Best budget 4K Roku TV
The TCL S405 is an ideal Roku TV priced under $500 for streaming, gaming and watching over-the-air channels.
The 55” inch model has a bright picture with great contrast with deep blacks. It’s also a 4K TV that performs excellent while watching fast-moving sports and playing video games. If you’re currently watching a television that is less than 50”, then you’re going to immediately notice the benefit of upgrading to a larger screen.
This year, finding a larger TV – even one with once-premium features like 4K and HDR – for under $500 became a lot easier.
You’re going to want a TV with at least 3 HDMI ports, so you can add a PlayStation 4, or Xbox One or 4K Blu-Ray player. The TCL S405 meets all those specs. Its 3 HDMI inputs include a HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2. The USB port is 2.0, and there’s ports of optical audio output, a headphone jack and antenna input.
You’ve probably done some reading about the merits of buying a Smart TV vs a “dumb” TV. One of the arguments against buying a Smart TVs a few years back was that they rarely get software updates. That worry is a thing of the past.
Roku TVs and streaming device manufacturers are more competitive than ever. Doling out upgrades to improve your user interface, and overall performance on a piece of hardware gives these companies a huge advantage. So-called dumb TVs these days are now the cheap models you probably don’t want, especially since picture quality isn’t that decent.
Roku OS8 upgrades with TCL Roku TV
Roku OS 8, a new software update, added a channel guide for over-the-air channels. The layout is very similar to what you might see with a cable package or other pay TV subscription. The guide gives you details of what’s playing 14 days in advance of airdate.
A single sign-on feature of TV Everywhere apps will also save cord cutters from having to sign in to each and every app. Subscribers to DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue and fuboTV can get extra live and on-demand programming from these apps.
To start using Single Sign-On, just use your credentials with any TV Everywhere app on your Roku TV. The software will then use those credentials and add them to other apps. Single Sign-On works with most cable and satellite providers, too. But there are some exceptions.
A number of companies, including Spectrum, Comcast XFINITY, Altice, Verizon and Frontier still have not adopted Single Sign-On. Roku has a list of TV Everywhere apps that is now using the new Single Sign-On.
Another new feature called Fast Start TV lets you power up your television from standby. You can wake your TCL Roku TV with a voice command, using the voice remote within your Roku mobile app. Fast TV Start uses more power than normal standby and will override the default power settings. (This feature isn’t available on Roku TV models that received an Energy Star designation.)
What Roku channels support Single Sign-On?
3. BBC America
5. Bravo Now
6. Comedy Central
7. E! NOW
8. FOX NOW
13. NAT GEO TV
15. NBC Sports
|16. NBC Sports Gold
17. Nick Jr.
20. Syfy Now
21. Telemundo Deportes En Vivo
22. Telemundo Now
23. USA NOW
25. Watch Cooking Channel
26. Watch DIY Network
27. Watch Food Network
28. Watch HGTV
29. Watch Travel Channel
Source: Roku support
What features should I look for with a budget 4K TV?
At minimum, a new TV should have both 4K and HDR10. Enthusiasts and home cinema geeks might turn up their nose at HDR10. They might prefer Dolby Vision because of its ambitions to be a superior format. That’s fine. But this isn’t a TV for home theater buffs.
And plus, most content in High Dynamic Range is being offered in HDR10 anyway.
Setting up this Roku TV is quick and remarkably easy. After mounting the two TV stands to the bottom of the television, I plugged in an amplified indoor antenna, my cords for Ethernet cord and power, and that was it. You will want to make sure you perform a channel scan before you go looking for antenna channels. The entire set up process took only about five minutes, maybe less.
So I’m going to give you a rundown of why I think the TCL S405 is one of the best bargains for a 4K Roku TV, especially if you’re aiming to only spend about $400 to $500.
Cord cutting with the TCL Roku TV S405
The Roku TV software within the TCL S405 makes navigating between antenna channels and streaming apps really easy. I rely on my antenna to watch a lot of local channels, and since I’m in the city, I get about 48 of them.
When you navigate to the antenna icon at the top of the Roku Channels menu, it gives you a live preview of the last antenna channel you were on. It’s about the same size of a picture-in-picture frame. So you can see what’s on – whether it’s a football game or the local news — without even having to switch over to your channel guide.
The Roku OS 8 update will add a new channel guide that’s similar to user interfaces seen on cable TV. If you plug in a USB drive, you can pause and rewind live TV up to 90 minutes. This should be a USB drive that you’ll use for nothing else. The USB drive will be formatted once you start using it. Be sure to buy USB 2.0 compatible flash drive with at least 16GB of storage for recording. If you use the USB drive, then you won’t need to live TV/pausing features that’s seen on other tuners that are priced around $99.
