TCL S Series/S305 2018 TV Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Updated May 03, 2018 at 09:58 am
TCL S Series/S305 2018 Picture
5.7
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: TCL 3 Series 2019
6.0
Movies
6.6
TV Shows
6.3
Sports
5.8
Video Games
4.7
HDR Movies
3.5
HDR Gaming
5.7
PC Monitor
This TV was replaced by the TCL 3 Series 2019
Type LED
Sub-Type
VA
Resolution 1080p (except 28", 32")

The TCL S305 1080p Roku TV is a passable budget LED TV. It has decent picture quality, and it sports some of the best smart features available. Unfortunately, it cannot get very bright, and its handling of motion could be better. Note that the 28" and 32" models are 720. For the 4k model of TCL S Series, see our review here.

The TCL S305 is being gradually replaced by the S325/321 models. Other than minor cosmetic differences, we don't expect there to be any difference between them. The model available may vary depending on your specific region and retailer.

Our Verdict

5.7 Mixed Usage

Passable TV for mixed usage. The TCL S325 / S305 is a fairly basic TV overall, but its picture quality isn't bad. 1080p resolution is a downside, especially if the TV is going to be watched up close.

Pros
  • Blacks are well reproduced
  • Excellent smart features
Cons
  • Cannot get bright
  • Picture quality deteriorates at an angle
  • Picture settings are very limited
6.0 Movies

Unremarkable Movies performance. Black levels are good, but the TV doesn't support local dimming and has some uniformity issues. It also only has a 1080p resolution.

6.6 TV Shows

Decent TV for watching TV shows. Upscaling of lower resolution content is good, and the Roku platform provides all that is needed for online content. The S305 can be a bit dim though.

6.3 Sports

Average TV for sports watching. The TCL 3 Series / S Series has decent motion performance and viewing angles. Unfortunately though, it cannot get very bright, which is an issue for weekend games in a well-lit room.

5.8 Video Games

The TCL S325 / S305 makes for a decent gaming TV. Input lag is good, and motion performance is better than average.

4.7 HDR Movies

Poor choice for HDR. The TV does not get bright enough, and it isn't supported.

3.5 HDR Gaming

Since HDR is not supported, the S305 is not a good TV for newer systems such as the PS4 pro.

5.7 PC Monitor

Inadequate PC monitor. Motion blur is a bit higher than preferred and essential resolutions are not supported, causing text to look fuzzy and hard to read.

  • 5.7 Mixed Usage
  • 6.0 Movies
  • 6.6 TV Shows
  • 6.3 Sports
  • 5.8 Video Games
  • 4.7 HDR Movies
  • 3.5 HDR Gaming
  • 5.7 PC Monitor
  1. Update 5/21/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.5.
  2. Update 2/21/2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.
  3. Update 2/28/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.
  4. Update 1/9/2019: We retested the DTS passthrough with the new firmware and now it works properly. The corresponding review section has been updated.
  5. Update 10/24/2018: The S305 is gradually being replaced by the S325. There are only cosmetic differences between the old and new models.
  6. Update 3/12/2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
  7. Update 1/19/2018: There is a problem with how the Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X detect the audio passthrough capabilities of TCL TVs; a workaround is detailed in the Additional Review Notes.
  8. Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1.

Test Results

Design
6.0
Design
Style
Curved No

The design of the S305 is very basic. From the front it looks similar to the TCL FS3750 of last year, but with slightly nicer looking feet. The plastic feet are almost as wide as the TV, so a fairly wide table is required. The borders have an average thickness and the TV will stick out from the wall a bit if mounted. 

Update 3-19-2019: The design of the S325/321 models might have some cosmetic differences but we can not provide you with more detail until we review them.

Design
Stand

The stand is almost as wide as the TV and so requires a fairly large table. The plastic feet do look alright due to the silvered coloring.

Footprint of the 40" TV stand: 7.7" x 30.0"

Design
Back
Wall Mount VESA 100x100

The rear of the TCL S Series is quite basic, but the top half is metal which feels quite nice. The only inputs on the back of the TV are composite, so the remainder are fairly easy to access if positioned close to a wall.

Design
Borders
Borders 0.71" (1.8 cm)

The borders of the TV have an average thickness, and don't really stand out at all. There is some gap between the edge of the bezel and the LCD panel.

