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The U55H8800CDS is one of the more straightforward TVs you'll ever have to pull out of an over-sized cardboard box.
Setting it up is an absolute breeze. With the base of the TV already attached, all you really need to do is decide where you want to position it and then plug everything in. The base has a downside though, in that the TV doesn't really lend itself to being mounted on the wall. That's still an option if you really must, but it would look strange and bulky, so sitting it on a piece of furniture is the best option. If you want a panel that enables you to fast forward to the watching part, the U55H8800CDS gets a big tick.
Before you can get to that, though, you can expect to do just a little picture tweaking. While the default settings' colour, brightness and contrast are all pretty spot on, the sharpness is way too high. This is often the case with TVs out of the box and produces harsh results. Wind it back and you'll rid yourself of a whole lot of unsightly grain, leaving you with clear, crisp images.
Once you're on the couch, it's time to examine the TV's remote. It's a little on the large side – not that that's a problem – and has an angular black and silver design. Some wood detailing matching the TV might have been welcome, but perhaps that would have been one cheesy 70s nod too far.
For the most part it works as a standard IR setup, but also features mouse and microphone buttons. The mouse button activates a cursor function, which makes it easier to navigate menus and TCL's app store, while the microphone button activates – you guessed it – the remote's in-built microphone, which recognises a limited selection of voice commands – the cursor function is practical if you're going to use the TV's smart features, but the microphone is hit and miss. You're better off just keeping the remote in its IR mode.
Once everything's set, the U55H8800CDS produces some great results. Certainly better than we'd normally expect to see at this price point.
To make the most of this TV you'll need to access some of the admittedly limited 4K content that's currently available. Hopefully the 4K panels currently flooding the market will cause an avalanche of content that capitalises on what these TVs can do.
Pumping a Netflix 4K subscription into this particular panel delivered impressive results. Images look incredibly sharp and detailed, really adding to the overall feel that this is a premium TV. Watching Netflix's Daredevil series in such clarity revealed details that were not apparent in regular HD, and even standard Blu-rays look crisper than you would expect.
Colours that are natural and strong – the only orange-toned skin you'll see will be during reruns of Jersey Shore, shame on you – and the image processing is brisk, which is particularly handy if you're planning on using the panel for gaming.
At its worst, this panel produces delay of 40 milliseconds, which is quick for a 4K TV – most feature delay closer to 100 milliseconds or more. But it gets better. Brave the U55H8800CDS's settings menu and you can toggle it into Game Mode, which will halve the already impressive image processing speed.
The TV is impressively bright, too, but don't position it too near a window or sunny days will become the bane of your existence.
This is where the curve starts to be a problem. With limited options for TV placement in this reviewer's abode, I was forced to position it across from a window. It's a small window, but a source of light nonetheless. On a normal flat-screen panel it can create a small reflection, but it's nothing unbearable. On the curved TV, however, the window's light is bent and spreads across almost half the screen. So if you're going to set this (or any other) curved TV up near a window be prepared to invest in some curtains or blinds to go along with it.
The other common curve-related complaint – viewing angles – also rears its head. They're not too bad here, but as with all curved TVs you'll still want to sit as close to the centre of the panel as possible. It just feels wrong otherwise.
The TCL's audio offering is surprisingly good for in-built speakers. It's certainly loud, and even does a decent job with music, delivering surprising clarity at higher volumes and a nice dose of upper bass – though really deep bass is lacking. Overall, the TCL does a great job here, and less fussy users may find they don't need to invest in additional sound gear once you've give Harman/Kardon's setup a try. Particularly if they're a little short on space.
But it's not all good news. One of the U55H8800CDS's biggest flaws is its flat, clumsy user interface. It's slow, ugly, and as we mentioned, lacking in apps from all the major SVOD services. You might want to make the whole experience more bearable by just plugging a Chromecast or an Apple TV into the panel and forgetting that the TCL smart functionality is even there.
As mentioned previously, the U55H8800CDS supports 3D, and the panel comes with one set of lightweight active glasses. Or at least it's meant to. Unfortunately the review unit we were supplied had its glasses missing, so we weren't able to put the panel's 3D functionality through its paces. Having said that, 3D is a pretty lacklustre, secondary feature for many people these days, and while we could be wrong, we can't see TCL being the brand that transforms it into a must-have.