This 55in 4K set promises wide colour excitement, HLG HDR support and premium third-party sonics – all at a tempting price. Mark Craven investigates. Read our TCL U55C7006 Review.
TCL IS LIKELY to be an unfamiliar brand to many. Yet the company, whose name is apparently an acronym for ‘The Creative Life’, is much better-known in other regions, not just in its Chinese homeland, but in Australia, the US (where it claims to be the fastest-growing TV brand, and integrates Roku functionality), and elsewhere.
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A key part of its business (in addition to areas including the Alcatel mobile phone line), is panel production, under the China Star Optoelectronics Technology name. TCL says this division is the fourth-largest panel producer in the world, with a focus on 48in and above displays, including 4K. Some it sells to other corps, some it uses for its own TV lines – both the TCL ‘premium’ brand, and the mass-market Thomson. On test here is the TCL U55C7006, a 55in 4K HDR LED designed to undercut rivals. An enthusiast set, without the enthusiast cost.
Styling is fine, if a little uninspiring. It’s a flat, rather than curved screen, which will suit most, framed by a slim silver bezel and sat atop two slinky feet. Running along the TV’s bottom edge is a speaker bar, proudly wearing the name JBL, denoting a tie-in between TCL and the Harman audio outfit.
And sonically, this seems a worthwhile team-up. Front-firing dome tweeter and midbass drivers at either end of the ‘bar create a punchy sound, with a strong mid-range, and there are considerable tweaking options at hand.
Previously, many affordable TVs from lesser-known corps have been hampered by low-rent smart systems that are shorn of features and painful to navigate. Google’s Android platform, as featured here, levels the playing field, with its strong selection of apps and responsive UI. Bundled with the TV is a standard IR zapper; a stripped- down voice-control model is, unusually, an optional extra.
The set sits below TCL’s flagship Quantum Dot X series, coming later this year, but shares many of the same features, including HDR 10 and HLG format support, quad-core processing and a wide colour performance (rated in this instance at 90 percent of DCI-P3).
On paper it looks good, but in real life its performance is held back by a lack of HDR brightness and some – perhaps to be
For smart features, TCL’s U55C7006 uses Google’s Android TV system
expected at this price – unsophisticated edge LED panel illumination. TCL suggests a fair 400-nit luminance for the U55C7006 but I never felt this 55-incher had the artillery to do HDR Blu-rays serious justice when it came to bright highlights – The Magnificent Seven (Ultra HD Blu-ray) subsequently felt a little subdued. At the other end of the contrast scale, your appreciation of its healthy black levels is held back by instances of backlight clouding and blooming around bright objects.
While this can distract, it doesn’t occur persistently, and with 16:9 content in particular the TV’s strengths shine through.
It proves a good fit for everyday viewing – the recent Cricket World Cup (Sky) offered crisp detailing (the set works well at upscaling non-4K sources) and enough luminance and colour nuance to bring a sense of depth to proceedings.
Motion is another area where this TCL belies its affordable ethos. With no processing mode to call upon, you get what you’re given. Fast pans and rapid onscreen movement can exhibit blur, reducing the overall impact of the TV’s 4K panel.
Room for one more?
TCL’s U55C7006 joins a barrage of 4K TVs that cater for those unable to entertain higher-spec sets. Its standout features are its colour performance and crisp imaging, audio prowess and HLG HDR future proofing. But it can be found wanting when subtlety and precision are required, both with backlighting and motion. Better with some sources than others
3D: No 4K: Yes. 3,840 x 2,160 HDR: Yes.
HDR 10; HLG TUNER: Yes. Freeview HD CONNECTIONS: 4 x HDMI inputs; 2 x USB; RF input; Ethernet port; optical audio output SOUND (CLAIMED): 2 x 12W BRIGHTNESS (CLAIMED): 400 nits CONTRAST RATIO (CLAIMED): Mega’ DIMENSIONS (OFF STAND): 1,243(w) x 720(h) x 555(d) mm WEIGHT (OFF STAND): 16.4kg
FEATURES: JBL speaker array; 10-bit, wide-colour panel; quad-core processor; Android TV (incl. 4K VOD apps); USB/ network file playback; GoogleCast
This large screen/low-cost mashup from the Chinese giant has appealing traits, but isn't an all-round success.
PRODUCT: 55in 4K HDR edge-LED TV
Position: Mid-range option from TCL
PEERS: Hisense 55M5500; Samsung 55MU6200; Panasonic TX-55EX600