Design
Thickness
Max Thickness 2.95" (7.5 cm)

The TV is a bit thicker than most, as the bottom of the TV has a slight lip. It will stick out from a wall a bit if mounted.

6.0
Design
Build Quality

The build quality of the S305 is okay. It's certainly not going to fall apart with normal usage but all of the parts feel plasticy and cheap.

Picture Quality
8.2
Picture Quality
Contrast
Native Contrast
3519 : 1
Contrast with local dimming
N/A

The S305 has a very good contrast ratio. At around 3500:1, this makes for a good TV when set in a dark room since blacks look deep and dark scene look good with a lot of details.

0
Picture Quality
Local Dimming
Local Dimming
No
Backlight
Direct

The TCL S305 does not have a local dimming feature. The video is for reference only.

4.6
Picture Quality
SDR Peak Brightness
SDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
171 cd/m²
SDR Peak 2% Window
179 cd/m²
SDR Peak 10% Window
190 cd/m²
SDR Peak 25% Window
190 cd/m²
SDR Peak 50% Window
190 cd/m²
SDR Peak 100% Window
190 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 2% Window
179 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 10% Window
190 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 25% Window
190 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 50% Window
190 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 100% Window
190 cd/m²
SDR ABL
0.004

Sub-par peak brightness. The TV never gets brighter than 182 cd/m², which makes it fairly dim when viewed in a bright room, and still not very bright when viewed in a dark room. The peak brightness does not change depending on the content shown, as all the tests show roughly the same brightness (the real scene brightness is measured at the edge of the TV, which is not as bright as the middle).

A plot of peak brightness over time is shown here.

0
Picture Quality
HDR Peak Brightness
HDR Real Scene Peak Brightness
N/A
HDR Peak 2% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 10% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 25% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 50% Window
N/A
HDR Peak 100% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 2% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 10% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 25% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 50% Window
N/A
HDR Sustained 100% Window
N/A
HDR ABL
N/A

HDR is not supported.

7.1
Picture Quality
Gray Uniformity
50% Std. Dev.
4.287 %
50% DSE
0.186 %
5% Std. Dev.
1.263 %
5% DSE
0.104 %

The gray uniformity of the TCL S Series / 3 Series could be better. Looking at the 50% gray test picture, it is really easy to see that the 4 corners are darker than the center. There is also a dark arc going from the top corner to the bottom one and this from each side. The center of the screen is a bit brighter than the rest of the screen, but at least it is fairly homogeneous and the dirty screen effect is not be too bad since it is most noticeable at the center.

As for the 5% gray uniformity, beside the edges of the screen being a bit brighter, nothing really stands out.

6.5
Picture Quality
Viewing Angle
Color Washout
51 °
Color Shift
35 °
Brightness Loss
47 °
Black Level Raise
35 °
Gamma Shift
12 °

Sub-par viewing angle. People sitting to the side of the TV will not have as good picture quality as people viewing from in front. Blacks start to look grey when the TV is viewed from a small angle, and at a larger angle colors degrade and brightness decreases.

7.0
Picture Quality
Black Uniformity
Native Std. Dev.
1.304 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D.
N/A

The black uniformity of the S305 is average. Overall the screen is pretty even with only the right side being a bit darker, but with a standard deviation of 1.304% it is still within our good value range, which is under 2%.

7.4
Picture Quality
Reflections
Screen Finish
Semi-gloss
Total Reflections
5.2 %
Indirect Reflections
0.5 %
Calculated Direct Reflections
4.7 %

The TV has a semi-gloss finish which diffuses reflections across the screen. This works to reduce the intensity of direct reflections. This should be ok for most rooms, but may present issues in bright rooms.

7.9
Picture Quality
Pre Calibration
White Balance dE
3.36
Color dE
2.04
Gamma
2.15
Color Temperature
6435 K
Picture Mode
Movie
Color Temp Setting
Warm
Gamma Setting
N/A

Out of the box, the TCL S325 / S305 has a great accuracy. Overall the screen is a bit warmer than what we aim for and the white balance dE is a bit high, but both the Color dE and the gamma are well under what an enthusiast would notice. So for a normal home use, This TV could be used 'as is' without any problems.

