TCL 55C745K 4K QLED TV review

hcchighreccomendTCL keeps on coming with its high-spec affordable LED TVs. Mark Craven samples the 55in C745

It's easy to forget what the TV market looked like at the turn of the millennium, with a host of now defunct or greatly reduced Japanese brands still in play. But eventually Fujitsu, Pioneer and others were muscled out by South Korea's Samsung and LG, companies which both sit at the top of the pile some 23 years later. Chinese manufacturer TCL will be hoping the same market shift can happen again.

Around five years ago, the company began making a push into the UK. Some early niggles (UK models being shorn of key features offered elsewhere in Europe) have been ironed out, and it's dramatically widened its distribution, to include retailers including Curry's and the Euronics network of independents (in addition to online sellers like Amazon).

Naturally, TCL's ambition is not just to be a purveyor of well-priced mass-market tellies. Recently it's been keen to promote its range of mega-sized sets (including the £3,000 98in P745K , and – as the first brand to ever bring a mini LED model to market – it's focusing a lot on that technology too. But the 55C745K auditioned here is one of its more bread-and-butter options, being a QLED, and not mini LED model, with a £649 asking price.

Get in the zone
That figure clearly puts this set above the various bargain 4K TVs now available (and TCL has that area covered with its smaller P Series models), but a read of the specification explains why. Key features of the 55C745 are its full array local dimming backlight with 120 individual zones (the 65in variant, priced £799, has 160 zones, while the £1,099 75-incher has 220), and a claimed peak brightness of 800 nits (versus the 450 nits of the step-down C645 lineup).

Additionally, the LCD panel is a VA-type, usually a better option for a home cinema-friendly black level, and wide colour handling reaches a suggested 94% of DCI-P3.

Regards format support, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are on hand in addition to HDR10 and HLG, and there's IMAX Enhanced certification too. Picture processing is handled by the brand's AiPQ 3.0 processing engine.

The C745 also has gamers in its sights – even to the point of being described as a 'QLED Gaming TV' on TCL's website. Therefore, of the TV's HDMI inputs, two support 4K signals at high frame rates, one to 120Hz, the other to 144Hz. Variable Refresh Rate handling is also to 144Hz via that max-spec socket. There's also AMD FreeSync Premium for compatible hardware, Dolby Vision gaming, and a game bar option that overlays the usual array of info (frame rate, VRR status etc) and provides a shadow enhancer tool to help you pick off baddies...


The set's full array local dimming backlight is split over 120 zones

Like rival processing systems, AiPQ 3.0 claims to use its AI grey matter to better craft images to suit 'human recognition', with TCL addressing five specific areas: contrast, colour, clarity, motion and HDR. AiPQ can recognise image objects to apply a local contrast boost or improve motion smoothness, while for colour it trawls a database to apply adjustment.

The smart platform here is Google TV, with voice control via the bundled remote or through a connected Google Assistant speaker. The home page is neatly arranged, and heavy on recommended content. The app selection includes Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube and ITVX, but there was no sign of Disney+ or BBC iPlayer during our audition. Housekeeping will definitely include turning off the system sounds within the menus (as these will drive you potty).

The C745's styling is minimalist, almost unremarkable. With its 'bezel-less' design and thinnest of strips below the panel on its bottom edge (to provide space for a logo) the C745 basically presents as a screen, and nothing more. It's not super-thin, but the moderate depth hides the TV's 2 x 15W speaker array.

Picking a preset
Compared to a budget model, the C745 is demonstrably more adept at HDR playback, and has better control over its light engine and contrast. That's not to say it's a brightness beast, nor does it approach OLED or Mini LED levels of black level finesse. But it works with the technology it has to deliver enjoyable, largescreen images that are commensurate with the price tag.

Picture preset options are Standard, Dynamic, Movie, Sport, Game and Smart HDR. Of these, the Dynamic option sports a very cool colour temperature that gives whites a blue(ish) tint, plus slick but not very appealing motion smoothing. Colours also appear exaggerated, plumping up reds and skin tones. There's visual punch here, but it's not for the picture purist.

