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Since first launching in 2018, TCL’s 6-Series TVs have been celebrated as some of the best value displays around, striking a fantastic balance between price and performance year after year. So, it was something of a surprise when TCL announced it would rework its entire lineup in 2023 and do away with the 6-Series altogether.
But buyers don’t need to worry too much. Though the 6-Series name might be retired, its legacy lives on in TCL’s brand-new Q7 4K TV. There are some changes that make this new model a little dimmer than last year’s 6-Series, but the Q7 still offers a sweet picture, a smart design, and plenty of extras. Throw in its handy Google TV operating system, and TCL has rolled out another winner for value shoppers.
And best of all, the Q7 is already on sale, with a current street price in the $850 range for the 65-inch model. Buyers can also opt for a 55-, 75-, or 85-inch screen size. It’s not perfect, but the Q7 is easily one of the best 4K TVs you can buy for under $1,000.
The Q7’s setup is simple and its design is stylish for its class
Though we miss the 2022 6-Series’ fancy pedestal stand, the Q7 now offers convenient functionality with its reversible leg stands. This makes it easy to fit the TV on entertainment consoles alongside other gear like a soundbar. The hardware setup is lickety-split, requiring just a few screws to get it up and running. The biggest issue with unboxing the Q7 is pulling off all the dang plastic tape. TCL, we implore you, less tape.
The design isn’t notably fancy, but it rises above entry-level offerings with a slick back panel, slim bezels with brushed-metallic edging, and an easy-access input cubby on the back right side with helpful labels on each port. While the included remote is a little long and clunky, it’s conveniently backlit and offers a microphone for Google voice search.
The TV boasts great picture quality that will impress your guests
The Q7 is powered by TCL’s AIPQ Engine Gen3, which is the same processor used in the step-up QM8. It’s designed to “intelligently optimize” the display’s 4K resolution and HDR color, contrast, and sharpness. Whatever TCL is doing, it’s working.
Despite the new name, the Q7 maintains that trademark 6-Series flair, with good depth and contrast, rich and vibrant color reproduction, and impressive brightness for the money. This is especially notable in highlights like sunlight sparkling on the water, explosions, or flashing police lights.
This display can dazzle friends and family that are used to entry-level TVs, especially when its playing colorful content like high dynamic range (HDR) animated films or nature programming. It’s this kind of near-premium experience at a midrange price that has brought TCL into so many US homes in recent years, and the Q7 carries the torch.
On the downside, the Q7 uses a regular LED backlight with local dimming rather than the Mini LED variety used on the 2022 6-Series. This, in a nutshell, means the Q7 can’t get as bright as the older 6-Series and it also offers fewer dimming zones, generally signifying less control over contrast and black levels.
By most measurements, the Q7 peaks a bit below its advertised 1,000-nits of max brightness, which is a step back from the 1,300+ nits TCL’s 2022 6-Series was capable of. It’s still plenty bright to rock your best HDR content, though, and the TV’s deep black levels create enough contrast to make those moments really pop.
With the help of its QLED panel, which uses quantum dots to increase color volume, the Q7 offers vivid colors, especially when compared to cheaper QLED models like the Roku Plus Series TV. More muted colors like skin tones are also relatively natural looking. You won’t get the same pop and punch you’d get on the best OLED TVs from LG, Sony, and Samsung, but you’re also paying about a third the price.
It’s also notable that the Q7 looks pretty great right out of the box in its Movie mode with few adjustments needed for a sparkling HDR picture. On the flip side, picture purists will find there’s not much to be done about improving shadow detail without blowing out white levels or vice versa, meaning you’ll have to put up with some compromises there.
One such compromise is that, especially in daylight, the default Dolby Vision Dark mode looks too dark with challenging content, losing a fair bit of shadow detail. The “Mines of Mandalore” episode of “The Mandalorian” becomes far too murky with Dolby Vision Dark unless you’re watching in a pitch-black room, so you’ll usually need to use the Dolby Vision Bright mode with a few tweaks to keep things accurate.
This is accentuated by the fact that the Q7’s screen is pretty reflective, so ambient light tends to seep into the picture. Still, it’s hard to complain too much, as even very tough content like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” is easy to follow thanks to the TV’s solid contrast and overall brightness.
