TCL’s 6-Series TVs have continually wowed us with their performance and affordability. All of these TVs are powered by the Roku TV platform, which has a user-friendly and intuitive UI but isn’t particularly feature-rich. TCL’s Google TV 4K 6-Series TVs provide an option. Google Cast screen mirroring, hands-free Google Assistant and excellent app and service compatibility are all included in the purchase of the Roku TV 4K 6-Series devices (the 55-inch 55R646 we tested retails for $949.99). (though they give up the Apple AirPlay support included in Roku TV). The contrast performance is better, and the input lag is reduced, compared to the Roku devices. However, TCL’s Google TV 6-Series comes in a close second to the Hisense U8G series in terms of brightness, receiving our Editors’ Choice award together with the Hisense model.
TCL 55-Inch 6-Series 4K Google TV 55R646 Best Affordable Google TV
- Color and contrast are both excellent
- Google TV, Google Cast, and Google Assistant with voice control
- Low latency of the input
- Neither AMD FreeSync nor Nvidia G-Sync are supported
- There is no Apple AirPlay
TCL 55-INCH 6-SERIES 4K GOOGLE TV 55R646 SPECS
|Screen Size||55 inches|
|Resolution||3,840 by 2,160|
|Video Inputs||Composite, HDMI, RF, USB|
|HDR||Dolby Vision, HDR-10|
|Screen Brightness||1189.19 nits|
|Black Level||0.01 cd/m^2|
|Refresh Rate||120 Hz|
|Input Lag (Game Mode)||8.1 ms|
We should mention that TCL has temporarily withdrawn its Google TV devices from retail channels due to reports that the software was unstable. TCL has published a software update for the impacted devices, which we weren’t able to test because of the problem.
Aesthetic and Functional
The Google-based 55R646 and the Roku-based 55R635 are very identical in appearance. With the same thin brushed metal band running down the sides and top, the screen is framed by a chrome TCL logo on the bottom edge. V-shaped gunmetal legs with conspicuous rubber feet are likewise there, but they’re slightly lower and less apparent. On the underside of the television, there is a rectangular, dark gray, fabric-covered protrusion that indicates that this is a Google TV model and not a Roku one. This is a far-field microphone array that allows you to access Google Assistant hands-free.
Power is plugged into the left side of the back of the TV, with all other connectors facing right. In addition to two 4K120 HDMI connections, there are two USB ports, a 3.5mm composite video input, a 3.5mm headphone output, an optical audio output, an Ethernet port and a cable/antenna connector on the back of the device. A power/input button and a switch to turn off the far-field microphone are located below the ports.
With its rounded edges, the remote is a black wand with a long, thin, rectangular shape. The top of the device features a large gray navigation pad with power, settings, and Google Assistant buttons, as well as a pinhole microphone for taking voice commands. App buttons for Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, TCL Channel, and YouTube are underneath the pad’s menu buttons. The volume rocker and mute button are located on the right side of the remote.
Utilizing Google’s technology
This TCL smart TV, model 55R646, runs on the Google TV platform instead of Roku’s. On Hisense TVs, the Google TV platform has been condensed to keep all of the functionality of Android TV while emphasizing content over app choices in the menu system. Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Twitch, and YouTube are just a few of the top brands in streaming that are available. However, unlike Roku TVs, Google TV doesn’t support Apple AirPlay, so you can’t use your Android smartphone or tablet, or a Chrome browser tab, to cast to the TV.
As a result of the far-field microphone array of the 55R646, you may just say “Hey Google” to access Google’s voice-activated virtual assistant. In the past few years, some Hisense and Sony TVs have pushed this trend by integrating voice assistants directly into the remote control. Switch on the back of the device allows you to turn off or silence the mic, if that’s something you don’t like.
It is still possible to ask Google Assistant general queries like the weather or sports scores, find things to watch, and use it to manage the TV or any other connected smart home devices. Hands-free voice control makes it even more helpful.
Exceptional Color and Contrast
The TCL 55R646 has a 120Hz refresh rate and is a 4K TV. HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and hybrid log gamma are all supported formats for high dynamic range (HDR) content (HLG).
TVs like the 55R646 have an adaptive mode that tries to automatically modify the picture settings based on the content being displayed. Any picture mode that you’re currently using will be overlaid with this mode. In order to receive the most accurate representation of what the director intended, we recommend turning off this function when watching movies, and we disable it when doing our evaluations.
