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TCL 85C855K

TCL seems to be on a mission to prove that, when it comes to all things televisual, size really matters. No sooner has my aching back and drooling mouth recovered from the enormous majesty of the brand’s 85-inch 85C805K than I’ve found myself faced with a second TCL TV mountain in the hulking shape of the 85C855K: Another 85-inch TV with a home cinema point to prove. What’s more, while still relatively affordable for such a huge TV, the 85C855K actually delivers a major performance step up from its already illustrious sibling.

Picture quality

A big (pun intended) part of the previously-reviewed TCL 85C805K’s charm is how bright it manages to get despite how affordable its huge screen is. The 1350 nits it can deliver unlocks more of the charms of today’s high dynamic range video than I’d have thought possible for such relatively small amount of money. The 85C855K, however, delivers [drum roll please] measured brightness peaks of more than 3,400 nits. Somebody pass me the sunglasses.

I do have to follow up this outrageous number with a couple of caveats, though. First, the very brightest 3000-nit and more measurements I got from TCL’s mid-range hero (for yes, despite numbers like this it actually still only sits around the middle of TCL’s 2024 king-sized TV offering) were measured on relatively small HDR test windows covering 2 and 5% of the screen area. Peaks dropped to more like 2,400 nits at the 25% window size, and just under 700 nits with a white HDR window filling the entire screen. 

Secondly, the highest brightness was only sustained for a brief period before the 85C855K’s screen had to take a ‘breather’ and reduce its brightness quite substantially for a few seconds before ascending the giddy heights again. With real world content, though, this ‘overdrive and relax’ method isn’t a problem, as the brightest HDR highlights tend to only appear for limited amounts of time. And don’t worry; the impact the incredible amount of brightness the 85C855K can muster is still burned into my brain days after my time with TCL’s TV came to an end. 

The intensity with which the 85C855K delivers small HDR highlights such as reflections of the sun on glass and metal, street lights, candles and so on is at a level I’ve only seen a handful of times before - on extreme high-end LCD TVs from Samsung and Sony that either cost vastly more than the 85C855K, or have much smaller screens. 

Brightness is far from the 85C855K’s only strength, though. At its heart is a mini LED panel illuminated by a local dimming system operating across a huge 2,304 separately controlled zones that delivers a level of local lighting control powerful enough to ensure the screen produces seriously good black colours and dark scenes alongside all the blisteringly intense stuff. 

Any film fan knows that black levels are at least as important as brightness when it comes to a convincing HDR experience, so it’s a relief to find the dark scenes and picture areas being shown with such conviction. As well as enjoying surprisingly deep black tones, moreover, dark scenes are presented almost free of such typical dark scene nasties as backlight clouding, blooming around stand-out bright objects and general grey, blue or green undertones. 

Even better, the 85C855K’s huge zone count and apparently powerful image processing means that bright highlights can appear against very dark backdrops without being aggressively dimmed to avoid blooming. This helps the picture achieve both a level of contrast and a level of consistency that feels wholly incompatible with the 85C855K’s eye-catchingly affordable price. 

The 85C855K delivers a more aggressively 4K image than the step-down 85C805K, too. The slightly coarse, soft feeling that characterised the 85C805K’s still-excellent pictures is replaced by a more consistently clean, pure, detailed and textured image that capitalises on the screen’s epic size.

The clarity holds up well when there’s lots of movement in the frame, too. The combination of the screen’s size and brightness can make judder a little distracting with 24 frames a second films without using any of the TV’s motion processing options, but setting up a custom motion processing system with motion clarity set to level four and judder reduction set to level three makes things much less jarring without causing too many unwanted processing side effects.

Sometimes, very bright but affordable TVs can suffer from washed out colours because they can’t produce enough intensity to keep up with all that light. This is not the case with the 85C855K, though. Its Quantum Dot colour system matches the brightness all the way, unlocking levels of HDR-friendly colour volumes well beyond the capabilities of any other king-sized screen I’ve seen at anything like so affordable a price.

The intensity isn’t forced, either. Tones look balanced, especially in the excellent Movie preset, and there’s more than enough subtlety to blends and skin tones to ensure that nothing feels cartoonish, noisy or one-dimensional. 

While the 85C855K’s pictures are spectacularly good, there are inevitably one or two niggles. For starters, backlight blooming around bright objects becomes noticeable if you watch from an angle. HDR colours can become a bit excessive with bold content, too, in the set’s default Standard preset when using the TCL’s dynamic tone-mapping system. Something confirmed by how much more consistently natural colours appear with Dolby Vision feeds, which carry their own baked in extra tone mapping information. 

There can also be some slight clipping of subtle details in the brightest parts of the 85C855K’s pictures (though not as much as I might have expected from such an incredibly bright screen), and finally the Dynamic Contrast feature can cause backlight instability - especially with HDR10+ content - unless you leave it set to its low level, despite this setting costing the image a little of its trademark punch.

Finally, the epic size of the screen reveals that while the 85C855K’s processing is good in some ways, it’s not quite as adept at upscaling HD and SD content as that of some (more expensive) rival brands.

If you’re thinking this list of niggles sounds pretty feeble relative to all the strengths I mentioned earlier… well, you’re absolutely right.

Sound quality

The 85C855K’s sound is pretty good, but doesn’t deliver as much of a step up from the 85C805K as its pictures do. 

It can get loud enough and deliver a mid-range wide enough to sound like an appropriately expansive accompaniment to such large pictures. The treble never sounds harsh despite picking out plenty of detail either, and those details are placed with just enough precision to get some value out of the extreme effects steering of a good Dolby Atmos movie mix.

The sound stage doesn’t spread as wide and bass doesn’t hit as heavily as I would have liked with such a home cinema machine, though, and deep male vocals can sound a little hemmed in. So, the 85C855K sounds good rather than brilliant. But then I suspect anyone buying a TV like this would already have, or be looking to add, a separate audio system anyway.

One last point to add is that the set I tested exhibited a strange Dolby Atmos bug where some effects went AWOL from the mix. If this wasn’t a hardware issue specific to the model I tested, though, experience suggests that TCL will deliver a fix sooner rather than later. 

Living with

Did I mention that the 85C855K is big? Obviously, this is a very good thing provided you know what you’re getting yourself into, giving you a much more cinematic experience than any 65 or even 75-inch TV can. It does, though, make the TV hard to set up and move around, and it dominates any space it’s in. Especially if you’re looking to place it across a corner of your room.

Getting the best from the 85C855K involves spending a little time in its menus, tweaking things (turning off noise reduction for 4K, tweaking the Dynamic Contrast setting, establishing a custom motion setting and so on) than I’d have liked, and its Google TV operating system isn’t the most stable or easy to navigate. 

Also, while Google TV is rich in apps and carries most of the key global video streaming services, it doesn’t provide all of the UK’s favourite catch up services. TCL will send you a free Roku streaming stick if you request one to cover these missing apps, but, well, that’s hardly as easy as just having the services built in.

Gamers, though, are well served, as the 85C855K supports 4K/120Hz, 144Hz, variable refresh rates (including AMD’s FreeSync Premium Pro system) and auto low latency mode switching. The screen renders images received in its Game preset in just 13ms, too, ensuring that the instant immersion you get from exploring game worlds on an 85-inch screen is bolstered by excellent responsiveness.


TCL really seems to be onto something with its current (and cannily Euro 2024-timed) ‘big screens at small prices’ push. While the 85C855K doesn’t grab headlines with its price as much as the insanely cheap 85C805K, it’s still great value for an 85-inch TV that combines class-leading brightness with cutting edge mini LED and dimming tech. It’s big food for thought for anyone thinking of spending more than £2,000 on a premium 65-inch TV. 

Test samples

Top Gun: Maverick 4K Blu-ray

The gorgeously clean, bright and colourful 4K Blu-ray master of Top Gun: Maverick is arguably the ultimate source for showing off the talents of high-quality big TVs such as the 85C855K. The experience is as close as you can get to being at the cinema without actually leaving home.

Batman Vs Superman 4K Blu-ray

The HDR master of Zack Snyder’s Batman Vs Superman movie features some highlights that get close to 4000 nits of brightness. So it’s perfect demo material for unlocking the full potential of the 85C855K’s incredible peak brightness talents.

It Chapter One 4K Blu-ray

While the 85C855K’s peak brightness is its headline feature, the way its mini LED lighting allows it to also deliver believable black tones and dark colours alongside its intense brightness peaks is just as important to picture quality. And no film delivers darker scenes than director Andy Muschietti’s first It film. The scenes in the cellar of Georgie and Billy’s house in particular are classic TV contrast torture tests - that TCL’s TV handles brilliantly.

What the press say

Why you should buy it

The 85C855K serves up better picture processing and almost three times as much brightness as TCL’s also excellent 85C805K. What’s more, as well as turning your living room into a home cinema, its size and image quality deliver an ultra-immersive gaming experience.

The extra brightness and other talents make this model £700-£800 dearer than the equivalent C805K, but £2,299 is still a remarkably good price for a TV of such size, ambition and all-round quality. 

Video review

Pair it with

If you’re going to buy a TV as big as the 85C855K, you’re going to want to partner it with the highest quality 4K sources you can. A 4K Blu-ray player is a must in my opinion - think about the Panasonic UB9000 or maybe the Panasonic UB820. Both of these can handle the HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR formats the 85C855K supports, too.

You should also take out the premium quality subscriptions of services such as Netflix and Prime Video, if you can, and if there’s any monthly money left, Sky’s UHD broadcast/streaming services will give you lots of 4K HDR films, TV shows and, especially, sports content that will look spectacular.

Finally, a TV this big would benefit from adding a powerful external audio system, such as a Samsung Q900D soundbar, or Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar Plus.

Alternatives to consider

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