We've tested more than 15 TCL TVs in the last couple of years. TCL TVs have shown to offer great value over the past few years. They're a relative newcomer, but they came in with quite a strong splash by associating themselves with Roku for their smart features (check out our article on the best Roku TVs). TCL is growing as a company and releasing models that compete with other giants like Sony and Samsung. 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, Quantum Dot layers, and even an 8k model. They're often available at a lower cost than their competitors, and most people should be pleased with their higher-end models.
Note: TCL releases different models in different regions. The models we've tested are only available in North America. Models released in other regions are different, and we don't know how they compare.
The TCL 6 Series/R646 2021 QLED is the best TCL TV we've tested. It's an impressive TV overall, with a new Mini LED backlight that allows for a brighter picture and finer control of the local dimming zones. It delivers outstanding contrast, with one of the best contrast ratios with local dimming that we've ever seen. It's also 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. It's excellent for gaming, with low input lag, a great response time, and support for variable refresh rate technology.
Unlike most TCL TVs, it runs the Google TV smart platform, which is more polished than Roku, but some people might find it more difficult to use. We've seen a few reports of issues, but this isn't unexpected from a new platform, and hopefully, future updates will fix any remaining issues. It has a huge selection of apps, though, so you're sure to find your favorite streaming service, and the remote has a built-in mic for voice control. Sadly, it can't display 480p content properly, so it's not ideal for watching DVDs. There are, unfortunately, widespread reports of issues with the smart interface on this TV, and Best Buy has temporarily pulled them from sale. We expect this situation to be resolved quickly, as TCL has promised that there are software improvements in the works. Despite its flaws, it's an impressive TV overall.
The best TCL TV in the budget category we've tested is the TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 QLED. Like the higher-end TCL 6 Series/R6646 2021 QLED, this one has a QLED panel, resulting in a wide color gamut for HDR content. However, it doesn't have the new Mini LED backlight, and it's not nearly as bright, so HDR content doesn't pop the way it should, and it doesn't perform well in bright rooms because its reflection handling is only decent. It's a great choice for watching movies in dark rooms because it has an exceptional contrast ratio and a decent local dimming feature. It upscales lower-resolution content well, and it removes 24p judder from any source, which is rare for a 60Hz TV.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have any extra gaming features. It has a 60Hz panel, and there's no VRR support. Still, it has a low input lag, a good response time, and a Black Frame Insertion feature to reduce screen tearing. Its built-in speakers aren't anything special, but luckily, it supports eARC, allowing you to send high-quality audio to a compatible receiver through an HDMI connection. It's fairly well-built, and it's available in a wide range of sizes, so you can get the one that suits your needs the most. Overall, you can't go wrong with this TV if you're on a budget. It's been partially replaced by the TCL 5 Series/S546 2021 QLED, but the S535 is still available, and the S546 runs Google TV instead of Roku.
The best TCL 4k TV that you can get in a small size is the TCL 43S435. It's a step below the TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 QLED, and even though you won't get many of the same features or performance, it's still a decent choice as a secondary TV in a small room. It has a VA panel with an outstanding contrast ratio, and it displays deep blacks. It doesn't have a local dimming feature, and its black uniformity is okay, which may vary between units. It comes with the same built-in Roku TV as the higher-end models, although there's an S434 variant that has Android TV instead. It doesn't have any trouble upscaling lower-resolution content, like DVDs, and displays native 4k content perfectly.
Unfortunately, it's best to avoid placing it in a well-lit room because it doesn't get bright enough to combat glare, and the reflection handling is only decent. Fast-moving content may look blurry due to the slow response time, and the backlight flickers at 120Hz at low levels, which may cause image duplication. On the upside, it removes judder from native 24p sources and has excellent out-of-the-box color accuracy. If you want something smaller and don't mind a lower, 720p resolution, then check out the TCL 3 Series 2020. Overall, this is the best TCL TV that you can get in a small size.
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. However, TCL's built-in Roku interface is easier to use than Android TV on Hisense TVs.
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 easier to use than the Vizio SmartCast.
Overall, TCL 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, their TVs typically offer great value. If you need a simple TV with a good smart system, you should be happy with most of their offerings.
Most TCL TVs use the Roku interface. The interface itself is easy to use but isn't the most advanced or graphically intense. They have a big selection of apps, known as streaming channels, covering the vast majority of streaming services. Although the interface has remained relatively unchanged over recent years, TCL releases frequent updates and has added some new features recently, even to older models.
The interface is very basic, with simple graphics and limited animations. This 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, so you can customize it a bit.
Unfortunately, the TCL interface has large, intrusive ads in the main home menu, and it's impossible to disable them. The ads generally promote other TCL products or services and sometimes contain suggested content.
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 big ones like Netflix, Amazon Video, HBO GO, Hulu, and many more are 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, as well as search across multiple apps for content. Unlike some TVs, you can't control the TV's settings through voice controls.
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 higher-end models, and it doesn't require line-of-sight to the TV. The other model that comes with the entry-level TVs doesn't have voice control and requires a direct line of sight to the TV.
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 can do 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 as well. Lastly, the app also allows you to access certain settings that aren't available on the TV, like the calibration settings.
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 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.