Budget TV makers in 2022 will make premium brands more difficult than ever to maintain market share for QLED mini-LED TVs. The reason for this basically comes down to the price: companies like TCL and Hisense sell 65-inch mini-LED backlit models for less than $ 1,000 / £ 880 / AU $ 1,600, while similar Sony and Samsung kits can cost twice as much. If not more.
Some of these high-quality 4K mini LED kits rank high on our list the best 4K TVs such as the flagship Samsung QN95B Neo QLED. But the same list also includes Hisense 65U8Ha new proposition from the budget brand and its first model using mini-LED backlight.
But lower prices are not enough. Series 6 TCL 4K mini-LED TVs have been available at relatively low prices for several years, and the backlight technology has been preceded by the brand by players such as Samsung, Sony and LG. All three of these companies have managed to continue to sell many high-end QLED TVs, even with TCL providing a much cheaper option.
TCL recently expanded (literally) its 6 Series with a new 85 inch model. This addition makes its range now better suited to Samsung, which offers its Neo QLED mini-LED TVs with a screen size of up to 98 inches. Price for 85 inch TCL kit? Under $ 2,000 / £ 1,760 / AU $ 3,200 – less than half of what you would pay for a Samsung QN95B model of the same size and a few hundred dollars less than the cheapest Samsung Neo QLED TV.
With both TCL’s 6-series extended lineup and Hisense entering mini-LED gaming, will premium brands soon be looking to lower prices to compete better?
You might think that it is so, and we can see some movement in that direction on Black Friday, but while the lower-cost options provide stiff competition on many levels, there are areas where options are lacking. Let’s take a look at the good things to expect, and in at least one key area, don’t expect when buying a budget mini-LED TV.
Good: enhanced color
QLED TVs, such as those sold by Samsung, Sony, LG, TCL, Hisense and other brands, use a layer of quantum dots on the LCD panel of the set, which allows an extended range of colors to be displayed. While not a big deal for watching regular HD broadcasts, these 4K with HDR use a wider color space that puts more demands on the TV, and sets with a quantum dot layer typically meet or even exceed that demand.
Good: better black
The direct effect of using mini-LEDs in place of the larger LED modules found in ordinary televisions is increased black depth and shadow detail. Much smaller LEDs allow more control over light dispersion on the display panel of the unit, resulting in cleaner blacks and stronger contrast.
While both regular LED backlight TVs and mini-LED TVs use a form of processing called full frame local dimming to further increase picture contrast, the smaller LEDs used in the latter allow for a higher level of detail. This means that the shadows will reveal a wider range of subtle dark tones, as opposed to the appearance of a wide, uniform patch devoid of black detail.
Good: increased brightness
Another advantage of mini-LEDs is the increased light output, with a dense array of LEDs embedded in the backlight that generate a higher peak brightness than what ordinary televisions can handle. Combined with deep blacks, mini-LED TVs are also capable of display, the resulting image contrast can rival that of OLED TVs, which are highly regarded for their strong, three-dimensional images.
Good: Limited viewing angle
Here is the part where cheap mini-LED TVs are inadequate compared to the premium competition. Brands like Sony and Samsung offer features in their high-end kits that help eliminate a major problem with LCD TV technology: poor off-axis picture quality.
Unlike OLED, which is a self-emission technology where pixels generate their own light, an LCD requires a backlight to illuminate individual pixels on the display. The downside to this approach is that the light that shines through is very directional, with the result that images that look great when sitting directly in front of the TV appear paler when viewed from a seated position, and the contrast and colors they lose their intensity. .
The features of Sony X-Wide Angle and Samsung Ultra Viewing Angle effectively reduce this off-center viewing problem on suitable mini-LED TVs. You don’t see the full 180-degree viewing angle you get with OLED TVs, but off-axis performance is much better.
No such feature was available on the 65-inch Hisense U8H series model I tested, and I am not aware of anything similar on the TCL 6 series models, including those upgraded for 2022.
Is it worth buying a cheap mini-LED TV?
The inexpensive mini-LED TVs from Hisense and TCL compete with the premium brands in many ways. For example, the Hisense U8H I tested achieved a very impressive peak brightness of 1775 nits – close to what its more expensive competition is doing – and it also tested parameters such as color space coverage, contrast and image uniformity well.
But that off-center viewing problem remains real, although it won’t be something you’ll notice when sitting on a mid-width sofa at an average viewing distance from your TV. And that will be even less of a problem if you buy a set with a larger screen – an 85-inch TCL, for example. So, in this case, buying a really large mini-LED TV can be a smart move for a budget conscious viewer.
Interested in other options for a really big screen? Check out our guide to the best 85 inch TVs.