The TCL 5 Series is a good budget 4k TV with good picture quality, a great response time, and outstanding low input lag. It has an excellent contrast ratio and great black uniformity, so it looks great in a dark room, but like most VA panels, the image degrades when viewed at an angle. It has great accuracy with our pre-calibration settings, and it can display a wide color gamut, which is important for the latest HDR content. Unfortunately, there is noticeable backlight flicker at low brightness levels, which causes some noticeable motion artifacts.
The TCL S525 is a good TV for most uses. It has excellent contrast and good black uniformity, important for watching movies in a dark room. It has outstanding low input lag, and a fast response time, great for gaming or for use as a PC monitor. Unfortunately, the image degrades when viewed at an angle, and it has mediocre gray uniformity, so it isn't the best choice for watching TV shows or sports during the day.
The S525 is a decent TV for watching movies in a dark room. It has an excellent contrast ratio and great black uniformity, but it lacks a local dimming feature. 1080p Blu-ray movies look great, and it can remove judder from all sources. Unfortunately, it has mediocre gray uniformity, which might be distracting.
This is a decent TV for watching TV shows in a bright room. It has only decent reflection handling, but good peak brightness, so glare shouldn't be an issue for most people. It has a good selection of streaming channels, and older, low-resolution content is upscaled well. Unfortunately, the image degrades at an angle.
The TCL S525 is a decent TV for watching sports during the day. It has a great response time, so you can clearly see the players, not just blur. It has good peak brightness and decent reflection handling, so glare shouldn't be an issue in a bright room. Unfortunately, the image degrades at an angle, so it isn't great for watching the game with a group of friends.
This is a great TV for playing video games. It has outstanding low input lag, resulting in a responsive gaming experience, and it has a great response time, so there is only a short blur trail behind fast-moving objects. It upscales 1080p content well, with no noticeable issues, great if you haven't upgraded to a 4k game console.
Decent TV for watching the latest HDR movies. It has an excellent contrast ratio and great black uniformity, but it lacks a local dimming feature. It can display a wide color gamut, but can't get very bright in HDR, so small highlights don't stand out. 4k content is displayed perfectly, with no pixel issues.
This is a great TV for gaming in HDR, mainly due to the great gaming performance. It has outstanding low input lag, and a great response time, so there's only a bit of blur behind fast-moving objects. It has excellent contrast and great black uniformity, and a great color gamut. Unfortunately, it can't get very bright in HDR, so small highlights don't stand out much, and there's no local dimming feature.
This is a great TV for use as a PC monitor. It has excellent low input lag, a great response time, and unlike the S517, there are no noticeable sub-pixel issues. Unfortunately, though, the image degrades at an angle, and it has only decent reflection handling, so it might not be suitable for a bright room.
The TCL 5 Series has a decent design, but it's pretty basic. It has thin borders, and from the front, it looks more like a premium TV than a budget model, especially when wall-mounted. The legs are very thin, and don't stand out much, but they don't support the TV very well, either, and it wobbles considerably. It's mostly made of plastic, but there are some metal panels on the back, and we didn't see any obvious build quality issues.
The stand is nearly the full width of the TV, and it isn't very solid, so the TV wobbles a lot when nudged.
Footprint of the 55" stand: 43.4" by 10.2".
The back of the TV is very plain. There is no cable management.
The borders are very thin and don't stand out much when watching TV.
The bottom portion of the TV is a bit thicker than most high-end models, so the TV sticks out a bit more when wall-mounted.
The TCL 5 Series has a decent build quality, very similar to the S517. The stand wobbles a lot, and most of the TV is made of plastic.
The TCL 5 Series has an excellent contrast ratio, nearly identical to the 2018 S517. This results in deep blacks, which is especially noticeable in dark scenes in a dark room.
This TV doesn't have a local dimming feature. The above video is provided for reference only.
The TCL 5 Series has good peak brightness when displaying SDR content. It's bright enough to overcome glare in most rooms.
The peak brightness was measured after calibration, with the 'Movie' Picture Mode. If accuracy isn't as important to you, the 'Normal' picture mode reaches a peak brightness of 385 cd/m² with the 10% window.
Disappointing peak brightness in HDR. This TV isn't bright enough for HDR content to really stand out the way it should. Small highlights in some scenes aren't bright enough to stand out.
We measured the peak brightness with no calibration settings, in the 'Dark HDR' Picture Mode. If accuracy isn't as important to you, the 'Normal' picture mode has a peak brightness of 372 cd/m², as measured with the 10% window.
