Incredible contrast and color
Built-in Roku smart platform
Future-facing gaming features
8K content is still hard to come by
Poor 1080p upscaling
Limited off-angle viewing
Make no mistake: This isn’t Lyle Lanley pitching the town of Springfield a bona fide, electrified monorail that promises everything and delivers nothing. On the contrary, the new 6-Series is a premium, top-shelf TV with plenty of upside. Thanks to some incredible display technology, its contrast and color production are world-class. Additionally, there are enough bells and whistles to satisfy gamers and A/V enthusiasts alike, and the TV’s Roku software is perfect for both experienced and novice streamers.
But accessible 8K video is all but non-existent in the states, so the 6-Series’ primary selling point isn’t something you can easily tap into. It also struggles to upscale Full-HD content, so the vast majority of cable TV and web-based content looks dated on the 6-Series’ 8K display. It’s up to you to decide whether 8K resolution is worth the price of admission. Fortunately, even in a desert of 8K content, the 6-Series is somewhat of an oasis.
About the TCL 6-Series 8K
The TCL 6-Series is available in two sizes: 65 inches and 75 inches, with pricing listed below:
- 65-inch (TCL 65R648), MSRP $2,199
- 75-inch (TCL 75R648), MSRP $2,999
Both versions of the 6-Series feature mini-LEDs with full-array local dimming. The 65-inch model we reviewed features 160 LED zones, while the 75-inch model is equipped with 240 zones. This difference in zone count might make for slightly different performance, as more zones are preferable when it comes to contrast control. In addition, the 6-Series' 8K resolution might have more room to shine on the bigger of the two size options. Other than those minor caveats, we expect both sizes to perform similarly.
Here are specifications shared by both the 65- and 75-inch versions of the 6-Series:
- Resolution: 8K (7,680 x 4,320)
- Display type: Mini-LED with local dimming and quantum dots
- HDR support: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG
- Dolby Atmos: Yes, native decoding
- eARC support: Yes
- Native refresh rate: 120Hz
- Smart platform: Roku TV
- Color: DCI-P3 color space/10-bit chroma resolution
- Variable Refresh Rate (VRR): Yes
- Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM): Yes
- Processor: AiPQ Engine
- Other features: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple AirPlay
Also included is an all-new, chrome-tinted remote control. It borrows design elements from the standard Roku remote control while narrowing and elongating the form. There are several dedicated app buttons and a microphone for integrated voice control.
I appreciate the “special edition” vibe of the remote—this is a special TV, after all—but overall, I find myself missing the standard Roku clicker. The new remote is fancier, but also longer and doesn't fit as well in my hand. Fortunately, you always have the option to pair your 8K 6-Series with the more traditional Roku Voice Remote Pro for an extra $30, should you feel the same.
Before testing each TV, we make sure the panel is on and receiving a continuous signal for at least 24 hours, allowing the pixels plenty of time to warm up. Our 65-inch TCL 6-Series received this standard warm-up time before any readings were taken.
For SDR tests, we used TCL’s “Movie” picture mode. For HDR tests, we used TCL’s “Dark” picture mode. For both series of tests, the 6-Series brightness setting was held at “Normal.” We’ve chosen these picture settings because of their accuracy, but results may vary depending on which picture mode is enabled. For example, you’re likely to experience a brighter picture with different settings enabled, but it may interfere with color temperature and overall color accuracy.
To get a sense for the TV’s average performance, we use a standard ANSI checkerboard pattern for most of our basic contrast tests. We also use white and black windows ranging from 2% to 90% to test how well the contrast holds up while displaying varying degrees of brightness.
Our peak brightness measurements are taken with sustained windows to represent the TV’s peak brightness over a sustained period of time. Specular highlights (like brief flashes of reflected light) might reach higher brightness levels, but not for a sustained period of time.
All of our tests were created with a Murideo Seven signal generator and tabulated via Calman Ultimate. I'll expand on our test results throughout the review, but for now, here are some key takeaways:
• HDR contrast (brightness/black level): 460.7 nits/0.074 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• SDR contrast (brightness/black level): 165.4 nits/0.047 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• HDR peak brightness (sustained): 693.6 nits (40% white window)
• HDR color gamut coverage (DCI-P3/10-bit): 93%
• SDR color gamut coverage (Rec.709): 99%
In both series of tests, motion enhancements were toggled off and Local Contrast was set to “High.” The TV’s backlight was kept to its default: “40” in SDR and “100” in HDR.
