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Best TCL TVs in 2021

Best TCL TVs
(Image credit: TCL)

The best TCL TVs demonstrate what many shoppers already know: TCL makes great TVs that sell for highly affordable prices. With several TVs in our best TVs list bearing the TCL brand, there's little doubt that savvy shoppers should keep the best TCL TVs on their radar.

With a great combination of Roku smart TV software and high quality manufacturing, TCL manages to deliver superb value. TCL TVs not only offer excellent performance, with picture and sound quality to rival more premium competitors, the TCL brand has also positioned itself as an innovator. Technologies such as THX Game Mode and mini-LED backlighting put TCL TVs at the forefront, delivering high-end touches at extremely reasonable prices.

What are the best TCL TVs?

Our favorite TCL TV — and one of the best TVs overall — is the TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635), which combines TCL's excellent value with top-of-the-line features that are being aped by other manufacturers in the latest new TVs, like QLED and mini-LED backlighting. With Roku TV software and reasonable prices, it's the best value in TVs today.

A close second is the TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535), which may not have Mini-LED, but still delivers QLED color and brightness enhancement, great HDR support and the same rich selection of apps and features as more expensive Roku TVs.

Finally, there's the TCL 4-Series, which comes in two flavors: The TCL 4-Series Roku TV (50S435) and the Google-powered TCL 4-Series Android TV (50S434), which gives you more choices in software and apps than more expensive TCL sets. Even for a basic budget-priced 4K TV, it still offers great color and basic HDR support, not to mention short lag times for gaming.

The best TCL TVs you can buy

Best TCL TVs: TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635)

(Image credit: TCL)

1. Best TCL TV: TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635)

Unbeatable quality with QLED and mini-LED

Available Screen Sizes: 55, 65, 75 inches | Screen Type: QLED | Refresh Rate: 120 Hz | HDMI ports: 4 HDMI | Size: 48.3 x 28.1 x 2.8 inches | Weight: 41.9 pounds

Excellent QLED and mini-LED display
Great gaming performance
Roku TV offers a huge app selection and easy interface
Improved Roku remote
Sound is a little weak
Roku is missing some of the latest apps

The TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) offers serious value for the price, offering premium picture quality and a great smart TV experience for much less than competing premium sets. As TCL's best mainstream smart TV, the R635 ups the ante with mini-LED backlighting and QLED enhancement. The result is impressive color and brightness, with some of the best HDR performance we've seen on anything this side of an OLED display.

But TCL keeps delivering more, like THX Certified Game Mode, which makes the 6-Series one of the best gaming TVs available, even for the latest consoles like the PS5 and the Xbox Series X. From the design's smart touches, like cable management in the stand, to the always-solid Roku TV platform, the TCL 6-Series (R635) is the best TCL TV, and one of the best TVs period.

Read our full TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) review. 

Best TCL TVs: TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535)

(Image credit: TCL)

2. Best TCL TV for gaming: TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535)

Quantum dot enhancement for less

Available Screen Sizes: 50, 55, 65, 75 inches | Screen Type: LCD with Quantum dot | Refresh Rate: 60 Hz | HDMI ports: 4 HDMI | Size: 48.4 x 28.1 x 3.0 inches | Weight: 32.6 pounds

Faithful colors
Built-in Roku smarts
Excellent price
Mediocre sound
Modest brightness

The TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535) demonstrates what TCL does best, delivering a great mix of features and performance at a surprisingly affordable price. With even the largest model selling for less than $1,000, you get the superb brightness and color quality of QLED, as well as Roku's user-friendly smart TV interface, which puts thousands of apps right at your fingertips.

In addition to the excellent color accuracy and full color gamut offered by the QLED display, it offers superb HDR support, with Dolby Vision in addition to basic HDR10 and HLG formats. With input lag clocking in at 13.1 milliseconds, it's also one of the best affordable gaming TVs you can buy. And it's roughly half the price of Samsung's equivalent QLED model, making the TCL 5-Series one of the best values in 4K smart TVs.

Read our full TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535) review.  

Best TCL TVs: TCL 4-Series Roku TV (S435)

(Image credit: TCL)

3. Best budget Roku TV: TCL 4-Series Roku TV (S435)

A great ultra-affordable TV

Available Screen Sizes: 43, 50, 55, 65, 75, 85 inches | Screen Type: LCD | Refresh Rate: 60 Hz | HDMI ports: 3 | Size: 44.3 x 28.1 x 3.1 inches | Weight: 22 pounds

Ultra-affordable price
Great color quality
Solid gaming performance
Missing premium HDR support
Basic LCD display

The TCL 4-Series Roku TV (S435) delivers a great smart TV experience and an ultra-affordable price, offering 4K picture and HDR support for under $500, even for a 65-inch TV. It may not have the QLED display of the 5-Series or the mini-LED backlight of the 6-Series, but even TCL's affordable 4-Series TVs offer above average quality for an affordable LCD TV. 

The TCL 4-Series is available in an impressive range of screen sizes. From a relatively compact 43-inch model to a whopping 85-inch version that's new for 2021, the 4 series manages to be surprisingly affordable at every size. With rich, accurate color and gamer-friendly lag times as short as 14 milliseconds, TCL proves that even its less impressive models are some of the best deals in the TV world.

Best TCL TVs: TCL 4-Series Android TV (S434)

(Image credit: TCL)

4. Best Roku alternative: TCL 4-Series Android TV (S434)

An Android TV with TCL quality

Available Screen Sizes: 43, 50, 55, 65, 75 inches | Screen Type: LCD | Refresh Rate: 60 Hz | HDMI ports: 3 HDMI | Size: 44.3 x 28.1 x 3.1 inches | Weight: 22 pounds

Ultra-affordable price
Great color quality
Solid gaming performance
Missing premium HDR support
Basic LCD display

The TCL 4-Series is also available with Android TV, Google's smart TV platform that competes directly with Roku. But the best part is that the hardware for the two 4-Series models is identical, so all of the performance and capability that we loved on the Roku-equipped model stays true for the TCL 4-Series Android TV (S434). 

