By Ali Pardiwala | Updated: 19 June 2020 17:45 IST
The TCL 55C715 4K QLED TV is priced at Rs. 55,990
TCL’s latest television features a QLED panel
You get support for HDR up to the Dolby Vision format
The TCL 55C715 does have some software flaws
Most TVs these days use LED-backlit LCD panels, which are the most common and affordably priced of all the different types of TV screens, but the limitations of the technology can hold them back when it comes to performance. For buyers looking at a more premium viewing experience, OLED is our usual recommendation. However, OLED TVs are very expensive, and usually out of most buyers' budgets. Fortunately, there is now a middle ground - QLED, or Quantum Dot LED TVs. These televisions try to bridge the gap between LED and OLED by offering a boosted LED experience of sorts.
Although QLED TVs have so far been expensive, recent launches from Samsung and OnePlus have made this screen tech much more reasonably priced than before. Following in this trend now is TCL, with the C715 series. The company has a strong presence in the affordable space in India, and is now looking to make inroads into more premium segments with its latest television range. This comes soon after the launch of its P715 series in India.
Today, we're reviewing the 55-inch TCL 55C715 television, which is priced at Rs. 55,990. This 4K QLED TV comes with support for Dolby Vision, and promises a better viewing experience for a price that's just a hint higher than what many popular 55-inch LED TVs go for. Is it worth bumping your budget up a bit for the TCL 55C715? Find out in our review.
The TCL 55C715 is a QLED TV priced only a bit higher than what many LED TVs go for
TCL 55C715 design and specifications
We received the 55-inch variant of the TCL C715 series for review; this is a popular size for premium televisions, and one that we personally feel is ideal for most homes. The TCL 55C715 is big, but not too big; if you would prefer a different size, the company also has 50-inch and 65-inch models available in this range.
The television looks good thanks to a metal frame around the screen. Although the bezels are just about the same as we'd see on most 55-inch televisions, the way this TV is designed makes the borders appear narrower. There's a TCL logo on the metal chin at the bottom, and a fabric-wrapped module just below that holds the IR receiver and indicator lights. The back of the TCL 55C715 is plain black plastic; while it's slim near the edges, it does get considerably thicker at the centre and bottom.
All the ports on the TCL 55C715 face to the right of the screen, while the power socket is on the left. The TV is well equipped, with three HDMI ports, two USB ports, a LAN port, an Antenna In socket, digital audio out (Optical), a single AV-In socket which can be used with an adapter, and a 3.5mm audio out socket for headphones or speakers. You can, of course, connect the TV to the Internet using Wi-Fi 2.4GHz and 5GHz, and HDMI ARC is supported on the HDMI 1 port. The ports and sockets were easy to access for us.
The television comes with stands in the box to table-mount it, but it is possible to wall-mount the TV as well. Although there wasn't a wall-mount kit included with our review unit, we were able to use a standard VESA wall-mount kit that we had. A rather thoughtful touch from TCL in this regard was including the screws to attach the required bracket at the back of the TV itself, which made it easy for us to wall-mount the television ourselves.
The TCL 55C715 has a 55-inch Ultra-HD (3840x2160 pixels) QLED screen, and supports high dynamic range content up to the Dolby Vision standard. There is also local dimming, with 1,296 zones to allow for effective dimming of darker zones on the screen. For sound, there is a bottom firing dual-speaker system with 30W of output, and sound formats up to the Dolby Atmos and DTS-HD formats are supported. The TV has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of in-built storage for apps and games, and is powered by a 64-bit quad-core processor.
TCL 55C715 remote and features
While we've typically only seen hands-free voice controls on premium televisions such as the Sony A9G, TCL has been offering this feature even on its affordable ranges. It's available on the TCL 55C715, and the TV is always listening for a ‘wake word' voice command – “OK Google” or “Hey Google”. This lets you access Google Assistant with only your voice, similar to how smart speakers such as the Google Home work. You can disable this with a small physical switch at the bottom right corner of the TV.
Voice control worked well for us, and we were able to give instructions to Google Assistant for functions beyond what is on the TV, such as setting reminders and timers. Of course, we could also request information or ask Google Assistant to open specific apps or content on the television itself.
You get hands-free access to Google Assistant on the TV, thanks to far-field voice recognition
If you choose to keep the in-built microphone off, you can still use Google Assistant through the remote, which has its own button and microphone. The Bluetooth remote, which runs on AAA batteries, also has a hotkey for Netflix and a button to start the TCL launcher. Apart from this, there are the standard buttons to adjust the volume, access settings and change the source, Android TV keys, and a D-pad to navigate the interface.
The only notable omission here is a mute button; you'll have to hold the volume down key to reduce the volume to zero if needed. It's a convenient and compact remote, but we did experience some pairing issues with it, for example it lost its Bluetooth pairing with the TV on a couple of occasions, and worked only using the IR emitter. However, the pairing process is easy and quick enough, so this was only a small inconvenience.
TCL 55C715 software and interface
For our review, we received a pre-release unit of the TCL 55C715 which had a few critical software issues, including a non-functional Amazon Prime Video app and volume that was too low even at the maximum level. However, most of the issues we had were fixed through a software update, and the company has assured us that retail units will ship with the updated software.
Till recently, most smart TV makers developed their own software interfaces based on Android or Linux frameworks, but we've seen many manufacturers now go with official Android TV. The TCL 55C715 officially runs Android TV 9 Pie, but this isn't quite the stock version we've seen on televisions from brands such as Sony and Vu. There are some tweaks, including the TCL launcher, and some workarounds when it comes to specific apps. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are preinstalled on the television.
The Google Play store is present and we were able to install some of our usual apps, but we noticed that Amazon Prime Video wasn't listed even though it's preinstalled, for reasons unknown.
