4K TVs are getting more and more popular, and smart TVs are at the point where it's almost impossible to buy a new screen without some kind of fancy integrated user interface and streaming video apps. Instead of opting for Android TV like on previous models, TCL's new C1 curved (or flat) 'QUHD' 4K TV has a smart TV system built on Linux, and it's half the price of equivalent size displays from Samsung, Sony and LG. But is it worth the asking price?
What Is It?
- Screen Size: 55-, 65-inch
- Screen Technology: Quantum Dot 'QUHD' LCD, LED edge-lit
- Smart TV: Yes
- Connectivity: 4x HDMI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0
- Dimensions: 1240x786x250mm
The TCL C1 is a 55-inch 4K Ultra HD TV with edge-lit LED lighting and a $1799 price tag, while an identically-specced curved screen will set you back $2099. You can also buy it in a 65-inch variant for $2899 and $3199 respectively. All four screens make up TCL's 'QUHD' range of high-end LCD televisions, each with a feature-set generally restricted to significantly more expensive TV screens from TCL's Korean and Japanese rivals.
QUHD is a marketing catch-all for TCL's use of a quantum dot LCD panel (which has a wider colour gamut than a regular LCD), local dimming from the edge-lit LEDs (which boosts contrast in specific screen areas) and HDR (which is that excellent next-generation picture quality standard). These are the specs you'd normally only find on the higher end panels of Samsung and Sony and LG LED-backlit LCD TVs, but there's also a catch: the C1 doesn't support HDR, a feature restricted to the as-yet-unreleased X1.
What's It Good At?
When you're displaying true, native 4K content to it -- video delivered in 3840x2160 pixels, at the TCL C1's supported 24Hz cinematic refresh rate -- this TV can actually look pretty good. We hooked it up to Samsung's UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player and ran through a couple of 4K Blu-ray discs like The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road and Deadpool, and the results were impressive. The same is true for 4K games from a powerful PC.
But the vast majority of content out there still isn't 4K -- more on that later. If apart from live TV and Ultra HD Blu-rays, all you want to watch is Netflix, then the TCL C1 has you covered: of the few apps that its smart interface has pre-installed, Netflix is one, and it's generally quite quick to load and to navigate around using the four-way controller on the candybar remote. And if you have faster internet than most of Australia, you'll be pleased with the quality that even Netflix's bit-rate-limited 4K video can produce with a capable screen.
What's It Not Good At?
The TCL C1 uses a smart TV interface that we haven't seen before, based on Linux. It's controlled with a dedicated media centre-style remote, but if you're expecting a big fancy Samsung-esque interface with multiple home screens and a huge variety of apps or features, you'll be disappointed. Instead, it's a rather barebones, white-on-blue interface that is certainly straightforward to understand and navigate -- but that means it misses out on a bit of the pizazz of other screens you'll be comparing it to.
And the TV's internal scaler is not great, which means that when you're displaying anything less than already-crisp, detailed 1080p Blu-ray video, what you're seeing is somewhat blurrier and less distinct than it is on other new quantum dot Ultra HD panels we've seen in the last few months and years. This is a screen that needs high quality video -- 1080p or 4K -- to prop it up. Other screens will do a better job with lower quality content. The lack of HDR, too, hurts the TCL C1's compatibility with the latest and greatest 4K Blu-ray players and streaming services.
Should You Buy It?
Price: from $1799
- Good picture quality at 4K resolution.
- Cheap price for a large screen size.
- Integrated Netflix app.
- Mediocre image quality below 1080p.
- Basic Smart TV interface.
- No HDR support.
TCL's C1 LED TV does a reasonably good job for the price you're paying for it -- we'd say it's roughly equivalent to last year's mid-tier (Series 7) Samsung LED TVs in terms of the best possible picture quality that you can get out of it. That makes it more than adequate for the casual viewer, but if you intend to use it for some serious console or 4K PC gaming, or if you're a major cinephile then you'd best look at a newer display from one of the major manufacturers that sell large volumes to the Australian market.
If you're looking for a curved TV in as large a size as possible without paying the premium of other massive curved TVs, then you really only have a choice of this screen. Your only alternative is to buy a Samsung or LG curved screen at the same price for a 55-inch that you'd be able to buy a 65-inch TCL C1 for; that makes it pretty good value if all you want is a screen a little else more. With that in mind, finding a run-out deal on last year's premium Samsung or LG curved TVs -- if you can still find one -- might turn out to be a better package overall.