TCL 3-Series (2021) Roku TV Review

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

There are tons of affordable LED TVs out there, but few bring real value like the TCL 3-Series (2021) (available at Amazon for $169.99). For years, TVs in this price range were almost not worth buying thanks to buggy software and messy picture quality. But that’s not the case here: You’re getting a sleek design, reliable picture quality, and one of our favorite smart platforms. The 3-Series isn’t perfect, but for what you’re paying, it’s head-and-shoulders above the usual TV at this price.

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

The TCL 3-Series is head-and-shoulders above the usual TV at this price.

Naturally, there are some concessions to make. The most affordable 3-Series TV offers a decidedly last-gen 720p resolution (though you can upgrade to 1080p for $20 more). On the whole, the TVs in this series offer a display that’s both limited in brightness and fairly reflective, two aspects that might put the 3-Series out of the running for certain rooms. On the other hand, you’ll get solid black levels, staunch color accuracy, and good backlight uniformity—traits we don’t usually see in this price range.

Global Tech News Daily

The 3-Series may not be an ideal living room display for most buyers, but it’s a solid option for a bedroom, child’s room, or kitchen. Just keep the brightness limitations in mind when you’re thinking about where it might live. If $200-$300ish is your price range, the 3-Series should definitely be on your radar.

Editor’s note: This review is of the Roku TV version of the 2021 TCL 3-Series, which we prefer. There’s also a version of the 3-Series that uses Android TV smart software. Apart from the smart interface we expect the performance metrics and features discussed in this review to be applicable to both versions.

About the TCL 3-Series (2021)

Global Tech News Daily

For the last several years, TCL has helpfully released its TVs in numbered series representing their quality and feature set. The 3-Series is the simplest and most affordable. It’s available in three screen sizes (the 32-inch comes in 720p and 1080p resolutions):

  • 32-inch 720p model (TCL 32S335), $199.99
  • 32-inch 1080p model (TCL 32S327), $219.99
  • 40-inch (TCL 40S325), $289.99
  • 43-inch (TCL43S325), $349.99

As you can see, the 3-Series TVs are quite affordable, with none of them demanding more than $350 MSRP even before sales pricing. The two 32-inch models come in HD (720p) and Full HD (1080p) resolutions, but otherwise their specifications are identical:

  • Resolution: 720p (32S335), 1080p (32S327, 40S325, 43S325)
  • LED backlight type: Direct LED
  • Native refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Smart platform: Roku
  • Color depth: 8-bit
  • Other features: Roku mobile app, Dolby Audio, Alexa, Hey Google, Apple AirPlay, Apple HomeKit

As modern TVs go, the 3-Series TVs are the definition of simplicity. You’re getting a range of useful features and (in this case) built-in Roku software. More advanced features like HDR, 4K resolution, or eARC-compatible HDMI inputs are not included.

Our review set is a 32-inch 720p Roku TV model purchased from Amazon. As noted above, there’s also a version of the 3-Series that uses an Android TV smart platform rather than Roku (we prefer the latter), but we expect performance metrics to be identical.

Finally, in the box, you’re getting the TV and stand components, a Roku TV remote control and batteries, and a quick-start guide.

Performance data

Before testing, we allow each TV to run for 12-24 hours (depending upon panel type) to ensure factory calibration has settled properly. To test the TCL 32S335, we measured its contrast and color performance using a Calibrite ColorChecker Display device with DisplayCal 3 software.

For the results below, we measured the 2021 3-Series in its “Movie” picture mode with the backlight set to “Normal,” which TCL recommends for “most viewing environments.” Keep in mind that the color and contrast levels noted below will be different in other picture modes and backlight settings. Because the 2021 3-Series doesn’t support HDR, we’re only reporting SDR results:

  • Contrast (reference brightness/average black level): 123.69 / 0.04 nits
  • Color (sRGB accuracy/coverage): 92% accuracy, 96% volume
  • Average color temperature (CCT): 7362K

We’ll discuss these results (and what they mean for viewing) below.


