The TCL S305 1080p Roku TV is a passable budget LED TV. It has decent picture quality, and it sports some of the best smart features available. Unfortunately, it cannot get very bright, and its handling of motion could be better. Note that the 28" and 32" models are 720. For the 4k model of TCL S Series, see our review here.
- Blacks are well reproduced
- Excellent smart features
- Cannot get bright
- Picture quality deteriorates at an angle
- Picture settings are very limited
The design of the S305 is very basic. From the front it looks similar to the TCL FS3750 of last year, but with slightly nicer looking feet. The plastic feet are almost as wide as the TV, so a fairly wide table is required. The borders have an average thickness and the TV will stick out from the wall a bit if mounted.
The S305 is a fairly cool TV, due to its low peak brightness. The heat is pretty uniform across the screen, and none of the edges get more than warm to the touch.
- 11% Contrast
- 6% Local Dimming
- 6% SDR Peak Brightness
- 6% HDR Peak Brightness
- 6% Gray Uniformity
- 7% Viewing Angle
- 4% Black Uniformity
- 2% Gradient
- 4% Pre Calibration
- 1% Post Calibration
- 6% 480p Input
- 9% 720p Input
- 11% 1080p Input
- 6% 4k Input
- 4% Color Gamut
- 4% Color Volume
- 1% Image Retention
- 6% Reflections
- 1% 3D
The TCL S305 TV has a decent picture quality. The native contrast and black uniformity are great and should provide a passable movie experience, especially when set in a dark room. When set in a bright room though, the picture quality won't be as good since the peak brightness is not that high. As a result, the TV won't be able to overtake the glare from a bright light of a sunny window, unfortunately. The viewing angle and gray uniformity are below average and wouldn't make this TV the best option to watch a sporting event with a large group of people since when sitting off center, the picture quality will be diminished.
The S305 has a very good contrast ratio. At around 3500:1, this makes for a good TV when set in a dark room since blacks look deep and dark scene look good with a lot of details.
The TCL S305 does not have a local dimming feature. The video is for reference only.
- 64% SDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
- 5% SDR Peak 2% Window
- 5% SDR Peak 10% Window
- 5% SDR Peak 25% Window
- 5% SDR Peak 50% Window
- 5% SDR Peak 100% Window
- 2% SDR Sustained 2% Window
- 2% SDR Sustained 10% Window
- 2% SDR Sustained 25% Window
- 2% SDR Sustained 50% Window
- 2% SDR Sustained 100% Window
- 1% SDR ABL
Sub-par peak brightness. The TV never gets brighter than 182 cd/m², which makes it fairly dim when viewed in a bright room, and still not very bright when viewed in a dark room. The peak brightness does not change depending on the content shown, as all the tests show roughly the same brightness (the real scene brightness is measured at the edge of the TV, which is not as bright as the middle).
A plot of peak brightness over time is shown here.
- 64% HDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
- 5% HDR Peak 2% Window
- 5% HDR Peak 10% Window
- 5% HDR Peak 25% Window
- 5% HDR Peak 50% Window
- 5% HDR Peak 100% Window
- 2% HDR Sustained 2% Window
- 2% HDR Sustained 10% Window
- 2% HDR Sustained 25% Window
- 2% HDR Sustained 50% Window
- 2% HDR Sustained 100% Window
- 2% HDR ABL
HDR is not supported.
The gray uniformity of the TCL S305 could be better. Looking at the 50% gray test picture, it is really easy to see that the 4 corners are darker than the center. There is also a dark arc going from the top corner to the bottom one and this from each side. The center of the screen is a bit brighter than the rest of the screen, but at least it is fairly homogeneous and the dirty screen effect is not be too bad since it is most noticeable at the center.
As for the 5% gray uniformity, beside the edges of the screen being a bit brighter, nothing really stands out.
Sub-par viewing angle. People sitting to the side of the TV will not have as good picture quality as people viewing from in front. Blacks start to look grey when the TV is viewed from a small angle, and at a larger angle colors degrade and brightness decreases.
The black uniformity of the S305 is average. Overall the screen is pretty even with only the right side being a bit darker, but with a standard deviation of 1.304% it is still within our good value range, which is under 2%.
The TCL S305 does show 8-bit gradation when displaying our gradient test image. Even though it is 8 bit, the gradient is fairly smooth and there is not too much tint problem in all 3 color shade.
Out of the box, the TCL S305 has a great accuracy. Overall the screen is a bit warmer than what we aim for and the white balance dE is a bit high, but both the Color dE and the gamma are well under what an enthusiast would notice. So for a normal home use, This TV could be used 'as is' without any problems.
There is no calibration menu on the TCL S305 so it is not possible to make the S305 a bit more accurate, but luckily this TV is good enough out of the box for most people.
Our settings for calibration can be found here.
The S305 is a 1080p TV with no support for 4k.
Standard color gamut, only good enough for non HDR content using the Rec 709 color space.
Poor color volume. The TV has only a standard color gamut, and is unable to make dark colors dark enough because it lacks local dimming.
After running our image retention test on this TCL TV, we did not notice any image retention. This is in line with most VA TV we have tested before.
