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TCL LE48FHDF3300ZTA LED TV Review

For the budget buyer, it's a match made in (retail) heaven.

$499.99 MSRP 48 in.
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Overview

Ordering the TCL LE48FHDF3300ZTA (MSRP $499.99)—henceforth known as the FHDF3300—was a lot like setting up a date on the internet. The only things we know about the Chinese company are from Google-stalking it: TCL, the fourth largest TV manufacturer in the world, grew in reputation after it bought the (in)famous Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard and made the actual "television" part of the IKEA Uppleva. Those are some fancy credentials, plus the TV looks attractive.

When it was time for the actual date—sorry, when we received the FHDF3300 in our office, the anxiety set in. Could this be the beginning of a promising relationship? Would this TCL display succeed where so many past TV hookups have failed? Would I be able to calibrate on the first day?

In a nutshell, we're looking forward to seeing more of this TCL.

Design

Design-wise, the glass is half full.

The TCL FHDF3300 is bewitching: It's reasonably thin and has a luxurious glass stand. Yes, you read that right: a glass stand. To be completely fair, the stand—which doesn't swivel—looks like the typical "slab of plastic" that many budget TVs have, but coated with a layer of bonafide, don't-drop-this-or-you'll-regret-it glass. While we love the added flair, the stand is a dust and fingerprint magnet. In other words, the FHDF3300 is allergic to children.

It's reasonably thin and has a luxurious glass stand.

On the TCL's backside, various inputs and outputs can be found on the right. It isn't a port-powerhouse like other TVs we've seen, but the basics are included: two HDMI inputs, a USB jack, a combination component/composite input, and a VGA input. We had no trouble getting to the connections, even without a swiveling stand.

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Menu Interface

User-friendly, but not a friendly looker

The FHDF3300 has a completely usable menu, but it lacks personality—a blue rectangle in the center of the screen is what TCL gives you. All of the usual menu categories are along for the ride: Picture, Sound, Setup, Parental Control, Language, and USB. Even though the text looks completely undesirable, we can't complain about navigating through this interface. It's like driving to work: easy to do, but boring.

The FHDF3300 has a completely usable menu, but it would benefit from a bit of makeup.

The blandness continues once you enter TCL's USB menu. You'll be greeted by a drab list of all your files—try to show some personality, FHDF3300. Also, there is no way to organize files by type. If you want to pull up a specific image, you'll need to dig through your alphabetically-listed files. Another annoying caveat: As soon as you go to the USB menu, the TV will automatically play the first music file on the drive. While this can have some hilarious consequences, it's an issue that shouldn't exist.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the TCL LE48FHDF3300ZTA, take a look at these other televisions.

Picture Quality

Internal and external beauty

A TV is more than just a pretty face—we want to know what's on the inside. We're happy to report that the FHDF3300 is a class act: The picture is bright and crisp, the colors are incredibly accurate, and the contrast ratio is excellent.

Motion performance on the FHDF3300 is actually impressive, too. We didn't see completely flawless performance like many plasmas have, but for a TV without any kind of motion enhancement settings, content played smoothly. Watching highlights of LeBron James dunking and throwing in alley-oops didn't produce any artifacts—it looked downright natural.

Viewing this TV at an off-angle ruins the great contrast ratio.

Unfortunately, this TCL will be awkward around your friends. Simply put, its viewing angle is atrocious. Yes, it may seem rude to say, but this is the cold, hard truth: Viewing this TV at an off-angle ruins the great contrast ratio. The more off-center you are, the dimmer the whites appear, plus the blacks become brighter. We don't want to call this TCL two-faced, but...

The Finale

Please call me back.

All of that pre-review anxiety was unwarranted: We had a great time with the TCL LE48FHDF3300ZTA. This TV is not just a pretty face—it has the kind of picture quality that makes TV reviewers do a double-take. The FHDF3300's viewing angle is extremely narrow, though, so we do not recommend bringing it to movie night.

There is one important tidbit of info we didn't discuss in much detail: This TV retails for around $500. For this relatively low price, you get a gorgeous stand, color accuracy not found in higher-end televisions, and excellent motion performance—all in a lovely 48-inch frame. If the poor viewing angle isn't a total turn-off, then do yourself a favor and track down one of these lovely LCDs. For the budget buyer, it's a match made in (retail) heaven.

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