The TCL 5 Series (S515/S517) is a 4k TV with decent picture quality. It has a VA-type panel which can produce deep dark scenes, but doesn't support more advanced features such as local dimming to improve the performance further. It also supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and can produce great vivid colors but can't produce bright highlights. For gamers, it has a low input lag which is excellent.
The TCL 5 Series is also known as the S515 or S517 depending on the retailer's variant.
Decent TV for mixed usage. It is well suited for use for gaming or as a PC monitor. HDR is supported and the TV has a wide color gamut but it doesn't add much. The viewing experience is decent for movies and TV shows, but it doesn't get bright enough to overcome glare and the viewing angle is poor.
Decent TV for watching movies in a dark room. It isn't very bright, and while it does support HDR, there isn't much advantage to using it. There is no local dimming feature, but the native contrast ratio is excellent. Good response time, so fast movies don't have much motion trail.
Okay TV for watching TV Shows in a bright room. Reflection handling is decent but it can't get very bright to overcome glare. Unfortunately, the image quality degrades rapidly when viewing off-angle, so it isn't as good for people that like to watch TV while doing other things around the house.
This is a decent TV for watching sports. There are no serious uniformity issues, but there is some dirty screen effect that is especially noticeable when watching sports with large areas of uniform color; like hockey or football. Decent reflection handling, but the viewing angle is poor, so some people might not have a great view when watching the big game with a large group of friends.
Great TV for playing video games. The exceptional low input lag and good response time makes for very fluid motion that responds to every button press, but make sure Game mode is on.
This is an okay TV for watching HDR movies, but it doesn't add much. HDR peak brightness is disappointing, and uniform regardless of input size. This means that bright highlights won't stand out at all in HDR, which is one of the main points. Overall, the picture quality is good but using HDR doesn't add much.
Good TV for HDR gaming, mainly due to the excellent input lag and good response time. There isn't much advantage to gaming in HDR on this TV, as it isn't very bright in HDR. Overall, it is a great TV for gaming but HDR doesn't add much.
Good TV for use as a PC monitor. Chroma 4:4:4 is supported without issue as long as the input label is set to Computer and Game mode is used. The response time is good, so there is very little motion trail. Input lag is very low, and using a mouse feels responsive. The main limitation is the poor viewing angle, and you will want to be seated far enough away, otherwise the edges of the screen will fade.
The design of the TCL 5 Series is quite basic. It has a sleek look due to its thin borders and elegant base, but from a closer perspective, it looks less premium. Overall it is a decent, typical TCL design.
The stand of the TCL 5 Series is plastic and relatively wide. It is certainly narrower than the new TCL 6-Series R615/617, but provides the same stability to the TV.
It resembles last years S405 stand, without the silver finish.
Footprint of the 55" TV stand: 38.6" x 11.7"
The rear of the TV is made of the metal panel section and the plastic electronics compartment. It looks simple and clean, but lacks any planning for cable management.
The TCL 5-series has very thin borders that give it a sleek look. There is, however, a pretty obvious gap between the border bezel and the first line of pixels on the screen.
The TCL 5 Series would be a very thin TV if it not for the lower bottom part where the LEDs are hosted, along with a big vent to dissipate the generated heat.
Because of this, the TCL 5-Series will protrude a little if you wall mount it.
The build quality of the TCL 5 Series is okay with no loose panels or gaps. It has a solid construction, and although it does not look premium it is at par with the built quality of Vizio E Series 2017 and the rest of the TCL TVs.
The TCL 5 Series does not have Local Dimming. It has a Micro Contrast option in the menu, however, this only adjusts the contrast of different areas of the screen and isn't actually a local dimming feature so we leave it off.
The above video is provided for reference only.
The TCL 5 Series is a definite improvement from last year's S405 since it has a decent peak brightness which is good enough for a dimly lit room. Although it performs better than Vizio E Series 2017 and similarly to Samsung NU7100, the TV doesn't even come close to the brightness of the TCL R617 6-series, or the Sony X720E. It just won't get bright enough to overcome glare.
The results in our HDR Peak Brightness test were disappointing, albeit better than last year's TCL S405. The luminance is very similar across all input windows and thus small highlights in dark scenes will not stand out and could be missed.
The TV has the same decent performance in gray uniformity as last year's S405. Both at 50% and at 5% gray, the image shows slightly darker along the edges and some clouding is visible. Therefore we expect some dirty screen effect to be present when watching sports.
The TV has better gray uniformity than the TCL R617 we tested. This is expected as edge-lit TVs typically have less uniformity issues than full array TVs.
