It doesn’t seem like that long ago a 32-inch TV was considered a pretty big panel, but setting up the TCL 32S335 makes us feel as though we’re looking at an oversized tablet. If you’re looking for something small for a bedroom or perhaps even to fit out a motorhome or camper, then this budget Roku TV-powered TCL may be just the size and price you need.
You won’t find much smaller or cheaper from a recognized manufacturer and, in TCL, you’re getting a TV from a maker that’s on the up. This US-only model is at the bottom of a three-strong range from the world’s third-largest television manufacturer by market share.
The software comes in partnership with Roku, whose operating system provides the platform for all the settings and controls as well the apps and service, while the hardware is TCL. This rock-bottom price only gets you 720p resolution, but that could be all you need.
It’s not often we look at a TV quite so small or light as the TCL 32S335, which comes in at just 74cm wide and weighing just 3.7kg. You won’t struggle to lift it up with one hand, nor mount it anywhere you choose.
Inputs 3x HDMI, (1x ARC), USB 2.0
Outputs Optical, headphones
Audio output 2x 5W
Dimensions (hwd) 48 x 74 x 18cm (with stand)
It’s fairly basic in design, but that’s acceptable at this price. It has a bezel that runs at about 1cm around three sides and nearer to 2cm along the bottom of the frame. The housing of the processing circuitry and the speakers on the rear add much of the bulk to the 7cm depth of the set, with the two arched feet adding another 11cm to that.
Connectivity-wise, there are three HDMI sockets (including one with ARC), optical and headphones audio-out, and a USB input too. There’s no ethernet port but the dual-band wi-fi will do the job. Bluetooth is not supported but Apple AirPlay is, so you can stream content on this TV using any iOS devices you might already own.
There are two choices of control; either use the Roku app, or the small physical remote with shortcuts for Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ and Sling as well as navigational and volume controls. The latter is usually the better choice, though when you want to search or input words, it can be a bit slow and sticky. The keyboard on the app version is far better.
This is, of course, a Roku TV and that means great apps and superb usability. The UI will be familiar to anyone who’s ever used the Roku platform. There is a customisable homepage with tiles for your HDMI sources, live TV and any of the thousands of apps ('Roku channels') you’ve downloaded.
You’ll find all the big services, including local channels, with no major absentees – another reason this platform is so popular. As well as those featured on the remote, you also get the likes of Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, ESPN, HBO Max, Paramount Plus and more. Roku provides twice-yearly OS updates to ensure its service selection is as up-to-date as possible.
The only issue is the dispute with Google over YouTube TV access. However, at the time of writing, Roku users can still watch the YouTube TV streams through the standard YouTube app.
If all that content feels a little daunting, the Roku universal search section is one of the best around. Pop in the name of a show, actor or film and it will tell you how many series are available, the streaming services it’s on, at what resolution and how much it costs. We’re also fond of the My Feed section, which keeps tabs on the content you’re interested in and makes suggestions of movies and TV shows to watch next as well as what’s coming out soon.
Aside from the soft remote functionality, the Roku mobile and tablet app works well as a way to search and install apps and to stream media from your mobile or tablet too.
With most content at SD, Full HD or 4K, the TCL 32S335 spends a fair amount of its time scaling source material to match its 720p native panel. However, watching A Quiet Place on Blu-ray, we’re certainly pleased with how it copes.
Picture settings are fairly limited with TCL and the Roku OS. There are no processing modes and the most important changes are to set the color temperature at either Normal or Cool and put the screen brightness setting to Bright rather than the maximum Brighter.
Despite this TV’s obvious constraints, it does a decent job of bringing the opening scene of this film to life. The backlight is surprisingly even and the depth of the black production itself isn’t bad either. We can make out plenty of dark detail in the foreground shadows of the deserted convenience store with only the edges disappearing into total darkness. At the same time, the light pouring in through the shop windows is well balanced in contrast and we are able to make out the characters’ clothing and expressions as they search for supplies.
Heading out into the broad daylight of the empty streets, the 32S335 teases out a decent picture, with a healthy amount of color in the foliage, the painted houses, the costumes and the blue skies. We bring the color settings down and lower the contrast and backlight to keep the picture looking natural but, once calibrated, there’s little not to like here.
We turn to Spider-man: Homecoming (4K Blu-ray) for something more action-packed. In terms of color and contrast, the TCL exhibits the same good work as Peter Parker’s red, blue and yellow outfit in the Deep Storage Vault is vibrant and the greys of the concrete and containers behind him show some degree of texture.
However, the more frantic rescue at the Washington Monument is a good indicator of the limitations of a TV at this price. A budget LCD panel such as this doesn’t cope well with movement. Camera pans are quite juddery and there’s smearing that is particularly noticeable in close-ups of faces, where the TV struggles to keep up with the demands of scaling a moving image.
The same problem is obvious when upscaling SD material, but thankfully the issues of judder are much reduced at lower resolution as we watch Road To Perdition on DVD. Understandably, detail is thin on the ground and it can get a little pixelated in the shadows.
Apart from these budget TV issues, the picture remains well balanced for light and is ultimately watchable. Once we’re comfortable with this TV’s limitations, it’s easy to involve ourselves in the drama of the film.
The audio features of this TCL TV are a simplified affair. There is a 2x 5W sound system with the speakers on the rear of the unit firing backwards. Naturally, there is no fancy 3D audio support here, although the TV will pass-through a Dolby Digital Plus signal from your source to a compatible soundbar with multi-channel audio.
There are a few different sound profiles to choose from in the menus. Music playback is improved by using the Music profile but, otherwise, we stick with the default ‘Normal’ option.
This balanced EQ position makes the most of a compromised audio set-up. While we aren’t blown away by a sense of dynamism or clarity, it’s impressive how effective it is across the whole tonal range. We never struggle to hear what anyone’s saying nor do we feel that any music or action is seriously devoid of impact.
The fact that the volume settings run from 0-100 is a little ambitious. There’s not much change in loudness once you get beyond 45. Still, there’s just enough sense of danger in the score of A Quiet Place each time the post-apocalyptic family is threatened with attack. As the children run through the cornfields, we get a sense of them brushing past the plants, even if it’s a long way from hearing anything like individual leaves flapping by.
The rattling shots of the tommy gun carry menace in Road To Perdition. The music on the wireless has a proper sense of atmosphere as Daniel Craig’s character lounges back in his quarters. This TV’s sound is rough, with little spread about the room. However, at this price, we really can’t complain too much.
You can’t expect miracles from a TV at this price, but this TCL isn’t half bad. While there are a lot of cheap TV pitfalls, TCL has done well to avoid most of them. The backlighting is even, the picture is balanced and the sound is clear enough.
In absolute terms, the picture is a little on the side of over-contrast. Subtlety is almost absent when producing complex features such as skin tones and fabrics, but then this low price simply doesn’t afford the kind of panel tech that brings a sophisticated range of shades.
Our only reservations when recommending this TV are that the motion handling is a little off-putting and, although cheap and small, it would be nice to have a Full HD panel instead, particularly when a little more would buy you a 1080p set and some picture improvements too. Nonetheless, we can’t imagine finding much better performance for a TV at this size and this price.
- Picture 4
- Sound 4
- Features 5
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