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Lifewire / Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick
More than 4,000 streaming channels
Astounding 4K resolution
Easy to set up
Plenty of connection options
Less than perfect speakers
If you’re in the market for a 4K TV and on a budget, the TCL 49S405 4K Roku Smart TV is a worthy buy that you won’t regret.
It wasn’t many years ago that 4K TVs were restricted to the wealthy and spendy early adopters. Today, you can pick up an entry-level model for less than $500. We tested the TCL 49S405 4K Roku Smart TV for two weeks and found it to be a worthy device if you can find it for a budget-friendly price. We particularly liked how easy it was to set up out of the box, and the intuitive user interface which allows you to watch movies, TV shows, and sports from nearly any source.
The first thing you’ll notice about the 49S405 is that it’s made almost entirely of plastic. This yields several benefits, chief among them is that it’s very lightweight—just 25 pounds. Additionally, it’s only 8.5 inches at its deepest point. Nearly any healthy adult should be able to move and position it with ease. The downside is that the plastic casing gives it a cheap feel that won’t jive in a living room full of more expensive AV equipment.
If you’re an environmentally conscious person, you should note that there’s conflicting information about whether this model is Energy Star certified.
One of the best things about this TCL TV is that it provides everything you need to watch your shows, all you have to provide is the internet connection. And if you connect to Wi-Fi, it’s a completely wireless solution apart from the power cord. No need for a Blu-ray/DVD player, set-top box, antenna, soundbar or any of the other TV accessories you’ve used in the past.
If you’re an environmentally conscious person, you should note that there’s conflicting information about whether this model is Energy Star certified. On the product’s Amazon page, it states that it is, while the official specification sheet put out by TCL says the opposite.
The TCL 49S405 is extraordinarily easy to set up. It comes nearly completely assembled, the only thing required that’s not included in the box is a screwdriver. All you have to do tighten four screws to attach the stand, plug it in, and you’re ready for the step-by-step on-screen instructions.
We had it unboxed, set up, and playing Avengers: Infinity War in 4K within an hour of it being delivered. Part of the reason we had it set up so quickly was that we already had a 32-inch Roku Smart TV in place. Once our 49-inch model was assembled, we simply unplugged the 32-inch model, set it aside, and put the 4K TV in its place. We used the same power cord and remote control from the 32-inch model and they worked great. Upgrading from your current Roku TV couldn’t be simpler.
This TV was designed primarily around streaming your media from services like Netflix and Hulu. However, it also offers a nearly complete connectivity array for your external devices. You get three HDMI ports to connect things like Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, and set-top boxes. You can also use the RF inputs to use legacy devices like VCRs, DVD Players, and even some older model gaming consoles.
While connecting the TV to the internet through Wi-Fi gives you more options for where you can put it, sometimes you can’t get a good enough signal to stream 4K videos without a great deal of buffering. For faster, more consistent streaming, we recommend using the Ethernet port to connect the TV directly to your internet router.
The TCL 49S405 also features a traditional coaxial cable hookup for your cable TV subscription, but it’s also good for a TV antenna. That might seem antiquated, but today’s local TV stations often broadcast in full HD quality, and over-the-air 4K broadcasting will become commonplace in the next few years. It isn’t a bad idea to invest in a digital TV antenna so you can cut the cord on cable TV completely.
The SPDIF Digital Audio Optical output enables you to connect whatever sound equipment you happen to own—from simple soundbars to home theater surround sound systems.
When you can’t get the media you want to watch on a streaming service, the Roku Media Player app allows you to connect USB drives (and some other USB devices) to the TV and play directly from there. This is a great option for playing videos you’ve created yourself, or those rare bits of entertainment that aren’t available from mainstream sources.
If you have Amazon Alexa or Google Voice assistant, you can integrate their voice service the Roku TV, in addition to its own built-in voice assistant. This is very convenient since you can forgo searching for the remote to find shows and navigate the menu.
