Q: We want to buy televisions for our kids and their families as gifts. We have $500 per television budgeted and would like at least a 50-inch screen size. Any recommendations?
A: Go straight to the TCL 55-inch 5 Series 4K Roku TV, $449. I love finding exceptional values for my readers, and this is one of them.
Since their introduction in April, TCL 6 Series televisions (tclusa.com) have become the toast of the town among professional reviewers and audio/video hobbyists. They have been praised for delivering premium picture quality that is competitive with upper-end TVs from top-tier manufacturers, but at one-third to one-half the price. I chose to review the 55-inch 5 Series because it struck me as a great value, sharing many features of the 6 Series as well as the promise of premium picture quality.
I should start by saying that I am a TV snob. Almost every TV I have purchased since 2002 has been top-of-the-line. It was the only way to get the performance and quality I demand, plus it provides a reference point for evaluating other TVs. Other than LG OLED models, I have not enthusiastically gotten behind any TV recommendation since plasma went away. That has changed with this TV.
The TCL 5 Series is a Smart TV, and the Roku interface makes setup and operation a breeze. For 4K HDR (high dynamic range), it supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, a rarity in TVs under $500.
It was easy to adjust the TV for a great picture. I left most of the picture settings on normal, but changed the color temperature to warm and bumped the color up to between 60 and 70 from the midpoint of 50. Football sometimes looked best using the "movie" setting instead of "sports."
Picture quality is excellent. I reviewed it with over-the-air broadcasts, 1080p content from DISH satellite TV and Blu-ray, and 4K content from 4K UltraHD Blu-ray. Colors are natural, yet bright and beautiful, flesh tones are realistic and shadows don't break down into an inky mass. Motion is free from the artificial "CGI look" I see on so many TVs, even expensive ones.
Blu-ray movies are the killer app for this TV. Regular Blu-ray looks phenomenal, and 4K UltraHD Blu-ray looks mouthwateringly cinematic. I felt like I was in my local luxury theater with its top-of-the-line digital projection system. I strongly recommend using 4K UltraHD Blu-ray players and discs with this TV. It is definitely worth the investment.
If you spend more on a TV, you might get a better picture, but you also might not. You might even get a picture that is not as good. An LG OLED would be better across the board, but those start at around $1,500. Most people would be happier with "excellent" for $449 than "perfect" for $1,500. I get that.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.