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TCL P series Roku TV (2017) review: Roku smarts, robust picture, ridiculously good 55-inch TV

The competing Amazon Fire TV Edition sets can pause live TV too, and also include a full program guide, thumbnail images for shows and results integrated into search. It's pretty close to Roku overall for antenna awesomeness, but I still like Roku better, thanks to its streaming suggestions for antenna shows.

Features and connections

Key features

Display technology LED LCD
LED backlight Full array with local dimming
Resolution 4K
HDR compatible HDR10 and Dolby Vision
Screen shape Flat
Smart TV: Roku
Remote: Enhanced

Full array local dimming sets the P series apart from many competitors, and puts it in the same conversation as Vizio's better televisions. TCL calls it "Contrast Control Zone" technology, but it means the same thing, and claims 72 dimming zones outdoing Vizio's M series (32 zones). More zones generally means better image quality.

tcl-p-series-roku-tv-2017
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Sarah Tew/CNET

Local dimming is especially important for HDR image quality. Like Vizio, LG and others (with the notable exception of Samsung), the P series supports both current types of HDR video: Dolby Vision and HDR10.

TCL claims a "clear motion index" of 120Hz but, like so many other TV makers' claims, it's basically fake. This set has the motion performance of a 60Hz TV.

Around back you'll find a solid selection of inputs.

  • 3 HDMI inputs (HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2)
  • 1 analog (composite) video input
  • 1 USB port (2.0)
  • Ethernet (wired internet)
  • 1 headphone jack
  • 1 optical digital audio output
  • 1 RF (antenna) input

The HDMIs are state-of-the-art and worked fine with everything I threw at them, including Dolby Vision 4K Blu-ray from the Oppo UDP-203. The headphone jack is a nice touch, and unlike cheaper Roku sets, this one has Ethernet, too.

Picture quality

Editors' note: This section was written for the original Roku P series review in June and has not been updated. However, the P series has been used in numerous other TV reviews since, including the Vizio M series, Sony XBR-X900E, Samsung MU9000, Vizio E series and TCL S405. For additional comparisons using the TCL P, see those reviews.

In side-by-side comparisons the TCL P series performed as well overall as our favorite TV for the money, Vizio's M series. It fell a bit short of the Vizio's own more expensive P series, but beat the Samsung Q7 QLED, the 2017 Vizio E series and the Element Fire TV Edition sets in my comparison lineup.

picture-settings.jpg
CNET

Its main strength was deep black levels, which improved contrast and pop in all lighting situations, especially dark rooms and with HDR. Color accuracy was solid too. Other aspects of its image quality, were hardly flawless but evinced no major issues.

Click the image at the right to see my suggested picture settings and technical notes on HDR performance.

Dim lighting: In a dark home theater environment, the P series looked great, beating the Samsung QLED, the Vizio E series and the Amazon Fire TV Edition set by Element, although it wasn't quite as impressive as the other Vizios.

Watching dark scenes from "The Revenant" Blu-ray, like the late night conversation between Hugh and his son Hawk in Chapter 4, the TCL consistently got deeper and more realistic than any of the other sets aside from the Vizio M and P series. In some scenes the E looked a bit darker, but it showed a bit more blooming (stray illumination) in some areas than the TCL. Meanwhile, the TCL showed some blooming itself, for example with lighter areas in the bars above and below Hawk's face, while the Vizio M and P maintained the dark integrity of those areas better.

The TCL again held its own in one of my favorite dark scene torture tests, the attack on Hogwarts from Chapter 12 of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2." Its darkest areas, like the letterbox bars and the shadows around the gathering of wizards on the hilltop, again didn't get quite as deep as on the Vizio P or M series, but they were very close, and deeper than the others. The TCL also maintained shadow detail and controlled blooming well in these scenes.

Bright lighting: The TCL P series can't get quite as bright as the Vizios, let alone the Samsung, but it's still plenty bright for most lighting situations. Here's how it stacked up:

Light output in nits

Light output in nits




TV Mode (SDR) 10% window (SDR) Full screen (SDR) Mode (HDR) 10% window (HDR)
Samsung QN65Q7F Dynamic 923 588 Dynamic 1,781
Vizio P65-C1 Vivid 572 582 Vivid 486
Vizio M65-D0 Calibrated 456 450 Vivid 507
TCL 55P607 Vivid/dimming off 438 431 Brighter/Dark HDR 448
LG OLED55C7P Vivid 433 145 Vivid 715

To get peak light output from the TCL you have to disable local dimming by turning the Local Contrast control to Off. As usual, the set measured brightest in its least-accurate picture mode (Vivid), so if you care about color accuracy, I recommend using another mode like Normal for bright rooms. Check my settings (above) for more info.

