TCL 65″ 8 Series QLED 4K HDR Roku TV Review

TCL has a new flagship, the 8 Series QLED. This TV takes the company into new territory, where it is competing with the premium offerings of the top brands. And speaking of top brands, TCL is a top brand in the U.S, climbing as high as second place in sales rankings. This TV breaks new ground for performance at its price point by utilizing a mini-LED backlight in its FALD array—a “world’s first” for a consumer TV. 

TCL is offering the 4K 8 Series QLED in 65 inch and 75 inch screen sizes. This review features a 65 inch model. With the TCL 8 Series, regardless of which screen size you choose, you get a full featured 4K HDR TV that is equivalent to premium offerings from other top brands.

What sets this TV apart from competing FALD (full array local dimming) LED-LCD TVs is the combination of quantum dots and mini-LED FALD with 1000 addressable zones and many thousands of mini LEDs. The result is FALD performance that avoids the usual artifacts, such as halos around bright objects over dark backgrounds, that you see in TVs with lower zone counts or that use an edgelit design.


The TCL 8 Series TV


Key Features


QLED – Quantum Dot technology offers high performance with vivid color and high brightness that are crucial for HDR

4K with HDR and Dolby Vision – This TV does justice to the latest 4K movies and streaming shows that are shot in HDR

Dolby Atmos – Get expansive sound, even from the TV’s built-in speakers

Roku TV – Fast, reliable, easy to use with an enormous amount of content (500,000+ movies & TV shows) available. You can even directly launch movies and shows from over 40 channels using just your voice.

HDR Pro Gamma – TCL’s 8 Series TVs can adapt HDR playback for different lighting situations ranging from a dark home theater to a bright living room

Quantum Contrast – TCL’s 8 Series uses a 1000 contrast control zones to ensure deep blacks and high contrast imagery

AiPQ Engine – Today’s TVs use advanced processing to deliver the best picture quality possible. The TCL 8 Series rely on the AiPQ Engine that uses machine learning algorithms to optimize color, contrast and clarity as well as maintain accuracy

FullView – Edge-to-edge glass panel – The TCL 8 Series has a premium look that fits in with modern home decor

Natural Motion 480 – TCL’s 8 Series offers the best motion performance of any TCL TV and uses a 120 Hz panel

Auto Game Mode – Low latency combined with support for 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision make this a tremendous TV for gamers


Setup

The TCL 8 Series is a rather substantial TV, the 65″ model weighs in at 78 pounds with the stand or 69.9 pounds when wall mounted. This means you should ask someone to help assemble it, this is not a one-person task. The box itself is very sturdy and the packaging is clearly designed to help avoid any packaging related issues in transit.

The stand is very sturdy and features a pedestal design, as opposed to feet. This not only looks great, with a 34″ stance (for the 65″ model) it also means you don’t need an extra-wide stand to support it.

With the Roku app you can fully control this TV including advanced settings. For example you can set up TV Fast Start that updates the TV on standby, turns on really fast (like your phone) and allows you to wake the TV up with voice commands (on the remote on in the app).

Aside from the built-in apps, I used an Ultra HD Blu-ray player for watching disc-based content, and an Amazon Fire TV 4K plus a Chromecast Ultra, both connected to a Denon AVR-X8500h AVR and a 5.1.4 Atmos system, to stream movies and also content such as sports from YouTube TV. I also connected the TV to the AVR using HDMI ARC, for surround-sound via the built-in apps.

While I had an AVR in the mix (for home theater sound), with its four HDMI inputs as well as antenna and USB, the TCL 8 Series can handle multiple sources on its own, just add a soundbar if you want an audio upgrade. Nevertheless, this TV has picture quality that qualifies it for home theater duty so pairing it with an AVR-based system pays off.

I used TCL’s iPQ app to perform a quick color calibration, borrowing my wife’s Google Pixel phone to get it done. An iOS app will be available in the future so even if you don’t have your own compatible phone, you need only borrow a friend or family member’s phone for a few minutes. As phone cameras improve I expect DIY app-based calibrations will become the norm, but for now it is a standout feature of this TV.


Hands-On

This TV is designed to perform well in multiple usage scenarios. It’s equally at home in a darkened room handling home theater duty, and in a bright living room during the afternoon turned into live sports. It’s particularly adept at making the most of 4K HDR Dolby Vision content such as what Netflix streams, as well as Amazon.

