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Christmas Gift Guide






Picture quality

Though it's a mouthful to say, the TCL L40FHDF12TA enjoys a reputation among Internet shoppers--namely at Amazon, where it's been one of the best-selling TVs on the site 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 above what 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 looks 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, and they were much more expensive than the TCL. We'd never recommend this as your primary TV, but it could make a decent bedroom set or for use in a guest house.

Read the full review.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The TV features a CCFL tube that makes it a little thicker than most sets.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Three HDMI ports and a USB port are the highlights.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Back in 2005, when Sony announced its new Bravia range, it sported a two-tone design that then became popular with TV manufacturers until it was eclipsed by piano black. TCL still holds a candle for the designs of yore with a black bezel and a silver strip for its L40FHDF12TA, but Sony still did it better seven years ago.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Interestingly, the TCL is exactly a tenth of the price of the Sony KDL-V40XBR1 that debuted in 2005, and without the Sony to compare it with, we think that it's possible the two might exhibit similar picture quality. You see, in seven years the quality of LCD televisions is now light years ahead of where it was in 2005, but by these modern standards, the TCL is only barely acceptable. Its worst issue was poor black levels, lack of shadow detail, and inaccurate color. Detail levels were as good as any TV of its price, however, and a lack of artifacts such as smearing or blockiness meant the picture was quite watchable.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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