TCL 6-Series Roku TV review: A best buy without being a TV snob

The TCL 6-Series is a great mid-range 4K TV at a great size and a great price. Period

TCL Roku 6-Series

The price of a decent 4K TV continues to drop all the time, even as the sizes continue to increase. You can get yourself something on the low end for less than $500, and hope and pray that it'll last a while, and that it won't drive you crazy in the process. Or you can get something on the high-end for a few thousand dollars and marvel at its deep blacks and stand-out colors — and wonder if you'll be able to pay for your next meal.

In the middle are TVs like TCL's 6-Series. It's a solid TV that's affordable and large. It ticks most of the boxes you'll want in a TV — and at a pretty decent size, to boot — and it'll do it for less than $1,000.

TCL's main offerings for 2018 come in 55- and 65-inch sizes. I've got the smaller of the two (as provided for review by TCL), and have been using it for a number of months now. It's running the Roku operating system, and I've used it with my usual stable of Roku "channels," which you can otherwise think of as apps.

You get what you pay for

TCL 6-Series What I like

The TCL 6-Series is one of those products that hits that sweet spot between performance and price. It's not the best TV you can buy, but it's absolutely nowhere near the bottom rung, either. You can allow yourself to be buried by buzzwords — I have no idea what "TCL's NBP Photon Technology" is, and I don't care. I'll assume that the 96 individually controlled contrast zones are a lot (more is better), but I don't know if having only 90 would cause me to reject this TV.

"What I like" boils down to this: The 6-Series is easy to set up. It's easy to use. Its Roku software should be updated for years to come. It has access to just about all the streaming TV content you could possibly want — Apple's iTunes is the only real holdout. It has a built-in tuner so you can watch TV via an over-the-air antenna to your heart's content. It's got enough ports to keep most users happy should they need another box or game console.

This TV may be the best value for your money in a long, long time.

The included remote control is simple and has some handy shortcuts. (Unless you don't use those services, in which case they're not so handy.)

The TV panel is more than good enough. No, it's not an OLED TV. Yes, you'll occasionally notice where the picture could look a little better — especially if you're looking for instances where the picture could look a little better. (Though if you're doing a lot of live streaming, the compression is going to make that a moot issue anyway.) The Dolby Vision support means that HDR content looks great in 4K.

Roku isn't my personal choice for a smart TV operating system, but there's no denying its ease-of-use, and its popularity. This is the type of TV — and type of smart TV, at that — you can plop down in front of someone who doesn't obsess over tech for a living and not worry that they'll never figure out how to use it. It's got all the major streaming services available. Netflix. Hulu. DirecTV Now. Sling TV. YouTube. Amazon Video. Vudu. Everything but Apple. (But that's true for everyone that isn't Apple.)

And Roku does well to present you with a decent world of content without having to download anything at all. Its new "Roku Channel" gets you movies and TV shows and news — all for free. It has its own download store, so you can get movies out of the box — including a nice portal for 4K content, making it easy to find what's going to look good.

And if you're looking to get a TV that makes your family say "Hunh — that's pretty big!", the 55-inch model will do that nicely. And it does it at a starting price that almost makes the larger 65-inch model a non-starter, unless you can get it on sale. A 10-inch diagonal different is a tough sell for an extra $350. (Though if you can get the 65-incher on sale, that becomes a very different argument.)

One last fun little thing — the power button on the front. I love that design, with the thumb-sized circle. It stands out. It looks cool. It is not something I have touched even a single time when using this television. But I love its idiosyncrasy. (OK, I did play around with it a little — you also use it for some basic menu functionality if you lose your remote.)

TCL Roku 6-Series

You get what you pay for

TCL 6-Series What I don't like

I have only one major complaint about this TV, and another minor one.

The biggest is that the unnamed dual-core processor and GPU get you the same sort of experience you get with any of Roku's other products. That is to say things work just fine, but they do not necessarily work quickly. The more-expensive Apple TV 4K and NVIDIA Shield (Android TV) boxes still perform better, and faster. Apps load faster and run smoother than on the 6-Series.

That's not a deal-breaker. My family doesn't notice. That's not something they complain about. But I notice. And I complain about it.

Roku still isn't my favorite smart TV system, and it's a little slow. But it's also dead simple to use.

The more minor issue is that if you're an HDHomerun user, you'll have to find some other way to watch over-the-air TV, as Roku doesn't handle the video format used by that OTA streaming box. Again, that's a niche issue — and it's something I've had to accept is just a thing . And it's also less of an issue now that more streaming services have local channels.

Any issues I might have with picture quality also are what I'd consider to be minor. Again, if you want picture-perfect clarity, go spend three or four times as much money. For what you're spending on the 6-Series, you're absolutely getting your money's worth.

I did realize as I started writing this review that I had no idea what the internal speakers sound like, because I never use internal speakers. And, guess what, they sound like a TV's internal speakers. You'll be better off with just about anything else. (Including our picks from the sub-$100 sound bar roundup .) That's precisely why Roku has come up with wireless speakers for its Roku-powered TVs, and I'll update with thoughts on that once they're on sale. But for now, just consider any other sort of external speaker setup.

TCL Roku 6-Series

If you just want a great TV, buy this

TCL 6-Series The bottom line

Again, this is one of those TVs that you can just buy and use and not worry about any sort of buyer's remorse. Well, so long as it doesn't go on sale a month later, I guess.

The TV itself is more than competent. The display is more than good enough for the price, and at the 55-inch size. I don't often wonder whether I'm watching something in 1080p resolution, or at 4K, or whether it's been upscaled or down-rezed or transmogrified or whatever. It's just a good picture that doesn't have me looking at my wallet.

If you can get the 65-inch model on sale, do it. If you have to make do with the 55-incher, you'll still be plenty happy. (In fact, I stepped down from a 65-inch inch TV with a worse display and haven't regretted it once.

Let's just put it this simply: You can spend more on a TV — but you really don't have to.