We’ll come right out and say it, TCL’s P-Series is the best value TV of the year. It has its problems, especially when it comes to keeping local zones the evenly lit, but its clarity, color and ability to produce stunning HDR images are second to none in its class.
Why can we say that with confidence?
Too often, it’s easy to find one sore spot on a value TV set that ultimately kills its value. The TVs we test might have poor speakers or awful HDR – or, gasp, no HDR at all. It might be too pricey or display oversaturated gross neon colors. But every once in awhile, there’s one that’s just right.
It has its limitations (geographically speaking the TV is only available in the US for now) but coming in at $649 for a 55-inch big-screen with two types of HDR, 4K and Wide Color Gamut, the TCL 55P607 gives us little to complain about.
If you’re unfamiliar with TCL’s gamut of televisions, the P-Series is approximately the middle-of-the-road model. It focuses on picture performance (that’s what the P stands for) but it neither holds rank at the top nor bottom of TCL’s TV echelon.
And that’s OK. As it turns out, the middle is a very good spot to be.
The C-Series, which stands just above the P-Series, offers a built-in soundbar and a contemporary design for an extra $50, while the S-Series drops Dolby Vision from the equation for around $100 less than the P-Series. The P-Series might not have a ‘contemporary’ design or a built-in soundbar, but it does support Dolby Vision, a crucial component of HDR performance. So far, it’s not so bad being the middle child.
The downside, however, is that for now, TCL’s P-Series only comes in one size: a formidable, but not overwhelming 55-inch model. There will be a 50-inch and a 65-inch version sometime down the road but, for the time being, all we have is the stalwart, budget-conscious 55-inch screen to sink our teeth into.
The P-Series stands on two metal u-shaped legs that have rubber padding on the bottom to prevent slippage. They can be fitted relatively quickly, and the TV should be up and running in a matter of minutes if you have all of your cables sorted and ready to be plugged in.
Speaking of plugs and ports, the 55P607 supports three HDMI 2.0 ports with HDCP 2.2, one with HDMI ARC, one USB 2.0 port, a 3.5mm Headphone Jack and Digital Optical-In, plus an AV In port that takes your standard composite (Red-White-Yellow RCA) input, great for classic gaming or older AV devices.
It’s all housed inside a slim(ish) black shell that’s somewhere in between the paper-thin OLED screens we’ve seen so much of this year and the older LED LCD screens of yesteryear. The bezel is apparent but not distracting, at least to us, but should you want something a bit sleeker there’s always the TCL C-Series to consider.
Design TL;DR: The P-Series is limited in its size (it’s only available in a 55-inch version at the moment), but otherwise it hits the nail on the head in the design department.
Smart TV (Roku TV)
Starting back in 2014 with a 1080p model, TCL has adopted Roku as its primary smart TV provider – which was a great decision considering how easy Roku’s platform is to use.
The smart TV version of Roku both looks and acts like the platform used on streaming video devices like the Roku Ultra and Roku Premiere+: The Home section contains all the apps in your library, while My Feed tracks movies and TV shows you’re interested in and shows you where they can be found. We’re also pretty big fans of Roku’s universal search feature that rifles through 300+ apps to find movies and TV shows and displays them with the cheapest option first.
Overall, Roku TV is simple, efficient and straightforward enough for most people to pick up and use without a problem.
New for platform in 2017 is the ability to label inputs (labeling one input as Xbox or DVD Player instead of Input 1, etc…), some additional smartphone features and, for the first time, Dolby Vision support. Dolby Vision allows you to get the absolute most from the TV in terms of performance and while tracking down Dolby Vision content is a bit of a hassle, Roku does a good job highlighting all the available content in a new row in the 4K UHD Spotlight app.
Smart TV TL;DR: Versatile as ever and increasingly more efficient and easy-to-use with each passing day, Roku TV makes a great TV even better.
While 4K/HDR is the star of the show here, HD/SDR doesn’t look half bad either. Bright areas are brighter and dark parts darker thanks to TCL’s Contrast Control Zone technology that individually illuminates and dims 72 sections of the screen, and the same tech that makes HDR look so rich and vibrant also helps make HD/SDR images really shine.
If you’re looking for demo content to show off this new screen, your best bet is to stick to movies and shows that emphasize bright colors over darker, subtler tones. It’s not that the TCL 55P607 can’t handle night scenes chock full of inky blacks, it’s just significantly better at handling brighter kinds of content. Cartoon movies like Moana, The Life of Pets and more look luxurious on this screen and its performance rivals some of this year’s best and brightest panels like the Samsung Q7F QLED TV and Sony Bravia XBR-X900E.
