The most frustrating part of buying a new TV is choosing between OLED, QNED and Mini-LED – wrapping your head around each, let alone determining which one is right for you, is a bit of a mindf…it’s confusing. Definitely confusing.
Then you have to decide if you want 8K, or if 4K is enough.
Each manufacturer will tell you something different, and every review will probably do the same. The best thing you can do is list a handful of features that are a must for you and work backwards from there.
With that in mind, let’s run through the TCL C835 Mini-LED TV. It’s a compelling proposition.
TCL C835 Mini-LED TV
This 2022 model TV (I reviewed the 55-inch) obviously boasts Mini-LED – as its name suggests, a Mini-LED is much smaller than a standard LED. This allows more of them to be packed together in a single space, giving you more precise backlighting for LCD panels and an increased number of local dimming zones.
This results in a better picture and performance, with deeper blacks, enhanced colour reproduction, reduced blooming, improved brightness and a higher contrast ratio.
These last few months alone, I’ve reviewed an OLED from LG, a QLED from Samsung, a QNED from LG and an 8K Mini-LED from TCL. When it comes to picture quality, all of these are spectacular – but they each provide subtle differences when it comes to actually watching TV. With Mini-LED, in particular the TCL C835 Mini-LED TV, I can’t fault it for handling the bright Aussie sun.
T is for ‘top-notch picture quality’
The TCL C835 Mini-LED TV is bright, but not too bright that your eyes will hurt after a late-night binge-watching session. The Mini-LEDs partnered with the Quantum Dot (QLED) colour enhancement layer offers up a complaint-free viewing experience.
Despite there being a tonne of new movies I’m yet to see being available in brilliant streaming quality, the first movie I watched on the C835 Mini-LED TV was The Crow. The only noticeable indication I was watching a flick that’s nearly 30 years old was the bad special effects. But it actually turned out to be a great movie for testing just how black the blacks of the C835 were. Most of The Crow is set in the night, when it’s not, you’re inside with a dimly lit set. It’s a vibe that the TV can actually handle, but it’s clear that with Mini-LED the blacks are replicated, and it’s not as black as you can get with OLED.
It helped that there was so Sydney sun shining onto the screen and that no loungeroom lights were reflecting – but I could actually see every scene and the detail was immaculate. Shadows were handled well, contrast was too. Unfortunately, the iPhone 13 Pro Max relies on software to capture photos and adds things that aren’t there, so the photos aren’t true to life, but you can definitely see my reflection coming through in the right of the TV shot below.
Shifting gears to something a little more modern, back and forth between movies and TV shows, it became very clear that TV shows are what shine on Mini-LED displays. Bright colours are just that and colours are vibrant (that’s almost saying the same thing in a different way), but the point I’m making is that there’s no bleeding, blurring and everything looks like a hi-res photo has been taken from the set and blown up into a pic hanging on the wall in my loungeroom.
Obviously, the photo doesn’t do the brightness justice, as the flamingos were moving as I captured the pic.
Movies aren’t handled as well by Mini-LED as they are OLED, but that’s not to say it’s bad, by any means. But Mini-LED definitely elevates your TV-viewing experience above other types of TV tech. It’s also worth noting the last OLED TV I reviewed was the LG OLED Evo and that bad boy retails for $3,400 – more than double what the TCL goes for. I just can’t sit here and tell you the difference is worth anywhere near $1,500.
As we noted when reviewing the C825 last year, to get the full experience out of a TCL TV, you really need to play around with the settings. One size definitely doesn’t suit all, and you really benefit from adjusting the picture mode to suit what you’re watching. Auto is fine, but you’d be doing yourself an injustice by not having a fiddle with the settings. Leaving it at ‘Power Saver’ will leave you severely underwhelmed.
When we talk glare, unfortunately this problem is never going to be fully solved. Next to my TV nook is a large floor-to-ceiling window that spans the entire wall. This is great for natural light, but usually not-so-great when it comes to watching TV. Thankfully, the C835’s light sensors adjust the screen according to the light in the surrounding environment. This resulted in a drastic reduction to daytime sun, which means the glare was barely noticeable during the day. This is where Dolby Vision IQ truly shines. There’s still a glare, but when sitting on my lounge, it’s barely noticeable.
Using the TV for gaming, refresh rate wasn’t fabulous, there was a bit of a lag, but I don’t think it’s enough to bother the naked eye unless you were paying as close attention as I was purely to catch it out. The game I was playing was The Quarry, which, like The Crow, has quite a dark vibe. It is a slasher game, after all. But the similarities were all there with display: black blacks, bright brights and a need to change the mode to gaming.
4K UHD also gives a reason to not jump to 8K any time soon, despite me saying last year the TCL x925 Mini-LED 8K TV set an impossible benchmark for the future of TVs. I don’t mean for it to sound like I’m justifying poor performance, because I’m truly not, but the TCL C835 Mini-LED TV is so much cheaper than its 8K cousin and again, the extra cash you’d splash doesn’t translate into a pro-rata figure of how much better it is, not even close. Besides, we’re still at the embryonic, mega-upscaling stage of 8K.
C is for ‘consider a soundbar’
The focus for TV manufacturers across the board is picture first, user experience second and sound third. The sound is more than good enough if you’re not interested in adding a sound system (but I’d suggest at least looking at the TCL range of soundbars – TCL make pretty decent and affordable ones). It’s a trap I fall into every time I review a TV: I connect a soundbar and everything I thought about the quality of the TV’s speakers is thrown out the window. But starving myself of the Sonos Ray Soundbar, akin to sniffing coffee beans before the next perfume bottle whiff, it wasn’t long before I watched hours of Seinfeld with the TV speakers, not even noticing a drop in my experience.
The TCL C835 Mini-LED TV speakers are loud, clear and like the display, will benefit from a little bit of fiddling.
L is for ‘lovely user experience’
Super important is the user interface of a TV. Does the TCL C835 Mini-LED TV look pretty when a show/movie isn’t on? Yes. Does it have all of the apps I want to use? Also yes. Does it learn what I like? Hard to tell with the short amount of time I’ve had the TV, but it seems to be doing well so far.
TCL made a great decision when it opted to use Google TV as its operating system instead of undertaking a half-assed attempt at making its own. Logging in via your Google account is seamless and if you have Google Home devices around your place, it’s easy integration. One thing worth mentioning, however, is that TCL also wanted my log in info. That’s a no. Google was enough. TV manufacturers need to calm down on the data collection.
I have a lot of complaints about TV remotes, but with the TCL C835 Mini-LED TV, I only have one. It’s so long. Like, ridiculously long. Cat for scale.
It’s kinda cool seeing Aussie streaming service Stan feature on a remote. I personally don’t care for app quick-launch buttons on remotes – if the UI is easy to use, you shouldn’t need this – but it’s nice seeing something made for Australia. Strange patriotism from a remote but OK.
What does that spell?
A good TV.
It’s hard to fault a 55-inch Mini-LED TV that boasts black blacks, white whites, vibrant colours and pretty good contrast. Especially one that costs less than $2,000. Has TCL made the best TV on the market? No. But is it less than half the cost of one? Yes. That has to count for something. It’s hard for me to tell you the TCL C835 Mini-LED TV isn’t good value for money – I’m pleasantly surprised how much so.