So you want a stupidly large television? Do you want to pay a pittance for it? Who doesn't? TCL has returned in 2013 with a very big TV that offers decent-but-no-better image quality. The design of this TV is the biggest change over last year's model, with its thin bezel providing a very attractive look for a budget television.
The visuals haven't changed much, though. Color is a little improved albeit still not great, but loss of shadow detail is a worse problem in anything but very dark scenes. But if you don't think on it too hard, what you get is a very punchy image. Decent sound quality is also an unexpected bonus.
At this price you can get a better TV, namely the 50-inch Panasonic S60 plasma, but it's nowhere near as impressive in size. To get a comparable size from a "name" brand you're going to need to pay many hundreds of dollars more, so the TCL offers very good value on this metric alone.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 58-inch LE58FHDE3010. This review does not apply to the 50-inch LE50FHDE3010 because that TV uses an edge-lit LED backlight rather than the 58-incher's direct LED backlight.
The look of the new TCL is reminiscent of the E-series from Vizio, with a very slim bezel surrounding the screen. It's quite an attractive look, especially when compared with the 1-inch-thick bezel of last year's TCL TVs. However, the direct LED backlight means that the TV is a lot chunkier when seen from the side than edge-lit LED LCD televisions.
The TV is attached to a black stand with a glass-topped base. Unfortunately this display doesn't swivel, but that's hardly to be expected for the money.
The remote control is the same model we've seen from the company twice before; it's a chubby black wand with a friendly look and a decently ergonomic feel.
While on the topic of friendly looks, the TV has updated its menu system to include simple pictographs of inputs and settings. It's reasonably easy to navigate and use.
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Full-array|
|Screen finish||Glossy, matte||Remote||Standard|
|Smart TV||No||Internet connection||No|
|3D technology||None||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||No|
While this television is the "top" of TCL's line -- aside from the 110-inch 4K China Star -- the LE58FHDE3010 is pretty light on features. There's no Internet connectivity, so no Smart TV or DLNA networking. But there are a few concessions to modernity with the inclusion of an MHL port and a USB port for pictures and music playback. The MHL port will come in especially handy if you have a Roku Streaming Stick as it will instantly upgrade the TCL to a Smart TV. We plugged in the Stick and found it easy to navigate the Roku menus with the TCL remote, though the slightly spongy buttons did make text entry a little laborious.
The panel itself is a 120Hz LCD with direct LED backlighting. Unlike some so-called 120Hz LCDs, from Vizio and Toshiba for example, this one does offer the smoothing Soap Opera Effect and improved motion resolution.
Picture settings: From a basic television you need to expect a basic set of controls, but the TCL takes it to the extreme. For example -- and this is pretty weird -- unlike every other TV on the market there is no "color" setting. Miraculously, its color turned out to be OK, but this is still unusual.
Advanced controls are nonexistent, and you can only really choose between a handful of modes and adjust brightness and contrast. Like many televisions in this price range though, the TCL jumps right to Personal when you make any adjustments. The smoothing mode is called MEMC (motion estimation motion compensation), and it has just a simple on/off toggle.
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.
Connectivity: The E3010 offers up three HDMI ports with MHL compatibility, in addition to component, composite, VGA, and a digital optical output. There is also the aforementioned USB port.
While the first TCL we reviewed, the L40FHDF12TA, was pretty terrible, the company has evolved to "not awful" in terms of picture quality, and this was evident on the subsequent TCL L40FHDP60. Though the cosmetics have changed on this latest model, its performance hasn't changed much. We should applaud the company's consistency in the face of a much slimmer design and be thankful performance didn't regress -- as we saw on a few other LED LCDs last year.
Black levels are similar in measurement to the L40FHDP60's (which is good), but shadow detail is crushed in the same way as well (which is bad). Color is below par but not terrible, but there is one area where the TV falls down. In my many years of reviewing TVs, the TCL had the worst jaggies of any TV I've ever seen when replaying interlaced content. The company had to save money somewhere, and you could argue it looks like the scaler is where that happened.
|Panasonic TC-P50S60||50-inch plasma|
|Vizio E500i-A1||50-inch edge-lit LED TV|
|Toshiba 50L2300U||50-inch edge-lit LED|
|Samsung 46EH6000||46-inch edge-lit LED|
|Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference)||65-inch plasma|
Black level: Black-level performance is an important part of a television's makeup, and I am mixed in my praise for what TCL can do for the money. While the black levels are fairly deep, you could argue it appears to have been "faked" to some extent with some crushing, which is loss of shadow detail. This crushing appears on mixed-contrast scenes that have a combination of dark and light areas. In predominately dark scenes, it does very well.
