TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 QLED TV Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Reviewed Sep 16, 2020 at 08:47 am
TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 QLED Picture
7.7
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: none
8.4
Movies
7.1
TV Shows
7.1
Sports
8.2
Video Games
7.9
HDR Movies
7.9
HDR Gaming
7.6
PC Monitor
Type LED
Sub-Type
VA
Resolution 4k

The TCL 5 Series/S535 2020 is a mid-range TV in TCL's 2020 lineup, and it's a good upgrade over its predecessor, the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019. It's 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 provides 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 decently overall. Unlike the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020, it doesn't have variable refresh rate (VRR) support, and it's limited to a 60Hz refresh rate, but it has a good response time and incredibly low input lag. Sadly, it has narrow viewing angles, so you quickly lose image accuracy when viewing from the side. Although it has decent reflection handling, it doesn't get bright enough to combat glare. On the upside, it upscales lower-resolution content well and it removes 24p judder from any source, which is rare for a 60Hz TV.

Our Verdict

7.7 Mixed Usage

The TCL 5 Series 2020 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. 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. Sadly, because it has a quick response time, lower-frame rate content may appear to stutter at times. Fortunately, it removes judder from any source, which is rare for a 60Hz TV.

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

Decent for TV shows. The TCL 5 Series 2020 upscales lower-resolution content, such as from cable boxes, without any issues. It has decent reflection handling, but sadly, it doesn't get very bright, so it's not ideal for well-lit environments. It also has narrow viewing angles, so you have to sit directly in front of it to get an accurate image. The built-in Roku interface is easy-to-use and there's a great selection of apps available to download.

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 2020 is decent for watching sports. It has a very good response time, resulting in minimal motion blur, and there's a Black Frame Insertion feature to improve the appearance of motion. Sadly, because it has narrow viewing angles, it's not suggested for watching the big game with a large group of friends. There's also dirty screen effect in the center, which could be distracting during sports, but this is something that may vary between units.

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

The TCL 5 Series 2020 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

Good for HDR movies. The TCL 5 Series 2020 displays a wide color gamut for HDR content, but it 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 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 technologies. 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.
7.6 PC Monitor

The TCL 5 Series 2020 is good to use as a PC monitor. It displays chroma 4:4:4 with a 1080p or 4k resolution, which is important for reading text. It has an incredibly low input lag, delivering a responsive desktop experience. Unfortunately, it has narrow viewing angles, so the edges of the screen may appear darker if you sit too close. It has decent reflection handling, but it doesn't get bright enough to combat glare from direct sunlight.

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
  • 8.2 Video Games
  • 7.9 HDR Movies
  • 7.9 HDR Gaming
  • 7.6 PC Monitor
  1. Update 10/6/2020: 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. It replaces the TCL 5 Series/S525 2019. Its main competitors are the Hisense H8G, Samsung TU8000, and the LG UN7300.

Design
7.5
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.

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.

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

Decent build quality. 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 cheaply-made. 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. It has a full-array local dimming feature that improves the contrast a bit.

Note: Contrast may vary between units.

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. The TV 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. 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.

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

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

Mediocre SDR peak brightness. 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 want the brightest image possible, use the 'Normal' Picture Mode with Backlight at max.

5.1
Picture Quality
HDR Peak Brightness
HDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
247 cd/m²
HDR Peak 2% Window
214 cd/m²
HDR Peak 10% Window
376 cd/m²
HDR Peak 25% Window
432 cd/m²
HDR Peak 50% Window
358 cd/m²
HDR Peak 100% Window
337 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 2% Window
213 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 10% Window
375 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 25% Window
429 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 50% Window
356 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 100% Window
335 cd/m²
HDR ABL
0.040

Poor HDR peak brightness. The TCL 5 Series only gets a bit brighter in HDR than in SDR and it's not nearly as bright as the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020. 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, use the 'Normal HDR' Picture Mode with Local Contrast on 'High' and Backlight at its max.

6.6
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
4.445 %
50% DSE
0.210 %
5% Std. Dev.
1.490 %
5% DSE
0.123 %

Okay gray uniformity. 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.

Note: Gray uniformity may vary between units.

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

Poor viewing angles, 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.

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

Black uniformity is good. 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.

Note: Black uniformity may vary between units.

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

Decent reflection handling. The TCL 5 Series 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

Great out-of-the-box accuracy. 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.

Note: Color accuracy and white balance may vary between units.

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
Auto-Calibration Function
No

The TCL 5 Series 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

This TV uses a BGR subpixel layout, which can affect the way text is displayed when using the TV as a PC monitor, similar to the Hisense H9G. 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 %

Excellent color gamut. The TCL 5 Series is 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 %

Good color volume. The TV 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 5 Series has impressive gradient handling, and it's much better than the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020. 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, even immediately after displaying our high-contrast static test image for ten minutes.

Note: Image retention 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

Very good response time. The response time is 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
60 Hz for 60 fps
Yes
120 Hz 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
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60p
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60i
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via Native Apps
Yes

This TV can remove 24p judder from any source, such as native apps, which is rare for a 60Hz TV. Enable Natural Cinema to remove judder.

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

Unlike the TCL 6 Series/R635 2020, the TCL 5 Series doesn't support any variable refresh rate technology.

Inputs
9.1
Inputs
Input Lag