TCL adds Google TV smarts, streaming to 5-Series and 6-Series TVs

If Roku isn't the right TV system for you, TCL offers Google TV versions with essentially the same sizes, prices and features.

Eli Blumenthal Senior Editor
Eli Blumenthal is a senior editor at CNET with a particular focus on covering the latest in the ever-changing worlds of telecom, streaming and sports. He previously worked as a technology reporter at USA Today.
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Eli Blumenthal
3 min read
TCL 6 Series TV (2021)

The TCL 6-Series with Google TV.

David Katzmaier/CNET

After announcing it would be bringing Google TVs at CES, TCL has formally introduced the newest members of its 5- and 6-Series which are powered by the search giant's operating system instead of Roku.

TCL has long been known in the US for its wide line of Roku TVs, and the company's 6-Series in particular was praised by CNET's David Katzmaier as the "best 4K TV for the money" that you can buy right now. 

Both Google TV series' will be available in similar sizes and prices as the Roku-powered 5-Series and 6-Series introduced in 2020 which remain on sale. The 5-Series TCL Google TVs range from 50 inches, starting at $599, and go all the way up to 75 inches at $1,299. The 6-Series TCL Google TVs start at 55 inches for $999 and go up to 75 inches at $1,799. Both versions will initially be sold at Best Buy. 

Watch this: Check out TCL's newest TVs, powered by... Google?

And no, you can't switch between the two operating systems on the same TV (sorry).

"We want to make this OS-agnostic. We want whatever's best for you, personally, to be your best choice," says Chris Larson, senior vice president for TCL North America. "We still believe in the basic tenets of the TV performance ... but consumers today want more than that. They want gaming, they want streaming, they want IoT control, they want these things" that Google's software allows. 


The new remote for TCL's Google TVs. 

David Katzmaier/CNET

Small tweaks

As far as hardware specs, the Google TV models will be largely similar to their Roku siblings, with picture-enhancing extras such as full-array local dimming and QLED on board. There are, however, a few small differences worth pointing out. In addition to Dolby Vision and HDR10, which all 5- and 6-Series models support, the Google TVs also handle the HDR 10 Plus format, which the Roku models lack. The Google TV 5-Series supports Dolby Atmos audio, while the 5-Series Roku does not, and TCL made the 5-Series with Google a bit brighter than the Roku version -- although the company says brightness on both 6-Series are the same.

The biggest difference is the smart TV suites. Google's TV software, originally introduced on the Chromecast with Google TV and also found on Sony TVs in 2021, is more complex than Roku. Its home page surfaces a variety of TV shows and movies, driven by a recommendation engine, in addition to app tiles for major streaming video services. It provides access to Google's Stadia gaming platform and voice support is much more robust thanks to Google Assistant.

In addition to voice remotes, the Google TV models will also have integrated far-field microphones built into the TVs themselves, for hands-free summoning of Google Assistant by saying, "Hey, Google." There is a physical privacy switch on the televisions for disabling the always-listening feature if you want.  

Those looking to add a webcam to their TV for video calls through apps like Google Duo will be able to do so with a $79 accessory. TCL says that other USB webcams may work as well, but it has not published a comprehensive list. 

As for the differences between the Google TV 5-Series and 6-Series, the latter remains a bit more upscale, with support for additional features such as 4K/120Hz for gaming (note that the Roku version of the 6-Series maxed out at 1440p/120Hz). The 6-Series also has a mini-LED backlight system with 240 local dimming zones in the 75-inch size, 120Hz refresh rate, THX Certified Game Mode and an ambient light sensor for automatically adjusting the picture brightness to your room. The 6-Series also features four HDMI ports, compared to three on the 5-Series. 

Unlike TCL's 8K Roku TV, there is no 8K version of a TCL 6-Series with Google TV just yet. TCL's Chris Larson says the company is working on a new 85-inch QLED flagship for its XL Collection called the 85X9, which will offer 8K resolution with Google's software as well as the company's new OD Zero mini-LED system. He says that more information will be revealed at the end of the month.