TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 QLED TV Review

Tested using Methodology v1.6
Updated Nov 02, 2020 at 08:29 am
TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 QLED Picture
7.7
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: Hisense H8G
8.4
Movies
Value for price beaten by
: none
7.1
TV Shows
Value for price beaten by
: Hisense H8G
7.1
Sports
Value for price beaten by
: Hisense H8G
7.9
Video Games
Value for price beaten by
: Vizio M7 Series Quantum 2020
7.9
HDR Movies
Value for price beaten by
: none
7.9
HDR Gaming
Value for price beaten by
: Vizio M7 Series Quantum 2020
7.7
PC Monitor
Value for price beaten by
: LG UP8000
Type LED
Sub-Type
VA
Resolution 4k

The TCL 5 Series 2020 is a mid-range TV in TCL's 2020 lineup and a good upgrade over its predecessor, the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019. The TCL S535 is a QLED TV that displays an excellent wide color gamut for HDR content, but it doesn't get bright enough in HDR to deliver a true HDR experience. Its VA panel has an exceptional contrast ratio, so it displays deep blacks when viewed in the dark. It has a full-array local dimming feature that improves the contrast a bit and performs fairly well overall. Sadly, it has narrow viewing angles, so you quickly lose image accuracy when viewing from the side. Unlike the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED, it doesn't have variable refresh rate (VRR) support and is limited to a 60Hz panel, but it has a good response time and incredibly low input lag. Although it has decent reflection handling, it doesn't get bright enough to combat glare. On the upside, it removes 24p judder from any source, which is rare for a 60Hz TV.

Our Verdict

7.7 Mixed Usage

The TCL S535 is a good overall TV. With a VA panel, it has an exceptional contrast ratio that displays deep blacks, making it a great choice for watching movies. Despite not having many extra gaming features like VRR support, it's a great gaming TV because it has an incredibly low input lag and a quick response time. Unfortunately, it isn't the best for watching shows or sports with a large group of people because it has narrow viewing angles. Lastly, it displays a wide color gamut for HDR content but doesn't get bright enough in HDR to bring out highlights.

Pros
  • Exceptional contrast ratio.
  • Decent full-array local dimming feature.
  • Incredibly low input lag.
  • Displays wide color gamut.
Cons
  • Narrow viewing angles.
  • Doesn't get very bright.
  • No VRR support.
8.4 Movies

The TCL 5 Series 2020 is impressive for watching movies. It has an exceptional contrast ratio, displaying deep blacks. It has a full-array local dimming feature that performs fairly well and there isn't much blooming around bright objects. This TV upscales 1080p content without any issues and it removes 24p judder from any source, which is rare for a 60Hz TV. Sadly, because it has a quick response time, lower-frame rate content may appear to stutter at times.

Pros
  • Exceptional contrast ratio.
  • Removes 24p judder from any source.
  • Decent full-array local dimming feature.
Cons
  • Lower frame rate content may appear to stutter.
7.1 TV Shows

The TCL 5 Series 2020 is decent for TV shows. It doesn't have any issues upscaling lower-resolution content, such as from cable boxes. Even though it has decent reflection handling, it's not the best choice for a well-lit room as it doesn't get very bright. Also, it has narrow viewing angles, so it's not ideal for watching your favorite show with the entire family.

Pros
  • Upscales lower-resolution content well.
  • Decent reflection handling.
Cons
  • Narrow viewing angles.
  • Doesn't get very bright.
7.1 Sports

The TCL 5 Series QLED is decent for sports. Motion looks good because of its quick response time that results in minimal motion blur, and it has a Black Frame Insertion feature. However, it has narrow viewing angles, so you don't get the same accurate image when viewing from the side. It doesn't perform well in well-lit rooms as it doesn't get bright, but the reflection handling is decent.

Pros
  • Decent reflection handling.
  • Very good response time.
Cons
  • Narrow viewing angles.
  • Doesn't get very bright.
7.9 Video Games

The TCL 5 Series is great for gaming. It has an incredibly low input lag, quick response time, and a Black Frame Insertion feature to help reduce motion blur. Sadly, it's limited to a 60Hz refresh rate and doesn't support any VRR technology. It's great for dark-room gaming because of its exceptional contrast ratio and good black uniformity, but it doesn't get very bright, so it's not the best for gaming in bright rooms.

