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    TCL 8-Series is the best Roku TV ever. But is it good enough?

    Sarah Tew/CNET
    If you’ve got been researching TVs currently, “expensive” most likely is not the very first thing you’ve got examine TCL, a China-based producer recognized for Roku TVs that occur to be spectacular values. But right here we’re. As I write this assessment, the 8-Series, which contains the 65-inch 65Q825 and the 75-inch 75Q825, is among the many extra pricey televisions available on the market, at $1,600 and $2,600 respectively. The smaller model is a number of hundred greater than LG’s B9 OLED, my favourite high-end TV of the yr, whereas the bigger model is a grand greater than the Vizio P-Series Quantum X, my favourite cheaper-than-OLED various. 

    LikeSuperb picture qualityBest-in-class streamingCheaper than OLED at 75 inches

    Don’t LikeExpensiveNot pretty much as good as OLEDSome native dimming artifacts

    The worth is at the very least partially justified, nevertheless, as a result of the 8-Series is a beast. Inky-deep black ranges and good highlights, created by TCL’s industry-first Mini LED know-how, ship the type of distinction that makes each picture pop, particularly HDR. In my side-by-side comparisons it got here nearer to the requirements set by that OLED TV than another I’ve examined this yr. Despite some hiccups with native dimming, it is a tick higher general than that Vizio PX and Samsung’s Q80R however the three are all shut — and, as standard, a major step behind OLEDs. So yeah, the 8-Series is among the greatest TVs you should purchase, money-no-object, however the Vizio PX remains to be a greater worth and the LG B9 a greater high-end selection general. 

    Update Friday Dec 20, 9:43AM ET: When this assessment first printed the TCL 8-Series was priced $400 greater, however since then it has dropped to the costs talked about above. The headline and intro — the place I requested particularly for a worth drop — have been modified accordingly, as has the ranking (I bumped Value as much as 7 and the general ranking to 8.0). I’ve requested TCL to specify whether or not the present worth is everlasting or in any other case (it dropped briefly earlier than as nicely, then even additional after a sure twitter change) and can report again right here once I know extra.
    Design When TCL launched the 8-Series it aimed squarely for the upper finish of the market. And, as you’d count on, meaning it will get higher styling: Nice, grayish textured steel alongside the underside of the TV as an alternative of plastic. A steel body on the edges. Glass that reaches all the way in which to the sting. A shiny black bottom.  The better part is the daring stand. It’s a large central bar in metallic grey once more, thrust far out past the display and connected to a single, angled leg that helps the panel in area, creating the phantasm of flotation. That’s a rattling sight higher than the 2 little splay-legs discovered on most of its friends.

    Sarah Tew/CNET
    Why Roku TV rocks The 8-Series has Roku TV and, for causes I’ve documented extensively in earlier opinions, I’m a fan. Here’s the quick checklist of causes to adore it: Frequent updates and have improvementsSimple menus with fast responsesFull customization, together with enter namingInputs on the identical house web page as TV appsMore apps than another sensible TV systemCross-platform search covers many providers, permits worth comparisonsCan pause stay TV from an antenna supply (and a USB stick)My assessment pattern was working the newest model, 9.2.2, which provides a number of different nifty options, together with a voice-activated sleep timer and curated content material “zones.” Check out my writeup of Roku’s 2019 gamers and my assessment of my favourite 4K Roku system, the Roku Streaming Stick Plus, for extra particulars. One factor presently lacking from the Roku platform typically and this TCL TV particularly — and out there on competing sensible TVs from Vizio, Samsung and LG — is help for Apple’s AirPlay system. Roku does have the Apple TV app, however on the 8-Series it would not help Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Only Apple TV units get these codecs.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    The 8-Series contains the straightforward Roku distant with built-in voice management. Roku’s voice operate is not practically as sturdy as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, discovered on LG and Sony TVs, for instance, however it labored high quality for searches, app launching, switching inputs and tuning to an antenna channel. If the TV is off, utilizing a voice command like “Launch Netflix” will flip it on and launch the app. Key options

    Display know-how

    LED LCD

    LED backlight

    Full array with native dimming (Mini-LED)

    Resolution

    4K

    HDR suitable

    HDR10 and Dolby Vision

    Smart TV

    Roku TV

    Remote

    Voice

    So about these Mini-LEDs. TCL is the primary TV maker to make use of them and from what I’ve seen of the 8-Series, they do result in higher image high quality. The most important purpose appears to be as a result of the smaller LEDs are in a position to be grouped into extra native dimming zones. Here’s a crash course.

