TCL’s Latest 6-Series -Affordable 8K TV
TCL’s Latest 6-Series As 4K televisions set the new definition standard, manufacturers are already shifting their efforts toward production of 8K units. But in a race to build a competitive 8K set, no brand has been able to balance the unprecedented resolution with a reasonable price. According to Ross Young, CEO of the screen-centric market research firm Display Supply Chain Consultants, “8K TVs are expensive to make because panel yields are lower, there’s more pixels, and driver IC costs are higher since they scale with resolution.” In layman’s terms, the manufacturing cost is high due to the panel and component requirements needed to hit the 7,680 by 4,320 resolution. (That’s quadruple the number of pixels in 4K.)You can best see this in texture definitions and patterns, along with a wider dynamic color range. Sharp introduced the first 8K TV in 2015 for the staggering price of $133,000. And while you no longer have to take out a second mortgage to buy an 8K-capable television, up until 2021 you could expect to shell out at least $3,500 for one. Even as an avid gamer and weekend cinephile, I wouldn’t dare spend that kind of money—and neither would the average buyer.
“Generally, manufacturers like to launch their next resolution bump in TVs in larger sizes to justify the stratospheric costs that usually come with the new sets,” says Anshel Sag, an analyst specializing in consumer tech trends for the research firm Moor Insights & Strategy. These larger panel fabrications drive up the price, putting an 8K TV further out of reach for the average consumer—with the additional drawback of stifling the incentive to create 8K content. Even 4K media isn’t the official standard just yet. “While most streaming services do support 4K natively, especially with their own original content, it still isn’t as common as one would expect with the current price of 4K TVs,” notes Sag.
Given the prohibitively expensive pricing and lack of content, there hasn’t been a push for mainstream 8K TVs. At least that was the case until last year’s arrival of 8K-capable computer graphics cards, gaming consoles, and cameras on flagship phones, which drove a need for affordable 8K displays on which to view the influx of content. TCL released its new 8K 6-Series TV last fall to meet this new demand. The China-based company has a history of advancements in display technology; it created the first mini LED TV in 2019. Combining large 8K displays with mini LED backlighting and QLED color technology, TCL has built an impressive 8K set for just under $2,000.
Despite a global chip shortage, TCL has managed to pull this off through simple supply-chain management. It cuts expenses by crafting each component in-house, eliminating a heavy reliance on external manufacturers. Cost-efficiently creating its own driver ICs and streamlining the display production for televisions 65 inches and up translate to a lower retail price. “TCL has invested in building seven panel fabs in recent years, including the newest completed just this year that uses the latest gen-11 panel fab layout,” says Aaron Dew, director of product development for TCL North America. A large part of TCL’s business is selling components such as displays to other television manufacturers, and Dew says that’s no different with 8K panels.
an LCD panel. In an 8K nature video, textures like the cracks in a hippo’s skin or the fur on an otter were easier to make out. Micro details, like droplets rolling down goose feathers and the reflection of light playing in a bead of water, were sharper. Across all media, pattern recreation is less muddy in 8K as opposed to a 4K screen. Beyond animals, that meant details in outfits, facial features, and environments looked more lifelike.
Starting up close and stepping farther away, we could see that the 8K television’s resolution fared better than the 4K model, showing less noticeable pixelation while up close. Amplified by refinements in QLED nanomaterial and over 160 local dimming zones filled with thousands of micrometer LEDs, the resulting picture is incredibly bright and able to reproduce a full 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color space (the standard for sets of colors used in moviemaking).
The level of luminance and color accuracy for all 33 million pixels in the R648 6-Series is a feat in itself, since each pixel blocks light. A 4K TV needs enough lighting to fight through just 8 million pixels. But a higher-density 8K display needs a more powerful backlight, and this is where the mini LED technology—which TCL does well—shines. Vibrant QLED colors especially popped in the greens of plants and red hues of flowers in the nature film, and were further enhanced by the high level of contrast.
The screen isn’t perfect, though. Relying on mini LED tech, TCL’s 8K QLED display can’t reproduce the true blacks and individual pixel control of an OLED panel. As Young puts it, “More zones create better contrast and improved HDR performance. Think of fireworks in a dark sky. OLEDs can turn on or off each pixel. Mini LEDs do this in zones, and there are 160 zones for the 65-inch TCL versus the 33 million of an 8K OLED panel.” Despite this, the 6-Series’s brightness capabilities ensure that the screen looks crisp in various lighting conditions. OLED excels specifically in dark room performance, but struggles against natural lighting and carries the risk of burn-in for static elements. TCL’s R648 can play games with a heads-up display, leave videos paused, and display news tickers without the accompanying worry of destroying the panel.
TCL took a future-forward stance on this TV by including the latest display technology features, like Variable Refresh Rate and a THX-certified game mode. That makes the company’s decision to limit HDMI 2.1 to just two of the four ports a tad disappointing. This latest specification allows for higher resolutions and refresh rates on content playing from devices connected over HDMI. As someone who already owns both next-generation gaming consoles, I would be unable to reach a 4K resolution at 120 frames per second or 8K at 60 frames per second with another HDMI 2.1 device. Meanwhile, the 4K LG C1 includes the higher bandwidth standard in all four HDMI ports.
Audiophiles will want to purchase a separate sound bar for punchier bass. While the TV’s two 15-watt speakers and 30-watt subwoofer can get loud, a good sound bar can better balance the audio and bring things like explosions or rumbling in movies and games to life.
At $1,999, the 65-inch 8K TCL model costs less than the highest-rated 4K TVs, such as the Samsung QN90A or LG C1 OLED. Yet it boasts competitive performance, with features like 120-hertz refresh rates and vivid HDR. With the ability to display native 8K and upscale 4K content without artifacts, the 6-Series surpasses TV rivals in this price range as a future-proof investment. This picture for the money is a first for the 8K market and is likely to bring down the cost of the competition. And as more people get their hands on this higher resolution, we’ll see films, games, and streams jump to new heights of clarity.
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