If it was possible to design a Smart TV that would perfectly fulfill all the daily viewing needs of 2016's TV viewers at a bargain price, what would it look like?
Such a TV set would probably be straightforward to set up, easy to use, with solid performance and a truckload of connectivity and streaming features and apps.
Look no further, the TCL 32S3800 32-Inch 720p TV Roku Smart LED TV is indeed the winner.
Having established a foothold in the sticks and boxes business, Roku eventually made a move into the TV set market, and what a move it is.
With built-in WiFi capabilities, the Roku set only needs the internet to function, though a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription wouldn’t hurt. Even without a premium content delivery system, there is a bunch of free channels online, and Roku will dutifully find them all.
This is an entry-level product, meant to work straight out of the box and with minimal hassle. But with the price tag of $168.88, it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is.
The TCL 32S3800 TV set has a 60 Hz native refresh rate and LED backlight, which provide an overall decent viewing experience. Picture options are sorely missing compared to other TVs in the same pricing category, but there are always video presets. The sound and video presets are initially set to energy saving modes, but once both defaults are changed to Theater, that’s all there is to fiddling with the set’s contrast, brightness and saturation.
But How Good is the TCL 32S3800?
Speaking of Roku TV’s search capabilities, it’s impossible to find a serious flaw. The Roku search option and overall interface is possibly the best of all Smart TVs and streaming boxes ever made, and it doesn’t favor any particular network – search queries include results from many networks (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, etc) . It’s no wonder the TCL 32S3800 carries three awards: Netflix Recommended, PCMag.com’s Editor’s Choice and Reviewed.com’s Editor’s Choice. It looks good so far, but we’re just getting started.
The basic setup procedure takes around 5 minutes, during which the user has to sign up for a free Roku account, register the TV on their website and it’s good to go. The set itself has a splayed leg design, meaning it takes about 9’’ for it to sit comfortably without swaying. This design might not appeal to everyone, but the advantage is extra storage room for the remote and other small devices beneath the set.
Always ready to play
The set’s firmware is constantly updated, which is a nice touch and ensures maximum compatibility with different formats. The set will also recognize all conceivable media formats with ease and play them on the go, streamed from a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or whatever new doodad there is out there with media storage and internet connectivity.
All pre-installed apps (inexplicably called “channels” by the set’s instructions) can be deleted immediately and the set won’t complain about it. Alternatively, more apps can be added, though this has to be done through the Roku website and using a classic browser with the Roku account. All changes made online will sync to the TV, minimizing time spent around fiddling with the apps.
Help is on the way
Tooltips and help screens are as verbose as they get, along with an intro video showing you the ropes. The usability is marvelous and it’s not even remotely possible to get stuck using this set, though there is a distinct lack of polish and chrome other sets have.
The remote is simple too, with just a few buttons, including the dedicated ones for Netflix, Amazon, Rdio and Vudu. Though the first two are justified, the Rdio and Vudu are probably intruders that made their way on the remote through some sort of partnership deal. Unfortunately, the remote doesn’t have dedicated number buttons, which means it’s impossible to channel surf.
This isn’t a set for cinephiles or technology enthusiasts. In fact, the technology behind this TV set is tried, true and we’ve seen it all before, but the execution of its offerings and at it's bargain price seem to make the TCL 32S3800 the deal of the century.