Pros
  • Exceptional contrast ratio.
  • Very good response time.
  • Incredibly low input lag.
  • Black Frame Insertion feature.
Cons
  • Doesn't get very bright.
  • No VRR support.
7.9 HDR Movies

The TCL 5 Series 2020 is good for HDR movies. It displays a wide color gamut for HDR content, but doesn't get bright enough to truly bring out highlights. It has an exceptional contrast ratio and decent full-array local dimming feature that helps further deepen any blacks. Also, it can remove 24p judder from any source, which helps with the appearance of motion.

Pros
  • Exceptional contrast ratio.
  • Decent full-array local dimming feature.
  • Displays wide color gamut.
Cons
  • Lower frame rate content may appear to stutter.
  • Doesn't get very bright.
7.9 HDR Gaming

The TCL 5 Series 2020 is good for HDR gaming, mainly due to its great gaming performance. It has a very good response time and incredibly low input lag, but it doesn't support any VRR technology. It displays an excellent wide color gamut for HDR content, but it doesn't get bright enough to make highlights pop the way they should.

Pros
  • Exceptional contrast ratio.
  • Incredibly low input lag.
  • Displays wide color gamut.
Cons
  • Doesn't get very bright.
  • No VRR support.
7.7 PC Monitor

The TCL S535 is a good choice to use as a PC monitor. It has a very low input lag to provide a responsive desktop experience, and fast-moving content looks smooth thanks to the quick response time. It displays chroma 4:4:4, which is important for reading text clearly. Sadly, it has narrow viewing angles and the edges of the screen may appear inaccurate if you sit too close.

Pros
  • Incredibly low input lag.
  • Displays chroma 4:4:4.
Cons
  • Narrow viewing angles.
  • Doesn't get very bright.
  • 7.7 Mixed Usage
  • 8.4 Movies
  • 7.1 TV Shows
  • 7.1 Sports
  • 7.9 Video Games
  • 7.9 HDR Movies
  • 7.9 HDR Gaming
  • 7.7 PC Monitor
  1. Updated Mar 01, 2021: We previously indicated that 1440p @ 60Hz is supported natively, which is wrong. It only works through a forced resolution.
  2. Updated Mar 01, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.6.
  3. Updated Nov 02, 2020: Updated review for accuracy and clarity.
  4. Updated Oct 06, 2020: Updated review for accuracy and clarity.

Video

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The TCL 5 Series is a mid-range TV in TCL's 2020 lineup and it sits just below the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED. It replaces the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019. Its main competitors are the Hisense H8G, Samsung TU8000, and the LG UN7300.

Design
Design
Style
Curved No

The TCL 5 Series has a good design. It's an improvement over the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019 because it has thin bezels and a new design on the back. This TV also has new feet that include cable management, which is a nice addition. It's made out of metal and plastic, but it doesn't have the same premium look as the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED.

Design
Stand

The stand is as wide as the TV itself, so you need a large table to place it on. The legs feel a bit flimsy, but they hold the TV well and there isn't much wobble. You can't place the feet in a reverse position either.

Footprint of the 55" stand: 47.1" x 11.5"

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 300x200

The back of the TV is mostly made out of metal, except the part where the inputs are housed in is plastic. Cable management is serviced through the feet.

Design
Borders
Borders 0.35" (0.9 cm)

The borders are thin and aren't distracting.

Design
Thickness
Max Thickness 3.43" (8.7 cm)

This TV is somewhat thick. The bottom part where the inputs are stands out a bit, so the TV sticks out when wall-mounted.

7.0
Design
Build Quality

The build quality is decent. The TCL 5 Series is a well-built TV overall and feels solid. The top half of the back is made out of thin metal that feels fairly solid, but flexes a bit. The bottom half is plastic and feels cheap. The stand is a bit flimsy too, but it holds the TV well.

Picture Quality
9.4
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
7200 : 1
Contrast with local dimming
7402 : 1

The TCL 5 Series has an exceptional contrast ratio. It displays deep blacks when viewed in the dark. The full-array local dimming feature improves the contrast a bit. Note that contrast may vary between units.

6.1
Picture Quality
SDR Brightness
Real Scene Peak Brightness
242 cd/m²
Peak 2% Window
186 cd/m²
Peak 10% Window
325 cd/m²
Peak 25% Window
372 cd/m²
Peak 50% Window
309 cd/m²
Peak 100% Window
291 cd/m²
Sustained 2% Window
184 cd/m²
Sustained 10% Window
325 cd/m²
Sustained 25% Window
370 cd/m²
Sustained 50% Window
308 cd/m²
Sustained 100% Window
290 cd/m²
Automatic Brightness Limiting (ABL)
0.041

The SDR peak brightness is mediocre. This TV's brightness doesn't remain consistent across different content, as very small and very large areas don't get as bright. For the most part, it doesn't get bright enough to combat glare.

