TCL P-Series 55-inch TV Review: 4K Gaming on a Budget

Find out why TCL's P-Series is currently the best bang for your gaming buck, and the best entry point into 4K/HDR gaming.

If you are at all in the market for a 4k television, you have heard the buzz around TCL's new P-series. With built-in Roku, High Dynamic Range (HDR), and Dolby Vision support, and its too-good-to-be-true $599 price point, TCL made a huge splash into the American television industry.

Sure, you can go to Rtings.com and pour over the minutia of this TV's specs, obsessing over the gray levels and peak brightness, but...

If you were looking for a real consumer and gamer's perspective on this TV's performance, not useless data and inconsistent user reviews, you have most certainly come to the right place. Without further ado...

Design

A TCL's P-Series 55-ion TV sits on a TV stand and shows its main menu with red backgroundSource: CNET

TCL really made a slick piece of hardware with this set.  It's thin, attractive, and lightweight if you are looking to mount it. If you plan on using a table or stand, the legs it comes with screw on easily and are more than adequate.  The minimal bezel on the sides give the screen a nice 'frameless' look, especially when placed flat against a wall.

You should have no issues with input and output; Multiple HDMI 2.0 ports, a USB port, and even a headphone jack occupy the right side of the TV (if you are facing the screen). And, thankfully, there are some physical buttons on the back of the television.

Functionality

The Roku logo

This TCL model comes built-in with Roku TV's smart software, and it is impressive to say the least. The tile-based user interface is snappy, customizable, and easy on the eyes. Roku provides a great platform for streaming, with both their own free channels and access to the usual suspects (Netflix and Amazon). 

The platform is surprisingly comprehensive in its offerings, including live sports content, and I have yet to use a console or laptop for streaming since getting this TV. Being able to rename and quickly switch between inputs has been a godsend for gaming, and the remote even has dedicated Netflix and Hulu buttons for your binge-worthy compulsions.  

With applications galore and plenty of cable TV alternatives, Roku's software should be able to cover almost every base for the typical consumer.  

Performance

Horizon Zero Dawn played on a TCL P-Series

It's the most important question and likely the reason your here, how does this set actually perform? First, a quick overview.

This model is only produced and sold with a 55-inch screen, so those looking a for a larger display are out of luck. Tech-wise, this panel touts a 10-bit wide color gamut for HDR content, 72 separate lighting zones for its "local-dimming" feature, and a bevy of picture settings to tinker around with. For convenience sake, we'll break the performance section down into a few categories...

HDR Gaming

Gaming is arguably the best reason to own a TCL P-series, and I wasted no time hooking mine up to a PlayStation 4 Pro console. I used the included HDMI cable, enabled a few options in the Playstation and TV settings, and was up and running at 4k/60Hz in no time.

First off, turning on the television's game mode lets you play with a rapid 13 millisecond response time, even in 4K with HDR enabled. Online multiplayer feels responsive enough for the most discerning gamer, and going back to a standard 1080p TV or playing at a friend's house will likely feel sluggish in comparison. 

Visually, HDR is stunning if not inconsistent. I may have disparaged the in-depth tech specifications on websites like Rtings, but it is fair to say that this TV is right on the threshold of being HDR capable. Its color gamut is just wide enough, its screen just bright enough, and so the quality of HDR being implemented is often left to the game's developers. 

Horizon: Zero Dawn and Assassin's Creed Origins look unbelievable in HDR, whereas FIFA 18 is dull and unimpressive. The result is a television that can display HDR as intended but cannot carry the load for sub-par implementation.

Every game somewhat suffers from strange light and color shifting due to the local dimming feature, but the individual zones work well enough to increase contrast across the entire screen. Do not get me wrong: your gaming experience with this television will be miles ahead of your current setup.  Games that are patched to run at a higher resolution look noticeably crisper than standard 1080p. But if you want the deepest blacks and brightest colors possible across the board, you will need to buy a more expensive set than this one.  

HDR Movies & TV

Breaking Bad played on a TCL P-Series shows Walter White and Jesse Pinkman wearing hazmat suits

While I maintain that gaming is the best reason to own this television, non-gaming 4K content is often more beautiful and consistently well-implemented.  Whether you are watching a disc or streaming on Amazon, the level of detail, realistic lighting, and possible shades of colors are certainly head and shoulders above your current television. Even older series like Breaking Bad look brand new in 4K resolution -- HDR or not. Despite the low price point, you should expect a cinema-like experience with this purchase, especially if you invested in a 4K Blu-ray player (unfortunately, the PS4 Pro does not play 4K Blu-rays).  

Glaring Issues

Although my thoughts on this TV are overwhelmingly positive, there are a few glaring issues that are worth talking about. 

Live sports do not look too good unless you are watching in 4K resolution.  The local-dimming feature seems to have trouble with the camera panning across a single-colored background, which football, soccer, hockey, and basketball all suffer from. 

In regards to screen brightness, this set does have some reflection issues in a well-lit room, as well as a narrow viewing angle. Ultimately, it's not the best choice for a big living room.

Lastly, you are going to want to avoid up-scaling content. 1080p Blu-rays look incredible off disc, but streaming regular HD content or playing off of a base PS4 will start to look blurry as your eyes adjust. You'll ultimately want to upgrade your hardware to get the most out of this television.

Source: Kevin the Tech Ninja

Verdict

Overall, I would strongly recommend the TCL P-series as your first 4K television. You simply will not find a better or more capable set at this price point -- especially with the same impressive gaming features and true HDR support. It doesn't hurt that Roku TV is the best built-in software I've used on any smart television, completely eliminating the need for an external box. You really have to marvel at how much they crammed into this budget television.

And while it is easy to get carried away with the overall value of this purchase -- as I certainly have -- this TV is still not for everyone. Having 72 separate contrast zones ultimately works for HDR content, but there are still some issues with the "local-dimming" feature and how it shifts colors across the screen. Discerning viewers may consider this a deal-breaker, but the overwhelming majority of you should be happy with the results.

If you plan on buying this television for more traditional uses, like watching cable TV or sports broadcasts in a large room, you may want to look elsewhere. Not that the P-series isn't capable enough, there are just cheaper options better suited to that experience. Issues with viewing-angle and glare ultimately hurt the P-series in a living room setting.

However, if you are salivating at the chance to test your shiny new game console, if you are ready to binge all the 4K content on Netflix and Amazon, if you want real High Dynamic Range color and lighting to elevate your 4K experience, then you will look no further than the TCL-P series.

This is the cheapest way to make your 4K dream a reality.

You can buy the TCL P-Series 4K TV on Amazon for $649.99.

Our Rating
9
Find out why TCL's P-Series is currently the best bang for your gaming buck, and the best entry point into 4K/HDR gaming.
Published Apr. 12th 2018

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