TCL 3 Series 2020 TV Review

Tested using Methodology v1.6
Reviewed Oct 29, 2020 at 10:23 am
TCL 3 Series 2020 Picture
5.2
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: none
4.4
Movies
Value for price beaten by
: none
5.6
TV Shows
Value for price beaten by
: none
6.6
Sports
Value for price beaten by
: none
5.4
Video Games
Value for price beaten by
: none
4.1
HDR Movies
3.7
HDR Gaming
6.2
PC Monitor
Value for price beaten by
: none
Type LED
Sub-Type
VA
Resolution 720p

The TCL 3 Series is a very basic 720p TV with poor overall performance. The built-in Roku TV is easy-to-use and there's a large selection of apps available to download, so you don't have to worry about buying an external box for streaming. It has a VA panel that provides a great contrast ratio, but the narrow viewing angles make the image look too bright when viewing off-center. The 32S330, also known as the 32S331 at Walmart, displays 480p and 720p content well and can display chroma 4:4:4 if you want to use it as a computer monitor. It has a decent response time, but its input lag may be too high for some gamers. As expected from a TV in this price range, it's limited on extra features and doesn't support HDR.

Our Verdict

5.2 Mixed Usage

The TCL 3 Series is a poor all-around TV. It's limited to a 720p resolution, so it's only suitable for watching cable TV or DVDs. It displays deep blacks if you want to watch content in dark rooms, but it has narrow viewing angles that make the image look inaccurate when viewing from the side. It has a decent response time but its input lag may be too high for some gamers.

Pros
  • Great native contrast.
  • Decent reflection handling.
  • Decent response time.
Cons
  • Limited to a 720p resolution.
  • Doesn't get bright.
  • Narrow viewing angles.
  • Fairly high input lag for gaming.
4.4 Movies

The TCL 3 Series is poor for watching movies. Its great contrast ratio helps it display deep blacks, but it has poor black uniformity. It's limited to a 720p resolution, so it's not suitable for watching high-resolution content, such as from Blu-rays.

Pros
  • Great native contrast.
Cons
  • Limited to a 720p resolution.
  • No local dimming.
5.6 TV Shows

The TCL 3 Series is sub-par for watching TV shows. It has decent reflection handling, but it doesn't get bright enough to combat glare in well-lit environments. It also has narrow viewing angles, and the image loses accuracy when you view it from the side. Luckily, it displays 720p content well.

Pros
  • Decent reflection handling.
Cons
  • Limited to a 720p resolution.
  • Doesn't get bright.
  • Narrow viewing angles.
6.6 Sports

The TCL 3 Series is okay for watching sports. It has a decent response time that makes fast-moving content look fairly smooth. It has decent reflection handling but doesn't get bright enough to battle glare. It displays 720p content, such as from cable TV, well.

Pros
  • Decent reflection handling.
  • Decent response time.
Cons
  • Limited to a 720p resolution.
  • Doesn't get bright.
  • Narrow viewing angles.
5.4 Video Games

The TCL 3 Series is disappointing for gaming. It has a decent response time but its input lag may be too high for reaction-based games. Also, the 720p resolution is too low for most modern games. Luckily, it displays deep blacks if you want to game in dark rooms.

Pros
  • Great native contrast.
  • Decent response time.
Cons
  • Limited to a 720p resolution.
  • No local dimming.
  • Fairly high input lag for gaming.
4.1 HDR Movies

The TCL 3 Series doesn't support HDR.

3.7 HDR Gaming

The TCL 3 Series doesn't support HDR.

6.2 PC Monitor

The TCL 3 Series isn't bad to use as a PC monitor. It displays chroma 4:4:4 and has a fairly low input lag that should be good enough for computer use. However, its 720p resolution may be too low for some.

Pros
  • Decent reflection handling.
  • Displays chroma 4:4:4.
Cons
  • Limited to a 720p resolution.
  • Doesn't get bright.
  • Narrow viewing angles.
  • 5.2 Mixed Usage
  • 4.4 Movies
  • 5.6 TV Shows
  • 6.6 Sports
  • 5.4 Video Games
  • 4.1 HDR Movies
  • 3.7 HDR Gaming
  • 6.2 PC Monitor
  1. Updated Aug 05, 2021: Added the real content local dimming videos.
  2. Updated Mar 03, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.6.
  3. Updated Oct 29, 2020: Review published.
  4. Updated Oct 26, 2020: Early access published.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The TCL 3 Series is the entry-level TV in TCL's 2020 lineup. It replaces the TCL 3 Series 2019 and there are two versions of it: the 32S335 has Roku TV and the 32S330 has Android TV. There aren't many options available in this size but its main competitors are the Hisense H4G and the Konka H3.

