The TCL S405 is a good entry-level 4k Roku TV with decent picture quality and motion. It has low input lag and little motion blur, making it a great pick for video games. Unfortunately, though, its viewing angle is quite narrow, and it doesn't get very bright, making it less suitable for well-lit environments.
- Very low input lag
- Great contrast, blacks are deep
- Low motion blur keeps fast content clear
- Doesn't get very bright
- Picture quality deteriorates at an angle
The design of the TCL S405 is quite basic and in line with other TCL TVs such as the US5800 from 2016. It has a wide stand which requires quite a large table but supports the TV well.
The TV's screen stays fairly cool, but a few spots along the back get warm to the touch, though never warm enough to cause any problems.
The build quality of the S405 is decent. The top half of the back is metal, but the bulk of the TV is plastic (including the borders). This won't present problems during use but doesn't feel as premium as other high end TVs, or even the LeEco Super4.
- 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 S Series 4k LED TV has a better than average picture quality. When set in a dark room, blacks look deep and dark scenes from movies are reproduced very well thanks to the great native contrast ratio and the excellent black uniformity. When set in a bright room with more lighting, the S405 can't really overcome glare since it can't get very bright and can't deal very well with reflections. The viewing angle is also not that good and the best picture quality is only reserved for a narrow zone in front of the TV. The gray uniformity could be better and dirty screen effect is noticeable. Finally, HDR is average and the lack of a wide color gamut, low HDR peak brightness, and lack of local dimming doesn't make HDR content stand out.
The TCL S405 has a very good native contrast ratio for a LED TV. With over a 4000:1, the S405 contrast ratio is over what we consider to be a good value for a TV and will procure deep enough blacks to make dark scene pleasant to watch, especially when the TV is set in a bright room. In comparison, this is a small improvement over the 2016 TCL US5800.
The TCL S405 does not have a local dimming feature. The video is for reference only.
Below average SDR peak brightness, good enough for a moderately lit room but not bright enough for a well lit room. The brightness does remain unchanged no matter the scene shown, which is good. The edges of the screen are slightly dimmer than the center, as seen by the lower real scene brightness. This brightness is very similar to the lower tier TCL S305, but a lot less than the next tier P607.
Below average HDR peak brightness, highlights in HDR will not be shown much brighter than the rest of the scene. The brightness does remain consistent no matter the scene due to the TV's lack of CE dimming, which is good. This brightness is a lot lower than the more expensive TCL P607.
The S Series gray uniformity could be better and a lot of the uniformity problems come from the edge of the screen being a bit darker than the center, especially the corners. There is also a large darker band on the top of the screen with some smaller vertical one that is a bit warmer/dirtier than the rest of the screen. Dirty screen effect is visible when watching some specific content like hockey of football, where there are large panning shots over a uniform surface. For normal content like movies or TV show, dirty screen effect is less of a problem though.
Looking at our 5% test picture, we can see that both sides are a bit brighter than the center, but this is not really a uniformity problem, but more a visual effect due to the narrow viewing angle.
Bad viewing angle, but fairly typical for a TV with a VA panel. Blacks become gray and colors shift when the TV is viewed from even a small angle, while brightness decreases more gradually at an angle. This TV is not well suited for a room where people will be often viewing the TV from the side.
The native black uniformity of the TCL S405 is excellent. Looking at the black uniformity test picture, we can see some clouding near the top and bottom edge but luckily, this is really faint and does not really affect our test result and also it did not show up in dark scene while looking at regular video content. Note that here, the black level of the test picture doesn't look that deep, but here the test is evaluating the uniformity of the screen and not the black level.
The S405 can display our test gradient very smoothly and without any banding normally seen on 8-bit panels. Some little imperfection can be seen on the dark green and toward the end of the dark grayscale, but this is very minimal. Banding in HDR movies was not a problem and the performance is very good overall.
Out of the box, the TCL S405 accuracy is impressive and for most people, even enthusiasts, it would be very hard to notice the little inaccuracies. Overall, the colors are tracking their target pretty well and the white balance and gamma too, which is pretty good. At this level of accuracy, a calibration would not be needed and could be used as is in most case.
After calibration, the TCL S405 is one of the most accurate TV we ever reviewed. At this level of accuracy, most imperfections are not even noticeable. Since the TV was already very accurate out of the box, the calibration was done in a breeze and no real issues came up during the process.
