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TCL 85R745 85-inch 4K HDR TV review: A huge value

TCL 85R745 85-inch 4K HDR TV
TCL 85R745
MSRP $3,000.00
“TCL's R745 supersizes value.”
Pros
  • Very high brightness
  • Great black levels
  • Impressive HDR performance
  • Good motion handling
  • Solid gaming performance
Cons
  • Washes out off-angle
  • Very wide stand
  • Doesn't clean up noisy video

TCL decided to go big and has now unleashed its XL collection. You may have heard the news because they’ve made a pretty big deal about it. Let me tell you, though, “big deal”  feels like a bit of an understatement.

Welcome to my review of the TCL 85R745 85-inch 4K HDR Roku TV. TCL’s XL collection includes three models so I’ll explain where this TV fits in the lineup, then we’ll go through everything from user experience to performance metrics to see if it’s worth ponying up quite a few extra bucks to put a seriously big screen in your home.

Video review

Jump to: TCL XL lineup | Out of the box | Setup | First impressions | Picture qualitySound quality | Gaming | Our take

TCL XL lineup explained

Let’s start by talking about the new TCL XL collection in general because I think the different models available might be a little confusing to anyone who is familiar with TCL’s model naming convention.

You might know TCL has an entry-level 4-Series, a slightly upgraded 5-Series, and I think lots of folks know about the 6-Series since it has been very popular for several years now. The XL collection steps away from that 4-5-6 lineup a bit, but it’s easy enough to understand the differences between the three models.

The base model of the XL collection doesn’t have full-array local dimming backlighting or Dolby Vision. The R745 reviewed here does have full-array local dimming and supports Dolby Vision HDR. It also has THX Certified Game mode as well. The step-up model from this TV is going to have OD Zero technology with mini-LED backlighting and will be an 8K model, rounding off the line with something very premium. As the XL name implies, these are all 85-inch TVs.

Out of the box

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

For as large as the 85R745 TV is, the TV’s box is even bigger. If the retailer from which you purchase this TV offers a white glove delivery service with setup, you should consider adding that option. Not only is the box difficult to navigate through a home, but some rooms not being large enough to accommodate the unboxing process.

That process starts with opening the main box like a huge book, revealing a box-within-a-box surrounded by ample padding — at least the TV is very well protected. Inside the inner box is the TV and its accessories, including two legs, screws, batteries, a Roku TV voice remote, and some product literature.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

The inner box is designed to separate into pieces leaving the TV standing upright in a cardboard base. The included legs can be installed while the TV is in this position. Then the TV can be moved to what will need to be a very wide media cabinet or credenza.

The 85R745 also tips the scales at just over 100 pounds, so wall-mounting will need to be handled with care. This, too, is probably a job best left for a professional. I encourage those who do decide to DIY a wall installation to anchor a wall mount rated for 100 pounds or more into studs. This is not a time to trust drywall anchors.

Setup

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

As a Roku TV, the 85R745 goes through a typical Roku setup process that can take up to 10 minutes. Those who don’t already have a Roku account will want to create one and keep a mobile device or laptop handy to navigate several questions asked along the way. With all questions answered, the TV will download any needed updates and install any requested apps along with a bunch of apps not requested. From there, I suggest users move their favorite streaming apps to the top of the home screen for easy access. YouTube, for instance, was installed seven rows down after my setup completed

Out of the box, you have quite a few picture settings options. Be sure to turn off the low-power mode because that’s going to cap the TV’s brightness. Then, for the most accurate picture in SDR you are going to want to choose “Movie” mode.  For HDR, I chose “dark HDR.” I choose those presets because they offer the most accurate color temperature going. Don’t let the “dark” nomenclature fool you, though. There’s nothing dark about the HDR picture as I’ll detail shortly. There are actually five backlight settings, Darker, Dark, Normal, Bright, and Brighter — you can adjust the brightness intensity to your liking or needs.

First impressions

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Let’s go straight to the brutally obvious: This TV is huge. And, yes, I know it’s an 85-inch TV, so it stands to reason it would be big. Still, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, the TCL 85R745 somehow seems bigger than other 85-inch TVs we’ve reviewed. For instance, we just had the Vizio P Series Quantum X in for review — also an 85-inch TV — and somehow the R745 seems bigger. Maybe it’s the stand which is just a bit wider than the TV and consumes more space on our media cabinet. It’s also pretty tall due to the elevation the legs give it, so I think that’s why it just seems so big in my testing room.

But, big is the point, right? The idea is to get more of your field of vision occupied so it feels like you are in a small theater when you watch the TV. And this TV definitely delivers on that notion. Since it has 4K resolution you can sit fairly close without seeing individual pixels, and when viewed from the right distance, the image definitely has a cinematic feel to it. Now that first-run movies are hitting streaming services the same day as theaters, I think the argument in favor of a really big screen makes more sense than ever before.

Picture quality and metrics

When it comes to brightness, the 85R745 is extremely powerful. Using Calman software and a SpectraCal C6 colorimeter profiled to an X-Rite i1 Pro, at its dimmest settings in Movie mode, I measured 514 nits, and that ran up past 800 when I went into the brightest backlight setting. In Dark HDR, the dimmest backlight setting yielded just under 900 nits and ran all the way up to 2,100 nits in the highest backlight setting. That’s on par with the Hisense U8G and Samsung QN90A, which I find super impressive.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Fortunately, that brightness doesn’t come at the expense of black levels, which are very good on this TV. You do see a bit of halo and blooming around bright objects on a black background, but the backlight system manages to keep that minimized — that is, if you are sitting dead center on the TV and looking straight at it. Stand up, move around, or fail to angle the TV down at you if elevated on the wall, and the backlight becomes far more obvious. That’s par for the course with most LCD-based TVs, save the most advanced sets like the Samsung QN90A, which employs quite a bit of panel trickery to get better off-angle viewing.

