Cash-strapped consumers take note: Chinese HDTV manufacturer TCL has reset the bar for budget-priced HDTVs. We recently reviewed the company’s LE40FHDE3000 model and gave it props for its overall bang for the buck, as the least-expensive 40-inch HDTV we’ve ever tested. If you want a slightly bigger screen, though, TCL’s LEFHDE5300 series is a better choice. This line has 42- and 46-inch versions, and the 46-inch version we tested, the LE46FHDE5300, is notable for its $549 (list) price, especially considering you might be able to find it for much less if you shop around. It’s not without issues, though, color accuracy is a bit off, and the remote was slightly slow to respond in our tests. And like most budget HDTVs, there aren’t many features to be had here. On the plus side, 1080p image detail is sharp and the set doesn’t require a lot of power. If you’re on a strict budget, TCL is worth checking out.
Design and Features
The LE46FHDE5300 may be inexpensive, but it doesn’t look cheap. The 46-inch panel is framed by very thin (0.5-inch) matte black bezels on the top and sides, with a slightly wider (0.8-inch) bezel on the bottom. The only adornments are a shiny TCL logo in the center of the bottom bezel and a silver Power button off to the right.
At first glance the set looks extremely thin, measuring just 0.6 inches at its thinnest point. However, it juts out to 2.2 inches at the bottom where the down-firing speakers are embedded. The 25-pound cabinet is supported by a heavy, rectangular glass base that is sturdy but doesn’t provide any swivel. There are four VESA-compliant mounting holes on the back for hanging the TV on a wall using an optional mounting kit.
The right side of the cabinet is home to three rocker buttons (Channel Up/Down, Volume Up/Down, Menu/Input). Around back, facing left, are two HDMI ports, a USB port, and a headphone jack. Downward-facing ports include composite and component A/V ports, PC audio input, VGA video input, digital audio output, and an antenna/cable jack. As with the TCL LE40FHDE3000, and our budget Editors’ Choice, the RCA LED42C45RQ, this model only has two HDMI ports and lacks any network port, Wi-Fi, or Web apps.
The set uses the same remote that ships with the LE40FHDE3000. It’s 8 inches long, with a glossy black finish and 37 non-backlit buttons. There are no color-coded keys, but it does have playback controls and a dedicated picture preset button. I noticed a lag in response time when using the remote to change picture settings and while navigating through the settings menus, an issue I did not experience with the LE40FHDE3000.
There are six picture presets: Natural, Sports, Cinematic, Vibrant, ECO, and Personal. Basic settings include Brightness, Contrast, and Sharpness. Expert settings allow you to adjust Backlight, Color, Tint, and Color Temperature. The Advanced settings menu offers an SABC (Screen Adaptive Brightness Control) option that, when enabled, changes the brightness level depending on the content being displayed. There’s also a Dynamic Backlight option that changes the backlighting level depending on screen content, and three noise reduction settings.
Using images from the DisplayMate HDTV diagnostic utility, a Klein K10-A Colorimeter, and SpectraCal’s CalMan 5 software, I performed a basic darkroom calibration on the LE46FHDE5300 and then measured luminance levels and color accuracy. The set produced a peak brightness of 255.73 cd/m2 and a black level reading of 0.079 cd/m2. The resulting contrast ratio of 3,237:1 is nothing to write home about, although it is higher than what we got from other low-cost sets including the Insignia NS-42E480A13, the Westinghouse UW40T2BW, and the RCA LED42C45RQ.
Color accuracy is sketchy, as you can see from the CIE chromaticity chart below. The closer the red, green, and blue dots are to their corresponding boxes, the better the color accuracy. (Ideally each dot will be inside the box.) In this case, blues were very close to ideal, but reds and greens land well outside the box. As a result, the LE46FHDE5300’s picture is a little hot, or oversaturated. This was obvious while watching the movie Piranha on Blu-ray; flesh tones looked a bit too red, and Elisabeth Shue’s blond hair had a very slight green cast to it. That said, color accuracy issues are not uncommon with HDTVs in this price range, and are part of the reason you’ll pay a lot more for a same-size set like the Sony Bravia KDL-46HX850, which has extremely accurate colors.
Otherwise, the LE46FHDE5300 offers sharp image detail and moderately good viewing angles. There is some loss of luminance at around 45 degrees off center that gives the picture a slightly washed out look, but colors remain intact.
The LE46FHDE5300 is a relatively energy efficient budget HDTV, requiring 53 watts of power during testing, which is exactly what the much smaller (40-inch) Westinghouse UW40T2BW used, and only slightly more than the same-size Sony KDL-46HX850 (47 watts). The Insignia and RCA models used 64 watts and 67 watts, respectively, and both have smaller screens than the LE46FHDE5300.
If you’re in the market for a simple, inexpensive, larger-than-40-inch HDTV, the TCL FHDE5300 series has you covered. It delivers a bright picture and sharp image detail, has relatively wide viewing angles, and is energy efficient. While its color accuracy is not optimal, it offers a better all-around picture than comparably priced sets like the Insignia NS-42E480A13 and the Westinghouse UW40T2BW. That said, it still can’t match the overall picture quality of our reigning Editors’ Choice for budget HDTVs, the 42-inch RCA LED42C45RQ.
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, USB|
|Diagonal Screen Size||46 inches|
|Pixel Refresh Rate Speed||60Hz|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc