The TCL C745 is a smart and capable 4K HDR TV that's a superb choice for next-gen gamers on a budget
- Comprehensive HDR support
- Extensive gaming features
- Super-low input lag
- Not as bright as claimed
- Colours could be more accurate
- Sound is perfunctory
The TCL C745 sits towards the top of the brand’s 4K HDR lineup, offering most of the benefits associated with a modern smart TV, while also keeping gamers happy by including all the bells and whistles needed to get the most out of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
It’s also feature-packed and competitively priced, making the C745 a great choice for anyone looking to enjoy big-screen movies and immersive gaming without breaking the bank.
TCL C745 review: Key specifications
|Screen sizes available:||55in 55C745K|
|Resolution:||4K/UHD (3,940 x 2,160)|
|HDR formats:||Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, IMAX Enhanced|
|Audio enhancements:||Dolby Atmos, DTS Virtual:X|
|HDMI inputs:||HDMI 2.0b x 2, HDMI 2.1 x 2|
|Tuners:||Terrestrial and satellite|
|Gaming features:||Game Master Pro 2.0, AMD Freesync Premium, ALLM, VRR, 4K/144Hz|
|Wireless connectivity:||Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, Chromecast, AirPlay 2|
|Smart platform:||Google TV (11.0)|
|Freeview Play compatibility:||No|
|Smart assistants:||Built-in Google Assistant, works with Amazon Alexa|
TCL C745 review: What you need to know
The TCL C745 is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart LED LCD TV that comes in 55in, 65in and 75in screen sizes. It sits towards the higher end of TCL’s range, uses a 10-bit 144Hz VA panel with a direct LED backlight plus quantum dot filters, and is competitively priced.
The C745 incorporates Google TV and handles the HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and IMAX Enhanced HDR formats. There’s also support for eARC, along with Dolby Atmos decoding and DTS Virtual-X processing. Google Assistant is built-in, and the choice of streaming apps is comprehensive.
The gaming features are very impressive, with two full bandwidth HDMI 2.1 inputs that support ALLM, VRR, and frame rates up to 4K/144Hz, along with TCL’s Game Master Pro 2.0, and support for AMD Freesync Premium Pro. A very low input lag rounds out an impressive gaming package.
TCL C745 review: Price and competition
At the time of writing, the TCL C745 is attractively priced for what is a higher-tier model within the brand’s range. You can buy the 55in version reviewed here for £649, the 65in model will set you back £799, while the 75in screen size retails at a very reasonable £1,099.
In terms of competition, the most obvious is the 55in Hisense E7K, which offers an LCD panel combined with a direct LED backlight and quantum dot colours. It also includes similar gaming features and HDR support, although the E7K is slightly more expensive at £699.
Other alternatives include the 55in Amazon Fire TV Omni QLED, which has a list price of £749 but was available for just £480 at the time of writing, and the 55in Samsung Q60C, which will set you back £600. Both offer an impressive level of performance, although neither has the same level of gaming prowess.
TCL C745 review: Design, connections and control
The TCL C745 offers a simple but attractive design, with a bezel-less screen and elegant silver trim around the outer edge. The construction combines metal and plastic into a sleek chassis, and the 55in model measures 1,225 x 76 x 71mm (WDH) without its stand.
The stand itself comprises a pair of feet with a plastic cover that uses an eye-catching brushed metal effect. When using the stand, there’s 65mm of clearance below the screen, but if you’d rather wall mount, the C745 is compatible with a 400 x 300 VESA bracket.
The connections face sideways, on the right-hand side as you face the screen, and are far enough away from the edge to ensure you can’t see any cables. There are four HDMI inputs, a USB 2.0 port, terrestrial and satellite tuners, a CI (common interface) slot, an optical digital output, an Ethernet port, an AV adapter, and a headphone jack. There’s also dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, Chromecast, and AirPlay 2.
In its marketing, TCL claims there are four HDMI 2.1 inputs, but this isn’t correct with only two HDMI 2.1, plus two HDMI 2.0b inputs. While all four inputs support 4K/60Hz, HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HDCP 2.3, and CEC, only the 2.1 inputs can handle 4K/120Hz, VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode). At least TCL has sensibly used one of the 2.0b inputs for eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), allowing you to simultaneously connect two next-gen gaming consoles and a soundbar.
The provided remote is a slim black plastic affair, with an emphasis on icons to identify the buttons. The rounded edges make it comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand, and the layout is intuitive, with direct access buttons for Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, the internet, and a pair of TCL-specific apps.