The C745's Movie preset is a jumping off point for serious viewing. The average brightness here decreases, but it has a warmer colour temperature and more naturalistic palette, and disables motion processing, resulting in a cinematic presentation of Creed III (4K Blu-ray). You can, of course, use TCL's Motion Clarity tool, with individual blur and judder sliders for fine-tuning, and on its low settings this is effective.

Black levels are good, avoiding any grey wash, although sometimes dark parts of the picture, such as black clothing in the opening flashback scene in Creed III, can feel a little crushed. Nor is the 120-zone full array local dimming engine, in unison with TCL's processing, immune from some haloing with content featuring bright objects against a dark background, such as the streetlights and headlights in the film's nighttime LA locations, but what's impressive is how unintrusive such moments generally are.


The 55C745K's VA-type panel is framed by an ultra-slim bezel

If you're viewing with a little ambient light, these issues are even less apparent – and, realistically, this wallet-friendly model is more likely to end up in a regular viewing room than a blacked-out den. Enter TCL's Standard preset which (once you've dialled down the Motion Clarity settings from their max default) delivers a more dynamic, vibrant alternative to Movie.

Dinner date
Sharpness and detailing are excellent, the 55C745 finding plenty of fine image info in the diner scene when Creed and his old friend Dame meet up. Skin pores, clothing fabrics and the texture of wooden table dividers all appear brilliantly resolved. The set's HDR presentation, while not as immediately impactful as a brighter, step-up model, gently teases out spectral highlights, such as the tags on Creed's hoodie or light reflecting off the glassware. There's a dynamic contrast mode available, with off, low and high settings. Somewhat surprisingly, I found I preferred it either off, or on high, as the mid level dims the image overall without sufficiently expanding the contrast punch.

Swap to more colourful fare, such as animated movie Minions (4K BD), and the C745 puts on a cracking show for a TV around this price. The brightly coloured title characters and primary-hued locations all pop nicely off the screen, but there's nuance here too.

HD content is upscaled well. HBO comedy And Just Like That (Sky Atlantic) didn't become forensically sharp, but appeared natural and avoided a feeling of artifice. TCL's Smart HDR mode applied a generous level of heightened contrast and colour to this SDR feed, and in fact this is one preset I wouldn't automatically discount. It's rather effective.

The 55C745's onboard sound system is perfunctory. There's a decent amount of low-end extension, and dialogue is well delivered, but soundstaging feels 'shut-in'. Neither the Dolby Atmos or DTS Virtual:X sound options do much to enliven proceedings. Overall, it's fine for uncritical viewing, but a soundbar or external speaker system would be a sensible addition if funds allow.

A step up
There's a maturity to TCL's C745K that elevates it above entry-level, particularly the stability of its LED backlight engine and its HDR handling, and there's ample scope for image fine-tuning. Add in its multi-HDR spec, gaming-friendly hookups and Google smarts, and it's definitely one to shortlist if you're priced out of TCL's Mini LED range.

HCC Verdict: 4.5/5

TCL 55C745K
Price: £649

We say: Some of TCL's presets are a bit extreme, but this well-priced 55in QLED can be cajoled into delivering a fine 4K HDR performance for the money.


4K: Yes. 3,840 x 2,160 HDR: Yes. HDR10; HLG; Dolby Vision; HDR10+ TUNER: Freeview HD/satellite HD CONNECTIONS:: 4 x HDMI in (two v2.1); Ethernet; 1 x USB; optical audio out 4K/120 PLAYBACK: Yes SOUND (CLAIMED): 2 x 15W BRIGHTNESS (CLAIMED): 800 nits CONTRAST (CLAIMED): 6,000:1 DIMENSIONS (OFF STAND): 1,225(w) x 702(h) x 70(d)mm WEIGHT (OFF STAND): 13.1kg

FEATURES: QLED TV with full-array local dimming; 120 dimming zones; AiPQ 3.0 processing; Google TV smart system; IMAX Enhanced; eARC; VRR (incl. AMD FreeSync Premium) up to 144Hz; Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; Dolby Atmos; DTS Virtual X; VA-type LCD panel; voice remote control; 240 Hz Game Accelerator