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    TCL 8 collection, 6 collection enhance Roku TV’s image high quality…

    2:34

    Full-array native dimming is one of the simplest ways to enhance image high quality on LCD TVs. It permits the backlight — the half behind the LCD display that gives illumination — to dim and illuminate totally different areas concurrently. Smaller areas, or dimming zones, imply ore exact illumination, and TCL says that the 8-Series has 1,000 zones — about twice as many because the Vizio P-Series Quantum X for instance (Samsung and Sony do not publish their dimming zone numbers).  Read extra: How ini-LED might result in large image high quality enhancements Beyond Mini-LED, the 8-Series has quantum dots (additionally used on the 6-Series). TCL’s adoption of “QLED” proves Samsung would not have a monopoly on that futuristic-sounding acronym — TCL even makes use of the identical font as Samsung. It stands for “quantum dot LED TV,” and people dots are microscopic molecules that, when hit by mild, emit their very own, in another way coloured mild. Quantum dots do enhance HDR coloration and likewise seem in Vizio’s new 2019 TVs. Of course the 8-Series helps each Dolby Vision and HDR10 excessive dynamic vary codecs. These days principally the one producer that does not is Samsung. The TV additionally touts a spec referred to as “Natural Motion 480,” however as standard, that is a made-up quantity. The 8-Series does have a 120Hz native panel, just like the Vizio P-Series Quantum, the Samsung Q80 and Sony X950G. See beneath for particulars. Spoiler alert: The cleaning soap opera impact is enabled by default in Movie mode. Boo! One distinctive further: TCL has an app, separate from the usual Roku app, referred to as “iPQ Calibration.” It’s designed to let customers alter coloration and different picture high quality points — in different phrases, calibrate the TV — with out the necessity for any specialised gear. I did not get the possibility to check for this assessment and the iOS model is not out there (solely Android to date) however I stay up for taking it for a spin.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    Around again you will discover a wholesome set of jacks. 4x HDMI inputs (HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2)1x analog (composite) video input1x USB port (2.0)Ethernet (wired web)1x headphone jack1x optical digital audio output1x RF (antenna) enterThe 8-Series lacks a number of the HDMI 2.1 extras discovered on some opponents like Samsung and LG, akin to variable refresh price, however it does function auto sport mode, designed to robotically interact the low enter lag setting when linked to a suitable gaming system. The headphone jack is a pleasant contact, and in contrast to cheaper Roku units, this one has Ethernet, too. Picture high quality comparisons Click the picture above to see CNET’s advisable image settings.
    Sarah Tew/CNET
    The TCL 8-Series has one of the best image high quality of any non-OLED TV I’ve examined this yr, beating the Vizio PX and Samsung Q80R, the 2 next-best, by a nostril. It delivered one of the best distinction and brightest HDR highlights, in addition to strong video processing, correct coloration and the entire different containers TV must test. I encountered some bizarre artifacts associated to its native dimming, it is not so good as the Samsung in vibrant rooms or from off-angle and as standard LG’s B9 OLED outperformed it in lots of points, however as a proving floor for Mini-LED and four-digit zone counts, it is a flying success. Click the picture on the proper to see the image settings used within the assessment and to learn extra about how this TV’s image controls labored throughout calibration.

    Dim lighting: For this comparability I used the infamously darkish Game of Thrones episode, The Long Night aka The Battle of Winterfell (the third episode of season eight) — however as an alternative the overly compressed HBO Now stream, I slipped within the new Blu-ray disc, which seems to be a couple of thousand instances higher. In this torture check, the TCL appeared one of the best among the many LCDs, due to its mixture of deeper black ranges than the Vizio and the 6-Series and higher shadow element than the Samsung. As standard the B9 OLED appeared greatest with its excellent blacks, which additionally made shadows extra reasonable. With this SDR title the LCDs did not present the identical degree of variations I noticed with HDR (see beneath), nevertheless. And the entire screens, even the 6-Series, appeared comparable, and excellent. As Sansa gazes over the ramparts for instance (at timestamp 4:08) the fur of her coat was obscured on the Samsung. It was brighter (and fewer reasonable) on the 6-Series and particularly the Vizio, whereas the 8-Series rendered it greatest (except for the OLED. One of the darkest pictures of the troops and Gendry (at 5:26) exaggerated these variations as nicely, and once more the 8-Series managed them greatest, whereas in brighter combined scenes, just like the faces of mirrored within the torchlight of Melisandre (at 8:59), the TVs appeared extra comparable. I additionally could not assist however try an outdated favourite darkish scene, the venerable Voldemort muster previous to invading Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Chapter 12). Here the TCL was a strong second to the LG, beating the black ranges of its cheaper cousin and particularly the Vizio PX, whereas exposing extra shadow element than the too-dim Samsung.  Bright lighting: The TCL 8-Series is among the brightest TVs I’ve ever measured and wonderful in well-lit rooms, albeit not fairly as vibrant because the Vizio PX nor pretty much as good at coping with ambient mild because the Samsung Q80R. Here’s how the numbers evaluate. Light output in nits