With the 3-Series TVs, you’re getting the following connectivity options:

  • 3 x HDMI 2.0 (1 ARC)
  • Composite audio/video input
  • Digital optical audio output
  • Headphone jack
  • RF (coaxial) input
  • USB 2.0 with media support (JPEG, PNG, AAC, MP3, FLAC, MP4, MKV, MOV)

With three HDMI inputs, a legacy AV input, and a headphone jack in tow, the 3-Series offers enough options for the average user. However, because it lacks

HDMI 2.1

inputs, it’s not a great choice for newer devices like a PlayStation 5 (no surprise for a TV in this price class).

What we like

Simple, sleek design

The 32-inch, 720p TCL 3-Series is a relatively handsome little fella. Assembly requires screwing two V-shaped feet to the bottom of the panel, set somewhat wide toward the edges of the screen, which keep the TV from wobbling but take up minimal tabletop space. The power cable is not detachable, but runs directly from the rear of the panel.

Like most modern TVs, the bezels that run around the screen are quite narrow, as is the panel when seen in profile. The TV is also wall-mountable, if you’re so inclined.

The included remote is roughly the same type you’d get with a standalone Roku streaming device. It’s small, with minimal buttons (no number pad), volume keys on the side, and hotkeys for Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, and Hulu. It’s easy to hold in one hand and reach all the keys with a thumb, even if your hands are on the smaller side. It doesn’t include the headphone jack found in remotes for top Roku devices so if you want to plug into the TV you’ll need a very long cable.

The HDMI inputs and other connectivity options are lined up vertically along a central protrusion on the back of the panel (they’re on the right when approaching from the front). Finally, the top rear side of the panel is decorated with a row of Roku-style triangles–a nice touch.

Relatively good picture quality

My biggest complaint about the 32S335 is its 720p resolution, and it’s not even a huge complaint. When I first booted it up, I could see pixels in the Roku menu. However, this is only an issue on this particular model: the others in the series all offer 1080p resolution. It’s also less of an issue for things like broadcast TV or streaming content, especially on smaller displays like this one.

If you notice pixels, it’ll likely only be in menus or if you’re playing a video game with a lot of text, and only if you’re sitting within a few feet of the screen. If you’re watching across the room, you’ll likely never notice it at all. That said, the 32-inch 3-Series with 1080p resolution is only about $20 more, so there’s not much reason not to play it safe and get that one.

Otherwise, testing revealed a basic but perfectly serviceable little TV that will span across the series. I was especially impressed with the average black level. It’s dark enough to cater to dimming or shutting off the lights on movie night (at least in the “Movie” picture mode), and thanks to the Direct LED backlight, there’s minimal flashlighting, a common problem on edge-lit TVs where the backlight is visible in shadowy parts of the screen.

Picture quality is at its best in “Movie” mode with the backlight set to “Normal,” but this doesn’t make for a very bright display. If you’re watching in a room with more ambient lighting, you’ll want to ramp up the backlight. It’s also worth noting that to access picture modes, you’ll need to download the Roku mobile app–all you can do using the remote is change the backlight.

The 2021 3-Series does just fine for streaming movies and TV shows, even if you like dimming the lights down.

Testing also revealed good color representation. Though you don’t get jaw-dropping color here, the basic boxes are all checked off. I noticed during testing that the blue primary is a touch on the magenta side while the red primary is a bit orange, but these kinds of small errors are common with factory calibration even on much pricier TVs. The average “flavor” of white/grayscale elements is also a bit on the cool side in “Movie” mode, but it’s still well within tolerances for overt visibility.

What does this all mean for you? As you might expect from a $200-ish TV, the 2021 3-Series does just fine for streaming movies and TV shows, even if you like dimming the lights. But due to its resolution and refresh rate (60Hz), it isn’t a great choice as a computer monitor or as a display for newer gaming consoles.

If you’re just looking for something basic to use for binging TV, though, you’ll be satisfied. I watched a bit of Three Hours to Kill, a western from 1954, and found the 3-Series did a good job with presentation, preserving tricky palettes like skin tones and low-light scenes quite well. However, I really think this TV shines when used for animated content with less filmic darkness and low-level coloration to struggle over.

Easy to stream your favorite content—with a bit of setup

When you first boot up your TCL 3-Series, you’ll be prompted to connect your Roku account so it can install apps you already use (and yes, you’ll have to create an account to use smart features if you don’t have one). It’s easiest to do with a laptop nearby, and if you’re getting it for a child you may want to do this part for them.

