TCL 5-Sequence (S525) 4K HDR TV evaluation: Loads of work

“A superb primary TV that falls simply in need of being nice.”

Nice for gaming

First rate distinction

Enticing design

Roku app entry

Out-of-box image wants work

Irritating image presets

Not particularly brilliant

My relationship with TCL TVs started two years in the past after I reviewed the corporate’s 2018 6-Sequence TV. That mannequin put TCL on the map amongst TV fanatics who had beforehand by no means thought of the model.

At this time, TCL is the budget-friendly model to beat, with a number of fashions that carry out as nicely if not higher than rather more costly competitors. Actually, I feel TCL may be thanked for a shift within the TV business towards higher-performance televisions with decrease costs.

So the place does the 2019 5-Sequence sit in TCL’s lineup, and is it price buying one with TCL’s 2020 lineup doubtless on account of hit retailer cabinets in August? In any case, a 65-inch mannequin prices simply $600, whereas the 55-inch variant is just $400. These costs are powerful to beat. However what are you able to anticipate from a TV at that value? Let’s dig in.

Out of the field

The TCL 5-Sequence is a a lot better-looking TV than I anticipated for the worth. It’s prime and facet bezels are extraordinarily skinny, the TV’s profile can be fairly skinny, and the TV’s “toes” are engaging as nicely, if not somewhat mild and cheap-feeling.

I’m not a fan of the round button which sits subsequent to the TV’s Roku emblem, and the underside border is somewhat massive, however on the entire, the TV seems prefer it ought to price greater than it does.

Digital Tendencies | Caleb Denison

Included with the TV is an more and more elusive composite video breakout cable, a set of AAA batteries, and a Roku distant. This specific Roku distant doesn’t have a built-in headphone jack neither is it a voice distant, although personal listening and voice management can be found by way of the Roku app for iOS and Android — we’ll be speaking about that app fairly a bit on this evaluation.

Options

Dan Baker/Digital Tendencies

The 5-Sequence isn’t a high-end TV, no less than not in value. This TV doesn’t provide native dimming zones for its direct backlighting. This implies the TV has rather more uniform brightness throughout the display screen than an edge-lit TV would. However as a result of it may’t dim any of these backlights, it may wrestle to supply deep blacks, particularly in scenes with brilliant objects on darkish backgrounds.

Other than the omission of native dimming, it isn’t obvious that any corners had been minimize. TCL doesn’t converse to its video processing usually, so there’s no clear indication the 5-Sequence has something much less succesful inside than its 6-Sequence or Eight-Sequence cousins.

The 5-Sequence, like all TCL TVs, is a Roku TV, which implies not solely do you get a Roku dwelling display screen crammed with customizable enter names and apps, Roku can be the interface one makes use of to regulate any form of setting. Sometimes I’m a fan of the Roku TV interface, however not a lot with this TV.

Setup

Dan Baker/Digital Tendencies

Earlier than I’m going on, I wish to be clear that I’m not assigning blame to both TCL or Roku for the problems I’m about to level out. I really feel it is a matter of partnership, and I hope these issues may be addressed sooner or later with a firmware replace. In any case, that’s the fantastic thing about good TVs: You possibly can replace them.

It’s troublesome to get one of the best image high quality as a result of a lot work must be carried out.

Prior to now, my reward for the Roku TV OS has been rooted in Roku’s simplicity and ease-of-use. It’s an approachable expertise, even for people who aren’t technically-inclined. Sadly, it’s a scarcity of simplicity round getting one of the best image high quality that has me involved.

The very first thing I inform of us to do once they get a brand new TV is to enter the image settings and alter the TV to film (cinema, customized, and many others.) mode, then regulate the backlight setting to attain the brightness they need. The film (or equal) image preset reliably adopts a hotter, extra correct coloration temperature by default, and infrequently eliminates movement smoothing, which might create the dreaded “cleaning soap opera impact.”

Within the case of the 5-Sequence, the TV will undertake a heat coloration temperature, however there’s nonetheless some movement smoothing that must be turned off. No large deal, it occurs.

That film preset is now lively for whichever enter you occurred to be tuned to. Let’s say you had been watching cable or satellite tv for pc on the time; the film preset is now engaged and presumably correctly arrange. Now the consumer has to enter each different enter they’re utilizing, HDMI 2 for a recreation console, HDMI three for a Blu-ray participant, for instance, and choose the film mode for every of them.

That’s additionally true for streaming apps, which isn’t readily obvious to most customers. Moreover, it’s not sufficient to only open an app like Netflix and decide film mode, you will need to begin streaming a present with a view to regulate the image settings. Type of a problem, however forgivable.

