When you ask representatives of major TV producers in public about their competitors, most often they either evade the answer, or reluctantly name some famous brand with which they are not ashamed to compete. But on the sidelines, they are more frank: of course, the Chinese! And among the brands from the Middle Kingdom, they are increasingly called TCL. We decided to check what was the matter.
Visiting various electronics exhibitions, I passed by the TCL stands dozens of times, but somehow I never stayed there for a long time – there was no reason for this. The company is rather big – the second largest manufacturer in China, but did not demonstrate anything breakthrough.
Only in the last year and a half, interesting news began to appear, but they also concerned mainly those models that were not supplied to Europe, and therefore aroused only academic interest. The same models that reached our stores, from my point of view, were good for their very presence, which guaranteed a varied choice for customers. In general, from a meeting with a new and not even the most expensive model, I, frankly, did not expect anything special.
But the surprises began immediately – as soon as the box with the TCL L55C8 appeared before my eyes. It declared support for Dolby Vision, and bore the Onkyo logo. TCL acquired this trademark two years ago, but we haven’t seen any real sign of collaboration yet. When the assembled TV appeared before our eyes, everything fell into place.
If you show it to an unprepared person, he will immediately say that this is an Onkyo TV. Both logos on the soundbar at the bottom look and feel the same, and nowhere is there a postscript like “Sound by Onkyo”.
Moreover, the TV looks like a model of a famous brand from the premium segment. Along the perimeter of the screen is the thinnest matte frame, the back panel is made of impeccable quality plastic, and the “soundbar” is trimmed with a fashionable dark gray fabric, behind which are hidden sensors and LED status indicators.
Cherry on the cake – modest chrome plates at the ends of this “soundbar”, emphasizing the elegance of the solution, although in fact a considerable volume is allocated for the speaker system – the TV is quite thick from below, but this is not striking due to the bevels. In general, the design of the TV is simply gorgeous – it looks a lot more expensive than it is asked for.
Even an unusual stand is perfect. While assembling it from three different parts and fixing it on the back of the TV to the place of the VESA wall mount, you may have some doubts about its reliability, but in fact the whole structure turns out to be very rigid and stable.
The remote controls do not look so pretentious, but they are made of plastic, pleasant to the touch, and are impeccable in design and ergonomics – there is absolutely nothing to complain about. The main thing is that there are two of them: a large one with a full set of keys and a small one with the minimum necessary. The second is connected via Bluetooth! That is, they do not need to aim at the TV.
The model has a VA-type UHD matrix with edge LED backlighting, but with some pretty tricky controls with dynamic brightness and local dimming, which, by the way, are never completely disabled – even if they are forced to “disable” via the menu.
The trick is that with such backlighting, locally dark areas are darker than completely dark scenes, which is clearly visible even from measurements. Why this is done – we’ll talk a little later.
The type of matrix in the standard approach to assessment is also not immediately recognized. The TV’s horizontal viewing angles are very good – no inversion or wild color distortion occurs when viewed from the side. Top or bottom, however, too, but the contrast drops much more depending on the sharpness of the angle of view – the screen wants to be placed clearly at eye level.
The sluggishness of the interface hints at some savings on hardware. The TV “starts” from the already configured state and being connected – thirty seconds. But there is also a special quick start mode, activated in the menu. The TV is not as lightning fast when launching applications as expensive Android devices, but this does not cause annoyance – until recently most TVs worked this way.
The model is powered by the RealTek RTD2851 chipset with a quad-core ARM Cortex A55 processor. A standard Mali-470 MP is used as a video processor. The amount of RAM is only 2 GB. Permanent memory for applications – 16 GB.
The OS is Android TV 9 Pie. Both externally and in terms of features, it almost does not differ from Oreo, which was announced as the main OS when the new line of TVs was announced. Despite the optimization of the system, the video adapter is standard, and this can be seen even on the interface – the background when starting applications changes to a gradient and stratifies into stripes.
There are many pre-installed applications on the home screen, but the set is clearly different from those with which we sell models of Korean and Japanese brands. In the forefront of Netflix, for activation of which the remote control provides a “direct” button. But after entering this service, the system itself begins to offer online cinemas such as ivi and Okko that are common in our country.