Streaming apps on TCL Roku TV S405
Any TCL Roku TV has the same access to the thousands of apps on Roku streaming devices. All the big names in streaming like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, Plex, HBO Now are preinstalled. During my testing, I tried out a number of live TV streaming platforms, including PlayStation Vue, fuboTV and completely free Pluto TV.
I decided to plug an Ethernet cord into the TV, but you can also stream with a wireless connection. The live TV platforms performed so well that I forgot that I was streaming.
The built-in apps on the TCL Roku TV are the easiest that I’ve ever used. And you can get a lot of viewing satisfaction with arranging a few of the right apps at the top of your menu. As I’ve written before, TV Everywhere apps are crucial for cord cutters. And the Roku TV interface can really help you make the most of them. Live streaming on the TV Everywhere apps worked just as well as any live TV streaming option like PlayStation Vue or DirecTV Now.
Streaming 4K HDR content on TCL Roku TV S405
The 4K HDR content alone is impressive. I signed up for a subscription to Smithsonian Earth ($3.99 per month), so I could check out 4K HDR programming. The underwater scenes and others shot in forests and vast landscapes showed a spectacular range of color and minute detail.
But there are two features in the TCL S405 that really surprised me. While streaming in 1080p, the picture seemed to look much better than before. This is likely due to the TCL Creative Pro 4K UHD Upscaling Engine. The upscaling engine is a proprietary technology that TCL says brings 1080p HD content to near 4K quality.
The TCL S405 also has a remarkably low lag input for its price point. It has very little blur while watching sports, and that was even more noticeable while streaming a PC game to my NVIDIA Shield TV.
The 4K Spotlight app does a nice job aggregating content from a cross section of free and paid apps. It saves you time from searching each app for 4K Ultra HD or HDR content. Amazon has a number of movies and shows in 4K, but their menu doesn’t highlight it well. The Spotlight 4K app does the work for you. It doesn’t cover all the bases, however. Netflix was noticeably absent. Overall, it does a nice job with breaking down content by movies and TV shows. It also metes out what shows offer 4K, HDR or both.
Remote control for TCL Roku TV S405
The remote control for the TCL S405 has all the buttons you would expect from a Roku streaming device with added buttons to control TV power and volume. There’s dedicated buttons for Netflix, Sling TV, Hulu and Starz, so you can launch those platforms with one touch. When your remote control isn’t handy, hopefully your smart phone will be.
The Roku app will work as a fully functional remote control for the TCL S405, and numerous times, it saved me from having to hunt down the TVs remote on the opposite side of the room.
Gaming with NVIDIA Shield TV on TCL Roku TV
If you own an Xbox One S that you also use to play 4K Blu Ray discs, you’ll be impressed with the picture quality of your movies on the S405. The HDMI ports on the TV work fine with high-end consoles and Blu Ray players.
I was very happy with the S405’s performance while gaming. I played a number of games with a NVIDIA Shield TV. I tried some fast-action games from the GE Force Now streaming service, and PC games that I streamed to the TCL 405S from my laptop. I played Witcher 3, Beach Buggy Racing, Fallout: New Vegas and others. The action and response time was really flawless on the TV. And you had the added benefit of playing on a 55-inch screen – much larger than the average 4K gaming monitor.
TCL S series vs TCL P Series
There’s a significant price difference between the TCL S-Series being reviewed here and the popular P-Series model. The P-Series had both HDR10 and Dolby Vision support. HDR Dynamic Contrast and Wide Color Gamut are also features in the P-Series. Depending on where you buy it, the 55-inch version of the TCL P Series can cost $150 to $200 more than the S-Series of the same size.
Is a TCL Roku TV S Series worth it?
The TCL S405 is a great value for its price point. This 4K LED TV has a better than average picture quality. Blacks look deep in a dark room. Scenes from movies are on point with a super native contrast ratio.
Navigating between antenna channels and streaming apps really couldn’t any easier. For antenna users, the improvements with the channel guide are a real plus. It’s really an ideal entry-level 4K HDR TV for people looking to ditch cable.
If you’re a gamer like me, you’ll appreciate the low input lag. This TCL Roku TV handles fast speeds well, especially with watching sports and playing video games. It’s a definite bargain for cord cutters who don’t want to spend too much on a TV, but want to enjoy some premium features like 4K HDR. If features like Dolby Vision support, HDR Dynamic Contrast and Wide Color Gamut, then I recommend spending the extra money on a P Series model.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble