C81 is a TV from TLC's QLED 2020 range equipped with Android TV, panel with 4K resolution and refresh rate of 100 Hz; it has an integrated soundbar made in collaboration with Onkyo and a very attractive price. It takes € 799.99 to buy the 55-inch model and € 1199.99 for the 65-inch model we tested in the last weeks of the summer.
An intense use of relaxation that has allowed us to appreciate the advantages of this model and to identify the small compromises necessary to maintain a competitive price. It is a television that is appreciated, with a modern and stylish support that adapts to different environments and metal frames that make it elegant and precious to the eye.
- MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT
- VIDEO QUALITY
- AUDIO QUALITY
- SOFTWARE EXPERIENCE
- GOOGLE ASSISTANT AND AMAZON ALEXA
Better to be two. When the majestic TCL C81 package arrives home, it is best to get help with installation. The television is in fact tapered at the ends. The thinnest point, that is in the sides and in the high part, measures 0.9 cm, the thickest one 6.2 cm. Dimensions that, combined with the 65-inch diagonal, require some caution.
The beautiful support that relies on three metal legs, two at the front and one at the back, doesn't help. To install them, you need to place the TV on a surface or turn it upside down, which is high risk if you don't do it by two. Once assembled and installed, however, it is impossible not to appreciate its lines, at least in the front part. Very thin edges, metal frame and a premium Onkyo soundbar with fabric cover that makes the TV look like a higher price range.
The rear is a little less refined. Plastics abound and finishes are mid-range with some molding burrs here and there. Never mind, once installed on a TV cabinet or wall they will never be seen again.
In the package there are two remote controls, each with its own batteries. The first has a traditional design, very long and with rubber buttons that, although trivial, are intuitive to memorize. The second is instead made of aluminum, more precious and beautiful and more oriented for use of the smart part of the TV. There are volume keys, to change programs, the D-Pad and two additional buttons respectively dedicated to Netflix and to activate the Google voice assistant.
Whether you want to install the TV on a piece of furniture or on the wall, the positioning of the buttons and ports chosen by TCL allows you to better manage the cables and avoid unpleasant situations. On the left side there is in fact the connection for the power cable, on the opposite side the other ports. In this way they are easy to reach. There are two USB 2.0, three HDMI, one of which is ARC, an Ethernet input, antenna connector, satellite, AV adapter, optical audio output and headphone output with 3.5mm jack.
A little further down, a small switch allows you to enable or disable the microphones intended for use by the voice assistant, and there is also a large, easy-to-reach power button. There is no shortage of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
The 65-inch 4K QLED panel has some peculiarities that are not very widespread especially in this price range. One of these is undoubtedly the 100Hz refresh rate. It is compatible with HDR10 + and Dolby Vision. The ability to view lower resolution content than 4K is given by the UHD Super Resolution option.
But what do all these acronyms mean and what is the final experience that can be expected? The colors are reproduced in an optimal way and, especially with those sources that have HDR and Dolby Vision content in their catalog, the images offer excellent contrast and sharpness. All in all, the experience is enjoyable and the immersion is guaranteed. The maximum brightness of the TV is also good as well as the blacks which, while not reaching the perfection of OLEDs, are quite intense.
From the settings you can choose some presets to adjust the gradation of the image. In our opinion, the best are "Standard" and "HDR Enhancement", the latter to be used only with compatible content. Cinema mode decreases saturation and makes colors too warm, while Sport and Dynamic have the opposite effect and the colors are too bright.
However, the visual experience is not perfect. In scenes with a lot of contrast, you may notice some visual artifacts and some grain. In the more dynamic ones and with fast movements, some details are lost and even in this case the image tends to look a bit grainy. Going to the settings it is possible to limit this phenomenon by enabling the “Sport” image mode and enabling the item “LED for sharpness of movements” which should be the translation for the Black Frame Insertion. In this case the situation improves, but with very bright images, for example the shot against a clear sky, it causes some flicker that is not exactly pleasant.
These phenomena are probably caused by a mid-range Local Dimming with a number of zones dedicated to the backlight not sufficient to guarantee an optimal vision but also by the refresh rate of 100Hz which does not help if natively created content at 24, 30 or 60 is played. fps.
The upscaling must be activated from the settings and allows you to view lower resolution content without major loss of quality. In this case, the experience varies greatly depending on the original content.
Conversely, however, regarding video games. The TCL C81 connected to a console or a computer guarantees a good level gaming experience thanks to the high refresh rate and winks at all those gamers looking for a solution with an excellent price / performance ratio.
The Onkyo soundbar aided by the woofer positioned at the rear creates a 2.1 system with a total power of 35 Watts. 10 Watts for each tweeter and 15 Watts for the woofer. This subdivision also allows for excellent reproduction of frequencies. Mids, highs and lows are very precise and crisp and you never get distortion even with higher volumes.
Through the settings it is possible to customize the listening by being able to select between different presets. We had a satisfactory experience with the "Dynamic" mode, especially when watching movies and TV series, while for daily use or for watching documentaries and news the "Standard" mode with voice clarity set to "Media" succeeds to ensure optimal and always clear voice reproduction.
There is no complaining about the quality, especially good if we consider the price range. We would have liked just a little more power. In an apartment with an open space of 45 square meters, we have often turned up the volume over 80% in order to have that cinema effect that is expected when choosing a TV with these diagonals.
TCL C81 is equipped with Android TV 9.0 which brings with it a whole host of advantages of the Google ecosystem. There is the integrated Chromecast, the Play Store, the voice assistant included and compatibility with all digital streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Netflix, Rakuten TV, Dailymotion and much more.
A software that we have already had the opportunity to try on other TVs and that is hardly able to give headaches in the experience of use. TCL C81, however, has some limitations on the hardware side that does not allow to take full advantage of all the advantages and from time to time there may be some bugs that slow down the normal use of the device.
With Amazon Prime Video we had a fluctuating experience: the interface is subject to sudden slowdowns and even selecting the language or enabling subtitles can turn into a longer wait than expected. Some bugs also occurred while browsing the Home or with other applications.
There is therefore a lack of fluidity and encountering slowdowns is a fairly frequent occurrence.
Compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa is present but the two voice assistants behave differently. The most limited is Alexa. Using an Echo device you can in fact perform very simple voice commands, such as switching to the next channel, adjusting the volume or turning off the TV. The skill for Alexa is quite basic and at the moment it is not an integration capable of making a difference.
Google Assistant allows you to do many more things. You can launch an application, open a TV series, turn the TV on or off, activate Ambient mode and much more. The integrated microphones, however, do not receive our voice very well, especially when we are far from the TV and sometimes we have encountered some commands not understood. In general, integration with voice commands is not at its best and it is often more intuitive to take the remote control than to activate Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa to do any operation.
TCL C81 is a TV that has an excellent panel and an attractive design on its side, but which is positioned in the mid-range. The relationship between price and performance is tempting, especially in the 55-inch variant with a price list of 799.99 euros, already on offer at 749.99 euros on Amazon. The experience is still enjoyable, with a panel and a good quality audio sector.
There are trade-offs, especially with regard to software responsiveness, but considering the price range and compatibility with HDR10 +, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, TCL C81 can be a valid alternative for those looking for a product that can offer good performance. both in daily use and in video games.
Video qualityAudio qualityValue for moneyGood equipmentNice design Fluctuating software experienceSome artifacts in the busiest scenesCompatibility with Alexa is essential