We've tested more than 15 TCL TVs. TCL TVs have shown to offer great value over the past few years, and although they aren't as established in the United States as other brands, they've made a name for themselves. While they're traditionally known for their basic models with limited features, some of their recent releases feature the latest technology, including Mini LED backlighting and variable refresh rate (VRR) support. They're often available at a lower cost than their competitors, and most people should be pleased with their higher-end models. They mainly compete with Hisense, but they release models to compete with brands like Sony and Samsung.
The TCL 6 Series/R646 2021 QLED is the best TCL TV we've tested. It's a 2021 model from their 6 Series lineup, which is the highest-end lineup still available. Although TCL previously had an 8 Series lineup, it's no longer available, and their XL lineup that includes the TCL R745 QLED isn't any better; it just has bigger TVs. The R646 is an impressive TV with a Mini LED backlight that provides a brighter picture than the lower-end TVs. It delivers outstanding contrast for extremely deep blacks and has a decent local dimming feature, but it isn't as effective at improving the picture quality in dark scenes as TVs from other brands.
Luckily, it's incredibly bright, so there's no need to worry about visibility, even in a bright room, and HDR content stands out and looks close to how the content creator intended. Unlike past TCL TVs, it runs the Google TV smart platform, which is more polished than Roku, but some people might find it harder to use. It has a huge selection of apps, so you're sure to find your favorite streaming service, and the remote has a built-in mic for voice control. If you still prefer Roku, the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED is still available to purchase, but its picture quality isn't as good overall as the R646.
If you want to save a bit of money, TCL also has the mid-range 5 Series lineup that includes the TCL 5 Series/S546 2021 QLED. Like the TCL 6 Series/R646 2021 QLED, it's part of the 2021 lineup, and like the other models, it features Google TV instead of Roku TV. Although differences in the smart platform are subjective, Google tends to have a wider selection of apps available to download, so you know you won't need to use an external streaming device to watch your favorite content. It's a straightforward TV with good picture quality, and it performs well in dark and bright rooms thanks to its high contrast and high peak brightness.
Unfortunately, there are some issues with its picture quality as it has terrible out-of-the-box accuracy, resulting in a red tint that looks distracting, so if you want better picture quality, it's best to stick with the R646. You can find the TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 QLED still available, which has Roku TV and better overall picture quality and better upscaling than the S546, so if you watch a lot of DVDs or cable TV, the S535 is the better choice while it's still available.
TCL's 4 Series lineup is a budget-friendly lineup whose TVs don't cost much. Like the 6 Series and 5 Series models, TCL has released them in the past few years with different smart platforms. The TCL 4 Series/S446 2021 is the current Google TV available, while the TCL 4 Series/S455 2022 is the latest Roku model and performs better than the S446, making it the best TCL TV you can get on a budget. The Roku platform is great with an easy-to-use interface, and there are a ton of apps you can download through the app store. The remote doesn't have a mic built-in, but you can use the Roku app on your phone for voice control.
Although it's a basic TV and doesn't have as many features as the TCL 5 Series/S546 2021 QLED, it's still an okay TV that performs well for a low-cost model. It has a fantastic native contrast ratio that results in deep blacks and has remarkable black uniformity with minimal blooming. It doesn't have any upscaling issues, and it has okay out-of-the-box accuracy. There are some drawbacks as it doesn't get bright enough to fight glare, but it has decent reflection handling if you have a lamp in your room.
TCL is one of the few big brands left that still makes cheap 1080p and 720p TVs in smaller sizes. These types of TVs are great for kitchens or bedrooms as they come with a smart system built in, and you can easily stream your favorite shows without needing an external device. If that's something you're looking for, the TCL 40S325 is a good choice for your needs. Although it's a 2019 model, you can still find it available, and it's a cheap TV that isn't bad overall. It has a 1080p resolution, so while you can't watch content in 4k, you can still get a sharp 1080p image. The built-in Roku smart platform has fewer features than higher-end models and feels slower, but it still has all the same great apps available.
If you're getting a cheap TV like this one, there are a few compromises you have to make. It doesn't perform well in a bright room as it has low peak brightness, but it has good reflection handling and displays deep blacks if you want to use it in a moderately-lit or dark room. It also doesn't support HDR, but that's normal for a 1080p TV. Luckily, it has excellent out-of-the-box accuracy, which is important as you can't calibrate it.
Hisense and TCL are direct competitors in the budget TV market. Their TVs usually offer the same features and similar performance, although some TCL TVs don't get as bright. They each have flaws as TCL tends to have picture quality issues, while Hisense has motion problems.
