Conventionally, 4K TVs retail at a high price with some going for a whopping $100 per square inch or even more. But ever since TCL joined the TV market, buyers can now acquire 4K, smart TV at a more budget-friendly price while still enjoying the features you would normally get from a hefty piece – and of course, having a couple of extras too. Despite TCL being a Chinese company, its TV is one of the fastest-growing brands in North America in terms of the number of people buying and using them. In fact, a couple of its TV products have emerged as bestselling on Amazon.
Looking at the TCL 43S425 model, the first thing you will know is that it is a 43 inch TV. This model belongs to the TCL 4-series which is the class where the company started to produce 4K TVs. This means that the TCL 4-series has the cheapest 4K options compared to the more recent 5-series, 6-series, and 8-series. And among the TCL 4-series, 43S425 is the most affordable. The 43 inch TCL 4-series might be affordable and feature-rich but as usual, there have to be a couple of things on the negative in order to compensate for such a low price. That being said, expect to come across a few downsides as we move on with the review. Let’s get into it.
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As I said earlier in the intro, the 43S425 is actually the most affordable 4K TCL TV. So how much does this model go for? Looking at the official TCL site, this product goes for $279.88 where else on Amazon it retails at a welcoming price of $229.99. If you ask me, any mortal with the right mind would go for the latter. The models belonging to the TCL 3-series might be cheaper but they are not 4K. That is the reason why it is not in this review. The most you can get out of a TCL 3-series in terms of resolution is just 1080p.
The price for the 65 inch TCL 6-series (65S525) on Amazon is $599.97 which is actually double that of the 43S425. The price figures for the TCL 43S425 may sound too good and can raise the thought that you are not going to get much from it at the end. Well, this is not the case. If we compare with the predecessor class which is the TCL 3-series, models from this class are cheaper but have done quite well while at the same time receiving lots of positive feedback from users. If the TCL 3-series has a good reputation despite its price, then the TCL 43S425 is better. Currently, the concept of 4K at such a low price is not something you stumble upon every time.
Frame, Design, and Inputs
Looking at the overall design, truth be told, the TCL 43S425 is not as sleek and stylish as the other successor models. The outer casing is black and made of plastic. This model comes with two stands which you will require to mount after unboxing the package. The dimensions without the stand are 38.2” x 22.4” x 3.0”. 3.0 inches is the maximum thickness when you view the TV from the side which is quite wide. Another thing to note is that the top half of the back bezel does bulge considerably rather than being flat. You will expect to find the same design even for the other models in the same class with just some minor differences.
We all agree that design-wise, this model would not stand up against the more pricey models in class 5, 6, and 8 which feature a slim frame with some having a gunmetal casing rather than a plastic one. As for the input/ output ports, they are located on the left side with the exception of the power cable which is located on the right side. If you can overlook the design flaw for this TV, this is a good choice considering it is affordable.
This model comes fitted with an AV port for receiving audio/ visual input from devices that can produce AV signals. This can come in handy when you have a separate set-top box that uses AV cables. If you have no idea what AV input is, it typically consists of three ports with three colors – yellow, white and red. The corresponding plugs match the same color. Although this TV has only one port for this, therefore, you will expect to find a splitter cable that will come along with the package. Just like the one below:
The TCL 43S425 comes with three HDMI 2.0 ports but the VGA port has not been included. One of the HDMI is ARC enabled. ARC came with the 1.4 HDMI standard and allows for a two-way route between connected devices. Of course these devices have to be ARC enabled. You’ll find this standard on most smart TVs and soundbars. ARC enabled devices can be connected to the TV without requiring extra cables for audio. This significantly reduces cable clutter in your set up. The TV also comes with one USB port, 1 audio output for a headphone jack, 1 SPDIF port, 1 RF input, and 1 Ethernet port.
The first thing to mention about the display is that TCL 43S425 comes with the HDR10 standard which is a predecessor to the HDR10 plus. HDR10 may not be the latest standard but you will rarely find that in your average TV models. Actually, the previous class which is the TCL 3-series does not include HDR10 and the picture quality is still outstanding. If you are not conversant with the term HDR, it simply stands for High Dynamic Range. HDR is represented in a ratio which is the difference between the areas with the lowest light and areas with the highest light. This technique aims to bring more depth and detail to a picture so as to make it more realistic and vivid. HDR10 coupled with 4K brings a whole new experience in home entertainment.
As for the brightness, it is quite dim even with Dynamic contrast enabled. In fact, the brightness for the TCL 43S425 is about half that of the TCL 6-series. With such brightness levels, it means that the viewing experience in brightly lit environments will be terrible. If you go for this TV, you will have to put up with the fact that your viewing environment will most of the time have to be dark. The TCL 43S425 is equipped with LEDs for backlight although they don’t do that much of a great job. Basically, this model lacks the CCZ technology that comes with the TCL 6-series. This technology allows individual control of LED dimming zones which results in more vibrant colors and brightness.
