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While it may be the biggest TV brand in China, TCL is still not very well-known in America. Here it's one of those cheap LCD brands that fill the last few pages of the Best Buy catalogs along with the Haiers and Westinghouses.
CNET USA's first encounter with TCL -- my review of the L40FHDF12TA -- didn't go so well. The cheap, bare-bones 40-inch LCD was a poor performer, so my expectations were low for the newer-model L40FHDP60. Despite being another cheap, bare-bones 40-inch LCD from TCL, it turned out much better than its predecessor, and competes well against TVs available at twice the price or more.
The L40FHDP60 is able to rustle up a relatively deep black and with it communicate a sense of depth that's missing on some other cheap LCDs. Shadow detail isn't the greatest, with some crushing, but it's much improved compared with the older TCL model we saw, while colors are mostly good. Sure, there are plenty of better TVs out there, but none as big or cheap as this TCL. If you only have around $300 to spend on a TV, the 40-inch L40FHDP60 is a great choice.
Put the TCL L40FHDP60 right next to the earlier TCL L40FHDF12TA, and the most obvious difference is the bezel. While both TVs are structurally the same from the front, with the IR sensor in exactly the same spot, the new TV features a brushed-plastic bezel that looks classier than the two-tone black and silver of its compatriot.
Despite being a little bit taller than the L40FHDF12TA, the newer TV is a little bit slimmer. While a thinner profile is aesthetically more pleasing it probably isn't much of a practical consideration, as most people buying this model wouldn't be wall-mounting it. Finally, the TV culminates at its base in a tempered glass stand that carries over from the previous model, but still looks quite classy.
The remote control is piano-black, which makes it smudge easily, but it's quite easy to use, with big buttons.
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||No|
|Smart TV||No||Internet connection||No|
|3D technology||No||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate(s)||60Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||No|
As a bargain-basement TV, the TCL L40FHDP60 doesn't have many features. It's not LED-backlit, although that really doesn't matter much, especially at this price. LED doesn't mean a better picture, and we've seen several examples of TVs with CCFL backlights that can beat the newer LED TVs for picture quality -- the Samsung LND630 and Toshiba 32C120U come to mind.
Otherwise, the L40FHDP60 offers a full-HD resolution (1080p) -- not always a given at the low end -- and decent connectivity. It has a media player for pictures and MP3s via USB, though the interface is fairly rudimentary and ugly.
Picture settings: The TV comes with the bare minimum of settings, and it forces you to use Personal mode if you try to adjust anything. The main settings of Brightness, Contrast, and so on are all there, but nothing more advanced beyond color temperature presets, which is understandable at this price.
TCL does offer a couple of Eco modes, including the SABC (Scene Adaptive Brightness Control), which is an auto brightness/contrast sensor. If you're looking to change aspect ratios, hit the Zoom button: you'll need to choose "No overscan" for correct 1080p display.
Connectivity: The TV offers two HDMI ports, and one each of component, AV, PC and USB.
While the earlier -- and even more daftly named -- L40FHDF12TA set expectations low, the L40FHDP60 surprised me by making up for most of that model's shortcomings. The most important change was in black levels: the L40FHDP60 has some of the best black levels available under $500, and certainly there's almost no competition at its current price of $300.
I also criticized the L40FHDF12TA for its fairly shabby shadow detail, but the P60 is quite a bit better in this area too; the crushing is still there, particularly in midtones, but it's definitely not as bad as on the older model. Color saturation is mostly good, though color accuracy is a sorer point. Due to inaccurate grayscale the entire image looks too blue next to many TVs.
The TV is a good all-rounder on the other fronts, putting on a good performance in a lit room, and with decent off-axis viewing. In darker scenes, really the only problem with the picture is poor uniformity.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.
|Samsung LN46D630||46-inch LCD|
|Panasonic TC-P50U50||50-inch plasma|
|Samsung UN32EH4000||32-inch LCD|
|Samsung PN51E450||51-inch plasma|
|Sony KDL-46EX640||46-inch LCD|
|TCL L40FHDF12TA||40-inch LCD|
|Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference)||65-inch plasma|
Black level: Having not been enamored of the TCL L40FHDF12TA, I wasn't optimistic about its replacement, but to my surprise the new model is better in almost every way, and especially in blacks. Dark areas of the picture are noticeably deeper, and shadow detail is much more clearly defined.
During the punishing "Creation" sequence in "The Tree of Life," one scene shows an asteroid in silhouette hurtling away from the camera, blocking out the stars. In my comparison, only on the TCL, the Samsung D630, and the Panasonic U50 could you tell that it was a shadow of a 3D object. From night skies to gloomy dungeons, the TCL had an impressive grip on darkness that more expensive competitors like the Sony EX640 don't have.
The TCL L40FHDP60 still wasn't as successful as the better sets in my lineup at conveying three-dimensionality and realism. Faces could look a bit crushed and didn't "pop" as much, for example. Compared with the older TCL, however, which conveyed no depth whatsoever, the new model was plenty better.
Color accuracy: Though according to the charts the L40FHDP60's color accuracy is way off, in program material this was harder to see. The TV did exhibit a much bluer response in our grayscale readings, which was more noticeable than inaccurate magentas and cyans. Blues were a bit colder than on the other TVs, and this also extended to skin tones. Greens are also quite blue and this was quite apparent in the foliage in "Tree of Life."
The two TCLs were very similar in the color department, but the L40FHDP60's greater black depth lent images more consequence. Color saturation was also better on the newer model, with bolder colors, especially during the stark Creation sequence in "The Tree of Life."
Only later in the movie, once all of the galaxies have exploded and the mammals start emerging, did the blue tint emerge once again. Despite this I consciously thought to myself: "I would happily watch 'The Tree of Life' on this TV."
Video processing: Like its forebear, the TCL L40FHDP60 excels at video processing. It aced both of the image quality tests, and this despite not specifying whether or not it has 24p support -- presumably passing the test indicates that it does. The TV was also able to replay the 1080i test scene without judder or moire, and the 24p playback of "I Am Legend" was similarly smooth.
Uniformity: In addition to color, uniformity is the TCL's second Achilles' heel. I saw significant backlight clouding. During dark scenes there were two large splodges on the left side of the screen and they could become very distracting and even obscure details. The other TV in the lineup with a similar problem was the Sony EX640, though its clouds were less central and more dispersed.
Bright lighting: The TCL L40FHDP60 has a matte screen, which helps LCD TVs thrive in a lit room. Lack of reflectivity helped keep the images clean, and the screen preserved black levels well enough.
|Geek box: Test||Result||Score|
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0089||Good|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.277/0.2655||Poor|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3092/0.3092||Poor|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3001/0.3029||Poor|
|Before avg. color temp.||11269.954||Poor|
|After avg. color temp.||7720.0021||Poor|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||5.7334||Poor|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||7.8041||Poor|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||9.8187||Poor|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.1916/0.2209||Poor|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3836/0.184||Poor|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4048/0.5058||Average|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||330||Poor|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||330||Poor|