If you’ve used Roku before, navigating the Home menu should be a cinch. If not, it’ll still be pretty easy after a few minutes—that’s something we love about Roku. You can expect to find all of the major streaming services here, like Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Disney+, and so on. Roku also has a selection of internet TV channels you can stream for free, with at least three dedicated entirely to Westerns (yeehaw!).

The good news for parents is that there’s even a “Kids and Family” channel full of free (if somewhat older) content that you can start streaming immediately, so if you’re buying this for a little one, it couldn’t be easier to set up and get going. I watched some classic Garfield cartoons while writing this section, in fact.

An almost limitless array of content at your fingertips.

If you think you’ll be streaming content from your phone, you’ll be happy to know that the 2021 3-Series is Apple AirPlay compatible, though that option is buried in the menu and can be a bit tricky to find. However, once you set it up, you can cast to it without prompting or passwords.

There aren’t any more advanced smart features here—don’t expect to be interacting with other Smart Home devices or using a built-in web browser, for example. But when it comes to having an almost limitless array of content at your fingertips, this Roku TV delivers.

Decent sound quality

The 2021 3-Series TV uses dual 5-watt speakers (for a total of 10 watts), which is pretty standard amongst TVs, but they’re loud and clear–good enough to get the job done. If you really want to up your audio game by integrating a soundbar, you’ve got a great option in the form of HDMI ARC, as well as digital optical for older devices.

What we don’t like

A very reflective screen

One pain point here is that, as mentioned early on, the screen is very reflective. Even shaded windows show up almost perfectly reflected in the screen, though the level of distraction will definitely depend on how high you set the TV’s backlight.

There’s not much to do about this one except choose carefully where you place the TV in the room. On the plus side, it’s so light and easy to move around, at least you can keep trying to find the perfect spot without muscle strain.

Not very bright

The TV’s general lack of brightness exacerbates the reflectivity problem. Even on the brightest backlight setting in the “Vivid” picture mode, you won’t get much more than 200 nits. That’s a fairly standard brightness for an entry-level TV, but the Neo QLED Samsung Q90A model I use at home gets almost 10 times that bright. It also costs about five times as much inch-for-inch, but it’s hard not to notice how dim the 3-Series is in comparison.

Not amazing for modern gaming

It’s not just the low resolution that makes the 2021 3-Series a sub-par choice for modern PC or console gamers. Its 60Hz refresh rate is serviceable for a lot of non-competitive titles, plus most games and movies, but you’re going to get some input lag unless you’re in “Game” mode.

During testing, I hooked up my Xbox One S and, using a replica Duke controller, jumped into Aragami 2. According to the Roku app, the TV automatically detected that an Xbox One was connected and switched into Game mode, which is a nice feature on such an affordable TV.

To minimize input lag, I put my Xbox into 720p mode (matching the TV’s native resolution). It didn’t look half bad, but between the average color, low brightness, and my wired controller, I felt like I was playing a game circa 2005. Somewhat charming, but not exactly a riveting experience.

The good news is, apart from some motion trailing, the game felt quite responsive and there was hardly any input lag between pressing a button and seeing a response on screen. But if you’re a big fan of gaming, we recommend spending a little more to get a brighter, more colorful TV.

Should you buy it?

Yes—but consider getting a 1080p model

It’s hard not to shout about this TV’s value. While it’s a bit lackluster as a primary living room display for most folks, it more than gets the job done if you’re looking for something smaller for your kitchen, garage, or kids’ room. I would advise that no matter which size you get, aim for one with 1080p resolution. The 32-inch, 1080p model is only around $20 more than the 720p model after all.

Whichever you grab, the biggest issue you’re likely to run into with the 3-Series TVs is a bit of FOMO. With more and more movies and TV shows offering 4K resolution, HDR enhancements, and so on, the 2021 3-Series isn’t exactly going to keep up with the Joneses. But in terms of plopping it on your kitchen counter and watching YouTube cooking videos (that actually look good) in a matter of minutes, it can’t be beaten.

If you like how this TV sounds by way of design and smart features but think you’ll want to do more serious gaming or movie viewing, you might want to consider spending a little more on the next step up in TCL’s lineup. The 4-Series is brighter, HDR-compatible, and gets you 4K resolution. If a basic but reliable picture is all you need, though, the 3-Series won’t let you down.

