What is the TCL C815?
The TCL 65C815K is a mid-range 65-inch LED LCD TV which features Quantum Dot colour technology in an edge-lit VA 100Hz 4K HDR TV, which is competitively priced to challenge the old guard brands.
Related: What is Dolby Atmos?
The C815 features both the major dynamic metadata HDR formats Dolby Vision and HDR10+ as well as normal HDR10 content. There is also an Onkyo 2.1 soundbar at the bottom of the screen and the TCL supports Dolby Atmos decoding with ARC support via HDMI 1 and the C815 also supports DTS audio.
Related: What is HDR10+?
Smart TV is provided by the Android TV 9 (Pie), which is fast and stable in use and features major app such as Netflix, Prime Video and YouTube in 4K HDR, along with a host of other VOD apps and features. Plus, the C815 also features Freeview Play with all the major Terrestrial catch up services along with content discovery pages.
Related: What is Dolby Vision?
The TCL C815 is available in 55-, 65- and 75-inch screen sizes with the 65-inch we are reviewing currently retailing at £750 via UK online retailers. So does the TCL offer exceptional value for money vs. performance? Let’s find out.
Design, Connections and Control
Even though the C815 is being offered at a very competitive price point, we were suitably impressed with the build quality and materials used. As an edge-lit LCD the screen is very slim indeed at the top of the chassis, with a brushed dark metal strip around the edge and bezel of the screen, which widens at the bottom of the panel with a TCL logo placed in the centre. The Onkyo 2.1 soundbar sits below this as part of the chassis and the whole panel sits on three legs.
The three-leg stand is a unique design with the centre pointing to the rear for support and the left and right legs towards the front and sides. This gives the TV support to stand on a table-mounted surface without any issues with stability. However, with this design, there is no cable management on offer.
To the rear of the panel, we have the super thin top which then widens out towards the bottom to house the electronics and speakers. The Onkyo bass unit for the sound system is centrally positioned on this plastic wider rear panel. While it is part of the chassis, it is decoupled enough to stop unwanted rattles or vibrations of the panel in normal use at normal volumes.
Looking at the panel from the rear the connections are positioned to the left and sideways facing with the detachable power socket to the right side.
... with this design, there is no cable management on offer
Connections wise we have a USB 2.0 and LAN port, two HDMI 2.0b ports, terrestrial and satellite antennas, a common interface slot, optical digital output, third HDMI 2.0b and a second USB 2.0 port, AV breakout connection and a headphone jack.
There are two supplied remote controls with one large unit with access keys for nearly every function of the TV along with direct access keys for streaming services and Freeview Play. The second smaller remote has only the most used keys available and is designed to be an every day pared down controller. Both are made from plastic but are robust and sit neatly in the hand during use.
You can also control the TCL C815K with voice commands through Alexa and Google Assistant which are built-in to the smart TV system.
Out of the Box
We do all our testing to the industry standards for TV and film content, which means that TVs should have at least one picture preset that tries to match these standards, so you can see the content as it was supposed to be seen and as mastered. As the TCL does not have ISF, THX or Filmmaker Modes we used the Cinema preset. We made sure to switch off all image manipulation features, global dimming and image smoothing.
Looking at the greyscale first we can see that the tracking is decent with a 6% drop in red at the brighter end, with green and blue around 2% high of where they should be tracking. This results in a slight cyan tint in the brightest part of the image, as our DeltaE errors peak at just over the visible threshold of three, meaning we can just see this cyan tint. Gamma is also too dark at around 10% stimulus, so some shadow details may be crushed, but it tracks correctly otherwise. Overall, the out of the box greyscale results are decent and most viewers would never see the very small errors when watching TV or film content.
Because of this slight cyan push in the greyscale we can see in the Rec.709 colour gamut results that everything is pulled by the white point towards cyan, giving us a few errors visible in the graph. When we calibrate the white point these issues should disappear and colour points go back to where they should be. As it is, the slight shift and errors seen in the graph will not cause any visible issues for the vast majority of viewers. Our DeltaE errors are at the visible threshold of three and below so as an out of the box preset, the Cinema option is the closest to the industry standards.
When it comes to calibration there are some decent controls available with 2-point and 20-point options and a basic Colour Management System. We set about testing how well these controls worked and then proceeded to calibrate the image. At this level of the market, not many users will pay for a professional calibration, which is why out of the box results are more important here, but it is also interesting to see if we can get decent results using the provided controls.
