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 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 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 S325 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.
Disappointing SDR peak brightness for the S325. 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 S325 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 S325 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 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.
Native 1080p content looks excellent.
Note: the 32" models of the S325 and S321 variants are 720p, as you can also see here.
The S325 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.
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 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.
The S325 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 S325 has an outstanding low input lag for the 1080p @ 60Hz, which is the highest resolution it supports.
The S325 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 S325 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.
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 S325, 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 TCL 3 Series runs the Roku TV Smart OS. It is very easy to use, but unfortunately it isn't very smooth. The interface has ads which you can't opt out from, and this can become annoying. It has a very large number of 'Streaming channels,' which is the name Roku gives to apps. You will certainly find what you need. The remote that comes with the TV is very basic, and the remote app is the same one that controls higher-end models, but some of the features don't work.
The TCL S325 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.
Although the Roku remote app is very versatile and can act as a remote, it doesn't control the TV settings and doesn't allow for calibration or gamma settings. You can stream files to the TV using the app, but the TV doesn't support voice control.
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 32S327, which is a 1080p model, and the 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 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 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 TCL 3 Series S325 and the Samsung N5300 have different panel types, each with their own 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 will 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 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 LG UK6300 and the TCL 3 Series S325 have different panels, each with their advantages and disadvantages. The TCL has a VA panel and it is 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.