Design
Design
Style
Curved No

The TCL 3 Series has a simple design that looks very similar to the TCL 3 Series 2019, except the back is different. It has fairly thick bezels that are made out of glossy plastic, and the overall build feels cheap.

Design
Stand

The plastic stand is almost as wide as the TV itself and supports it well. However, there's still some wobble.

Footprint of the 32" inch TV: 24.6" x 7.3".

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 100x100

The back of this TV is slightly different from the TCL 3 Series 2019 as the inputs are placed in the center. The top portion is made out of metal while cheap plastic makes up the bottom part and where the inputs are. Sadly, there's no cable management.

Design
Borders
Borders 0.55" (1.4 cm)

The TCL 3 Series has fairly thick, glossy borders, but they shouldn't be too distracting.

Design
Thickness
Max Thickness 2.91" (7.4 cm)

This TV is fairly thick, but it shouldn't stick out much when wall-mounted.

5.5
Design
Build Quality

This TV has a disappointing build quality, and the overall build feels cheap. The plastic around the inputs flexes easily, and you can see the components through the air vents. The metal on the back feels cheap and weak. You can actually twist the TV quite easily, which can be a problem when you're holding it during setup.

Picture Quality
8.1
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
3,333 : 1
Contrast with local dimming
N/A

This TV has a VA panel with a great contrast ratio and displays deep blacks. Note that contrast may vary between units.

4.3
Picture Quality
SDR Brightness
Real Scene Peak Brightness
155 cd/m²
Peak 2% Window
131 cd/m²
Peak 10% Window
182 cd/m²
Peak 25% Window
182 cd/m²
Peak 50% Window
182 cd/m²
Peak 100% Window
182 cd/m²
Sustained 2% Window
131 cd/m²
Sustained 10% Window
182 cd/m²
Sustained 25% Window
182 cd/m²
Sustained 50% Window
182 cd/m²
Sustained 100% Window
181 cd/m²
Automatic Brightness Limiting (ABL)
0.024

The SDR peak brightness is poor and it doesn't get bright enough to combat glare in well-lit rooms. Its brightness remains consistent for the most part, except small highlights are dimmer due to the TV's frame dimming.

We measured peak brightness in the 'Movie' Picture Mode with Color Temperature set to 'Warm'. You can achieve a brighter, but less accurate, image in the 'Vivid' Picture Mode.

0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
No
Backlight
Direct

Update 08/04/2021: Added the real content local dimming videos.

This TV doesn't have a local dimming feature. The videos are for reference only, so you can see how backlight on this display performs and compare it to a similar product with local dimming.

0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming In Game Mode
Local Dimming
No
Backlight
Direct

Update 08/04/2021: Added the real content local dimming videos.

There's no local dimming on this TV. The videos are for reference only, so you can see how backlight on this display performs and compare it to a similar product with local dimming.

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

This TV doesn't support HDR.

0
Picture Quality
HDR Brightness In Game Mode
Real Scene Highlight
N/A
Peak 2% Window
N/A
Peak 10% Window
N/A
Peak 25% Window
N/A
Peak 50% Window
N/A
Peak 100% Window
N/A
Sustained 2% Window
N/A
Sustained 10% Window
N/A
Sustained 25% Window
N/A
Sustained 50% Window
N/A
Sustained 100% Window
N/A
Automatic Brightness Limiting (ABL)
N/A
6.0
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
5.998%
50% DSE
0.234%
5% Std. Dev.
1.787%
5% DSE
0.110%

This TV has mediocre gray uniformity, but this may vary between units. The corners of the screen are noticeably darker and there's backlight bleed at the edges. There's also dirty screen effect in the center, which could be distracting during sports. Uniformity in the center is better in near-dark scenes, but there's still backlight bleed along the edges.

5.4
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
2.412%
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
N/A

The black uniformity is poor, but this may vary between units. The entire screen looks blue and there's backlight bleed along the edges. However, there isn't much blooming around bright objects.

