Week 51, 2018: 55-inch TCL 5 Series TV a great buy under $500

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 51, 2018

Q. We want to buy televisions for our kids and their families this Christmas. We have $500 per television budgeted and would like at least a 50-inch screen size. Any recommendations?

-L. A., San Antonio, TX

A. Go straight to the TCL 55-inch 5 Series 4K Roku TV, $449. I love finding exceptional values for my readers, and this is one of them.

Since their introduction in April, TCL 6 Series televisions have become the toast of the town among professional reviewers and audio/video hobbyists. They have been praised for delivering premium picture quality that is competitive with upper-end TVs from top tier manufacturers, but at one-third to one-half the price. I chose to review the 55-inch 5 Series because it struck me as a great value, sharing many features of the 6 Series as well as the promise of premium picture quality.

I should start by saying I am a TV snob. Almost every TV I have purchased since 2002 has been top-of-the-line and sold for $3,500 at a minimum. It was the only way to get the performance and quality I demand, and to provide a proper reference point for evaluating other TVs for this column. Other than LG OLED models, I have not enthusiastically gotten behind any TV recommendation since plasma went away. That has changed with this TV, and it is affordable, too!

The TCL 5 Series is a Smart TV and the Roku interface makes setup and operation a breeze. For 4K HDR (high dynamic range) it supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, a rarity in TVs under $500.

It was easy to adjust the TV for a great picture. I left most of the picture settings on normal, but changed the color temperature to warm and bumped the color up to between 60 and 70 from the midpoint of 50. Televised football sometimes looked best using the “movie” setting.

Picture quality is excellent, especially for a 55-inch TV selling for under $450. I reviewed it with over-the-air broadcasts, 1080p content from DISH satellite TV and Blu-ray, and 4K content from 4K UltraHD Blu-ray. Colors are natural, yet bright and beautiful, flesh tones are realistic, and shadows don’t break down into an inky mass. Motion is free from the artificial “CGI look” I see on so many TVs, even expensive ones.

Blu-ray movies are the killer app for this TV. Regular Blu-ray looks phenomenal, and 4K UltraHD Blu-ray looks mouth-wateringly cinematic. With the Avengers: Infinity War 4K UltraHD Blu-ray the color, sharpness, depth and detail were extraordinary. I felt like I was in my local luxury theater with its top-of-the-line digital projection system. You have to see it to appreciate it, and I strongly recommend using 4K UltraHD Blu-ray players and discs with this TV. It is definitely worth the investment.

If you spend more on a TV you might get a better picture, but you also might not. You might even get a picture that is not as good. An LG OLED would be better across the board, but those start at around $1,500. Most people who read this column would be happier with “excellent” for $449 than “perfect” for $1,500. I get that, and I am sure a lot of you are very happy to be reading about this TV.

It makes me wonder how much better the TCL 6 Series could be, and perhaps I will review one someday. And TCL, if you are listening, how about making some 5 and 6 series TVs that are 75 inches and larger? Bigger is better! tclusa.com