While in the “Dark” HDR picture mode with the TV’s brightness set to “Normal,” the highest brightness reading we took came in at around 694 nits. However, we also took contrast readings in “Dark” with the brightness set to “Bright,” which yielded a peak brightness of around 914 nits.
With the HDR picture mode and the brightness meter set to “Bright,” the 6-Series eclipsed 1,100 nits. Be forewarned, however, that these settings will produce a much cooler color temperature by default.
When it comes to connections, the 8K 6-Series is no slouch. The highlight here is the pair of HDMI 2.1 ports that support 120fps at 4K, 60fps at 8K, Auto Low Latency Mode, and Variable Refresh Rate.
Here’s what you’ll find in a small cutout in the back of the 6-Series’ panel:
- 2x HDMI 2.1
- 2x HDMI 2.0 (1x eARC)
- RF connection (cable/antenna)
- Ethernet (LAN) input
- Digital audio output (optical)
- 3.5mm headphone jack
What we like
Incredible contrast and color
The 6-Series may sport majestic 8K resolution, but crucially, its performance is top-notch regardless of pixel count. Its success can be attributed to the impressive display technology behind the screen—a special formula that blends mini-LED backlighting and quantum-dot color. The TV’s mini-LEDs ensure tight contrast control while the quantum dots enhance color.
The result is a bright, dazzling picture, particularly for HDR content (like UHD Blu-rays and high-profile streaming titles). This is where the 6-Series really shines, literally, as it's capable of climbing as high as 600 to 900 nits in HDR depending on picture settings.
These searing highlights are paired with dependably dark black levels, which typically dip into the 0.04- to 0.08-nit range. Thanks to the small stature and sheer quantity of the TV’s mini-LEDs, brighter elements rarely bleed into the dark and shadow tones remain balanced. On the whole, I’m impressed with the 6-Series’ ability to keep its black levels tamped down in the face of high-octane brightness.
But light and dark are only half the story; as a QLED TV, the 6-Series 8K's quantum dots, which are microscopic nanocrystals, enhance the saturation of almost every color on the spectrum. On a premium TV like this one, the effect is immediately noticeable.
The TV covers 99% of the color gamut associated with SDR content (Rec. 709) and 93% of the HDR color gamut (DCI-P3). Watching Our Planet on Netflix, I was transfixed by green forest hues and bright, red bird feathers. Our Planet is mastered for Dolby Vision (which the 6-Series supports), so it offered great insight into the TV’s HDR capabilities. While the 6-Series isn’t quite as psychedelically colorful as Samsung's flagship QN90A, its colors are nevertheless spectacular.
The best smart platform in the game
The 6-Series 8K is Roku TV, which means our favorite smart platform is ready to use right out of the box. If you’re hoping that your next TV offers flexible, easy-to-use smart features, this set won’t let you down.
We love the Roku platform because it’s intuitive enough for newcomers while still being robust enough for experienced streamers who expect a wide selection of apps. The software is quick to boot and navigation is a cinch thanks to bold lines and big icons. Roku’s official Channel Store offers near-limitless content, and streaming staples like Netflix are pre-loaded.
There are several streaming platforms out there, but for our money, Roku is the reigning champ. It’s a great foundation for the 6-Series experience.
Top-shelf gaming features (with a caveat)
A TV that promises the future would be nothing without the hardware to back it up, and the 6-Series 8K, for the most part, delivers the goods. Among its four total HDMI ports, two support HDMI 2.1 and all of its many benefits, including the ability to display 4K content at high frame rates and, of course, 8K content.
Folks who own (or are planning on owning) an Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 will be pleased to learn that the 6-Series 8K supports both Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR)—two enhancements that improve the gaming experience considerably. And, being a 120Hz TV, the 6-Series’ motion handling is top-notch across the board, whether you’re gaming or not.
There’s one important caveat, however: Since only two of the HDMI ports are of the 2.1 variety, it isn't possible to have more than two devices connected at the same time that take advantage of the new HDMI standard. For most people, that should be enough for now (unless you've got more than two next-gen consoles), but it could be a limiting factor down the road.
What we don’t like
Where's that 8K content?
There’s no way around it: it’s a desert out there for native 8K content. While testing the 6-Series, my 8K content pool was limited to wordless, travelogue-style sizzle reels of colorful locales and slow-motion footage of animals—all of which are on YouTube. In fact, for most people, YouTube will be the only avenue for showing off their fancy new 8K TV. There simply isn’t much to choose from during a moment in time where 4K content is just now reaching standardization.
