TCL L40FHDF12TA review: TCL L40FHDF12TA

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MSRP: $799.99
2.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The TCL L40FHDF12TA is one of the cheapest 40-inch televisions we've ever seen and delivers a better performance than the price might suggest. Picture processing is one of its strongest points and it's possible to get something that looks impressive at first glance.

The Bad The "pop" you see is a result of highly crushed blacks, which means no shadow detail. The set's poor black levels and inaccurate colors make it difficult to get a decent picture. Calibrating the TV is impossible due to the poor gamma levels and lack of fine control. The set displays some flashlighting in the corners.

The Bottom Line The TCL L40FHDF12TA is a cheap television that provides a usable picture, but that's about it.

5.8 Overall
  • Design 5.0
  • Features 5.0
  • Performance 5.0
  • Value 7.0

Though it's a mouthful to say, the TCL L40FHDF12TA enjoys a reputation among Internet shoppers--namely on Amazon.com, where it's been one of the best-selling TVs so far this year--as an inexpensive television that provides a "cheap and cheerful" picture.

After testing, we can confirm that the TV does perform better than you'd expect for the money, but that's not saying much. It has a deceptively "dark" picture that is actually the result of some artificial tampering to make the black levels look better than they actually are. In essence, you'll never be able to get any usable shadow detail out of this TV, and colors, though initially exciting, are unnatural.

But we've tested plenty of TVs that perform worse than this model over the years, and they were much more expensive than this one. We'd never recommend this as your primary TV, but it could be decent for use in a bedroom or a guest house.

Design
Back in 2005, Sony's newly introduced Bravia range sported a two-tone design that then became popular among TV manufacturers until it was eclipsed by piano black. TCL gives a nod to designs of yore with the black bezel and a silver strip on its L40FHDF12TA, but Sony did it better seven years ago. The TCL comes with a glass stand but unfortunately it doesn't swivel.


The TCL 40-incher isn't much to look at, in more ways than one.

The remote control looks a little more up-to-date, with a piano-black casing and friendly-looking buttons. While they are thankfully few in number, we still found the remote difficult to use in a darkened room as the numbered buttons and the menu button are the same shape and close to each other.

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight No
Screen finish Matte Remote Standard
Smart TV No Internet connection No
3D technology No 3D glasses included N/A
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA-compliant No USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: None

Features
Features? You're not going to get them. The TCL is more bare-bones than a Halloween decoration. There's no 3D this or Smart that; this is an old-school TV with a fluorescent backlight--not one of them fancy LEDs you might have heard of. The only modern concessions are the three HDMI ports and the addition of a USB port for displaying photos and playing MP3s.

Most of its competitors exist in the $600 range--the original price of this unit--and in that range you can expect more connectivity and even better performance. But TCL does provide full-HD (1080p) resolution, which is still uncommon in really cheap TVs, and an onboard digital tuner. While it doesn't come with any smoothing , 120Hz or so on, we've always been disappointed in budget implementations anyway, so that feature isn't missed.


The settings menu is as basic as the rest of the set.

Picture settings
If you want to buy a television you can tweak, the TCL is not for you. It provides the bare minimum of controls with only Color Temperature and Tint as standouts. A lack of Gamma control really hurts this TV, as it's impossible to get any usable shadow detail out of the set without destroying the "pop" the manufacturers were going for.

Performance
Interestingly, the TCL is exactly one-tenth of the price of the Sony KDL-V40XBR1, which debuted in 2005, and though we don't have the Sony to compare it with, we think that it's possible the two might exhibit similar picture quality.

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