It’s a slightly different story when we talk about what darker content looks like on TCL’s value performer – those nice inky blacks can turn to milky grey before your eyes – but largely we came away impressed with what it could do.
The most disappointing moment we had with the TV came during the Game of Thrones Season 7 opener when the ominous dark grey fog rolled in. What should’ve been an epic introduction to the season looked grainy and pixelated. Things cleared up by the next scene, but the slight faux-pas proved that TCL isn’t ready to take on OLED in black level performance anytime soon.
HD/SDR Performance TL;DR: TCL’s P-Series still has a bit to do in terms of upscaling and black level performance, but overall HD/SDR content (especially bright images) looks great.
The star of the show here is 4K/HDR. Hands down, the TCL 55P607 provides the best performance-per-dollar in this arena than nearly any TV on the market today. In terms of 4K/HDR performance specifically, and by that we mean the result of feeding the TV a native 4K signal, the 55P607 rivals and in some cases surpases screens that cost hundreds more.
Surprised what this TV is capable of? So are we. But there are some strong technological advantages that TCL has packed into the screen that make the most of its internal hardware. There is, of course, the Contrast Control Zone technology that we mentioned above that helps prevent areas of bright white from bleeding into darker areas, but there’s another technology called Wide Color Gamut that enhances visuals in an even more profound way.
Wide Color Gamut (or WCG) is the driving force behind the TV looking more saturated – blues being bluer, greens being greener and so on. TCL has a proprietary technology called NBP Photon that does this intelligently without risking oversaturation. In practice, the results are extraordinary and look above what a TV in this price range should produce.
Of course, the tradeoff here is that the 55P607 is still an LED LCD screen that has all the same problems that we’ve seen with the technology over the years: there’s a blooming effect where bright areas bleed into areas that should be pitch black, and black levels here just aren’t quite as good as they were back on plasma TVs or on newer OLED screens.
These complaints are ultimately minor, however, and unless you’re looking for them, they won’t distract you from the beautiful images this TV can produce.
4K/HDR Performance TL;DR: Loaded up with the latest in screen tech, TCL’s affordable 55-incher is quite the 4K performer.
The TCL 55P607 is equipped with everything it needs for decent-sounding audio right out of the box: It has two downward-firing 8-watt speakers that produce a sizeable amount of noise – it’s enough to fill a small room like a bedroom or cut through larger to midsize rooms without compromising too many of the details.
In terms of tonal balance, TCL has wisely placed an emphasis on the mids and highs rather than wall-shaking bass. That means the TV performs well in shows and movies where dialogue is the most important or prominent type of audio, but falls a bit short on music or games where explosions reign supreme.
In short, it’s not a complete slouch here, but if you’re looking for wall-shaking bass or all-around better balance, you’ll need to invest in a soundbar.
That being said, if you’re used to using a traditional Roku device, one nice feature about the 55P607’s remote features a mute button next to volume up/down – a small feature, we know, but one that makes a world of difference.
Sound TL;DR: TCL’s 55P607 offers good, balanced sound for the price. Home cinema enthusiasts might want to invest in a soundbar, however.
Other panels to ponder
If we were talking about a mid-range, $2,000 television, you’d be absolutely inundated with recommendations – the Sony Bravia X850E and Bravia X900E series are fantastic this year, and Samsung’s MU series looks to offer big-screen thrills at a more affordable price.
But TCL’s 55P607 stands in a class of its own.
It looks great, comes in a formidable screen size that should fit on top of most home entertainment centers and costs well under $1,000.
The only thing that we’ve found to be close to TCL’s P-Series would be the new-and-improved 2017 Vizio E-Series SmartCast XLED TVs. The 65-inch version, which supports 4K and HDR10, comes in at a still-affordable $899 – a mere $250 more than what you’d pay for the TCL 55P607 for an extra 10 inches of screen.
Ultimately, however, all else even, we’d still opt for TCL’s P-Series.
TV manufacturers have long sought the formula to a great performing TV at a bargain price and, speaking for the last seven years since LED LCD hit the mainstream, have never quite achieved that perfect balance. Until now. For us, TCL’s P-Series 55P607 does just that – it packs powerful technology under the hood, including support for WCG and Dolby Vision, in an affordable package that will only get cheaper once the seasonal sales start in November.
By Nick Pino
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