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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Very lightweight and moveable
Advanced picture settings included
Solid sound quality
Sluggish at times
Remote buttons are plasticky
The TCL 32S325 32-inch Roku Smart LED TV (2019) offers an affordable way to stream your favorite content in a cramped dorm room or city apartment, but it is quite small and doesn’t offer the most impressive performance.
Smart televisions have come a long way from the earliest models, and the technology continues to evolve. If you want to enjoy the innovation but don’t have the space or the budget to accommodate a sprawling home theater, the TCL 32S325 32-inch 720p Roku Smart LED TV (2019) could be your answer. This small and lightweight 32-inch smart TV is an ideal solution for cramped living spaces. If you don’t care about aspects like the latest Wi-Fi standard (this TV operates on the dual-band 802.11n standard) or 4K or HDR picture quality, the TCL 32S325 strikes the right balance of quality and practicality.
We tested this diminutive Roku TV, paying special attention to the setup process, picture and sound quality, and overall viewing and user experience.
The TCL 32-inch Roku TV looks like a miniature version of larger Roku TVs. It’s slim, lightweight, and relatively sleek at just 8.6 pounds. Its dimensions are 28.8 inches wide, 19 inches tall, and 6.8 inches deep. While it’s classified in the 32-inch class, the screen size measures just below that at 31.5 inches on the diagonal.
Despite its small size, you’ll find a generous number of connectivity options, including three HDMI ports, a USB 2.0 port, and as well as a headphone jack, A/V and antenna inputs, and optical digital audio output. Unlike other Roku TVs, the power cord attached to the back of the device isn’t very long. This might limit your placement, but it does make losing the power cord less of an issue, and if you’re working with a restricted space, the short cord may be a non-issue anyway.
The remote follows suit in terms of simplicity and unassuming size. There are four shortcut buttons featured at the bottom of the remote to take users directly to Netflix, Sling, Hulu, or Amazon. And like all Roku remotes with volume controls, the buttons—including a mute button—are located on the right side of the wand. This makes for easy and fast access and enhances the already comfortable and intuitive feel of the remote in the hand.
You would expect a 32-inch TV to be easy to handle. And this petite and almost weightless device doesn’t disappoint. It’s a cinch to set up and doesn’t require another person to move around. Attaching the two TV stand legs took less than a minute, but there is also the option of mounting this television as long as you purchase a VESA 100 x 100 wall mount with 8-millimeter screws.
Once we attached the stands, plugged the TV in, and placed the batteries in the remote, we were good to go through the straightforward Roku setup steps. This simple guided process is the same as we’ve seen across other Roku TVs and streaming devices. Since we have an existing Roku account, all we had to do was log in to register and activate this device.
While there’s nothing complicated about this initial setup, we did notice that the overall installation and update time was noticeably more sluggish than we’ve experienced with other Roku streaming devices and TVs. Still, within a matter of five minutes or less, we had the TV unboxed and ready for viewing. That’s about as plug-and-play as it gets.
As soon as we started streaming content, we were impressed by the picture quality. Across the board on platforms including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Hulu, the colors appeared relatively punchy and vibrant. The handy asterisk button on the remote brings up a menu of picture settings right within the content you’re viewing, which is a helpful way to understand what impact your changes are making. There was no blip in streaming quality when we played around with these settings either.
Across the board on platforms including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and Hulu, the colors appeared relatively punchy and vibrant.
This TV doesn’t get very bright, which could be an issue if you have a lot of natural light filtering into your space. We appreciated the ability to both brighten and darken the picture in very bright and low-light conditions. This did make a slight difference when viewing content in a sunny room. Along with altering the brightness levels, there are also several picture modes to consider. Normal is the standard mode, but the other options include Movie, Sports, Vivid, and Low Power. Movie mode seems to have the best effect in both dark and bright rooms, rendering the most realistic color. Sports and vivid modes tend to deliver an oversaturated picture that looks artificial.
Beyond these basic configurations, you can also tweak the image quality a step further in the advanced picture settings. Dynamic contrast is off by default, but you can set it to low or high if you want to adjust the backlight when streaming content. You can also adjust the backlight directly along with contrast levels and even the color temperature for cooler or warmer tones—or opt for normal, which falls somewhere between the two.
As soon as we started streaming content, we were impressed by the picture quality.
While none of these settings yield out-of-this-world picture quality, the viewing experience is pleasantly nuanced and customizable. The only issue we had was that at times the picture just looked too small, especially in close-up shots that gave the appearance that people’s heads were clipped even more than intended. Changing the default picture size setting from the normal setting, which zooms in slightly to reduce noisy edges, to the default setting—which eliminates any zooming—made a very slight difference.