    TV

    Brightest (SDR)

    Accurate coloration (SDR)

    Brightest (HDR)

    Accurate coloration (HDR)

    Vizio PX65-G1

    1,990

    1,120

    2,908

    2,106

    TCL 65Q825

    1,653

    904

    1,818

    982

    Samsung QN65Q80R

    1,443

    832

    1,494

    1,143

    Sony XBR-65X950G

    1,050

    427

    1,264

    1,035

    Vizio P659-G1

    792

    561

    822

    602

    TCL 65R625

    653

    578

    881

    813

    LG OLED65B9

    374

    283

    628

    558

    As standard, the brightest setting  is horribly inaccurate. On the TCL it is “TV Brightness: brighter” and “Picture mode: Vivid,” (or “Bright HDR” for HDR content material). An correct bright-room image is laudably straightforward to realize, nevertheless. Just swap the mode to “Movie” or “Dark HDR” mode, which reduces mild output however delivers a significantly better picture.  It’s price mentioning once more that these measurements of standardized check patterns do not inform the entire story. With actual HDR materials (see beneath), the 8-Series and Samsung each appeared and measured brighter than the Vizio PX. Under vibrant lighting in broad daylight the TCL’s display was the worst in my comparability at mitigating reflections and higher than solely the Vizio at preserving black ranges and distinction. None of the opposite TVs in my lineup might maintain a candle to the excellent Samsung, which has the simplest antireflective display I’ve ever seen and was one of the best bright-room TV in my lineup. Color accuracy: The TCL’s coloration measured fairly nicely though in comparison with the opposite assessment samples I acquired, it was considerably plus-red earlier than calibration. After calibration it was practically excellent, as have been the others. When I watched Game of Thrones, the variations have been negligible. 
    Video processing: The 8-Series is a 120Hz native TV with loads of choices for dealing with movement however did not carry out as nicely on this class as the opposite TVs. As I lamented above nevertheless, and in contrast to the cheaper 6-Series, the default settings for Movie mode introduce unwelcome smoothing, also called the cleaning soap opera impact, and one thing video purists like me (and Tom Cruise) detest. To flip it off on the 8-Series, you will want to enter the Picture Settings menu and swap “Action Smoothing” from Low (the default) to Off.  In Off the TV delivers appropriate 1080p/24 movie cadence however within the different settings, Low and better, it causes the TV to have that buttery smoothness that makes movie seem like, nicely, a cleaning soap opera. None of the opposite TVs I’ve examined this yr, high-end or in any other case, flip SOE on by default in Movie mode. Those different settings, “Action Clarity” and “LED Motion Clarity,” have an effect on movement decision and work together with each other. The excellent news is that reaching most movement decision would not require SOE.  When I toggled LED Motion Clarity on, participating black body insertion, and cranked Action Clarity to High, I measured a wholesome 1,080 strains of decision — excellent, albeit not so good as the Samsung or Vizio. A decrease AC setting, and turning LED Motion Clarity off, has the identical impact. I most well-liked to go away AC on High and switch LED Motion Clarity off as a result of the latter dims the picture barely and launched some flicker. Viewers very averse to blur would possibly need to go away it on, nevertheless. The TCL’s gaming enter lag was good at round 18ms for each 1080p and 4K HDR in sport mode however fell a number of milliseconds in need of one of the best TVs, together with the 6-Series. Twitch players would possibly discover however no person else will. That mentioned, the probabilities of noticing lag go means up for anyone who would not use sport mode in 4K HDR: I measured 134ms (!) in 4K with sport mode turned off. Uniformity: With check patterns the TCL 8-Series was strong with out an excessive amount of brightness variation throughout the display, higher than the Vizio PX however worse than Samsung, the 6-Series and the LG OLED. From off-angle it preserved black ranges and constancy higher than the Vizio however worse than the Samsung, whereas as standard the OLED was principally excellent from off-angle. HDR and 4K video: The most important purpose to purchase a high-end TV is to luxuriate in its high-dynamic vary efficiency, and whereas the TCL fell in need of the LG OLED general — regardless of the TCL’s marked brightness benefit — I favored it higher than the Vizio and Samsung. The 8-Series displayed reasonably unrefined native dimming, nevertheless, resulting in some unusual artifacts. If the Blu-ray of Game of Thrones Season 8 seems to be a thousand instances higher than the HBO stream, the 4K Blu-ray with HDR seems to be roughly 1,000,000 instances higher (when you’re conserving rating at house observe that I used the HDR10 model not Dolby Vision, as a result of I did not need to go away Samsung out). During The Long Night the 8-Series’ deep black ranges beat the Vizio and 6-Series, as earlier than, and the Samsung, whereas deeper, fell quick on shadow element once more. But with HDR the TCL additionally added good highlights to its benefits. As Melisandre ignites the torches, for instance (at 9:23), the TCL appeared and measured the brightest in my lineup, practically matching the general punch and affect — in different phrases, the distinction — of the LG OLED. The extra a scene combined vibrant areas and darkish, the extra the TCL’s many dimming zones helped. When I did discover blooming and stray illumination, for instance the “Cease fire!” subtitle at 12:40, the 8-Series confirmed lower than the Vizio and Samsung. One drawback, nevertheless: The TCL’s native dimming did not behave in addition to the others, resulting in some bizarre artifacts. In one 13-second sequence, when Sandor steps via the road of battle (at 5:22) via Sam’s change with Dolorous Edd (5:35), a block of the picture alongside the underside of the display turn out to be actually darkish (the identical artifact occurred a number of instances later as nicely). At 6:55, a horse emerges from the gloom and elements of the picture abruptly shift in brightness. Maybe TCL will refine its native dimming with a software program replace (it has issued at the very least one which addresses picture high quality already), however Vizio and Samsung’s dimming is presently extra constant. Moving on from Game of Thrones, I additionally checked out the wonderful video montage from the Spears and Munsil 4K HDR benchmark disc. As I discussed in my Vizio PX assessment the TCL got here in second place among the many 4 higher-end units, falling in need of the LG and outclassing the Vizio and Samsung general.  In probably the most tough bright-on-dark scenes, for instance the honey dripper towards the black background (at 2:47) and the Ferris wheel at evening (4:50), the LG B9’s excellent blacks and full lack of blooming gained the day however the TCL’s lighter black and restricted blooming, mixed with its good highlights, was virtually pretty much as good.  In brighter scenes the sunshine output benefit of the LCDs over the OLED grew to become extra noticeable. When I watched some grazing horses in a snowfield at 0:37, the TCL appeared one of the best, with excellent element and definition and superior brightness. The Vizio and B9 additionally appeared well-detailed however dimmer, whereas the Samsung was fairly vibrant however obscured particulars probably the most. I will not rehash all of the gory particulars right here, however I’ll embrace the desk of measurements I took from chosen highlights. (Note that content material mastered in 1,000 nits is most typical, whereas 4,000-nit content material takes fuller benefit of the sunshine output of LCD units.) Selected HDR highlights in nits

