Someday, all TVs will be 8K TVs. At least, that's the hope of manufacturers as they build the next generation of sets, with one of the first available being this 65-inch 8K model from TCL, the 6-Series 8K.
How much sharper is an 8K picture? Consider that originally a full-HD 1080p picture boasted 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. Then TVs moved to the current de facto standard, Ultra HD or 4K, which essentially quadrupled the number of pixels to 3,840 by 2,160. Now, 8K with a resolution of 7,680 by 4,320 pixels quadruples the numbers again. So 8K is much sharper than 4K, although, to the naked eye, it is not going to look four times sharper. Nevertheless, I was duly impressed with the TCL 6-Series 8K picture.
Is there a sudden burst of 8K programming now available for the new sets? Not by a long shot, but TCL has done an excellent job with video processing so this set ably upscales lower resolution movies and content. Furthermore, the 8K 6-Series has lots of display tech to boost the overall picture quality, including a quantum dot layer to broaden the range of reproducible colors and mini LED backlighting to improve contrast and the visibility of details in dark corners. It's an overall package that makes the 6-Series 8K an attractive option for those looking for cutting-edge picture quality.
TCL 6-Series 8K 65R648 review: price and features
As one might expect, the TCL 6-Series 8K is a full-featured set, with nearly every option included. Priced at The $2,200, the 65-inch TV is an LCD design with the aforementioned quantum dot film layer and mini LED backlighting. It supports most HDR (high dynamic range) modes for intensifying colors, including Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG (hybrid log-gamma, a standard for streaming and broadcast). Gamers will appreciate the variable refresh rate support to minimize video hiccups, as well as the THX-certified game mode.
The TCL 6-Series 8K relies on Roku's smart TV software for streaming services. For making the necessary connections, the set has 4 HDMI ports, one of which is eArc to automatically recognize compliant soundbars and receivers. For audio, there's a mini analog output jack and digital optical output. Also on the back of the TV is a coaxial port for an antenna and a USB port. You can use either Ethernet or dual-band Wi-Fi to connect to your home network.
This model is not available outside of the United States. TCL in Australia does offer an 8K model in the form of the X925 but this is a Google TV and may differ in performance.
TCL 6-Series 8K 65R648 review: picture performance
When it comes to the picture, it's all in the details and this set gives you plenty to look at. Overall, I found the TCL 6-Series 8K delivered better than average brightness, without blowing out images, and had excellent screen uniformity; there were no blotchy areas or shading in the corners of the picture. Image settings are rudimentary, however. There are the requisite preset picture modes: Movie, Vivid, Normal, Sports, Gaming, and Low Power. There is no Filmmaker Mode, however, but the existing Movie mode turns off most of the objectionable video processing effects like motion smoothing that can introduce false-looking elements and even picture distortion. I used this mode for the majority of my testing.
For 8K performance assessment, most of what's available to view in this resolution feature panoramic tours of Switzerland and jungle and nature scenes. Yes, you can count the terra cotta tiles on rooftops in Tun and experience some wild drone photography, but it gets old fast. Roku features the Explorers, an 8K premium channel for $2.99 a month, but i didn't feel it was worth the price. Most of the content involves short videos of beluga whales cavorting in the icy waters of the arctic and other short videos featuring the tallest animals in the world and petroglyphs.
Still, 8K YouTube videos of Alaska and Polynesian villages really popped in Movie mode. I found the closer you get to the TCL 6-Series, the better it looks, so it's suitable for smaller spaces when you still want a big picture. Colors were realistic and details like fur and hair looked rich and full. The set also had very good horizontal axis viewing, but on the vertical axis if you are looking from above or below the 6-Series screen, colors tend to wash out quickly. In other words, don't have an installer put this set over a fireplace.
A lot of current streaming programming is in 4K now, so I also tested the TCL 8K 6-Series with 4K movies to see how well it upscaled such material. The set did extremely well, whether it was detailing Rey's lightsaber slicing through the wing of Kylo Ren's ship in Star Wars Rise of Skywalker, or the sweat dripping off of Willard's brow as the patrol boat meandered upriver in Apocalypse Now. There is some loss of subtly in high-contrast scenes, such as nighttime campfire settings, but the TV still delivered deep blacks and excellent color saturation.