However what for those who unintentionally picked a present or film that’s introduced in HDR (in Netflix’s case, it could really be Dolby Imaginative and prescient). You’d now be choosing one in all three Dolby Imaginative and prescient image modes: Dolby Imaginative and prescient Darkish, Regular, or Vibrant. OK, nice, we are able to decide the Dolby Imaginative and prescient mode we like, however what about SDR content material — which is what most individuals watch, more often than not — on different apps, like Amazon or Hulu? So as to regulate to film mode for apps enjoying SDR, you must go play some SDR content material on a kind of apps.

Sound irritating? I’m simply getting began. We haven’t talked about common HDR10 mode, which is what you get with numerous YouTube content material and lots of Amazon exhibits. There are three modes for HDR10 as nicely. So, if we rely all of them up, there’s a complete of seven totally different choices between SDR, HDR, and Dolby Imaginative and prescient, and that doesn’t embody different image modes like recreation or commonplace.

That’s method an excessive amount of work to seek out the precise image preset. What’s extra, the backlight settings between the darkish, regular, and brilliant HDR modes  (together with Dolby Imaginative and prescient) are all maxed out, and but one thing occurs within the background to brighten the display screen.

There’s additionally the matter of the colour temperature and stage of movement smoothing altering amongst Dolby Imaginative and prescient modes, which is senseless to me, and the anomalous “micro distinction” setting, which does one thing to the distinction, however is unreliable and enigmatic. It additionally makes it look like the TV has native dimming when it doesn’t.

For any of you who’re misplaced proper now, that’s form of my level. The one who purchases this TV goes to set it up, flip it on, and should not contact any of the settings, which is a disgrace as a result of the out-of-box, low-power image preset is nowhere near the complete functionality of this TV and, frankly, doesn’t look nice.

And if the client does dare enterprise into image settings, it’s troublesome to get one of the best image high quality as a result of a lot work must be carried out. I simply don’t see that occuring with most individuals.

So, I suppose we should always speak about that image high quality now.

Image high quality

Dan Baker/Digital Tendencies

As I simply defined, the out-of-box image high quality on the TCL 5-Sequence TV is just not nice. It’s not poor, however it’s a little underwhelming. That’s notably perturbing when this TV is able to pretty spectacular footage to the untrained eye.

It’s aces for gaming because it has auto low-latency mode, low enter lag, and a excessive refresh charge.

If one does soar by way of the hoops and optimized settings for a greater image, they are going to be rewarded by what seem like very wealthy colours and spectacular distinction. That final bit got here as a shock to me. This TV’s distinction is remarkably good contemplating there’s no native dimming, and since there are not any dimming zones to regulate, there are not any annoying backlight fluctuations to cope with when watching in a darkened room.

Additionally, I used to be pleasantly stunned on the mitigation of halos round brilliant objects on black backgrounds. Though the display screen doesn’t ever get pitch black, it will get darkish sufficient to supply respectable distinction.

So what does this all add as much as? A greater-than-average TV. It’s good. Not excellent. Positively not nice. However a stable good. It’s aces for gaming because it has auto low-latency mode, low enter lag, and a excessive refresh charge. It doesn’t help variable refresh charge, however that wouldn’t be anticipated right here. For common TV watching, it’s nice. Greater-quality content material like 4K HDR materials deserves higher, although.

Right here’s the factor: You are able to do higher for not rather more cash, and I feel it’s best to. I’m a fan of TCL, however I can’t advocate this TV when the corporate’s personal 6-series is so significantly better for just a bit extra money. Additionally, the Hisense H8G is a extra spectacular TV for simply $100 extra on the 65-inch dimension.

Don’t get me fallacious. A number of folks will get this TV dwelling and be simply nice with it. There’s nothing fallacious with that. I simply don’t need of us getting this TV dwelling after which later studying there was one thing rather more nice to have a look at for simply $100 extra. Remorse is an unsightly factor.

Our take

At $600, the TCL 5-Sequence is an effective worth, with good image efficiency and a largely pleasant Roku TV expertise. Its out-of-box image efficiency leaves one thing to be desired, and it may be troublesome to optimize the image settings for all content material. As soon as it’s adjusted, nevertheless, it may provide barely better-than-average image high quality which most viewers will get pleasure from.

Is there a greater different?

Sure. The TCL 6-Sequence (R625) and the Hisense H8G are each higher TVs and price simply barely extra. It’s definitely worth the improve in both case. It’s price mentioning as nicely that the Hisense is an Android TV, so with that choice, you lose Roku.

How lengthy will it final?

To this point, I’ve not had any issues with longevity with regard to TCL TVs. Nonetheless, I solely started testing them 2 years in the past, so it’s laborious to be assured in saying this TV ought to final a very long time from a hardware performance standpoint. By way of options, it’s going to be left behind in a short time.

Guarantee

TCL offers a one-year guarantee protecting elements and labor when the TV is used for non-commercial purchases. You possibly can study extra about TCL’s TV warranties right here.

Do you have to purchase it?

It’s nice to purchase this TV if the worth to dimension ratio is interesting. In any other case, take into account spending somewhat extra money to get much more image high quality.

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