    Spears & Munsil scene aspect (timestamp)

    Sequence (nits)

    LG B9

    Samsung Q80R

    TCL 8-Series

    Vizio PX

    Sky above peaks (0:10)

    1,000

    200

    370

    345

    208

    Sky above peaks (0:10)

    4,000

    260

    453

    636

    388

    Between horse’s neck, forelock (0:37)

    1,000

    203

    512

    464

    226

    Between horse’s neck, forelock (0:37)

    4,000

    191

    487

    555

    440

    Reflection in honey dripper (2:47)

    1000

    384

    506

    438

    360

    Reflection in honey dripper (2:47)

    4,000

    386

    604

    735

    704

    Middle of Ferris wheel (4:50)

    1,000

    150

    234

    208

    167

    Middle of Ferris wheel (4:50)

    4,000

    233

    207

    190

    232

    Geek Box

    Test

    Result

    Score

    Black luminance (0%)

    0.004

    Good

    Peak white luminance (SDR)

    1653

    Good

    Avg. gamma (10-100%)

    2.18

    Good

    Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)

    0.32

    Good

    Dark grey error (30%)

    0.21

    Good

    Bright grey error (80%)

    0.27

    Good

    Avg. coloration checker error

    0.50

    Good

    Avg. saturation sweeps error

    0.52

    Good

    Avg. coloration error

    1.14

    Good

    Red error

    1.14

    Good

    Green error

    0.75

    Good

    Blue error

    2.26

    Good

    Cyan error

    0.63

    Good

    Magenta error

    1.51

    Good

    Yellow error

    0.53

    Good

    1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)

    Pass

    Good

    Motion decision (max)

    1000

    Good

    Motion decision (dejudder off)

    1000

    Good

    Input lag (Game mode)

    18.57

    Good

    HDR10

    Black luminance (0%)

    0.006

    Good

    Peak white luminance (10% win)

    1818

    Good

    Gamut % UHDA/P3 (CIE 1976)

    96.00

    Good

    ColorMatch HDR error

    2.64

    Good

    Avg. coloration checker error

    3.93

    Average

    Input lag (Game mode, 4K HDR)

    18.17

    Good

    TCL 65Q825 CNET calibration outcomes by David Katzmaier on Scribd

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