Reviewed on May 03, 2018

TCL S Series/S305 2018 TV REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.3
6.3
Mixed Usage
Value for price beaten by
: TCL 4 Series 2019
5.8
Movies
6.9
TV Shows
7.1
Sports
7.0
Video Games
4.6
HDR Movies
4.1
HDR Gaming
6.6
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.

Test Results
Design 6.0
Picture Quality 6.4
Motion 6.4
Inputs 7.3
Sound Quality 5.7
Smart Features 7.3
Pros
  • Blacks are well reproduced
  • Excellent smart features
Cons
  • Cannot get bright
  • Picture quality deteriorates at an angle
  • Picture settings are very limited
  1. Update 2/28/2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3. Learn more about our versioned test bench system here.
  2. 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.
  3. Update 10/24/2018: The S305 is gradually being replaced by the S325. There are only cosmetic differences between the old and new models.
  4. Update 3/12/2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2. Learn more about our versioned test bench system here.
  5. 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.
  6. Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.

Check Price

6.0

Design

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.

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"

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.

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.

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.

Temperature
Maximum Temperature
:
99 °F (37 °C)
Average Temperature
:
93 °F (34 °C)

The TCL 3 Series S325 / S305 is a fairly cool TV, due to its low peak brightness. The heat is pretty uniform across the screen, and none of the edges get more than warm to the touch.

6.0 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.

6.4

Picture Quality

The TCL S325 / S305 TV has a decent picture quality. The native contrast and black uniformity are great and should provide a passable movie experience, especially when set in a dark room. When set in a bright room though, the picture quality won't be as good since the peak brightness is not that high. As a result, the TV won't be able to overtake the glare from a bright light of a sunny window, unfortunately. The viewing angle and gray uniformity are below average and wouldn't make this TV the best option to watch a sporting event with a large group of people since when sitting off center, the picture quality will be diminished. 

8.2 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 Local Dimming
Local Dimming
:
No
Backlight
:
Direct

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

5.6 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 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 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 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 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%.

7.9 Reflections
Screen Finish
:
Semi-gloss
Total Reflections
:
5.2 %
Indirect Reflections
:
0.5 %

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.

8.0 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.

8.0 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 480p Input

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

8.0 720p Input

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

10 1080p Input

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

0 4k Input

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

6.6 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 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 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 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 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

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

6.4

Motion

The motion handling of the TCL S Series / 3 Series is below average. Some motion blur is present when displaying fast paced content, and unfortunately the TV lacks a flicker feature to reduce visible blur. Movies played from a Blu-ray player are smooth, but some minor judder is present when watching movies via cable or a HTPC. This minor judder isn't noticeable to most people. The TV has a 60Hz panel which doesn't have options to interpolate lower frame rate content.

7.3 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 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 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.

0 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 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 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 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

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

7.3

Inputs

The S305 can only properly display simple input resolutions such as 1080p @ 60 Hz @ 4:2:2. This lack of chroma subsampling support is only really noticeable for PC use and not an issue for watching movies. On the bright side, the TV has fairly low input lag in all picture modes, low enough to please most gamers. 

Update 01/09/2019: We retested the DTS passthrough with the new firmware and it works properly thus giving you more options regarding your external device connectivity.

8.5 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 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).

Input Photos
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 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.

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
5.7

Sound Quality

The sound produced by the TCL 3 Series / S Series isn't good. It's comparable to competing TVs, but that isn't saying much. Most sound bars will probably be a nice upgrade over the internal speakers.

5.6 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