Unfortunately, the TCL 5 Series has mediocre gray uniformity. There is a significant amount of dirty screen effect, which can be distracting, especially when watching sports. In near-dark scenes, the uniformity is significantly better, great for dark room viewing.
Like most VA TVs, the image degrades when viewed at an angle. This isn't a great TV if you have a wide seating area, or if you like to move around with the TV on.
The TCL 5 Series has great black uniformity. There is very little clouding throughout the screen, but there is some noticeable blooming around the bright test cross.
This TV has decent reflection handling, but there's a bit more glare than last year's model. Reflections are partly diffused, but not enough to significantly reduce their intensity, so glare might still be an issue in a bright room.
With our pre-calibration settings, the TCL 5 Series / S525 has great accuracy. There are no noticeable inaccuracies, but gamma doesn't quite follow the target, and most scenes are displayed a bit brighter than they should be.
After calibration, this TV has excellent accuracy. Gamma is nearly perfect, and almost all inaccuracies have been corrected. Note that the white balance and color space can only be calibrated on this TV through the Roku companion app.
You can see our recommended settings here.
480p content is displayed well, with no significant issues or artifacts.
720p, including most cable TV channels, looks great, with no obvious upscaling artifacts.
4k content is displayed perfectly. Unlike the TCL 5 Series 2018, we didn't notice any subpixel dithering. However, we received reports of crosshatching and dithering on the 43 inch model. This causes text to look blurry if you're going to use it as a PC monitor, similar to the 2018 model. If you've experienced this issue, let us know.
The TCL 5 Series can display a great wide color gamut, which is especially important for the latest 4k UHD Blu-rays. The brightness follows the target PQ curve perfectly, so most scenes are displayed at the correct brightness levels. Near the TV's peak brightness, the EOTF (electro-optical transfer function) rolls off sharply, and some bright highlights are lost (clipped).
Due to an issue with the TV's game mode, we only have the EOTF for that mode.
Decent color volume. It's limited by the color gamut, and like most LED TVs, it can't display very bright blues.
The TCL 5 Series has great gradient handling. There is some noticeable banding in most shades, but this shouldn't be very noticeable with most content.
There are no signs of temporary image retention, even immediately after displaying our high-contrast, static test image for 10 minutes.
We don't expect VA panels to experience permanent image retention, as the VA panel in our long-term test appears immune.
The TCL S525 has an excellent response time, better than the S517. This results in a short blur-trail behind fast-moving objects. There are some noticeable motion artifacts and duplications, though, due to the TV's backlight flicker.
Unfortunately, like the S517, this TV uses PWM to dim the backlight below 25, causing noticeable duplications in motion. If this type of flicker bothers you, there is no flicker above a backlight setting of 25.
There is no optional black frame insertion feature on this TV. The backlight always flickers at 180Hz, regardless of content. This can cause some motion artifacts in some scenes, but most people won't notice this.
The TCL 5 Series can interpolate 24p or 30p content up to 60 frames per second. Motion interpolation can be activated by enabling the Action Smoothing setting.
Note: We received reports that the 43 inch model doesn't have any motion settings, so this setting may not be available with it.
The slightly slower response time on the S525 results in a bit less stutter when watching 24p movies. This can still be noticeable with slow, panning shots, though.
The TCL 5 Series can remove judder from all sources, which is rare for a 60Hz TV. To enable the judder-removal feature, simply enable Natural Cinema.
Note: We received reports that the 43 inch model doesn't have any motion settings, so this feature may not be available with it.
This TV has a simple 60Hz refresh rate, and it doesn't support any advanced refresh rate technologies, like a variable refresh rate.
This TV has outstanding low input lag. During testing, we encountered a bug with game mode. Although we could toggle the low latency mode off, the input lag didn't change, suggesting the TV didn't actually leave game mode. Because of this, we weren't able to measure the input lag outside of game mode.
This TV only supports the most basic formats, but can display chroma 4:4:4 properly with any supported resolution. This is especially important for clear text when used as a PC monitor.
Note: We received reports that the 43 inch model has crosshatching and pixel dithering when using it as a PC monitor. This causes text to look fuzzy even though it's displaying chroma 4:4:4. Let us know if you've experienced this issue.
The TCL 5 Series / S525 2019 doesn't support eARC, but it can passthrough Dolby Digital or DTS signals over regular ARC.