You’ll likely notice very little haloing — that ghostly light around bright objects against a dark background. It’s really only notable in dark rooms with bright white text barrelling across the screen. Motion handling is also good even for fast-paced sports, and if you’ve got an issue, you can always ramp up motion smoothing.
The Q7 also offers good screen uniformity, with little “dirty screen” effect. Apart from some darkening at the corners of the screen, you’ll have to really look for flaws to notice them. And though off-axis viewing isn’t great, it’s better than many of the cheaper displays we’ve seen recently. Even 720p and 1080i upscaling is solid, if not as sharp as you’ll find with flagship displays.
The majority of viewers are going to be very pleased with the way the Q7 handles virtually everything you throw at it. As with the 6-Series before it, this TV punches above its weight class with solid performance across the board.
The Google TV interface is intuitive
Roku has long ruled the TCL roost as the brand’s preferred operating system (OS), but Google TV is now in pole position, exclusively powering all Q-series TVs (for now, anyway). While we still think Roku offers one of the best interfaces around, Google makes connecting to your network and adding apps similarly smooth, especially if you lean on any Google services.
Apps load quickly, settings like picture adjustments are easy to navigate, and voice search is simple and relatively accurate, especially (and unsurprisingly) for YouTube. A particularly cool feature for anyone who regularly uses Google Photo storage is the ability to easily add albums as display backgrounds right in the setup process. You’ve also got access to all of the best streaming services, though there are arguably too many quick-key options on the remote.
One other feature that may excite or annoy is TCL’s hundreds of free digital channels that pop up under live TV. It actually took a little finagling to access basic broadcast channels from an HD antenna, which can be frustrating if you’re trying to watch specific live content. That said, there’s no shortage of options if you want to rock some free TV.
The system is intuitive for whatever you’re watching, and handily serves up recommended content based on viewing, allowing you to lose yourself in its sea of options.
The inputs and features make the Q7 a great gaming companion
The Q7, much like the 6-Series before it, is loaded with gaming features. That starts with dual HDMI 2.1 inputs, one of which is capable of offering up to 144Hz refresh rates with the proper signal for fast-paced gaming (and is handily labeled as such).
The TV offers popular features like ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) to automatically detect a signal from newer gaming consoles like the PS5 and the best gaming PCs to optimize the input for fast response time. It also supports AMD FreeSync Premium Pro and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) to adjust the TV’s refresh rate to your game speed.
The Q7 has a feature called “Game Accelerator 240” as well, which boosts the panel up to a 240Hz variable refresh rate through frame interpolation. Those zippy framerates do come at the cost of resolution, supporting content from a PC or gaming laptop at a maximum of 1080p HD at up to 240Hz.
It’s not just gaming fans that will love the Q7. It also supports all the major HDR formats, including HDR10, HDR10+, HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), and Dolby Vision, including Dolby Vision IQ to adjust the HDR picture to your room’s ambient light (though we generally keep this off). Other top features include the ability to stream from mobile devices over AirPlay 2 or Chromecast, and support for both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 3D audio formats.
TCL 65-inch Q7 QLED 4K TV: Specs
Should you buy the TCL Q7 QLED 4K TV?
If you’re after one of the best 4K TVs for your money in 2023, it’s hard to go wrong with TCL’s Q7. In fact, the TV’s biggest competition may well be 2022’s TCL 6-Series, which provides Mini LED backlighting and extra dimming zones for a brighter overall punch. That said, those TVs are becoming harder to find, and with the Q7 currently on sale, it might still end up being the better bargain for many shoppers.
If you have more to spend, the new TCL QM8 also looks to be a real contender with thousands of dimming zones and the Mini LED backlighting the Q7 eschews. The Hisense U8H is another model to consider, boasting great brightness and Mini LED backlighting like the QM8, but it too will cost you more. (We have yet to put either TV through our paces.)
But if you want to keep your budget safely under $1,000, and especially if you can get it on sale, TCL’s Q7 should be high on your list. Like the 6-Series before it, this is a great all-rounder, with particularly strong performance for gamers. With intuitive usability, plenty of features, and great performance at an affordable price, moderation looks good on the Q7.
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