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Best Buy has the TCL 8 Series, the best* non-OLED TV, for half** off

Illustration for article titled Best Buy has the TCL 8 Series, the best* non-OLED TV, for half** off
Image: TCL

The TCL 8-Series is TCL’s top of the line 4k HDR Roku TV that comes in 65” and 75” sizes. It’s a QLED/miniLED, which I will explain, momentarily. They’re a Best Buy exclusive and normally priced at $2k for the 65” and $3k for the 75”. I was considering buying a TV to replace my ok but nothing special low-end 50” 1080p Vizio from 2014, but no way was I going to spend that much.

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UPDATE Friday 8/7: I am now exchanging this TV again. In my original post I noted that the first example I received, the HDMI port circuit board was misaligned and I couldn’t plug anything into the ports. The second example’s HDMI ports were properly aligned, but it’s having an intermittent issue where when I turn it on, there’s no picture. It responds to pressing buttons on the remote, and makes sound, but no picture. This appears to be a rather common issue across different TCL models. I do love the picture quality after some basic adjustments, so I decided to roll the dice one more time and see if the replacement to the replacement is fully functional. Best Buy is delivering yet another one on Monday. If it’s anything less than perfect I’m going to have to return it entirely and start over with something else. What exactly that might be, who knows?

UPDATE Tuesday 8/11: The 3rd (and hopefully final) example of the TV was delivered yesterday. I’ve set it up and so far it’s working correctly with no issues. When I arranged for the second return/exchange, I asked for some kind of credit towards a gift card, extended warranty, etc. The customer service person said they could do some kind of gift card, but I needed to call them after the exchange was complete before they could tell me the amount of the gift card. Seriously. Today I called back to follow up on this. The fist person I talked to got most of the way through giving me this gift card, but accidentally hung up on me and never called me back. So I had to go through the call-in, wait for call-back dance again. They offered me a $50 gift card. I’m waiting for that to arrive in the mail. I’m considering using it on a Geek Squad protection plan. The TCL warranty is for 1 year, but Geek Squad protection is $130 for 2 years, $150 for 3 years or $230 for 5 years. I probably will go ahead and get the 3 years just to be on the safe side. While I’d rather not have to buy an extended warranty like this, at least $100 (net after GC) for 3 years is relatively cheap and I already got the TV for half off. With the reliability concerns introduced by my double return/exchange experience, it’s peace of mind. TV is still great though!

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When this deal first hit, both the 65” and 75” versions of the TCL 8 were half off their usual prices of $2000 and $3000 respectively. The 65” is still at $1000, but the 75” is up to $1800 instead of the $1500 it had been at first. Given that the cheapest 75” OLED is over $4k, that’s still probably a solid price.

Anyway, what the hell is that jargon? QLED refers to an LCD screen with an LED backlight and quantum dots integrated into the pixels on the LCD panel. The quantum dots help with better brightness, contrast and color. MiniLED is talking about the backlight behind the LCD panel. It has way more local dimming zones than a typical LCD/LED TV backlight. Here’s a more detailed explanation, but basically local dimming tries to improve contrast & dynamic range, plus give blacker blacks, by only turning on the backlight in the bright areas of the picture. The more local dimming zones, the more closely the backlight can conform to the picture, which makes it look better. Here’s how the different types of local dimming work:

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Illustration for article titled Best Buy has the TCL 8 Series, the best* non-OLED TV, for half** off
Graphic: Radiant Vision Systems (Fair Use)

The TCL 6-Series, which is the step below the 8-Series, has the quantum dot LCD panel and 120 local dimming zones. The 8-Series backlight is made of 25,000 individual miniLEDs grouped into 1,000 zones. With that many dimming zones, it’s able to much more closely mimic the look of a much more expensive OLED screen. OLEDs don’t have backlights. Their pixels are self-lit so every pixel can be a different brightness. So far, the TCL 8-Series is the only TV with this backlight tech. Cnet says it’s probably the best TV short of an OLED. I’m not an expert.

