The TCL 50S435 Review (4-Series, 2021 Model) offers good picture quality and Roku TV functionality at a rock bottom price. For anyone looking to jump into 4K Smart TV without spending too much, this is a decent choice.
- Very inexpensive
- Roku TV platform has lots of features
- Generally solid color range
- Mediocre contrast
- Only three HDMI ports
TCL is a renowned budget TV brand, and it impressed us last year with its premium line, the class-leading 6-Series. The TCL 50S435 is part of the company’s entry-level 4K TV line. It packs the same robust Roku TV platform as the 6-Series and goes further to support 4K content in HDR. It also offers more screen sizes than the 6-series, starting with the small 43-inch TCL 43S435 to the massive 85-inch TCL 85S435, meaning you have lots of options to choose the ideal set.
The TCL 50 Inch TV we’re reviewing retails for a reasonable price, practically half the cost of an almost equivalent 6-series model, the 55-inch TCL 55R635 Smart TV. TCL makes a few compromises to reach the lower price, with a much dimmer screen, narrower color range, and it doesn’t support Dolby Digital, but you’re still getting lots of value for the money.
Our review unit feature Roku TV platform, but there’s the TCL 50S434, which packs Android TV smart platform, but sports the same design and core technologies as all other TV in the TCL 4-Series (2021).
The 50S435 is a plain-looking TV, which is not surprising for a budget set. Its screen is surrounded on the top and sides by narrow, glossy black plastic bezels. The bottom bezel is slightly thick and holds a silver TCL logo in the middle. The screen is supported by a pair of V-shaped glossy black plastic feet that match the bezels and sides.
A power connector can be found on the left side of the back of the TV, facing left. All other connections are on the right side of the back panel, facing right. They include three HDMI ports, a USB port, an Ethernet port, a 3.5mm composite video port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, an optical audio output, and an antenna/cable connector.
Roku TV & Remote
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 allows 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’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 50S435 can access a wide range of streaming services, which is different from the Fire TV platform on the Amazon Fire TV Omni Series. 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 from 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 TCL 50 Inch TV boasts a 4K display, firing full 3840 x 2160 resolution, with direct backlighting and HDR (high dynamic range) support. The result is a relatively good (if basic) viewing experience, and a better viewing experience than you might expect at this price range.
The TCL 4K Roku TV registers 97.4% of the Rec. 709 color gamut, which is better than the Vizio V505-G9 (96.65%), but not as wide as the 98.3% we saw on the Samsung 40-inch NU7100. However, while we prefer to see 4K TV a measure somewhere near the 100% mark, the TCL is within the range we expect for a lower-cost model.
The TCL 50S435 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 the Samsung 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.
Unlike other sets, the TCL 4-Series TV doesn’t offer any sort of automatic switching to game mode or detection of a game console, such as an Xbox One X. When you switch to game mode, it is a bit intuitive, since the mode is not offered in the regular selection of picture modes, and does require navigating into a separate menu of advanced picture settings to activate.
The 50S435 supports 4K gaming, and you can stream content with 10-bit color support at 24Hz. However, this panel 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 at the top of your list, but it doesn’t mean that games will appear less impressive than on other 4K sets.
And, while this TV doesn’t offer HDR support when gaming, it does deliver great response times, an indispensable feature in fast-paced games. If there’s an area where this set is lacking, it must be audio. With a pair of 8-watt speakers delivering the audio juice, the overall volume is underwhelming and relatively weak and isn’t well suited to rooms that have a lot of ambient noise.
The Bottom Line
The TCL 4-Series isn’t exceptional in any way, but it’s a reasonable performer for the price. With a range of models, starting with 43-inches all the way to 80-inches, all reasonably priced, this series should appeal to anyone looking to get a decent TV while spending as little as possible.
The Insignia NS-55DF710NA21 is also less expensive than the higher-end TCL and Hisense models; it ekes out fairly better contrast and color performance than the TCL 50 Inch TV in this review, and the Amazon Fire TV platform has handy features, including a voice assistant.
That said, while you’ll spend a fair amount more, the TCL 6-Series, LG OLEDs, and the Hisense H8G line offer far brighter, higher-contrast pictures with better color, making them worth the relative premium if you can afford it.