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.tclelectronics.com.au