TCL 55S450F Review

7.8 Total Score
GOOD

The TCL 55S450F S4-Series demonstrates that 4K is mainstream now, delivering good picture quality and the very convenient Fire TV smart interface; all at a great price.

PROS
  • Excellent value-priced 4K TV
  • Decent color fidelity
  • Solid Fire TV platform
  • 4K resolution
CONS
  • HDR performance is lackluster
  • Middling gaming performance

The TCL 55S450F is an entry-level 4K TV released in 2023 and is part of the TCL S4 series of budget TVs, which offer a rich collection of extra features but are available in a wide variety of sizes. This year, unlike previous years, TCL is offering its budget TVs in this series with different smart interfaces; the TCL “G” series runs on Google TV smart interface, the “R model” runs the Roku smart interface, and there are Fire TV models like our review unit.

The S4 Series is available in various screen sizes, and the 55S450F is the 55-inch model designed for those looking for a great TV and don’t have thousands of dollars to spend. While there are more viable options out there than before from competitors like Hisense and Amazon, the TCL 55S450F is a highly affordable but reliably kitted-out Fire TV, that while not perfect, still punches above its price to deliver an impressive user experience.

About the TCL 55S450F

For the last several years, TCL has been releasing a version of the 4-Series; when we reviewed the 2022 version, we were impressed by its value and it earned our Editors’ Choice award. We are reviewing the Fire TV version, but we expect the design and picture quality metrics to apply to any version of the TV. Regardless of whether you’re getting Roku, Google TV, or Android TV smarts, the screen sizes and prices aren’t far apart.

The S4-Series TVs are not the cheapest TVs out there by any means, but they are more affordable than most 4K/HDR TVs from brands like Sony, LG, and Samsung. Regardless of which size you buy or which software version you prefer, the core specifications across the series are the same:

  • Resolution: 4K (3,840 x 2,160)
  • LED backlight type: Direct LED, full array
  • HDR format support: HDR10, HLG
  • Dolby Atmos: Yes, via HDMI ARC over DD+ (no native decoding)
  • eARC: Not supported
  • Native refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Color depth: 10-bit
  • Variable Refresh Rate (VRR): No
  • Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM): No
  • Other features: Roku mobile app

One thing that makes the S4-Series so affordable is that it omits most high-end features like Dolby Vision, eARC, and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR). Additionally, the 60Hz refresh rate isn’t better suited for rendering smooth motion than the 120Hz displays on most high-end 4K TVs.

Our review model is the 55-inch TCL S4 Fire TV released in 2023. In the box, you’re getting the TV and stand components, a Fire TV remote and batteries, a power cable, and a quick-start guide.

Connectivity

With the S4 Series TVs, you’re getting the following connectivity options:

  • 3 x HDMI 2.0 (1 ARC)
  • Composite audio/video input
  • Digital optical audio output
  • Headphone jack
  • RF (coaxial) input
  • USB 2.0
  • Ethernet (LAN) Input

For an entry-level TV, this is decent connectivity that will allow for a range of modern and legacy devices. However, you’re not getting HDMI 2.1 inputs in any form, making it a less desirable choice for gamers looking to get the most out of their Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, but it’s not different from rivals in this price range.

What we like

TCL 55S450F Review wall

Basic, but beautiful design

Setting up the TCL 55S450F is a straightforward affair: You just have to screw two V-shaped feet on the bottom of the panel, and you’re done. Well, the result isn’t the sleekest 4K TV out there, but it looks better than most budget TVs in the market. It sports narrow, black bezels around the screen which puts content on the front and center, and the 55-inch version is light enough to move around by yourself (though you’d need help with bigger sizes).

Since it uses a Direct LED (full array) backlight, the S4-Series profile isn’t overly thin to compete with the LG C2 OLED, but you can still mount it on a wall if you want to. For most people, placing it on a TV stand is the most practical space, and I’m happy to report that it’s quite sturdy, with minimal wobbling on it its feet when shoved.

Around the back, there is a full range of connectivity options lined up vertically along the right side of a central protrusion. There’s also a detachable power cable that plugs from the left side. As mentioned, it lacks HDMI 2.1 to support premium gaming features, but the included HDMI inputs should be enough for most living rooms.

TCL 55S450F Review ports

Great picture quality for SDR content

When buying an entry-level TV, HDR content is out of context, but I’m happy that the new S4-Series is a good choice for general viewing. Having reviewed the TCL 4-Series, the S4-Series’s crisp 4K resolution is especially fetching, and it’s great to get a modern resolution in this price range. Watching some 4K footage of animals and birds on YouTube elicits a terrific level of detail.

