TCL 55R617 and 65R617 4K HDR TV Review
4K UHD, HDR, ROKU SMART TV
by Robert Wiley, Senior Editor
First a note about TCL, a manufacturer that few are familiar with in North America. This is a huge company with a $4B panel manufacturing facility in China. They also have a research facility in Silicon Valley and claim to be the third largest manufacturer of TVs in the world. They are also one of the fastest growing TVs companies in North America. The R617 has some very nice specs including 4K resolution, HDR compatible with a wide color gamut, good contrast, and the excellent Roku OS. Oh, and let's not forget TCL's signature trait – a great price.
- Roku Smart TV options
- Roku Smart TV Interface operation
- Bright Colorful Picture/Peak Whites
- 4K gets you future proofed for 4K content
- HDR compatible for leading formats HDR10 and Dolby Vision
- Good looks – build quality, light and durable
- 120Hz panel for improved fast motion viewing
- Full array backlighting
- Glare/Reflection from the TV screen
- Remote is limited with no numbers for DirecTV or Cable
- Lack of Depth from Picture/screen
- Sound Performance tinny and can lack clarity
- Limited preset picture setting adjustments
- Black levels not the deepest. Contrast not great.
- Side angle viewing quality
- Local Dimming feature not of the best quality
- 3 HDMI inputs and 1 USB ports
Picture Quality Rating: 86/100
Picture quality is vastly upgrade on the R617 from prior models. It's a much better experience all the way around. This is a big improvement over past models which we could only really recommend for secondary viewing rooms or second homes. This could be your primary TV. The only reason the R617 did not get a lower 90's rating in picture is that there are just some incredibly good picture qualities out this year in some higher end TVs.
With good 1080p and 4K sources there is more clarity and cleaner images edges. Picture quality including black uniformity, contrast, and color is not the standout feature of typical TCL TVs, however with the R617 TCL has made great strides towards the 1st tier manufacturers. Black levels are much improved.
From side angles contrast and color saturation degrade worse than some of the better LED edge backlit TVs in the market, and around average overall. This begins at around 15 degrees off-center. Motion blur is rarely visible from the new 120hz panel, though judder (side to side jerky motion especially present when a camera pans slowly) is present due to the fact that there is limited refresh rate smoothing features present in the TV.
There is a 120 zone local dimming option included with the new R617 from the full array backlighting. Dont confuse this with the best quality local dimming from high end Sony or Samsung TVs, it's OK and generally full array backlighting is preferable to edge lighting. The full array backlighting helps some with side angle viewing quality and also with increased brightness.
When viewing our stock Fifth Element BluRay we noted some inaccuracy in colors with a red push causing flesh tones to look flushed. On the positive side, I was impressed with the brightness produced. All of that said, the picture is much better than last year and pretty darn good unless compared to a top OLED or LED/LCD TV. For the price, it's hard to beat the combination of features including the picture quality upgrades.
This shot shows just a bit of screen reflection
The picture settings menu is very simple with not many options for fine tuning color. There are 5 preset picture modes. Preset Picture Mode Options include Sports, Normal, Vivid, Low Power, and Movie. The Movie mode is the most natural and accurate with color temp set to Warm.
You will want to immediately change the TV Brightness setting to Normal to Dark depending on the room light conditions.
It's also important to note that the Picture Size settings for Aspect Ratio are located in the Advanced Picture Settings Menu. Options are Normal, Auto, Direct, Stretch and Zoom. We found ourselves using the Zoom option several times to fill the screen.
- TV Brightness: Normal
- Picture Mode: Movie
- Backlight: 86
- Brightness: 54
- Contrast: 96
- Sharpness: 5
- Color: 50
- Tint: 0
- Color Temp: Warm
- Picture Size: Auto
Features Rating: 90/100
Gaming Picture Note: For Gaming set TV Brightness to Brighter, set to Game Mode On, and dial back the backlight, brightness and contrast and set color temp to Normal or Cool. The R617 has little input lag in game mode logging in at less than 20ms, which makes it a very good gaming TV.
Smart TV Features
Roku is an excellent Smart TV platform, by most accounts the best in the market. I've used them for years and am on my second Roku (3) box, so their platform contained in a TV is always welcome. When you stop to think about it a second, the Roku 3 or Roku Premier Box would cost you $75, and you get the same performance with this TV, so it's a great savings to have such a usable streaming system – a great option for cord cutters, especially with the new Sling TV option.
After initial setup, the home screen appears with the big App boxes, with the easy and spectacular search function, the Channel store and the Settings.
The selection of Roku Apps is the best in the market with around 1800. Many are useless, but all the best Apps are included like: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Vudu, Crackle, M-Go, Redbox Instant, TWC. Notably, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, Rdio, and NFL Now are absent from most other TV manufacturers Smart TV suites.
Roku's search function is also the best of any Smart TV. One advantage here is that you can compare prices of movies and shows before deciding which to purchase from. At times, a show or movie may be free by one provider such as Amazon Instant with a Prime membership, and costly on another such as Hulu.
The TCL Roku Remote is really a Roku manufactured remote. Roku is good at operation, and I like the speed with which the small simple remote controls everything. The audio/volume buttons are located on the right side of the remote. It's easy to accidentally press the mute button. And it's easy to accidentally press the picture caption button. However, the remote with the R617 is the Premium version that comes with a voice search function this year, but not a head phone jack. A head phone jack is a nice thing to have so that's unfortunate. My wife would not approve. But for the desperate, you can access headphone sound through the Roku App if you would like to download it to your smart phone.
The picture and other menu settings are accessed from the asterisk wheel button. Conveniently, there are buttons for Netflix, Amazon instant, Mgo, and rdio on the remote face.
WiFi Built In
The dual band wifi did a very nice job receiving the signal even from 40 feet.
Audio quality is generally average with thin and tinny being two unwelcome traits from the two 8 watt speakers, while there is little bass.
This is a upgrade yet again in the design department. While still not as sharp as Sony or Samsung in the looks area, the unit looks smart from the sides with it's metallic silver siding. I'm not a fan of the 3” tall high profile feet stand which sit on either side of the TV. You must have a wide table to place the TV on due to the feet. The major upgrade in the R617 over prior lesser models is better looks and build quality. The depth is sleeker at only 3” in depth and it's really not a bad looking TV. The new black frame is only .75 inches in width. The accompanying stand doesn’t detract from the appearance like the feet from last year.
Value Rating: 93/100
TCL 55R617 - $649
65R617 - $1099
TCL is a serious contender in the price category. You probably know that already or you would not be reading this review to find out if the TV is going to have good enough quality for your needs. The upgrade features in the R617 like HDR, 4K and excellent input lag are not reflected in the price of the TV. The Roku OS system is always a highlight. For $649 this TV is a great deal considering the picture quality, you pay about the same price as last year but with all these added picture quality features for free.
Overall Rating: 86/100
- Resolution – 4K
- Native Refresh Rate: 120Hz
- Full Array 120 Zone backlighting
- Not 3D Compatible
- HDR Playback Dolby Vision and HDR10
- Wifi Built In
- Game Mode: Yes
- Inputs: 3 HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 (three with HDMI ARC)
- 1 USB
- Dimensions 55R617:
- 48.5" x 30.9" x10.7" with stand
- 48.5" x 28.1" x 2.9" without stand
- Dimensions 65R617
- 57.1" x 35.7" x10.7" with stand
- 57.1" x 32.9" x 3 without stand
|Having reviewed and written about Television Technology for over 10 years, Wiley never tires of researching the newest qualitative trends related to the technology. Most people do not get excited about possibilities behind the latest video engine...Wiley does. Read more about Robert|