vertically aligned from top to bottom lengthwise in a more narrow formation that on the one hand allows for extremely good blocking of backlight bleed but which on the other hand also reduces color, contrast and overall picture quality at wide off-center viewing angles. The 6 Series suffers from this problem to a certain extent and if you’ve got a big living room in which people might scatter around a bit to watch the TV from far off to either side, it will spoil the entertainment experience a bit. We prefer VA TVs to their IPS rivals (which have much better viewing angles but also weaker contrast and black levels) but they’re not for everyone. Good alternatives to VA TVs are Sony or LG’s OLED 4K TVs, which offer excellent viewing angles and keep their deep perfect blacks.
Crappy native audio
The TCL R617 delivers only mediocre native audio power. If you’re used to powerful surround-sound speaker systems, they’ll be particularly unimpressive and while you usually can’t expect much from the small and highly centered speakers of any stand-alone 4K TV, this model probably could maybe have done a bit better on this metric even with its cheap price tag. You can however easily fix this problem by splurging on even a modestly good external sound system.
value for Price & Bottom Line
Overall, we think the 6 Series is a good deal. It’s not as good a 4K TV as any of the flagship 4K HDR TVs of the other major brands but it is damn good compared to any 4K TV that you could buy at this model’s price from among all 2018 and even most 2017 4K ultra HD HDR televisions. For buyers on a somewhat tight budget who still want plenty of premium features, we really recommend the TCL R617 6-Series.
Key Samsung 6 SERIES Specs
• Screen sizes: 55 inch 55R617, 65 inch 65R617 (TV being reviewed is 55 inches)
• Smart TV: Roku TV smart platform 2018
• HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
• VP9 Included. Yes
• HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
• HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
• HDR Support: Yes, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid Log Gamma
• Refresh Rate: 60Hz native refresh
• Screen Lighting: LCD Display with full-array backlighting & local dimming
• Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
• Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet port
• Remotes: Samsung smart remote, voice control, remote app for iOS and Android
• Connectivity: 4 HDMI (all of them 2.0a and HDCP 2.2) ports, 3 USB ports, 1 Ethernet port, 1 Digital Audio Out, all located in eternal One Connect box
• Contrast Ratio: 5195+:1 (native, real contrast), 6100+:1 (with local dimming)
• Maximum Peak Brightness: 1180 nits (cd/m2)
• 3D Technology: N/A
• Processor: IPQ Engine
Display Performance Metrics
Here we’re going to cover the most crucial performance specs and their measurements in the TCL 6 Series 4K HDR LCD TV. They all revolve around color reproduction, brightness, black levels, contrast, local dimming and motion handling. These specs may vary slightly from unit to unit so they should not be taken as absolutes. However, they should maintain a generally high level of similarity in all units on the market, making them good enough to be reliable indicators of quality.
Different sizes of TV display can change some of these metrics slightly (for example, larger edge-lit LCD 4K TVs tend to have weaker local dimming and peak brightness). As an edge-lit LCD TV, the 6 Series can have some slight variations to how its backlight affects local dimming, contrast and black uniformity depending on the size of screen being considered.
The following specs are basically what really decides if a 4K TV is worth buying or not. They’re its most important indicators of real performance and they disregard all the marketing and labeling fluff that manufacturers like to slather their TVs with for the sake of making them seem more exceptional than they really might be. Here we ignore fake color brilliance labels and disingenuous terminology about inflated motion handling or visual prowess. In other words, we focus on concrete, measured relative performance qualifications.
Black Level, Local Dimming and Contrast:
These crucial display specs in any 4K TV all interplay with each other as far as display performance goes. Thus they deserve to be covered together.
TCL’s 6-Series TVs deliver all of the above either really well or superbly. The black levels of the 6-Series R617 models are generally very good and become particularly outstanding if you activate this television’s local dimming feature. Overall black uniformity is also exceptional when local dimming is turned on, though there is some clouding along the outer parts of the display in particular for full display black uniformity when local dimming is kept off in the R617.
Despite this, the TV performs well at delivering rich deep black levels and though the local dimming technology of this TV does create some halo effects long the edges of bright objects against dark backgrounds, the effect is relatively minor. The 6-Series local dimming is full-array so it generally offers high contrast quality.
This of course brings us to the contrast ratio of the R617. It’s very high and with FALD (full-array local dimming) activated, goes even higher to a level that’s excellent and comparable to what you’d get with most Sony or Samsung 4K HDR TVs. On the other hand, the R617 doesn’t come even close to matching the insane 10,000:1+ contrast ratios of Samsung’s best QLED TVs or Sony’s best LCD TVs such as the X900F and new Z9F Master Series models
Where the 6 Series falls slightly short is on the overall quality of its local dimming. As we said above, the TV performs well in how nicely it delivers contrast performance for content and how well it maintains deep black levels where needed even in mostly bright content. However, its local dimming doesn’t perform quite as well as we expected considering that this is a model with FALD technology. This could be due to a small number of less-than-precise dimming zones or it could be because the R617 doesn’t block light bleed through its pixels as well as the TVs of rival brands like Samsung do.