7.9
Picture Quality
Post Calibration
White Balance dE
3.36
Color dE
2.04
Gamma
2.15
Color Temperature
6448 K
White Balance Calibration
No
Color Calibration
No
Auto-Calibration Function
No

There is no calibration menu on the TCL S305 so it is not possible to make the S305 a bit more accurate, but luckily this TV is good enough out of the box for most people.

Our settings for calibration can be found here.

8.0
Picture Quality
480p Input

Upscaling of low quality content is good. Jagged edges are smoothed well, without losing too much detail.

8.0
Picture Quality
720p Input

720p content such as cable looks good. The image isn't too soft and details are preserved.

10
Picture Quality
1080p Input

No issues can be seen with 1080p content such as Blu-rays.

0
Picture Quality
4k Input

The S305 is a 1080p TV with no support for 4k.

0
Picture Quality
8k Input
Picture Quality
Pixels

The horizontal VA pixel structure looks very similar to the Sony W650D we tested in 2016.

6.6
Picture Quality
Color Gamut
Wide Color Gamut
No
DCI P3 xy
72.92 %
DCI P3 uv
80.39 %
Rec 2020 xy
52.36 %
Rec 2020 uv
58.79 %

Standard color gamut, only good enough for non HDR content using the Rec 709 color space.

4.9
Picture Quality
Color Volume
Normalized DCI P3 Coverage ITP
50.4 %
10,000 cd/m² DCI P3 Coverage ITP
16.7 %
Normalized Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
47.9 %
10,000 cd/m² Rec 2020 Coverage ITP
15.9 %

Poor color volume. The TV has only a standard color gamut, and is unable to make dark colors dark enough because it lacks local dimming.

6.4
Picture Quality
Gradient
Color Depth
8 Bit
Red (Std. Dev.)
0.124 dE
Green (Std. Dev.)
0.175 dE
Blue (Std. Dev.)
0.120 dE
Gray (Std. Dev.)
0.347 dE

The TCL S Series / 3 Series does show 8-bit gradation when displaying our gradient test image. Even though it is 8 bit, the gradient is fairly smooth and there is not too much tint problem in all 3 color shade.

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 %

After running our image retention test on this TCL TV, we did not notice any image retention. This is in line with most VA TV we have tested before.

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
5.1
Motion
Response Time
80% Response Time
5.3 ms
100% Response Time
30.1 ms

The response time of the S305 is average. Some overshoot is visible in the brighter trail following the logo, and a faint trail of blur extends outside the crop.

4.0
Motion
Flicker-Free
Flicker-Free
No
PWM Dimming Frequency
120 Hz

The TV uses PWM to dim the backlight, starting at 100/100 backlight setting. Lowering the setting shortens the duty cycle, while amplitude remains constant. Backlight PWM results in a 120Hz flicker, but it isn't noticeable to most people.

5.4
Motion
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
Optional BFI
No
Min Flicker for 60 fps
120 Hz
60 Hz for 60 fps
No
120 Hz for 120 fps
N/A
Min Flicker for 60 fps in Game Mode
120 Hz

The S305 has no option to reduce its flicker frequency to 60 Hz, although its 120 Hz backlight does help somewhat to make motion look clearer.

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

The S305 has a 60Hz panel and doesn't provide any options to interpolate frames on lower refresh rate content.

9.3
Motion
Stutter
Frame Hold Time @ 24 fps
11.6 ms
Frame Hold Time @ 60 fps
0.0 ms

This TV is excellent at displaying content without stutter, even for very low frame rate content such as 24 fps movies. The response time of the TV helps to blur the transition between frames, which produces a smoother image.

7.8
Motion
24p Judder
Judder-Free 24p
Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60p
No
Judder-Free 24p via 60i
No
Judder-Free 24p via Native Apps
Yes

The S305, like all the other TCL TVs we have reviewed so far, can only play movies without judder from 24p sources. This means movies playing over cable or satellite boxes will have a small judder. Note that few people notice judder, so this is not be a deal breaker for most people.

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

The TCL S325 / S305 has a 60Hz panel but doesn't support a variable refresh rate, which is typical of most TVs.

Inputs
7.1
Inputs
Input Lag
1080p @ 60 Hz
28.7 ms
1080p @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
28.7 ms
1440p @ 60 Hz