The impressive TCL C845 delivers Mini LED performance and cutting-edge gaming features at a remarkably affordable price
- Seriously good HDR performance
- Fantastic gaming features
- Superb value for money
- Movie mode could be more accurate
- Tone-mapping a bit bright with HDR10
- No UK TV catch-up services built in
The TCL C845 represents the first opportunity for TV buyers in the UK to enjoy the full benefits of the brand’s top-tier Mini LED models, and despite boasting a host of cutting-edge features, this QLED TV has clearly been priced to beat the competition by a considerable margin.
The C845 not only combines a Mini LED backlight with local dimming and quantum dot colours, but also handles every version of HDR, includes an Onkyo sound system, Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual-X processing, HDMI 2.1 inputs, and supports all the latest next-gen gaming features.
When you consider all that’s included, you wonder how TCL is able to keep the prices so low, and if it performs as well as its specifications suggest, this might be the TV best buy of the year.
TCL C845 review: Key specifications
|Screen sizes available:||55in 55C845K|
|Resolution:||4K/UHD (3,940 x 2,160)|
|HDR formats:||Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, IMAX Enhanced|
|Audio enhancements:||Onkyo sound system, 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, work with Amazon Alexa|
TCL C845 review: What you need to know
The TCL C845 is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart LED LCD TV that comes in 55in, 65in, 75in and 85in. The C845 sits at the top of TCL’s range, uses a 10-bit 144Hz VA panel with a direct Mini LED backlight and quantum dot filters, plus it’s very competitively priced.
The C845 incorporates Google TV and handles HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision IQ, and IMAX Enhanced. There’s also support for eARC, along with Onkyo sound, Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual:X processing. It has Google Assistant built-in but also works with Amazon Alexa.
The gaming features are equally 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 a cutting-edge TV package.
TCL C845 review: Price and competition
At the time of writing, the TCL C845 is very competitively priced for what is a higher-tier model within the brand’s lineup. You can buy the 55in version reviewed here for £849, the 65in model will set you back £1,049, the 75in screen size costs a respectable £1,499, and even the massive 85in model is only £1,999.
If you like the sound of the C845 but want to save a little money, the lower-tier C745 is a great choice. It doesn’t have a Mini LED backlight, isn’t as bright, and there’s no Onkyo sound system, but it includes most of the same features and is a great choice for gamers on a budget. Prices start at £649 for the 55in model, with the 65in and 75in options costing £799 and £1,099, respectively.
You’ll struggle to find any competing brand that can offer the feature set of the C845 at anything approaching its price point, but your best bet is probably the Hisense U8K, which comes in 55, 65 and 75in screen sizes. The 55in model costs £1,299, which is a price premium of over £500 compared to the C845, despite offering a very similar performance and set of features.
READ NEXT: Our pick of the best TVs under £500
TCL C845 review: Design, connections and control
The TCL C845 is an attractive TV, with a bezel-less frame around the outer edge of the screen, and reasonably solid construction. The panel is slim at the top but widens at the bottom to accommodate the Onkyo sound system. The 55in model measures 1225 x 72 716mm (WDH) without its stand and weighs in at a hefty 18.4kg with it.
The stand itself is a centrally mounted metal plate that attaches at an angle, and at 295 x 280mm, it’s reasonably small, making it easy to install on narrow furniture. The height can be adjusted to increase the clearance beneath the screen when using a soundbar, and there’s also a cover at the rear of the stand for tidier cable management. The C845 is compatible with a 300 x 300 VESA bracket if you’d rather wall-mount it.
The connections all face sideways and are located on the right-hand side of the C845 as you face the screen. Unfortunately, these connections, and the power cable socket over on the left-hand side, are a bit too close to the edge of the screen, which means cables might be visible.
In terms of the connectivity itself, 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.
TCL claims there are four HDMI 2.1 inputs, but in reality, only two are HDMI 2.1, the other two being HDMI 2.0b inputs. All four 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). TCL has sensibly used one of the 2.0b inputs for eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), allowing you to connect two gaming consoles and a soundbar.
