Google TV came to life on last year’s Chromecast, then expanded to Sony’s pretty-darn-expensive Bravia TVs earlier this year. Now, though, the platform is coming to something more affordable. TCL is bringing several Google TV models to market this month, and I’ve had to chance to check them out in person.

I was able to spend some time recently taking an in-person look at the TCL 5-Series and 6-Series models, which are running on top of Google TV. Starting with the hardware, these were pretty typical for 4K HDR TVs. TCL has built its brand in the States on making good panels for affordable prices, and these fit the pattern. Everything I saw looked good, with demos showing off 120Hz and HDR.

What caught my attention more than the picture quality, though, were some of the hardware features. For one, these TVs support Google Assistant through built-in far-field microphones, which enables “Hey Google” commands just like on a smart speaker. A nice touch, too, was support for a physical switch that can disable the microphone.

Some other neat add-ons TCL offered include the ability to adjust the placement of the legs on the larger models, something that I quickly realized was one of those “I didn’t know I needed that” features. Finally, TCL is also making its own webcam for use with Google Duo. You’ll be able to use your own webcam over USB if you choose, but what I thought was nice about TCL’s option was the magnetic mounting. At $80, though, it’s definitely a little pricey.

The big question, though, is performance. TVs with Android built-in can range from very fast to dreadfully slow, the latter being more common when we’re talking about this more affordable side of the spectrum. The good news? These leave a great first impression when it comes to performance.

In my demo, I didn’t spot any noticeable lag from the Google TV interface on any of the models that were being displayed. As someone who uses a Chromecast with Google TV on a daily basis, I was really glad to see that TCL was offering better performance on TVs that fall into an affordable price range. It’s hard to say how these will age, but it seems like there’s at least a little bit of headroom before things start to slow down.

The company didn’t provide exact specifications for the chipsets and memory found under the hood, but clearly, it’s enough to provide a decent experience.

I also asked TCL about software updates. All of these models launch with Android 11 — a version newer than what’s on Google’s own Chromecast — under the hood, but the company couldn’t provide any specifics regarding an update policy, only pointing to a close relationship with Google and its track record. I wouldn’t expect that to mean these will get updates constantly or major versions in a timely manner, but more so that they won’t be ignored, as is too often the case with TV brands.

Rounding things out, I want to touch on the remote you’ll use to control these TVs. It’s not one of Google’s reference designs that we love so much, but the design isn’t all that different. The longer remote is easy to hold and has a nice layout for buttons. I’m not the biggest fan of the overall look or the side-mounted volume buttons, but it gets the job done well enough, and the buttons are quiet when pressed.

You’ll be able to buy TCL 5-Series and 6-Series televisions with Google TV later this month. Stay tuned for our full reviews. Pricing starts at $599 for the 5-Series and $999 for the 6-Series. Pre-orders are open today.

Note: TCL paid for 9to5Google’s travel and accommodations to this briefing but in no way influenced any coverage or saw it before publishing.

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Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

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