TCL 55S517 Review Roku TV 2018 Review
Also 49S517, 65S517, 43S517
4K ROKU TV, SMART TV, 120HZ
by Robert Wiley, Senior Editor
First a note about TCL, a manufacturer that few are familiar with in North America. This is a huge company with a $4B panel manufacturing facility in China. They also have a research facility in Silicon Valley and claim to be the third largest manufacturer of TVs in the world. The S517 Model from TCL is still super cost effective but adds 4K resolution and HDR capability to the models below it. There are lots of reasons to purchase this TV, the best of which is still price and the Roku OS.
- Roku Smart TV options
- Roku Smart TV Interface operation
- Black level and contrast are stronger than expected
- Bump up to 4K and HDR for future proofing
- Great Coloration with HDR content support of HDR10 and Dolby Vision
- Low input lag
- Glare/Reflection from the TV screen
- Remote is limited with no numbers for DirecTV or Cable
- Lack of Depth from semi gloss screen finish/Flat Picture
- Limited picture setting adjustments
- Limited Brightness
- Screen Uniformity (may see brighter and darker areas)
- Side Angle Viewing
- 3 HDMI inputs and 1 USB
- 60Hz native panel (120hz CMI – manipulated)
Picture Quality Rating: 80/100
I can’t honestly say that the picture quality on the 4K UHD version of the TCL Roku TV looks appreciably better than the 1080p versions prior. Black levels and contrast however, surprised to the upside. While there is noticeable screen glare or reflection at times due to the panel not being extremely bright and also due to the TCL panel not having the highest end light absorption features, overall we were pleased with the performance. From side angles contrast and color saturation degrade worse than the average LED backlit LCD TV, but less than expected. This begins at around 15 degrees off-center. Motion blur is rarely visible, though judder (side to side jerky motion especially present when a camera pans slowly) is present due to the fact that there is limited refresh rate smoothing features present in the TV. Even though TCL may state that the TV is enhanced to 120Hz, it's actually a 60Hz native panel.
The backlight is of the edge lit variety and not the more expensive full array backlighting. This is evinced by screen uniformity that is weak especially in gray scale (mid tone colors). This means that you may see some clouding along the edges or corners when displaying a black or very dark screen. From our experience with LCD TVs, it may becomes more pronounced over time. With a gray or medium color screen you may see some darker shadows in various areas of the screen. When viewing our stock Fifth Element BluRay we noted some inaccuracy in colors with a red push causing flesh tones to look flushed. Greens are also difficult for the TV to produce accurately. On the positive side, I was impressed with the brightness produced.
All of that said, the picture is just a good bit better than acceptably decent is the best way I can put it. It's certainly not bad and is bit better than we expected. You aren't spending a lot to get a superior panel or color performance on this TV. That's not its strong suit. For the price, the picture is actually very good. And the rating no the picture performance would be higher were it not for such outstanding TVs on the high end.
Upscaling to 4K is performed by the Creative Pro upscaling engine and does a nice job with most content even standard def. It's not the most crisp picture of all the 4K TVs out there, but it does a reasonably good job especially for the price.
Lastly, though there is HDR compatibility and the TV has a fairly wide color gamut, HDR playback is not its strong suit, but it's good to have it.
This shot shows just a bit of screen reflection
The picture settings menu is very simple with not many options for fine tuning color. There are 5 preset picture modes. Preset Picture Mode Options include Sports, Normal, Vivid, Low Power, and Movie. The Movie mode is the most natural and accurate with color temp set to Warm.
You will want to immediately change the TV Brightness setting to Normal to Dark depending on the room light conditions.
It's also important to note that the Picture Size settings for Aspect Ratio are located in the Advanced Picture Settings Menu. Options are Normal, Auto, Direct, Stretch and Zoom. We found ourselves using the Zoom option several times to fill the screen.
- TV Brightness: Darker
- Picture Mode: Movie
- Backlight: 85
- Brightness: 54
- Contrast: 93
- Sharpness: 5
- Color: 52
- Tint: 0
- Color Temp: Warm
- Picture Size: Auto
Features Rating: 83/100
Gaming Picture Note: For Gaming set TV Brightness to Brighter, set to Game Mode On, and dial back the backlight, brightness and contrast and set color temp to Normal or Cool. Input lag is average at around 18ms, this level should make the S517 perfectly fine to use for gaming for all but the very pickiest gamers.
Smart TV Features
Roku is an excellent Smart TV platform, by most accounts the best in the market. I've used them for years and am on my second Roku (3) box, so their platform contained in a TV is always welcome. When you stop to think about it a second, the Roku 3 or Roku Premier Box would cost you $75, and you get the same performance with this TV, so it's a great savings to have such a usable streaming system – a great option for cord cutters, especially with the new Sling TV option.
After initial setup, the home screen appears with the big App boxes, with the easy and spectacular search function, the Channel store and the Settings.
The selection of Roku Apps is the best in the market with around 1800. Many are useless, but all the best Apps are included like: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant, HBO Go, Vudu, Crackle, M-Go, Redbox Instant, TWC. Notably, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, Rdio, and NFL Now are absent from most other TV manufacturers Smart TV suites.
Roku's search function is also the best of any Smart TV. One advantage here is that you can compare prices of movies and shows before deciding which to purchase from. At times, a show or movie may be free by one provider such as Amazon Instant with a Prime membership, and costly on another such as Hulu.
The TCL Roku Remote is really a Roku manufactured remote. Roku is good at operation, and I like the speed with which the small simple remote controls everything. We were pleased to find the headphone jack on the Roku remote. The audio/volume buttons are located on the right side of the remote. It's easy to accidentally press the mute button. The picture and other menu settings are accessed from the asterisk wheel button. Conveniently, there are buttons for Netflix, Amazon instant, Mgo, and rdio on the remote face. There are free Apps for iOS and Android smart phones that even contain a voice controlled search. I did not try the voice search nor the smart phone App. But just know that it's an option. I like the simple Roku remote.
WiFi Built In
Lastly, the dual band wifi did a very nice job receiving the signal even from 40 feet.
Audio quality is generally poor with thin and tinny being two unwelcome traits, while there is little bass from the 8W speakers.
The included stand is almost 12” in depth and you will need a wide table to support the stand feet – not my favorite stand design. The depth of the TV is a standard at 3 inches and it's really not a bad looking TV. Thin bezel frame and black all the way around.
Value Rating: 94/100
- Resolution – 4K UHD
- Native Refresh Rate: 60Hz
- Web Browser
- Roku TV
- Wifi Built In
- Game Mode: Yes
- Inputs: 3 HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 (one with HDMI ARC)
- 1 USB
- Speakers: 8W X 2
- 49" x 30.1" x 8.3" D with stand, 49" x 28.3" x 3" without stand
|Having reviewed and written about Television Technology for over 10 years, Wiley never tires of researching the newest qualitative trends related to the technology. Most people do not get excited about possibilities behind the latest video engine...Wiley does. Read more about Robert