The viewing angle is bad. This is typical with a VA panels, but this TV is also at the lower end of the scale. Even slight deviations from the middle and blacks become gray and colors shift, while brightness decreases a little more gradually as viewing angle increases. The TV is not a good choice for a wide room where people will be often viewing the TV from the side.
The native black uniformity of the TCL 5 Series is very good. We can see some slight clouding near the top and again closer to the test cross. However, this is faint and will not show up in dark scenes while looking at regular video content.
As all TCL TVs, the TCL 5-series has a semi-gloss finish for diffusing reflections across the screen. It does a great job in dimmer environments, but when viewed in a bright room the reflections can be somewhat distracting. This is especially apparent when the source is facing the TV.
The S405 performs slightly better with reflections, as there are fewer halos visible around bright reflections.
The TV has decent out of the box color accuracy, when picture mode is set to Movie. Red/Yellow are a slightly dominant because of the warm color temperature and this results in an elevated white Balance dE. However, since color dE is low enough, this gray inaccuracy might go unnoticed to most people. Gamma already follows our target well.
The TCL 5 Series is easy to calibrate, like other TCL TVs we've tested. As a result, it is possible to get a very accurate result and it is very hard to notice any imperfections with regard to color representation.
Like other TCL TVs, the calibration is only possible via the mobile app (Android or iOS) and is one of the easiest methods available from all the major TV brands. The 11 points white balance control and the color space control are fairly responsive result in an easy way to do the calibration.
You can see our recommended settings here.
Upscaling of low-quality content such as DVDs is good. As with other TCL TVs, the image isn't too soft and details are preserved.
720p sources such as cable TV are upscaled well. Details remains clear.
Full HD content such as Blu-rays look good. The image remains clear.
With some 4k images (such as for PC monitor use) the sub-pixel dimming algorithm results in some strange artifacts when viewed from up close (see here). This isn't an issue for most content. This type of dithering is uncommon, and is only seen on some TCL TVs, including the S517 and R617. Most people won't notice it much, but occasionally it causes artifacts when it interferes with spatial dithering in games such as this green or purple shadow.
Like the TCL 6 Series and other TCL TVs we've tested, the way the panel dims sub-pixels results in some minor artifacts visible in the 4k input test.
The TCL 5 Series supports a wide color gamut. Coverage of the smaller P3 color space is great, comparable to many high end TVs. Coverage of the wider Rec 2020 color space is decent, HDR content will look good.
The PQ curve follows our curve well, and rolls off gradually at the TV's peak brightness. We had to use a 50% stimulus as the 75% input looks bad. The PC and Game EOTFs also follow the curve well, which is good. These were tested with the 'dark' picture brightness, but the 'normal' setting looks almost identical.
Decent color volume. The TCL 55S515/55S517 doesn't produce deep dark colors or bright saturated colors very well. Most of its color gamut is displayed well across most brightness levels.
No image retention is present and this is in line with other TVs that use VA panels.
We don't expect VA panels to experience permanent image retention, as the VA panel in our long-term test appears immune.
With a backlight setting of 14 or less, the TV uses PWM to dim the backlight which is noticeable as flicker. Higher settings directly adjust the amplitude of the backlight, and there is no flicker. The backlight setting of 14 is extremely dim, and most people won't see any flicker.
The TCL 5 Series can't adjust the backlight flicker to lower frequencies to help motion appear smoother. At low backlight settings motion is helped by the PWM flicker, but at higher settings, there is no flicker and motion isn't as smooth.
The TCL 5 Series has an optional motion interpolation feature that can increase the frame rate up to 60 fps. This is new this year on the TCL line. This helps motion appear smoother, but causes the so called Soap Opera Effect, which some people don't like.
In scenes with lots of motion, there are visible artifacts. If there is too much motion, the TV will stop interpolating frames and keep the source frame rate. This behavior is very similar to most TVs.
Update 05/24/2018: We have received reports that the 43" and 49" models do not have motion interpolation.
There is some visible stutter with 24p content. This isn't too noticeable as the frame hold time is lower than most TVs. Some people will notice this, especially with wide-panning landscape shots.
The TV is able to remove judder from all sources. By default the option to do this is disabled, to enable it turn on Natural Cinema. This is an improvement over the 2017 TCL TVs.
Update 05/24/2018: We have received reports that the 43" and 49" models do not have this option. They will not be judder-free.
The TV doesn't support any of the variable refresh rate technologies. This was tested on a PC with an AMD Radeon 580.