TCL TVs have shown to offer great value over the past few years. They're a newcomer in the space, but they came in with quite a strong splash by associating themselves with Roku for their smart features. We made a few TCL TV reviews last year, and as they've shown popular, we will keep reviewing them in the future. Look forward to our reviews of 2017 models in the coming months.
Compared to other brands
- Inexpensive. By far the cheapest priced brand we've tested this year. Most of them can be found for under $500.
- Great Smart OS. All TCL smart TVs use Roku TV. Roku is intuitive, snappy, fully featured and has all the apps most people want.
- Not Very Bright. All the TCL TVs we've tested have below average brightness measurements. Not unusable, but might not be enjoyable in brighter environments.
- Below Average Viewing Angle. Even compared to other "small viewing angle" TVs, TCL TVs tend to perform worse.
TCL vs Vizio
Compared to Vizio, TCL's lineup is a lot more budget-oriented. Their budget offerings are quite competitive, with similar picture quality. The Roku TV interface is better than Vizio's SmartCast.
TCL vs LG
LG's lineup spans far and wide, and a lot of it is similarly priced to TCL. While they both offer excellent smart platforms, budget oriented LG TVs will usually subpar picture quality compared to TCL TVs. They will do much better when viewed at an angle though.
Overall, TCL's TVs offer good picture quality and great features at a low price. Most TVs in this price point show a definitive drop in performance compared to more expensive models.
Best TCL Smart TVs
TCL's lineup strangely has a lot of overlap. Different models have the same sizes for about the same price as others and with no difference in picture quality.
Best TCL 4k TV
The best TCL TV we've reviewed is the US5800 4k LED TV. It offers good picture quality and great smart features at an unusually good price.
It's tough to find major flaws with the US5800. Contrast is great, and it has no big issues with motion or input lag. Uniformity is also decent. It's not the brightest, and picture quality does significantly deteriorate when viewed from an angle, but it's still a more than sufficient TV for the average person's evening TV sessions.
Best budget TCL TV
If you want something truly inexpensive that still has a great set of features, look for the S305 1080p LED TV. Its picture quality isn't too far off from the US5800 above, but it's a good deal cheaper. This is the perfect model for those looking for a simple TV for a bedroom, since it doesn't get too bright, but it's still a better TV than the average one found at this price.
For 2017, TCL expanded their lineup in the US. They added support for HDR across their line including Dolby Vision for a few of the models.
The new flagship of the brand. Has a full-array local dimming and supports Dolby Vision.
Nicest looking series of the line drops the full-array backlight for an edge-lit solution instead.
TCL's budget series has a plastic stand and no Dolby Vision support.
TCL Smart Features
Their remote and overall interface is identical to what you would find on the Roku set top boxes, with complete 4k support which is unlike most of their lineup.
The TCL Smart TVs come with a remote you would think was mistakenly placed in the box. This isn’t a bad thing since it's very comfortable and responsive. The TCL branding is impressively minimal and much like the interface, it’s a carbon copy of the ones you can find with the Roku boxes.
There are two versions of the remote. One is slightly thicker and has a 3.5mm TRS connector right onto it, so you can listen to the TV with headphones. This version also has a microphone for use with the voice search of the Roku operating system. It can be found with the UP130. The other remote, found with all the other TCL TVs, is thinner and doesn't have these upgrades. It is otherwise the same.
Don't worry, though. You don't need to buy that fancy remote to get those features. You can instead download the Roku app on Android or iOS and get all of them.The app is responsive and connects to the TV very easily. The audio lag when using the private listening feature on the phone isn't noticeable, just make sure to keep a good Wi-Fi connection to avoid any issues.
When you first boot up the TCL smart TVs, you're greeted with what they call the home page. Unlike most other manufacturers, TCL brings you straight to your inputs before anything else. Since the smart features are only one button press away, it's quite intuitive.
The search feature works much like the feed, except user-driven instead of automated. It allows you to search through all types of contents as well as find apps and channels in one go. For example: if you look for "Willis," it will find movies and shows containing that word as well as apps. Even within streaming apps like Netflix.
Roku Remote App
One of the best features of the Roku platform is its remote app you can find on both iOS and Android. It's capable of doing all that the smart remote found with the UP130 can do and more, so it's quite fully featured.
The app is also really great for searches and logging into apps since you can use your phone's keyboard instead of having to wrangle with the arrow keys on the remote.
When testing out the USB playback, an issue arose. The TV didn't seem to recognize any of the USB drives we use. After further testing with different brands, we managed to find other drives that did work, but we couldn't find a particular reason as to why our specific ADATA drives had problems.
Unfortunately, there is no real Roku web browser available on the Roku system. You can get the Firefox app, but all that allows you to do is to sync with your Android phone and send videos to the TV from the Firefox browser on your phone, kind of like Google Cast.
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TCL's lineup is mostly budget oriented, and they do very well in that area. Their smart platform rivals the very best, which can't be said of TVs multiple times more expensive. Plus, their picture quality has been consistently good across their models. Overall, it's tough to beat them when it comes to budget TVs, and that makes them a pretty safe bet.