One issue I have noticed with the backlighting, though, is that when you have a big bright picture like this with a moving object, you may see just a bit of flicker in the areas immediately adjacent to the moving object. An example I noted was of a windmill centered on a bright blue sky. As the windmill turned, I noticed a little flicker in the sky to the left. The effect is not especially obvious — in fact, I think most folks would miss it — but something I wanted to mention to be as comprehensive as possible.

If this TV has a weakness, it’s in the processing department.

As for color, it’s pretty accurate right out of the box in the Movie and Dark HDR modes as well as in Dolby Vision. You do need to use one of the higher backlight settings to get the most color volume in HDR, but the TV is quite capable of delivering stunning HDR color. This is what I’ve come to expect from TCL: Quality color performance right out of the box.

Motion is also very good, even with motion smoothing measures turned off. I observed less stutter with this TV than some of the OLED and other QLED TVs I’ve reviewed so far this year, despite it having a decent response time and high brightness (a recipe for image stutter). Judder is no problem at all here — 24 frames per second movie cadences look very cinema-like, as I had hoped. All around, the 85R745’s motion is very good. I would not, however, use the black frame insertion feature — it’s labeled LED Motion Clarity — to try to reduce motion blur as it causes significant flicker.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

If this TV has a weakness, it’s in the processing department. I feel like the 85R745 struggles to clean up low-bit-depth images. And that’s of more concern on a big TV like this because if you get a noisy picture, it’s going to be more obvious due to the screen’s sheer size. A fairly noisy, compressed video I use on YouTube to gauge how well a TV can clean up noise and prevent color banding proved a bit too much for this TV’s processor. As the beach scene dims from day to night in a time-lapse, the night sky turned cobalt blue and I saw a bunch of scrambling black and blue boxes as the TV tried to make heads or tails of what the image was supposed to look like.

With that said, Most premium streaming apps like Netflix, Disney +, HBO Max, etc. look very clean. It’s the more compressed stuff on YouTube and content on free streaming apps like Pluto that tend to look a little noisy at times. The other thing I noticed was occasional moire, but only in tight symmetrical patterns like the grids in the buildings on a New York fly-over shot I often use to evaluate how well TVs handle these kinds of patterns. Other tightly detailed areas like the fine details in bird feathers, for example, remained super clean.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Panel uniformity on the 85R745 TCL sent me was … OK. Again, due to the TV’s large size screen, you are more likely to see dirty-screen-effect (blotches on the screen) if it exists, and I did observe some on the sample I received. However, I did not see any big vertical bands as I’ve seen with many TVs over the years, so that’s encouraging.

I think it is important to point out that screen uniformity is going to be a matter of the so-called “panel lottery,” so there’s not a ton you can do to predict what the TV you buy will like. You just have to get the TV home and out of the box to see with your own eyes. Hopefully, TCL keeps the quality control tight and the XL collection comes out looking clean overall.

Sound quality

The sound quality on this TV is good — better than expected, actually. I’m not super wowed by it in terms of fidelity, but I will say the subwoofer on the back of the TV cabinet does a great job of providing a good amount of bass, so the sound comes off as big as the screen itself. Still, if you get a screen this big, I suggest you spring for a soundbar. Even an inexpensive soundbar is going to offer better clarity. And it just so happens, TCL makes those too.

Gaming

While the TCL 85R745 doesn’t support HDMI 2.1, it still makes an excellent gaming TV. Input lag is low in the set’s THX Game mode, and it does support variable refresh rate (VRR) as well as 4K resolution at 60 Hertz. To get 120Hz, however, the TV must drop down to 1440p or 1080p resolution. Moreover, the TV’s solid motion handling and punchy brightness yield very satisfying HDR images.

Our take

Overall, I think the TCL 85R745 offers some stellar value for those seeking a big screen TV. Given its impressive brightness and solid black levels, I feel this model is a step up in performance over TCL’s vaunted 6-Series TVs. That being the case, it is already impossible for me not to recommend this TV. I think the real bonus is going to be the price, as TCL provides pretty significant value considering the performance of its TVs. To put a bow on it, this is the same high-quality, high-value experience that TCL has become known for, just … bigger.

Is there a better alternative?

It will be hard to beat the TCL 85R745’s picture performance without spending quite a bit more. The 85-inch Samsung QN90A, for instance, retails for $5,000 — that’s a $2,000 premium over the 85R745’s initial asking price of $3,000. The step-down Samsung Q80A gets closer at $$3,700 and would likely offer similar performance, but that’s still $700 more. Keep in mind, the 85R745’s price will likely drop over time, as well.

How long will it last?

Given TCL’s track record of build quality so far and the 85R745’s feature set, I think this TV should last well into the future.

Warranty

TCL offers a one-year parts and labor warranty from the date of purchase for non-commercial users.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The TCL 85R745 offers tremendous value in a big-screen TV with impressive picture quality and a satisfying user experience.

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