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TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review

An above average HD TV with Roku smarts

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review
(Image: © TCL)

Our Verdict

A TV designed for RVs and kitchens, the 32-inch TCL 3-Series does well enough with HD fare for casual viewing in close quarters.

For

  • A well-balanced 720p picture
  • Easy Roku smart TV interface

Against

  • Lack of picture brightness
TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335): Specs

Price: $199
Model number: 32S335
Screen size: 32 inches
Resolution: 1280 x 720 pixels (720p)
HDR: Not supported
Refresh rate: 60 Hz
Ports: 3 HDMI (1 ARC); 1 USB; 1 Ethernet; 1 headphone jack; RF; composite; digital audio
Audio: 5 by 5 watts
Smart TV software: Roku
Size: 28.8 x 17.2 x 2.9 inches [w/o stand]
Weight: 8.0 pounds [w/o stand]; 8.2 [w. stand]

The 32-inch TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) proves that there's a place for small, inexpensive TVs, especially those places where a larger set might not fit. Just as you can't use a Corvette to shuttle a gaggle of kids home from a little league game, you also can't always use a 75-inch Ultra 4K TV just to follow a Rachel Ray recipe. How would you fit it in your kitchen and where would you do your prep work? Fortunately, for those situations there are still some inexpensive 32-inch HD TVs like the TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) that fit the bill.

Intended for places where a 75-inch or even 55-inch set is impractical–or just plain ridiculous–TCL's 32-inch 3-Series LCD TV is for casual viewing environments: kitchens, home offices, RVs, even dorm rooms. It doesn't support the latest 4K resolutions or handle the brighter, more intense colors offered by high dynamic range (HDR) content. But what it does offer is a solid 720p HD picture, in a size that will fit on a countertop or office desk, all for a reasonable price.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review: Pricing and Availability

With a recommended price of just $199, the TCL 3-Series Roku is the earliest entry point for the company's extensive line of TVs that extend all the way up to premium big-screen models that sell for thousands. If you want something different, but still want to stick to the $199 price, there's also the TCL 3-Series 32S330, which has the same price, size and resolution, but uses Android TV instead of Roku's smart TV software. Also available is a full-HD 1080p version of the 3-Series – the TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S327) –  that sells for $219, just $20 more than the model in this review.

If you're interested in getting a full 4K set instead, take a look at our TCL 4-Series Roku TV (S435) review. At $349, it's a significant price jump, but it gets you a bigger picture (assuming you have the space) and the ability to take full advantage of 4K streaming content.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review: Design

For perching the set on a countertop there are two small, v-shaped plastic feet at either end of the TCL 3-Series set. It's a stable arrangement and the set looks lighter and less dominant than other black plastic sets.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review

(Image credit: TCL)

That's because its feet are thinner than most and the screen's surrounding bezel is relatively svelte for this type of TV, less than half an inch wide around the top and sides (although the bottom portion is still roughly three quarters of an inch).

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review

(Image credit: TCL)

If you're planning to mount this model over a desk or even a sink, it accommodates a standard 100 x 100 millimeter VESA mount, including most of the selections on our best TV mounts list. The mounting hardware costs as little as $20.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review: Ports

A square, distended module on the back right-hand side of the set houses all the necessary connections.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review

(Image credit: TCL)

The TCL 3-Series has 3 HDMI ports, one of which is audio return channel (ARC) compatible for automatically synching with an ARC soundbar or receiver. Also here you'll find the necessary composite audio/video input for hooking up an old VCR, and a headphone jack for plugging in a pair of headphones for quiet viewing. To make the requisite connection to your home network, the 3-Series has built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, but is lacking a wired Ethernet port.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review: Performance

Selecting just the right Goldilocks picture setting on the TCL 3-Series is a little tricky. Because it's not a terribly bright display, there is a temptation to choose the set's "Brighter" or "Bright" preset. However, to keep some more subtle picture elements visible — and not give faces on screen an unnatural hue — we choose the set's "Dark" preset and the "Movie" picture mode for our viewing tests.

We should note from the start that if you're accustomed to 4K TVs, you'll notice the lack of image sharpness in the TCL 3-Series' picture. Simply read any graphic text at the bottom of a screen or the scrolling credits after a movie and you'll see what we mean. The 720p has a fuzziness that 4K images lack. On the other hand, if you're primarily playing streaming YouTube videos and similar content, the TCL 3-Series' resolution is fine and in many cases with older video it produced a clearer picture by foregoing the pixelation caused by upscaling on 4K sets.