Vizio and TCL aim to produce TVs in the budget market, although Vizio makes a few more high-end models. Vizio TVs tend to have better dark room performance and more gaming features, but the Roku platform on the TCLs is much better and easier to use than the Vizio SmartCast system.
Overall, TCL TVs offer good picture quality and great features at a low price. Although some models aren't as feature-packed or as well-built as more expensive options, their TVs typically offer great value compared to similarly-priced options. If you need a simple TV with a good smart system, you should be happy with most of their offerings.
TCL's lineup in the United States is usually smaller than other brands, and unlike other companies, their models are available for a few years. They have a few different series, including the XL Series, 6 Series, 5 Series, 4 Series, and 3 Series, and each series has models with different smart platforms. For example, the 6 Series includes the 2021 R646, which uses Google TV, and the 2020 R635 has Roku TV, so for each series, you can get the model with the smart platform you prefer. They release new models with each platform in alternating years, and although not much is known about their 2022 lineup, the TCL 4 Series/S445 comes with Roku.
TCL's model naming scheme is a bit confusing and inconsistent. The XL and 6 Series lineup start with an R, while the other lineups start with an S. Next is the number to indicate the series, and the last two numbers tell you which platform and year the model is from. Google TVs end in a 4 or 6, and Roku TVs end in a 5. For example, the S445 is a 4 Series model with Roku from 2022, while the S434 is a 2020 model with Google TV.
While the majority of TCL's TVs use Roku, there are a few from 2021 that use Google TV. They're both great smart platforms, and choosing one of the other comes down to personal preference. Generally speaking, Roku is easier to learn and feels quicker than Google TV, but Google is more customizable, and the Google Play Store has even more apps.
Roku's interface is very basic, with simple graphics and limited animations. It results in a very easy-to-use, fast interface that's relatively bug-free. It's also one of the few smart interfaces that support themes, meaning you can customize it a bit.
As for Google TV, it consists of multiple rows that you can customize to include which apps you see first and which apps you don't want to see. It's great if you're already used to it, but it can feel overwhelming if you aren't, so it takes a bit of time to learn.
Unfortunately, both Roku and Google TV have large, intrusive ads in the main home menu and throughout the interface, and it's impossible to disable them completely.
The Roku Channel Store is where you'll find all the apps available on Roku, and there are quite a lot of them. All the major streaming services are available through the store.
As the name suggests, the Google Play Store is the equivalent of Google TV, and it has even more apps available.
Some TCL TVs support voice controls, either from the advanced remote or the remote app, but they only support basic commands. You can launch certain apps through voice control and search across multiple apps for content. Unlike some TVs, you can't control the TV's settings through voice controls.
This is where Google TV has an advantage because the remote supports voice control, and it's also compatible with other Google devices, so you can easily open apps and stream your favorite shows. Some of TCL's Google models even have a mic built into the TV.
The Roku TVs come with a small remote, which 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 different versions of the remote, and the differences are usually with the features. Some have better wireless capabilities, so you don't need to point directly at the TV for it to work. Usually, the higher-end models come with a built-in mic on the remote.
TCL's version of the Google remote is similar as it has quick-access buttons and a circular pad for navigation.
One of the best features of the Roku platform is its remote app you can find on both iOS and Android. It can do everything the smart remote can and more, so it's fully featured. All the basic remote controls are available, even powering the TV on and off. You can plug in headphones to your device and listen to the TV privately through the app. Lastly, the app also allows you to access settings that aren't available on the TV, like the calibration settings. Roku is better than Google TV in this regard, mainly because you can do everything you need with the remote with Google TVs.
Aug 29, 2022: Updated structure to cover more of TCL's lineup; renamed the TCL 5 Series/S546 as 'Best Mid-Range' and replaced the TCL S435 with the TCL S446 in the budget category because it's easier to find. Added the TCL 3 Series as the 'Best Cheap TV', added a Lineup section, and updated the Smart Features section to talk about Google TV.
Mar 04, 2022: Replaced the TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 with the newer TCL 5 Series/S546 2021 because it has more features; updated the Smart Features section to be consistent with the current Roku platform.
Nov 04, 2021: Replaced the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED with the TCL 6 Series/R646 2021 QLED, as the newer model is much better overall for about the same price.
Jul 07, 2021: Verified accuracy of picks. No change in recommendations.
Mar 09, 2021: Verified picks and updated text for accuracy.
TCL's lineup is mostly budget-oriented, and they do very well in that area. Their smart platforms rival the very best, and they offer different smart platforms, which isn't something other brands do. 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, but if you want a premium TV, you can find options with other brands.