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TCL C745 review: Smart TV platform
The TCL C745 uses Google TV (v11.0) as its operating system, and it delivers a responsive, well-designed, and intuitive interface. By its nature, the smart platform is rather Google-centric, but the full-screen homepage provides recommendations and allows you to customise the layout.
The initial setup of the TV is relatively quick and easy, especially if you’ve already created a Google account. Simply follow the instructions in the Google Home app, and the TV will automatically set up an internet connection and load all of your apps. However, depending on how many of the latter you use, this can take a while.
All the main video streaming apps are on offer, including Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, Now, YouTube, Google Play, and there’s support for resolutions up to 4K, along with HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and DTS audio where available.
However, there are no UK TV catch-up services built-in, possibly due to licensing issues. While this is annoying, TCL does offer a Roku stick for any owners wishing to add BBC iPlayer, ITV X, All 4 and My5 to their TV. It’s not ideal, and hopefully TCL will address this in the future, but at least there’s a workaround.
Naturally, Google Assistant is built-in, turning the C745 into a fully functioning smart assistant with voice control, plus there’s support for Chromecast and Google Home. In addition, Apple fans can enjoy support for AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, plus it works with Amazon Alexa.
The TV tuner includes access to an EPG (electronic programme guide) that’s sensibly laid out and easy to use. One strange quirk is that the TV tuner defaults with the subtitles turned on, so unless you want to use them, you’ll need to go into the EPG and turn the subtitles off.
TCL C745 review: Image quality
The TCL C745 uses a VA LCD panel based on its black levels, narrow viewing angles, and a native contrast ratio of 3,500:1. There’s a direct LED backlight combined with quantum dot filters for a wider colour gamut and a local dimming system for a superior contrast performance.
We counted 120 (12×10) dimmable zones, and there’s a choice of off, low and high settings. The low setting seemed to work best for SDR content, eliminating obvious blooming around bright objects without dimming too aggressively and thus not crushing detail in the shadows.
Switching to the Movie mode improved matters, although not as much as we’d like. There was too much red in the greyscale, and while the average error reduced to 4.9 that’s still above the visible threshold of three. On the plus side, the gamma tracked around 2.32, which is close to our target of 2.4. Aside from the shift to red caused by the greyscale, the overall colour performance was good, with errors dropping to just over three.
TCL includes extensive calibration controls, and using the two-point white balance setting, a professional calibrator can quickly reduce the red energy in the greyscale, bringing the average error down to one, which is well below the visible threshold. Correcting the greyscale also results in all the colours falling into line, reducing the average error to below one. This is an excellent level of accuracy for a TV in this price bracket.
TCL offers a number of picture modes along with the default Standard and more accurate Movie options, including Smart HDR, Sport, Game, and PC. Most of these are best avoided, especially Smart HDR which is trying to turn SDR into something it isn’t, but the Game mode is important and will be addressed in the gaming section. We’d also recommend turning off Adaptive Brightness in the Intelligent Picture sub-menu because it causes luminance fluctuations.
The screen uniformity on the review sample was good, while the VA panel and local dimming proved highly capable, even when displaying complex material such as Gravity with its bright white space suits and inky black star fields. The dimming algorithm managed to avoid clipping the highlights or crushing the blacks, and there was no obvious blooming when facing the screen directly. However, due to this being a VA panel, blooming was obvious when viewed at an angle.
The overall motion handling is also excellent, with the panel’s 144Hz refresh rate undoubtedly helping. There’s no blurring on fast motion like sport, and the C745 handles 24p content without introducing judder, allowing movies to retain a film-like quality.
The video processing and upscaling are also impressive, with the C745 doing a great job of upscaling lower-resolution content to match its 4K panel, and the processing helping to minimise any nasty artefacts in heavily compressed streaming material or low-quality digital TV channels.
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TCL C745 review: HDR performance
The TCL C745 supports every version of HDR – HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), HDR10+, and Dolby Vision, which means you’ll never have to compromise, and the dynamic metadata in HDR10+ and Dolby Vision allows the TV to produce some genuinely impressive tone mapping.
TCL claims a peak brightness of 1,000cd/m2, but in testing, we only reached about 620cd/m2 on a 10% window, although the brightness peaked at 825cd/m2 on a 50% window, before falling back down to 634cd/m2 on a full-field white pattern. The greyscale is accurate, and the tracking against the HDR target curve is excellent, ensuring highlights aren’t clipped and blacks are free of crush.
