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 is a mediocre TV for mixed usage. It can't deliver a great dark room performance, so watching movies is disappointing. It's more suited for watching sports or TV shows in an average lit room where it can handle reflections well. The S325 is a good TV for casual gaming, but more serious gamers will find its features limiting.
The TCL 3 Series has a disappointing movie performance. The contrast ratio can produce deep blacks, but there is no local dimming feature to improve dark room performance. It only has a resolution of 1080p and can only display judder-free movies from a 24p signal like a DVD or a Blu-ray.
This is a decent TV for watching TV shows. It's more suitable for an average-lit room like a kitchen or a garage, as it can't get very bright to fight glare, but will handle reflections well. The S325 runs the Roku Smart TV, which gives you access to a large number of streaming channels. You will certainly find the one that hosts your favorite TV show.
This is a decent TV for watching sports. It's more suitable for an average lit room, as it can't get bright to fight glare. The gray uniformity is mediocre and there is some dirty screen effect that might bother serious sports fans. The response time is fast but most sports fans will notice a small blur trail behind fast-moving balls or pucks.
This is a good TV for playing video games. It has a very low input lag and it feels very responsive. The response time is fast, but you will notice a small blur trail behind fast-moving content. Unfortunately, the supported resolutions are limited to a maximum of 1080p @ 60Hz, and the TV doesn't support FreeSync or any other advanced gaming features, which will disappoint the more serious gamers.
The TCL 3 Series does not support HDR. If you are looking for a TCL that supports HDR, check out the TCL 4 Series S425.
HDR is not supported. If you are looking for a TCL that supports HDR checkout the TCL 4 Series S425.
The TCL 3 Series has decent performance as a PC monitor. It can display proper chroma 4:4:4 when in 'PC" mode, but the TV has a maximum 1080p @ 60Hz resolution. The viewing angles are only mediocre and you will notice some uniformity issues at the sides if you sit up close. The input lag is very low, and the TV feels very responsive, but the response time, although fast, will still leave a small blur trail behind fast-moving content. The TV has a VA panel so permanent burn-in should not be a concern.
The TCL 3 Series S325 is a budget VA panel TV. It sits below the TCL 4 Series S425 and it is the replacement of 2017's TCL S Series S305. The S325's main competitor is the entry-level Samsung N5300, as most of the other budget models from other manufacturers are quite different TVs.
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 back of the TV has two distinct parts: the top part, which is made of metal, and the lower part, which houses most of the electronics and is made of plastic. There is no provision for any cable management. The back resembles the S425 a lot.
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 TCL 40S325 has a great native contrast ratio. Blacks look good in a dark room, but not as a good as on the S425. It is very similar to 2017's S305. Unfortunately, the TV doesn't have a local dimming feature to improve the appearance of blacks further.
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 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 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 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.
The phone app that comes with this TV does not allow for calibration, so there is no way to calibrate this TV. This is a similar case to the S305 but very different from the higher-end TCL TVs.
You can see our recommended settings here.
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 response time is fast but not as fast as most modern TVs. It's a big improvement over 2017's S305, and only slightly slower than the S425. There is some overshoot in the 0-20% transition, which can cause some haloing in really dark scenes, but otherwise, it shouldn't be very noticeable.
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 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 frequency response of the TCL 3 Series S325 is disappointing. The low-frequency extension (LFE) is at about 170Hz which practically means that the TV has no bass. The response above the LFE point is okay, and the TV can produce intelligible dialog. The TV can get fairly loud, but some compression and pumping artifacts at higher volume become evident.
Disappointing distortion on the TCL 40S325, worse than the S305. The overall amount of THD produced at 80dB SPL is low, and there is not a big jump in THD at Max SPL either. Unfortunately, IMD is very high, especially at max volume.
The interface is simple and easy to use, but it is not very smooth. There are some advanced options, but not as many as the R617 or even the S425. The TV lacks a gamma setting and does not allow for any calibration. This TV's replacement, the TCL 3 Series 2020, has much smoother menu navigation.