For a kids room, the TCL 3-Series handled material like Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales in HD with skill. The fleshtones of the sailors and the earnest Will Turner were realistically rendered and the bright red of the British coats were sufficiently saturated without bleeding into the surrounding scene. Conversely, there were some obvious deficiencies in the darker scenes aboard the Dutchman where there was some loss of detail in shadowy images and corners.

That lack of dynamic range in terms of brightness and contrast was also apparent in other programs. The early picnic scene in Avengers Endgame, for example, was more washed out than usual and the farm looked as if it were suffering from a serious drought. We also couldn't help but notice the banding and halo artifacts that appeared around the bright glow of objects like lightsabers.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review: Test Results

Nevertheless, the 32-inch TCL 3-Series did well enough for a set in this price range. With the traditional Rec 709 color spectrum it reproduced 98.28% of the standard color gamut. That's not up to the near 100 percent results from bargain 4K sets, such as those seen in our Vizio V-Series (2020 model) review or TCL's own 43-inch 4-Series Roku TV (43S435), but it is significantly better than what we saw from another budget 32-inch budget HD set, the Insignia Fire TV Edition NS-32DF310NA19. That set only managed to reproduce 86.95% of the standard color gamut.

Color fidelity was another area where the TCL 3-Series certainly did well enough. While a score of 2 or less is considered a solid result, the TCL 3-Series we tested turned in a Delta E of 2.17, not far from what we'd expect from much more expensive sets. The similarly priced 32-inch Insignia F20 Fire TV Edition had a Delta-E score of  7.65, a disappointing result that was visible in our viewing tests.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review

(Image credit: TCL)

If there was one noticeable shortcoming with the TCL 3-Series it was in the area of brightness. It turned in 207.86 nits in our 10 percent pattern test. Most sets manage a significantly brighter image, such as the Vizio V-Series with 299.67 nits. So The TCL 3-Series won't be the brightest in, say, a kitchen setting; even the Insignia F20 Fire TV Edition 32-inch bested it with 235.92 nits in the same test.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review: Audio

The TCL 3-Series offers several preset audio modes: normal, speech (which was almost painful to listen to), music, theater, big bass, and high treble. Most are self-explanatory and we favored the music and theater modes as being the most fulsome sound settings.

Challenging the set with a series of overproduced pop songs, the TCL 3-Series didn't particularly distinguish itself. With high, soaring vocals, the top end was thin and tinny and there were virtually no lower notes. Bass kick drums were turned into bongo drums on this TV's built-in sound system. Using the big bass mode didn't help; it merely suppressed the high-notes in an attempt to create the illusion that it was playing lower notes (it was not). Such sonic limitations extended to movies, as well, where Star Wars’ C3PO sounded as if he had a cold.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review

(Image credit: TCL)

The TCL 3-Series' downward firing built-in speakers will produce enough sound pressure to fill an office or kitchen with music (unless you have a Xanadu-sized office or kitchen). Oddly, once you pass the three quarters mark on the volume display (about 75), it doesn't actually get any louder no matter how high you turn it up.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review: Smart TV

We're not shy about pointing out which software is the easiest and simplest when it comes to juggling multiple programming sources: It's Roku. And so it makes perfect sense to use it as the software foundation for TCL's 3-Series, which is meant to be a simple, straightforward TV.

(Image credit: TCL)

The easy-to-follow setup routine is relatively painless, and there's even an introductory video for neophytes on the set's features and options. Once you've entered your home's Wi-Fi information, you're basically all set. Roku has arguably the widest array of supported streaming services and sources, from the Criterion Channel to Netflix, Acorn to Spectrum. So if you're looking for a simple setup, you should have everything you need in the TCL 3-Series without having to add a separate box.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review: Remote Control

TCL includes the basic Roku remote with the 3-Series set. It has a four-way directional pad for navigating through menus and dedicated buttons for the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu. The volume controls are on the right side next to a mute button.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review

(Image credit: TCL)

There is no microphone built into the basic remote, so you cannot do direct voice searches for, say, Sally Field movies or dark Danish detective shows. There is a Roku app for smartphones, however, that offers voice search for the TV, or you can replace your Roku TV remote with a model that has voice capabilities built in. And if you have a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa smart speaker you can download the TCL skills for it for basic voice control.

TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) review: Verdict

If you're looking for a basic smaller TV for a kitchen or an RV, the TCL 3-Series is a better choice compared to other HD TVs in this price range. The quality of the 720p display and the superior Roku TV interface make it a great choice among similarly cheap small TVs. Similarly, the TCL 3-Series is $50 more than the 32-inch Insignia F20 Fire TV Edition but offers a much better picture for the money. All told, the TCL 3-Series Roku TV (32S335) is the best of its kind, making it the sub-$200 smart TV to get.

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.