This Roku Smart TV has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. For comparison, that’s four times as many pixels as found on a 1920 x 1080 display, and the difference in quality is as obvious on the screen. If you’re upgrading from an HD TV (1280 x 720), you’ll appreciate the clearer, more detailed picture, and enhanced colors. The massive upgrade from the regular HD experience can’t be overstated.
We tested the TCL 49S405 for two weeks. During this time we streamed dozens of hours of 4K content from services like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Video, and CBS All Access. Additionally, we connected a PlayStation 4 and played a variety of games such as Detroit Become Human and The Sims 4. We also used the Blu-ray Player to watch the newly released Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline Blu-ray box set.
The deep, true blacks, pure whites, and rich colors were eye-popping.
Throughout all those hours, there were only two times we were frustrated with the picture quality—both while watching Thor. Some of the darker scenes of both Thor and Thor: The Dark World, had massive ghosting effects that sucked us right out of the movie and makes us wonder if we needed to adjust our settings.
Otherwise, the picture was nearly perfect in every respect. The deep, true blacks, pure whites, and rich colors were eye-popping. Even when the lights were on, the picture quality is excellent. We watched this TV for several afternoons with sunshine pouring through the windows. The picture remained bright and we never noticed any glare.
In addition to HD and 4K content, we also watched several hours of standard definition content. The 4K Creative Pro upscaling engine does a tremendous job of fitting it for this massive screen. We never noticed a hint of pixelation, motion blur or other image defects, so even your DVDs have some life left to them.
Audio is the weakest portion of this otherwise outstanding budget 4K TV. The two-channel, 8-watt speakers are perfectly listenable and deliver a decent audio experience, but it lacked the depth and range to match the picture quality. And with some media, it tended to sound a bit tinny, though that may only be detectable to the ear of an audiophile. To enhance this lackluster experience, we recommend connecting at least a soundbar or using headphones.
Navigating the TCL 49S405’s interface is as simple as it gets. After the initial setup process, all your streaming services and connected devices are accessible through the main screen. Scrolling through your streaming subscriptions and connected devices is quick and intuitive. The handy search bar makes it easy to find a particular show or movie, and if they’re not available, it will show you where to find them.
The most popular streaming channels, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are installed by default, and all you have to do is log in. Adding additional channels is pretty easy as well. Roku offers a handy mobile app for iOS and Android devices. It syncs with your TV and allows you to manage channels and find movies much faster than you can with the remote. You can even sync the app with multiple devices, so long as they are on the same Wi-Fi network.
If you start watching a movie on the Netflix app and have to catch a bus for work, you can plug in your headphones and continue watching where you left off as you ride.
The app even duplicates the remote itself, making it useful for when your remote is misplaced or out of battery. We were particularly impressed when we used the volume rocker on our iPhone to control the volume of the TV.
The Roku app also lets you take your movies on the go. If you start watching a movie on the Netflix app and have to catch a bus for work, you can plug in your headphones and continue watching where you left off as you ride. It also works vice-versa—you can start watching a show on your phone and switch seamlessly to the TV when you return home.
TCL suggests that retailers sell this entry-level 4K TV for $419, which is on the higher side for a TV released in 2017, however, you probably won’t pay full price for it anymore. We only recommend this TV if you can find it on sale for under $300.
While the TCL 49S405 is a great value if you find it on sale, we’ve also reviewed the Insignia NS-43DF710NA19 Fire TV, and found it to be a comparable product with many of the same features. The main difference is that it runs on the Amazon Fire TV platform rather than Roku. You’ll get virtually all the connectivity and streaming channels, voice commands and connectivity.
The Insignia’s list price is $350—about $70 less than the TCL, but the real deciding factor will come down to your preference between Amazon and Roku.
An oldie, but a goldie for those on a budget.
The 49S405 is an older model from TCL, but the fact that you can often find it on sale means you can get a good deal. It comes with Roku, solid image quality, and a useful, connected app that is rare to find. We recommend it, just not at full price.