TCL Roku TV review

All the apps you need in an extremely affordable 40-inch television

TCL Roku TV review
Great Value

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I've had a few people recently ask me for a good, affordable TV selection and I recommended this one while I was busy testing it. One person wanted a holdover TV to replace a broken set before ponying up for a 4K TV.

There are a lot of similar reasons to buy into this set. If you don't need the best from Sony, Samsung and LG, want a second television or are on a strict entertainment budget, this HDTV saves you money on both the display and Roku 3 set-top box.

We liked

Roku does app streaming interfaces right and TCL has the first Roku television. The 1,000+ channels are right there on the home screen and so are the various HDMI modes - there's no need to press the TV/Video button seven times in order to cycle through.

This eliminates the bygone "gray snow screen" that your parents only seem to turn to when the volume is set to 11. Like the gradual sleep timer feature, it makes for a more pleasant, less jarring viewing experience for TCL TV goers.

The flat-screen design and bottom glass base make the TCL Roku TV look and feel premium, too. That's great for its incredible attractive 1080p starting price of $329.

We disliked

Picture quality is simply above average. This is due to poor black levels and the backlight bleeding of the edge-lit 40-inch version that we tested. It casts light unevenly and is going to disappoint videophiles looking for the best from within the budget category.

Also what you won't get here is the Roku streaming experience on your first 4K UHDTV and even a curved TV at that. Those are going to be the hot topic at CES 2015 in a little more than a month, and TCL itself boasts inexpensive UHDTVs and curved sets.

Final verdict

The TCL Roku TV is exactly what we want from a multimedia perspective. Its app-filled menus are easy to navigate thanks to the Chinese company's decision to offload the software to the software experts at Roku. Makes sense, right? We really cringe whenever we see manufacturers try to do it on their own and it turns out to be a buggy and painfully slow mess.

The apps here are plentiful, while the remote's buttons are thankfully not. TV manufacturers tend to go overboard when a TV is meant to be a relaxing experience. The price gives us peace of mind as well. It's not the best budget TV out there, but it's the best for its price.

Also consider

TCL won't be the only Chinese TV manufacturer with a Roku TV. Hisense is also making a 40-inch class 40H4C set available at Best Buy. It's a 1080p LED competitor for $350, though the refresh rate is limited to 60Hz.

Also in its price range is the popular Vizio E-Series, which has a comparable 40-inch LED 1080p television for $380. It's 120Hz and a full-array LED, but lacks the Roku interface.

Matt Swider