Review: Mini-LED and Google TV are available on the TCL 6-Series without breaking the bank.

No matter how you feel about them, smart TVs are here to stay. Fortunately, the software that runs these TVs just keeps getting better, and Google TV has been working really hard to establish itself as a big player in the industry. I’ve used TCL’s 6-Series mini-LED Google TV for the past few months, and all things considered, it’s a fantastic alternative. If you’re shopping, you should be aware of the following.

SETUP, HARDWARE, ANDAMP; The picture quality of your TV normally comes first, but in TCL’s semi-premium target market, physical hardware is important. Therefore, I believe TCL’s 6-Series has a fantastic appearance. The panel’s sides have smooth corners that give it a sleek appearance, and the bezels are narrow enough to disappear when viewing actual content. The fabric and faux-brushed metal elements at the bottom of the panel heighten the appearance without drawing attention away from the display. Overly ambitious TV designs can come off as obtrusive, while incredibly cheap models can quickly veer into the realm of being blatantly ugly. Even though the TV’s back feels like extremely cheap plastic, TCL managed to strike a good balance here.

TCL generously provides four HDMI ports on this TV in addition to Ethernet, 3.5mm audio, and optical audio connectors on a 55-inch display. Although the controls for those features are hidden in Google TV’s display settings, HDMI connectors offer two ports that allow 4K@120Hz and variable refresh rate. There isn’t a specific shortcut for a game like you could find on some other high-end TVs.

Given that I utilized this TV in my office and don’t currently own the newest game consoles, my testing with HDMI is, admittedly, quite restricted. Nevertheless, the tests I did conduct went rather smoothly. This TV’s CEC compatibility with third-party streaming devices was unaffected, and HDMI from my desktop PC had relatively minimal latency, especially when compared to a somewhat earlier Roku TV that previously occupied the same space.

Nevertheless, researcher Kyle Bradshaw did have some CEC-related troubles on his TCL 5-Series TV, which utilizes comparable hardware and software. He clarifies:

In actuality, your chances of the TCL being awakened by a gaming device like the Nintendo Switch or PS5 are roughly 50/50. Sometimes the HDMI-CEC signal won’t be recognized by the TV, even though it is already on.

Unfortunately, peculiarities like these are all too common with smart TVs, whether they run Google/Android TV or not.

The Google Home app on your smartphone will be used mostly for setup, though you can handle sign-in directly on the TV with the remote if you want. One Google account can be used for everything, even using a TCL account for certain of the brand’s unique features.

PUBLICATION AND SOUND I’ve been using TCL’s 55-inch 6-Series TV for the past few months, and it’s been a reliable display performer on all counts.

The panel features surprisingly deep blacks and strong contrast thanks to TCL’s use of mini-LED, and there is little to no light bloom in darker areas. I’ve recently grown particularly sensitive to light bloom, which occurs when a bright section of the screen bleeds into a scene’s darker areas as my main TV ages. Although not the greatest I’ve ever seen, TCL’s local dimming performance is consistently good. The screen has a great deal of brightness and can easily withstand reflections from strong illumination. I also find TCL’s standard color science to be attractive.

But when it comes to displays, I’m not an expert. I’d highly suggest reading the deep-dive performed by RTings.com for a more thorough examination, where the TCL 6-Series managed an overall score of 8.3 with notable highlights in HDR gaming and movies.

As may be expected, the sound quality was at best mediocre. When it comes to built-in speakers, you might do much worse, but in a home theater setting, you’ll need some external audio without a doubt.

The TCL 6-Series TV’s Google TV software and the rest of the company’s Google TV lineup got off to a rough start. Prior to the TVs officially coming on sale, I was happy with my initial assessment, but early purchasers found that performance was far from perfect, and it even caused Best Buy to withdraw the product from its online shop for a few weeks late last year.

TCL has since tried to enhance the performance, and it unquestionably had an effect. Today’s 6-Series is more easier to use than it was last year. Comparable in some ways to Google’s own Chromecast device is the experience. While the platform generally functions smoothly, there are occasional instances of loading lag on the homescreen or slow-loading apps. Periodic complete reboots also significantly increase performance.

On the software front, TCL also offers a similar fundamental Google TV experience. You can choose to have an apps-only experience, which disables the majority of smart features for only your streaming apps, and you will receive recommendations for content all over your homescreen. There is also a basic mode, which, in my opinion, is a welcome addition for anyone who would rather utilize a third-party streaming stick or a gaming console for their entertainment needs, removes all of the smart capabilities and essentially makes the TV function as a dumb TV. However, I spent the vast majority of my time using this TV as a stand-alone device. There were enough of native Google TV apps and built-in cast to meet my needs.

The storage is the major advantage of Google TV on TCL’s TV over a third-party dongle. On its 6-Series TV, TCL offers 24GB of storage, which is four times more than you’ll get on most Android TV/Google TV dongles. It gives the system plenty of breathing room and prevents me from having to decide whether or not to use a particular program out of concern that I may reach my storage limit, as I frequently do on my Chromecast. It’s also advantageous that TCL comes with a good selection of pre-installed apps, many of which are TCL-specific tools, like with IMDb TV, Pandora, and Sling TV.

