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TCL has become one of the biggest budget TV manufacturers, offering great and features for affordably priced TVs. The TCL 43S425-CA continues this track record with an exciting feature set, basic 4K and HDR support, and Roku’s popular Smart TV interface makes it an even excellent choice over competitors that cost almost double.
It’s not without its flaws, however, like mediocre backlighting, narrower color range and lack of support for Dolby Digital, but this 43-inch TV offers a lot for the money and it’s so affordable that you may not care.
The TCL 43S425-CA is part of the TCL 4-series that’s inherently the company’s entry-level 4K line, meaning all sets in this family are a bit chunkier than the premium 6-Series line. Our review unit is flat, with glossy black plastic bezels that are much wider than its pricier siblings, like the TCL 55R617 (2018) that sports a more stylish design and a gunmetal frame.
It’s not much thicker than the 6-Series, measuring just over three inches at the bottom half, from where it bulges significantly from the curved, two-inch depth of the top half. There is a small strip of textured black plastic on the bottom bezel that adds some visual flair, alongside silver TCL and Roku TV logos in the center and right corner.
All ports are located on the right side, except for the power cord that sits on the left side of the back of the TV. The available ports include three HDMI ports, one USB port, an Ethernet port, an antenna/cable connection, optical and 3.5mm audio outputs, and a 3.5mm composite video input that can be used alongside the included 3.5mm-to-composite-RCA dongle. Above the ports, there is a small reset button and the only other control available is a single multifunction Power button – located behind the infrared receiver under the middle of the bottom bezel.
The included Roku TV remote is a standard, infrared-only model. You should not confuse it with the high-end microphone-equipped Enhanced Roku TV remote that allow you to use Roku’s voice search features. This one is a small plastic wand with curved ends and a distinct direction pad. The Roku app for Android and iOS lets you use voice search if you wish, though Roku’s functions are still limited compared to Amazon Alexa that’s found on amazon Fire TV, Google Assistant on Android TV devices, and Siri on the Apple TV.
With the Roku TV platform, the TCL 43S425-CA can access a wide range of streaming services. The major players here include Amazon Prime Video, DirecTV Now, Google Play Movies & TV, Hulu, Netflix, Vue, Sling, Vudu and YouTube. As expected, Apple is missing in the list and Google Music isn’t also available, but you still have Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, and many other streaming services.
Many other satellite providers have Roku apps that allow you access to their VOD libraries and even TV directly via the TV, without necessarily connecting a set-top box. In case you don’t want to subscribe to any service, the Roku Channel features its own library of free movies and TV shows.
The 43-inch display checks all expected boxes for a budget-friendly 4K TV: Ultra HD resolution, basic support for HDR and a native refresh rate of 60Hz. It offers adequate color accuracy that easily matches that of the slightly expensive TCL 55R625, making it a worthwhile budget TV. It can display 4K high dynamic range (HDR) content in HDR 10, but it doesn’t support Dolby Vision or other HDR content types.
The TCL 43S425-CA doesn’t stand out when it comes to brightness, even in Bright (HDR) mode with the backlight turned up; it maxes out at 244.05cd/m2, which is half the 488. 01cd/m2 peak brightness on the 6-series. Again, it lacks local dimming that’s available on the 6-series, and its Dynamic Contrast settings can only brighten or dim the entire screen simultaneously.
When watching BBC’s Planet Earth II, the scenes look great though you can easily notice the TV’s dimmer screen and smaller color range as compared to the 6-Series or more expensive sets like LG’S OLED55C9PUA or Samsung’s QN55Q70RAFXZA. Still, the trees and blue-greens on the “Islands” episode look clear and natural, though fine textures like fur and bark are crisp when well-lit. That said, shadows become a bit blurry and the fairly dim screen doesn’t look quite as lifelike as they do on brighter panels.
Input lag is the amount of time it takes for a display to update after receiving a signal, and this is one of the few areas in which the 43S425-CA puts forward a modest score. The HDTV showed an input lag of 32.4 milliseconds, which is better than most budget sets we’ve reviewed.
If you enable Game Mode, the input lag improves at a slight cost of picture quality, dropping to an excellent 15.3 ms. For watching HD movies and videos, this is about the best 4K performance you can get on a budget TV.
The TCL 43S425-CA is a solid option for anyone looking to nab a 4K TV without breaking the bank. The set offers acceptable color quality and decent (albeit) HDR support, and the integration of Roku’s Smart TV interface makes this set just as capable for media streaming and apps as any other smart TV out there.
You’ll give up the color quality and advanced features you would get on the more expensive TCL 55R625 6-Series, but the lack of features like Dolby Vision and voice search may not be a deal breaker given that the nicer set costs almost twice as much.
Is there a better alternative?
The TCL 55R635 (2021 model) remains our favorite budget recommendation for its excellent performance at a great price for 44-inches, and the 4-Series doesn’t come close matching it in brightness or color range. Still, the 4-Series is very good value for the 43-inch, especially if you’re looking to jump to 4K and HDR10 without spending lots of money.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re a TV buyer who values saving a few bucks over premium features, the TCL 43S425-CA is a strong option to consider.
The TCL 43S425-CA is a solid option for anyone looking to nab a 4K TV without breaking the bank, especially if you’re looking to jump to 4K and HDR10 without spending lots of money.
- Very affordable
- Fairly accurate colors
- Roku smart TV platform offers lots of features
- Mediocre panel lighting
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