TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review

 TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review.
TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV specs

Price: $529
Screen size: 65-inch
Model: 65S450G
Resolution: 3,840x2,160
HDR: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Ports: 3 x HDMI 2.0
Audio: 20W
Smart TV Software: Google TV
Size (without stand): 32.7 x 56.8 x 3.1 inches
Weight (without stand): 30.91 pounds

TCL has made some great TVs in the last few years — the TCL QM8 Mini-LED chief among them — taking on the likes of Samsung and Hisense with its brand of value TVs with incredible specs.

Unfortunately, however, the TCL S4 S-Series TV (2023) isn’t among them. It features an LCD panel with direct LED backlighting, meaning there’s no local dimming or Mini-LEDs for enhanced black levels and contrast — and that’s a shame.

Still, while not quite among the best TVs (or even the best budget TVs) the S4 does have a few pros that make it stand out. Namely, it’s built on the Google TV interface, which gives it loads of control and variety in your entertainment app selection. It also has a surprisingly low input lag for swift gaming and a strong Delta-E color accuracy score.

Even with these high-flying numbers, however, the TCL S4 Series (2023) isn’t at the top of its class. Despite its $529 price for the 65-inch model, the S4 is weighed down by incredibly low brightness, glare issues and middling contrast performance. Add to that its often slow user interface and HDR color that is borderline unsuitable, and you’ve got a budget display with little to write home about.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Price and release date

The TCL S-Class 4K TV is among TCL’s 2023 TV lineup and it sits amongst the budget-tier LCD TV offerings and comes in a range of sizes. It was initially released on April 5th, 2023.

Our review tests were performed on the 65-inch model, but there’s little difference across the sizes, due to the fact that the S-Class 4K TV is an LCD screen, meaning there aren't any varied local dimming zones to worry about.

  • 43-inch TCL S-Class 4K Google TV (43S450G): $279 | sale price: $239

  • 50-inch TCL S-Class 4K Google TV (50S450G): $349 | sale price: $259

  • 55-inch TCL S-Class 4K Google TV (55S450G): $379 | sale price: $279

  • 58-inch TCL S-Class 4K Google TV (58S450G): $399 | sale price: $319

  • 65-inch TCL S-Class 4K Google TV (65S450G): $529 | sale price: $399

  • 75-inch TCL S-Class 4K Google TV (75S450G): $749 | sale price: $549

  • 85-inch TCL S-Class 4K Google TV (85S450G): $1,399 | sale price: $899

Given that the S4 is an entry-level display with few advanced features, its pricing definitely coincides with its potential. Prices have also dropped significantly in the year since it was released, with most retailers selling the 65-inch model for just $380.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Design

Built on a thin flat screen, the S4 S-Class is surprisingly light with the 65-inch model coming in at just a little over 30 pounds. It uses an LCD screen with direct LED backlighting, meaning there aren't any fancy specs like Mini-LED technology under the hood, which would allow the display a bit more control over its contrast and darks.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review
TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review

This is, after all, a more budget and entry-level option that doesn’t bring far too many advancements to the fray. It also only uses a 60Hz refresh rate and no local dimming zones, which adds to its limited firepower. But this is how TCL keeps the S4 near that $500 range.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review
TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review

The TCL S4 S-Class comes with easy-to-install legs that screw onto the base, but you could always just hang it on the wall using its 200 x 200 VESA interface. The stand might be a bit too wide for some households, as you’ll need a surface that’s wide enough to fit over 56 inches.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Ports

As for its connectivity, the TCL S4 S-Class TV is equipped with three HDMI 2.0 ports, two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), an Ethernet RJ45 port, and one F-type cable input. You’ll also find a variety of audio ports, like a 3.5mm output jack, AV composite at 3.5mm as well as an S/PDIF port, and one eARC compliant HDMI port.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review
TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review

The lack of HDMI 2.1 support means you won’t be connecting the S4 S-Class to one of the best gaming PCs, the PS5 or Xbox Series X for higher frames, but given this is a 60Hz panel, the frame rate would be capped anyways. It’s definitely a bummer, but this TV should work for gamers who are still playing PS4 and Xbox One, or don’t mind being limited to 60fps.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Performance

I threw a smörgåsbord of content at the TCL S4 to see how it might fare in terms of color accuracy, contrast, motion processing and HDR output. First thing to note is its limited brightness potential, which makes glare a major concern on this display — a problem you can see almost immediately upon turning it on in the middle of the day.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) shown in a living room
TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) shown in a living room

Even in brighter scenes, the glare is really noticeable, as I witnessed in the finale episode of “Tokyo Vice”. Our tests showed the TCL S4 could only hit a measly 192.8122 nits of brightness across a 10% window in SDR, and HDR content didn’t fare well either at just 231.987 nits. Thus, even with HDR enabled, day-time viewing will be hampered by glare unless properly protected.

But beyond the concerning glare restraints, the TCL S4 is also held back by its wonky contrast. You can blame this on the fact that it doesn’t come equipped with any local dimming zones, which means support in darker scenes — or even black and white ones as seen via Netflix’s new “Ripley” — won’t look all too impressive.