The maximum possible spot HDR or SDR luminosity of a complete 4K TV display or differently sized sections of its screen is how peak brightness gets measured in units of brightness called nits (or cd/m2, which is the same thing). Sustained brightness is the highest possible sustained HDR or SDR brightness that the TV screen can manage across its entire screen or parts of it for a prolonged period of time (a few minutes or more). In other words, Peak brightness consists of how luminous sudden bright spots can become and sustained brightness measures prolonged luminosity in content on the display.
The TCL R617 6-Series is one very bright 4K HDR LCD TV by any conventional measure. It performs strongly on delivering both peak brightness and overall sustained brightness under almost all conditions. It only looks weak when compared to premium TVs from Samsung, LG or if it’s compared to Sony’s absolute best 4K LCD TVs. In comparison to the majority of mid-range and similarly priced “budget” name brand 4K TVs of all types, this TV performs above average almost across the board. Its absolute peak luminance reaches up to over 1150 nits, and is also high when the R617 is being used to play SDR content without its high dynamic range turned on. In basic terms, this means that the 6 SERIES displays movie content of all types wonderfully, with excellent brightness and vibrancy and is thus a great TV for viewing even in brightly lit rooms without worrying about weak visibility of what’s on the screen.
The R617 does however manage to deliver very decent color volume and vibrancy even during playback of content at high levels of peak brightness or during shadowy scenes. It doesn’t do this as well as some televisions we’ve previously reviewed but its overall capability under extremes of darkness and brightness is reasonably good.
Moving on to the The R617’s brightness specs themselves, the display brightness numbers below as measured in nits for different areas of display space, under both HDR and SDR settings and under both peak and sustained conditions demonstrate the 6 Series’s overall capacity for screen luminosity:
TCL 6 SERIES SDR Brightness
- Overall SDR peak brightness for normal content: 721 nits
- Peak 2% display area display SDR brightness: 900 nits
- Peak 10% display area SDR brightness: 1005 nits
- Peak 25% display area SDR brightness: 1150 nits
- Peak 100% display area SDR brightness: 687 nits
- Sustained 10% SDR brightness: 995 nits
- Sustained 100% SDR brightness: 673 nits
TCL 6 SERIES HDR Brightness
- Overall HDR peak brightness for normal content: 729 nits
- Peak 2% display area display HDR brightness: 920 nits
- Peak 10% display area HDR brightness: 1030 nits
- Peak 25% display area SDR brightness: 1180 nits
- Peak 100% display area HDR brightness: 710 nits
- Sustained 10% HDR brightness: 999 nits
- Sustained 100% HDR brightness: 679 nits
TCL’s 6 Series doesn’t quite manage the exceptionally high levels of color delivery that most of 2018’s premium HDR 4K TVs can manage but it comes very close. The difference is small enough that it probably won’t even really be noticeable unless you were to compare this model with something like the QLED Samsung Q6FN side-by-side. However, it is worth noting.
First of all, the 6 Series offers the obvious essentials of premium HDR color delivery: full support for 10-bit color with very little banding of colors during reproduction of content with 10-bit (1.07 billion colors) color support also included for wide color gamut spectrum coverage. The WCG coverage of this TV is reasonably good, with 90.69% of the DCI-P3 spectrum covered. This isn’t bad but it’s also not exceptional by the standards of premium HDR ultra HD televisions. The bottom line is that in terms of color vibrancy and realism for both HDR and SDR content, the 6 SERIES does a very good job even if it isn’t an absolute top performer.
Color volume maintenance is decent in this TV model (as we mentioned above in our brightness section) and it’s definitely superior to what we saw in most similarly priced name brand HDR ultra HD TVs. In both shadowy scenes and extremely bright content sequences, decent color volume is maintained across the entire color gamut and that’s very impressive considering just how tricky it used to be for a TV display to pull this off in older 4K HDR TVs. All of Samsung’s and Sony’s premium 4K HDR ultra HD TVs outperform the TCL 6-Series on this spec though.
However, and this is a crucial point worth mentioning, Users who are used to watching TVs without 4K resolution, expended color capacity or HDR color support (and obviously without being able to view HDR content with the dynamic range activated) will probably be VERY impressed with the TCL 6-Series models. These TVs only look a bit weaker when compared with something like Samsung or Sony’s best and latest 4K HDR TVs.
White balance delta E, color delta E and Gamma in the 6 Series sit at wonderful levels of 0.32, 0.63 and 2.19 respectively after some moderate picture settings calibration. On the other hand, right out of the box and before any calibration, these same levels are only decent, sitting at 3.4, 2.2 and 2.4 respectively for the model we reviewed. These details can however be improved away quite quickly for the much better settings we described for post-calibration. To get these post-calibration settings, it’s also a good idea to put the 6-series into its “Movie” mode.