The use of quantum dot filters enables the C745 to cover 94% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, which is a decent result. The colours also closely hit their targets at various saturation points, ensuring that the pictures look natural while also retaining a pleasing degree of pop. In terms of raw measurements, this is an impressive HDR performance for a TV at this price.
When first detecting an HDR10 signal, the TV defaults to IMAX for some reason, but we’d recommend switching to the more accurate Movie picture mode, which offers an extensive choice of picture controls. One of these settings is Dynamic Tone Mapping, and while there’s a choice of options, the default balance setting appears to deliver the best overall performance.
When it receives a Dolby Vision signal the TV defaults to the IQ option, which adjusts the tone mapping based on the measurements from a light meter. It’s a more sophisticated approach compared to the Adaptive Brightness control offered with SDR content. Still, purists might prefer to use the Dolby Vision Dark picture mode at night, thus retaining the original artistic intentions.
When moving on to actual viewing material, the C745 continued to impress, rendering the fine detail in native 4K content with commendable skill. The tone mapping was also impressive with HDR10, and even better when dealing with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Since all streamers use one of these formats (mainly the latter), as do a lot of 4K Blu-rays, this TV has you covered.
The chase through Rome in Fast X looks fantastic, with the sun-lit streets and brightly coloured cars really popping with vivid details. The glinting chrome really shines without losing detail in the highlights, and the action looks more impactful. At the other end of the spectrum, the 4K disc of 1917 includes a scene at night in a burning village, and the blackness of the sky juxtaposes vividly with the bright flames, while detail is nicely retained within the shadows.
To test the TCL C745 we used Portrait Displays Calman colour calibration software.
TCL C745 review: Gaming
The TCL C745 is an absolute belter as a gaming TV, partly because of all the strengths already mentioned. The excellent SDR and HDR performance, along with support for all the current HDR formats, ensures bright, accurate and detailed images when gaming.
TCL’s Game Master Pro brings a host of gaming-specific features to the C745, kicking off with ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), which detects a video games console and automatically switches into the game mode. This is important because, in the Game mode, the input lag drops to anywhere from 13.2 to 5.7ms – depending on the resolution and frame rate of the game.
These lightning-fast response times are even more impressive when combined with 4K/120Hz HFR (High Frame Rate) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) gaming. The result is a wonderfully smooth and engaging gaming experience. If you have a PC gaming rig, you can even play at refresh rates up to 4K/144Hz, and there’s support for AMD Freesync Premium Pro.
TCL has added a pop-up gaming hub that provides information on the TV’s gaming status, such as ALLM, VRR, frame rate and HDR. There are also various useful features available, including the ability to take screenshots, adjust the shadow levels, and activate an aiming aid. Additionally, there’s quick access to the game picture modes and the menus.
Since the C745 uses an LCD panel there’s no danger of image retention or screen burn-in when gaming for long periods of time, and the overall gaming performance is superb, thanks to the low input lag, detailed 4K images, and buttery smooth high frame rate motion. The colour gamut is punchy, and the HDR tone mapping is accomplished, making this a cracking TV for gamers.
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TCL C745 review: Sound quality
The TCL C745 uses a pair of downward-firing full-range speakers, each of which has 15W of built-in amplification. The sound quality is reasonably good considering the TV’s dimensions and screen size, with a clean delivery, some nice detail, and a degree of stereo separation. However, there’s little in the way of bass extension, and the audio can sound strained at higher volumes.
There’s an Intelligent Sound feature with an Adaptive Volume option and a seven-band equaliser, and the C745 also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual-X, with the latter being something of a rarity on TVs these days. While both are welcome, they can’t work miracles with only two downward-firing speakers, but at least they give the audio a greater feeling of dimensionality.
The sound quality is best described as perfunctory, it gets the job done but anyone looking for a delivery that has scale and a real sense of immersion with movies and games should consider pairing the C745 with a Dolby Atmos soundbar that includes upward-firing drivers for genuine overhead effects, and a separate subwoofer for deeper and more powerful bass extension.
TCL C745 review: Verdict
The TCL C745 is a budget superstar, offering large screen sizes and impressive features at very affordable prices. The overall image performance is generally very good with both SDR and HDR, and while the Movie mode could be more accurate out of the box, and the TV isn’t quite as bright as claimed, the pictures produced are detailed, vibrant and punchy.
On top of that, the TCL is a fantastic choice for gamers with every enhancement imaginable and an incredibly low input lag. So if you love movies and gaming but your funds are limited, the C745 might be just the ticket.