News Related


New York Rangers get another comeback win to force Game 7 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

PITTSBURGH — How many times can the New York Rangers dig themselves into a hole and climb back out? At least one more, as of Friday night. The Blueshirts came ... Read more »

Wilson, balanced Aces cruise to 96-73 victory over Dream

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. (AP) — A’ja Wilson scored 15 points, Kelsey Plum had 14 points and 11 assists and the Las Vegas Aces rolled to a 96-73 victory over the ... Read more »

EXPLAINER: Why frustration lingers in Okinawa 50 years later

The Associated PressFILE – U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Anglen of Turner, Ore., center, stands atop a cliff as Sgt. Bryan Wallace of Pikin, Ill., waits for his turn before ... Read more »

Astros beat Nationals 6-1 for 11th straight victory

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered on the first pitch of the game, Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel also went deep and the Houston Astros extended their winning streak to ... Read more »

Kreider scores late, Rangers edge Pens 5-3 to force Game 7

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Chris Kreider’s long slap shot bounced over Louis Domingue and into the net with 1:28 left and the New York Rangers beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on ... Read more »

Astros push winning streak to 11, roll past Nationals 6-1

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jose Altuve homered on the first pitch of the game, and Yordan Alvarez and Yuli Gurriel also went deep to help the Houston Astros extend their winning ... Read more »

Moustakas, Drury power Reds to 8-2 victory over Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Moustakas homered twice and Brandon Drury drove in four runs to break out of a slump and lead the resurgent Cincinnati Reds to an 8-2 victory ... Read more »

Peterson's bases-loaded walk lifts Brewers over Marlins 2-1

MIAMI (AP) — Jace Peterson walked against Anthony Bender with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Miami Marlins 2-1 Friday night. After starters ... Read more »

Padres: No cancer found during manager Bob Melvin's prostate surgery

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres say no cancer was found when manager Bob Melvin had prostate surgery on Wednesday. Melvin, 60, was recovering at home Friday after ... Read more »

Ogunbowale, Gray help Wings rally past Mystics, 94-86

WASHINGTON (AP) — Arike Ogunbowale scored 27 points, Allisha Gray had 21 and the Dallas Wings overcame a 15-point second-quarter deficit to beat the Washington Mystics 94-86 on Friday night. ... Read more »

Resigning North Dakota senator led lawmakers in travel costs

The Associated PressFILE – North Dakota Sen. Ray Holmberg listens during a joint House and Senate Appropriations Committee meeting at the Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., on Jan. 7, 2009. Holmberg, ... Read more »

Residents in picturesque California county hit with gas prices topping $7 a gallon

A California county known for its spectacular mountains and proximity to Yosemite National Park has been paying the nation’s highest gas prices. Read more »

Boudreau to return as coach of Canucks next season

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Bruce Boudreau will return as coach of the Vancouver Canucks next season after helping to turn the struggling NHL club around as a midyear replacement. ... Read more »

New Zealand leader Jacinda Ardern tests positive for COVID

On Location: May 13, 2022 Catch up on the developing stories making headlines.The Associated Press WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has tested positive for COVID-19 ... Read more »

Today in History for May 14th

Highlights of this day in history: Colonists go ashore in Virginia to set up Jamestown; Lewis and Clark begin to explore Louisiana Territory; Israel founded; Skylab launched; Movie producer George ... Read more »

Twitter CEO expects Elon Musk acquisition to close, addresses spending cuts

Musk is awaiting details supporting calculations that spam, fake accounts represent less than 5% of Twitter's users Read more »

Padres: No cancer found during Bob Melvin's prostate surgery

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Padres say no cancer was found when manager Bob Melvin had prostate surgery on Wednesday. Melvin, 60, was recovering at home Friday after ... Read more »

Renovated NYC museum shows indigenous perspectives

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City recently finished a major renovation of its exhibition on the native peoples of the northwest coast of North America. Curators ... Read more »

Police release 911 calls in Gilgo Beach case

A woman who disappeared in a beach community on New York’s Long Island more than a decade ago, sparking an investigation into a possible serial killer, said “there’s somebody after ... Read more »

Academy Awards set 2023 Oscars for March 12

The Associated PressFILE – Oscar statue on the red carpet at the Oscars on Sunday, March 27, 2022, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Next year’s Academy Awards will ... Read more »