Conveniently, you can search for Dolby Vision titles right from the Roku TV menu’s “4K Spotlight” section, where there are many dozens of selections in categories such as superhero/comic book movies, action, comedy, family and horror.

Whether you choose to use the Roku app or the remote and on screen menus, navigating through all the smart apps and features is intuitive and easy, I find the Roku experience to be superior to the proprietary systems that see on some other TVs.

I have Gigabit Internet from Comcast that allowed this TV to lock into 4K and 4K HDR streams quickly. Overall the TV feels snappy and responsive, with menus that come up right away and a remote that registers button pushes immediately. App connections were hassle free and the responsiveness of the Roku app is another high point of this TV.

I used the TCL 8 Series 65″ QLED for over a month, feeding it a mix of streaming, Ultra HD Blu-ray and 4K gaming with an Xbox One X. I also used it as a giant PC monitor with an NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti handling graphics. In all applications, I found the colors very accurate and thanks to the high color volume of the quantum dots plus the excellent contrast, I was continuously wowed by the vibrance and realism of this TV’s picture.


Performance

TCL’s 8-Series achieves outstanding picture quality with its 1000-zone FALD and mini-LED array. Rtings.com noted that in its testing “when local dimming is enabled, this TV delivers the deepest blacks we’ve measured up until now on an LED TV.” Given how many TVs the site tests, that’s an amazing achievement and the result is an ANSI contrast of approximately 40,000:1, per rtings.com methodology. That’s a stunning number, and even the 6649:1 native contrast of the panel is impressive! This directly translates into superior picture quality.

This TV does its best work showing 4K HDR content. As I wrapped up this review, I checked out some Netflix including the Micheal Bay action movie 6 Underground that… well, let’s just say if a movie premiers on Netflix at this quality, that’s how I’m going to watch it because on a 65″ TV, in HDR it looks phenomenal and the price is right… included with subscription. The 6 Underground stream was filled with super detail and intense color that made it easy to see the elaborate action sequences. On Vudu, I played scenes from Hobbs & Shaw, Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse and Avengers Endgame. And for disc-based content I went with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (absolutely looks “filmic”) as well as Godzilla King of Monsters. Overall, I thought the TV delivered an excellent picture regardless of which movie I watched, with dark letterbox bars, deep shadows and absolutely brilliant highlights.

Movies are great, as are binge-worthy streaming shows, but most TVs do double-duty for watching live TV. On the TV side, most of my viewing is sports, namely Eagles and Sixers games but also South Park and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, with a sprinkling of other shows here and there. I truly cannot wait for 4K sports broadcasts to become the norm, but the 8 Series did a great job with the YouTube TV 1080p sports streams I watched.

As for video games, this TV is an stunner. The high contrast and eye-popping color plus low latency made using this TV for gaming an absolute pleasure. HDR has a huge impact on the look of games, adding texture and depth and lighting effects that create a sense of realism. With a TCL 8 Series TV you’ll think you dies and went to gamer heaven. And while my single GTZ 1660 Ti card is not nearly enough to max out 4K graphics at a 60 Hz refresh rate, were you to hook up such a PC to this TV, the results would be epic. Thermonuclear, even.

One of my favorite applications for the TCL 8 Series was watching 4K/60p footage captured with GoPro Hero8 and Osmo Pocket cameras. Even though it’s 8-bit SDR 4K, the color absolutely pop without looking artificial and the

While black levels are not as “infinite” or “perfect” as an OLED viewed in a dark room, the contrast offered by the 8 Series comes close, while simultaneously providing the horsepower to handle “bright” HDR content like animated films, as well as to shine in a bright room during the day. As compared to recently-reviewed OLEDs, the TCL 8 Series performed better with the lights on than those emissive TVs, which are more limited in terms of total brightness.

Looking again at rtings.com, the advantages of mini-LED and 1000 addressable FALD zones are clear. The TCL 8 Series can achieve 1400 nits in a 2% square and>1800 nits in a 25% window. Full screen, sustained brightness is above 650 nits, which is blazing. When combined with the TCL’s very good anti-reflective screen, that brightness translates to glare-free viewing even in well lit spaces.

OK, I’ll say it right here… given how bright and vivid and awesome this TV is, I wish it also supported 3D (Bluetooth and active glasses) since it has all the ingredients needed. Even if 3D got left behind with Ultra HD Blu-ray and 4K streaming, it’s still an option for gamers and HD 3D Blu-rays are still around. Anyhow…

Like other LED-LCD TVs that use VA panels, the TCL 8 Series experiences a drop in contrast and saturation as the viewer moves off axis. That means you’ll want to be seated somewhat centered to the screen for the very best picture—anywhere on a couch that’s facing the TV will do. But the cool thing is this TV starts out with such high performance numbers that even a bit off-axis, it meets or beats the contrast of many other LED-LCD TVs when they are viewed directly on-axis.

