We've tested more than 10 TCL TVs in the last couple of years. 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 out our article on the best Roku TVs). TCL is growing as a company and starting to release models that compete with some other giants, like Sony and Samsung. 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 completely different, and we don't know how they compare.
The TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED is the best TCL TV we've tested. It's their flagship model from their 2020 lineup, so it has the best overall performance and the most features. It's also one of the first TCL TVs with extra gaming features like variable refresh rate (VRR) support. It has native FreeSync and HDMI Forum VRR support, and it's G-SYNC compatible. However, because it doesn't have an HDMI 2.1 input, it doesn't support 4k @ 120Hz gaming, which is a bit disappointing if you have the PS5 and Xbox Series X and want to use them to their full capabilities. Motion looks smooth as it has a quick response time, and the input lag is also very good.
Sadly, our unit has mediocre out-of-the-box color accuracy and uniformity issues with dirty screen effect in the center, which could get distracting during sports. However, each of these may vary between units, so your experience might be different. Its VA panel has an outstanding native contrast ratio, and even though it has a full-array local dimming feature that improves the overall contrast, it causes blooming around bright objects. Fortunately, fans of HDR movies should enjoy its impressive HDR peak brightness and very wide color gamut. It also supports Dolby Vision and HDR10, but not HDR10+. Overall, if you want a high-end TCL TV that won't cost you much, you should enjoy this one.
The best TCL TV in the budget category that we've tested is the TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 QLED. Like the higher-end TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED, this one has a QLED panel, resulting in a wide color gamut for HDR content. However, it doesn't get 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 just 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 really 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.
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 just 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 from DVDs, and it 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. All things considered, 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 each 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 TCL's 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 huge selection of apps, known as streaming channels, covering the vast majority of the common 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 is relatively bug-free. It's also one of the few smart interfaces that supports themes, so you can customize it a bit.
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.
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. Through voice control, you can launch certain apps, as well as search across multiple apps for content. Unlike some TVs, you can't control the TV's settings through the 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 quite 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.
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.