Hands on: TCL QM851G review – the brightest mini-LED TV yet

TCL goes big and bright with its latest flagship mini-LED TV

What is a hands on review?
TCL QM851G TV showing image of Ferris wheel
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

Our initial hands-on with the TCL QM851G mini-LED TV revealed it to be the brightest TV we’ve yet tested. It also has excellent local dimming performance, delivering deep, OLED-like blacks, is loaded with picture-enhancing features and has a potent 2.1.2-channel built-in Dolby Atmos speaker system. While we’ve yet to do a full review, with its great picture quality and affordable price, the QM851G could end up being the mini-LED TV to beat in 2024.

Pros

  • +

    Ultra-bright picture

  • +

    Excellent local dimming

  • +

    2.1.2-channel Dolby Atmos sound

Cons

  • -

    Just average motion handling

  • -

    Slight off-axis picture fade

  • -

    Only two HDMI 2.1 ports

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TCL recently launched its full TV lineup for 2024, and the range includes mini-LED models as large as 115 inches, a screen size that makes them a viable replacement for a projector in a home theater system.

The step-down model from that 115-inch flagship is the TCL QM851G series. These are available in 65- to 98-inch screen sizes and have a specified brightness of up to 5,000 nits and 5,000 local dimming zones. Those are impressive specs, especially considering that the best TVs, even mini-LED models like the QM851G, generally max out at around 2,000 nits brightness and have a significantly lower number of local dimming zones.

TCL showed its full TV range at an event in NYC timed with the launch, and as part of that event, I was allowed time to do hands-on testing of an 85-inch version of the QM851G. The TV provided was a pre-production unit, and only its Vivid picture mode was approved by the company for measurements. Nevertheless, my testing session gave me a good sense of the TV’s overall performance, and I could also confirm some of TCL’s specs for the QM851G series.

TCL QM851G TV showing Google TV interface

The new TCL TVs use the Google TV smart TV system for streaming (Image credit: Future)

I’ll get into those testing details momentarily, but first some general information about the TCL QM851G series. TCL’s top mini-LED TVs for 2024 feature the company’s AiPQ Ultra processor that provides 65,000 levels of granular control over local dimming among other picture-enhancing features. They also feature a display panel with an Ultra-Wide-Angle Lens for even light distribution and Optical Distance Reduction technology to minimize backlight blooming effects by reducing the space between the backlight and the reflector.

TCL QM851G series TVs have a native 120Hz display panel and two HDMI 2.1 inputs with support for up to 144Hz VRR and FreeSync Premium Pro. A Game Accelerator 240 feature allows for 240 VRR gaming at 1080p resolution and there’s a Game mode to reduce latency. For sound, there’s an Onkyo-designed 2.1.2-channel speaker system with up-firing Dolby Atmos drivers, and the TVs also feature an ATSC 3.0 next-gen TV tuner and Wi-Fi 6 for streaming.

HDR support on the QM851G series includes Dolby Vision IQ, HDR10+, HDR10, and HLG, and the TVs are IMAX Enhanced certified. As with other TCL TVs, the Google TV platform is used for streaming and smart home integration.

Pricing for the QM851G series is as follows:

  • 65QM851G:$1999.99 (around £1,600 / AU$3,000)
  • 75QM851G: $2699.99 (around £2,150 / AU$4,100)
  • 85QM851G $3999.99 (around £3,200 / AU$6,000)
  • 98QM851G: $7999.99 (around £6,400 / AU$12,100)

The 85- and 98-inch QM851G series TVs have support feet with adjustable height, while the 65- and 75-inch versions use a pedestal stand.

TCL QM851G TV showing image of sunset on a lake

Highlights in images with HDR, such as this sun setting on a lake, looked powerfully bright and refined on the TCL QM851G (Image credit: Future)

Picture Performance

With only the TCL 85QM851G’s Vivid picture mode approved (it was the only mode finalized at the time), there was no point in making color measurements since the Vivid mode on TVs is typically the least accurate picture preset. I was able to test HDR brightness, however, and here TCL’s TV just about met spec. Measured using a white window test pattern covering 10% of the screen area, the 85QM851G’s peak brightness was 4,793 nits and it measured 705 nits with a full-screen pattern.

To put those numbers into context, a Samsung QN900D 8K TV I recently reviewed measured 1,870 and 470 nits on the same tests. My measurements of the Samsung TV were taken in the set’s Filmmaker mode, however, which doesn’t always provide the same high brightness levels as Vivid mode. Even so, assuming the TCL 85QM851G can come close to its Vivid mode brightness when in Movie mode, it will be the brightest TV I’ve yet tested.

TCL QM851G showing image of feather on black

The TCL QM851G's precise local dimming gave challenging images such as this feather on a black background a clean look that was free of backlight "blooming" (Image credit: Future)

It may not have been fully approved by TCL for testing at the time, but the 85QM851G’s Movie picture mode nonetheless looked very accurate. Checking out the demonstration section from the Spears & Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark 4K Blu-ray disc, images of landscapes and flowers had excellent color saturation and detail. In shots with bright objects against a black background, the TV’s outstanding local dimming ensured the image was free of backlight “blooming” effects, and I noted the same result when watching a starfield motion test pattern designed to test local dimming.

When I next watched scenes from the James Bond film No Time to Die, the TCL 85QM851G’s high brightness in Movie mode gave images a bold and punchy look, with dark scenes showing plentiful shadow detail and HDR highlights popping on the screen. One scene I use to test motion handling showed a high level of judder and blur as Bond walked across a hilltop cemetery, but the issue could be fixed by using the TV’s Custom judder and blur settings.

Aside from the judder, the only possible shortcoming I saw on the 85QM851G was a degree of color and contrast fade when viewing from an off-center position. The fading effect was mild, however, and isn’t likely to be seen on an expansive 85-inch screen.

Sound performance 

The TCL 85QM851G’s 2.1.2-channel speaker system delivered solid audio quality during my test, with the TV’s up-firing speaker drivers creating a sense of spaciousness with Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Adjustable-height feet make it easy to add the best soundbars to the TV for enhanced audio performance, and TCL has also launched 5.1.2 and 7.1.4-channel Dolby Atmos soundbars along with its new TVs. Those new soundbar systems, the Q75H ($899) and Q85H ($999) are surprisingly affordable given their capabilities and will be available this summer.

TCL QM851G remote control held in hand

The TCL QM851G's full-featured remote control (Image credit: Future)

With its super-bright picture and excellent local dimming, TCL’s QM851G series TV will likely provide strong competition for premium mini-LED TVs from Samsung and Sony. And although $4,000 may sound like a lot to pay for a TV, an 85-inch mini-LED model for that price is actually a great value. The only better one I can think of is the QM851G's 98-inch version at $7,999. I’ll have more to say about the TCL QM851G series after I get a full production unit in for review, though it’s unlikely to be a 98-inch one!

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Al Griffin
Senior Editor Home Entertainment, US

Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine. 

When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.