Preferred tv store

TCL 3 Series 2019 TV Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Updated May 31, 2019 at 10:20 am
TCL 3 Series 2019 Picture
5.9
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: none
5.7
Movies
6.6
TV Shows
6.8
Sports
7.0
Video Games
4.5
HDR Movies
4.0
HDR Gaming
6.7
PC Monitor
Type LED
Sub-Type
VA
Resolution 1080p (except 32")

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.

Our Verdict

5.9 Mixed Usage

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.

See our Mixed Usage recommendations
5.7 Movies

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.

See our Movies recommendations
6.6 TV Shows

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.

See our TV Shows recommendations
6.8 Sports

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.

See our Sports recommendations
7.0 Video Games

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.

See our Video Games recommendations
4.5 HDR Movies

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.

See our HDR Movies recommendations
4.0 HDR Gaming

HDR is not supported. If you are looking for a TCL that supports HDR checkout the TCL 4 Series S425.

See our HDR Gaming recommendations
6.7 PC Monitor

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.

See our PC Monitor recommendations
  • 5.9 Mixed Usage
  • 5.7 Movies
  • 6.6 TV Shows
  • 6.8 Sports
  • 7.0 Video Games
  • 4.5 HDR Movies
  • 4.0 HDR Gaming
  • 6.7 PC Monitor
Pros
  • Very low input lag.
  • Excellent pre-calibration image accuracy.
Cons
  • No HDR support.
  • Cannot get bright.
  • Doesn't support 4k.
  1. Update 5/21/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.5.
  2. Update 2/21/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.

Test Results

Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

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.

Design
6.5
Design
Style
Curved No

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.

Design
Stand

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".

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 100x100

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.

Design
Borders
Borders 0.55" (1.4 cm)

The borders are plastic and are not distracting in any way.

Design
Thickness
Max Thickness 2.95" (7.5 cm)

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.

6.5
Design
Build Quality

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.

Picture Quality
8.1
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
3426 : 1
Contrast with local dimming
N/A

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.

0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
No
Backlight
Direct

The TCL 40S325 does not have a local dimming feature. The video is for reference only.

4.7
Picture Quality
SDR Peak Brightness
SDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
174 cd/m²
SDR Peak 2% Window
185 cd/m²
SDR Peak 10% Window
196 cd/m²
SDR Peak 25% Window
196 cd/m²
SDR Peak 50% Window
196 cd/m²
SDR Peak 100% Window
196 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 2% Window
184 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 10% Window
196 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 25% Window
196 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 50% Window
196 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 100% Window
196 cd/m²
SDR ABL
0.005

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.'

0
Picture Quality
HDR Peak Brightness
HDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
N/A
HDR Peak 2% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 10% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 25% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 50% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 100% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 2% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 10% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 25% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 50% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 100% Window
N/A
HDR ABL
N/A

HDR is not supported.

6.4
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
3.809 %
50% DSE
0.221 %
5% Std. Dev.
2.359 %
5% DSE
0.126 %

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.

6.2
Picture Quality
Viewing Angle
Color Washout
41 °
Color Shift
43 °
Brightness Loss
43 °
Black Level Raise
39 °
Gamma Shift
9 °

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.

6.8
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
1.454 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
N/A

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.

7.6
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Semi-gloss
Total Reflections
4.9 %
Indirect Reflections
0.5 %
Calculated Direct Reflections
4.3 %

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.

8.7
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
White Balance dE
1.16
Color dE
1.87
Gamma
2.20
Color Temperature
6869 K
Picture Mode
Movie
Color Temp Setting
Warm
Gamma Setting
N/A

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.

8.7
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
White Balance dE
1.16
Color dE
1.87
Gamma
2.20
Color Temperature
6869 K
White Balance Calibration
No
Color Calibration
No
Auto-Calibration Function
No

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.

8.0
Picture Quality
480p Input

Upscaling of low-quality content such as DVDs is good.

8.0
Picture Quality
720p Input

720p content such as cable looks good. The image isn't too soft and details are preserved.

10
Picture Quality
1080p Input

Native 1080p content looks excellent.

Note: the 32" models of the S325 and S321 variants are 720p, as you can also see here.

0
Picture Quality
4k Input

4k is not supported.

0
Picture Quality
8k Input
Picture Quality
Pixels
6.7
Picture Quality
Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
No
DCI P3 xy
73.93 %
DCI P3 uv
81.50 %
Rec 2020 xy
53.39 %
Rec 2020 uv
60.88 %

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.

6.0
Picture Quality
Color Volume
Normalized DCI P3 Coverage ITP
69.9 %
10,000 cd/m² DCI P3 Coverage ITP
17.5 %
Normalized Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
50.1 %
10,000 cd/m² Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
12.5 %

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.

6.0
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
8 Bit
Red (Std. Dev.)
0.134 dE
Green (Std. Dev.)
0.194 dE
Blue (Std. Dev.)
0.136 dE
Gray (Std. Dev.)
0.476 dE

The TCL 40S325 has mediocre gradient performance. Banding is evident in all colors and the TV has no setting to improve this.

10
Picture Quality
Temporary Image Retention
IR after 0 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 2 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 4 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 6 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 8 min recovery
0.00 %
IR after 10 min recovery
0.00 %

There is no temporary image retention on the TCL S325.

10
Picture Quality
Permanent Burn-In Risk
Permanent Burn-In Risk
No

We don't expect VA panels to experience permanent image retention, as the VA panel in our long-term test appears immune.

Motion
7.6
Motion
Response Time
80% Response Time
5.2 ms
100% Response Time
15.4 ms

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.

4.7
Motion
Flicker-Free
Flicker-Free
No
PWM Dimming Frequency
180 Hz

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.

4.6
Motion
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
Optional BFI
No
Min Flicker for 60 fps
180 Hz
60 Hz for 60 fps
No
120 Hz for 120 fps
N/A
Min Flicker for 60 fps in Game Mode
180 Hz

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.

Motion
Motion Interpolation
Motion Interpolation (30 fps)
No
Motion Interpolation (60 fps)
No

Just like in the higher-end model S425, there's no motion interpolation feature on the S325.

7.8
Motion
Stutter
Frame Hold Time @ 24 fps
26.3 ms
Frame Hold Time @ 60 fps
1.3 ms

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.

5.6
Motion
24p Judder
Judder-Free 24p
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60p
No
Judder-Free 24p via 60i
No
Judder-Free 24p via Native Apps
No

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.

0
Motion
Variable Refresh Rate
Native Refresh Rate
60 Hz
Variable Refresh Rate
No
HDMI Forum VRR
No
FreeSync
No
G-SYNC Compatible
No
4k VRR Maximum
N/A
4k VRR Minimum
No VRR support
1080p VRR Maximum
N/A
1080p VRR Minimum
No VRR support
1440p VRR Maximum
N/A
1440p VRR Minimum
No VRR support
VRR Supported Connectors
No VRR support

The TCL 40S325 has a 60Hz panel and does not support more advanced features such as FreeSync.

Inputs
9.0
Inputs
Input Lag
1080p @ 60 Hz
12.1 ms
1080p @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
40.1 ms
1440p @ 60 Hz
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz + 10 bit HDR
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz With Interpolation
N/A
8k @ 60 Hz
N/A
1080p @ 120 Hz
N/A
1440p @ 120 Hz
N/A
4k @ 120 Hz
N/A
1080p with Variable Refresh Rate
N/A
1440p with VRR
N/A
4k with VRR
N/A
8k with VRR
N/A
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)