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
: Not at the latest test bench
6.0
Movies
Value for price beaten by
: Not at the latest test bench
6.6
TV Shows
Value for price beaten by
: Not at the latest test bench
6.3
Sports
Value for price beaten by
: Not at the latest test bench
5.8
Video Games
Value for price beaten by
: Not at the latest test bench
4.7
HDR Movies
3.5
HDR Gaming
5.7
PC Monitor
Value for price beaten by
: Not at the latest test bench
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. Updated May 21, 2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.5.
  2. Updated Feb 21, 2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.
  3. Updated Feb 28, 2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.
  4. Updated Jan 09, 2019: We retested the DTS passthrough with the new firmware and now it works properly. The corresponding review section has been updated.
  5. Updated Oct 24, 2018: The S305 is gradually being replaced by the S325. There are only cosmetic differences between the old and new models.
  6. Updated Mar 12, 2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
  7. Updated Jan 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. Updated Aug 10, 2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1.
  9. Updated May 03, 2017: Review published.

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
3,519 : 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
6,435 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
6,448 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
Green (Std. Dev.)
0.175
Blue (Std. Dev.)
0.120
Gray (Std. Dev.)
0.347

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
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz + 10 bit HDR
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz Outside Game Mode
N/A
4k @ 60 Hz With Interpolation
N/A
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)
No

This TV has the same low input lag in all picture modes. Surprisingly the 'Game mode' setting does not change the input lag.

0
Inputs
Supported Resolutions
1080p @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
No
1080p @ 120 Hz
No
1440p @ 60 Hz
No
1440p @ 120 Hz
No
4k @ 60 Hz
No
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4
No
4k @ 120 Hz
No
8k @ 30 Hz or 24 Hz
No
8k @ 60 Hz
No

Only basic resolutions are supported, such as 1080p @ 60 Hz @ 4:2:2. While the TV can accept a chroma 4:4:4 input it is unable to show chroma 4:4:4 properly; however this is only an issue when using the TV as a PC monitor (text may have colored artifacts around the letters).

Inputs
Input Photos
Inputs
Total Inputs
HDMI 3
USB 1
Digital Optical Audio Out 1
Analog Audio Out 3.5mm 1
Analog Audio Out RCA 0
Component In 0
Composite In 1
Tuner (Cable/Ant) 1
Ethernet 0
DisplayPort 0
IR In 0
SD/SDHC 0
Inputs
Inputs Specifications
HDR10
No
HDR10+
No
Dolby Vision
No
HLG
No
3D
No
HDMI 2.0 Full Bandwidth
No
HDMI 2.1
No
CEC Yes
HDCP 2.2 No
USB 3.0
No
Variable Analog Audio Out Yes
Wi-Fi Support Yes (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)

To enable 5.1 passthrough, the 'S/PDIF and ARC' audio option must be changed from 'Auto Detect' to 'Dolby D+, DTS' or one of the other Dolby Digital options. DTS passthrough does not work, even though the TV lists DTS support. This may be fixed in a future software update.

Update 01/19/2018: 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.

Update 01/09/2019: We retested the DTS passthrough with the new firmware and now it works properly.

Inputs
Audio Passthrough
ARC
Yes (HDMI 1)
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
Sound Quality
5.6
Sound Quality
Frequency Response
Low-Frequency Extension
134.54 Hz
Std. Dev. @ 70
6.02 dB
Std. Dev. @ 80
5.95 dB
Std. Dev. @ Max
6.90 dB
Max
91.1 dB SPL
Dynamic Range Compression
4.15 dB

Subpar frequency response. Higher frequencies are very poorly represented, and some compression artifacts are noticeable at higher volumes. It does get pretty loud though.

6.3
Sound Quality
Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80
0.162
Weighted THD @ Max
15.154
IMD @ 80
1.22%
IMD @ Max
14.87%

The S305's speakers produce more distortion than average. It is relatively contained at lower volumes but quickly rises up past 80 dB.

Smart Features
7.0
Smart Features
Interface
Smart OS Roku TV
Version 7.6
Ease of Use
Easy
Smoothness
Not Smooth
Time Taken to Select YouTube
3 s
Time Taken to Change Backlight
3 s
Advanced Options
Some
10
Smart Features
Ad-Free
Ads
No
Opt-out
No Add
Suggested Content in Home
Yes
Opt-out of Suggested Content
No

This TV has no ads in its main interface, but third party apps may have ads. You can opt out of personalized advertising for these ads by enabling the 'Limit Ad Tracking' option. The home screen has a large section for showing suggested content, which is a little annoying and cannot be disabled.

8.0
Smart Features
Apps and Features
App Selection
Great
App Smoothness
Not Smooth
Cast Capable
Yes
USB Drive Playback
Yes
USB Drive HDR Playback
N/A
HDR in Netflix
N/A
HDR in YouTube
N/A

Roku TV calls its apps 'Streaming Channels', but they work like normal apps. Most of the popular apps are available, such as Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Video.