Like other TCL TVs, the calibration is only possible via the mobile apps and is one of the easiest methods available from all the major brand of TV we have worked with. The 11 points white balance control and the color space control are fairly responsive and procure a very easy way to do the calibration.
You can see our recommended settings here.
Narrow color gamut, only good enough for SDR content. The true color gamut is shown by the maximum red, green and blue in the Rec 2020 gamut picture. All other colors in the Rec 2020 picture, and all the P3 colors are shown horribly undersaturated, likely because the TV is prioritizing brightness over color accuracy because the TV is so dim. These tests were done at 75% brightness stimulus; shown here and here are tests done at a dimmer 50% stimulus that have much better accuracy. Most colors in HDR content will be at a dim stimulus and have decent accuracy, but very bright colors will have poor accuracy.
The TV's EOTF follows the HDR PQ curve fairly closely until 50% stimulus grey, where it rolls off very early to ease the transition to the TV's low peak brightness. This test was done with the 'Gamma' set to '2.0' in the TV's advanced picture settings in the Roku app; at the default 'Gamma' of '2.2' the EOTF was dimmer than the PQ curve, shown here, and shown here with 'Game Mode' enabled. Users can change this 'Gamma' setting to suit the brightness of their room.
Disappointing color volume. The TV's color gamut narrows significantly when showing very dark saturated colors, which is visible in both color volumes. The color gamut remains full for bright saturated Rec 2020 colors, but the gamut narrows significantly when showing bright P3 colors, likely due to the TV's tone mapping prioritizing brightness over color accuracy because the TV is so dim.
No image retention could be detected on the TCL S405 and this is in line with other TVs that use VA panels.
The reflection handling of the TCL S Series is okay. It has a semi-gloss finish which causes reflections to appear larger, diffused across the screen. This does help to reduce their intensity slightly though. For an average room it's ok, but in a bright room, the reflections are distracting.
The TCL S405 does not support 3D as the rest of TCL lineup.
The motion performance of the S405 is good. The response time is great, resulting in a very short trail following fast moving objects. The image flickers at all backlight settings, but since the backlight flickers at 120Hz, this is not noticeable for most people. Black frame insertion cannot be used with this TV, so fast motion will always be affected by some eye tracking blur. This TV can play 24p movies without judder, but some minor judder can be seen when playing movies from 60 fps sources, which is not noticeable to most people. The S405 offers no motion interpolation options, so it cannot produce smoothed video, also know as the soap opera effect.
The TV uses PWM at 120Hz to dim the backlight. This results in duplications following fast-moving objects, visible in the motion blur box. Unfortunately, the S405 has no option to reduce the flicker frequency and use black frame insertion to clear up fast-paced content, similar to other TCL TVs.
Like the 2017 TCL P607 and 2016 TCL US5800, the S405 can only display without judder 24p movies when they are played from 24 sources like DVDs or Blu-rays. 24p Movies playing from 60p/60i sources like cable or satellite boxes will have some judder.
There is not specific feature or option needed to be turn on to remove judder from 24p movies on 24p sources, as the TV detect and display them correctly.
The S405 is unable to produce motion interpolation, so fans of the soap opera effect could be disappointed.
The S405 can display nearly any content, including HDR. However, its chroma 4:2:0 support is inconsistent. It has outstanding low input lag, good enough even for competitive gamers.
Excellent low input lag, good enough for even competitive gamers. All picture modes have the same low input lag when the 'Game Mode' setting is on, and 4:4:4 color is displayed properly in all modes. This input lag is very similar to the higher tier TCL P607.
Update 07/18/2017: The TV only shows 4:4:4 color properly when in 'PC mode'. For most sources this is accomplished by changing the input's icon to 'Computer'. For a PC, if the TV detects a PC as its source it forces PC mode, and this cannot be avoided except by intercepting the AVI infoframes sent from the PC. The 4:4:4 input lag measurements were in error, but all input lag measurements have now been updated (essentially unchanged).
- 20% 1080p @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4
- 20% 1080p @ 120Hz
- 20% 4k @ 30Hz @ 4:4:4
- 20% 4k @ 60Hz
- 20% 4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4
Most resolutions are supported. 4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 color is only supported when the HDMI input used is set to HDMI 2.0 in the TV's settings. 4:4:4 color is displayed properly in all picture modes.
The TV's 4:2:0 color support is inconsistent. 4:2:0 isn't displayed properly from some sources, such as a PC (whites turn pink, scanlines), while our HDR Blu-ray player had no such issue. This inconsistency could be a problem for 4k @ 60 Hz sources that only support HDMI 1.4, as 4:2:0 is needed for these sources to remain within the bandwidth cap of HDMI 1.4.