The provided remote is a slim black plastic unit with rounded edges that feels balanced in your hand, making it comfortable to hold and easy to use. The buttons are primarily identified with icons, but the overall design is pleasingly ergonomic, and there are direct access buttons for Netflix, Prime Video, and YouTube, along with the internet and a pair of TCL-specific apps.
TCL C845 review: Smart TV platform
The TCL C845 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 home page 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, tune in the TV and load all 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, and Google Play. There’s also 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.
Google Assistant is built in, turning the C845 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 C845 review: Image quality
The TCL C845 delivers a premium picture experience thanks to its use of a VA panel combined with a Mini LED backlight and quantum dot colours. The VA panel produces excellent black levels, with a native contrast ratio of 3,500:1, but the optimal viewing angles are fairly narrow.
The Mini LED backlight is combined with quantum dot filters for a wider colour gamut and a local dimming system. We counted 574 (41×14) dimmable zones, and there’s a choice of off, low and high settings. The low setting works best for SDR content, eliminating blooming around bright objects without aggressively dimming, which means shadows are free of black crush.
The TCL ships in the Standard picture mode, which delivers a very inaccurate picture when compared to the industry standards. There’s a significant excess of blue energy in the greyscale, a gamma with a large dip in the middle, and over-saturated colours that result in average DeltaEs (errors) of 14 for the greyscale and 12 for the colours.
Switching to the Movie mode improves matters, but now there’s too much red energy in the greyscale, and while the average error has reduced to 5.6 that’s still above the visible threshold of three. On the plus side, the gamma is now tracking around 2.38, which is close to our target of 2.4, and the colour accuracy has improved to an average error of 4.4.
TCL includes calibration controls, and using the two-point white balance a professional calibrator can quickly reduce the red energy in the greyscale, bringing the average error down to 1.8, which is below the visible threshold. Correcting the greyscale also results in the colour accuracy improving significantly, with an average error of 1.2 and all the colours hitting their saturation targets.
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 modes are important and will be addressed in the gaming section. We’d also recommend turning off Adaptive Brightness in the Intelligent Picture submenu because it causes luminance fluctuations.
The screen uniformity on the review sample was excellent, while the VA panel and Mini LED local dimming performed brilliantly, making the most of the extra zones to ensure blacks were delivered with depth, while bright objects were free from halos. The raid on Bin Ladin’s compound in Zero Dark Thirty takes place at night, and the C845 handled this difficult sequence with great aplomb.
The video upscaling and processing are also impressive, with the C845 upscaling lower resolution content with skill and precision to match its 4K panel, while the processing helps to minimise any unwanted artefacts in heavily compressed streaming material or low-quality digital TV channels.
The overall motion handling is also excellent, with the panel’s 144Hz refresh rate undoubtedly playing a key role here. There’s no blurring on fast motion like sport, and the C845 handles 24p content without introducing judder, allowing movies to retain that all-important film-like quality.
READ NEXT: The best soundbars to pair with your 4K TV
TCL C845 review: HDR performance
The TCL C845 is a fantastic TV for HDR, using its Mini LED backlight to deliver spectacularly bright highlights. TCL claims a peak brightness of 2,000cd/m2, but the brand is being conservative because we actually measured 2,100cd/m2 on a 10% window, with peaks up to 2,600cd/m2 on a 25% window. The C845 was also capable of hitting 1,000cd/m2 on a full field pattern.
The greyscale is very accurate, but the tracking against the HDR target curve runs a bit hot due to all that luminance, and the tone mapping tends towards an image that can appear overly bright at times. This isn’t really an issue with 1,000 nits content, where very little tone mapping is actually required but is more apparent when watching HDR10 content graded at 4,000 or 10,000 nits.
The C845 covers the majority of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, reaching 95%. However, the colours aren’t as accurate as we’d like, with red, blue and magenta (which is composed of red and blue) all oversaturated compared to their target points. This is probably due to the C845 pushing its brightness to such a high degree, although many will probably like the added pop.
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.
The TCL C845 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.
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, but 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 C845 dazzled with its HDR prowess, although there were a few minor issues. The massive HDR luminance levels did result in a degree of backlight clouding and blooming that wasn’t apparent with SDR, where the overall brightness is significantly lower.