YouTube immediately gives out its recommendations, but does not include options for videos with HDR at all. The last “defect” in my opinion is not important at all – the number of such videos is vanishingly small.
Another thing is more important: when playing content from video services (and I checked ivi, Netflix and YouTube), the picture, without losing clarity, sometimes noticeably “floats” with an effect similar to a rolling shutter, and the video lags slightly behind the image. If the same videos are downloaded and run from a flash drive or disk using the built-in media player, then such effects will not occur.
The media player, by the way, is very nice. It “reads” all formats in general – except for ISO and BDMV disc images. Accordingly, it makes no sense to download 4K movies with Dolby Vision to get a superimage – it does not work, the picture will be very dark. With HDR10, no problem – everything is bright and elegant.
The main thing is that unlike many models with Smart TV functions, this TV easily reproduces all audio tracks, including DTS Master Audio, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital Plus, with which most movies are released in online cinemas. And control of the built-in player is very convenient. To perform the simplest actions, you do not need to go into the menu – except to change the audio track or titles, but this is a common occurrence for TVs.
Dolby Vision is supported by connecting an external player that reads this standard for 4K video – for example, Oppo. That is, the TV perceives an extended range and displays it without errors, showing details in both dark and light areas, but using the range at its disposal.
Naturally, it does not demonstrate any super-impressive brightness or incredible depth of black color – like other TVs with a similar design. But with flowers, it is much better than models in a similar price range.
The inscription on the box about the wide color gamut does not deceive – it is really wider than the standard Rec.709. Accordingly, the colors in the image are richer and richer in shades. True, it demonstrates the full breadth of the range regardless of the type of content – that is, both on HDR and SDR video.
You can calibrate it, but the settings will apply to any video. And you can only calibrate using a special program with a profile change. Manually, changing the settings in the menu using the remote control, you will only be able to slightly correct the color balance and coverage, because the device perceives all changes dynamically.
This is because the dynamic adjustments in it are not completely disabled – that’s all. And this is inevitable – after all, the device must show any video using its physical capabilities, otherwise it cannot be achieved.
After several attempts to adjust the image through the menu, I came to the conclusion that it is better to only minimally, by 5-7 divisions, to reduce the blue level, and leave the rest as it is – this will be the optimal setting for those who do not have measuring equipment.
And the TV by default for any source turns on the anti-aliasing function to the maximum. It does not work very well to make everything as smooth as possible – like the vast majority of other TVs.
Moreover, he a priori converts all videos to 60 Hz, which does not benefit anti-aliasing. So it’s best to keep this setting to a minimum in the menu. But not to zero – otherwise, artifacts of translation at 60 Hz will just come out, and the blurring of movements seems to increase sharply on purpose.
The brightness of the model depends on the selection of the color temperature and dynamic adjustment of the backlight and contrast in the menu, as well as the scene on the screen. It reaches its maximum in the “game” mode with a cold temperature and on a “chessboard” – about 315 cd / m2.
In natural mode with a warm temperature (the most acceptable option for cinema) with the same image (ANSI test) – 291 cd / m2. But with a minimum level of dynamic backlight control and on a completely white field – 130 cd / m2. This is how the TV tries not to overexpose the scene.
The black level in any case turns out to be quite high – 0.186 cd / m2, unless you turn on all dynamic adjustments to the maximum. In this case, the TV simply turns off the matrix backlight. With off (reduced to zero) dynamic backlight and contrast adjustments, all gradations are displayed correctly:
The color gamut is noticeably wider than the VT.709 standard. It is smaller than the claimed 98% DCI-P3, but it is enough for color reflection on films with HDR (not demo).
Color balance, even with a warm color temperature, is far from balanced and linear.
However, trying to fix it by significantly reducing the blue level leads to the following results, so it makes sense to reduce its divisions by 5-7.
The company has made good use of the Onkyo brand and capabilities, making the relatively inexpensive model attractive in appearance and good in sound. And they set their priorities correctly, focusing on supporting new video and sound standards, as well as improving color saturation – all this attracts attention immediately and for a long time. The only point: it was not worth saving too much on hardware.