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TCL 43P725 - 16bit colour?

The 43P725 does not appear to provide true 24bit/pixel colour, making it unsuitable for use as a computer monitor, but maybe also for closeup solo viewing.

Beware! We received a 43P725 as an in-warranty replacement for a failing 43P6US direct from TCL. We had been using the 43P6US as a monitor running native 4K for which 43" seems the perfect size, and it performed that perfectly.

The 43P725 does not properly support monitor use at 4K resolution because it is NOT 24bit/pixel colour, but uses pairs of adjacent pixels to visually sythesise colours that it does natively display. These pairs are offset by one pixel every alternate row so that close up there is a diagonal crosshatch pattern of pixels rather than the square pattern of pixels on a true 24bit/pixel TV or monitor. These supposedly solid colours look like they are made of threaded textiles.

This effect can be clearly seem on the GoogleTV home screen where the icons for the Australian iView and SBSNow apps and menu grey backgrounds are solid colours on a true 24bit/pixel like the 49C6US (top), but have the diagonally crosshatched pattern on the 43P725 (bottom):
Google TV home page icons with solid colours of 49C2US vs hatched offset pixels pairs of 43P725

This harkens back to the late 1980s with the then 16bit colour graphics cards having to do the same pixel pairing to synthesise the colours that could not be natively reproduced.

When used as a monitor at native resolution, text on the 49C2US (top) is clear and legible, whereas text that is one pixel wide on the 43P725 (bottom) is using adjacent pairs of pixels which ends up not only producing fuzzy text, but also causes text to appear multicoloured:
Legible coloured text of 49C2US vs blotchy 43P725

This effect varies in intensity depending upon where a window is placed on the screen as different pixels are used to make up the characters. The offsetting helps with large swathes of colours in photos or videos, but not for the fine detail of small text or line diagrams. It made my PHP code look like circus bunting.

From the usual car-parking space distance from a TV that everyone is expected to sit at, this effect is probably not noticeable, but when used close up as a monitor, it is. Typically, Windows sets the scaling to 300% for 4K, which would make text much smoother, but at 100% scaling to get the maximum number of useable pixels for text, it is unusable. And, the 43P725 is meant to be able to be used as a monitor, as – like other TVs, including the TCL 43P6US and 49C2US – custom naming an input as PC enables a HDMI2.0 option that supports 4K@60fps.

Now, if this is not some really weird fault on this one 43P725, but part of how TCL is making at least their low-end TVs, that is very worrying, as it is a 30 year regression in quality, and definitely precludes their 4K TVs being fully used as high-resolution monitors. TCL Australia has real difficulty finding out such technical details as the bit depth on their own TVs.

But even as a TV, it may be unsuitable. I have always been one to sit closer to a cheaper smaller TV than further away from a larger expensive one, which works well for the solo viewing that cheaper prices have allowed. This is probably the norm for those students using their TVs double-duty as a TV and computer monitor, both scenarios being done fairly close up in their bedroom-study. At close range, full 24bit/pixel blocks of solid colour look solid, but on the 43P725, they look like they are made of the threaded textile. Not a good look!

Fortunately, we got a refund of the original purchase price for the 43P6US from JB HiFi under the Australian consumer guarantee that allows refunds as an option when goods don't fit the criteria for which it was bought and made known at the time of purchase. Certainly, getting an in-warranty replacement TV that falls short of the functionality that the original TV had falls into that category.

However, besides TCL seeming downgrading their TVs, their sales service in Australia is terrible. It took 23 days to get the 43P6US's replacement, after providing a video and pictures, with the last week or so being at their courier's holding facility. Add to that a further 15 days of providing multiple pictures of the pixel problem on the 43P725 and what 24bit/pixel colour should look like from a 49P6US, along with no answer about whether the TVs are now 16bit, and multiple emails from them asking for the same information in typical left-hand-right-hand internal miscommunication.

At 44 days, we pulled the plug and went back through the retailer, and got our refund in a few days. Fortunately, it was not our only TV as that delay would have been intolerable. How much a company cares about its customers is revealed by their after-sales service. We have had Dell monitors replaced under their standard Advanced Replacement warranty, where they immediately send out a new or refurbished monitor, allow you to set it up, then they come and pick up the faulty one. That is 2-3 business days turnaround and no jumping through hoops proving that it is faulty.

Dell still offer that warranty on monitors costing well under what our TV did. Dell obviously trusts their customers enough to not give them the run-around. What TCL does reveals how much they distrust their customers, but in the end their distrust only makes them untrustworthy. We are never, ever getting another TCL appliance, ever.

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