6.7
Picture Quality
Viewing Angle
Color Washout
67°
Color Shift
26°
Brightness Loss
68°
Black Level Raise
12°
Gamma Shift
12°

As expected from most VA panels, this TV has narrow viewing angles, so you don't get an accurate image when viewing from the side. It scores higher than it actually looks because it retains its brightness and color at wide viewing angles, but the gamma and black levels quickly rise as you move off-center, causing the image to look a lot brighter than it should be.

7.4
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Semi-gloss
Total Reflections
5.2%
Indirect Reflections
0.5%
Calculated Direct Reflections
4.7%

This TV has decent reflection handling. It performs well in moderately-lit rooms but may struggle a bit if you place it opposite a window.

3.7
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
White Balance dE
7.32
Color dE
4.80
Gamma
1.99
Color Temperature
7,502 K
Picture Mode
Movie
Color Temp Setting
Warm
Gamma Setting
Setting Not Available

This TV has bad out-of-the-box accuracy. White balance is very off and most colors are inaccurate. The color temperate is cold, giving the image a blueish tint. Gamma seems to follow a target of 2.0 instead of 2.2, and there's no setting to change it. However, color accuracy may vary between units.

3.7
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
White Balance dE
7.32
Color dE
4.80
Gamma
1.99
Color Temperature
7,502 K
White Balance Calibration
No
Color Calibration
No

There's no way to calibrate this TV, so sadly, our unit has bad color accuracy.

You can see our recommended settings here.

7.5
Picture Quality
480p Input

The TCL 32S335 upscales 480p content, such as from DVDs, well. However, it doesn't show 4:3 content very well and stretches the image.

7.5
Picture Quality
720p Input

This TV's native resolution is 768p, so it doesn't upscale 720p content perfectly. However, it looks good and shouldn't be much of an issue.

0
Picture Quality
1080p Input

This TV accepts and displays a 1080p signal, but it's not true 1080p since the resolution is limited to 768p.

0
Picture Quality
4k Input

This TV can't display a 4k signal.

0
Picture Quality
8k Input

This TV doesn't support an 8k signal.

Picture Quality
Pixels

This TV has an uncommon horizontal pixel structure, similar to the one on the TCL S Series/S305 2018.

5.9
Picture Quality
Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
No
DCI P3 xy
64.12%
DCI P3 uv
72.36%
Rec 2020 xy
46.16%
Rec 2020 uv
53.12%

This TV doesn't support HDR and can't display a wide color gamut for HDR content, but it should be good enough for SDR content.

5.4
Picture Quality
Color Volume
Normalized DCI P3 Coverage ITP
62.9%
10,000 cd/m² DCI P3 Coverage ITP
18.7%
Normalized Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
45.7%
10,000 cd/m² Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
13.5%

This TV has a poor color volume, mainly due to the lack of a wide color gamut. It doesn't display a wide range of colors at different luminance levels.

6.1
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
8 Bit
Red (Std. Dev.)
0.133
Green (Std. Dev.)
0.192
Blue (Std. Dev.)
0.134
Gray (Std. Dev.)
0.345

This TV has an 8-bit panel, and the gradient handling is mediocre. There's noticeable banding in the dark greens and grays, and some in the reds and blues. Unfortunately, there's no setting to improve gradient handling.

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 are no signs of image retention, but this may vary between units.

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
7.3
Motion
Response Time
80% Response Time
5.8 ms
100% Response Time
16.0 ms

This TV has a decent response time, but you may notice motion blur with fast-moving content. The overshoot in dark transitions may lead to motion artifacts in dark scenes.

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

This TV has a flicker-free backlight when its backlight is set to max, but it uses Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to dim its backlight at any level below max. It flickers at 180Hz and may create some image duplication.

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

This TV doesn't have a Black Frame Insertion feature. You can make it flicker at 180Hz at any backlight level below its max.

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

This TV doesn't have a motion interpolation feature.

7.9
Motion
Stutter
Frame Hold Time @ 24 fps
25.7 ms
Frame Hold Time @ 60 fps
0.7 ms

Due to the TV's slow response time, there's not much stutter with lower-frame rate content.

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

It automatically removes judder from native 24p sources, such as a DVD, but there aren't any settings to remove it from native apps.

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 32S335 has a simple 60Hz refresh rate and no variable refresh rate support.

