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5 Reasons I Would Avoid a TCL Class S3 LED Smart TV

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5 Reasons I Would Avoid a TCL Class S3 LED Smart TV

Finding a stylish entry-level smart TV is hard. From a visual standpoint, the Class S3 LED smart TV from TCL seems to fit the bill. This is why I briefly considered it as a potential TV for my home office/guest bedroom. However, even if this TV looks great on paper and comes at a price that definitely won’t break the bank, I couldn’t bring myself to buy one. Here are the reasons to avoid a TCL Class S3 LED smart TV, in my opinion, and what you should get instead.

Poor Image Quality

TCL TVs at a retail store
The TCL Class S3 LED Smart TV has a disappointing image quality.

When buying a budget TV, one can’t have high expectations as far as the image quality is concerned. However, while I didn’t expect the TCL Class S3 to be outstanding, this model is more than disappointing. At only 1080p, its resolution is a bit of a letdown — there are similarly priced models out there that feature at least 2K resolution.

However, the low resolution isn’t the main reason why the image quality disappoints. The biggest disadvantage is the inconsistent black and gray uniformity that affects how much detail you can see in shadows. The panel’s brightness isn’t something to write home about either. Watching this TV in bright daylight is a nightmare, so if your room is sunny, you might have to keep the curtains closed to combat daytime glare.

The black and gray lack of uniformity also leads to image distortion. The corners of the screen remain darker than the center of the image, with a further negative impact on your viewing experience. It goes without saying that you can’t expect a wide viewing angle, and in some units, the white balance is also off. Since there is no way to calibrate the color accuracy on this model, there is little to do if you get a faulty unit.

Poor Audio Quality

Soundbar in a modern home. Listening to music and watching movies
You might have to use a soundbar to improve this TV’s audio quality.

The two main features to look for in a TV are decent picture quality and decent sound. Unfortunately, the TCL Class S3 LED smart TV has neither. If the picture quality suffers from a lack of brightness and imbalanced colors, the audio quality is equally disappointing.

While the sound profile is fairly balanced for the price, and the dialogues are clear, the model doesn’t produce any bass. This translates to a low sound quality when watching certain movies or listening to music. The sound experience also lets down while gaming.

A lack of compression also leads to an annoyingly loud sound at max volume. At max volume, the sound distortion also becomes noticeable. Perhaps most people won’t notice it, but if there is an audiophile in the house who might use the TV, you should opt for another model.

Poor Gaming Performance

Young gamer playing video game wearing headphone.
The TV might lag or stutter when playing fast-paced games.

Another reason why I can’t recommend this television is its poor gaming performance. Again, this model looks like a good fit at first glance. It offers a range of options in terms of connectivity, including two HDMI ports, an Ethernet port, and a USB port for seamless connection to your gaming consoles. It also supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth audio.

However, the slow processing speed and frame rate don’t make gaming a pleasure. From lags and stutters to a lack of image quality (that could impact your gaming performance), this TV doesn’t live up to expectations. Sure, casual gamers who like simpler games with little action might not be fully disappointed. But there is no way to play a fast-paced RPG or an action-packed game on this TV.

Disappointing Design

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While the TV stand is wide, it feels rather wobbly.

Design is not the first thing that comes to mind when buying an entry-level TV, but TCL advertises this model as a stylish, bezel-less television. I redesigned my home recently, and I want stylish electronics to go with my interior. The bezel-less claim is one of the main reasons I considered this model — after all, finding a good-looking TV in this price range (with no cheap-looking plasticky parts) is challenging.

Sadly, in real life, the TCL Class S3 LED smart TV looks nothing like its pictures. The ultra-thin bezel TCL brags about is actually a rather thick frame that is clearly visible around the panel. Paired with the dull colors and less-than-stellar audio, the so-so design had its weight in my decision to avoid this model.

I also didn’t like the stand that, despite being almost as wide as the TV, feels rather wobbly. The panel has a VESA mount, though, which is a pro. On an even more positive note, I did like the new remote that includes Google Assistant voice control and quick-access buttons for popular streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, and Prime Video.

Random Issues

Back of television with HDMI cord plugged into port.
Random issues can vary from unresponsive HDMI ports to audio problems and beyond.

Another major downside when it comes to this TV is the amount of random issues that can arise. Folks complained about stuff starting to fail (or not working) straight out of the box. Others liked this TV initially, but it soon ran into trouble.

Some of the most common issues include problems with the HDMI ports and the audio. The ports might stop working randomly, which can be disappointing if you want to use this TV for productivity or gaming. Sometimes, the panel holding all ports may come loose, meaning that all your ports could stop working. The Wi-Fi connection is also sometimes unstable, so you might end up with no internet access.

Another common issue is intermittent audio. In faulty units, the audio could work fine at first but then stop working when you turn on the TV. Getting the sound card to work again might require you to turn the panel on and off several times. However, this can’t be a long-term solution.

Just like the sound card, the internal speakers might fail. This issue is easier to fix with a soundbar or external speakers. However, I don’t see a reason to invest in additional devices when the TV’s audio should work as it’s supposed to.

Now, I’m fully aware this TV is a bargain and that not all units are affected by these issues. Yet, I’m not exactly a risk taker. If you’re anything like me and wonder what TV you could get on a low or moderate budget, check out the alternatives below.

Better Alternatives to the TCL Class S3 LED Smart TV

Smart TV ModelReason
INSIGNIA 43-inch Class F30 Series LED 4K Smart Fire TVA larger size and better overall image quality compared to the TCL Class S3 smart TV.
Samsung 32-Inch Class QLED 4K TVExcellent image quality with brighter and more vivid colors compared to the TCL.
VIZIO 32-inch D-Series HD Smart TVSimilar image quality but is slightly cheaper and has more features.
  1. INSIGNIA 43-inch Class F30 Series LED 4K UHD Smart Fire TV
    • Ultra HD-level picture quality
    • Alexa voice control
    • You have access to thousands of shows with Fire TV
    • DTS Studio sound
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

  2. SAMSUNG 32-Inch Class QLED 4K Q60C Series
    $397.99
    • 4K upscaling and Quantum HDR
    • Dual LED backlights
    • Motion Xcelerator improves smoothness and clarity
    • Object Tracking Sound Lite tracks the movement on screen
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/02/2024 04:45 pm GMT
  3. VIZIO 32 inch D-Series HD 720p Smart TV
    $128.00
    • More affordable option
    • Alexa compatible
    • Crystal-clear 720p resolution
    • Superior picture processing and faster navigation
    Buy on Amazon

    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

    03/02/2024 11:15 am GMT

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the TCL S3 series a good TV?

Not exactly. While the TCL Class S3 is a budget TV, it has a rather poor image and sound quality. It can also run in various random issues, and its processing speed is too slow for gaming. There are better options out there.

Is TCL better than Samsung?

Objectively speaking, Samsung TVs are better than TCL. However, some mid-range TCL televisions can be slightly more versatile than Samsung, as they run on Google or Roku TV and have more connectivity ports. If you want to save some money and don’t mind slightly lower image quality, they could be a great alternative.

Is LG better than TCL?

Yes, similar to Samsung, LG manufactures higher quality televisions than TCL.

Do TCL TV last long?

It depends on the television. Entry-level models might not last more than three to five years. Mid-range models usually have a lifespan of around seven years.

Is TCL a Chinese company?

Yes. TCL, which stands for Telephone Communication Limited, is a partly state-owned Chinese company headquartered in Huizhou, Guangdong Province. 

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