While a little brighter than the 4-Series, the 55S450F is not the brightest TV. But it makes for that shortcoming with some degree of surprisingly good black levels for a TV that lacks local backlight dimming. The S4-Series uses a Direct LED backlight, meaning its diodes are arrayed evenly behind the screen. If you’ve used an OLED TV before, the 55S450F may not blow you away with brightness, but its general picture quality is very sound and capable of good enough black levels for movie nights.

That said, the TCL S4 Fire TV isn’t the most colorful around: Like most LED/LCD TVs, it can only deliver just enough color on its own with the addition of enhancements like quantum dots. The TV’s colorimetry – its expression of individual hues as it moves from darker to brighter shades – is impressive, and is capable of rich, vibrant colors by standard of entry-level panels.

In short, the S4-Series checks off most of the basic boxes and does so while supplying you with a step-up 4K experience compared to TCL and even Hisense’s more affordable TVs.

Fire TV smart platform is still awesome

TCL’s TVs come in multiple flavors of smart software (Roku, Android TV, and Google TV), so your experience may vary a bit. However, the model in our review is a Roku TV, and can confirm that it remains a great choice for most users.

Unless you’re a Google or Android TV diehard, the fluency of Amazon’s Fire TV software is sure to appeal to the majority of users. Setup requires connecting the S4-Series to your Amazon account (or creating a new one) and choosing which streaming apps you’d like to install. From there, it’s almost as simple as pointing and clicking. The included remote is easy to use and includes Dolby Atmos support, Apple Airplay, and Alexa built-in.

What we don’t like

TCL 55S450F Review front

HDR performance is lackluster

HDR on LED TVs is a complicated topic, but the most important thing to understand is that HDR content is created to look good on TVs that are bright and colorful – two things that the S4-Series is certainly not.

That said, HDR compatibility is never a bad thing, and you’ll certainly enjoy watching HDR10 movies on the TCL 55S450F. Scenes in Grant Singer’s Reptile movie still boasts intense colors and surprisingly bright flashes of light, but it doesn’t get as bright as it would on a screen with quantum dots technology.

Another knock against the TCL S4-Series is its limited horizontal viewing angles. While viewing the 55-inch 4-Series, its brightness and color fidelity drop off fairly sharply as you move from head-on viewing out to the left or right of the screen.

This isn’t a huge problem in a smaller 43-inch size, especially depending on the viewing distance, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re shopping for one of the really big sizes. Then again, this is a common problem with lots of LED panels, including higher-priced options in TCL’s line and most of its competitors, too.

Just OK for modern gaming

Looking at the spec sheet, the 55S450F’s 4K resolution and HDR compatibility might make it seem like a great choice for the newest gaming consoles. I’m here to tell you, it’s only just okay.

The biggest discrepancy is the 60Hz refresh rate, which means you can’t play games in 4K at 120fps, one of the biggest features of new consoles like the Xbox Series X. Again. You’re also not getting newer features like Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) or Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), present in gamer-centric TVs like the Samsung Q80C and the Hisense U7G.

Should you buy the TCL 55S450F?

Yes – especially if you’re looking for a 4K TV with good pictures at a very reasonable price.

Not long ago, buying a 4K TV was an utterly expensive undertaking, but with the TCL 55S450F, that technology has decidedly become affordable and mainstream. You can find the 55-inch S4-Series for less than $300 at the time of writing, which is certainly an attractive price for a modern 4K TV.

However, one thing to understand before purchasing is that the TCL S4 falls short of its pricier competition in a few key areas. Like other budget sets from TCL, Hisense, and others, it’s got poor viewing angles that may be especially impactful if you were aiming for one of the big sizes. It’s also fairly dim and not equipped for highly saturated colors, meaning it isn’t the best choice for HDR performance or watching in a bright room.

If your room is bright or you want a more meaningful HDR, you’re going to spend a little more: the Samsung AU8000 isn’t very expensive but it will net you more brightness and HDR color saturation. You could also jump into TCL’s Q7-Series which offers better brightness and even quantum-dot color at a manageable stet-up price.

That said, if you need a solid 4K TV that’s affordable, easy to use, and looks good in most conditions, the TCL 55S450F S4-Series is a great option.

TCL 55S450F Review
TCL 55S450F Review
$369.94
Digital Weekly
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