TCL C715K Review: QLED 4K HDR TV


TCL has been nibbling around the extremities of the UK TV market for a while now, mainly touting low-cost budget screens, but with the C715K and its step-up stablemate, the C815, it’s beginning to capture the attention of enthusiasts.

Boasting QLED panel technology, more commonly found on Samsung’s high-end TVs like the Q80T, plus the latest Android TV smart platform and Dolby Vision HDR (not offered by Samsung), it’s an intriguing proposition.

Design & Build

The TCL C715K presents a minimal face to the world, with a three-sided micro-bezel. The set may not be the slimmest in the LED aisle, but it doesn’t have an onerous footprint.

The TV’s two v-shaped feet can be locked in full width, or more centrally placed, giving a certain amount of freedom when it comes to AV furniture. An unusual amount of freedom when it comes to the stand.

Connections comprise three HDMI inputs, all of which are 4K 60fps capable. One also has HDMI ARC (but not eARC – in fact, there are no HDMI 2.1 morsels on the menu).

In addition, there’s a pair of USB ports, an Ethernet jack to support onboard Wi-Fi, a digital optical audio output, plus an AV mini-jack input.

There’s a choice of two tuner options, single satellite and terrestrial Freeview Play. The remote control is a fairly standard long thin wand with dedicated Netflix and Freeview Play buttons.

Specs & Features

TCL has stepped up its connected game for this Quantum Dot debutant, combining the latest Android TV OS (v9.0 aka Pie) with Freeview Play.

This combo guarantees a full raft of Catch-up TV services (BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, ALL4, My5, UK TV Play, CBS Catch-up, BBC News & Sport and Horror Bites), plus Freeview Play curated content and recommendations (courtesy of Freeview Explore).

There are also key streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Rakuten TV and Disney+.

The Android TV OS has Chromecast built-in, so casting from Chromecast compatible Android apps is a doddle, and there’s integration with the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, for those that want voice control of basic TV functionality.

As a smart package, it just about nails it. The caveat is it’s rather sluggish.

When powering up you have to wait for the Android loading screen to clear, and the Freeview EPG is slow to populate. It just doesn’t seem as fast or silky smooth in operation as more expensive models.

Picture Quality & Sound

It seems someone forgot to tell the C715K that it’s supposed to be a budget TV. The set is brighter and more dynamic than you would expect given the price.

Colour depth is first-rate, bolstered by a dynamic HDR presentation that should satisfy frugal cinephiles.

In addition to Dolby Vision, it claims compatibility with the HDR10+ dynamic metadata standard embraced by Amazon Prime Video, as well as regular HDR10 and HLG.

HDR performance is on the right side of good for this class of screen. I measured peak brightness at 400 nits, which is just about enough to render specular highlights and add believable depth to images. Dolby Vision manages tone mapping on Netflix content.

Its regular HD SDR performance is entirely presentable. Detail levels are high and there’s a bright visual snap to images. Native 4K ups the clarity even more.

A run-through of the Will Smith actioner Gemini Man, on 4K Blu-ray, shows the screen performing at 4K/60fps and it looks mesmerizingly crisp.

The Gemini Man Blu-ray disc is a bit of an aberration, as few filmmakers outside of Ang Lee are able to bankroll high frame rate movies, but what we can glean from this is how it will perform with next-gen games consoles running at 4K 60fps.

Unsurprisingly, the set’s HDMI board doesn’t support 4K 120fps, but that’s a spec bridge too high for this cheapie and we don’t chide it for that.

Gaming chops are impressive, though. I measured image lag at a low 9ms (1080/60) when using the dedicated Game mode.

Picture presets include Low Power (which is effectively the de facto Standard setting), and Smart HDR which appears to give an HDR-like hand to SDR source material.

There’s no clever image interpolation on board, but you can select LED Clear motion to reduce blur. Unfortunately, this darkens the screen and adds a difficult level of flicker. This probably isn’t a screen for sports enthusiasts.

Consider stepping up to the C815 if audio is important and you don’t plan on getting a soundbar.

The C715K may lack the Onkyo-developed sound system of its more expensive stablemate, but it’s loud enough for everyday use.

There’s a wide range of audio presets, including Vivid, Low-power, Movie, Music, Voice, Game and Sports. The Movie sound mode, which widens the soundstage, is quite effective.

Price

The TCL C715K is available in three screen sizes, 50-, 55- and 65in (50C715, 55C715 and 65C715).

Prices start at just £499 and the 55in model tested here is only £549. Jumping to the biggest size is £799.

You can buy it from Amazon, Costco and AO. See what other options you have in our best TV chart.

Verdict

TCL is top-tier screen maker with impressive technical resources, but until now we’ve only seen budget tellies from the brand. With the C715 QLED, it’s starting to flex its muscles.

It’s still undeniably budget in some ways, with only three HDMIs and a sometimes painfully slow UI, but as an overall package it certainly impresses.

Of course, there’s no shortage of rival cheap TVs out there at the moment, from the likes of Hisense, JVC and Toshiba, but this TCL earns its place at the cut-price table.

It’s well worth auditioning.

Specs
TCL C715K: Specs

Panel technology: QLED

Resolution: 3840 x 2160 4K Ultra HD

HDR support: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby Vision

HDMI: x3

Android TV OS v9.0

Freeview Play terrestrial/satellite tuner

Dimensions: 1229(w) x 704(h) x 75(d)mm

Weight: 13.2kg (no stand)

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