Although we didn't see any ads during our testing, we have previously found that TCL TVs have ads, as can be seen here on the TCL S405. We expect the S325 to also have ads. To opt out of personalized ads, you must enable the 'Limit ad tracking' option in the Advertising menu.
The TCL 3 Series has the same large number of apps as higher end TCL models like the R617 or the S425. The Roku interface calls its apps 'Streaming Channels,' but they work like normal apps. Unfortunately, navigating and using the apps is laggy and some apps seem to hang for a few seconds before they react to your actions. On the upside, the interface allows you to cast from your phone or playback from a USB. This TV doesn't support HDR, and thus there is no support for HDR in any of the apps.
The remote is very basic, and looks identical to the S305's remote, with different choices for quick launch buttons. The volume controls are on the side of the remote and can be hard to find the first time.
The controls are located on the underside in the center of the TV, under the TCL logo and far back. It consists only of one button that can only power on or off the TV and select the input source.
We tested the 40" (40S325). For the most part, we expect our review to be valid for the 43" (43S325) and 49" (49S325) versions. The 32" (32S325) version has a 720p resolution.
Some retailers also sell the TCL 32S327, which is a 1080p model, and the TCL 32S321. We don't expect any other significant differences in performance between the S325, S327, and S321, but there may be some minor cosmetic and technical differences we are not aware of.
If someone comes across a different type of panel or if their TCL S325 doesn't correspond to our review, let us know and we will update the review.
The 40" TCL S325 we tested was manufactured in Dec 2018.
The TCL 3 Series 2019 and the Hisense H4F have different panel types. The TCL has a VA panel and can display deep blacks in a dark room, while the Hisense is more suitable if you have a wide seating arrangement as the image remains accurate at an angle. The TCL has a slightly lower input lag, which is an attraction to gamers.
The TCL 3 Series S325 and the Samsung N5300 have different panel types, each with their advantages and disadvantages. The TCL S325 has a VA panel and can display deeper blacks thanks to the higher native contrast ratio; it's more suitable for a dim room. The Samsung is more suitable if you'll be watching from the side, as it has wider viewing angles thanks to its IPS panel. The TCL has a much lower input lag that will please gamers, and can display judder-free movies from a DVD or a Blu-ray.
The TCL 3 Series 2019 and the TCL 3 Series 2020 are similar TVs. We tested the 40 inch 3 Series 2019, which has a 1080p resolution, but the 32 inch variant 3 Series 2020 that we tested has a 720p resolution. The 2019 model feels better-built, has better reflection handling, a quicker response time, and lower input lag. However, the 2020 model's Roku interface is smoother to navigate.
The TCL 4 Series/S425 2019 is much better than the TCL 3 Series S325. The TCL S425 supports HDR and has a better dark room performance, thanks to its higher native contrast ratio. The TCL S425 supports 4k and has a faster response time, which is great for watching sports and playing video games.
The Vizio V Series 2019 is a much better TV than the TCL 3 Series S325. The Vizio supports 4k resolution and can display HDR content. It can get brighter and can be placed in a brighter room than the TCL S325. The Vizio has better dark room performance thanks to its higher native contrast ratio and better black uniformity. The TCL has a little lower input lag, which might be important to some gamers.
The TCL 3 Series S325 is slightly better than the 2017 TCL S Series S305. The S325 has a faster response time, and fast-moving content has less blur trail and a much lower input lag that will please gamers. The S305, on the other hand, has less stutter and can remove judder from its native apps.
The LG UK6300 and the TCL 3 Series/S325 2019 have different panels, each with their advantages and disadvantages. The TCL has a VA panel and it's more suitable for a dark room as it can display deeper blacks, but you have to sit straight in front to enjoy the most accurate image. The LG, on the other hand, is better for a wide seating arrangement as the image remains accurate for wider angles thanks to its IPS panel. The LG supports HDR and 4k resolution, although it has the RGBW pixel pattern which does result in some artifacts.