Model number: 55S425
Screen size: 55 inches
Resolution: 3840 x 2160
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Ports: 3 HDMI, 1 USB
Audio: 2 channel x 8W
Smart TV software: Roku TV
Size: 49 x 28.4 x 3.1 inches [w/o stand]
Weight: 26.7 pounds [w/o stand]
TCL's Roku TVs are, with only a few exceptions, best known for delivering high-quality TVs at extremely affordable prices. Our TCL 4 Series 4K Roku TV (55S425) review ($299.99 (opens in new tab) for the 55-inch model) finds it to be the most affordable 4K TV that TCL makes, and in smaller sizes, it sells for prices more affordable than many bargain-bin 1080p smart TVs.
But there's a lot more to the TCL 4-Series 55S425, from the excellent Roku smart TV experience to speedy response times, that will be a sure hit with gamers. Yes, it has some issues, like flawed motion handling and mediocre HDR performance, but on the whole, it's a very good 4K TV for a very low price. Read our full TCL 4 Series Roku TV review to see why it earns a place on our best TV list and on our list of best cheap 4K TVs.
Editor's Note: (8/13/2020) The TCL 4 Series Roku TV is still being sold, even as new TCL 2020 TVs come out. We've updated our review to reflect current pricing, but our original rating and recommendation remains unchanged.
TCL 4 Series Roku TV: Price and availability
Our review centers on the 55-inch version of the TCL 4 Series Roku TV, model number 55S425. But the 4 Series also comes in other sizes, ranging from a 43-inch model up to 75 inches.
These additional sizes all share the same basic feature set, from the plastic stand and trio of HDMI ports to the direct backlight and Roku smart-TV software. The only major difference between the various models is screen size, so any recommendations we make about the 55-inch 55S425 also apply to the other models.
TCL 4 Series Roku TV: Design
As TV designs go, the TCL 4 Series is very basic, with standard black bezels surrounding the display, simple plastic feet for the stand and a matte-black panel across the back of the chassis.
The black rear panel is jazzed up with a row of tessellated triangles along the top and a stripe of ridges just above the component box that makes up the lower half of the TV chassis. These are purely visual embellishments, with no functional purpose.
Measuring 49 x 28.4 x 3.1 inches without the stand, the 55-inch 4 Series is small enough that one person can assemble and move the set, but the 26.7-pound TV is still large enough that a second person is recommended. The 3.1-inch-thick design can be hung on the wall with a 200 x 200 millimeter VESA mount, but it will stick out several inches from the wall.
TCL 4 Series Roku TV: Ports
On the right-hand side of the TCL 55S425, set a few inches in from the right hand edge of the set, there is a single panel of ports and inputs. There you will find three HDMI ports, including one HDMI ARC port for connecting a soundbar without having to run additional audio cables.
An ethernet jack provides wired internet connectivity, while 802.11ac Wi-Fi is built in for wireless connections.
A single USB 2.0 port is available for viewing digital media files or powering a streaming stick, and an RF connector lets you hook up an HDTV antenna for over-the-air broadcasts. Additional ports provide composite video input, optical digital output for surround sound and a 3.5-millimeter jack for headphones or a stereo patch cable.
TCL 4 Series Roku TV: Performance
The TCL 55S425 is a 4K display, offering full 3840 x 2160 resolution, with direct backlighting and HDR (high dynamic range) support. The result is a fairly decent (if basic) 4K viewing experience, and better than you might expect at this affordable price.
The TCL 4 Series turned registered 97.2% of the Rec. 709 color gamut in our testing, which is better than the Vizio V-Series 50-inch 4K HDR Smart TV (V505-G9) (96.75%), but not quite as wide as the 98.4% we saw from the Samsung 40-inch NU7100. But while we prefer to see 4K TVs measure somewhere near the 100% mark, the TCL is within the range we expect for a lower-cost model.
Color accuracy seemed a little off. Watching a scene from Blade Runner 2049 set in a hazy, dust-covered Las Vegas, the scene should be rendered in a distinctive orange tone. But on the TCL, that orange sometimes looked a bit pink. The color issues were most pronounced when handling orange shades, which again skewed more toward pink and red, but it was only really noticeable in scenes in which that was the dominant color.
This was the only noticeable color issue we saw in our evaluation, and in fact, the 55S425 offers strong color accuracy, according to our tests, with a Delta-E rating of 1.4 (closer to 0 is better). Considering most affordable sets fare slightly worse — our LG UM7300PUA review (1.9), Samsung 40-inch NU7100 review (2.5), and Vizio V-Series V505-G9 review (2.2) all showed greater deviation — it's actually very good for the price.
