TCL 32SF540K review

Are TCL and Fire TV a match made in heaven? Tested at £149

TCL 32SF540K 32-inch TV on wooden dining table with white chairs in shot
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

It sounds rather feeble, but the 32SF540K’s Fire TV smarts and surprisingly natural pictures make it a steal at the money


  • +

    Excellent value for money

  • +

    Good all-round picture quality

  • +

    Fire OS works well


  • -

    Pretty feeble sound

  • -

    Limited viewing angles

  • -

    Lightweight build quality

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Perhaps because it’s never developed a smart system of its own, TCL has been unusually promiscuous when it comes to the operating systems deployed across its TV range. Roku, Android TV and Google TV have all cropped up on TVs in recent times, and the brand’s established some pretty deep links with TiVo, too. So we probably shouldn’t be surprised to find TCL’s 32SF540K now adding yet another name to the brand’s smart partner list in the shape of Amazon’s Fire TV OS.

Of course, Amazon produces its own 32-inch Fire TV, the 2-Series, which we recently reviewed. Can TCL beat Amazon at its own game? It sure can.


TCL 32SF540K 32-inch TV detail of corner of set

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

TCL TVs these days pretty much always push the value envelope, and the 32SF540K is no exception. At £149 it is comfortably the cheapest of the trio of 32-inch TVs we’ve been looking at recently, undercutting Amazon’s own 32-inch Fire TV 2-Series model by £40 at the time of writing, and costing less than half as much as Sony’s KD-32W800.

Naturally, we’ll have to be on the lookout for feature or performance corner-cutting to explain such a puny price, but it has to be said that incorporating a full – and seemingly slick and stable – version of the Fire TV OS gets it off to a promising start.

Note that if you prefer the Android TV system, TCL also sells a similarly specified 32-inch Android TV model, the 32S5400, for the same £149 price.

While TCL had a 32-inch Fire TV model available in the US last year, it’s currently showing as out of stock. In Australia TCL currently seems to be limiting its presence to its bigger and more premium TV series.


TCL 32SF540K 32-inch TV detail of feet and Fire TV logo

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Aside from the distinctive-to-Fire-TVs short white LED strip hanging from the middle of the TV’s bottom edge and a little white Fire TV logo in its bottom right corner, the TCL 32SF540K looks pretty basic. TCL claims the design is ‘bezel-less’, but while it’s true that the actual outer frame is unusually slim, there’s an inner frame of black behind the screen that still makes the picture look like it’s sitting within a pretty substantial structure. 

A vaguely metallic finish, meanwhile, somehow still manages to end up looking and feeling plasticky, while its glossy black feet are as flimsy as these things get. The screen’s build quality is generally very lightweight, in fact – which we guess is handy, at least, if you want to tuck the 32-inch screen under your arm and move it to another room.

Much of the 32SF540K’s rear is a touch slimmer than that of other typical 32-inch TVs these days, but the speakers built into each bottom corner and a central connections section both add an extra inch or two, which means the TV still protrudes a bit awkwardly if you decide to wall hang it.  

The 32SF540K ships with a typical Fire TV remote that only differs from the one supplied with Amazon’s own 32-inch Fire TV 2 Series model by adding a TCL logo alongside the Fire TV one, and replacing the dedicated Amazon Music button with a generic Apps button.


TCL 32SF540K 32-inch TV on wooden table showing rear connections

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

While the 32SF540K’s single biggest attraction for many punters will likely be its price, it actually has quite a bit else going on inside its unassuming form.

The Fire TV operating system has plenty going for it, for starters. Anyone used to using Prime Video TV apps will instantly feel at home with Fire OS’s layout and general approach to content, and the additional menu options required to offer control over the TV hardware are integrated reasonably clearly. The system has previously proved itself capable of remaining slick and stable even on quite basic TVs, too, and that continues to be the case even on this £150 TCL.

TCL 32SF540K tech specs

TCL 32SF540K 32-inch TV

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Screen size 32 inches

Type LCD (VA)

Backlight Direct LED

Resolution 1920 x 1080

HDR formats HLG, HDR10

Operating system Amazon Fire TV OS

HDMI inputs x 2

Gaming features ALLM


Optical output? Yes

Dimensions (hwd, without stand) 42 x 72 x 7.7cm

Fire TV also has the considerable advantage – unlike Android/Google TV – of carrying all of the major UK-specific catch-up apps. In fact, it provides the Freeview Play umbrella app for bringing the catch-up services of the UK’s major terrestrial broadcasters into one easily browsable place.

Alexa is present and correct too – though as you’d expect with such a cheap TV, this only works via an Alexa button and mic on the remote; there’s no ‘far-field’ mic in the TV to which you might issue commands without needing the remote.

The 32SF540K’s panel, unusually for the 32-inch market, carries a Full HD (1920x1080) pixel count. It uses contrast-rich VA technology rather than the viewing angle-friendly IPS alternative, and it’s lit directly from the back rather than less controllably from its sides. These are all good picture quality signs – unless you or anyone else routinely finds themselves having to watch the screen from a wide angle.

There’s support for the HDR10 and HLG formats from both external sources and integrated apps, as well as playback of DTS Virtual X/DTS-HD and Dolby (though not Atmos) audio.

The 32SF540K’s connections include a couple of what TCL calls HDMI 1.4 ports, but which still support ALLM switching for gamers and HDMI’s eARC system for passing multi-channel sound on to connected and compatible soundbars and AVRs. There’s also an optical digital audio output, a 3.5mm AV input, a headphone jack and a single USB port.

You can enjoy content on the TV wirelessly, too, courtesy of integrated Bluetooth 5.0 and dual-band Wi-Fi 5 support. These wireless options are bolstered by support for both Miracast and AirPlay 2.

Surprisingly for a TCL TV, the 32SF540K isn’t exactly stuffed with picture and sound features. The only thing of note is a (as it turns out, useful) motion processor. 

Apart from the ALLM switching support, the only real gaming feature of note supported by the 60Hz-tops 32SF540K is an impressively low 15.3ms of input lag when the TV is set to its Game preset.


TCL 32SF540K 32-inch TV on wooden dining table showing trees on screen

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The TCL 32SF540K’s pictures aren’t as bright and contrasty as those of the recently reviewed Amazon Fire TV 2 Series 32-inch set, or as richly coloured as those of the Sony 32W800. Crucially, though, unlike those rivals, the 32SF540K manages to avoid any serious flaws, making it in the end a more effective all-round performer. 

When it comes to producing convincing black tones and dark scenes, for instance, while it doesn’t deliver quite such neutral blacks as the Fire TV 2 Series, it mercifully avoids the distracting glowing greyness of the Sony 32W800. 

It also avoids the tendencies of the Amazon set to either run too brightly with dark scenes (bringing out too much background detail and attendant noise) or else crush out too much shadow detail if you try to introduce more light control. Instead the TCL’s shadow detailing is well judged and, crucially, consistent, helping dark scenes look as full of depth as bright ones and contributing to a more immersive viewing experience.

The 32SF540K is more susceptible to losing contrast if watched from an angle than the Amazon Fire TV 2 Series set, so do bear that in mind if you’re buying a TV that will be watched by several people at the same time.

The 32SF540K’s colour tones aren’t as naturally warm and, for want of a better word, cinematic as those the Sony 32W800 is capable of delivering (sometimes to excess). But they’re way warmer, richer and just more natural looking than the oddly jaundiced efforts of the Amazon Fire TV 2 Series. This might be partly down to the TCL not being quite as bright as its Amazon rival (though it is brighter than the Sony), but if a little less brightness is the price we pay for much more consistently authentic and ‘lived in’ colours, especially when it comes to skin tones, so be it.

The TCL 32SF540K’s more considered approach to pictures has other advantages, too. Less detail and subtle shading is clipped out of the brightest highlights of HDR pictures, for instance. Also, while the balance between the lightest and darkest parts of an image might be less extreme than from the Fire TV 2 Series, it looks more natural. There’s little sign of the sort of colour noise and coarseness the Fire TV 2 Series sometimes exhibits, either, or the compressed-looking bright tones the Sony 32W800’s innate dullness can cause.

The 32SF540K’s HD pictures look slightly sharper and more subtly detailed than those of both the Sony 32W800 and Amazon Fire TV 2 Series rivals. Partly because of its more balanced handling of the brightest and darkest parts of the picture, but also, we suspect, because it sports a native Full HD resolution rather than the 720p resolutions of its rivals.

The clarity doesn’t disappear, either, into judder or blur during camera pans or over fast-moving objects. Especially if you call into action the surprisingly sensitive (in that it causes neither excessive soap opera effect nor unwanted side effects) Natural Cinema motion option. 

We should add that by far the crispest pictures from the 32SF540K are obtained from its Standard picture preset. Its Film mode looks much softer. To a fault, in fact. Fortunately the Standard preset is well suited to the sort of relatively ‘casual’ viewing conditions a 32-inch TV is likely to find itself being used in.

The 32SF540K’s pictures aren’t quite five-star wonders, in the end. But they’re much more consistent, considered, balanced and, as a result, easy to just settle into than they’ve any right to be for this price.


TCL 32SF540K 32-inch TV pictured from rear of set on wooden table

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The 32SF540K’s budget nature is more apparent in its sound than its pictures. Its lofty DTS and Dolby audio ambitions are immediately undermined by an at-times pretty painful lack of power and dynamics from its speakers. The big bass drops and soaring synths at the start of the Blade Runner 2049 soundtrack, for instance, cause all sorts of issues, from heavy crackling over the lowest frequencies to more distortions and breakup while presenting the high pings that accompany the appearance of each new section of prologue text better than we’ve ever heard before. 

Treble generally sounds thin and harsh under any sort of pressure, while despite the distress it can cause the speakers, bass that might have deflected attention from the shrill treble is always in very short supply.

Voices sometimes sound rather thin and nasal, too, leaving a decently well-spread and defined stereo soundstage, some strong if treble-biased detail and just about enough breathing room to handle day-to-day TV fodder cleanly as the 32SF540K’s only real audio strengths.


TCL 32SF540K 32-inch TV on wooden table showing Fire TV OS on screen

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Despite its flimsy audio and build quality, the 32SF540K is still overall a strong option by today’s admittedly rather impoverished 32-inch TV standards. Its picture quality isn’t perfect but achieves a thoughtful and easy-to-enjoy balance between all the key picture elements, and its Fire TV OS puts vast quantities of content at your command in a straightforward, stable and, despite how cheap the TV is, slick interface. These strengths are more than enough in themselves to make the 32SF540K’s £149 price look like a steal. 


  • Picture 4
  • Sound 2
  • Features 4


Read our Sony KD-32W800 review

Also consider the Amazon 32-inch Fire TV 2 Series

Read our Toshiba 24WK3C63DB review

Our pick of the best 43-inch, best 42-inch and best 40-inch 'small' TVs

With contributions from