TCL demoed its price-slashed 48-inch television to us behind closed doors at its iconic Chinese Theater in Hollywood on the same night the venue premiered the hack-and-slash movie sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire. Both the new 1080p TV set and the film deliver fairly predictable performances, but ones that undercut plenty of rivals.
The tactical advantage to the TCL 48FS4690 is that it costs just $450, a price that's cheaper than any LED-LCD TV we could find with similar specs and build quality in the same size class. The 48-inch Insignia NS-48D510NA15 comes close to matching that price point, but it includes one less HDMI port and has a more plastic design.
The 48FS4690 features 120Hz CMI with a true 60Hz refresh rate and direct-lit LED technology with overall better uniformity than popular edge-lit sets. Of course, a direct-light panel means the dimensions are a little thicker than simple edge-lit TVs that offer those unbelieveable ultra-thin edges. The TCL's HDTV is just "regular thin" with a still-frontroom-worthy depth of 3 inches.
At its foot is a sturdy glass base that's 7.7 inches from back to front. This holds up the budget-priced 1080p picture that is 31 lbs with the stand attached. Anyone who plans to hang it without the stand needs to account for a weight of 26.5 lbs and a VESA compatible mount.
At 48-inches diagonally, the screen and bezel measure 42.8 inches x 24.8 inches. From top to bottom, it's 26.5 inches, just in case you need to fit it into a cabinet.
1080p without the extras
The TCL 48FS4690 is able to keep the price under $10 per inch by cutting out all of the extras. There's no local dimming to this direct-lit panel as expected, it comes with a no-frills remote and there are zero apps included. That's being saved for the impressive TCL Roku TV later this fall.
This isn't your next app-integrated smart TV out of the box, but it is "Roku Ready" around back. The rear of the 48FS4690 has three HDMI ports, and HDMI 2 is outlined in familiar Roku purple to indicate that it's MHL-compatible. It only requires the older Roku Streaming Stick to order to gain thousands of apps. The new Roku Streaming Stick and even cheaper Google Chromecast work it any of the three HDMI ports, but require power from a USB port.
Along with the three HDMI ports that line the back right side of this HDTV are one USB port, a coaxial connection and an SPDIF input. Directly in the back and a little harder to reach are combined composite and component ports. These shared connections demonstrate the increasing obsoleteness of these analog hookups on cheaper sets.
The TCL 48FS4690 is initially going to be a Sam's Club-exclusive, meaning you have to be a card-holding member of the Walmart-owned retail warehouse in order to take advantage of its tempting $450 price. An extra perk is that it comes with a two-year warranty for all members.
Availability of this 48-inch LED-LCD should increase this spring, as TCL plans to expand its 2014 lineup with additional models that have screens ranging from 23 inches to 55 inches.
The TCL 48FS4690 certainly isn't the 4K future that early adopters are focused on, but it's also not anywhere from double to ten times the price of an Ultra HD television. It's a standard 1080p set that boasts a direct-lit picture without the ultrathin bragging rights of an edge-lit HDTV. That's okay for a lot of people who still prefer direct-lit LED technology for its uniformness that keeps the backlight consistent all the way to the center of the screen.
Equally as important as the clean, direct-lit picture is the price. The 48FS4690 is less than $10 per inch, which makes up for its unapologetic lack of apps. Its $450 price means you'll have enough money left over for an inexpensive app-filled streaming stick if not an Xbox One or PS4.