Our only issue with the greyscale calibration is with the gamma being too dark at 10% stimulus and this is caused by the global dimming nature of the set. So even with dimming seemingly switched off, there is still some application used at the darker end of the range. Everything else calibrated extremely well with DeltaE errors all under one, which is well below the visible threshold of three, meaning there are no visible errors seen at all.
After correcting the greyscale, the white point now sits where it should meaning that the colour points now sit where they should be in most cases. There are a few very small errors with some points, but mainly at 100%, which is not as important as 75% and below, where the majority of images we watch are made up from. Overall, with DeltaE errors under one, we have no visible issues at all with TV and film content.
As the TCL C815 is an edge-lit LED LCD TV, it will struggle with bright HDR images given its light source is from the edge of the screen, with no local dimming possible. Because of this issue, most edge-lit sets peg back their peak brightness performance to mitigate any issues of clouding and a lack of contrast.
We measured peak brightness on the C815 at a consistent 320 nits at all window sizes. We also measured contrast at 4167:1 (327/0.079 cd/m2) in HDR mode. This is to be expected with this LCD technology at this price point.
PQ EOTF tracking was also good for 1000 nit content as it tracked to standard to just over 200 nits and then hard clipped at peak.
With 4000 nit mastered content it also tracked well to around 100 nits and then rolled off gently to try and preserve some details in the peak whites.
Thanks to being a QLED TV, the C815 managed a very good saturation tracking result to the DCI-P3 within BT.2020 wide colour gamut. While not all the points were where they should be, they were there or thereabouts for the majority, and this was seen within HDR content with nicely saturated colours.
BT.2020 coverage measured in at 74% XY and 76% UV with P3 coming in at 95% XY and 98% UV.
The TCL 65C815K is a 65-inch edge-lit LED LCD TV which uses a 100Hz VA panel and is compatible with all the major HDR formats currently available. As it is edge-lit there will be some technology-related issues that affect all edge-lit TVs. There is no such thing as the perfect TV and the TCL is designed to cover as many box ticks as possible for a very competitive price. It is not designed for critical movie viewing in a dark room, it is designed to appeal to a wide audience of potential buyers who will use the TV in normal living room environments.
The panel uniformity is patchy and on a 5% slide there are lighter corners and a darker centre, something we expect to see thanks to the LCD filter and the edge-lit approach. Again, with 20% and 50% slides, the uniformity is patchy with brighter bottom areas and then blotchy areas of the screen. 100% is good with a slight vignette look. With normal TV and film content you will only see these issues at their worst when viewing in a pitch black room. During normal viewing the uniformity issues should not be overly obvious unless you are watching off axis.
... you will need to watch content from directly in front of the TV where possible and keep this in mind regarding the seating positions
Viewing angles are an issue as this TV uses a VA panel, so direct viewing should give you the best possible image quality. Move off-axis and colours, brightness and gamma will shift making the image washed out. So you will need to watch content from directly in front of the TV where possible and keep this in mind regarding the seating positions in your living room. The advantages of using a VA panel are superior contrast and black levels when compared to an IPS type panel.
Video processing and upscaling are good for this level of TV and we had no issues with 576i, 1080i and 1080p content being scaled to the panel's native resolution. There were no back door processes being added, such as noise reduction, and fine lines looked good with no obvious ringing. Jaggie suppression was also good. Motion controls on the C815 consist of a manual selection of Blur and Judder sliders with nothing applied when they are both off. Motion with 24fps material was decent with no obvious added blur to images where it didn’t exist in the source material. We didn’t notice any obvious motion trailing when motion was switched off and 24fps content was displayed with the correct pulldown.
… the C815 is a strong LCD TV with well above average image quality and accuracy
Viewing SDR content in normal viewing conditions with ambient light is the strong point of the TCL C815K which has excellent image accuracy and very nice colour reproduction. Motion is good with no obvious issues and there are no issues with image dimming from the backlight between scene changes. Skin tones look realistic in the Cinema preset with almost all of the image manipulation features disabled. At 65-inches the screen real estate is massive and immersive, but we didn’t have too many instances where the edge-lit technology drawbacks were noticeable. Indeed, if used in a normal living room with the lights on the C815 is a strong LCD TV with well above average image quality and accuracy. Where things do start to become unstuck, as with most LED LCD TVs is with very dark room viewing with the lights off. Here, black bars are noticeably dark grey with light spill from objects within the movie or TV show, and we also have bright corners to the panel uniformity visible. Image accuracy for colours remains good, but this is not a TV for critical movie viewing in dark surroundings.