The TCL 55C715 runs Android TV 9 Pie
The TCL Launcher is a lot like Xiaomi's PatchWall interface, in that it promotes content rather than apps. However, we found the content curation to be strange and random, with far too much regional content in multiple Indian languages, which could not possibly all be relevant to everyone. The TCL Launcher is also quite slow to load and navigate around, and relies on subscriptions to paid services to fetch much of its content. We recommend sticking to the Android TV interface with the TCL 55C715.
Despite the software update that we received, there were still some issues with the TV. The most significant of these was sluggishness; the TCL 55C715 would usually take a while to open apps such as Netflix and YouTube, and we sometimes saw long delays between us pressing a button on the remote and the TV responding. While basic functions such as adjusting the volume or navigation were quick enough, the hotkeys, Google Assistant button, and source selection buttons' functions often took a couple of seconds to be carried out. The TV has a quick boot mode that worked fine, but we noticed that it would slow down and get buggy every few days, and would need a full reboot to fix those issues.
TCL 55C715 performance
While there are some misses with the TCL 55C715 at launch time when it comes to the software, the TV makes up for this with performance. The benefits of the QLED screen are visible from the get-go, and the TV offers a decent all-round viewing experience with all kinds of content. We obviously enjoyed watching Ultra-HD Dolby Vision content on the 55C715 the most, but we were equally impressed with how the TV handled lower resolution content up to full-HD.
We used the TCL 55C715's Android TV apps to stream content during our review, and also tested the TV with our collection of sample video clips. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video on the television were able to stream in 4K and Dolby Vision or HDR10 respectively, and we also used other services such as Hotstar, YouTube, YouTube Kids, and the NDTV app to stream news.
Space Force on Netflix looked brilliant on the TCL 55C715, thanks to Dolby Vision support
As we usually do, we started off with Dolby Vision content on the TCL 55C715, including Our Planet and Space Force on Netflix. Dolby Vision usually works best with OLED and QLED TVs because of the better colours and brightness that are possible, and that was immediately visible on the TCL TV. Our Planet looked astounding; the picture was bright, sharp, and incredibly vibrant. The colours were expectedly punchy and appealing, especially scenes in bright daylight where the sky looked natural and life-like.
Playing any Dolby Vision content usually adjusts the picture automatically, using one of two Dolby Vision viewing modes to get the brightness and colour levels right for the TV. The TCL 55C715 has a similar setting for HDR10 content as well, and we were quite impressed with how the TV performed with The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime Video, as well as our sample video clips. However, it did take some effort for us to get the colour and brightness settings right with standard dynamic range content.
Non-HDR 4K content looked good enough after some careful tuning, although we did find the colours to be a bit too forced when it came to warm tones, particular skin and shades of brown, as seen during an episode of Better Call Saul. We liked how bright the TV was in these cases, but the zone-specific brightness of HDR content wasn't visible with SDR content.
The TCL 55C715 has micro-dimming with 1,296 zones, but we found this to be a bit too proactive when set to High. Setting it to a lower level improved the picture significantly, allowing for deeper blacks in some dark content such as Night On Earth on Netflix. While blacks aren't quite as deep as the actual pixel-off blacks that we've seen on good OLED TVs, the TCL 55C715 did come as close to accurate as a QLED TV can.
The remote of the TCL 55C715 is minimalist, with hotkeys for Netflix and the TCL launcher
Coming to lower-resolution content, full-HD was decent enough as the TCL 55C715 did a good job of upscaling. Watching episodes of Modern Family and Artemis Fowl on the TCL TV, the picture was obviously less impressive than with 4K content because of the impact of the 55-inch screen size, but was still enjoyable and comfortably watchable. Colours and brightness largely maintained their quality, with only sharpness seeing an expected drop.
Dropping further down to 720p and standard definition content, the experience was much less enjoyable. The TV didn't do as good a job of upscaling the content, further impacted by the large screen. Watching NDTV news in standard definition, as well as children's videos on YouTube, we found the picture to be hazy, dull, and full of motion flaws and artefacts. As is the case with most of the mid-range and high-end televisions we've reviewed, the TCL 55C715 isn't quite right for you if you watch a lot of standard definition content such as older YouTube videos and cable or DTH TV.
Sound quality on the TCL 55C715 is just about fine; it's clear enough at moderate volumes, doesn't have too much volume fluctuation, and is tuned well for the audio of most movies and TV shows. You can set the sound mode to focus on vocals, which helps you hear dialogues clearly, and we appreciated this. We tested Dolby Atmos with one of our sample clips, and while we could hear some sense of direction and definition in the sound, the bottom-firing box speakers didn't quite have enough in them to do justice to the format.
Given that this is a large TV with impressive picture quality, we'd recommend a good soundbar or speaker system for a matching sound experience. The built-in speakers don't quite live up to the standards of the screen, and even excellent audio format support doesn't make enough of a difference.
Dolby Vision makes a big difference in improving brightness and colours on the TCL 55C715
Buyers in India often pay more attention to the size and resolution of a TV, with less consideration given to the type of screen. While LED is the default for most buyers, TCL's new C715 series has made it possible to consider a better type of television without a significant price bump. At a price that is just a bit higher than what similar-sized LED TVs sell for, TCL offers the benefits of a QLED screen with the 55C715.
That said, the TCL 55C715's software is far from perfect, and was frustratingly slow for us at times. Additionally, while the TV performs very well with high-quality content, lower-resolution video is far less than ideal. If you're heavily invested in streaming services and can pick up a decent streaming device such as the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K or Mi Box 4K to override the TV's software, you'll be happy with the TCL 55C715.
Mi TV 4X vs Vu Cinema TV: Which is the best budget TV in India right now? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.