Who says you have to pay a small fortune for a big screen 4K HDTV? Not Chinese TV maker TCL, one of the largest television producers in the world. The model we’ve been testing is the TCL 55UP130, a 55″ beauty that’s thin and has almost no bezel. That means picture from corner to corner. It also comes with Roku streaming hardware already built in – no need to add a separate gizmo like Amazon’s Fire TV or Apple TV. Using Roku you have access to hundreds of channels and thousands of programs, so cable cutters take note. It comes with the simple Roku remote control which has fewer buttons than most cable box remotes, but still seems to do the job.
The model 55UP130 is a 4K, Ultra High Definition television (UHD). The picture is bright, sharp, and crisp. Is it as sharp as some of the big screen televisions that run ten times the price? Maybe not quite as sharp. But let’s be honest, for many of us over age 50, we’re just happy we can see the set. So far the only place you’re going to find 4K content seems to be from alternative providers like Netflix and Amazon. But the TCL will automatically upscale 2K (HDTV) signals to give them near 4K quality.
The set comes with 4 HDMI ports and has built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity. That gives you plenty of flexibility so you can use one port for cable, another for a Blu Ray player. We use a third together with an Asus VivoStick computer on a stick which we coupled with a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse, creating one great couch based computing experience.
To get even more out of the TCL 55UP130 you can use the remote app from Roku. This will enable you to use your smartphone or tablet as a full function remote, and even send photos and videos from those devices up the big screen. And it will do voice search so you can search for favorite programs by title, source, or even actor. We found that it was easy to navigate among the various inputs and to customize the home screen using the supplied remote.
This is a true value proposition. The TCL 55UP130 has a ton of built-in functionality for any television watcher, with or without cable. It is easy to navigate and gives you a great picture. And best thing of all is the price, at $499, or about ten percent the cost of some of those premium sets.