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 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/S525 2019 delivers decent overall picture quality. Blacks are deep and uniform, great for dark room viewing. It has good peak brightness, but only decent reflection handling, so glare could be an issue in a bright room. It has great gradient handling, and there is very little banding in areas of similar color. It can display a wide color gamut, which is important for the latest HDR movies, but it can't get very bright in HDR. Unfortunately, like most TVs with VA panels, the image degrades when viewed at an angle.
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.
720p, including most cable TV channels, looks great, with no obvious upscaling artifacts.
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.
Unlike many other TCL TVs we've tested, we didn't notice any sub-pixel dimming.
The TCL 5 Series has good overall motion handling and an excellent response time, so there is only a bit of blur behind fast-moving objects. Unfortunately, the backlight flickers at low brightness levels, causing some noticeable duplications and motion artifacts. This TV has an optional motion interpolation feature that can interpolate up to 60 frames per second, but there's no optional black frame insertion feature, and it doesn't support any of the variable refresh rate technologies.
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.
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.
This TV has a simple 60Hz refresh rate, and it doesn't support any advanced refresh rate technologies, like a variable refresh rate.
The TCL 5 Series has outstanding low input lag, resulting in an extremely responsive gaming experience. It supports 4k and 1080p input signals, and can display chroma 4:4:4 properly, which is important when connected to a PC, but it doesn't support 1440p signals, which is a bit strange, as they worked on the S517.
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.
The TCL 5 Series / S525 2019 doesn't support eARC, but it can passthrough Dolby Digital or DTS signals over regular ARC.
The TCL 5 Series has mediocre sound quality. The bass lacks thump or rumble, and has little punch, but dialog is clear. It can get decently loud but does produce some pumping at high volume levels. For better sound, a dedicated speaker system or soundbar is recommended.
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.