We measured the peak brightness after calibration, in the 'Movie' Picture Mode with Local Contrast set to 'High', Gamma set to '2.2', and Backlight at max.

If you don't care about image accuracy and want the brightest image possible, use the 'Normal' Picture Mode with Backlight at max.

7.0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
Yes
Backlight
Full-Array

New to the TCL 5 Series compared to the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019 is a full-array local dimming feature and it performs fairly well. It raises the black level, which causes the image to appear a bit brighter and black backgrounds to appear closer to gray, but it also helps the screen look more uniform. There isn't any black crush, so small light sources pop well, such as in a star field.

There's only a bit of blooming in our test pattern and it's not very noticeable in real content. Subtitles don't get very bright and there's a lot less blooming than the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED. Fast-moving objects transition between zones quickly and there's a bit of blur trail behind fast-moving objects in our test pattern. However, it's not distracting and it's hardly visible in real content.

We tested local dimming with Local Contrast set to 'High'. Also, the larger variants have more dimming zones, so they may perform better.

7.0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming In Game Mode
Local Dimming
Yes
Backlight
Full-Array
5.1
Picture Quality
HDR Brightness
Real Scene Highlight
247 cd/m²
Peak 2% Window
214 cd/m²
Peak 10% Window
376 cd/m²
Peak 25% Window
432 cd/m²
Peak 50% Window
358 cd/m²
Peak 100% Window
337 cd/m²
Sustained 2% Window
213 cd/m²
Sustained 10% Window
375 cd/m²
Sustained 25% Window
429 cd/m²
Sustained 50% Window
356 cd/m²
Sustained 100% Window
335 cd/m²
Automatic Brightness Limiting (ABL)
0.040

The TCL S535 has poor HDR peak brightness. It only gets a bit brighter in HDR than in SDR and it's not nearly as bright as the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED. Once again, its brightness doesn't remain consistent with different content.

We measured the peak brightness in the 'Dark HDR' Picture Mode with Local Contrast set to 'High', Gamma set to '2.2', and both Contrast and Backlight at their max.

If you want the brightest image possible and don't care about image accuracy, use the 'Normal HDR' Picture Mode with Local Contrast on 'High' and Backlight at its max.

5.2
Picture Quality
HDR Brightness In Game Mode
Real Scene Highlight
252 cd/m²
Peak 2% Window
214 cd/m²
Peak 10% Window
380 cd/m²
Peak 25% Window
437 cd/m²
Peak 50% Window
364 cd/m²
Peak 100% Window
343 cd/m²
Sustained 2% Window
213 cd/m²
Sustained 10% Window
379 cd/m²
Sustained 25% Window
435 cd/m²
Sustained 50% Window
362 cd/m²
Sustained 100% Window
341 cd/m²
Automatic Brightness Limiting (ABL)
0.041
6.6
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
4.445 %
50% DSE
0.210 %
5% Std. Dev.
1.490 %
5% DSE
0.123 %

The gray uniformity is okay, but this may vary between units. The edges of the screen are visibly darker and there's dirty screen effect in the center, which may be distracting when watching sports. In near-dark scenes, the screen is more uniform, but there's vignetting in the corners.

7.7
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
0.903 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
1.413 %

Black uniformity is good, but this may vary between units. There's a bit of backlight bleed and clouding throughout, but there's no blooming around the center cross. With local dimming, there's less backlight bleed but more blooming around the cross.

5.0
Picture Quality
Viewing Angle
Color Washout
23 °
Color Shift
20 °
Brightness Loss
32 °
Black Level Raise
12 °
Gamma Shift
15 °

The viewing angles are poor, which is expected from a TV with a VA panel. You quickly lose image accuracy when viewing from the side, so it's not suggested if you have a wide seating arrangement.

7.0
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Semi-gloss
Total Reflections
6.0 %
Indirect Reflections
1.0 %
Calculated Direct Reflections
5.0 %

The TCL S535 has decent reflection handling. It performs well in moderately-lit rooms. However, if you place it opposite a window, the reflections may become too distracting.

8.0
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
White Balance dE
2.63
Color dE
2.38
Gamma
2.22
Color Temperature
6085 K
Picture Mode
Movie
Color Temp Setting
Warm
Gamma Setting
2.2

The out-of-the-box color accuracy is great, but this may vary between units. Most colors and shades of gray are accurate, except the color temperature is a bit warm, giving the image a red/yellow tint. Gamma follows the target almost perfectly, so most scenes are displayed at their correct brightness.

