The TCL 50S425 is an affordable 50-inch 4K Roku TV that offers good value and capability for its small price, but our recommendation does come with a few caveats.
We check hundreds of products every day for the best prices TCL’s Roku TVs are, with only a few exceptions, best known for delivering best quality TVs at extremely affordable prices. Our review unit, the TCL 50S425 is a 55-inch Roku TV that TCL makes, and in smaller sizes, it sells for prices more affordable than many bargain 4K smart TVs.
But there’s a lot more to the TCL 4-Series, from the excellent Roku Smart TV experience to speedy response times, that will be a sure hit with gamers. Sure, it has a few rough edges, like flawed motion handling and mediocre HDR performance, but on the whole, it’s a great 4K TV that can be had at a low price.
As modern TV designs go, the TCL 50S425 is very basic, with minimalist black bezels surrounding the display, a pair of simple plastic feet for the stand and a matte-black panel across the rear of the chassis. The black back panel is accented with a row of tessellated triangles along the top and a stripe of ridges right above the component box that makes up the lower half of the TV chassis. Ideally, this are purely aesthetic embellishments, with no functional purpose.
Measuring 49 x 28.4 x 3.1 inches without the stand, the TCL 4-Series is small enough that one person can assemble and move the set, but the 26.7-pound weight is still large enough that a second person is recommended. Its 3.1-inch-thick design can be hung on the wall with a 200 x 200 millimeter VESA mount, but it will stick out a few inches from the wall.
Ports & Inputs
Port and input selection come in way of three HDMI ports, including HDMI ARC for connecting a soundbar without having to run additional audio cables. You also have an ethernet jack for wired internet connectivity, while 802.11ac Wi-Fi is available for wireless connections.
There’s a single USB 2.0 port for viewing digital media files or powering a streaming stick, while an RF connector lets you hook up an HDTV antenna for over-the-air broadcasts. Additional ports include a composite video input, optical digital output for surround and a 3.5-millimeter jack for headphones or a stereo patch cable.
Roku TV & Remote
The included Roku TV remote is a standard, infrared-only model. You should not confuse it with the high-end microphone-equipped Enhanced Roku TV remote that allow you to use Roku’s voice search features. This one is a small plastic wand with curved ends and a distinct direction pad. The Roku app for Android and iOS lets you use voice search if you wish, though Roku’s functions are still limited compared to Amazon Alexa that’s found on amazon Fire TV, Google Assistant on Android TV devices, and Siri on the Apple TV.
With the Roku TV platform, the TCL 50S425 can access a wide range of streaming services. The major players here include Amazon Prime Video, DirecTV Now, Google Play Movies & TV, Hulu, Netflix, Vue, Sling, Vudu and YouTube. As expected, Apple is missing in the list and Google Music isn’t also available, but you still have Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, and many other streaming services.
Many other satellite providers have Roku apps that allow you access to their VOD libraries and even TV directly via the TV, without necessarily connecting a set-top box. In case you don’t want to subscribe to any service, the Roku Channel features its own library of free movies and TV shows.
The TCL 50S425 boasts a 4K display, firing full 3840 x 2160 resolution, with direct backlighting and HDR (high dynamic range) support. The result is relatively goo (if basic) viewing experience, and better viewing experience than you might expect at this price range.
The TCL 4K Roku TV registers 97.4% of the Rec. 709 color gamut, which is better than the Vizio V505-G9 (96.65%), but not as wide as the 98.3% we saw on the Samsung 40-inch NU7100. However, while we prefer to see 4K TV a measure somewhere near the 100% mark, the TCL is within the range we expect for a lower-cost model.
The TCL 50S425 doesn’t stand out when it comes to brightness, even in Bright (HDR) mode with the backlight turned up; it maxes out at 244.05cd/m2, which is half the 488. 01cd/m2 peak brightness on the 6-series. Again, it lacks local dimming that’s available on the 6-series, and its Dynamic Contrast settings can only brighten or dim the entire screen simultaneously.
When watching BBC’s Planet Earth II, the scenes look great though you can easily notice the TV’s dimmer screen and smaller color range as compared to the 6-Series or more expensive sets like LG’S OLED55C9PUA or Samsung’s QN55Q70RAFXZA. Still, the trees and blue-greens on the “Islands” episode look clear and natural, though fine textures like fur and bark are crisp when well-lit. That said, shadows become a bit blurry and the fairly dim screen doesn’t look quite as lifelike as they do on brighter panels.
Unlike other sets, the TCL 4 Series TV doesn’t offer any sort of automatic switching to game mode or detection of a game console, such as an Xbox One X. When you switch to game mode, it is a bit intuitive, since the mode is not offered in the regular selection of picture modes, and does require navigating into a separate menu of advanced picture settings to activate.
The 50S425 supports 4K gaming, and you can stream content with 10-bit color support at 24Hz. However, this panel does not support additional frame rates for streamed content, nor does it support HDR modes for either gaming or streaming. That’s fine is HDR content isn’t at the top of your list, but it doesn’t mean that games will appear less impressive than on other 4K sets.
And, while this TV doesn’t offer HDR support when gaming, it does deliver great response times, an indispensable feature in fast-paced games. If there’s an area where this set is lacking, it must be audio. With a pair of 8-watt speakers delivering the audio juice, the overall volume is underwhelming and relatively weak, and isn’t well suited to rooms that have a lot of ambient noise.
Input lag is the amount of time it takes for a display to update after receiving a signal, and this is one of the few areas in which the 50S425 puts forward a modest score. The HDTV showed an input lag of 32.4 milliseconds, which is better than most budget sets we’ve reviewed.
If you enable Game Mode, the input lag improves at a slight cost of picture quality, dropping to an excellent 15.3 ms. For watching HD movies and videos, this is about the best 4K performance you can get on a budget TV.
The TCL 50S425 is an affordable 50-inch 4K Roku TV that offers good value and capability for its small price, but our recommendation does come with a few caveats. For instance, the lack of local dimming means that HDR content won’t look as dynamic on this TV, and its motion handling has a few noticeable flaws. This won’t be a problem during slow paced drams, but you’ll certainly notice it on action films and other kinetic content that will look less impressive on this set than on competing 4K sets.
But those competitors all cost more, some almost double, and for most shoppers, the defining feature of a TV isn’t the HDR format it supports or the precision of the backlight; it all gets down to price. With the 50-inch’s current price, it’s hard to find a 4K set in this price range at all, and the TCL 50S425 delivers great resolution, decent color quality and, sure, it supports HDR – albeit, only the basic HDR format.
The TCL 50S425 is also a great choice for gamers, who are not pretty much after format support and will surely appreciate the set’s speedy responsiveness.
As a value-focused Roku TV, the TCL 50S425 offers some of the best value we’ve seen on a cheap 4K TV. It is our newest budget-favorite 4K Roku TV, and is a great bargain for anyone shopping on a budget.