The TCL 3 Series S325 is an entry-level 1080p LED TV with mediocre picture quality. It has a very good contrast ratio but lacks a local dimming feature to deliver a great dark room performance. It can't get very bright to fight glare and is more suitable for a dim or an average-lit room where blacks will also look better. The TV doesn't support HDR, but on the upside, its SDR image accuracy is excellent. The gray uniformity is mediocre and some dirty screen effect is evident. Motion handling is decent and the input lag is very low for the highest supported resolution of 1080p @ 60Hz. The TV's Roku smart interface is the same as higher-end models, but it's not as smooth.
The TCL 3 Series S325 has a decent design. It has a plastic stand that supports the TV well but allows a little wobbling if you accidentally nudge the TV. The back has two distinct parts. The lower compartment houses most of the electronics, whereas the upper part is thinner and is made of metal. Unfortunately, there is no provision for cable management. The build quality is decent, and you should have no issues with the TV.
The stand is made of plastic; it supports the TV well, but allows a little wobbling if the TV is nudged. It's almost as wide as the TV.
The footprint of the 40" model is 30.5" x 7.3".
The TV is an average thickness, but is thinner than the 2017's S305. It will protrude slightly if you wall-mount it, but the inputs are facing sideways so you can reach them with ease.
The build quality of the TCL 3 Series is decent. The TV feels solid with no gaps or loose ends, and it's very similar to the S425. You should have no issues with it.
The picture quality is mediocre. The TV can't get very bright to overcome glare, so it's more suitable for an average-lit room. The very good contrast ratio delivers fairly deep blacks, but there is no local dimming feature to improve dark room performance. Movie fans will be disappointed for the lack of support for HDR, whereas sports fans might find the amount of dirty screen effect annoying. On the upside, this TV has great pre-calibration accuracy and can handle reflections well, so lights in the room don't become distracting.
The TCL 40S325 does not have a local dimming feature. The video is for reference only.
Disappointing SDR peak brightness for the TCL 3 Series. Although it's slightly better than the S425, the TV can't get bright enough for a bright room. It is more suitable for an average-lit or dim room.
We measured the peak brightness after calibration, using the 'Movie' Picture Mode and Color Temperature set to 'Warm.'
If you don't care about image accuracy, you can obtain higher brightness levels. We were able to reach 251 nits with the 'Vivid' Picture Mode, Contrast set to 'Max' and Color Temperature set to 'Cool.'
HDR is not supported.
The gray uniformity is mediocre. There is evident clouding all around the screen and a significant amount of dirty screen effect which will disappoint sports fans. In dark scenes, there are obvious uniformity issues at the sides of the screen, but the center is a little better.
The TCL 40S325 has mediocre viewing angles. Gamma shifts quickly as you move off center, and this affects the scene brightness. Although black levels don't rise quickly, all grays converge towards the same lightness, which causes the image to wash out and to look less lively. Those sitting from the side will not enjoy the same image accuracy. This is very similar behavior to the Vizio V Series. If you want a TV with better viewing angles, check out an IPS TV like the LG UK6300.
The TCL 40S325 has decent black uniformity. Backlight bleed is evident throughout the screen, but it is most noticeable in very dark scenes when watched in a dark room. This performance is slightly worse than 2017's S305.
The reflection handling of the TCL 3 Series is very good. As long as you don't place the TV in front of a large window, you should have no issues with distracting reflections.
The pre-calibration accuracy is excellent. There are a few inaccuracies both in the grays and in the colors, but even enthusiasts will have a hard time spotting them.
The gamma follows the curve relatively well, but some dark scenes are darker and other brighter scenes are brighter than they should be. The color temperature is a little cold, giving the screen a slightly bluish tint.
720p content such as cable looks good. The image isn't too soft and details are preserved.
Native 1080p content looks excellent.
Note: the 32" models of the S325 and S321 variants are 720p, as you can also see here.
The 3 Series does not have a wide color gamut, but rather a standard color gamut. It's only good enough for non-HDR content using the Rec 709 color space. When compared to the S305, the performance is just a bit better but not noticeable with the naked eye.
Mediocre color volume. The TV only has a standard color gamut and is unable to produce a full range of colors in the various luminosities.
The TCL 40S325 has mediocre gradient performance. Banding is evident in all colors and the TV has no setting to improve this.
There is no temporary image retention on the TCL S325.
We don't expect VA panels to experience permanent image retention, as the VA panel in our long-term test appears immune.
The motion handling is decent. The response time is fast but there is some blur trail behind fast-moving content. This response time is good for those who despise stutter, as it allows the TV to display movies without much stutter. The TV uses PWM to dim the backlight at lower brightness levels which can bother some people. Unfortunately, this TV has 24p judder except when it receives a 24p signal, like from a DVD or a Blu-ray.
The TCL 3 Series uses PWM to dim the backlight but only at lower (below 31/100) brightness levels. The flicker frequency is only 180Hz, and this might bother some people.
The TV doesn't have BFI option to make motion crisper. However, when you dim the backlight below a certain level (31/100) the TV introduces flicker. This acts as a BFI feature and makes motion look clearer.
Just like in the higher-end model S425, there's no motion interpolation feature on the S325.
You should not have serious issues with stutter on this TV. The TV's response time is such that each frame of a movie, or low fps content, does not stay on the screen for too long, and the transition looks smoother.
The TCL 3 Series can display judder-free movies only over a 24p signal like a DVD or a Blu-ray. In all other cases, including native apps, movies have judder. There is no specific feature to turn on to remove judder.
The TCL 40S325 has a 60Hz panel and does not support more advanced features such as FreeSync.
The TCL 3 Series has an outstanding low input lag for the 1080p @ 60Hz, which is the highest resolution it supports.
The TCL 3 Series has an outstanding low input lag when in 'Game' mode. If you want low input lag while in 'PC' mode you have to enable 'Game' mode. Chroma 4:4:4 is displayed properly only when in 'PC' mode.
We encountered the same issue as on the S425. During our test, there were times where we had to turn off the TV or disconnect and reconnect the HDMI to get the lowest input lag. We assume that this is an issue with the HDMI handshake. When we changed to 'Game Mode,' it went to an in-between state that had a higher input lag. This should not be a common issue for most users.
The highest resolution this TV supports is 1080p @ 60Hz. When it detects a PC, it switches automatically to 'PC' mode and, unlike the S305, it can display chroma 4:4:4 properly. There is not practical way to use the TV with a PC and be outside of PC mode.
Note: the 32" models of the S325 and S321 variants are 720p as you can also see here.
The TCL 3 Series supports CEC, but it can only control volume and power on a receiver. The CEC did not work with our Blu-ray player.
If you wish to enable Dolby Digital, you must select the Dolby D/DTS setting for both optical and ARC.
The sound quality of the TCL 3 Series S325 is disappointing. The TV can't produce much bass, and although it can get fairly loud it produces a large amount of distortion. It can, however, produce clear and intelligible dialog. For a better sound, a soundbar or dedicated speakers are recommended.