The TV has a semi-gloss finish which diffuses reflections across the screen. This works to reduce the intensity of direct reflections. This should be ok for most rooms, but may present issues in bright rooms.
The S305 doesn't support 3D.
The horizontal VA pixel structure looks very similar to the Sony W650D we tested in 2016.
The motion handling of the S305 is below average. Some motion blur is present when displaying fast paced content, and unfortunately the TV lacks a flicker feature to reduce visible blur. Movies played from a Blu-ray player are smooth, but some minor judder is present when watching movies via cable or a HTPC. This minor judder isn't noticeable to most people. The TV has a 60Hz panel which doesn't have options to interpolate lower frame rate content.
The response time of the S305 is average. Some overshoot is visible in the brighter trail following the logo, and a faint trail of blur extends outside the crop.
The TV uses PWM to dim the backlight, starting at 100/100 backlight setting. Lowering the setting shortens the duty cycle, while amplitude remains constant. Backlight PWM results in a 120Hz flicker, but it isn't noticeable to most people. This does help to clear up motion slightly, by reducing image persistence.
The S305, like all the other TCL TVs we have reviewed so far, can only play movies without judder from 24p sources. This means movies playing over cable or satellite boxes will have a small judder. Note that few people notice judder, so this is not be a deal breaker for most people.
The S305 has a 60Hz panel and doesn't provide any options to interpolate frames on lower refresh rate content.
The S305 can only properly display simple input resolutions such as 1080p @ 60 Hz @ 4:2:2. This lack of chroma subsampling support is only really noticeable for PC use and not an issue for watching movies. On the bright side the TV has fairly low input lag in all picture modes, low enough to please most gamers.
This TV has the same low input lag in all picture modes. Surprisingly the 'Game mode' setting does not change the input lag.
- 20% 1080p @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4
- 20% 1080p @ 120Hz
- 20% 4k @ 30Hz @ 4:4:4
- 20% 4k @ 60Hz
- 20% 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4
Only basic resolutions are supported, such as 1080p @ 60 Hz @ 4:2:2. While the TV can accept a chroma 4:4:4 input it is unable to show chroma 4:4:4 properly; however this is only an issue when using the TV as a PC monitor (text may have colored artifacts around the letters).
To enable 5.1 passthrough, the 'S/PDIF and ARC' audio option must be changed from 'Auto Detect' to 'Dolby D+, DTS' or one of the other Dolby Digital options. DTS passthrough does not work, even though the TV lists DTS support. This may be fixed in a future software update.
The sound produced by the TCL S305 isn't good. It's comparable to competing TVs, but that isn't saying much. Most sound bars will probably be a nice upgrade over the internal speakers.
Subpar frequency response. Higher frequencies are very poorly represented, and some compression artifacts are noticeable at higher volumes. It does get pretty loud though.
The S305's speakers produce more distortion than average. It is relatively contained at lower volumes but quickly rises up past 80 dB.
The TCL S305 runs Roku TV, which is simpler and easier to navigate than some other smart OS's but still has all the features users expect in a smart TV. It has access to all the popular apps via the Roku 'Streaming Channels' store. Content can be cast to the TV from a smartphone or tablet, or played from a USB drive plugged into the TV's USB port. The included remote is fairly basic, but the Roku smartphone and tablet app has a lot of useful features for controlling the TV, and can even play the TV's audio through the phone or tablet.
This TV has no ads in its main interface, but third party apps may have ads. You can opt out of personalized advertising for these ads by enabling the 'Limit Ad Tracking' option. The home screen has a large section for showing suggested content, which is a little annoying and cannot be disabled.
Roku TV calls its apps 'Streaming Channels', but they work like normal apps. Most of the popular apps are available, such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Video.
The S305's remote is fairly basic, only providing basic buttons such as volume control, navigation and opening a few apps. However there is also a Roku app for smartphones and tablets that can act as the TV's remote, change between its apps and inputs, and can even play the TV's sound through the phone or tablet.
Differences between Sizes and Variants
We tested the 40" (40S305). For the most part, we expect our review to be valid for the 43" (43S305) and 49" (49S305) versions. The 32 inch (32S305) and 28 inch (28S305) versions have a 720p resolution.
If someone comes across a different type of panel or if their TCL S305 doesn't correspond to our review, let us know and we will update the review.
Compared to other TVs
The S305 is a decent budget TV. It's so cheap that most of its competition is usually quite bad, and you rarely find TVs equipped with good smart features at this price.
The TCL FS3750 is a slight step up in TCL's line of TVs. It's still 1080p, but it offers better motion and can be found in larger sizes. It's a better choice for gaming, and it does get a bit brighter as well.
The E Series 1080p 2016 is one of Vizio's entry-level TVs from 2016. Overall, it's a worse TV than the TCL. It doesn't really have any advantage over the S305. It's biggest shortcoming is its smart platform, which is a lot worse than the Roku TV features.
The LG LH5700 IPS TV is one of their budget level TVs from 2016. Compared to the S305, it has much better handling of motion and retains its picture quality better at an angle. Picture quality from the front is worse though, and uniformity issues cause football fields and other sports too look dirty. Most people will be better suited with the TCL.