Which means that the excellent color quality, solid (if basic) HDR support and gaming-ready capabilities are exactly what they are on the S435. But this model gives you an option other than Roku, with Android TV providing a huge selection of apps through the Google Play store, integrated Google Chromecast and Google Assistant for easy content search and voice control. And Android TV has a great interface to go with the many features. The only thing you won't get with the TCL4 series Android TV is the option for an 85-inch screen.

How much do TCL TVs cost?

With the 65-inch TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) selling for $949, even the more premium TCL TVs skew lower in price than other sets with similar screen sizes and features from competing brands like LG and Samsung. The most expensive of these is the TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) which ranges between $700 and $1,400 depending on the screen size.

The TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535) offers QLED displays without mini-LED backlighting, reducing prices significantly. With screen sizes ranging from 50 inches up to 75 inches, the TCL 5-Series Roku TV (S535) is priced between $429 and $999.

The TCL 4-Series represents one of the most affordable 4K Smart TVs on the market, ranging in price from $259 for a 43-inch set, up to $749 for a 75-inch model, and sells with either the Roku operating system or Android TV, both at the same prices. A recently added 85-inch screen size can be bought for $1,599, but it's only available with Roku.

TCL TVs: Roku or Android?

In the last year TCL TVs have begun selling that use Android TV software instead of TCL mainstay Roku. While TCL and Roku continue to have a close operating relationship, the addition of Google's smart TV platform into the mix is a welcome addition for budget TV shoppers, providing another great option at excellent prices.

Roku offers many things, including a huge selection of apps and services, called channels, as well as one of the easiest navigation experiences available on a modern smart TV. Offered on both Roku TVs and several Roku-branded streaming devices, it's one of our favorite smart TV platforms.

But some TCL TVs are also available with Android TV, Google's competing smart TV operating system. With a huge selection of apps and content through the Google Play store and the various free and paid versions of YouTube, it's actually got a better ecosystem than Roku, and built-inch features like Google Assistant and Chromecast give it an edge over Roku's more basic feature set, especially on the smart home front. The only caveat here is that TCL doesn't offer Android on it's best TVs, the 5 and 6-Series models, only on the 4-Series.

Regardless of which system you prefer, both Roku and Android smart TVs offer great ways to enjoy streaming content and sign up for the latest apps. The navigation styles and feature sets are a little different, but both are a great match to TCL's rock solid quality and price-conscious value.

What is QLED?

TCL's top models use QLED displays, but what does that mean? QLED is shorthand for displays that use quantum-dots and LED backlight to produce brighter and richer color, using nano-scale crystals that react to light by glowing at different wavelengths, literally creating brighter colors in response to a TV's backlight. 

Originally popularized by Samsung, QLED displays offer a big improvement over traditional LCD panels, delivering a brighter picture with a wider color gamut. And when paired with a backlight array that has local dimming zones, the same displays offer better contrast and HDR performance, edging closer to the sort of pixel-perfect lighting you'll get with more premium OLED displays.

Not all TCL TVs have QLED enhancement, but it's a feature that's worth paying a little more to get, since it delivers a noticeably better picture.

What is Mini-LED?

Mini-LED refers to the type of LEDs used in a TV's backlight. With mini-LEDs measuring about one-fifth the size of a standard LED – measuring just 0.008-inch (200 microns) across – the dimming zones that modern TVs use to provide a more dynamic picture and better contrast get shrunk down.

Along with color and contrast, brightness makes a huge difference in how well a TV can display an image. Instead of a single LED backlighting zone illuminating several square inches of a screen, mini-LEDs are limited to a mere handful of pixels, providing tighter lighting control to eliminate haloing and provide better brightness where it's needed.

Back in 2019 TCL introduced the first mini-LED TV, a move that other manufacturers are emulating in 2021. (Finds out more in our article Year of the mini-LED TV: Samsung, LG and TCL getting this huge upgrade.) 

It's one of the best innovations TVs have seen in recent years, and we recommend opting for a Mini-LED set if you budget allows it.

How to choose the best TCL TV for you

When it comes to TCL TVs, shoppers can feel safe buying any of the TCL TVs on the market. Though relatively new in the North American TV market, TCL has earned a reputation for offering high-quality TVs that punch above their weight in terms of picture quality, features and affordability.

But the different models in the TCL lineup are also clearly differentiated with specific features and capabilities that make it easy to see not only what makes one better than another, but also how those differences factor into the price-to-value ratio that each set offers.

The TCL 4-Series Roku TV and Android TV models offer entry level prices for a basic 4K HDR Smart TV, with 60 Hz LCD panels and a trio of HDMI ports.

The TCL 5-Series steps up in quality with the addition of QLED for better brightness and color, local dimming for improved HDR performance and 4 HDMI ports. It also adds Dolby Vision HDR support.

The TCL 6-Series is the best of the bunch, with the combination of QLED and mini-LED. The 4K display has a refresh rate of 120 hz, and rich support for features like THX Game Mode, Dolby vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound. Of the TVs on this list, it is the most expensive, but still offers great affordability compared to sets with similar features and quality.

In the end, a TCL TV delivers a great TV experience at a great price, and the only real question is what features are you willing to pay a little more for. As our testing and reviews have shown, you'll get great quality for a great price on any model.