9.5
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
White Balance dE
0.20
Color dE
1.28
Gamma
2.20
Color Temperature
6493 K
White Balance Calibration
11 point
Color Calibration
Yes

The TCL S535 has remarkable accuracy after calibration. Except for cyan, most colors are accurate and the color temperature is extremely close to the 6500K target.

In order to calibrate this TV, you have to download the Roku app on your mobile device and connect it to your TV.

You can see our recommended settings here.

8.0
Picture Quality
480p Input

480p content looks great, with no obvious issues.

8.0
Picture Quality
720p Input

720p content, like from cable TV, looks great.

9.0
Picture Quality
1080p Input

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

10
Picture Quality
4k Input

The TCL 5 Series displays 4k content perfectly.

0
Picture Quality
8k Input

This is a 4k TV that can't display an 8k signal.

Picture Quality
Pixels

The TCL S535 uses a BGR subpixel layout, which can affect the way text is displayed when using the TV as a PC monitor. You can read about it here.

8.5
Picture Quality
Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
Yes
DCI P3 xy
93.96 %
DCI P3 uv
96.35 %
Rec 2020 xy
71.50 %
Rec 2020 uv
78.83 %

The TCL S535 has an excellent color gamut. It's a QLED TV that displays a really wide color gamut for HDR content, and it's a significant improvement over the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019. It has outstanding coverage of the commonly-used DCI P3 color space and good coverage of the wider Rec. 2020.

The EOTF follows the target curve almost perfectly until it rolls off at its peak brightness. The image is a bit brighter in 'Game' mode, as you can see the EOTF here.

If you find HDR too dim, use the 'Dark HDR' Picture Mode, set Contrast and Backlight to their max, and Local Contrast to 'Medium'. It makes the image a bit brighter, as you can see in this EOTF. Setting Local Contrast to 'Medium' results in a higher EOTF than setting it to 'High', but we got a max brightness of 397 cd/m² with 'Medium' versus 414 cd/m² with 'High'.

7.7
Picture Quality
Color Volume
Normalized DCI P3 Coverage ITP
84.1 %
10,000 cd/m² DCI P3 Coverage ITP
29.6 %
Normalized Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
70.6 %
10,000 cd/m² Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
24.8 %

This TV has good color volume. It displays deep, saturated colors well due to its exceptional contrast. However, it fails to display bright blues, which is typical of an LCD TV.

8.4
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
10 Bit
Red (Std. Dev.)
0.086 dE
Green (Std. Dev.)
0.092 dE
Blue (Std. Dev.)
0.075 dE
Gray (Std. Dev.)
0.140 dE

The TCL 55S535 has impressive gradient handling, much better than the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020 QLED. There's some banding with grays and darker colors, but overall, it shouldn't be noticeable with most content. Sadly, the Noise Reduction setting doesn't improve the gradient handling at all.

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 %

This TV shows no signs of temporary image retention, but this may vary between units.

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
7.9
Motion
Response Time
80% Response Time
5.2 ms
100% Response Time
12.1 ms

The response time is very good. It's a bit slow with darker transitions, which may lead to some motion blur, but there's no overshoot. Overall, fast-moving content on this TV looks smooth.

9.9
Motion
Flicker-Free
Flicker-Free
No
PWM Dimming Frequency
960 Hz

This TV uses Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) to dim its backlight at all brightness levels. The high flicker frequency shouldn't bother most people.

10
Motion
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
Optional BFI
Yes
Min Flicker For 60 fps
60 Hz
60Hz For 60 fps
Yes
120Hz For 120 fps
N/A
Min Flicker for 60 fps in Game Mode
60 Hz

There's a Black Frame Insertion (BFI) feature to help reduce motion blur. It reduces the flicker frequency to 60Hz and doesn't dim the screen much. However, it may cause some image duplication, as seen in the photo above. To enable the BFI, simply turn on LED Motion Clarity.

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

The TCL 5 Series can interpolate motion up to 60fps, which is known as the 'Soap Opera Effect'. It doesn't look good with real content because it seems as if it's not doing much. It smooths out slower-moving content a bit, but it seems to stop when the scene gets too busy.

See the settings for the motion interpolation feature here.

7.2
Motion
Stutter
Frame Hold Time @ 24 fps
29.6 ms
Frame Hold Time @ 60 fps
4.6 ms

Due to the TV's quick response time, there's some stutter with lower-frame rate content because each frame is held longer.

10
Motion
24p Judder
Judder-Free 24p