Hands-on with TCL’s Smart 3D TV alternative

Everyone wants a new TV, but we’re not always ready to pay an arm and a leg for what’s on offer. One company, TCL, might have the solution, and it’s stepping up to fill a void and prove it has what it takes to be as awesome as everyone else.

You might not have heard of TCL, but the company isn’t new, and it’s beginning to make waves around the world, offering competition in the world of Smart TVs to the likes of the big guys, like Samsung, Panasonic, LG, and Sony.

In 2013, big things are expected of the brand, with the company pushing into American cinemas with an involvement in “Iron Man 3,” as well as being used by Ikea as the official supplier for its line of furniture with built-in televisions.

So what is the TCL like?

While it’s obviously not a top end TV, our quick test play with TCL’s 39 inch reveals vibrant colours and excellent viewing angles, appearing much better than the devices we normally see at the low end of the spectrum.

Priced at $999, it might be a little higher than we expect from a new entrant, though looking around, the street price seems to be a few hundred lower than the recommended retail price.

TCL supports 3D in its TVs, and in this case, the company has gone with the active 3D technology, with one pair of rechargeable glasses included in the box, alongside the remote.

Testing the 3D with Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” in 3D shows some beautiful colours and dimensionality, better than the passive 3D on a similarly priced Ohki we saw last year, but possibly not quite as good as competing active 3D TVs from the likes of Samsung.

We certainly wouldn’t have any problems using the 3D here, mind you, even if we did notice some anti-aliasing and obvious pixelation on details when viewed up close.

The picture quality indicates that it’s not an el-cheapo low-grade display, with the 1080p picture offered alongside a refresh rate of 100Hz. While we’re not big fans of the keeping motion technologies on since it makes movies look odd – almost like they’ve been shot on a camcorder, actually – this should help people out with regards to sport.

Energy efficiency is much higher than you might expect too, with an eight start rating, while the ports on offer are reasonably varied and useful, including four HDMI, VGA input, component, optical audio, and Ethernet. One thing is missing, with wireless an optional part of the package that our TV didn’t seem to have, though we suspect this can be fixed with an optional USB dongle.

TCL has definitely nailed one thing: the remote. It’s long, colourful, and the buttons are well spaced. In fact, it’s one part that feels like TCL has paid some attention to, which is interesting, because it’s usually the area companies pay the least attention to.

The Smart TV integration, however, could do with some work.

For its services, TCL is working with Yahoo, which provides some basic news and information widgets, but misses out on some of that nifty app functionality offered such as ABC TV’s iView and the SBS equivalent.

You can overlay the news on a regular screen, and it works even with 3D switched on, so you could technically watch a 3D movie with the kids while checking stocks or the latest news, just don’t expect your kids to like you much that day.

The only other thing lacking with the TCL is the sound, which uses speakers on the bottom.

There’s depth here, but not much, and we’d easily recommend finding a sound system to plug into it since dimensionality isn’t the only problem, but also bass.

Your kids probably won’t have have a problem here, and while there’s an equaliser here, it’s better to leave it untouched, because it can make volume blow out rather drastically.

Still, our first taste of a TV from TCL was surprising, and there’s more quality on offer here than what we initially expected, with good colour, very good 3D, and a fantastic energy rating.

There are still areas that could see an improvement, and we’d love to see an improvement on sound and a Smart TV system that feels better designed, but overall, it’s not bad, and if you’re in the market for a small new television, our hands-on shows that this could be a good choice, especially if you’re tired of all the other brands and are keen to check out something else.