TCL 4-Series vs. Vizio V-Series: Which is the better buy?

TCL 4-Series vs. Vizio V-Series: Which is the better buy?
(Image credit: TCL/ Vizio)

To say the market for bargain-priced 4K TVs is crowded is an understatement, indeed. There are literally hundreds of models to choose from, but two of the most popular brands continue to be TCL and Vizio. And the most affordable 4K smart TVs from those brands can be seen in our TCL 4-Series Roku TV (S435) review and Vizio V-Series (2020 model) review, which look at each budget champ individually. Both find a place on our list of the best TVs under $500, but which is better? To answer that question, we decided to breakdown how the TCL 4-Series and Vizio V-Series line up to see which of these budget-friendly smart TVs is really the best.

On paper at least the Vizio V-Series would seem to come out ahead. It supports two significant features –Dolby Vision and active local dimming – that the TCL 4-Series does not, for example. But specifications aren't everything, as a comparison of these two value-priced sets reveals.

TCL 4-Series vs. Vizio V-Series: Specs

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Row 0 - Cell 0 TCL 4-SeriesVizio V-Series
Screen sizes43, 50, 55, 65, 75, 8540, 43, 50, 55, 58, 65, 75
Resolution4K UHD (3840 x 2160)4K UHD (3840 x 2160)
HDRHDR10 and HLGDolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG
Refresh rate60 Hz60 Hz
Ports3 HDMI 2.1 (1 ARC); 1 USB; 1 Ethernet; 1 headphone jack; composite; RF; digital audio3 HDMI 2.1 (1 eARC); 1 USB; 1 Ethernet; 1 headphone jack; composite; RF; digital audio
Audio8 watts by 8 watts, Dolby Digital Plus8 watts by 8 watts
Smart TV SoftwareRoku TV (tested) or Android TV (available)Vizio SmartCast
Voice SupportAmazon Alexa and Google Assistant via compatible device; Roku searchAmazon Alexa and Google Assistant via compatible device
ProcessorCPU: Dual-core / GPU: Dual-coreVizio IQ Active processor

TCL 4-Series vs. Vizio V-Series: Price and Size Options

Both TCL and Vizio offer these 4K LCD sets in a wide range of sizes with the smallest set coming from Vizio at 40 inches and the largest offering coming from TCL at 85 inches. So whether you are looking to outfit a dorm room or a home theater, there's a model to suit your wall space from the assortment here.

TCL 4-Series Roku TV (S435)

Vizio V-Series (2020 model)

These models are shown with the manufacturer's suggested price, but actual sales prices are much closer. The price wars continue in TVs and are especially acute in this group of entry-level 4K sets. 

Availability varies quite a bit, but comparing a couple of popular sizes shows that Vizio has been cutting prices more aggressively. The 43-inch Vizio V-Series at roughly $319 is a little less expensive than the average $349 price for the 43-inch TCL 4-Series set. The price difference becomes more pronounced with larger screens, though, with the 65-inch Vizio V-Series coming in at $519 while the 65-inch TCL 4-Series is roughly $700.

Winner: Vizio V-Series

TCL 4-Series vs. Vizio V-Series: Performance

In terms of 4K features and display specifications, the Vizio V-Series would seem to be the better choice over the TCL 4-Series. The Vizio line includes full-array local dimming backlighting, to improve contrast, and support for the Dolby Vision 4K formats, for example, which the TCL line lacks. However, in hours of subjective viewing tests including 4K and upscaled HD content we found the TCL 4-Series display to be preferable. Much of the reason for that comes down to a slight edge it has in terms of color reproduction and brightness.

TCL 4-Series (Image credit: TCL)

Although benchmark test results will vary depending on the screen size, one can see some of the subjective criticisms borne out in our numbers comparing the 43-inch TCL 4-Series and the 50-inch Vizio V-Series. The TCL 4-Series was able to produce 99.55 percent of the standard full color gamut, for example, while the Vizio V-Series reproduced just 97.6 percent of the color gamut. That difference meant that the Vizio set didn't offer quite as rich a picture as the TCL set, although some viewers may not notice the difference.

As for brightness, with a 10 percent pattern, the TCL 4-Series hit roughly 292 nits. That's considerably less bright than many more expensive sets, which typically top over 600 nits. However, it was still brighter than what we found with the Vizio V-Series model we tested, which produced just 272 nits in the same benchmark.

Winner: TCL 4-Series

TCL 4-Series vs. Vizio V-Series: Design

If you didn't know better, you would think these sets rolled out of the same design studio. Both the TCL and Vizio model lines are wrapped in black, mostly plastic, chassises. And both designs rely on a pair of splayed legs on either end of the set to support it on a tabletop. The V-shaped legs are steady enough and suitable for a variety of setups, so it's not surprising the companies have settled on similar designs.

Vizio V-Series (Image credit: Vizio)

The same goes for situations where a wall mount is preferred. Neither line offers special features–like a super flat screen or hidden wires–for such installations. But both will work with a standard VESA 200 by 200 bracket, which can cost anywhere from $25 to $80. Check out the best TV mounts for some of our favorite wall-hanging options.

Winner: Tie

TCL 4-Series vs. Vizio V-Series: Smart TV features

One area where the TCL 4-Series holds a distinct advantage is in its smart TV interface. The company offers all but the 85-inch model in either Roku TV or Android TV flavors (sold as the 4-Series S434 line) – the 85-incher is a Roku only set. We find that both versions offer a lot of streaming entertainment options. However, the simplicity of Roku's more mature interface with its thousands of online channels will appeal to a broader audience.

TCL 4-Series (Image credit: TCL)

Vizio, on the other hand, uses its own proprietary smart TV interface, which in its latest iteration looks more and more like Android TV. And that's a good thing; it means the interface is familiar and easy to follow. Vizio's software is dubbed SmartCast, and it includes apps for most of the popular services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney +, Spotify and Pandora. However, it cannot match the sheer number of channels offered by the TCL Roku set and misses at least one important movie offering, the Criterion Channel.

Winner: TCL 4-Series

TCL 4-Series vs. Vizio V-Series: Gaming

Gamers may want to consider a budget model as a second TV dedicated to their favorite pursuit. In this the Vizio V-Series has a slight edge. The 50-inch model we tested produced one of the lowest lag times we've seen with a time of 13.1 ms. That was quicker than the smaller 43-inch TCL 4-Series which came in at 14 ms, and well ahead of other bargain sets like the 43-inch Insignia Amazon Fire TV, which turned in a very tardy lag time of 38.8 ms.

Vizio V-Series (Image credit: Vizio)

Gamers should note, however, that the TCL 4-Series and Vizio V-Series use 60 Hz displays so they can't take full advantage of the higher 120 Hz refresh rates of the latest PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles. If higher frame rates and advanced features are a must-have, check out our recommendations in the best 4K gaming TVs.

Winner: Vizio V-Series

TCL 4-Series vs. Vizio V-Series: Verdict

Choosing an overall winner between the TCL 4-Series and Vizio V-Series comes down to whether you prioritize performance or price. TCL's entry level 4-Series offers the most popular smart TV features via Roku (or Android TV) and a slightly better picture for movie buffs. Vizio's value V-Series, on the other hand, wins with lower prices on many models and gamers looking for an inexpensive second set may be swayed in its direction.

John R. Quain

John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. For Tom's Guide, he has reviewed televisions, HDTV antennas, electric bikes, electric cars, as well as other outdoor equipment. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program.