A common and legitimate debate is if TCL’s Google TV models are superior to Roku. Roku is well-liked for a reason, but my opinion is that it all comes down to priorities. The flexibility of the OS is where Google TV models excel; unlike Roku, which forces you to use only the apps available in its store, Google TV’s Android foundation allows for sideloading and other options. Even better, the site now officially offers more through its store. For instance, Google TV supports cloud gaming platforms like Stadia and GeForce Now, both of which performed admirably on the 6-Series device I tried, even when connected only via Wi-Fi. These are the kinds of things that set Google TV apart, even though nearly every major streaming provider supports it just fine.

However, TCL did make a few minor changes to Google TV that you won’t find on other gadgets. For starters, the update process has been changed to use TCL rather than Google. Although TCL’s update mechanism can be a little bit pushy for my liking and prompt updates at inconvenient times, in this case it is fine. That’s something I normally don’t like, but in this case it is fine. However, during my review time, most upgrades were carried out in the background.

Another change is a multitasking row with a shortcut to the TCL Channel and a list of your most recently used apps. Although the pre-loaded service offers free content with advertisements, I was never able to find any that I wanted to view. If the service wasn’t promoted so strenuously through this menu and a separate button on the remote, that would be nice. Shortcuts to the system settings and the input can both be accessed from this menu.

A second TCL Home menu, which is a separate piece of software, is present next to it and is styled to resemble Google TV’s fast settings menu. You’ll discover shortcuts to Media Player, an application for playing locally stored video and audio files, the Gallery, a program for viewing locally stored photographs, and Safety Guard, an application for enhancing storage and performance. Although you can change where these services are located, you cannot add your own. A significant Home Control component is also present, and when I saw that it only functions with TCL’s smart home products, I was a little disappointed.

ASSISTANT FROM GOOGLE The TCL 6-Series incorporates a variety of far-field microphones to access Assistant with a straightforward Hey Google command, similar to many other current Android TV and Google TV smart TVs. Although it sounds fantastic in theory, in my opinion, it is not entirely TCL’s fault. Simply put, Google has to put a lot of effort into the Assistant on Android TV.

These always-listening commands on Google TV will display Assistant over whatever is currently playing, frequently for far too long; this also occurs regardless of what you’re doing, which could be harmful during a gaming session. In terms of performance, Google Assistant on Google TV still has a lot to be desired. It loads slowly both when processing requests and immediately before you say Hey Google before you actually utter your demand. Somehow, when the TV’s screen was on compared to when it was off, performance was poorer.

I had hoped that this would completely replace my office’s Nest Hub, however the poor speed and content pauses made me turn the feature off. If this were, for example, a TV in a bedroom, I could see the performance being very fine, but it would be rather grating in a living room. Fortunately, there is a physical switch to turn the microphones off and turn off Assistant.

REMOTE The TCL 6-Series Google TV’s integrated control is quite functional. Although it isn’t completely devoid of buttons, the tall design is pleasant in the hand. Along the top are buttons for power, menu, watchlist, Assistant, and settings. The D-Pad is sizable. You’ll find the home and return buttons, as well as a shortcut for live TV, beneath the navigation pad (to Google TVs Live tab).

You will then notice three buttons with uninspiring icons. The first is a keyboard button, which I couldn’t for the life of me get to do anything with. The next icon is a stack, which is meant to symbolize recently used apps. Although this one is simple to learn, the icon is not at all intuitive because it is not used anywhere else in TCL’s software. Finally, there is a button with three squares on it that may be used to enter TCL Home, a menu with access to a few useful programs that was previously described. Again, this is counterintuitive, but at least TCL’s program uses the same icon. Finally, there are four content shortcuts shown below for TCL Channel, Netflix, YouTube, and Prime Video. By default, none of these buttons can be remapped.

The absence of a button specifically for accessing HDMI inputs bothered me. Accessing an HDMI input requires at least four clicks, which is not a significant concern but is neither ideal nor really intuitive. The sole redeeming grace in this situation is that Google TV always displays your most recent HDMI input prominently on the homescreen.

On the side of the remote, there is a volume rocker and a mute button.

Unfortunately, there are replacements for one flaw. In contrast to TCL’s well-liked Roku TVs, it can be difficult to find a replacement remote for the company’s Google TVs, should you shatter it or have a puppy determined to destroy what appears to be a beautiful plastic chew toy. TCL recommended I get a replacement remote from its authorized parts provider . Fortunately, since this is Android TV, you can also use a standard remote, albeit you won’t have access to TCL’s unique shortcuts.

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LAST THOUGHTS Looking at the wider picture reveals the advantage, even though TCL’s standard starting price of $949 for this 55-inch model doesn’t actually allow this item to come within the description of being cheap. Even without promotions, there is a price difference of about $800 between the 65-inch LG mini-LED and the 65-inch TCL. Today, TCL’s asking price is as low as $749, so I believe you’ll be satisfied with your purchase.

In the US, you can get TCL’s 6-series Google TV range from Best Buy .
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