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First look: TCL's flagship 5184-zone X955 advances miniLED LCD, boosts to 5500 nits

07 Dec 2023 | Rasmus Larsen |

FlatpanelsHD spent time with TCL's new high-end miniLED LCD models in Poland, including the flagship X955, on which we even managed to take a few measurements.

As announced in August, TCL is bringing the C805, C955 and X955 ranges to Europe in sizes up to 98 inches, in addition to the current 98-inch P745.

These will be some of the most advanced miniLED LCD TVs on the market, with up to 5184 dimming zones and up to 5000 nits, according to TCL, although this is reserved for the flagship X955.

TCL miniLED technology

TCL Europe's Marek Maciejewski presenting in Poland. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

In Poland, TCL Europe's Marek Maciejewski, Product Development Director Europe, discussed the current TV market (slump), TCL's latest miniLED LCD technology, and a deep dive into the new products and their features. There were no major announcements, so in our report here we will instead share a first look at X955 and later publish a review of C805. A summary of TCL's 98" models:

98" TCL TVs for 2024

98" X95598" C95598" C80598" P745
RRP8000 Euro6000 Euro5000 Euro2500 Euro
Display techVA LCDVA LCDVA LCDVA LCD (last gen)
BacklightminiLEDminiLEDminiLEDDirect LED
Zones518421601344No zones
HDR formatsHDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby VisionHDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby VisionHDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby VisionHDR10, HDR10+, HLG, Dolby Vision
Max refresh rate144Hz144Hz144Hz144Hz
SoCMediaTek Pentonic 700MediaTek Pentonic 700MediaTek Pentonic 700MediaTek Pentonic 700
OSGoogle TV, Android 12Google TV, Android 12Google TV, Android 12Google TV, Android 12

First look: 98" TCL X955

In the main presentation room, 98-inch versions of TCL's X955, C955, C805, and P745 were placed side-by-side, providing us with a unique opportunity to compare these massive TVs, which are very difficult to transport and assemble in our own lab for review. Unfortunately, the C955 was malfunctioning due to transport damage, so we will not be making any further references to it.

TCL miniLED technology

Left to right: 98" X955, 98" C955, 98" C805, 98" P745. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

From the comparison, it was evident that X955 represents a significant improvement in picture quality compared to the C805 (which also marks a notable step-up from the P745) due to its more advanced miniLED backlight. X955 delivers better backlight control, higher peak brightness, less blooming, better contrast, and more saturated colors in HDR. Quite simply, X955 exhibited some of the best miniLED backlight control we have seen to date from an LCD TV.

TCL X955 picture quality

TCL X955 picture quality TCL X955 picture quality

98" TCL X955. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

In an adjacent room, TCL had actually removed the LCD panels of the X955 and other TV models to reveal the raw miniLED zone-dimming module, as shown in the video below. Notice how the resolution (54x96 = 5184) of the miniLED zones on X955 (rightmost) is starting to approach a point where facial features such as the mouth, nose, and eyes can be distinguished.
Left to right: 55" C645 (global dimming), 55" C745 (FALD, 140 zones), 65" C835 (miniLED, 288 zones), 65" C845 (miniLED, 576 zones), 98" X955 (miniLED, 5184 zones)
FlatpanelsHD spent two days in Poland, allowing us time to evaluate the TVs but not go fully in-depth with each model. With movies, TV series, and demo content that we know well, X955 delivered picture quality that we would describe as unusual for an LCD TV, surpassing the current batch of zone-dimming 2023 models (let's see what happens in 2024). I would say that fans of Samsung's "Neo QLED" miniLED LCD TVs, in particular, should start looking very seriously at TCL. With 5184 zones, miniLED is starting to reveal its strength, and TCL's miniLED LCD TVs are available at significantly lower prices. However, blooming – or haloing – is still visible in high-contrast scenes with deep blacks and high-brightness whites, especially when viewed off-angle, while peak brightness in other HDR test scenes is often subdued to avoid making the blooming too evident (the native contrast of the VA LCD panel is around 7000:1). Dark scenes reveal the limitations of zone dimming as compared to OLED. This is an area that calls for further improvement, as we are not close to reaching the threshold for diminishing returns, and not yet matching OLED or QD-OLED. A quick note here: We did not get a chance to compare, but the 85-inch X955 has 5184 dimming zones, just like the 98-inch, so it should, in theory, deliver better backlight control due to the smaller size of the LCD panel. With the C955, the 85-inch actually has more dimming zones than the 98-inch (2304 vs. 2160).

