Reviewed on Sep 27, 2019

TCL 5 Series/S525 2019 TV REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.3
7.5
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: Hisense H8F
7.1
Movies
7.3
TV Shows
7.0
Sports
8.4
Video Games
7.3
HDR Movies
8.1
HDR Gaming
8.1
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.

Test Results
Design 7.0
Picture Quality 7.4
Motion 7.5
Inputs 9.6
Sound Quality 6.3
Smart Features 7.7
Pros
  • Deep, uniform blacks
  • Outstanding low input lag
Cons
  • Image degrades at an angle
  • PWM flicker at low brightness levels

Check Price

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.

7.0

Design

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.

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".

Back
Wall Mount : VESA 400x200

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

Borders
Borders : 0.35" (0.9 cm)

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

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.

Temperature
Maximum Temperature
:
100 °F (38 °C)
Average Temperature
:
95 °F (35 °C)
6.5 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.

7.4

Picture Quality

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. 

9.1 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 Local Dimming
Local Dimming
:
No
Backlight
:
Direct

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

7.6 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.

5.9 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 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 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.

8.2 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.

6.5 Reflections
Screen Finish
:
Semi-gloss
Total Reflections
:
6.2 %
Indirect Reflections
:
2.1 %

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.

8.4 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 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.

8.0 480p Input

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

8.0 720p Input

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

9.0 1080p Input

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

10 4k Input

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

8.0 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 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 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 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 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.

Pixels

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

7.5

Motion

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.

8.5 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 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 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.

7.0 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 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 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 Variable Refresh Rate
Native Refresh Rate
:
60 Hz
Variable Refresh Rate
:
No
4k VRR Maximum
:
N/A
4k VRR Minimum
:
N/A
1080p VRR Maximum
:
N/A
1080p VRR Minimum
:
N/A
1440p VRR Maximum
:
N/A
1440p VRR Minimum
:
N/A
VRR Supported Connectors
:
N/A

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

9.6

Inputs

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.

9.9 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
:
12.4 ms
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
:
10.8 ms
4k @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
:
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz With Interpolation
:
10.7 ms
8k @ 60 Hz
:
N/A
1080p @ 120 Hz
:
N/A
1440p @ 120 Hz
:
N/A
4k @ 120 Hz
:
N/A
1080p with Variable Refresh Rate
:
N/A
1440p with VRR
:
N/A
4k with VRR
:
N/A
8k with VRR
:
N/A
Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)
:
Yes

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.

7.5 Supported Resolutions
1080p @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
:
Yes
1080p @ 120 Hz
:
No
1440p @ 60 Hz
:
No
1440p @ 120 Hz
:
No
4k @ 60 Hz
:
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
:
Yes
4k @ 120 Hz
:
No
8k @ 30 Hz or 24 Hz
:
No
8k @ 60 Hz
:
No

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.

Input Photos
Total Inputs
HDMI : 4
USB : 1
Digital Optical Audio Out : 1
Analog Audio Out 3.5mm : 1
Analog Audio Out RCA : 0
Component In : 0
Composite In : 1 (incl. adapter)
Tuner (Cable/Ant) : 1
Ethernet : 1
DisplayPort : 0
IR In : 0
SD/SDHC : 0
Inputs Specifications
HDR10
:
Yes
HDR10+
:
No
Dolby Vision
:
Yes
HLG
:
Yes
3D
:
No
HDMI 2.0 Full Bandwidth
:
Yes (HDMI 1,2,3,4)
HDMI 2.1
:
No
CEC : Yes
HDCP 2.2 : Yes (HDMI 1,2,3,4)
USB 3.0
:
No
Variable Analog Audio Out : Yes
Wi-Fi Support : Yes (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)
Audio Passthrough
ARC
:
Yes (HDMI 4)
eARC support
:
No
Dolby Atmos via TrueHD via eARC
:
No
DTS:X via DTS-HD MA via eARC
:
No
5.1 Dolby Digital via ARC
:
Yes
5.1 DTS via ARC
:
Yes
5.1 Dolby Digital via Optical
:
Yes
5.1 DTS via Optical
:
Yes

The TCL 5 Series / S525 2019 doesn't support eARC, but it can passthrough Dolby Digital or DTS signals over regular ARC.

6.3

Sound Quality

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.

6.3 Frequency Response
Low-Frequency Extension
:
151.02 Hz
Std. Dev. @ 70
:
2.82 dB
Std. Dev. @ 80
:
2.87 dB
Std. Dev. @ Max
:
4.96 dB
Max
:
88.1 dB SPL
Dynamic Range Compression
:
3.85 dB

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.

6.4 Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80
:
0.071
Weighted THD @ Max
:
0.400
IMD @ 80