At the 46:21 mark of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" you see Hogwarts set against the valley beyond. On the TCL you could make out the curve of the river behind, while such details were harder to spot on both the Vizio and Toshiba. The Vizio was closest to capturing this amount of detail, but the Toshiba struggled to make any sense of the image at all, obscuring most of it.
But switch to a brighter scene and the TCL's advantage slips away -- instead of revealing shadows here, it chooses to obscure them, with details such as hair and clothing getting lost in a darkened cloud. Faces, too, become overshadowed, and eyes disappear in the shadows. As a result, visuals could have a slight cartoonish look to them at times, particularly as faces look like they have an overemphasized "vivid" filter on them. All of the other TVs in the lineup were able to deliver facial detail without hiding it in the gloom. The TCL's poor showing can be explained by its poor gamma curve, which is unable to be corrected using the TV's controls.
Color accuracy: The lack of a true color control -- beyond a color temperature choice of Cool, Normal, and Warm -- meant we couldn't improve the TCL's default color reproduction much. It was subpar overall, although still a marked improvement on last year. Colors tended to be a little blue on the LE58FHDE3010 compared with the other TVs, except for skin tone which was nicely saturated, if a little too warm.
At the 1:16 mark in "The Tree Of Life," as Mr. O'Brien shows Jack where to focus his attention in the garden, the grass underfoot looked blue-green on the LE58FHDE3010 where on the other TVs it looked a lot healthier and lush, or less in need of gardening, perhaps. Meanwhile the skin that appears under Mr O'Brien's hat that isn't in fake shadow was a little sunburnt-looking, compared with on the other televisions.
Video processing: Video processing was a sore point for the TCL, as while it performed well in some tests, it completely dropped out of college and worked late shift at Kinko's on another.
The television was able to pass 1080p/24 correctly, and it deserves props compared with some of the other sets, which are actually masquerading as 120Hz-compatible.
The TCL achieved the 600 lines of motion resolution I expected when I engaged any of the "MEMC" smoothing modes, but there were plenty of artifacts, even in the scrolling lines of the test pattern; issues better processors don't show.
Film mode was grayed out with 1080p content but enabling it for 1080i had no effect on deinterlacing testing. Everything that could strobe in these tests did so, and there was heavy moire in the football stand scene. As a result, this is the worst performance I have ever seen in this test, and you may see some artifacts when watching 1080i content from a cable box, for example.
The TCL's input lag measurement of 129.8 is the worst of any TV we've measured so far, so gamers of every stripe might want to think twice before getting this TV.
Uniformity: Compared against the other TVs in the lineup, the TCL had very good uniformity with no discernible light leakage, though at times a black screen could look blue in patches. Off-axis performance was solid with little loss of color or black level when seen at extreme angles.
Bright lighting: The TCL has a semimatte finish that was quite good at managing reflections and performed well in a lit environment. Here, while there was the same amount of crushing as before, there were quite consistent blacks; it behaved much better than the Toshiba in this regard.
Sound is a lot better than you should expect from a cheap, huge TV, and this is thanks in part to the front-facing speakers. Our "Red Right Hand" test track was as musical as you could expect from a TV speaker -- with decent vocal detail and good bass definition, where its Vizio E500 competitor had no bass at all. "Mission: Impossible II" had intelligible speech on the TCL, though the Vizio had a little more presence, and bass transients were also better on TCL translating into heftier explosions.
|Geek box: Test||Result||Score|
|Black luminance (0%)||0.011||Average|
|Avg. gamma (10-100%)||1.68||Poor|
|Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)||6.001||Poor|
|Near-black error (5%)||1.236||Good|
|Dark gray error (20%)||5.203||Poor|
|Bright gray error (70%)||4.858||Average|
|Avg. color error||4.670||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Fail||Poor|
|Motion resolution (max)||600||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||300||Poor|
|Input lag (Game mode)||129.8||Poor|