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If you’re con­sid­er­ing an Ul­tra High Def­i­ni­tion (4K) tele­vi­sion, you might be ex­pect­ing to pay a sig­nif­i­cant pre­mium over full-HD tel­lies given that this is a rel­a­tively new tech­nol­ogy — the first 4K TVs only landed last year, and there is, as yet, not a whole bunch of 4K con­tent eas­ily avail­able. Yet here is a 55-inch curved UHD screen which we found to de­liver very good TV per­for­mance, the right con­nec­tions to be as fu­ture-proofed as pos­si­ble against in­com­ing 4K stan­dards, and as a bonus, bril­liant per­for­mance for gamers. All for a re­mark­able $2199.

And it’s hand­some, its speaker sec­tion dou­bling as a stand, con­form­ing to the gen­tle curve of the screen, plus what looks to be a panel of real wood ve­neer cen­tred be­tween two black speaker grilles. You could imag­ine this tele­vi­sion in the smok­ing room of a re­fined men’s club.

This is an LED-back­lit panel, with the pic­ture ren­dered, of course, at 3840 by 2160 pix­els on its curved screen — we’d gen­er­ally pre­fer a flat screen, be­ing im­age purists, but in mar­ket­ing terms a curve has come to de­note a pre­mium prod­uct. TCL spec­i­fies the con­trast ra­tio at a rather lowly 4000:1, but we reckon that’s the na­tive fig­ure and un­der­states the ef­fec­tive per­for­mance — the lo­cal­i­sa­tion was pretty good, and if you are set­ting up for an evening of dark­ened-room watch­ing you can turn down the back­light level, deep­en­ing the blacks fur­ther.

Con­nec­tions are good (see panel), with four HDMI in­puts, sup­port for 4K up to 60Hz, and the cru­cial sup­port for HDCP 2.2 as well, which is likely to be used as copy pro­tec­tion for next year’s 4K Blu-ray play­ers and pos­si­bly other 4K sources too, making it a vi­tal piece of fu­ture­proof­ing for up­com­ing 4K sources. It doesn’t aban­don ana­logue in­puts ei­ther, and we ap­plaud the in­clu­sion of three au­dio out­puts — op­ti­cal, ana­logue line-level and a head­phone socket.

It’s a smart TV, pow­ered by An­droid and a quad-core CPU and quad-core GPU (Graph­ics Pro­cess­ing Unit), which pro­vide snappy per­for­mance of its var­i­ous ‘apps’ (in­clud­ing a net­work me­dia player) and also of TCL’s ‘Go Live’ offering, which pro­vides lots of stream­ing video chan­nels — many newsy ones and a good many from Asia.

Test Ul­tra High Def­i­ni­tion ma­te­rial, de­liv­ered via USB (in­clud­ing HEVC H.265 con­tent) and 2160p/60 sup­plied via HDMI worked per­fectly, and beau­ti­fully. The de­fault out-of-the-box set­tings needed some ad­just­ment (no­tably wind­ing Sharp­ness down to zero), but gamers will love be­ing able to se­lect Game mode and get pic­ture pro­cess­ing de­lay down to just 20 mil­lisec­onds, lower than for any other 4K TV we’ve tested.

The ben­e­fit of up­scal­ing full-HD to UHD is de­bat­able on a 55-inch TV, but it was per­formed well and de­liv­ered beau­ti­fully, with ex­cel­lent choice of over­scan de­faults (none for UHD/FHD, some for 720 ma­te­rial).

With Chi­nese mar­kets buy­ing nearly half of the world’s 4K TVs, it’s no sur­prise to find its big­gest man­u­fac­tur­ers de­liv­er­ing sets that make the most of the new higher res­o­lu­tion. The sur­prise, and this win for TCL, comes from how af­ford­ably they can de­liver them. More info: www.tcl­elec­tron­

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