Inputs
8.3
Inputs
Input Lag
1080p @ 60Hz
26.9 ms
1080p @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode
43.6 ms
1440p @ 60Hz
N/A
4k @ 60Hz
N/A
4k @ 60Hz + 10-Bit HDR
N/A
4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4
N/A
4k @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode
N/A
4k @ 60Hz With Interpolation
N/A
8k @ 60Hz
N/A
1080p @ 120Hz
N/A
1440p @ 120Hz
N/A
4k @ 120Hz
N/A
1080p with Variable Refresh Rate
N/A
1440p with VRR
N/A
4k with VRR
N/A
8k with VRR
N/A

This TV has a fairly low input lag, but it may be too high for reaction-based video games. You can achieve the lowest input lag in 'Game' mode, but for it to work, you need to restart the TV for the 'Game' mode to activate. Once you're in 'Game' mode and you go back to the Roku homepage, you need to restart the TV to get the lowest input lag once again.

The TV automatically detects when a computer is connected, switching it into 'PC' mode and providing you with the lowest input lag possible. We measured an input lag of 26.8 ms with a PC connected whether the TV was in or outside of 'Game' mode.

Note: We measured a 1080p input lag because it displays a 1080p signal, but it's not true 1080p due to the limited 768p resolution.

0
Inputs
Supported Resolutions
1080p @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4
No
1080p @ 120Hz
No
1440p @ 60Hz
No
1440p @ 120Hz
No
4k @ 60Hz
No
4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4
No
4k @ 120Hz
No
8k @ 30Hz or 24Hz
No
8k @ 60Hz
No

This TV can display up to a 1080p signal, but it's not true 1080p because its resolution is 768p. It displays chroma 4:4:4 when a PC is connected, which is important for reading text, but it's a bit fuzzy.

Inputs
Advanced Console Compatibility
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)
No
PS5, 4k @ 120Hz + HDR
No
PS5, 4k @ 120Hz
No
PS5, 4k @ 60Hz + HDR
No
PS5, 1440p @ 120Hz
No
PS5, 1080p @ 120Hz
No
PS5, Variable Refresh Rate
No
Xbox Series X, 4k @ 120Hz + HDR
No
Xbox Series X, 4k @ 120Hz
No
Xbox Series X, 4k @ 60Hz + HDR
No
Xbox Series X, 1440p @ 120Hz
No
Xbox Series X, 1080p @ 120Hz
No
Xbox Series X, Variable Refresh Rate
No
Inputs
Inputs Specifications
HDR10
No
HDR10+
No
Dolby Vision
No
HLG
No
HDMI 2.0 Full Bandwidth
No
HDMI 2.1 Class Bandwidth
No
CEC Yes
HDCP 2.2 Unknown
USB 3.0
No
Variable Analog Audio Out Yes
Wi-Fi Support Yes (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)
Inputs
Input Photos
Inputs
Total Inputs
HDMI 3
USB 1
Digital Optical Audio Out 1
Analog Audio Out 3.5mm 1
Analog Audio Out RCA 0
Component In 0
Composite In 1 (adapter required, not incl.)
Tuner (Cable/Ant) 1
Ethernet 0
DisplayPort 0
IR In 0
SD/SDHC 0

There's a Composite In input, but you need an adapter for it, and it doesn't come with one.

Inputs
Audio Passthrough
ARC
Yes (HDMI 3)
eARC support
No
Dolby Atmos via TrueHD via eARC
No
DTS:X via DTS-HD MA via eARC
No
5.1 Dolby Digital via ARC
Yes
5.1 DTS via ARC
Yes
5.1 Dolby Digital via Optical
Yes
5.1 DTS via Optical
Yes

This TV supports Dolby Digital and DTS audio formats over ARC or optical connections. For it to work, set the S/PDIF and ARC setting in the Audio settings to 'Auto Detect' for ARC connections, and set it to 'Dolby Digital Plus and DTS' for optical connections.

Sound Quality
5.8
Sound Quality
Frequency Response
Low-Frequency Extension
169.51 Hz
Std. Dev. @ 70
4.56 dB
Std. Dev. @ 80
4.49 dB
Std. Dev. @ Max
5.18 dB
Max
87.9 dB SPL
Dynamic Range Compression
1.94 dB

The frequency response is disappointing. It has a well-balanced sound profile and dialogue sounds clear. However, it doesn't really produce any bass. It gets fairly loud and there isn't much compression at its max volume.

6.2
Sound Quality
Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80
0.485
Weighted THD @ Max
1.487
IMD @ 80
6.58%
IMD @ Max
14.94%

The distortion performance isn't bad. There's a bit of distortion at moderate listening levels, and it gets more noticeable at its max volume. However, this depends on the content and most people won't notice it.

