TCL, which stands for The Creative Life, if you’re interested, is the fourth largest manufacturer of HDTVs in the world. Following LG, Samsung, and Sony, TCL isn’t very well known in the U.S. yet. With more than 25 HDTV models available online through Best Buy, Amazon.com, and Walmart, and in brick-and-mortar retail chains like Sam’s Club and BJ’s, the Chinese-based electronics giant is looking to capture a piece of the American HDTV market and has opened a regional headquarters in Corona, California to support its campaign. We got our hands on an extremely inexpensive 40-inch LED backlit HDTV in the company’s LEFHDE3000 line, which is short on features but big on value. The LE40FHDE3000 ($359 list) delivers good image detail and a bright picture, and it’s the least expensive 40-inch HDTV to hit our Lab. Features are few and far between, and the panel suffers from a slight tinting issue, but this set is a still a very good deal if you’re on a strict budget.
Editor’s Note: This review is based on tests performed on the TCL LE40FHDE3000, the 40-inch model of the series. Besides the screen size difference, the $339.99 39-inch LE39FHDE3000 is identical in features, and while we didn’t perform lab tests on this specific model, we expect similar performance.
Design and Features
The LE40FHDE3000 doesn’t look much different from the other sub-$500 HDTVs we’ve tested recently, which include the Editors’ Choice RCA LED42C45RQ, the Insignia NS-42E480A13, and the Westinghouse UW40T2BW. It’s a nice-looking set with thin 0.8-inch black top and side bezels, and a wider 1.5-inch bottom bezel. Measuring 3 inches deep, the cabinet isn’t quite as thick as the RCA model (3.6 inches), but it’s bulkier than the Insignia and Westinghouse sets, both of which are 2.3 inches thick.
The LE40FHDE3000 comes with a matte black rectangular stand that doesn’t swivel, and you can hang the cabinet on a wall using the four VESA mounting holes and an optional mounting kit. All of the set’s ports are at the rear of the cabinet facing right for convenient access. As with the RCA and Westinghouse models you only get two HDMI ports. You also get one USB port, a headphone jack, VGA (video) and PC audio inputs, a digital audio output, component and composite A/V inputs, and a coaxial antenna/cable jack. The LE40FHDE3000 lacks networking components and doesn’t offer any Web or streaming services, but neither do the other under-$500 HDTVs we’ve tested. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find those features on a set in this price range.
The right side of the cabinet is also home to the Volume, Channel, Input, Menu, and Power buttons. These controls, with the exception of the Power button, are also used to navigate the on-screen settings menus. You can also use the included remote, an 8-inch wand with a glossy black finish and 37 well-spaced buttons. You get the usual number pad, four-way arrow keys, and player controls along with a dedicated picture preset button. None of the remote buttons are backlit.
Basic settings include six picture presets (Natural, Sports, Personal, Energy Star, Vibrant, and Cinematic) and Brightness, Contrast, and Sharpness adjustments. Backlight, Color, Tint, and Color Temperature settings can be found in the Expert menu, while the Advanced menu provides Noise Reduction, Dynamic Contrast, Scene Adaptive Brightness, and Ambient Light Sensor controls. When the light sensor is enabled, the backlighting level changes according to the current lighting environment.
After performing a basic darkroom calibration, the TCL LE40FHDE3000 delivered a peak brightness reading of 289.27 cd/m2 and a black level reading of 0.06 cd/m2, as measured by our Klein K10-A Colorimeter and using DisplayMate’s HDTV diagnostic software and SpectraCal’s CalMAN 5 calibration software. The resulting contrast ratio (CR) of 4,821:1 isn’t exceptionally high, but it is the highest among the sub-$500 HDTVs we tested.
During testing, picture quality was sharp with fairly good shadow detail, but I noticed traces of red tinting, particularly in skin tones. While watching 2012 on Blu-ray, both John Cusack’s and Amanda Peet’s skin had a pinkish cast, but the tinting wasn’t as noticeable as what we saw with the Westinghouse UW40T2BW. The panel’s color accuracy is a little off, but not terrible. Reds are pretty close to where they need to be, as you can see on the CIE color chart below, but blues were a bit heavy, while greens miss the mark completely.
The 60Hz panel had a little trouble with motion. There were signs of lag while watching a Knicks basketball game, but it was only noticeable when the action was very fast, and you had to be looking for it. The Insignia NS-42E480A13′s 120Hz panel, on the other hand, had no problem with the same content. Viewing angle performance is decent but not stellar; colors are not as brilliant when viewed from the side, but the picture remains fairly bright.
The LE40FHDE3000 consumed 50 watts of power during testing, which is average for an LED backlit HDTV of this size. In comparison, the 40-inch Westinghouse UW40T2BW used 53 watts, the 42-inch RCA LED42C45RQ 67 watts, and the Insignia NS42E480A13 64 watts.
The TCL LE40FHDE3000 won’t bowl you over with its feature set or image quality, but its $360 price tag is sure to appeal to the budget-conscious. Granted, it has some trouble with red tinting and its color accuracy is a bit off, but it delivers a sharp picture in 1080p and is relatively bright. If you can spend another $90, the RCA LED42C45RQ offers better overall picture quality and a bigger (42-inch) screen, which is why it remains our Editors’ Choice for sub-$500 HDTVs.
More HDTV Reviews:
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, USB|
|Diagonal Screen Size||39 inches|
|Pixel Refresh Rate Speed||60Hz|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc