The reputation for TCL’s Roku TVs is, for the most part, one of the best regarded in the budget market, and the TCL 4 Series is the cheapest 4K TV from the range. The 55in version that we’re reviewing here, the TCL 55S425, comes in at $300, and smaller versions can be bought for even less.
'Cheap' and 'good value' are not the same thing, but this TV is both. You of course get the Roku smart TV experience, for starters, but the TV also boasts a broadly good picture and speedy response times for gamers. Some compromises have had to be made, of course, but they're largely acceptable given the price and don't prevent this being one of the best cheap 4K TVs you can buy right now.
At this sort of price, you can’t really expect much by way of creative flair when it comes to a TV’s design. The TCL 55S425 is basic – from the plain black bezels around the display to the simple plastic feet that make up its stand.
That said, the back panel does have a bit of flourish to it, with a row of tessellated triangles and a number of ridges underneath that look a little out of place compared with its plain Jane approach elsewhere. It’s here, on the back that you’ll find the fittings for a 200 x 200mm VESA mount. At over 3in deep, it isn’t the slimmest set for wall mounting, though.
The TCL 55S425 offers three HDMI ports, one with ARC, for hooking up your home cinema kit, as well as a single USB 2.0, an RF connector for an antenna, a composite video input, an optical digital output and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There’s also an ethernet port for hardwiring the TV to your router, as well as 802.11ac wi-fi.
Whichever way you get this TV online, you’ll be able to benefit from one of the best smart TV systems on the market, from Roku. We’ve long praised its easy-to-use tiled interface and extensive app selection, and it's no different here.
It comes with a pretty basic Roku remote control, a small pill-shaped controller that features a plus-shaped directional pad and a handful of navigation controls. There are also controls for media playback, side-mounted volume buttons and buttons for one-touch access to DirecTV Now, Hulu, Netflix and Sling TV.
Voice control is supported but you’ll need to use the Roku app for that, since there’s no microphone built into the remote. You can also pair Amazon Echo and Google Home devices with the TV, to expand your voice control options.
For your $300, the picture you can get from the TCL 55S425 is decent, if basic and understandably limited in some areas.
It’s a 4K display with full 3840x2160 resolution, of course, and it also offers direct backlighting and HDR10 support. The picture is sharp and, for casual, uncritical viewing, will do the job.
Color accuracy is a bit off in areas, with orange hues often coming skewing a little more towards pink than we’d like, but it’s not bad for the money and overall fares better than other budget sets in this area, such as the LG UM7300PUA and Vizio V-Series V505-G9.
Due to a lack of local dimming and limited dynamism, the 4-Series’ HDR performance isn’t much to write home about. HDR content loses the impact that you’ll see on better sets and black levels are also affected by the more basic backlighting included here.
This means dark and shadowy scenes lose their depth and inky blacks are more of a dull gray. It's not unexpected at this price, though. If you want better, you're going to need to spend more.
There are also some issues with motion handling, and unwanted judder often creeps into scenes. Switching on motion smoothing goes some way towards solving this but it doesn’t fix it entirely, so it’s another thing to factor into your purchase decision – as it will be with most TVs at this price.
When it comes to gaming, this 55S425 is a good option at the price, with an exceptionally fast response time of 14ms. There's no automatic detection of a games console and game mode is annoyingly buried deep in the menus, but these aren't huge issues.
Unfortunately, one area that the 55S425 is really lacking is audio. There’s only a pair of 8-watt speakers doing the work here, which means the overall volume provided by the TV is pretty weak.
Bass is nearly non-existent. Movie scenes that should have thump and rumble sound weightless and insubstantial, and music with any form of bassline becomes lost.
You should definitely cast your eye over our pick of the best soundbars if you’re thinking about buying this set.
The TCL 4 Series Roku TV 55S425 is a cheap 4K TV that offers good value for its small price, but of course there are some drawbacks to be aware of. The lack of local dimming means that HDR content won't look terribly dynamic, and the motion handling has noticeable flaws that will show up in any fast-paced action movies.
But buyers at this end of the market can't be overly picky, and options are relatively limited for those looking for a 55-inch 4K TV under $300, so to find one that supports HDR (however limited), has decent colour handling, a sharp picture and a substantial smart platform – well, it’s kind of hard to knock.
The TCL 4 Series is also a good choice for gamers, who may not care as much about format support and will appreciate the speedy responsiveness of the set.
Home cinema aficionados will need to budget more but, for its very low price, the TCL 4 Series 55S425 Roku TV is a strong option.
Read our Vizio V-Series V505-G9 review