TCL X955 blooming

98" X955 has less blooming but it is not eliminated. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

TCL X955 blooming TCL X955 blooming

98" X955 blooming gets worse when viewed off-angle. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

5500 nits boost, confirmed

The strengths of X955 lie in raw brightness, particularly in outdoor scenes where, for example, a landscape or ocean bathed in sunlight can look spectacular – better than on any OLED TV. This is because miniLED LCD TVs do not drop to OLED's 200-250 nits full-screen brightness, and they have more headroom in brightness as well. FlatpanelsHD actually had the opportunity and time to put a meter on X955 and measure it:

TCL X955 peak brightness

98" X955 peak brightness 1-100% windows, HDR Movie mode. Measurements and graph: FlatpanelsHD

Full-screen brightness ("Full 100%") on X955 reaches an extreme 900 nits, while HDR peak brightness boosts to 5500 nits on a 5% window and 4500 nits on a 2% window. I say "boost" because this is a special boost mode that can last for a maximum of 5 seconds, after which X955 drops to around 2200-2500 nits, the normal peak brightness level, to avoid overheating and damage to the components. Real content, such as a movie, typically hit lower peak brightness due to the more complex light/color composition in scenes.

TCL X955 peak brightness

98" X955 peak brightness 5% window, HDR Standard Mode. Measurements and graph: FlatpanelsHD

Still, it is extreme in the context of today's TVs and very intense to look at, even for short periods. I am not sure we need 5000 nits on a 5% window (5% of the screen), but I could see it work in 0.05% or smaller segments of the picture to make stars glitter, reflections sparkle, and lamps glow. It is a balance between (brightness) power and finesse where miniLED LCD delivers the power, and OLED delivers the finesse.

X955 in Game Mode

In Game mode, X955's local dimming is less potent. This is not isolated to TCL's miniLED LCDs but simply a function of how local dimming works. Local dimming has a not-insignificant rise and fall time and a separate controller chip, so to keep input lag in check while gaming, zone dimming is scaled down. This was evident in a dark HDR-enabled game like Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which looked less punchy and contrast-rich in Game mode (Local Dimming set to Low, the default setting) than in Movie mode (with much higher input lag, 70-140ms) – considerably less so in VRR mode. This is one area where OLED still has a lead over the most advanced miniLED LCDs.

TCL X955 peak brightness

98" X955 peak brightness, HDR Game Mode, Local Dimming = Low. Measurements and graph: FlatpanelsHD

Input lag was measured to 13.5ms for 60Hz and 5.3ms for 120Hz. The TVs even have a special 240Hz mode with half vertical resolution (Dual-Line Gate, or DLG) that hits 2.8ms input lag. Changing Local Dimming to 'High' in Game mode will make input lag jump to around 15-17ms for 60-120Hz.

New remote, improved audio

TCL X955 comes with the new simplified remote control. It is a step forward for TCL in our opinion, but we would still like to see the sponsored buttons converted to user-customizable buttons without logos. Only the top layer is made from metal, while the rest of the remote is made from black plastic.

TCL remote control

The new remote control for TCL X955. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

During our time with X955, we noticed that it has significantly better speakers than, for example, C805, which we will publish a more comprehensive review of later along with more perspective on the viewing experience with a 98-inch display. However, a 98-inch home cinema TV still calls for better sound so if you are planning to purchase one be sure to leave room for proper speakers in your budget. All of TCL's new models still run Google TV (Android 12 pre-installed), powered by the MediaTek Pentonic 700 SoC, which we will also examine in more detail in our 98" TCL C805 review. There was by the way an intermittent issue with Dolby Vision HDR in the new models that we will also cover in our review.

Impressive, but let's not stop here

In summary, TCL's X955 stands out as an intriguing and significant advancement in the realm of miniLED LCD technology. With its great picture quality, particularly in bright scenes, X955 establishes TCL as the current leader in the miniLED LCD segment, marking a notable shift in the TV market. This should not come as a huge surprise considering that TCL's subsidiary, CSOT, now supplies LCD panels to industry giants such as Samsung and Sony, following Samsung's exit from LCD panel production last year. However, X955 leaves room for further improvement in the future. In our opinion, this improvement should focus on a significant increase in the number of dimming zones rather than chasing higher peak brightness in large segments (+5% windows) of the picture. Also read: TCL showcases 115" miniLED LCD TV – an alternative to projectors

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