It’s the holiday season and that means it’s the perfect time to go shopping for a new TV. Don’t go out and buy just anything: with HDR finally becoming standardized, you might just find yourself with an outdated TV as you walk out of the store. Thankfully, we’ve done the research for you and come away with the hands-down best TV under $1000: the TCL 6-Series. This is our full review.
- Pricing: $649 (55-inch), $999 (65-inch)
- Screen Size: 55-inch or 65-inch
- Viewable Display Size: 54.6"/64.5"
- Description: Powerful Performance HDR 4K TV
- Wi-Fi: 802.11ac 2x2 Dual Band (support 2.4GHz & 5GHz)
- Processor Type: CPU: Dual-core / GPU: Dual-core
- Smart Platform: Roku
- Clear Motion Index: 120Hz CMI
- Panel Resolution: 3840 x 2160
- Resolution: UHD
- Display Colors: 1.07 billion
- High Dynamic Range Format: Dolby Vision and HDR10
- Audio Power (Watts): 8W + 8W
- Audio Passthrough: Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos
- Dolby Processing: Dolby Digital
- Connections: AV Input: Composite Video + L&R Audio In (Mini 3.5mm connector), x1 RF Input (NTSC, ATSC), x1 Ethernet, x1 USB 2.0, x3 HDMI 2.0 w/HDCP, x1 SPDIF Digital Audio Optical, x1 Audio Output Headphone
- Features: Advanced PQ Setting with Mobile App, Control Buttons (Power/Menu, <,>), Multilingual On-Screen-Display: (English, Spanish, French), Closed Caption. Parental Control (V-Chip), Accessible Menu System (CVAA), Sleep Timer
Dimensions and Weight
- Product Size (WxHxD) with Stand: 55-inch: 48.5" x 30.6" x 10.7" / 65-inch: 57.1" x 35.7" x 10.7"
- Product Size (WxHxD) without Stand: 55-inch: 48.5" x 28.1" x 2.9" / 65-inch: 57.1" x 32.9" x 3.0"
- Product Weight with Stand: 55-inch: 38.2 lbs / 65-inch: 52.3 lbs
- Product Weight without Stand: 55-inch: 37.1 lbs / 65-inch: 51.2 lbs
Like many of you, I held out on the 4K revolution for a long time. Also like many of you, I bit the bullet and decided it was time to upgrade. The holiday season is the best time pick up a good deal on a TV this side of Super Bowl season. So I dug in and started researching every single sale-priced TV I could find. I dug and researched, dug and researched, trying to find a TV that’s the perfect blend of what a gamer needs: a great, clear picture, 1000-nit true HDR, and low input lag. And, to put the cherry on top, I wanted to spend as much under $1000 as I could.
And do you know what I found? None of them had those things. Every major retailer unloading all of their now out-of-VESA-spec TVs. In other words, short of spending a couple thousand dollars, virtually all of these TVs would be instantly out of date due to the new VESA certifications for High Dynamic Range (speaking to peak brightness, specifically).
I don’t know about any of you, but our family doesn’t buy a new TV every year. I began to lose hope. Then, I found the TCL 6-series: the single best TV line you can get for the money. It wasn’t on sale, so it didn’t show up in my searches (though it may be on sale by the time you read this). Instead, it was just well priced right off the bat, outspeccing even higher priced models from Samsung and LG.
The TCL 6-Series is a performer of a product line. It packs a 3840x2160 UHD panel with full 1000-nit brightness High Dynamic Range. Compare that to the 400-nits most TVs being rushed out the door deliver and it’s a remarkable difference. The TV also supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, which allows for screen-by-screen brightness adjustments. The wide color gamut delivered by this line is simply stunning. That’s the word my complete non-techie wife used when I showed her the first 4K HDR demo I could find on YouTube. And listen, when my wife is impressed by something with a screen, it’s really something special. 4K is great but, in my opinion, HDR at this level is the icing that makes the cake.
These sets also have excellent full array local dimming. Local dimming, if you’re not familiar, is the practice of lighting up the screen in individual zones. That way, when something dark or black appears on the screen, the display can simply turn that section of backlight off resulting in deep, rich blacks. The 55-inch model has 96 zones while the 65-inch has a full 120. The 6-Series delivers beautiful colors and midnight blacks unlike any of the sale-priced priced competitors I came across.