Like picture quality, sound is surprisingly powerful despite the size of this device. The built-in 5-watt speakers deliver relatively full sound that can get quite loud. The sound settings aren’t as robust as the picture settings. By default, the volume mode is set to off, which means the sound quality is automatically set based on the content. But you can opt for leveling to even out high and low sounds, or night mode, which allows you to set the maximum volume. We did notice some issues with extreme lows and highs, but turning on the leveling option did seem to help smooth out the dips.
Like picture quality, sound is surprisingly powerful despite the size of this device.
The Roku OS is one of the most straightforward streaming platform interfaces out there. The menu is uncluttered and it’s easy to toggle through and locate general settings.
Everything starts with the home screen which displays the various inputs and outputs available to you at the top, followed by the streaming apps you’ve installed. You can even customize the way the tiles appear on your Home screen by simply pressing the asterisk button and selecting the Move option. The asterisk is really a multipurpose button for moving apps, deleting them, and adding them to your collection. We appreciate how this simple arrangement of apps can help provide fast access to the apps we use the most, assuming they’re outside the four shortcut buttons on the remote.
While the included remote does not have a built-in voice assistant, this TCL Roku TV is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, provided you have a supported device. You can also scratch the voice control itch, if you have one, by using the Roku mobile app to search for content. The only drawback is that you can’t automatically launch content from the app.
The mobile app remote offers all the main controls the wand offers, and even offers a keyboard option for easy typing rather than having to toggle through the on-screen keyboard in streaming apps. This is great in theory, but we couldn't get the keyboard to work in all apps. Even so, we noticed the mobile app remote performed much faster than the actual remote in terms of scrolling through content and exiting apps. The other great touch with the mobile app is the ability to plug in headphones to your phone and have your own private audio and viewing experience. This could be helpful if you’re trying not to disturb neighbors or a partner who doesn’t feel like listening to whatever you’re watching.
The app did disconnect from the TV once or twice for no apparent reason while we were in private listening mode, but easily reconnected. And in terms of other performance issues, we noticed launching apps took an average of 10 seconds on the initial load, which isn’t very speedy. But loading times were much faster with repeated launches. We did also notice some sluggish responses to remote prompts when toggling through some apps—Netflix in particular.
The suggested retail price for the TCL 32S325 is only $169.99. That’s quite a steal given the strengths of this device. As smart TVs continue to add on assets like HDR and 4K picture quality, prices increase considerably the higher you go in size. There aren’t many new 32-inch smart TVs on the market at this price and for the feature set. If you want a full 1080p TV, the Sony KDL32W600D 32-Inch HD Smart TV is a few years older and retails for around $300. The Samsung 32-inch Class N5300 1080p Smart LED TV retails for slightly less at around $250. Still, given the above-average picture and sound and usability of the TCL 32S325, it’s an affordable and compelling smart TV option for compact living quarters.
The Fire TV is perhaps the most direct competitor to the Roku TV, and the closest match to the TCL 32S325 is the $180 Toshiba Amazon Fire TV Edition in the 32-inch class. Of course, instead of the Roku platform, this model operates on the Fire OS, which features Prime content and a significantly more cluttered interface than the Roku OS. Picture quality may also fall short of what you’ll see in the Roku 32-inch Smart TV.
If you want really impressive image quality, the Samsung 32-inch Class N5300 Smart Full HD TV is a worthy competitor. It’s nearly identical in size, but boasts two times the picture quality of standard HD TVs, with particular attention to delivering realistic color and details like shadows and contrast. If you’re not necessarily married to either the Roku or Fire OS interfaces, the Samsung TV presents as a straightforward way to add the streaming services you use. The list price is about $80 more than the TCL 32S325, but if you’re a fan of Samsung products and own a Samsung phone, the image quality and easy syncing and connectivity might make this worth the slight bump in price.
If you’d like to compare this small smart TV with other options, both large and small, take a look at our lists of the best budget TVs and best Roku TVs.
Compact but brimming over with value.
The TCL 32S325 32-inch 720p Roku Smart LED TV (2019) is certainly small, but it’s mighty when it comes to value. This inexpensive HD TV doesn’t boast the most astonishing picture quality, but the solid viewing experience, smart features, and ease of use make for a value-rich plug-and-play smart TV. It blends in and won’t overwhelm dorm rooms, studio apartments, or smaller rooms in your home.