The S525 has a mediocre frequency response. The low-frequency extension (LFE) is very high, resulting in bass that lacks thump or rumble, and has very little punch. Dialog is clear, and this TV can get quite loud, but it lacks a bit of airiness due to the drop in the mid-to-high-treble range.
Mediocre total harmonic distortion. At low volume levels, the total distortion is good, and it increases only a bit at max volume. Most users won't notice this though, as harmonic distortion is not very noticeable with real content.
The Roku interface is smooth, easy-to-use, and well organized, but not the most polished.
Unfortunately, like previous TCL TVs we've tested, including the S517, there are large ads in the main interface.
The Roku smart platform has a huge selection of available apps, known as "channels".
The remote is very similar to last year's model, and is identical to the other 2019 models, including the S425. It's small, and has only a few buttons. It can be paired to the TV for voice control.
The physical controls have been relocated this year, and they more closely resemble the controls on the R617.
We tested the 55" (55S525). For the most part, we expect our review to be valid for the 43" (43S525), 49" (49S525), and 65" versions (65S525) as well. At the time of publishing, there don't appear to be any variants, but let us know in the discussions if you find a different model number, and we'll update the review.
If someone comes across a different type of panel or if their TCL 5 Series doesn't correspond to our review, let us know and we will update the review.
Note: We received reports that the 43 inch model has crosshatching effects that make text look blurry, and that it doesn't have any motion settings. If you've noticed any of these issues, let us know.
In Europe, the TCL models are completely different and do not directly correspond with the U.S. models.
The TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 is a big improvement over its predecessor, the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019. The S535 has a full-array local dimming feature, it displays a much wider color gamut, it has a Black Frame Insertion feature, and it's better-built. However, the S525 gets a bit brighter and it has better out-of-the-box color accuracy, but this may vary between units.
The TCL R617 is much better than the TCL S525. The R617 has an optional local dimming feature and an optional black frame insertion feature. The R617 is also significantly brighter, and has better reflection handling.
The TCL 5 Series S517 2018 is nearly identical to the TCL S525. The S517 has better gray uniformity and better reflection handling, but one less HDMI port. The S525 has less input lag, but this likely isn't a noticeable difference.
The Samsung RU7100 and the TCL 5 Series / S525 2019 perform very similarly overall. The RU7100 has better gray uniformity, an optional black frame insertion feature, and slightly better reflection handling. The TCL S525 has a faster response time, better gradient handling, and it can remove judder from all 24p sources.
The TCL 6 Series/R625 2019 is quite a bit better than the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019. The 6 Series has a much more premium design, Full-Array local dimming, and slightly better motion handling. It's also much better for HDR content thanks to its wider color gamut, and much higher peak brightness, especially in HDR. On the other hand, the 5 Series has much more accurate colors out-of-the-box.
The TCL 5 Series/S525 2019 is a slightly better TV than the Samsung TU8000. Both are 60Hz TVs with VA panels, but the TCL supports a wide color gamut for HDR content, it can get brighter, and the out-of-box color accuracy is significantly better. The Samsung performs better in the dark with a slightly better contrast ratio and better black uniformity.
The TCL S525 is a bit better than the TCL S425. The S525 is a lot brighter, and it can remove judder from all sources. The S525 also has an optional motion interpolation feature. The S425 has better reflection handling.
The TCL 5 Series / S525 2019 is slightly better than the Vizio V Series 2019. The TCL has a much faster response time and less input lag, making it a much better choice for gaming. The TCL also has an optional motion interpolation feature. The Vizio V Series, on the other hand, has better reflection handling and slightly better viewing angles. The TCL also has better smart features, with a huge selection of streaming channels.
The Hisense H8F is a slightly better TV than the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019. The H8F has full-array local dimming, while the TCL doesn't have any local dimming feature. The H8F can also get brighter, especially with HDR content. The black levels of the H8F are better, and it has a slightly wider color gamut. On the other hand, the TCL has more accurate colors out-of-the-box, has much better response time, and uses Roku's smart interface which is much smoother and easier to use than the Android TV interface found on the Hisense.
The Samsung TU8300 and the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019 are very similarly performing TVs, but the Samsung features a curved screen. Aside from the curved screen, the Samsung has much better gray uniformity, lower input lag, can get marginally brighter, and has better built-in speakers. On the other hand, the TCL has more accurate colors out-of-the-box, a much wider color gamut, and better overall motion handling.