TCL 5 Series/S525 2019 TV Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Updated Sep 27, 2019 at 07:39 am
TCL 5 Series/S525 2019 Picture
7.1
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: none
7.0
Movies
7.2
TV Shows
6.8
Sports
7.6
Video Games
6.8
HDR Movies
7.2
HDR Gaming
7.4
PC Monitor
Type LED
Sub-Type
VA
Resolution 4k

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.

Our Verdict

7.1 Mixed Usage

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.

Pros
  • Deep, uniform blacks
  • Outstanding low input lag
Cons
  • Image degrades at an angle
  • PWM flicker at low brightness levels
7.0 Movies

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.

7.2 TV Shows

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.

6.8 Sports

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.

7.6 Video Games

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.

6.8 HDR Movies

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.

7.2 HDR Gaming

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.

7.4 PC Monitor

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.

  • 7.1 Mixed Usage
  • 7.0 Movies
  • 7.2 TV Shows
  • 6.8 Sports
  • 7.6 Video Games
  • 6.8 HDR Movies
  • 7.2 HDR Gaming
  • 7.4 PC Monitor
  1. Update 5/21/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.5.
  2. Update 2/21/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The TCL S525 is TCL's 2019 5 Series TV, and is a minor update to last year's S517. The 5 Series TV is a budget model, and its main competitors are the Vizio V Series 2019, the Samsung RU7100, and the Amazon Fire TV 2019.

Design
7.0
Design
Style
Curved No

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.

Design
Stand

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".

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 400x200

The back of the TV is very plain. There is no cable management.

Design
Borders
Borders 0.35" (0.9 cm)

The borders are very thin and don't stand out much when watching TV.

Design
Thickness
Max Thickness 2.68" (6.8 cm)

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.

6.5
Design
Build Quality

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.

Picture Quality
9.1
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
6079 : 1
Contrast with local dimming
N/A

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.

0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
No
Backlight
Direct

This TV doesn't have a local dimming feature. The above video is provided for reference only.

6.8
Picture Quality
SDR Peak Brightness
SDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
300 cd/m²
SDR Peak 2% Window
320 cd/m²
SDR Peak 10% Window
322 cd/m²
SDR Peak 25% Window
323 cd/m²
SDR Peak 50% Window
323 cd/m²
SDR Peak 100% Window
323 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 2% Window
320 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 10% Window
322 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 25% Window
322 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 50% Window
323 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 100% Window
323 cd/m²
SDR ABL
0.001

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.

5.2
Picture Quality
HDR Peak Brightness
HDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
278 cd/m²
HDR Peak 2% Window
279 cd/m²
HDR Peak 10% Window
289 cd/m²
HDR Peak 25% Window
289 cd/m²
HDR Peak 50% Window
289 cd/m²
HDR Peak 100% Window
289 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 2% Window
279 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 10% Window
289 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 25% Window
289 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 50% Window
289 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 100% Window
289 cd/m²
HDR ABL
0.002

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.

6.0
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
5.004 %
50% DSE
0.238 %
5% Std. Dev.
2.288 %
5% DSE
0.127 %

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.

5.3
Picture Quality
Viewing Angle
Color Washout
23 °
Color Shift
19 °
Brightness Loss
41 °
Black Level Raise
19 °
Gamma Shift
13 °

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.

8.3
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
0.823 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
N/A

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.

6.9
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Semi-gloss
Total Reflections
6.2 %
Indirect Reflections
2.1 %
Calculated Direct Reflections
4.1 %

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.

8.3
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
White Balance dE
2.53
Color dE
1.95
Gamma
2.12
Color Temperature
6715 K
Picture Mode
Movie
Color Temp Setting
Custom
Gamma Setting
2.2

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.

9.6
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
White Balance dE
0.46
Color dE
0.70
Gamma
2.19
Color Temperature
6570 K
White Balance Calibration
11 point
Color Calibration
Yes
Auto-Calibration Function
No

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.

8.0
Picture Quality
480p Input

480p content is displayed well, with no significant issues or artifacts.

8.0
Picture Quality
720p Input

720p, including most cable TV channels, looks great, with no obvious upscaling artifacts.

9.0
Picture Quality
1080p Input

1080p content looks excellent, almost as good as native 4k content.

10
Picture Quality
4k Input

4k content is displayed perfectly. Unlike the TCL S517, we didn't notice any subpixel dithering.

0
Picture Quality
8k Input
Picture Quality
Pixels

Update 05/12/2020: We've received numerous reports from our readers that the 43" variant of this TV has an RGBW pixel structure, which isn't ideal for gaming or PC use. Learn more about RGBW.

Unlike many other TCL TVs we've tested, we didn't notice any sub-pixel dimming.

8.0
Picture Quality
Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
Yes
DCI P3 xy
86.87 %
DCI P3 uv
92.46 %
Rec 2020 xy
65.03 %
Rec 2020 uv
73.80 %

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.

7.0
Picture Quality
Color Volume
Normalized DCI P3 Coverage ITP
79.4 %
10,000 cd/m² DCI P3 Coverage ITP
32.2 %
Normalized Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
60.6 %
10,000 cd/m² Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
24.5 %

Decent color volume. It's limited by the color gamut, and like most LED TVs, it can't display very bright blues.

8.4
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
10 Bit
Red (Std. Dev.)
0.091 dE
Green (Std. Dev.)
0.092 dE
Blue (Std. Dev.)
0.076 dE
Gray (Std. Dev.)
0.125 dE

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.

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 temporary image retention, even immediately after displaying our high-contrast, static test image for 10 minutes.

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
7.7
Motion
Response Time
80% Response Time
5.4 ms
100% Response Time
14.1 ms

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

7.5
Motion
Stutter
Frame Hold Time @ 24 fps
27.6 ms
Frame Hold Time @ 60 fps
2.6 ms

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.

10
Motion
24p Judder
Judder-Free 24p
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60p
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60i
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via Native Apps
Yes

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.

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

This TV has a simple 60Hz refresh rate, and it doesn't support any advanced refresh rate technologies, like a variable refresh rate.

Inputs
9.1
Inputs
Input Lag
1080p @ 60 Hz
10.9 ms
1080p @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
N/A
1440p @ 60 Hz
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz
10.6 ms
4k @ 60 Hz + 10 bit HDR