The refresh rate for the TCL 43S425 is 120 hertz. This means that pictures on the viewing panel are updated 120 times per second which is actually not bad since the TCL 6-series have the same refresh rate. The screen can display up to 1.07 billion colors. This is not comparable with QLED and NBP photon but it’s not that bad.
The design of the remote control is quite solid and simple but at the same time having all the requirements that you would expect from a conventional remote control. It is quite small as well at roughly the size of your hand or less. The remote control does not have many buttons but surprisingly it has everything you need in order to interact with the built-in Roku interface as well as other interface functionalities. This is just an all in one simple and easy to use remote. In situations where you have a standalone Roku box, you would have two remote controls.
Another cool design feature about this remote that you will only find in the TCL series is the buttons placed on the side. The buttons on the side are like the way you would have them on your mobile phone. Two of the buttons allow you to adjust the volume and the other one allows you to mute. The overall shape and size of this remote are meant to enhance feel and grip while you are operating it. This is for the fact that it is rounded at the back and fits well on your hands. You’ll also note that the buttons are a bit pronounced in terms of size which is quite unique. The only thing that is a miss in this remote is the voice control feature which you will find in the 6 and 8 series.
Apart from the gaming console, the TCL 43S425 gives users a number of options to stay up close and having access to the best in home entertainment. With such options, there is no chance of getting bored. Here is what you get:
This TCL model comes coupled with Roku TV out of the box which provides non-stop quality streaming content. Well, all the other TCL models come with Roku but not all smart TVs do. With your average TV, you would otherwise need to buy a standalone Roku box or the Roku streaming stick. As for the TCL 43S425, all you need is your Roku account in order to access Roku’s huge library of streaming content. This means there is no hardware set up, no jumbled up cables, this definitely makes for a neat entertainment set up. There are no monthly fees for the Roku platform. You will only need to pay for popular services that are showcased on Roku. Some of the big names that you are to find include Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Although you will still find services that you can stream for free like Pluto TV, Crackle and Roku channel just to mention a few. They may be free but they actually provide quality content.
Since you will be streaming, Roku will require an internet connection. The TCL 43S425 comes with a LAN port suited for exactly that. In case you don’t have an Ethernet cable, you can connect wirelessly using its dual-band Wi-Fi technology.
In case you opt for a separate standalone set-top box or you had one before the upgrade, it can still be connected to this TV. In some circumstances, the set-top box may appear cheaper rather than subscribing to internet streaming services. All you need to do is to plug the splitter cable to the AV input then connect the colored cables to the corresponding port. In case you have a coaxial cable TV, you will have to plug it in the RF input.
The antenna option is an excellent way of watching free over the air shows and TV channels. You will basically need to connect an external antenna to the RF input then perform a scan in order to save channels that are available for free. This also gives you the option to set up Live TV Pause which is a feature that allows you to pause live footage. Although a USB stick with a minimum of 16GB storage will be required. What better way to enjoy free TV channels.
Feature comparison with successor series
- TCL 43S425: HDR10
- 5-series: HDR10, Dolby Vision & HLG
- 6-series: HDR10, Dolby Vision & HLG
- 8-series: HDR10, Dolby Vision & HLG
- TCL 43S425: Standard LED
- 5-series: Standard LED with Dynamic contrast
- 6-series: Standard LED with Contrast Control Zones (CCZ)
- 8-series: Mini-LEDs with Quantum Contrast
- TCL 43S425: Dolby Digital
- 5-series: Dolby Digital
- 6-series: Dolby Digital/ Dolby Atmos
- 8-series: Dolby Digital/ Dolby Atmos
- TCL 43S425: 4K UHD
- 5-series: 4K UHD
- 6-series: 4K UHD
- 8-series: 4K UHD
- TCL 43S425: plastic gloss black
- 5-series: plastic gloss black
- 6-series: Gunmetal
- 8-series: Gunmetal
The TCL 43S425 might not be the best 4K TV out there or it might not match against its counterparts in class 5 or higher but it is definitely the best budget 4K TVs right now, hands down. Whatever you are getting out of this TV outweighs the little flaws it has. Apart from the brightness and design, everything else about this TV is spot on – at such a price. Furthermore, you are getting exciting features at a very affordable rate therefor you would expect something to be amiss. Well, this TCL model may lack killer features found in the more exorbitant siblings but for what it’s worth, it is an excellent TV. For that reason, I give the TCL 43S425 a rating of 8 and I highly recommend it.