In short, we liked TCL's take on gaming for those on the budget. They should be please by the beautiful QLED panel that can't match OLED but doesn't match its price either. Spend some of that cash you saved on a decent set of headphones or a soundbar and TCL's C745 turns into a real beast of the budget TV industry. It's just a shame it seems to be sold out everywhere right now.
It’s been a minute since Stuff last got to play around with something from TCL’s catalogue. That’s because TCL has been too busy cooking up a refreshed line-up of its C-series, specifically looking to satiate our appetites with the C745, a TV meant for gamers on a budget. Being avid members of both categories, we really wanted to like this one. And we did. A lot.
“Budget” might seem like a strong (or wrong) word when you look at the R12,000 (RRP) price, but when you compare it to something from under Samsung or LG’s auspices with similar specs, things start to make more sense. Rather than getting the C745 all dressed up for a night out, TCL’s put the budget where it matters most: that striking QLED panel.
Unless you’ve skipped right ahead to the good bits, you’d already know that TCL’s gone with quantum-dot tech for this one. Considering the company’s last gamer-centric budget option, that didn’t come as a surprise. It’s no OLED, sure, but TCL’s gotta keep the cost down somehow. There’s hardly room for complaint, anyway. The 1,000 nits’-capable display is nothing to scoff at, with that HDR10+ spec really pulling its weight. Dolby Vision was a nice touch too.
Throw the C745 into a too-bright room in the middle of the day and you’ll find that it stands up to the test. Mostly. Colours aren’t washed out wherever you are, but there’s no denying that nighttime is when it shines brightest. You’ll need to do some fiddling to get things just right whether it’s day or night. It’s worth it. We promise.
It can’t do everything though, and you’ll start to notice that lack of OLED a lot more when you’re watching anything with a bright object in the midst of a dark scene. You can expect the local dimming that’s on display to put up a good show of ridding your eyes of bloom. At least, as much as it can. It never became noticeable enough to enter into dealbreaker territory, and it’s more than good enough for the price you’re paying. That’s… fine by us.
Get up and go
Before you can see any of that, you’ll need to set it up first. The physical side can be done with one person, a screwdriver and somewhere to work. It’s all coated in cheap plastic, though the two metal feet feel sturdy enough. Get the feet attached, plop it down, and let the real work begin.
That’s only if you want the hard work, that is. While setting up the C745 – primarily a Google TV OS – we had the option to “Set up basic TV” rather than going down the Google route. You’ll effectively be turning it into a ‘dumb TV’ though one that still connects to the internet, and makes you agree to a few Ts and Cs with the big difference being to opt out of Google tracking. We didn’t stick around here for long, but it’s nice to know there’s an option to move out of Google’s crosshairs (and into TCL’s?) if we ever went on the run.
For right now, we don’t mind digging a larger hole for ourselves where Google is concerned. And the TV thanked us for it. Setting up was as simple as downloading the Google Home app (if you don’t already have it) and letting Google do the rest. Eventually, we were hooking up the PS5 and cruising around our streamers.
We’re guessing that most of the folks sniffing around the C745 already have a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S in their arsenal. The consoles will bring the most out of the gorgeous 4K 120Hz panel that’s on offer. ‘Round the back, the C745’s got four HDMI ports, three of which are 2.1. Expect VRR support for the consoles too, and if you’ve got a beefy-enough PC lying around, there’s even a 144Hz port to play around with.
You’ll need to stick it into gaming mode to get all that done, noticeably affecting those 120 local dimming zones to place a heavier reliance on input lag. Speaking of, we didn’t notice any input lag, despite what we may have told our friends during a gruelling Rocket League session. Unless you’re playing Limbo on repeat, less-apparent dimming zones shouldn’t be an issue. It wasn’t for us. As for screen stuttering or tearing, we’re glad to report that we experienced nothing of the sort.
Everything gaming-related is handled by the built-in Game Bar that held up its end pretty well; offering a quick spot to fiddle with FPS, picture modes, a screenshot button and an actual crosshair overlay. You know, the sort of thing that would have earned the player using it a healthy “touch grass” comment and seeing them labelled as a cheater. Now it’s a feature built right into your TV.
Turn off the games and you might notice the C745’s IMAX Enhanced certification. That means stuff with the IMAX logo plastered on – usually found on a Disney+ page – will show off a little more on the top and bottom of the screen than it would on another TV. It’s not a feature that makes this TV a must-buy, but it certainly won’t be garnering any negative press.
Room for improvement
Our biggest disappointment arrived when we took off our pair of wireless headphones, which incidentally, held up well with the included Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. It wasn’t a question of volume. The C745 can get impressively loud but stumbles a bit when it comes to providing the sort of punchy bass you’d expect for gaming. It’s a less noticeable drawback when watching casually, offset by the inclusion of Dolby Atmos and DTS: X.
Don’t expect those to supply any miracles, however. It’s working with a pair of 15W downward-firing speakers at the base of the TV and was instantly helped by a decent soundbar and subwoofer. If you’re going in raw, things might start to sound a wee bit strained once you start bumping those numbers up.
TCL has left the remote largely untouched. It’s maybe only a crumb lighter, but that might just be us looking for something to say. What is there to say? TCL’s had the controller nailed down for a while now, though we wouldn’t say no to a few more local streamers added onto its face, and maybe some USB-C charging. Fingers crossed for the next round, heh?
TCL C745 QLED Verdict
When it mattered most, the C745 came out on top in most areas. We’re willing to overlook (and have) the slightly sub-par sound quality and plastic body for that R12,000 price tag. If you’re trying to get your current set replaced before the Proteas (hopefully) get through to the Semis, you might want to do it quickly. You might struggle in that department, though, with the C745 QLED seemingly vanishing off the face of the Earth. We’ve heard from the higher-ups that these should be back in stock sometime soon. Expect them at the usual places, though Incredible and Takealot will probably be your best bet.