When shopping around for new TVs, or hearing about the latest in display technology, the names that immediately come to mind are Samsung, Sony, LG, and Panasonic. While those brands are always taking up the most floor space at CES, you shouldn’t sleep on the smaller, more budget friendly offerings.“The Creative Life,” or TCL as they’re more commonly referred to, is one such company that should be on your radar. They may be budget, but there’s something special about their line of TVs. Maybe it’s the fact that, unlike other brands that purchase ready-made display panels to slap their own housing on, TCL makes their own panels, casings, and stands. Or maybe it’s their positioning as the world’s 3rd largest producers of TVs. Whatever their secret sauce is, it keeps TCL safe from being just another manufacturer of cheap Chinese crap.The product we’re reviewing today is the LED32S6500, which—as its name implies—is a 32” smart LED TV. which retails for around Php 12,000.00, depending on the dealer. It’s a bit on the high side of mid-range budget TVs, but there are plenty of compelling reasons for this.For starters, its LED-backlit FHD (1080p60Hz) VA panel supports micro-dimming thanks to its direct LED backlighting—which offers satisfyingly deep blacks and a great contrast ratio (especially in the dark) that you won’t find on edge-backlit TVs, a commonly-cut corner on cheaper TVs like this. It offers a wide 178° viewing angle, a brightness enhancement mode which should help in case of strong glare, and a sports mode which is supposed to offer image and sound optimization that somehow increases the impact and “immersiveness” of live-action events.There’s plenty of customization options on top of that, notably when it comes to sound. The TV software offers robust EQ control, allowing you to fine tune exactly what frequencies you want to boost or reduce. And while it isn’t the best sounding TV, its Dolby-certified speakers are decent enough to hold off on buying a dedicated soundbar. Still, if you’ve got a better audio setup, it would be a big improvement.In terms of software and the TV’s overall “smartness,” I’d say it’s got it where it counts. While it isn’t Android, the LED32S6500’s custom OS has got it where it counts. Netflix and Youtube are offered front and center, and both work great. The built-in Netflix app feels current, and it definitely imported all my settings (including subtitle preferences) upon login. There’s also a built-in app store for installing additional smart TV channels, which includes iFlix, ABS-CBN, GMA, and more.
One of the smart features printed on the box is something called T-Cast. This app pairs with your smartphone to have it act as a remote for the TV. Since it works over 2.4GHz, your phone doesn’t need an IR blaster. Additionally, T-Cast makes clever use of the versatility of smartphones over regular TV remotes with the implementation of two special remote modes: mouse cursor, and keyboard input. These modes use your phone’s touchscreen to control a pointer in the TV’s smart dashboard, or to input text in a much more familiar way rather than relying on using the traditional remote cursors to select characters one at a time.
T-Cast is a great idea and it would be perfect, if only it worked better. Pairing to my phone was a bit of a bear, and once it did sync, the limitations of the 2.4GHz band were immediately apparent. Mouse mode is nice in theory but the input latency and frequent dropped connections make it more frustrating than anything else. As for the keyboard input mode, I have yet to find an app that accepts it.
Instead of using my phone as a remote for the TV, I opted to cast its screen over to it via the supported Android mirroring function. It works on Android 6.0 and up, as long as your phone’s manufacturer didn’t drop the Cast feature built in to the OS. The cast quality is far from perfect, due once again to the bandwidth limitations of the 2.4GHz band, but it’s passable. One advantage of this over a Chromecast is the ability to mirror whatever is on your Android device, not just video streaming from a supported app. Of course, the sheer amount of compression needed to make this work well means that the actual video quality of the mirroring can’t hold a candle to anything a Chromecast puts out. Still, it’s definitely nice to have this included without needing to plug in an external streaming device.
Speaking of plugging in, the LED32S6500 offers the following I/O: 2 HDMI ports, a triple A/V port which takes in up to 3 RCA component plugs via an adapter, an antenna/cable port, 1 SPDIF port, a headphone jack, 1 USB 2.0 port for external media, and an Ethernet port. Rudimentary testing of the HDMI ports show no noticeable additional overhead on input lag, at least from a PC. Good news for gamers!
For those hoping to wall-mount, this TV follows the VESA 100x100mm standard. And considering its design, we couldn’t blame you for considering hanging it on a wall at all. Its slim, 1cm side and top bezels help frame the display nicely. This won’t be sitting flush against a wall though; TCL designed this thicc boi to be bottom-heavy, putting all the electronics and ports in a hump at the back. Still, even on its included stand, it looks pretty sleek despite its plastic front rail and high impact polystyrene (HIPS) backing.
So, should you buy it? If you’re looking for a secondary TV to go into a guest room or the kids’ room—something to complement a bigger TV situated somewhere else in the house or apartment—then by all means yes. If you’re looking to use this as a primary TV or something to replace your current one, we still highly recommend the TCL LED32S6500 if you’re not the type to be pixel-peeping all over the panel, scrutinizing the display for banding issues or the dirty screen effect. Honestly, even if you are the type to nitpick over TVs, you can’t argue over the value TCL offers with this model.