Smart Features
7.5
Smart Features
Interface
Smart OS Roku TV
Version 9.3.2
Ease of Use
Easy
Smoothness
Average
Time Taken to Select YouTube
4 s
Time Taken to Change Backlight
4 s
Advanced Options
Some

The TCL 32S335 has built-in Roku TV, but the TCL 32S330 and 40S330 variants have Android TV. The Roku OS on our unit is easy-to-use and runs smoothly. The only bug we encountered was with the input lag in 'Game' mode, as explained in the input lag section.

0
Smart Features
Ad-Free
Ads
Yes
Opt-out
No
Suggested Content in Home
Yes
Opt-out of Suggested Content
Yes

There are ads and suggested content on the home page, but we couldn't get a picture of them. You can opt-out of seeing featured content by selecting Limit Ad Tracking in the 'Advertising' section of the Privacy settings.

7.5
Smart Features
Apps and Features
App Selection
Great
App Smoothness
Average
Cast Capable
Yes
USB Drive Playback
Yes
USB Drive HDR Playback
No
HDR in Netflix
No
HDR in YouTube
No

The Roku app store has a great selection of apps you can download and they run smoothly for the most part.

6.0
Smart Features
Remote
Size
Small
Voice Control
No
CEC Menu Control
No
Other Smart Features
No
Remote App Roku

This TV comes with a small and basic remote and doesn't have voice control. However, the remote we received wasn't working. You can use voice control through the Roku app on your phone, and you can ask it to open apps, but you can't search for specific content in apps or change the TV's settings.

Smart Features
TV Controls

There's a single button near the inputs that may be hard to access if the TV is wall-mounted. It allows you to change the inputs and power the TV On/Off.

Smart Features
In The Box

  • Remote (with batteries)
  • Manual

Smart Features
Misc
Power Consumption 24 W
Power Consumption (Max) 35 W
Firmware 9.3.2 build 4217-48

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

We tested the 32 inch TCL S330 with Roku TV, which is also sold at Walmart as the TCL 32S331. There's a larger variant with Android TV, and the differences are listed below. TCL's lineup outside North America is very different, so we're not aware of any equivalents outside Canada and the United States.

Size US Walmart Resolution Smart Platform
32" 32S335 32S331 720p Roku
32" 32S330 - 720p Android
40" 40S330 - 1080p Android

If someone comes across a different type of panel or if their TCL 32S330 or 32S331 doesn't correspond to our review, let us know and we'll update the review. Note that some tests such as gray uniformity may vary between individual units.

You can see the label for our unit here.

Compared To Other TVs

The TCL 3 Series is a cheap TV that's available in a 32 inch size, which is starting to become more uncommon with TVs in 2020. However, it doesn't offer as good overall performance as other cheap TVs, such as the Hisense H4F. Also see our recommendations for the best budget TVs, the best small TVs, and the best TVs under $300.

TCL 3 Series 2019
32" 32" 40" 43" 49"

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.

Hisense H4F
32" 40"

The Hisense H4F is a bit better than the TCL 3 Series 2020. The Hisense feels better-built, it has wide viewing angles, much better gradient handling, and lower input lag. However, the TCL has a better contrast ratio and slightly better reflection handling.

Toshiba Fire TV 2020
43" 50" 55"

The Toshiba Fire TV 2020 is much better than the TCL 3 Series 2020. The Toshiba is a 4k TV, it has better uniformity, a quicker response time, lower input lag, and it supports HDR. However, the TCL has wider viewing angles.

Samsung N5300
32" 43"

The Samsung N5300 is better than the TCL 3 Series 2020. The Samsung has a 1080p resolution, its IPS panel provides much wider viewing angles, and it supports HDR. However, the 720p TCL has better contrast, quicker response time, and much lower input lag.

Samsung TU8000
43" 50" 55" 65" 75" 85"

The Samsung TU8000 is much better than the TCL 3 Series 2020. The Samsung is a 4k TV that supports HDR, has a better contrast ratio, lower input lag, and gets brighter. However, the TCL has slightly better reflection handling.

TCL S Series/S305 2018
28" 32" 40" 43" 49"

The TCL S Series/S305 2018 is a bit better than the TCL 3 Series 2020, but the units we tested have different resolutions. The 40 inch S305 we tested has a 1080p resolution, much lower input lag, and it removes 24p judder from native apps. The 32 inch 3 Series 2020 we tested has a 720p resolution, and it also has a much quicker response time.

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