For gaming, it’s simply phenomenal. Coming from my aging Toshiba 1080p 40” panel, stepping up to the 55-inch TCL was like night and day. I’m lucky enough to have an Xbox One X and this has completely changed my feelings on the state of the generation. On my 1080p set, games were beginning to look long in the tooth and fuzzy around the edges. At 4K or even 1440p with upscaling, games look very good. Add in HDR and it’s like putting on glasses for the first time. Over the last two years, I’d shifted toward PC almost exclusively (reviewing PC hardware will do that to you). The detail on the screen and comfort of being able to kick back on my couch has turned that on its head.
Now, all of that would be for naught if the screen was laggy. I’m a big fan of shooters and input lag can destroy the experience. The TCL 6-series TVs do a good amount of processing to deliver their superb picture and input lag is the price you pay. We don’t have specialized equipment to test input lag, but our colleagues at RTINGs do and their numbers sound about right. At 4K, they come in at 122.8ms outside of game mode. Yikes, but don’t panic just yet. Enabling Game Mode drops that down to 19.6ms, a dramatic reduction, and one that feels great even in fast-paced shooters like Battlefield V.
For movies and TV, the picture is equally good. With an upgraded Netflix account, there’s a good amount of 4K content to enjoy and other streaming services help to fill in the gaps, but I admit to being worried about how 1080p content would look. I’ve heard horror stories about friends upgrading to 4K only to find out that most of their content looked worse from low-quality upscalers. Imagine my surprise when I found that TCL’s upscaled 1080p looked better than the native 1080p on my Toshiba. I did have to go in and tweak up the sharpening a bit (they were about the same from the start) but some quick tweaks definitely made for a better viewing experience all around.
There are lots of settings to play around with. Most of it is your standard fare, saturation, color temperature, brightness. You can also adjust your HDR brightness, color richness, enable or disable local dimming (I leave mine on for everything). Action Smoothing is enabled by default, which kicks on motion interpolation and triggers the soap opera effect. Some people actually like this, but it isn’t for me, so was a quick disable on my end. I also find that different types of content will adjust the HDR brightness on their own, sometimes changing my setting from Bright all the way down to Dark. It’s a bit annoying but an overall minor issue as it only seems to happen the first time with new content.
Under the hood, it’s sporting a dual-core CPU and GPU and dual-band 802.11ac WiFi (2.4GHz and 5GHz) to power its Roku functionality. Having never used a Roku before, I am frankly blown away at how easily I can find things to watch. My Netflix and Hulu apps run seamlessly and lag-free, and there are dozens and dozens more to choose from. HBO Go, DirectTV Now, all of your major network streaming apps and an incredible array I didn’t even know existed are all right there, ready to be downloaded.
Roku also makes it easy to find specific titles with the barest of effort. You can search by title or actor and it will tell you which services have it available to stream. If you have to buy or rent it, it gives you the price and let’s you complete the transaction right there to get right into your movie. Frankly, I’ve never been one to spread my content purchases around between services, but this makes it so easy you don’t really have to think about it. It’s like having a Blockbuster right at your fingertips.
The service is really expansive and that it all lives right on the TV is fantastic. In fact, they’ve built Netflix, Hulu, and DirectTV Now buttons right into the remote. My wife instantly switched from using our Xbox One to our TCL in no time, which, again, is a bit shocking. Non-techie, she finds what works and sticks to it. The whole design feels very intuitive.
Connection-wise, both sizes of 6-Series offer 3 HDMI 2.0 ports. If you’re gaming on a console capable of HDR, you’ll need to go into the settings to turn on HDMI 2.0 first. It’s a curious thing, but a fast fix. The TV also supports an ethernet cable for the best connection but I’ve had no issues with a strong and steady WiFi connection throughout the testing period. If you keep media on a USB drive, you’ll be able to use that too. If you’re really on the cutting edge, you’ll also be pleased to know that the TV has full support for Dolby Atmos.
As you can tell, TCL’s 6-Series just offers an incredible amount for the money. Frankly, I’ve looked at the competition at this price point and it puts them to shame. It’s not the perfect set, off-axis color shifting is a thing, as is a bit of screen glare, but the amount of features and performance offered by this set is impressive. Without question, if you’re looking for an amazing TV that will last you for years to come and don’t want to spend more than $1000 to get it, this is the TV you want to buy.
- True, 1000-nit brightness HDR
- Wide Color Gamut
- Great response time in Game Mode
- Excellent 96/120-zone Local Dimming
- Stylish looks
- Lag-free performance in Roku interface
- Roku makes accessing content, building a history/feed easy
- Some glare
- Off-axis color shifting
Both a review sample and purchased sample were used in the evaluation process when building this review.