TCL 50FS3800 Review

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TCL offers a nice-looking 50-inch display at a low price. It runs Roku's smart TV interface, the simplest, most user-friendly way to manage streaming video and audio. The S3800 series also has better-than-average shadow detail.

TCL is one among several budget TV makers that have adopted the Roku TV platform, a powerful software interface that provides easy use and management of smart TV functions. That, plus the low price and good performance of the 50-inch TCL 50FS3800 (starting at $420, Amazon), make it one of the leading contenders among cheap TVs.

Reviewers universally admire the Roku interface regardless which brand of TV uses it. A TCL S3800 series review on CNET declares that Roku TVs are best for streaming video and managing apps. The interface was smooth and fast in CNET's testing and the menus were easy to navigate. However, S3800 TVs don't have a lot of picture controls, and the controls that do exist are buried in the advanced settings menu. The overall picture quality on the budget TCL TVs is better than average, though, with accurate, saturated colors, as well as respectable contrast and black levels, the reviewer says.

A PCMag analyst who tested the 40-inch model in the series found the colors a bit undersaturated. The contrast and shadow detail were very good, however, and the color accuracy was "impressive" right out of the box. The reviewer notes the simplified Roku remote control that comes with the TV. It has few buttons, and no number buttons to select specific channels, but it still works well.

The TCL S3800 series comprises 50-inch, 40-inch, and 32-inch sizes. These are full-array 1080p LED TVs. Although the specs for the larger models list a 120 Hz refresh rate, the CNET reviewer asserts that they are 60 Hz panels employing technology intended to smooth motion. The TCL 50FS3800 has three HDMI ports, a headphone jack, and a USB port. This Wi-Fi-connected smart TV also supports video casting from a smartphone.

The TCL S3800 series is one of the best deals in budget TVs. The Roku interface makes streaming video a breeze and offers a ton of apps and online channels. The picture quality is better than most budget models'. Add a surprisingly low price for the 50-inch TCL 50FS3800, and you have an excellent deal.

Michael Sweet

Michael Sweet writes about consumer electronics. If something runs on electricity or ones and zeroes, he's interested in it. Sweet has written about PC technology and consumer electronics for 14 years.

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