The overly bright tone mapping and oversaturated colours were also apparent with HDR10 material, although this was less of an issue with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision content thanks to the additional tone mapping information offered by both formats’ dynamic metadata.
The comic book colours of The Flash enjoyed plenty of vibrant punch, while the lightning that surrounds his ‘speed-force’ was seared into my retinas thanks to those dynamic highlights. The more subdued visuals of First Man are still appropriately muted, and the C845 does a great job of handling the scene where the Apollo 11 command module goes into the shadow of the moon – a challenging sequence for any local dimming system.
To test the TCL C845 we used Portrait Displays Calman colour calibration software.
TCL C845 review: Gaming
The TCL C845C isn’t just a great TV for film lovers, it’s also a fantastic choice for gaming fanatics. It gets all the basics right, with excellent SDR and HDR performance, plus support for all of the current HDR formats, ensuring bright, accurate and detailed images when gaming. There’s even a Dolby Vision Game picture mode to keep lag to a minimum when gaming in DV.
TCL’s Game Master Pro brings all the latest gaming-specific features to the C845, with ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) automatically detecting a games console and switching into the appropriate low-latency mode. This is important because, in the Game mode, the input lag drops to anywhere from 13ms to 6ms – 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 superbly smooth and enjoyable gaming experience. If you have a PC gaming rig, you can even play at refresh rates up to 4K/144Hz thanks to support for AMD Freesync Premium Pro.
TCL has added a pop-up Game Bar that provides information on the TV’s gaming status, such as ALLM, VRR, frame rate and HDR. There’s also a choice of useful features such as being able to take screenshots, adjust the shadow levels to bring out possible threats in dark areas of a game, and even an aiming aid, plus there’s quick access to the game picture modes and the menus.
The C845 uses an LCD panel, so there’s no danger of image retention or screen burn-in after marathon gaming sessions, and the overall gaming performance is impressive, thanks to the low input lag, detailed 4K images, and incredibly smooth high frame rate motion. The colour gamut really pops, and the HDR tone mapping is good, making this TV the perfect choice for gamers.
TCL C845 review: Sound quality
The TCL C845 includes an Onkyo sound system that really boosts this TV’s sonic credentials thanks to a 2.1-channel speaker configuration with 70W of amplification. That’s a surprising amount of power for a TV and is split 25W to each speaker and 20W to the bass driver built into the rear, which uses TCL’s floating bass design and a deflector lens to smooth out the low end.
The resulting sound quality is genuinely good for a modern TV, and all that power combined with some decent speakers means the C845 can go loud without distorting or losing composure. There’s some decent stereo separation and a pleasing scale to the delivery that makes films sound more cinematic and games more immersive without compromising the audio’s balance.
The level of clarity is often excellent, bringing out details in even the most complex mixes, and spreading the soundstage around the screen and out into the room. Dialogue is clear and focused, while the subwoofer gives the overall delivery a nice foundation of bass. Soundtracks that dig really deep can cause the bass driver to flutter, but it holds its own with most mixes.
There’s also an Intelligent Sound feature with an Adaptive Volume option and a seven-band equaliser if you want to tweak the EQ manually. The C845 also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual-X, and while they can’t work miracles, even with this generally impressive 2.1-channel sound system, they do add a greater sense of dimensionality. Overall, this is a commendable sonic performance for a TV at this price point.
TCL C845 review: Verdict
The TCL C845 is a seriously impressive 4K HDR TV that combines a fantastically bright and dynamic picture with comprehensive HDR support. The use of a Mini LED backlight and capable local dimming ensures a commanding contrast performance with deep blacks and highlights free from blooming, while the quantum dot colours are vibrant and punchy.
The Google TV smart platform is easy to set up, responsive in operation, and includes all the main streaming services. The Onkyo speaker system is excellent for a modern TV and means you don’t need to automatically upgrade the audio with a soundbar. The design and build quality are also generally good, and the connectivity is excellent with two HDMI 2.1 inputs.
The inclusion of HDMI 2.1, combined with a host of cutting-edge features and super-fast latency makes the C845 a fantastic choice for gamers as well as film fans. Overall, this TV is hard to fault, setting a new benchmark for what’s achievable at this price point. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a TV offering better performance and value for money than the TCL C845.