Budget TV manufacturers in 2022 are making things harder than ever for premium products to keep mini-LED-backlit QLED TV market share. The reason for this drop in price: companies such as TCL and Hisense sell 65-inch mini-LED-backlit models for less than $1,000 / £880 / AU$1,600, while similar sets from Sony and Samsung they can cost twice as much. , if not more.
Some of these premium mini-LED 4K sets are at the top of our list the best 4K TVs as Samsung’s flagship QN95B Neo QLED. But that same list also shows the Hisense 65U8HA new offering from a budget model and the first model to use a mini-LED backlight.
But low prices aren’t the whole story here. TCL’s 6-series mini-LED 4K TVs have been available at relatively low prices for several years now, using the kind of backlighting tech pre-dated by heavy hitters like Samsung, Sony, and LG. And all three companies have managed to sell a lot of high-end QLED TVs with TCL offering a more affordable option.
TCL recently expanded (literally) its 6-series with a new 85-inch model. That addition makes its lineup now a better match for Samsung, which offers its Neo QLED mini-LED TVs in screen sizes up to 98 inches. Price of TCL 85-inch set? Under $2,000 / £1,760 / AU$3,200 – less than half of what you’d pay for Samsung’s QN95B model of the same size, and several hundred dollars less than Samsung’s smallest Neo QLED TV.
Given both the extended TCL range of the 6-Series and Hisense getting into the mini-LED game, will premium brands soon be scrambling to lower their prices to better compete?
You’d think that would be the case, and we might see some movement on the Black Friday side, but while the cheaper options offer strong competition on many levels, there are areas where they fall short. Let’s take a look at the good things you can expect, and, at least in one key area, not expect, when buying a budget mini-LED TV.
Pros: improved color
QLED TVs such as those sold by Samsung, Sony, LG, TCL, Hisense, and other brands all use a layer of quantum dots on the LCD panel of the set which allows for an improved range. of colors shown. While this isn’t a big deal for conventional HD systems, 4K with HDR offers a wide color space that puts a lot of demand on televisions, and a set that features a quantum dot layer generally meets, or exceeds, that demand.
Good: better black
A direct result of using mini-LEDs rather than the large LED modules found in standard TVs is increased black depth and shadow detail. Smaller LEDs allow a greater degree of control over the distribution of light within a set of display panels, and this results in cleaner blacks and more dynamic contrast.
While both traditional LED-backlit and mini-LED TVs use a technique called full-array local dimming to further enhance image contrast, the mini-LEDs used in the backlight allow for a higher level of brightness. This means that shadows will reveal a wider range of subtle black tones, as opposed to appearing as a broad, uniform patch of black with no detail.
Pros: increase brightness
Another advantage of mini-LED is the increased light output, and the dense array of LEDs packed into the backlight produces a higher brightness than a standard TV control. When combined with deep black mini-LED TVs are also capable of displaying, the contrast of the resulting image can be equal to OLED TVs, which are highly regarded for their punchy, 3D-like images.
Disadvantages: Small viewing angle
Here’s an area where mini-LED TVs come up short compared to their premium competition. Brands like Sony and Samsung both offer features on their high-end sets that help eliminate a major problem with LCD television technology: poor off-axis image quality.
Unlike OLED, which is a self-emitting technology where pixels generate their own light, LCD requires a backlight to illuminate each pixel on the display. The downside to this method is that the light beam is directed upwards, causing images that look perfect when sitting directly in front of the TV to appear blurry when viewed from outside seats, with both contrast and color loss. .
Sony’s X-Wide Angle and Samsung’s Ultra Viewing Angle features both work to effectively reduce this off-center viewing issue on their small LED TVs. You don’t get the full 180 viewing angle you get with OLED TVs, but off-axis performance is greatly improved.
There was no such thing in the Hisense 65-inch U8H model I reviewed, and I know of nothing similar in the 6 TCL models, including the updated 2022 ones.
Is it worth buying a small LED TV?
Budget mini-iTV LED from Hisense and TCL compete well against premium brands in many ways. The Hisense U8H I reviewed, for example, was able to achieve a very bright 1,775 nits peak brightness – close to what is managed by the competition at higher prices – and it also tested well in parameters such as color space, contrast, and image uniformity.
But this off-center viewing issue remains a reality, although it won’t be something you’ll see when you’re sitting on a wide couch in the middle of the viewing distance from the TV. And it will be less of an issue if you buy a set with a large screen size – if 85-inch TCL, for example. So in this case, buying a big screen small-LED TV can be a smart move for the budget-conscious viewer.
Interested in other big screen options? Then check out our guide on best 85-inch TVs.