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TCL LE48FHDF3310TA LED TV Review

No crowning jewel for your at-home theater

$499.00 48 in.
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Overview

This week I spent time with the 48-inch LE48FHDF3310TA (MSRP $499) LCD television by TCL. This company has real muscle, ranking third for earnings in the TV industry, which makes it the first Chinese company to climb to top three—right behind Samsung and LG.

For all that, the LE48FHDF3310TA managed to disappoint; though it has some definite strong suits, clumsy motion performance and poor color management ruin the overall value.

The Outfit

A lifeless costume

TCL stands for "The Creative Life," but this design is just another lesson in TV basics. Budget models like this TCL take advantage of build to save you bills, but they sure do bore the eye while they're at it. This TV sports a black rectangle on top and another below. The end.

A healthy range of outputs and inputs are ready to go.

On-set controls line the right side of the TV to help you out when your remote goes missing. At the other end of the panel, a healthy range of outputs and inputs are ready to go. Users will find shared component/composite hooks, SPDIF out, PC audio in, an antenna port, and a headphone jack; on the back of the same side are three HDMI connections and one USB port.

Lastly, TCL accessorizes the LE48FHDF3310TA with a good-looking but basic controller. Nothing on the remote glows or flashes—annoying in the dark—but it gets the job done.

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The Extras

Feature fiends, turn away.

This feature set is very basic. Nothing glows in the dark or dazzles in 3D. You can't stream your favorite shows or talk to your grandma in Idaho using a built-in camera. The USB port is about all the excitement you'll find here.

Picture settings are meager, too. You can fiddle with color temperature, brightness, contrast, and sharpness, but advanced controls like white balance and gamma are unavailable. Users can at least enjoy a dummy EQ and a surround mode, though.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the TCL LE48FHDF3310TA, take a look at these other televisions.

The Performance

Motion and color: the bad seeds

I'll cut to the chase: This television has very poor motion and troubled color. The underlying bread-and-butter performance staples are satisfactory, but Achilles-heel-type errors really ruin the value here.

Achilles-heel-type errors really ruin the value here.

As soon as I turned on this TV, I could see the problems with my own eyes: When cameras pan in cinematic manner, details blur and shudder; certain shades of blue suffer a strange, blocky appearance where smooth transitions ought to take place; midtones sometimes appear very grainy.

Testing revealed the issues right away. Though contrast is quite healthy—with great dark levels and beaming peak whites—clumsy transitions from dark-to-light just don't produce attractive, polished pictures. Motion struggles a great deal, especially where horizontal movement is concerned. The viewing angle is extremely narrow, making the LE48FHDF3310TA a poor candidate for wall mounting. Yikes.

The Long & the Short

Bargain hunters: Your hunt is not over.

When a TV struggles with basics like motion and color, buyers should just keep their billfolds closed—sale or no sale. As I sat watching The Hobbit on Blu-ray yesterday, squinting with discomfort as the map of Middle Earth dragged indecipherably over the screen, it hit me: I wouldn't even put this TV in my living room for free.

Add to that some color troubles and a pathetic viewing angle. This is no crown jewel for your living room, and it's worse than what TCL delivered a year ago. With the LE48FHDF3310TA's poor testing results in mind, my advice is to say "pass" and continue to browse, browse, browse.

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