TCL 98P745K 98in LCD/LED TV review

The 98P745K is TCL's most affordable 98in TV, costing around the same as a premium 55in OLED. John Archer wonders if this is the dawn of a new era

When it comes to home cinema, bigger is always better. This idea has traditionally fed a thriving home cinema projector market, reinforced by the way king-sized TVs with screens of 90in and above have tended to be remortgage-requiringly expensive. Suddenly, though, projectors are finding themselves looking over their shoulders as a new breed of ultra-large TV – that you don't need to be an oil magnate to afford – bursts onto the scene.

TCL is right at the forefront of this mammoth TV surge, with no less than four 98in models in its current range. One of these, the 98P745K we're scrutinising here, costs just £2,299. That undercuts the prices of many of the latest laser and ultra-short-throw projectors, even though it's better placed (on paper, anyway) as a TV to handle the contrast, brightness and colour demands of modern 4K HDR content than any PJ.

Global approach
As the cheapest of TCL's 98in quartet, the 98P745K is built on a relatively limited feature set. There's no Mini LED lighting, for instance. Instead it's illuminated by a regular LCD lighting system, albeit one placed directly behind the screen, which usually delivers better contrast than the edge-lit alternative. It only uses a 'global' dimming engine, however, meaning there's no localised dimming to provide fine control over where the screen's brightness is directed.

TCL also claims a fairly limited brightness for this ultra-affordable TV giant of 450 nits. My own measurements recorded nearer 550 nits with some presets, across 2 per cent, 10 per cent and 100 per cent HDR test windows. The 98P745K's panel is a VA type, rather than a lower-contrast IPS one – yet while it claims a wide colour gamut, it doesn't use a Quantum Dot colour system.

As usual for a TCL telly, decoding for the Dolby Vision and HDR10+ premium HDR formats is onboard, alongside the 'basic' HDR10 and HLG systems. The set also earns IMAX Enhanced certification, and its 60W, 2.1-channel Onkyo-designed sound system handles both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos content.

Gamers will be pleased to hear the TV can cope with 4K/120Hz gaming (in fact, TCL claims 144Hz), along with variable refresh rates. There's also a Dolby Vision gaming mode, and Game mode input lag drops to just 13.5ms with 60Hz feeds, or below 6ms at 120Hz.

Key picture and sound features are managed by the third generation of TCL's AiPQ processor, including upscaling of HD sources to the screen's 4K resolution – something that needs to work exceptionally well, of course, in a 98in environment.

Lastly, in terms of general design, the 98P745K's mighty screen is framed by a strikingly slender bezel that you barely notice against the huge pictures within it. It is fairly chunky round the back, but I suppose sufficient support for so much screen acreage has to go somewhere.

All things bright and beautiful
While this monster-sized TV's pictures reveal some limitations versus TCL's more premium ranges (such as its C845K Mini LED model), they're much better than expected given its astonishingly affordable price.

Brightness is a pleasant surprise. Perhaps because of the screen's sheer size, full-screen bright shots from The Marvels on 4K Blu-ray, such as the visit to the 'singing planet' Aladna, pop off the screen with more impact than they do with even the brightest projector.

Just as importantly, despite its limited light control mechanisms, the 98P745K combines its engaging brightness with decent black levels. While there's a slight blue-grey wash over dark picture areas, such as the blackness of space behind our Marvel heroines as they try to close the space 'rift', it doesn't stop such moments looking more convincing than they do on most affordable LCD TVs. There's also plenty of shadow detail in even the darkest areas, and really no obvious backlight inconsistencies.

The combination of decent brightness and black levels delivers a good contrast performance, where bright picture highlights appear with good intensity against dark backdrops despite the absence of local dimming. The lustre of a luminous Monica Rambeau against space in The Marvels' climactic sequence showcases this perfectly.

Projectors, again, can't deliver the same combination of black levels and brightness – they always have to favour one over the other.

While the lack of Quantum Dot colour limits the 98P745K's range, you can still appreciate the wide colour mastering of The Marvels in HDR. The film's vibrant animated closing credits were particularly eye-catching, as was the plethora of colours on display in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (4K Blu-ray). Pictures don't look washed out, and colours appear balanced and natural, with no tones standing out too aggressively.

All this and I haven't yet described the sheer awe that ogling images on a decent 98in TV inspires. The size draws you into a film just like going to a good cinema does – except there are no idiots around you talking or rustling sweet bags. And the immersion is helped on the 98P745K by the lack of any visible pixel structure, even when sat as close as 2.5m from the screen.

I'd worried TCL's set might look pretty grisly with anything less than native 4K content, but actually its AI-powered upscaling engine does pretty well – especially when using the Movie picture preset – when it comes to both calculating the look of the millions of pixels it needs to add, and detecting and removing/reducing source noise.

I've mentioned some limitations of the 98P745K's pictures already, but will add that there's occasionally a little clipping of subtle detail in peak bright areas; moving video can sometimes generate a mild 'dirty screen effect'; and sometimes dark scenes can suffer with noticeable brightness jumps. Fortunately this latter distraction only crops up rarely.

The 98P745K's sound delivers enough power and 'spread' – including a degree of height with The Marvels' lively Dolby Atmos mix – to do the screen's visuals proud, and the details and transitions that are such a big part of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X mixes are presented cleanly and with decent positioning accuracy.

There's a good amount of bass to underpin action moments too, and while there's a slightly 'low-fi' feel to the sound generally, for the most part the audio merely enhances the sense that TCL's budget giant really is ridiculously good value. If you want to add a partnering soundbar, just be aware that even the most premium model is likely to be dwarfed by this 2.1m-wide flatscreen.

Bang for your buck
Not everyone will be able to cope with the practicalities of installing a 98in TV, but TCL thinks there's plenty of life in the concept, and evidently so do UK retailers, including the likes of Hughes and Currys, that are stocking the 98P745K.

But if you are shopping at this size, TCL's three step-up 98in models, especially the flagship 98X955 Mini LED, can all be expected to deliver an even more impressive picture performance. For sheer bang for your buck, though, this first step on the ladder is very impressive.

HCC Verdict: 4/5

TCL 98P745K
Price: £2,299

We say: A price-driven specification inevitably places some limits on performance, but the 98P745K is still good enough for its money to potentially shake up the home cinema arena.


4K: Yes. 3,840 x 2,160 HDR: Yes. HDR10; HLG; Dolby Vision; HDR10+ CONNECTIONS:: 4 x HDMI; 2 x USBs; Ethernet; digital optical audio output; headphone jack 4K/120 PLAYBACK: Yes SOUND (CLAIMED): 60W BRIGHTNESS (CLAIMED): 450 nits CONTRAST (CLAIMED): 7000:1 (native) DIMENSIONS (OFF STAND): 2,177(w) x 1247(h) x 103(d)mm WEIGHT (OFF STAND): 55.4kg

FEATURES: Wi-Fi; AiPQ processing engine; Google TV smarts; Game preset inc. Dolby Vision mode; eARC; ALLM; LED direct panel design; dynamic tone mapping; Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound support; HomeKit and Airplay 2 support; Game Bar gaming menu; Freeview HD tuner