It’s true that the dearth of 8K stuff isn’t technically the fault of TCL or the 6-Series itself, but it should factor into everyone’s decision about whether or not to make an investment in 8K right now. When I was able to watch 8K content, it looked great—there sure is a ton of visual information you can cram into that many pixels. But these moments passed me by all too quickly, and none of what I watched was story-driven.
Through no fault of its own, the biggest selling point of the 6-Series—the future-is-now wonder of 8K resolution—amounts to little more than a parlor trick, at least until a broader shift to 8K begins to manifest.
Upscaling is rough around the edges
The 6-Series really shines when it’s displaying native 4K and, somewhat obviously, native 8K content. Native 4K content looks more or less the same on the 6-Series' 8K display—not appreciably better, but not worse, either. Part of me wishes I would've seen a noticeable jump in quality during upscaled 4K content, but for the time being, that it doesn't look worse is a fine takeaway.
When upscaling Full-HD (1080p) content, however, the 6-Series leaves behind artifacts, particularly in out-of-focus regions where there’s not a lot of visual information to work with. These artifacts take the form of fuzzy edges, dithering, and noise. Objects in shadow take the brunt of the visual degradation.
Part of this is to be expected—after all, the difference between Full-HD resolution (1920x1080) and 8K resolution (7680x4320) is vast, and content mastered for Full HD as recently as a few years ago is still several times less detailed than native 8K content. On the other hand, there’s a good chance that 8K upscaling will only get better in years to come, so adopting 8K early with the 6-Series might not be a great fit if you expect to be watching mostly Full-HD content for the time being.
Its design is peculiar
There are several aspects of the 6-Series’ design that I quite appreciate. For one thing, its stand—a slender, slightly bent slab of metal that rests beneath the center of the panel—is a visual breath of fresh air. There’s even a convenient cable management system built-in, which is good news if you tend to keep things tidy.
But this is a chunky TV that looks as heavy as it is, and some of the design aspects feel like disparate elements pasted together. A good example are the borders of the 6-Series’ panel, which resemble welded-together strips of metal rather than single, unified pieces.
Another thing that caught my eye was the area of the panel where the picture meets the bezel. If you look at the edges of the picture from an off-angle perspective, the display itself appears to be recessed by about a quarter of an inch. The edges of this recessed portion cast a shadow along the edges of the panel and sometimes even reflect what's playing, giving the picture a ghostly border that often distracts the eye.
Off-angle viewing can be problematic
It’s not uncommon for VA-style TV panels to stumble when it comes to off-angle viewing, and unfortunately, the 6-Series isn’t lucky enough to escape this problem. If you’re sitting just a couple of feet away from a head-on angle, you can expect to see a significant drop in contrast, and in some cases, some pretty extreme color shifting. In our lab tests, a 100% red screen turned into a 100% peach screen when viewed from an off-angle.
Additionally, instances of light bloom (halos of light around bright picture elements) are more apparent when watching the 6-Series from off to the side.
The good news is that, due to the TV’s sheer brightness, these viewing angle woes are tempered quite a bit in HDR. The aforementioned red screen did preserve its rich, crimson glow at an off-angle, but only while the 6-Series was receiving an HDR signal.
Should you buy it?
Maybe, but only if you’re willing to pay for a great TV rather than an 8K TV
I very much enjoyed my time with the 8K 6-Series, but only in the context of it being a terrific TV. Nearly everything I appreciate about it can be attributed to its performance and feature set, and very little of what I appreciate about it has anything to do with its 8K resolution.
Right now, the price of the 6-Series is roughly on par with the recently discounted Samsung QN90A. From a performance standpoint, the QN90A eclipses the 6-Series, offering better brightness and richer colors. The 65-inch Hisense U8G is significantly cheaper than the 65-inch 6-Series and its performance is marginally better, too. If your heart's not set on a QLED, we absolutely adore LG’s OLED TVs, and our top-pick—the LG C1—is in this price range, too.
None of those alternatives feature built-in Roku and 8K resolution, however. It all comes down to whether or not you believe the added pixels are worth the cost, and I suspect that, for most folks, landing a better TV for the same price or less will win out over a feature that’s difficult to appreciate in 2021. I also suspect that the 6-Series would be far less expensive if this difficult-to-appreciate feature was left off, but of course, no one can say for certain.
The 6-Series is a fantastic TV, but one whose primary selling point feels sealed off from the rest of the TV world. For some folks, the mere thought of owning an 8K TV will be enough to tip the scales. For the rest, the arrival of 8K will feel awfully premature.
Meet the tester
Senior Staff Writer@Reviewed
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
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