Interestingly, TCL provides an auto-calibration function for the 8 Series through a special app, the iPQ Calibration app. Of course it is not as accurate as a professional meter and software kit, but it does provide an improvement over out-of-the-box color and I recommend running it. I performed the calibration with a Google Pixel phone and according to the result, the total color error dropped from a deltaE of 3.4 (not bad) to 2.4 (pretty darned good).

 

What’s key is the TCL 8 Series allows users to tweak color on their individual TV with an app and get a tangible improvement. This too pushes boundaries versus competitor’s offerings and as cell phone cameras improve I expect DIY app-based calibrations are the wave of the future for premium TVs. Even from the (still subjective) perspective of a critical viewer, the results I got with the app in just a few minutes time look great. My one suggestion, if you do the iPQ app calibration is to do it in a dark room to ensure ambient light is not skewing the result.

The Roku TV app also allows you to perform a complete professional calibration on the 8-Series TVs. Given the performance potential of this model, if extremely accurate color puts a smile on your face, I recommend getting the pro calibration on the 8 Series because—per the rtings.com review—you can get this TV to exhibit what’s effectively “reference quality” accuracy using the 11-point controls. And since rtings.com buys its TVs, this is not the result of a cherry-picked panel… this TV is capable of exceptional accuracy post calibration. For perspective, while the app improved deltaE to 2.4, when rtings calibrated its TV the deltaE went from 4.25 to 0.81.

Regardless of whether you professionally calibrate your TV, use the iPQ calibration app, or rely on out-of-the-box settings, TCL’s iPQ technology works to compensate for the variations that occur during the manufacturing process, as well as during the lifespan of the TV, in order to keep those colors accurate.

TCL’s AiPQ Engine offers advanced image processing that includes effective, high-quality upscaling as well as noise reduction and motion processing. It’s handling of motion is notable with the option to use BFI (black frame insertion) for crisper action. The TV also offers motion interpolation that is effective and produces minimal artifacts. It’s useful for crisping up the picture when panning and is great for sports but can induce the “soap opera effect” with movies. However there are setting for multiple strengths and the Low setting can work to make movies look smoother while maintaining a cinematic quality. The main point is TCL’s 8 Series TVs offers quantifiable, high quality picture processing.

When watching 24p content without motion interpolation, I did see some stutter during horizontal. It’s nothing I have not seen before on other TVs, so I’d call it “par for the course.” Ultimately, I found that using the Action Smoothing setting set to low produced smooth motion that largely maintains a film-like cadence while mitigating the panning stutter.

Overall, screen uniformity is good, with the mini-LED array keeping the edges (and especially the corners) illuminated better than most FALD LED-LCDs I have seen. A full screen gray pattern shows some non-uniformity, in that respect it’s about average for premium FALD LED-LCD TVs these days.

This is a high-performance TV by any measure, including the independent testing performed by rtings. This notable performance translates to a better subjective viewing experience than most other TVs can provide, with most content and under most circumstances. Yes, an OLED will beat it when playing a starfield test pattern while in a dark room but there are many scenes where the TCL 8 Series has plenty of contrast but pulls ahead of OLED with its extra brightness. This is especially true when there is some ambient light in the room, but this TV also possesses these qualities when the lights are out.


Conclusion

The TCL 8 Series is not just the best TCL yet, it enters new territory by offering new technology before its rivals. The mini-LED FALD array is a major leap forward in terms of the quality LED-LCD FALD can achieve. The brightness levels and contrast it achieves are what’s needed to really make 4K HDR pop off the screen.

No TV is perfect, but some TVs are better than others. And for the money, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better all-around TV than the TCL 8 Series. It does many things very well and does not skimp on the HDR firepower. The Roku platform is simply great, easy to use and snappy with clear menus and a ton of content. Whatever you feed it, including 4K HDR and Dolby Vision, this TV will vibrantly and accurately show you want the creator intended, be it games, movies, TV shows or the production crew at the Super Bowl. If you want a 65″ or 75″ TV that performs at a very high level without the very high price, the TCL 8 Series is a Top Choice, without a doubt.


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