We were less impressed with the TCL 4-Series’ HDR performance, and in the absence of local dimming, the HDR content isn't as pronounced as it might be on more premium sets. Watching scenes from Spider-Man: Homecoming, the TCL's HDR support was evidenced by bright highlights, like a holographic display or glowing purple alien artifact. But the 55S425 is limited to supporting HDR10, with no support for the richer Dolby Vision format, and the TV's handling of shadowy scenes left a lot to be desired, frequently blending black and dark shades into an undistinguished dull gray.
Black levels aren't as deep and rich as you would see on a set with local dimming, which lets a TV turn down the brightness or turn off the backlight entirely for dark portions of the screen. But since the TCL has only direct backlight, without local dimming, dark and black portions of the screen are instead displayed as a dark, glowing gray. It's not unexpected in this price range, but if you're picky about picture quality, it's one reason to consider something else.
I also saw several problems with motion handling. Whether it was a fast-paced fight scene, or even a simple panning shot across a scene, there was some unwanted judder as the TV struggled to display the movement smoothly. Switching between picture modes did little to change this, but turning on motion smoothing improved (but did not entirely fix) the issue.
TCL 4 Series Roku TV: Gaming performance
Unlike other sets, the TCL 4 Series Roku TV does not offer any sort of automatic switching to game mode or detection of a game console, such as our Xbox One X. Switching to game mode is also slightly unintuitive, as the mode is not offered in the regular selection of picture modes, and requires navigating into a separate menu of advanced picture settings to activate.
The TCL 4 Series supports 4K gaming, as well as streaming content with 10-bit color support at 24Hz. However, the set does not support additional frame rates for streamed content, nor does it support HDR modes for either gaming or streaming. That's fine if HDR content isn't a high priority, but it does mean that games will appear less impressive than on other 4K sets.
Though the TCL 4 Series doesn’t offer HDR support when gaming, it does deliver great response times, an indispensable advantage in fast-paced games. When we tested the 55S425 with our input lag tester, we recorded a signal-to-screen time of 14 milliseconds. That's a faster response time than the Samsung 40-inch NU7100 (17.9 ms), but slower than the LG UM7300PUA (12.1), and stands as one of the best results we've seen this year.
TCL 4 Series Roku TV: Audio
One area where the 55S425 is distinctly lacking is in audio. With a pair of 8-watt speakers doing the heavy lifting, the overall volume provided by the TV is relatively weak, and isn't well suited to rooms that have a lot of ambient noise.
Bass is nearly nonexistent. When listening to Pink Floyd's "Money" the distinctive intro bassline was severely muted, and movie scenes that should have thumped and rumbled, sounded weightless and insubstantial.
This is definitely a set that will benefit from something off of our list of the best soundbars, ideally with an external subwoofer, as well.
TCL 4 Series Roku TV: Smart features
TCL's Roku TVs routinely offer one of the best smart TV experiences on the market, and the 55S425 delivers on that front. Roku's tiled interface is simple and easy to use, even without prior smart-TV experience, and the app selection offered in Roku's channel lineup is impressive and varied.
The included remote control has no microphone for voice interaction, but if you use the accompanying Roku app on your smartphone, you can search by voice. It's a basic search only, without the fancy features offered on premium sets that have Amazon Alexa or something similar built-in, but it works.
TCL 4 Series Roku TV: Remote control
The included remote control is a basic Roku remote, a pill-shaped controller that features a plus-shaped directional pad, a handful of navigation controls — such as home, back and return buttons — along with media playback controls and side-mounted volume controls. In addition to these controls are four dedicated-app buttons, with one-touch access to DirecTV Now, Hulu, Netflix and Sling TV.
The infrared remote requires line of sight with the TV's IR sensor (centered beneath the TCL logo on the bottom bezel of the TV). We would prefer something like the Bluetooth connectivity used on the remotes of many other premium TVs, but it's par for the course in this ultra-budget price range.
TCL 4 Series Roku TV: Verdict
The TCL 4 Series Roku TV 55S425 is a cheap 4K TV that offers good value and capability for its small price, but our recommendation comes with some caveats. The lack of local dimming means that HDR content won't look as dynamic on this set, and the motion handling has noticeable flaws. This won't be an issue during slow paced dramas, but action films and other kinetic content will look a bit less impressive on this set than on other 4K competitors.
But those competitors all cost more, and for many shoppers, the defining feature of a TV isn't the HDR formats it supports, or the precision of the backlight; it's all about the price. With the 55-inch model now selling for as little as $299, it's hard to find a 4K set in this price range at all, and the 55S425 delivers great resolution, decent color quality and, yes, it still supports HDR (albeit only the basic HDR10 format). The TCL 4 Series is also a great choice for gamers, who may not care as much about format support and will appreciate the speedy responsiveness of the set.
As a value-focused set, the TCL 4 Series Roku TV offers some of the best value we've seen on a cheap 4K TV. It replaces our previous budget-favorite, seen in our TCL 43S517 Roku Smart 4K TV review, and is a great bargain for anyone on a budget.