Actor Fred Ward, of 'Tremors,' 'The Right Stuff' fame, dies

The Associated PressFILE – Fred Ward, a cast member in “30 Minutes or Less,” poses at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles on Aug. 8, 2011. Ward, a ... Read more »

Judge refuses to drop elections suit against Trump, media

NEW YORK — A Colorado judge on Friday denied motions to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by an election systems worker against former President Donald Trump’s campaign, two of its ... Read more »

Q&A: Becky G unveils every side of herself in latest album

The Associated PressFILE – Becky G appears at the Oscars in Los Angeles on March 27, 2022. Beck G’s latest album is “Esquemas.” (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) NEW YORK ... Read more »

North Korea reports 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19 outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea reports 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19 outbreak. Read more »

North Korea confirms 21 new deaths as it battles COVID-19

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says 21 people died and 174,440 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Friday alone as the country scrambles to slow the spread ... Read more »

White Sox place Giolito on COVID list, activate Vaughn

The Chicago White Sox placed ace Lucas Giolito on the COVID-19 injured list and activated outfielder Andrew Vaughn following a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte on Friday. Giolito began experiencing ... Read more »

Traded back and forth, Ford learns to live out of suitcase

NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Ford has learned to travel light — and quickly. Since the start of the season, the 29-year-old first baseman has played for Tacoma, San Francisco ... Read more »

Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 53 Starlink satellites to low-Earth orbit from California on Friday. (May 13) Read more »

Celtics' Robert Williams remains out for Game 6 vs. Bucks

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Boston forward/center Robert Williams missed his third straight game with an injured left knee as the Celtics tried to keep their season alive Friday night in Game ... Read more »

Padres sign Robinson Canó, plan to use him off the bench

ATLANTA (AP) — The San Diego Padres have signed veteran second baseman Robinson Canó to a major league contract and plan to use him as a left-handed bat off the ... Read more »

WNBA star's Russia detention extended by 1 month

The lawyer for WNBA star Brittney Griner says her pre-trial detention in Russia has been extended by one month. Alexander Boykov told The Associated Press the relatively short extension indicated ... Read more »

Louisiana justices toss COVID-related charges against pastor

Hundreds of thousands of Americans fighting long-haul symptoms from COVID-19 Dr. David Putrino from Mount Sinai Health System and COVID long-hauler Joel Fram discuss the long-term effects of the disease.The ... Read more »

Sandy Hook lawsuits against Alex Jones on track to resume

The Associated PressFILE – This Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, photo shows radio show host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones at Capitol Hill in Washington. The Sandy Hook families’ lawsuits against ... Read more »

Rockies' Bryant closer to return after cortisone shot

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Rockies outfielder Kris Bryant took swings in the cage Friday for the first time since he was sidelined with a sore back nearly three weeks ago ... Read more »

Mariners demote Jarred Kelenic to minors after poor start

NEW YORK (AP) — Rather than make his Citi Field debut against the team that traded him, Jarred Kelenic was demoted to Triple-A Tacoma by the Seattle Mariners on Friday ... Read more »

Biden: ASEAN partnership 'critical' in this moment

Looking to strengthen ties, President Joe Biden welcomes leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to Washington for the first time. “We’re launching a new era in U.S.-ASEAN relations,” ... Read more »

Phil Mickelson will not defend his title at next week's PGA Championship

Phil Mickelson caught lightning in a bottle last year at Kiawah Island, winning a major championship at 50 years of age. The fairways flooded, and the golf world stood and ... Read more »

Tennessee Titans' Malik Willis on Ryan Tannehill's mentorship comments: 'Everything is cool'

The Tennessee Titans didn’t take issue with Ryan Tannehill’s comments about mentoring third-round rookie Malik Willis. Willis and coach Mike Vrabel were asked about Tannehill’s scrutinized remarks following the first ... Read more »

Lawyers plan suit against Lufthansa over Jewish passengers

Lawyers for 26 passengers said Friday they told Lufthansa that they will sue the German airline for refusing to let members of a large group of Orthodox Jewish passengers board ... Read more »

Wild face offseason after yet another early ouster

While the Minnesota Wild were stacking up franchise records and securing the extra home game for the first round, general manager Bill Guerin carefully acknowledged a “great year” for the ... Read more »