Update 07/18/2017: The TV only shows 4:4:4 color properly when in 'PC mode'. Sharpness also has no effect in PC mode, even though the slider can still be changed. For most sources PC mode is activated by changing the input's icon to 'Computer'. For a PC, if the TV detects a PC as its source it forces PC mode, and this cannot be avoided except by intercepting the AVI infoframes sent from the PC. Changing the input's icon does not avoid this forced PC mode. This behavior was not known during initial testing, leading to the incorrect assumption that 4:4:4 color is displayed properly in all modes.
Not all features of CEC are supported with all devices. When the TV is powered off CEC capable devices are also powered off, but the TV's remote couldn't be used to navigate the menu of our PlayStation 3 or any other device tested.
The S405 unfortunately sounds quite poor. Even an entry-level soundbar will be a significant upgrade.
Very poor frequency response. The S405 has an incredible overemphasis on lower frequencies causing it to sound quite boomy and imbalanced.
The S405 has high amounts of THD. It is about average at lower volumes, but it skyrockets when the level is set higher. Unfortunately, the S405 also utilizes a lot of aliasing, making higher volumes better left unused.
The S405 runs the Roku TV smart platform, which is more simple than other platforms but is very easy to use and has a great app. The interface is remarkably smooth, with little lag or frame drops. The Roku platform doesn't have as many apps as some other platforms, but it has most of the popular ones like Netflix. The remote is very basic and has few buttons, but the Roku app for smartphones and tablets can do many things to the TV, such as changing between apps and inputs, acting as the TV's remote and casting the phone or tablet's own media to the TV. The app can also play the TV's audio through the phone or tablet, but not for HDMI or antenna input. Content can be cast to the TV from many phone and tablet apps, or played from a USB drive in the TV's single USB port.
Roku calls its apps 'Streaming Channels', but they work like normal apps. There aren't as many apps for Roku as for some other smart platforms, but most of the popular ones are available such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Video. Apps run smoothly with little lag or frame drops, like the rest of the interface.
The main interface has no ads, though third party apps can have ads. You can opt out of personalized advertising for these ads in apps using the TV's 'Limit Ad Tracking' option. The home menu has a large box for suggested content, which can be annoying.
The remote is very basic, with only Roku navigation and app buttons, playback control and volume control on the side. It lacks the features found on the higher tier TCL remotes such as a headphone jack and speaker for playing the TV's audio, and the 'Find Remote' feature where the remote makes noise so it can be found. This basic remote is nearly identical to that of the TCL S305 and last year's US5800.
Differences between Sizes and Variants
We tested the 43" (43S405). For the most part, we expect our review to be valid for the 49" (49S405), 55" (55S405) and 65" (65S405) versions.
If someone comes across a different type of panel or if their TCL S405 (S-Series) doesn't correspond to our review, let us know and we will update the review. The TCL S305 is essentially the same TV, but it features a 1080p or 720p resolution and can be found in smaller sizes.
Compared to other TVs
The TCL S405 offers great value for money, since it delivers picture quality and a feature set uncommon for its budget price range.
The E Series 2017 is the entry-level 4k Smartcast LED TV from Vizio. It features similar picture quality to the S405 with the addition of a bare-bones local dimming feature. Overall, it is very similar in performance to the TCL, but it has a few shortcomings. It's input lag isn't quite as low, and the Roku smart platform found on the S405 is significantly more powerful and intuitive than the Vizio. Since it is usually found cheaper, the S405 is the better choice.
The UJ6300 is a low-end 4k RGBW TV from LG. It has a wider viewing angle than the TCL S405, but comes short in about every other aspect of its performance. While some users might prefer the smart platform found on the LG, it's a far less compelling package usually found at a higher price. Unless your usage requires viewing from an angle, the TCL is a better TV.
The MU6300 is the cheapest 4K TV sold by Samsung. It's a versatile TV with decent capabilities all around, and is notably brighter than the S405. Unfrotunately though, it doesn't offer much to justify the significant price difference between the two TVs, so if you don't require the additional brightness, save your money and go for the S405.
The P607 is a step up in TCL's line of televisions. It features a slew of HDR related features like a wide color gamut and a powerful local dimming feature. Put simply, it is like an upgraded variant of the S405 with no real downside except the price. If you can stretch it, it is worth the upgrade, especially since it is still a fairly affordable TV.