We've reviewed 11 TCL TVs. 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 (check our article about the best Roku TVs). We made a few TCL TV reviews last year, and as they've shown popular, we will keep reviewing them in the future.
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.
LG's lineup spans far and wide, from budget models to high-end OLEDs. Comparing price-for-price though, LG TVs usually perform slightly worse than similarly priced TCL TVs. LG typically has better viewing angles though.
Overall, TCL's TVs offer good picture quality and great features at a low price. Although they aren't as feature-packed or as well-built as more expensive models, TCL TVs typically offer great value.
The best TCL TV we've tested so far is the TCL 6 Series/R617 2018. The R617 is a great 4k TV with excellent peak brightness, outstanding contrast, and a passable full array local dimming feature. It has very good motion handling, with a great response time, decent motion interpolation feature, and excellent black uniformity feature. It can also remove judder from all sources, which is great for movie lovers. Although the R617 doesn't have any advanced gaming features, like FreeSync support, it has outstanding low input lag that should please most gamers.
Like most TCL TVs we've tested, the R617 runs the excellent Roku smart platform. Although not the most graphically intense user interface, it's fast and easy to use, and it has an excellent selection of streaming apps, covering the vast majority of the most common streaming services. Unfortunately, there are ads in the home menu, though, and they can't be disabled.
If you're looking for something a bit cheaper than the R617, the TCL 4 Series/S425 2019 is the best budget TCL TV we've tested so far. Although not as advanced as the R617, the S425 is a decent 4k TV with outstanding low input lag, a fast response time, and excellent contrast. It has the same great smart features as the R617, though, and an outstanding selection of available streaming apps.
Unfortunately, the S425 isn't very bright, and it has very limited motion processing, as there is no motion interpolation feature, and it can't remove judder from a cable box or the native apps. Overall, it's a decent choice for most uses and it outperforms most similarly-priced models.
If you want something truly inexpensive that still has a great set of features, look for the S305/325 1080p LED TV. Its picture quality doesn't match the R617 above, but it can be found for significantly 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.
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.
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 content 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.
Unfortunately, the TCL interface has large, intrusive ads in the main home menu, and it is impossible to disable them. The ads generally promote other TCL products or services and sometimes contain suggested content.
Then comes the Channel Store. This is where you'll find all the apps available on Roku, and there are quite a lot of them. All the big ones like Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, Hulu, and many more are available.
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.
In general, Roku provided a good USB playback experience. On models that support it, we had no issues playing back HDR files from an external drive.
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.
|H.264||(AVI, MP4, MKV)||Yes|
|H.265||(AVI, MP4, MKV)||Yes|
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 an integrated microphone for voice control. This model is found on the 2018 R617, and it doesn't require line-of-sight to the TV. The other model doesn't have voice control and requires a direct line of sight to the TV.
Older TCL TVs like the P607 had an advanced remote that has a headphone jack on the side of the remote. Newer TCL remotes don't have this. If you want the same features as the advanced remote, 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.
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 everything that the smart remote found with the P607 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.
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.