The TCL's matte screen didn't reduce reflections quite as well as the Vizios, but it was still very good. It preserved black levels about as well as the Vizios, but not as well as the superb Samsung.

Color accuracy: Before calibration the TCL's most accurate color temperature wasn't as precise as I'd like to see, tending toward red, but it wasn't terrible. Afterward it measured as accurately as any of the others and looked superb with program material, delivering excellent saturation and skin tones. The natural beauty of "The Revenant" was on full display, from the lush green of the forest leaves to the blue-green water, to the orange and red of the campfires and sunsets.

Video processing: The TCL P series handled 1080p/24 content properly, preserving the cadence of film. On the other hand, unlike the Samsung and the Vizio M and P series, there's no option to reduce motion blur. Like other 60Hz TVs, the TCL managed only 300 lines of motion resolution.

The TCL has the lowest (best) input lag I've measured this year at about 16ms with Game Mode engaged. Even with it turned off, lag was still very good at 35.

Uniformity: With test patterns, the TCL P series showed more uneven backlighting than any of the other sets, although the Element was almost as bad. The TCL's edges and center were darker than the rest of the screen, and faint vertical bars were visible. A hockey game is a good real-world uniformity torture test, and on the TCL the uneven lighting was more visible than on the others. It's not a deal-breaker for most viewers, however.

From off-angle, the TCL lost black-level fidelity and became discolored more noticeably than the others aside from the Element, but it wasn't terrible.  

HDR and 4K video: My first test of 4K HDR involved slipping "Despicable Me 2" into the Oppo UDP-203 to compare the TCL's rendition of Dolby Vision to that of the two Dolby Vision-equipped Vizios, the M and the P series. The TCL was much better than the M. Its image popped with more life and vibrancy, due largely to the much deeper black levels combined with brighter whites. Colors also looked deeper and richer, and the TCL's color gamut appeared wider than the Vizio. Of course, the Vizio is much larger, but that was its only advantage.

The contest was much closer between Vizio's P series and TCL's, but the smaller TCL still looked better. Again, its main advantage was in depth and pop, supplied by slightly deeper black levels. Colors between the two were closer, however, and Vizio's P still looked superb.

I consider non-animated titles like "The Revanant" better test material, however, and with the HDR10 version of that film on 4K Blu-ray, the TCL still beat the M series, which again looked relatively washed out and lifeless, even compared to the cheaper E series. The P series looked better than the TCL, however, with highlights that popped more and slightly better definition in the clouds and other near-white objects. In dark scenes, the Vizio P got darker and controlled blooming better, as I saw with SDR. The two were still pretty close, however, and easily the best HDR in my lineup.

Side by side, I noticed the TCL appeared a bit sharper than the others, but not necessarily in a good way. On both discs it looked like it showed some edge enhancement, which made edges like faces in the foreground against blurry backgrounds, for example, look less natural than on the others. Test patterns didn't reveal any edge enhancement, however, although I did see some minor ghosting on some patterns that might explain it. Although the effect was subtle and I doubt most viewers will object, it might bother some purist videophiles.

I also noticed shimmer in fine patterns, for example the jackets of Gru from "Despicable Me 2" (8:28) and Albert from "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" (3:50). I'm not sure what caused the issue, but none of the other TVs showed it.

The P series delivered 4K and HDR streaming from Netflix, Amazon and Vudu with no issues, was able to pass the full resolution of 4K from YouTube and played through a suite of 4K test patterns from Florian Friedrich with no issues.

Geek Box

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0206 Good
Peak white luminance (100%) 431 Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.34 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.840 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.397 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.448 Good
Avg. color error 0.822 Good
Red error 0.989 Good
Green error 0.429 Good
Blue error 1.479 Good
Cyan error 1.132 Good
Magenta error 0.497 Good
Yellow error 0.405 Good
Avg. saturations error 2.18 Good
Avg. luminance error 1.27 Good
Avg. color checker error 2.08 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 300 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) N/A Good
Input lag (Game mode) 15.7 Good



HDR default

Black luminance .013 Poor
Peak white luminance (10% win) 323 Poor
Gamut % DCI/P3 (CIE 1976) 95 Good
Avg. saturations error 4.6 Average
Avg. color checker error 2.7 Good

TCL 55P607 CNET review calibration results by David Katzmaier on Scribd

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