The TCL 43S515 has everything you look for in a TV in 2018. It’s 4K along with HDR and Dolby Vision, it has smart TV functionality, and has some decent image quality. Although there are definitely some caveats to the image quality that I’ll get into later on in the review. Best of all, this TV is extremely affordable coming in with an MSRP of $349.99. Not too shabby for a screen size of 43-inches. Other available sizes are 49-inches, 55-inches and 65-inches.
One of the biggest selling points of this TV is that it integrates the Roku platform. This immediately gives users access to hundreds of apps. All of the big hitters are here: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, HBO Go and Now. Even the streaming app from my cable provider is present. The likelihood of an app you want not being available is incredibly small.
The interface is easy to use and doesn’t suffer from any hiccups, making it an enjoyable experience. The only downside is that users will need to get used to ads showing up daily on the home screen. Unfortunately, there is no way to opt out of the ads. Also, be sure to check through the privacy settings and set them how you’d like.
Cookie Cutter Design
TCL hews closely to industry trends when it comes to its designs, and this model is no exception. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing with it having an aesthetically pleasing look. The borders are all thin, with the bottom border being a little bit thicker than the rest. It also has a nice matte finish that limits any reflections.
The only questionable design choice is the stand, which are two feet spread far apart. This limits your placement options. Having a single, centered “foot” offers more flexibility in my opinion. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find a TV that doesn’t use feet that are spread apart these days. Keep in mind that the bigger you go in this model line-up the farther apart they are. The stand on this 43-inch model is 27.5” wide.
Looks Great, But Only at the Sweet Spot
The viewing angles that let the TV shine are extremely limited. Once you get out of the sweet spot the picture quality degrades rapidly. I originally put the TV on my computer desk, which has a height of 30-inches. It looked decent, but the TV displayed some color shifting. I got a new TV specific stand that is 22-inches tall and it made a world of difference. So be prepared to tinker with placement to get the most out of this TV. Color shifting is nearly imperceptible now, with the exception being the edges.
For some reason the edges tend to fade a bit, with the effect being harsher on the right side. I have no idea what causes this, but it only shows up during certain colors and scenes. Most users probably won’t notice it, but it’s worth pointing out. I noticed that the color temperature can drastically reduce the fading, with it being more noticeable when colors are warmer.
Dirty Screen Effect is Limited
One of my biggest concerns in opting for a budget TV is the dirty screen effect, which is something I easily notice. Thankfully, it’s not a big factor with this model. The only time I really notice it is when I’m watching soccer. Although to be fair soccer is just a big patch of green with a camera panning back and forth. It’s a big ask for even the expensive TVs on the market.
Anime looks clean and it doesn’t show up when panning the camera around while playing video games. A big win on this front. Just be aware that screen uniformity can vary widely between TVs from the same model lineup. This is when buying a TV locally is a good idea, as it makes the return process easier. I actually swapped mine once as the first TV wasn’t as uniform as I’d like it to be.
Doesn’t Get Very Bright
Depending on your viewing environment the brightness of this TV might be an issue. If the room its going in is full of windows the reflections will definitely overwhelm the screen. It will work best if you can control the amount of light in your viewing environment. This lack of brightness also limits how impactful HDR and Dolby Vision can be. This is what really separates this TV from the more expensive sets.
Sound is What You’d Expect
The sound coming from the 43S515 isn’t so great. This isn’t a surprise because you can’t really fit impressive speakers in such a thin frame. It can get loud enough, but everything sounds like it’s coming from a tin can. A soundbar will go a long way in this case. A good option is the Vizio SB3621n-E8, which I reviewed earlier this year.
Best with Games
Out of any content you can throw at this TV games are what make it look its best. Colors are vibrant, and the image is sharp and clean. Best of all the input lag is minimal, with an available Game Mode that lowers it even further. I put it through its paces with Call of Duty and never felt any noticeable lag between my actions and what happened on screen.
The TCL 43S515 delivers a lot of features and a decent picture at a reasonable price. It’s definitely nice to see considering its size, since most manufacturers tend to keep the good stuff at bigger sizes. This is an even more attractive TV for gamers looking to dip their toes into 4K gaming without spending too much.
Sharing my Settings
Here are the settings I’m using with this television. I’m not a professional calibrator with the hardware necessary to dial it in perfectly. This is just how I feel the TV looks best to my eyes in my viewing environment. Feel free to try these out on your set and tweak them however you see fit.
TV Brightness: Normal
Picture Mode: Movie
Picture Size: Auto
Audio Effect: Normal
Advanced Picture Settings
Micro Contrast: Off
Dynamic Contrast: Off
Color Temperature: Warm
Game Mode: Off (Turn On for lower input lag)
Expert Picture Settings (only available in Roku app)
Noise Reduction: Off