The TCL 55R617 is part of the 6-Series (new for 2018, successor to P-series) denoted by a class of affordable, big-screen 4K televisions.
PROS: Affordable. Impressive color out and contrast. Lots of streaming apps and services on Roku TV.
CONS: Consume more power. No headphone in remote jack.
TCL may not be as popular as LG or Samsung, but when it comes to budget 4K televisions, they are among the best in the market. Last year’s P-Series was impressively very successful, and with the new 6-Series, they are expanding the scope by delivering fantastic picture quality and tons of streaming apps and services.
The company is now offering the 55-inch TCL 55R617, a Roku TV-powered model that features a similarly excellent picture, available in 55- and 65-inch versions. By combining strong performance, good picture quality and reasonable pricing, it easily earns our Editors’ Choice award for budget conscious gamers and home theater enthusiasts.
If there’s one area TCL didn’t over-emphasize in the P-Series was looks but sets in the 6-Series look expensive. The 55R617 has a premium design, with a flat glossy black plastic bezel surrounding the screen (0.25 inches-sides; 0.75-inch at the bottom). The sides are lined with a slim-profile plastic piping (gunmetal color), that adds some flair to the overall design. It is supported by two U-shaped legs, with the same gunmetal color as the pipes on the sides.
At the back of the TV, you’ll find all ports towards the right side. Here you have three HDMI ports, a single USB port, an Ethernet port, a standard antenna/cable connector, a 3.5mm composite video that can be used with the included adapter and an optical audio output. Others include a 3.5mm headphone jack and a reset button.
The location and positioning of the port towards the right facilitates hooking up the set, though the three HDMI ports might limit the number of devices you can connect before you can use a splitter. Three HDMI is a little scarce for a modern set, but it appears like one of those areas TCL skimped to ensure the 6-Series is pocket friendly.
A number of sets we’ve reviewed previously come with four HDMI ports as standard, with a few going high as five. Three HDMI ports here is quite lean. It will only take a satellite box and two gaming systems and you’re done, but thanks to Roku TV you might not be using a media streamer that much. Sometimes, the remote can be misplaced and a cluster of buttons on the lower right corner behind the TV come handy for physical control.
Bundled with the TCL 55R617 is a well-designed, short, glossy remote with a prominent directional pad. Just above the pad are Home, Back, and Power buttons, and right below it are playback and app buttons. The remote brings instant access to services like Hulu, Netflix and Sling TV, right to the palm of your hand. For each service, you have a dedicated button. Along the right edge are the volume controls and a mute button.
Being a Roku TV, the TCL 55R617 opens your world to an array of apps and services, just like you’d get from a typical Roku media streamer. It is a hub for almost all media streaming services including: Amazon, Crunchyroll, Google Play Movies & TV, Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, and YouTube.
Roku is host to most channels (select apps) that you would find in the smart TV ecosystem, so you will be comfortable with the services (except Apple). You can also use the Roku TV app from your smartphone, and Roku TV support media streaming from your smartphone as well.
Today, we’ve all come to appreciate the benefit of good resolutions, and we expect a 4K panel to deliver on that. The ultra HD (UHD, or 4K) TCL 55R617 6-Series supports high dynamic range (HDR) content encoded in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. This means that most HDR video available on most streaming services and on Ultra HD Blu-rays will perfectly display on the TV.
If you know the numbers, the TV is bright enough (497.15cd/m2) and equally impressive black levels (0.01cd/m2) underlain by a solid 49,715:1 contrast ratio. This is excellent performance, though with a few rough edges. For instance, you may experience some light bloom and distinction between grays and blacks isn’t the most graceful.
If you want better contrast performance without spending much on panels such as the LG OLEDC7P, the Vizio M-Series with its 40,670:1 contrast is worth a long look. However, the TCL’s color performance is much better than what you get from the Vizio M-Series.
The TCL 55R617’s bright panel with HDR compatibility has a lot going for it. While watching Planet Earth II, narrated by David Attenborough, I marveled at the clean and balanced colors ON Ultra HD Blu-ray. The sights were appalling, the ocean blues and jungle greens of the island look natural and vivid, with discernible fur and feathers of the ocean creatures. When viewed off-angle, it still looks great, though, not the best, as the greens look slightly washed out.
Input Lag and Power Consumption
Input lag is the amount of time it takes for a display to update after receiving a signal, and this is one of the few areas in which the 55R617 scores well. The HDTV showed an input lag of 18.4ms is almost half of most screens we test, though it has very high input lag in its Movie picture mode. If you watch HD movies and videos, this is about the best 4K performance you can get on a budget TV.
Ideally, Game Mode improves input lag but sacrifices picture quality. If you need even less lag, just get a dedicated gaming monitor like the ASUS ROG SWIFT PG279Q. A dedicated gaming monitor can show less than a tenth the input lag of the 55P607, but for big screens you’ll have to realistically settle for a third to half the lag.
Under normal viewing conditions, the Roku 55R617’s consumption is in line with similarly sized 4K TVs. With the screen in bright mode, it consumes 153 watts, but under Low Power picture mode the consumption is halved to 128 watts, with the screen dimmed but very watchable. You can make the HDTV use less power with higher Energy Saving settings, but this dims the screen further.
The TCL 55R617 is part of the 6-Series (new for 2018, successor to P-series) denoted by a class of affordable, big-screen 4K televisions. It improves on the aesthetics of last year’s model, resulting in a more attractive TV, while keeping the excellent contrasts and splendid colors of the previous iterations. Even with a few quirks like few HDMI ports and lack of a headphone jack in the remote, it does compensate with remarkable contrasts that justifies the HDR label.
To that, it adds the Roku TV platform that delivers a wide array of connected apps and services, which is one of my favorite features in the high-end Roku media streamers. For a 55-inch HDR screen, it has a lot going for it, and is arguably the best budget TV deal you can get in the market, so far, this year. For all these reasons, it earns our Editors’ Choice for budget TVs.