HDR is also viewable in normal conditions without any obvious issues being edge-lit in nature, but again this is with the lights on. The peak brightness is only around 320 nits but this helps the TCL C815 produce decent enough HDR images without adding to image issues being edge-lit. There are no super bright specular highlights or intensely vivid popping off-screen, but as most HDR content doesn’t push that kind of brightness or gimmick, the TCL manages to convey HDR content in a balanced manner with decent colour accuracy, skin tones and some shadow detail. Blacks are dark grey for the most part with both SDR and HDR and there is black crush in the shadows, but this is masked somewhat when viewing in bright conditions. There is decent contrast available on the C815 which means images have some pop to them without looking washed out.
...the TCL manages to convey HDR content in a balanced manner with decent colour accuracy, skin tones and some shadow detail
Gaming is also decent on the TCL but HDR content is not bright and there is more of a washout to image contrast in HDR modes that you should be aware of if you’re looking for a light cannon for HDR gaming, this is not that kind of TV. Input lag is a decent 21ms which should be acceptable for most console gamers, however, there are no HDMI 2.1 features, but it is also an £800 65-inch TV, so did you really expect there to be?
The Android TV 9 system is also very good on the TCL C815K with a decent line-up of VOD apps with support for 4K HDR playback. Freeview Play is also available and adds all the terrestrial catch-up services you would expect to find. Overall, the system is stable and we didn't encounter any hanging or crashes.
Finally, the audio performance from the Onkyo soundbar is also very good with a decent sound stage and intelligible dialogue. It doesn't have the weight to carry off action movies and there is no surround effect possible, but for this market and price point, it sounds better than most competing TVs.
- Decent out of the box image accuracy in Cinema mode
- Very good calibrated image quality
- Dolby Vision
- Dolby Atmos
- Onkyo 2.1 soundbar
- Freeview Play
- Android TV 9
- Build quality and design
The not so good
- Edge-lit VA panel is not very bright with HDR content
- Viewing angles are not great
- Panel uniformity issues when viewing in pitch black surroundings
- Some black crush
TCL C815 (65C815K) QLED TV Review
As a living room workhorse with a 65-inch screen and a price tag of around £800 give or take online, this is a bargain TV for normal living room duties. There are no perfect TVs at any price point and you have to compromise with which technology is going to work best for your budget and viewing conditions. This is not a critical movie viewing TV for dark surroundings but used in normal well-lit environments and it will surprise with some of its attributes.
With normal SDR TV and occasional scope movie viewing in a well-lit living room, the TCL C815K offers very good image accuracy, decent skin tones and superb colour reproduction in the Cinema preset. Blacks look decent although there is black crush with shadow detail if you go looking for it. Motion is strong with no obvious issues or motion trailing being visible and correct pulldown is applied to 24fps content. Sports also look decent with just some light dirty screen effect noticeable on bright colours filling large areas of the screen, such as fast camera pans over the green pitch in football games. We didn’t find this particularly noticeable or distracting with our viewing on the C815.
… this is a bargain TV for normal living room duties
HDR is a little dim on the C815 due to it being an edge-lit LCD, but it still manages a decent stab at film content and in that well-lit living room it looks dynamic and engaging with very good colour reproduction. There are still instances of black crush, but with most HDR and Dolby Vision content the performance is what we would expect at this market position, which is good but not spectacular - you need to pay a little more for FALD and 1000 nits, and even those come with their own issues, like the Hisense U8QF and its local dimming switching off completely with dark scenes.
Overall, the TCL C815K is an honest, edge-lit QLED TV with a huge screen and decent SDR and HDR performance for the price point, which is not much at all. It does have its issues and is not designed for watching movies in the pitch black but used as an everyday workhorse in a well-lit living room it works incredibly well. If you have a need for such a workhorse, large screen size and decent performance with the lights on, the TCL comes recommended.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
SDR Picture Quality
HDR Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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