Because it can be made brighter as well as darker, the 55R646’s tiny LED backlight array appears superior to that of the 55R635’s. Our measurements in Movie mode with an SDR source showed that with a 100% white field, the peak brightness was 750.469cd/m2, while at 18% white field, the peak brightness was 969.671cd/m2, with a black level of just 0.002cd/m2. The contrast ratio of 594,597:1 can be achieved by using an HDR signal to boost the TV’s brightness to a maximum of 922.681 cd/m2 with a full-screen field and 1,189.194 cd/m2 with an 18% field.
Using 0.002cd/m2 and below, LED TVs capable of these figures may effectively reach nearly as dark as OLED TVs like the LG C1P. LED backlight arrays that use more and more LED zones that can be individually dimmed and brightened, giving high contrast levels and getting considerably brighter than OLED panels in the process, are largely responsible for this trend. LED zones illuminate parts of the screen rather than individual pixels, so light bloom might develop when very bright items are shown adjacent to very dark ones. This isn’t to say that OLED is obsolete, however. We didn’t observe any light bloom on the 55R646, but it’s still an issue that OLED TVs will win on as long as the pixels on a screen greatly exceed the individual LEDs that illuminate them.
Its brightness increases to 1,763.368cd/m2 with HDR signals and an 18% white field, but its contrast drops to 88,168:1 (still remarkable) due to its 0.02cd/m2 black level. Hisense U8G series. With 1,114.897cd/m2 peak brightness, a 0.015cd/m2 black level, and a 74,326:1 contrast ratio, the TCL Roku TV 6-Series falls short of both. It’s impossible to measure contrast ratio on OLED TVs like the LG C1P due of their immaculate black levels.
On the right, you can see how the 55R646 compares to Rec.709 broadcast standards and DCI-P3 digital cinema standard color values in Movie mode with an SDR signal and an HDR signal. The 55R646 is an excellent HDR and SDR performer, with realistic whites and well-balanced colors. The only (very minor) problems I have with the SDR image are that the greens are somewhat undersaturated and the yellows and magentas are a bit warm. However, despite a somewhat undersaturated green and yellow color palette, the HDR picture is superb, spanning nearly all of the DCI-P3 color space. Only cyans are somewhat out of balance, with blues, magentas, reds, and yellows all in the right place in terms of color balance.
The 55R646 displays BBC’s Planet Earth II beautifully. There is a great deal of subtle variation in the greens and blues of plants and water, making them appear vibrant and natural. Fine features like fur and bark are clearly visible in either bright or dim light.
On the 55R646, Deadpool’s red suit looks brilliant and true, even in the cloudy early moments of the film. Fire and shadow features are clearly visible in the same frame without being washed away by brilliant, blazing flames.
The 55R646’s superb contrast is on full display in The Great Gatsby’s party scenes. In contrast to the brilliant whites of balloons and shirts, the black suit’s cuts and features can be plainly seen. The harsh blacks and whites make the skin tones look natural, and the different splashes of color in the sceneries stand out wonderfully.
High-End Gaming Performance, but a Dearth of Gaming Extras
Gamer enthusiasts will appreciate the 55R646’s 120Hz refresh rate, as well as its auto low latency mode and variable refresh rate capabilities. As a side note, it doesn’t have AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync (together with FreeSync) like the Hisense U7G and U8G or the LG C1P (which also has FreeSync).
In Game mode, we measured an input lag of 8.1 milliseconds using an HDFury Diva HDMI matrix. A TV must be at least 10 milliseconds faster than this to be considered one of the finest for gaming. With a latency of 21.4%, the TCL Roku TV 4K 6-Series is slower than the Hisense U8G, which has a latency of 7.9ms. Keep in mind that the input latency increases to 119.1ms if the TV is set to Movie mode.
One of the Best Television Values.
In comparison to the well-established 4K Roku TV 6-Series, the TCL 4K Google TV 6-Series offers additional features and marginally better performance, with richer contrast and lower input lag, and hands-free Google Assistant. Apple AirPlay is the only thing you’ll have to do without. However, even though the Hisense U8G has a brighter screen, the TCL 55R646 and Hisense U8G are tied for our Editors’ Choice award due to their outstanding performance for the price. If you’re on a tight budget, the Hisense U7G has the same Android TV capabilities as the U8G but a somewhat lower performance.
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