I gave some college basketball a shot, as well, watching the Seton Hall vs Indiana State game to experience the TCL S4’s motion processing. It actually was quite serviceable and the color accuracy was there so long as you don’t watch in HDR.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) shown in a living room
TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) shown in a living room

Of all the things that excited me the most with the TCL S4 was its color accuracy, which you can thank its exceptionally low Delta-E score for. Color may not look so hot in HDR gaming, but standard quality in anime, as seen with the series finale of “Solo Leveling,” really popped. I also jumped back into “Invincible” on the S4 S-Series, and was thrilled by how the content looked — but it looks best when situated in a darker environment.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Test results

To get some quantitative testing data we used an X-Rite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a SpectraCal VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and Portrait Displays’ Calman calibration software to put the Hisense U7K up against its toughest competitors:

The data shows how the TCL S4 stacks against alternative TVs in its same price range, with the Hisense U6K being its biggest competitor due in large part to its use of Mini-LEDs. Still, the S4 S-Series comes in with a stellar level of input lag for gamers and that under 2 Delta-E is pretty remarkable, but fledgling brightness against its competition is a sore spot for the budget TCL entry.

As far as future-proofing is concerned, its lower Rec2020 color gamut coverage means that it’s not equipped to deal with new HDR movies and shows, especially anything shot in Dolby Vision. (Note: It has Dolby Vision support built-in, but with its color saturation levels, you won’t be seeing all of the colors present in Dolby Vision content).

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Gaming

On the S4 S-Class TV I played several different experiences mostly on PS5. As mentioned previously, without any HDMI 2.1 ports, PC gaming wouldn’t exactly live up to its potential with those higher frame rates, but PS5 games still looked and ran comfortably enough at 60 fps.

I gave Team Ninja’s most recent release, Rise of the Ronin, a spin to see how mid-1800s Japan would look on the S4. Unfortunately, colors definitely looked dull and not being able to play over 60fps proved to be quite the drag. I also dove into other more colorful experiences to test the S4’s color palette in HDR gaming, like Demon’s Souls and Elden Ring, but was left rather unimpressed with both titles on this TV.

On the more fast-paced side of gaming, though, the S4 definitely comes out victorious thanks to its 9.0 input lag. Games like Call of Duty: Warzone and Cyberpunk 2077, wherein twitchy gunplay and fast reaction time are of utmost necessity, were serviceable and pleasantly enjoyable.

But, the S4 is held back by not being able to hit those higher FPS marks. Plus, no anti-screen-tearing technologies like AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync makes the S4 sorely lacking where other TVs in its same price bracket prove far better for the pastime.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Audio

Audio on the TCL S4 S-Class leaves much to be desired. The display uses a dual 10W speaker system that does have support for all of the awesome surround sound goodness, like Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual: X — and you’ll need them too, as an option among the best Dolby Atmos soundbars will definitely come in handy.

Loudness on the TV wasn’t so much of a problem but general clarity was: Dialogue was a major issue and, like most alternatives at this price, general audio proved way too tinny. The S4 wouldn’t be my first choice for playing music, as the sound lacked clarity and depth.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Interface and apps

Google TV is fast becoming the poster child for well-rounded smart TV interfaces, and it’s no different as a shining entry on the TCL S4 TV. It streamlines the whole content curation process, making it much easier to find shows and movies that fit your tastes with a For You rail at the top of the screen above all of your favorite and most used apps.

Unlike Roku’s interface, Google TV isn’t missing much in the way of applications. Plus, the TCL S4 comes with its own TCL Channels, which has access to a wide variety of live content at no extra cost. This definitely gives the S4 some added firepower for those looking to bypass subscription-based live TV apps, like YouTube TV, but isn’t the main selling point.

Maybe you prefer Roku vs Google TV, though. There is a Roku variant of this same S4 Series TV, aptly titled the S450R, for those looking to steer clear of Google TV.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Remote

I was surprised to actually enjoy the S4 remote despite its larger size. It’s not bulky, but quite long and skinny, which fits perfectly in the hand and makes it easy for you to select buttons without being too tedious. I would prefer something just a bit smaller, akin to Samsung’s remotes — which are also powered by sunlight — but the S4 option still can make do.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) remote shown held in hand
TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) remote shown held in hand

On the face, you’re greeted with several quick keys to apps including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Apple TV, as well as TCL’s Home and Channel pages. There’s a long break of essentially nothing at the bottom of the remote, which makes me wish additional apps, like Disney Plus or even Crunchyroll, could have made the cut.

I have no problems with the remote other than its length and wish it could just be a bit smaller. Other than that, it’s fine for most hands and needs.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV review: Verdict

It’s hard to justify buying the TCL S4 S-Class. It has some remarkable color accuracy in standard definition, plus its 9.0 input lag could’ve landed it among the best gaming TVs — but nobody’s buying this set strictly for animated content and 60fps console gaming.

TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review
TCL S4 S-Class 4K TV (65S450G) review

The S4 might look like a steal now at just under $400 for its 65-inch model, but the woes with glare and HDR color accuracy outweigh its budget pricing. Additionally, the S4 is held back largely by its middling brightness and contrast, which steeps content in messy glare and wonky blacks.

Without Mini-LEDs or even local dimming zones, it is outclassed by more powerful competitors, main among them being the Hisense U6K Mini-LED TV, which is just $500 for the 65-inch configuration. Even TCL itself has far better options at a similar price point with improved panel technology, like the Q6 QLED TV, a 60HZ HDMI 2.0-sporting display with remarkable performance at just $500 when on sale.

Thus, it’s best to look elsewhere when looking for that next major TV upgrade, as the TCL S4 S-Class LCD TV isn’t worth its bargain pricing.