6.0
Smart Features
Remote
Size
Small
Voice Control
No
CEC Menu Control
No
Other Smart Features
No
Remote App Roku

The S305's remote is fairly basic, only providing basic buttons such as volume control, navigation and opening a few apps. However there is also a Roku app for smartphones and tablets that can act as the TV's remote, change between its apps and inputs, and can even play the TV's sound through the phone or tablet.

Smart Features
TV Controls

There are three physical buttons on the TV that can change the volume, inputs and can power the TV on and off.

Smart Features
In The Box

  • Manual
  • Batteries
  • Remote

Smart Features
Misc
Power Consumption 38 W
Power Consumption (Max) 61 W
Firmware 7.5.2 build 4063-08

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

We tested the 40" (40S305). For the most part, we expect our review to be valid for the 43" (43S305) and 49" (49S305) versions. The 32 inch (32S305) and 28 inch (28S305) versions have a 720p resolution.

Our review should also apply to the 43S305 found at Costco and other retailers, with only a few cosmetic differences.

If someone comes across a different type of panel or if their TCL S305 doesn't correspond to our review, let us know and we will update the review.

Size Model Resolution
28" 28S305 720p
32" 32S305 720p
40" 40S305 1080p
43" 43S305 1080p
49" 49S305 1080p

Update 10/24/2018: The S305 is gradually being replaced by the S325. There are only cosmetic differences between the old and new models.

Update 11/05/2018: TCL has released the 32S327. It appears to be identical to the 32S325 and 32S305, but with a 1080p resolution.

Compared To Other TVs

Comparison picture

Top left: TCL FS3750 (48FS3750). Bottom left: Samsung MU6300 (UN55MU6300). Middle: TCL S305 (40S305). Top right: LG UH6100 (43UH6100). Bottom right: Hisense H8C (50H8C).  Unlike our other photographs, this picture wasn't taken under a controlled environment, so do not draw conclusions from it.

The S305 is a decent budget TV. It's so cheap that most of its competition is usually quite bad, and you rarely find TVs equipped with good smart features at this price (see our recommendations for the best cheap TVs and the best TVs under $300).

Samsung N5300
32" 43"

The TCL 3 Series S305 and the Samsung N5300 both have very similar performance. The TCL S305 has a higher native contrast ratio that delivers better dark room performance. The S305 also has a lower input lag that will please gamers. The Samsung N5300 can display proper chroma 4:4:4 which is great if you plan to use it as a PC monitor, it can get slightly brighter and has better viewing angles due to its IPS panel.

TCL S Series/S405 4k 2018
43" 49" 55" 65"

The TCL 4 Series (S405) is significantly better than the TCL S305. The TCL S405 has better HDR performance due to the better HDR peak brightness and better color volume. It can also deliver better blacks due to the higher native contrast ratio and better black uniformity, and this is great if you watch movies in a dark room. The S405 is also better for gaming as it has lower input lag which makes it very responsive. Finally, it has significantly better inputs for use as a PC monitor.

TCL 3 Series 2020
32"

The TCL S Series/S305 2018 is a bit better than the TCL 3 Series 2020, but the units we tested have different resolutions. The 40 inch S305 we tested has a 1080p resolution, much lower input lag, and it removes 24p judder from native apps. The 32 inch 3 Series 2020 we tested has a 720p resolution, and it also has a much quicker response time.

TCL 1 Series/D100
32" 40" 49"

The TCL 3 Series (S305) is marginally better than the TCL 1 Series (D100).  The TCL S305 runs the Roku TV smart platform whereas the TCL D100 does not have a smart feature platform. If you wish to use it as a smart TV, you need to use an external box or dongle. The TCL S305 can remove 24p judder from movies whereas the TCL D100 can display crisp text when used as a monitor.

LG LJ5500
43" 49" 55"

For those with bright rooms and wide seating arrangements, the LG LJ5500 is a better choice than the TCL S Series/S305 2018 due to its wide viewing angles and higher brightness. However, if you will be sitting right in front and enjoy watching movies in a dark room, then the TCL S305 is a better choice as it has better blacks due to the higher native contrast ratio and better black uniformity.

Vizio D Series 1080p 2017
24" 32" 39" 40" 43" 48" 50" 55"

The Vizio D Series 1080p 2017 has an IPS panel that makes it more suitable for wide viewing arrangements, whereas the TCL 3 Series S305 has a VA panel and is more suitable for darker environments. The TCL S305 has significantly better contrast ratio and better black uniformity so blacks are deep and uniform. This is great if you watch HDR movies. On the other hand, the Vizio D Series 1080p 2017 has slightly better viewing angles which can be good if you use it as a PC monitor and slightly better input lag for those who play video games.

Samsung M4500
24" 28" 32"

The TCL S305 is much better than the Samsung M4500. The S305 has a higher resolution 1080p display and has lower input lag for gaming. The 305 can remove judder from most sources. The Samsung M4500 is a bit brighter than the TCL S305, and has an optional motion interpolation feature that can help motion appear smoother.

TCL 3 Series 2019
32" 32" 40" 43" 49"

The TCL 3 Series S325 is slightly better than the 2017 TCL S Series S305. The S325 has a faster response time, and fast-moving content has less blur trail and a much lower input lag that will please gamers. The S305, on the other hand, has less stutter and can remove judder from its native apps.

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