TCL 6-Series (2020): The workhorse TV

It’s not the best, but it might be in the sweet spot in terms of price

The Pros

  • Excellent colours
  • Looks decent
  • Four HDMI ports

The Cons

  • Mini-LED tech isn't perfect
  • Roku OS needs an update
  • no HDMI 2.1 for gamerz

The 2020 version of TCL’s 6-Series (2020) [55R635-CA] TV will remain available throughout 2021, which turns out to be a good thing since there’s still a lot of value in this television.

If you’re looking for a TV that offers cutting-edge picture and sound, this won’t be for you, but if you’re after an excellent television with an affordable price tag, keep reading.

Are Mini-LEDs that great?

The answer to this question is yes, and no. For the most part, the advancement of Mini-LED tech will lead to more great TVs, but it depends on how each company implements the technology.

For instance, the 2020 TCL 6-Series uses Mini-LEDs more for branding since it only fit in a few more LEDs than the previous year’s TVs that used regular-size LED diodes. However, the 6-Series from 2020 does have the smallest amount of bloom I’ve ever tested on an LED TV; it’s almost at a point of diminishing returns compared to other LED with over 100 backlights.

Bloom is the amount of light bleed that you see when a bright object is displayed on a dark scene. Imagine you’re watching a candle burning in a dark room. With no bloom, the candle and the flame are very clearly defined. With bloom, there’s a soft light glow around the light because the backlight needs to light that area instead of just the pixels that are needed.

All this is to say that it’s a really nice TV, but it’s not as perfect as the marketing might make it out to seem.

The smaller lights allowed the manufacturer to build a slightly slimmer TV, and it pays off in that respect. It also provides increased contrast, which brings overall improvements to the picture quality. This TV looks fantastic, all the colours are punchy and the contrast is really sharp, leading to a clear and colourful image.

That said, if you’re expecting OLED levels of contrast and nonexistent light bloom, you’ll be disappointed, but don’t hold that against the Series 6 (2020). Whenever you’re watching content or playing a game, the contrast and vibrant colours make the experience great, it’s not as perfect as a high-end OLED, but it’s excellent for LED.

The good

While this TV might not be the OLED slaying machine I once hoped it would be, there’s still a lot of value packed into the 6-Series.

For one, every size of the television comes with 4 HDMI 2.0 ports that can run at full bandwidth with support for Dolby Vision HDR. The fourth port also supports eARC, which allows for uncompressed audio playback if you have a high-end soundbar.

Each leg also has an integrated cable management solution, so you can semi-hide all the HDMI cables that need to run to your TV.

The overall hardware design takes a lot from the 2019 6-Series, but it’s got a slimmer overall profile and smaller bezels. While I wish it had a single centre leg instead of two legs on either side, it’s not a bad-looking set.

It’s also running Roku OS, which isn’t my favourite smart TV operating system, but it’s easier to use than Samsung or LG’s options, making it a solid base operating system for a smart TV. It’s also gotten better over the years and even includes some nice sound profiles for late-night listening.

The included Roku remote is one of the superior voice-enabled models too, and its shortcuts buttons are for Netflix, Disney+, Google Play and Global. The TV also supports AirPlay 2, so it’s also a decent fit for those in the Apple ecosystem.

The bad

While a lot of aspects of this TV are great, it still has a few issues.

For example, the set isn’t going to be the perfect device for gamers looking to hedge their bets on 120fps gaming. It has excellent picture quality and low input lag, but it’s still missing the crucial HDMI 2.1 port that supports 4K 120Hz gaming. This is a bit odd since it can output 120Hz at 1080p and 1440p, but overall the gaming experience is still pleasing, and unless you’re coming from a 4K 120Hz or 144Hz gaming TV/monitor, you likely won’t notice the omission here.

While Roku OS is super easy to use, its screensavers are awful, and the UX design has not held up that well compared to other modern TV operating systems. I’m not saying, “don’t buy this TV because of Roku,” just that I wish TCL would partner more consistently with other smart TV OS providers to give consumers additional options in Canada. For instance, the only TCL TV in Canada that doesn’t have Roku OS is the 4 Series, which you can get at Best Buy. Roku, if you’re listening, please update your interface, I’m begging you.

TCL once again ships its TVs with motion smoothing and other software effects turned on that need to be disabled out of the box. It’s also important to remember to disable it for every input you don’t want it on. Further, the TV doesn’t ship with anything like a ‘Filmmaker mode,’ which is included in other TVs. This sets the TV’s colour calibration closer to a studio reference monitor, resulting in the picture’s colour displaying as close to the creator’s intention without any added saturation or contrast.

That said, the TV does ship with Dolby Atmos, and the base-level speakers provide a pretty decent experience. The sound is clear and loud, but it’s not as full as what I’m used to. I generally use a soundbar, so that’s worth considering if you really care about audio quality. That said, the speakers are more than usable, but I’d place them more in the upper-mid-range category instead of high-end because they don’t have the depth of a soundbar or higher-end televisions.

Closing thoughts

The overarching story with the 2020 6-Series is that it’s an upper-mid-range set with lofty ambitions, but doesn’t quite punch above its weight class.

It’s a solid TV and likely my new top recommendation to most people looking for a reasonably priced television, but its lack of forward-thinking HDMI ports and weak speaker array doesn’t make this the king of TVs.

The best part about the TV is its screen. In motion, whether playing a game or watching TV, it holds up fine, and the deep colours and punchy contrast make it impressively easy on the eyes.

If you’re after OLED quality at a third of the price, you’re not going to find it here. If you’re looking to update an older 4K or 1080p TV from the last five years or so, then you’re definitely going to notice a reasonable upgrade in your viewing experience.

The 55-inch model retails for $899, the 65-inch set is $1,299 and the 75-inch set is $2,000 in Canada. While the prices are fair, I’m hoping that the TVs go on sale or drop in price a bit now that TCL is on the verge of releasing the 2021 version of this TV. If the company could shave $200 off each of these prices, they’d be a steal.