Motion Handling & Upscaling:
The 6 Series offers excellent motion handling performance across the board and its motion blur control is exceptionally good at 6.2 milliseconds. The 6 Series also has some very good motion interpolation capacity in its screen but this can produce a slight soap opera effect when used for movies that play at different frame rates. It’s usually better to turn it down a few notches by setting Action Smoothing’ to “Low” or “Medium” in the TV’s Advanced picture settings.
As for the 6 Series’s upscaling, it works well at sharpening almost any reasonably well formatted source of content but is particularly good at improving the visual quality of 1080p HD video and 720p programming of any kind.
The TCL R617 delivers motion interpolation of content at all major typical frame rates (24p movies, 30fps TV content, high frame rate streamed video and games) exceptionally well on its native 60Hz display panel. 24p Blu-ray discs, DVDs, cable TV and broadcast TV sources as well as streaming media from both native apps and apps inside external streaming media devices can all be played judder-free as well and with minimal to no judder.
Input Performance for Gaming and PC:
TCL’s’s entire 2018 4K HDR TV lineup, from cheapest to priciest models, pretty much offers excellent performance for console gaming and PC use at different resolution, color and HDR settings. However, the 6 Series unfortunately doesn’t offer native 120Hz refresh rate, but for most users this won’t be a problem for the absolute majority of content. Gamers might want their support for 1080P gaming at 120Hz but even if the lacks this, it makes up for the deficiency by being one generally excellent TV for gaming display due to its exceptionally low input lag. The 6-Series 2018 television thus delivers some really outstanding game handling capacity across the board when used with popular game consoles.
The following are the specific specs for its gaming performance in different console setups:
- 4k @ 60Hz: 18.4 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz: 16.9 ms
- 1080p @ 120Hz: NA
- 4k @ 60Hz + HDR: 18.9 ms
- 1080p @ 60Hz + HDR: 16.9 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode : 130.6 ms
- 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4: 19.2 ms
- 4K @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4 + 8 bit HDR: 18.4 ms
- 4K with interpolation activated: NA
The TCL 6-Series television is also great for use as a PC monitor if you want to do most gaming on it. It’s compatible with multiple resolution and color formats and offers smooth frame rate handling between PC GPUs and what the screen delivers. However, due to a lack of support for native 120Hz refresh on the TV’s display, gaming in 1080P or any other resolution isn’t possible at more than 60Hz. This might be a problem for gamers who want some high frame rate performance. We should also note that for the TCL 6-Series models, PC mode needs to be enabled if you want to use these models as PC displays or for PC gaming. Normally the television itself will do this automatically by detecting a PC input but if it doesn’t you can change the input label to Computer. The TV also has to be in PC mode for chroma 4:4:4 to work.
The 6 Series comes with all of its connectivity ports built right into the TV body inside a recessed panel on the back left side (right side if you’re facing the TV display. Like virtually all newer 4K HDR TVs, this particular TCL 4K ultra HD TV comes with today’s now standard and essential advanced connectivity specs. No user should have connectivity problems with this model for hooking it up to pretty much any external media device or hard drive as long as all hardware is in working order. In other words, the 2018 6-Series comes equipped with multiple HDMI, USB ports and other crucial connectivity slots. TCL also gave the 6 Series full HDMI 2.0 HDR supported bandwidth in all three of its HDMI ports. This is a nice touch considering that similarly priced rival TVs from Sony only offer this through one or two of their HDMI ports. On the other hand, the 6-Series R617 TVs only come with 3 HDMI ports instead of the four that most ultra HD TVs from the other major brands include. Even more unfortunately, these televisions include only one USB port. The more common number in most name brand 4K TVs is 3 ports for USB. This is a major weakness but not a deal breaker.
The following are the 6 Series ports and their specifications:
- HDMI : 3 (all with HDCP 2.2 and full HDMI 2.0a capacity)
- USB : 1 (USB 3.0)
- Digital Optical Audio Out : 1
- Analog Audio Out 3.5 mm : 0
- Tuner (Cable/Ant) : 1
- Ethernet : 1
- HDR10 support: Yes
- Hybrid Log Gamma HDR support: Yes
- Dolby Vision HDR: Yes
The TCL 6-Series TV models also offer audio connectivity in the following types.
- 1 Passthrough ARC Dolby Digital
- 1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital
TCL has released the R617 6-Series television models in two different sizes. Thus, a 55 inch budget model is being sold as well as a 65 inch model. These two editions are otherwise identical in pretty much all regards (though we think the 65 inch model might have a larger amount of backlight LEDs and local dimming zones) and sell for the following prices, found in the links below at the time of this writing. Bear in mind that these are subject to sometimes frequent downward change and it’s a good idea to click the following Amazon links for real-time pricing and all available discounts on this model.
Story by 4k.com