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Anyway, the 65” 6-Series usually goes for $800 at Best Buy, and I was thinking about maaaybe getting one what with being cooped up at home due to covid, but the half off deal on the 8-Series hit the tech blogs last week and I was like ahhh fuck it I’m buying it. I briefly considered going for the 75” but after talking with my wife we decided on the 65”. The 75” would juuuust fit on our TV stand with a couple inches to spare on each side but it felt like it’d overwhelm the room. So we saved the 500 bucks (now 800 bucks) and went for the 65”.

Now, there was a bit of a hiccup in the process. At least around me here in the DC area, Best Buy delivers these TVs from their warehouse. The stores aren’t involved at all. They scheduled a delivery window of 1-6 pm last Thursday, and said they’d call me when they were 30 minutes out. I got no such call, only an email when they were 10 minutes out. I’m working from home full time but I had to reschedule a phone call I had with someone so I could let the delivery dudes bring the TV in my house.

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I didn’t pay for extra setup because I’m capable of setting up a TV my damn self, and I got it out of the box, on the stand, and went to plug shit in, when I found that I couldn’t plug anything into any of the HDMI ports. Somehow the circuit board that the HDMI ports are on wasn’t properly mounted to the plastic surround, thus blocking them from accepting a plug. WTF!

Illustration for article titled Best Buy has the TCL 8 Series, the best* non-OLED TV, for half** off
Photo: Me
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The Best Buy dudes were of course long gone, so I had to do a return, which was its whole own nonsense. The local store is literally 6 blocks from me so I wanted to bring it there. But noooo, can’t do that for large items delivered from the warehouse by Best Buy drivers. Instead I had to box it up and they would take the busted one when they delivered the new one. The box was fucking huge, so the only place I had to put it was my 1-car garage, which meant no room for a car. We had to put both cars outside until the replacement was delivered on Tuesday at 1-6 pm. Boo hoo.

Except, that’s the window that the return person told me on the phone, but when I looked in my Best Buy account online after they updated the order, it instead said the delivery window was fucking 7 am to 1 pm today, Wednesday. I don’t wake up at no fucking 7 am working my ass at home during covid! I called Best Buy about this but there was nothing they could do to change the window. Fuck. I at least was able to tell them, the last time nobody called me, the only notification I got was an email when the truck was 10 minutes out from my house, and if y’all are going to deliver at 7 fucking am I need an actual call and give me more than 10 minutes notice. I fibbed a little and said “I work a shift later in the day,” but dammit, I was grouchy about this. The phone person said they’d “make sure” they call me 30 minutes out.

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Last night I left my phone on my nightstand which I normally don’t do, and I asked my wife who wakes up before me to take it downstairs with her when she woke up. Around 7:45 they called and told my wife they were 15 minutes out. She woke me up, I went downstairs to take down the old TV, and let the (masked, thankfully) delivery dudes in. I insisted on them taking it out of the box to make sure the HDMI ports weren’t fucked like the first time. Thankfully, all was well.

So, I’ve got the thing set up, my basement is still in a bit of disarray, but the TV is damn awesome. Once I turned off the stupid motion smoothing, the blacks are black, the colors pop, gradients in images have none of the blockiness you sometimes see in cheaper non-HDR 1080p TVs, the Roku features work well, and all is right with the world.

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I don’t have an OLED to compare it to of course, but the cheapest 65” OLED available at Best Buy at the moment is the LG BX for $2300. Maybe that $300 difference is worth it over the usual $2000 price for my TV, but hell, that $1300 difference is a big gap. The cheapest OLED equivalent to the 75” is the 77” LG B9 for $4200. Yeesh.

Oh, and here’s the difference in size from before and now. I had my 50” on a VESA-mount swivel base and my center speaker resting on the base but the 65” is too heavy for that swivel base so I moved the center channel into the TV stand. I had planned out for this possibility when buying the stand and center speaker. Future proofing!

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Illustration for article titled Best Buy has the TCL 8 Series, the best* non-OLED TV, for half** off
Photo: Me

A+ for the TV quality vs price, C- for the shopping experience. I know it’s not Best Buy’s fault my first example was a lemon but their return process was decidedly meh.

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