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.
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.
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"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The TCL S305 does not have a local dimming feature. The video is for reference only.
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.
HDR is not supported.
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.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
Upscaling of low quality content is good. Jagged edges are smoothed well, without losing too much detail.
720p content such as cable looks good. The image isn't too soft and details are preserved.
Standard color gamut, only good enough for non HDR content using the Rec 709 color space.
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.
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.
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.
We don't expect VA panels to experience permanent image retention, as the VA panel in our long-term test appears immune.
The horizontal VA pixel structure looks very similar to the Sony W650D we tested in 2016.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The S305 has a 60Hz panel and doesn't provide any options to interpolate frames on lower refresh rate content.
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.
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.
The TCL S325 / S305 has a 60Hz panel but doesn't support a variable refresh rate, which is typical of most TVs.
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.
This TV has the same low input lag in all picture modes. Surprisingly the 'Game mode' setting does not change the input lag.
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).
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.
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.
Subpar frequency response. Higher frequencies are very poorly represented, and some compression artifacts are noticeable at higher volumes. It does get pretty loud though.