TCL 40FS3850 Roku LED TV Review
Want a good, affordable TV and love the Roku platform? Have we got a TV for you.
The TCL 40FS3850 (MSRP $449.99, online for $344) performed admirably during our suite of lab tests. It lacks the polish of more expensive HDTVs, but overall delivered very solid contrast, accurate-enough colors, and acceptable gamma ramping and grayscale tracking. This handful of strengths bears only a couple of weaknesses: a narrow viewing angle and less-than-stellar motion performance.
From a calibration standpoint, there wasn't much we could do to reduce the FS3850's error, as the on-board software contained no color correction or white balance controls other than the very coarse "color" and "color temperature" toggles. Fortunately, the FS3850's errors are just satisfactory enough that it doesn't pose a huge issue—but don't go in expecting top-tier quality, either.
Contrast—or the difference between the darkest and brightest areas on-screen—is a very strong area for the FS3850. I measured an ANSI black level of 0.045 cd/m2 and a peak brightness of 147.90 cd/m2, giving the FS3850 a 6x6 ANSI contrast ratio of 3,286:1. This is very good for a TV in this price range, especially one that isn't using any LED dimming or boosting enhancements.
Our viewing angle test measures how far from center you can watch a TV before its contrast degrades past 50% of its head-on (0°) value. As is often the case with high-contrast, VA-paneled LCD TVs, the FS3850 unfortunately has a fairly narrow viewing angle. I measured a total of 54°, or ±27° from the center to either side of the screen.
Gamma is a measurement of how evenly a TV allocates luminance (brightness) as it exits its minimum luminance and moves into dark/mid grays and highlights, up to its brightest point. Most TVs follow a gamma curve of 2.2 by default, and the FS3850 is no different. Testing revealed a gamma sum of 2.25, which is quite close to the 2.2 ideal. The only issue is in shadow detail: the TV comes a little too slowly out of black, and ends up glossing over some shadow details between 10 and 20 IRE.
Our grayscale error test measures the accuracy and color-free quality of a TV's grayscale tones. Because TVs are additive color type displays, they create gray/white neutral tones by combining their primary red, green, and blue sub-pixels. When these sub-pixels are emphasized properly against one another, no grayscale error occurs.
The FS3850 tested with a grayscale dE (collective/max error) of 7.89, which is a little bit high, but certainly not the worst out-of-the-box result we've seen. Ideally, a calibration will reduce a TV's grayscale error to 3 or less, but lacking white balance controls, we couldn't check the FS3850's ability to produce a more stable grayscale.
If we take a closer look at the RGB balance underlying the TV's grayscale production, we can see that a de-emphasis on green is the result of most of the TV's grayscale error. By 100 IRE, green is receiving about 8% less luminance/chroma emphasis than it should be.
A color gamut is a visual illustration of a TV's red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow color production points, as well as its white/gray points. The FS3850 is an HDTV, and thus should adhere to the rec.709 color standard expectations. Testing revealed that while the TV slightly over-saturates green and under-saturates red, its color is—overall—quite good for a TV in this price range.
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