It's true that you cannot derive details from 4K or HD material that is not there to begin with. The Beatles still look slightly fuzzy in Get Back, eliciting a sixties patina, for example. And I did see some minor posterization in Hail Caesar!, although the recreation of vibrant pinks, glittering golds, and rosey reds was mesmerizing.
TCL 6-Series 8K 65R648 review: sound quality
The Roku sound options on the TCL 6-Series 8K set keep things simple. There are six self-explanatory preset modes: Music, Theater, Speech, Big Bass, Normal, and High Treble. To pump up the volume, the set has two 15-watt speakers and a built-in 30-watt subwoofer.
If you're looking for more bottom end on explosive soundtracks, you won't necessarily have to add a soundbar to this set. A passive radiator on the back of the TV yielded much better bass on Aha's "Take On Me" than I usually experience on a TV. It also made for an appropriately gravelly narration from Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now. And I achieved party-level, neighbor-annoying volumes with TCL 6-Series at just 75 percent of its output, without appreciable distortion.
However, if more precise sound is what you're after, you might consider checking out soundbar options. I found the 6-Series' audio in music mode somewhat muddled with midrange instruments all mushed together. On Steely Dan's hit "Reelin' in the Years," Jeff Baxter's guitar was buried in the mix while the bass guitar melted into the electric keyboards.
On the other hand, the TCL 6-Series 8K did a satisfactory job with movies. The preset theater mode didn't muffle the dialogue, delivering a distinct and clear center channel. The Theater mode setting emphasizes higher notes but managed to create the illusion of a wider sound stage and directionality, such as tracking the sound of a helicopter traversing the screen.
TCL 6-Series 8K 65R648 review: design and usability
By today's flat-panel standards, the TCL 6-Series 8K is a big bulky TV. The panel itself is one inch thick, which distends out to roughly three inches in parts to accommodate the electronics and sound system in the back. And not that I’m fat-shaming it or anything, but the 65-inch set tips the scales at over 70 pounds. That means you shouldn't try to maneuver it up stairs by yourself (take my word for it), and if you're planning to put it atop a credenza, make sure you're using a sturdy piece of furniture.
The TCL 6-Series 8K rests on a 12-inch deep, center-mounted wedge-shaped stand, reminiscent of LG's wedge stand on its B1 OLED TVs. The support is stable and elegant, but it means you can't inconspicuously slide a soundbar or cable box directly under the set.
The TCL set uses one of the most amenable and recognizable smart TV interfaces, Roku's streaming channels software. It hasn't changed much over the years because it's clear, concise, and easy to master, supporting thousands of streaming online channels (even spats with YouTube and Spectrum are a thing of the past). The built-in voice search adds yet another level of simplicity and worked well in a variety of settings looking for titles across all channels, as well as searching for videos on YouTube. Voice control can also be configured to work with Siri, Alexa, and Google.
With this premium set, you also get a premium remote. Its silver facade boasts the usual Roku controls, with a 4-way directional pad and "Ok" button in the center. There are also four dedicated buttons for Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, and Disney +, along with volume controls on the right side of the remote.
TCL 6-Series 8K 65R648 review: verdict
While there may be plenty of skeptics in the audience, TV's future is headed toward 8K. True, there is a pronounced paucity of 8K material to watch right now, and the higher resolution videos that are available do present a challenge. Downloading such material can be a chore on a standard 200 Mbps cable Internet connection, and streaming material faces buffering delays, even for short videos. Nevertheless, I was impressed with the 8K TCL 6-Series' ability to upscale current 4K content, and if you want to be prepared for the 8K future, this 65-inch set only represents a price jump of a couple of hundred dollars over premium 4K sets.
TCL 6-Series 8K 65R648 review: also consider
If you're not ready for, or convinced of the 8K future, there are plenty of high-end 4K TV sets that perform well, even compared to this 8K model. OLED TVs, such as LG's B1, for example, deliver very intense pictures and cost substantially less (the 65-inch LG B1 is $1,699).
On the other hand, if you are focused on 8K TVs, Samsung and LG have models with similar display technology to consider. The 65-inch Samsung QN800A 8K QLED TV features quantum-dot color and mini LED backlighting, as does the 65-inch LG QNED MiniLED 99 Series 8K TV. Both models are available at retail now for $2,700.