In August TCL gave us details on its new 2019 TVs, including an upgrade to the superb 2018 TCL 6-Series that adds QLED color and costs $800 for the 65-inch size. Now the Chinese TV maker's higher-end model, the TCL 8-Series, goes on sale, bringing even better image quality specs and a price to match. It's available for preorder starting today exclusively at Best Buy. The 65-inch 65Q825 costs $2,000, while the 75-inch 75Q825 costs $3,000 and both start shipping later in October.
I haven't had the chance to review either new 2019 TCL TV -- stay tuned for that -- but on paper the 8-Series is a beast. It's the first TV to use mini-LED technology, which promises even better contrast and pop thanks to more (and smaller) light-emitting diodes behind the screen: 25,000 LEDs in the 75-inch size.
The 8-Series also uses our favorite built-in smart TV system, Roku TV. That makes it the most-expensive Roku by a wide margin, but for high-end buyers it's still an intriguing option. I can't wait to see how it compares to , which costs just a bit more at the 65-inch size.
Thanks in part to Roku, TCL has become one of the most popular TV brands in the US. It grew by more than 60% in 2017 and 2018, according to market research firm NPD, trailing only Samsung and Vizio in units sold. During that time, however, its growth has mostly come from entry-level models such as the 3-Series and 4-Series -- among my top choices for budget buyers -- but not in midrange and high-end sets. That's set to change with the 8-Series and the updated 6-Series. Here's what we know so far.
TCL 2019 8-, 6- and 5-Series TVs
|Model||Size (inches)||Local dimming zones||QLED color||Price||Available|
TCL 8-Series: 25,000 mini-LEDs can't be wrong
The 8-Series shares a price ballpark with Vizio's P-Series Quantum X and Samsung's Q80R but could potentially outperform either one thanks to mini-LED. TCL says the 8-Series has 25,000 LEDs on the 75-inch size (and proportionally less on the 65, but representatives didn't specify exactly how many).
Mini-LED is different from MicroLED, the display technology used by Samsung in its hella-expensive The Wall TVs, and rumored to be used in the 2020 version of the Apple Watch. MicroLED is a potentially revolutionary display tech and a candidate to replace OLED as picture-quality king, thanks to emissive technology that does away with the liquid-crystal structure of traditional LCD TVs. Mini-LED adds more, smaller LEDs to the backlight behind that structure, but otherwise the 8-Series is a traditional LCD TV. I asked TCL to specify at what size a standard LED becomes a mini-LED, but representatives declined.
Thanks to mini-LED, which TCL calls "Quantum Contrast," the 8-Series has around 1,000 local dimming zones, roughly twice as many as the 75-inch Vizio Quantum X (Samsung doesn't specify its number of dimming zones). Local dimming is the best way to improve LCD picture quality, and more zones generally means less stray illumination in dark objects, which leads to better contrast and overall image quality. TCL also claims superior brightness (although unlike Vizio it doesn't specify a number in nits), improved brightness uniformity, wider viewing angles and thinner design.
In a side-by-side demo with a Samsung Q80R, the TCL 8-Series indeed looked very impressive, but I'll wait until I can review one to pass judgement.
For the TCL 8-Series appears to be available exclusively at Best Buy. I asked TCL's rep whether it would come to other retailers like Amazon, but didn't receive a response by press time.
TCL says that anversion of the 8-Series will be available in early 2020, delayed from the "late 2019" timeframe it . Sized have yet to be determined. At its demo space it showed a 65-inch version of the X10, an 8K model that will ship outside the US.
TCL 6-Series: QLED could make a great TV better
If you don't want to spend two grand on a TV, yet still want a great picture, you're probably more interested in the updated 6-Series. This year's version includes all of the goodness of the 2018 model, including a few more zones of full-array local dimming powered by standard-size LEDs, and adds quantum dots (also used on the 8-Series).
TCL's adoption of "QLED" proves Samsung doesn't have a monopoly on that futuristic-sounding acronym -- TCL even uses the same font as Samsung. It stands for "quantum dot LED TV," and those dots are microscopic molecules that, when hit by light, emit their own, differently colored light. Quantum dots also appear in Vizio's new 2019 TVs including the M-Series Quantum. In my tests they do improve HDR color, which was a weakness of the 6-Series last year.
Aside from some styling tweaks the 6-Series is otherwise the same as last year. TCL didn't reveal whether there would be a cheaper Best Buy variant, and didn't announce a 75-inch size yet. (Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy anything featured on our site.)
TCL 5-Series: Meh
Far less exciting to me than the other two is an update of the 5-Series. The only upgrades are cosmetic; TCL says the new version will have the same image quality as the 2018 model, which didn't really float my boat. It's available in 43- to 65-inch sizes.
As I mentioned at the top all of the new TCL sets use Roku's operating system. The 8- and 6-Series include Roku's voice remote, while the 5-Series has the standard clicker. All of the new models support Dolby Vision, and the 8- and 6-Series can handle Dolby Atmos audio as well.
Calibration using your phone: What the what?
At the end of the demo session TCL's representative pulled out a phone and showed me a screen from an upcoming new app. Called "iPQ Calibration," it's designed to let users adjust color and other image quality aspects -- in other words,-- without the need for any specialized equipment.
The rep told me the idea was to keep the process as simple as possible: just pair the app with the TV and take a series of photos of the screen, which will display gray and color test patterns. The TV will make the adjustments automatically.
Due to limitations of phone cameras, the app will only work with some phones, including Google Pixels and iPhones. It will be compatible with 2019 TCL TVs and perhaps with earlier models as well. I wouldn't expect the same results as a professional calibration, but it could help with TVs that have drifted in color over time. The app will debut later this year.
I'm looking forward to reviewing the new TCL TVs soon, starting with the 6-Series.
Originally published earlier this year. Updated with current pricing and availability information.