a sign on the side of a building: TCL 6-Series 2020


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TCL 6-Series 2020

When we discovered that the new TCL 6-Series QLED (R635) would use MiniLED back at CES 2020, we were shocked. That’s because, just last year, that same technology came to the high-end 8-Series and cost hundreds of dollars more than the ultra-affordable 6-Series.

And yet, here it is, in our very living room: a $650 4K Roku TV that uses MiniLED.

We haven’t spent a ton of time with it yet, but so far we really dig what TCL has done this year. The 6-Series is brighter, more colorful and doesn’t have a single hint of haloing or light bleed. It’s designed in a new way to hide your cables and it’s the first TV to come with THX Certified Game Mode for 1440p/120Hz gaming.

So far, it seems like the complete package. Here’s what it’s like to watch one.

TCL 6-Series 2020 price and release date

The TCL 6-Series R635 became available starting in August 2020. Here in the US, it’s available in three different sizes including a 55-, 65- and 75-inch model that cost $649, $899 and $1,399, respectively. 

What makes the 6-Series so unique is that, despite its affordable price tag, it sports features that you’d find on TVs that cost twice as much, making it an incredible value.

In terms of performance, this year’s TCL 6-Series is pretty similar to the full-array Samsung Q80T QLED TV and LG Nano 90, both of which use variations of quantum dot for greater color accuracy, but the 6-Series R635 is $300 to $650 cheaper than either option and uses the easily navigable Roku TV.

Design

The TCL 6-Series has a lot going for it in terms of design (see: that Mini-LED backlight), but it’s not exactly an art piece the way Samsung’s The Frame is, either. That may feel like a potshot, but the 6-Series R635 is fairly chunky for an LED-LCD screen, and can’t touch the ultra-slim profile of an OLED. 

Despite not being incredibly slim, the nearly bezel-less design of the TV is fairly versatile. The legs of the TV can either be placed close together to fit on a smaller table or stand, or can be attached to the outside corners of the TV to give it some more stability. 

Speaking of the legs, one neat addition this year is the ability to weave cables through the legs themselves, creating a less chaotic space free from wires. 

Spin it around and you’ll find a solid selection of ports. Among them you’ve got ethernet, four HDMI 2.0 ports, one with ARC, plus an AV In port that takes your standard composite (Red-White-Yellow RCA) input, USB and optical audio. 

Note, of course, that these aren’t HDMI 2.1 ports that can carry 4K/120Hz or 8K signals – but 4K/60 or 1440p/120 is still very much possible here.

The remote that ships with the TV is similar to the Roku remotes that have shipped with past models, but it gets the job done. The only real change this time around is that there’s now a button for Disney Plus, which is probably better for most folks than ESPN+ that was there before.

Smart TV (Roku TV)

Like previous years, the TCL 6-Series R635 uses Roku TV, an egalitarian smart TV platform that has a fair and robust search feature and most of the major streaming apps. 

The search bit is important, especially if you’ve ever used an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV, both of which would much rather have you stream from their ancillary streaming services over any of the third-party ones. Because Roku doesn’t have ties to a major streaming service – other than a vague deal to include FandangoNow on the home screen of the OS – it doesn’t push you any direction you don’t want to go. 

Happily Roku TV supports everything from Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV and Amazon, to lesser-known channels like Pluto.tv, tubi, Crackle and others. The only major app missing from the bunch is HBO Max, but that will likely be resolved as soon as the two companies reach an agreement in the next few months.

If you’re a cord cutter, you’ll love the Featured Free section of the homepage that shows you what’s available for free on the different services and Roku’s own streaming service, The Roku Channel, which provides its own collection of entirely free movies that change in and out every few months. These are invaluable resources for cord-cutters who want live cable-free, and a great alternative to channel surfing for folks who still have a box.

One nice surprise TCL and Roku tucked into the TV is that it’s Screencast-ready – a handy feature that allows you to cast content from your mobile device to your TV. This is nice if you have a group of friends over and they all want a turn showing their favorite YouTube clip, or if you want to use your TV as a digital picture frame when family comes to visit. 

In terms of smart assistants, Roku TV uses the Roku Assistant, which is really only good for finding shows and movies, but it does link up to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant if you want to control the TV using either one of those smart home platforms.

Performance

The area that you’ll see the biggest improvement in the TCL 6-Series this year is with its performance – most notably in the black levels, contrast and lack of haloing you might have seen on previous models. Thankfully, the new 6-Series also uses quantum dots, like last year, which means you’ll see a Wide Color Gamut that looks amazing. 

To put the TCL 6-Series through its paces we tried tons of different content, from Night on Earth (available in Dolby Vision, no less) to the local news to see how the TV upscaled HD content to fill the 4K screen. The results of our tests are still a bit early, but by and large we were impressed with both sets of challenges.

Because there’s still a dearth of 4K/HDR content out there the 6-Series still relies really heavily on its AiPQ Engine to transform HD to 4K content. It does this using three algorithms – one for color, one for clarity and one for contrast – and the results, so far, do seem better than last year.  

For folks who want to get really serious about fine-tuning the picture of the TV, TCL includes five default picture settings, each of which can be further refined in the areas of color, contrast, etc… For our testing, we’ve so far gravitated to the Normal picture setting with most of the motion processing technology turned off due to the fact that it introduced motion artifacts while watching films like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. This is something we’ll continue to test for the next week, however.

The only other issue with the AiPQ Engine is that, no matter the mode, we’ve noticed that the processor can over-process areas of extreme brightness, making them a flat white color. We noticed this in clouds that lost their texture in shows like Down to Earth on Netflix or bright white buildings. It could be that the MiniLEDs are all turning on in a given area when only a few should, effectively boosting the brightness of the scene but obscuring small details in the image. 

For gamers, the 6-Series with MiniLED is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand, it supports 120Hz gaming and Variable Refresh Rate. The downside here is that, at 120 fps, the resolution is limited to 1440p and the TV doesn’t support proprietary GPU technologies like Nvidia G-Sync and AMD Freesync. 

It’s better to have 1440p/120fps gameplay than 1080p/60, obviously, but it would be nice if TCL used HDMI 2.1 to get the full benefits of the spec.

Early verdict

From our short hands-on time with it, we’re so far really impressed with the 2020 TCL 6-Series R635. The MiniLEDs are delivering better brightness and better contrast than last year and small touches like the hollow legs for cable management are appreciated.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that the TCL 6-Series was already a strong contender – TCL didn’t need to do much to improve it and still come out on top as one of the best TVs under $1,000. The price feels right for this TV, and it looks to be a good value for avid TV watchers.

We’ve noticed a few small issues so far, but none of them have been outright deal-breakers. We’ll continue to test it throughout the next week, and update this to a full TCL 6 Series 2020 review with a final score once we’ve had some more time with it.

  • Will the TCL 6-Series R635 make our list of the best TVs in 2020? We’ll find out!

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