Review: TCL 32” Roku Smart LED TV– Ideal for Cord Cutters & Small Spaces

We consume media on our tablets and Smartphones, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to relax with a cold one in front of the TV. A mega-sized screen is great, but sometimes a small compact model like the the TCL 32” Roku Smart LED TV (32S327-CA), can be better suited for the job. Perhaps you’re in a small condo, dorm or cottage. Or maybe you need a second set to motivate you to get your steps in on the treadmill or just trying to earn little extra money and run an AirBnB. 

The TV is a low cost, full high-definition (FHD) TV equipped with many of the features typically found in larger higher priced models.

TCL is a brand at first I was not familiar with. Based in China, they are fairly new to the North American market and new this year to the Canadian TV scene. However, they’ve been around for years claiming to be the world’s 3rd largest TV manufacturer and still growing. 

Small on Size, Big on Features

New for 2019 and built-for the Canadian market, this model measures a mere 28.8 x 17.1 x 3.0 inches and fits almost anywhere. It’s slim and light. Weighing in at under 10 pounds you’d be amazed that you can literally it carry under your arm, pop it into the trunk of your car and take it anywhere.  It comes with two small attachable feet that act as a mini stand or with an optional mount, you can attach it to a wall.

Built-in ports

Its unpretentious black housing, houses a crisp 32-inch (31.5″ actual) FullHD (1080p) LED widescreen display, great for watching movies and playing games. It features dual-band 802.11ac WiFi to connect wirelessly to the Internet perfect for feeding our insatiable hunger for Netflix and YouTube.

On the side, is three HDMI ports to connect external devices and a coax connector for connecting cable.  The USB port allows you to view your own media or use it to pause live TV by simply inserting your own USB stick. There’s a headphone jack for quiet listening or to hook up an external speaker and a digital audio output to take advantage of its Dolby Digital Plus premium audio. A composite video jack with cable completes the row to connect older analogue video and gaming consoles. 

Simplified Roku Remote with quick access buttons

Roku Built In

It’s easy to hook up your cable TV or satellite box, but the TCL Roku TV is a perfect solution for cord cutters (see our 2016 article – Getting Free HD TV without Cable). It’s designed to accept a digital HD antenna to capture free over-the-air TV channels, but as the name implies, a Roku streamer is built right in, so there’s no need to buy yet another device and hang it off the back of the TV.  Roku gives you access to literally thousands of streaming channels that feature hundreds of thousands of movies, TV shows, live sports, music, news and much more. Some are free; others require paid subscriptions. 

Integrated Simplicity

The beauty of this TV is its simplicity. Getting started is a breeze with an easy step-by-step on-screen set-up. You no longer have to worry about selecting the right input and wade through complicated menus. Both the TV’s functionality and Roku’s streaming services are integrated together into a single intuitive interface. This makes it easy to navigate with one simple easy to use remote with one touch access to services like Netflix and YouTube. You can also use the Roku app for smartphone or tablet as a remote for voice or keyboard search.

Use the Roku app as a remote,
voice search and private listening

Some of the other nifty features include mirroring – i.e. the ability to throw media from your smartphone, tablet or PC on your TV. Guest mode, is perfect if you run an AirBnB. You can restrict access to your streaming services while guests can sign on to their own accounts and automatically be signed out when they leave.  And should you need to adjust your TVs picture, there’s no fussing with various controls. You can go into picture settings for example and simply select from: Dark, Darker, Normal, Bright and Brighter. 

It also has a software auto update feature , so you’re always assured of keeping your TV up to date. In fact your TV will look for updates every 2-3 days (as long as you are connected to the Internet). 

Tradeoffs

Now before we look at what this TV doesn’t have, it’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking about a $200 TV, not one that costs a thousand. Regardless, some tech savvy or TV purists may not appreciate some of the tradeoffs between simplicity and the lack of bells and whistles.

The TCL uses the basic Roku remote, so there’s no numeric keypad for direct access to a channel, nor a voice search button found on the top-line Roku players. There’s no Ethernet port for direct connect to the Internet. Nor can you fine tune the picture and colour as on other TVs. There’s also no support for HDR  (High-Dynamic Range) or 4K resolution.  I would have also appreciated one more USB port so I could use one for the Pause Live TV function and the other to view my own media and eliminate the need for plugging and unplugging.

While it’s not totally obvious, the 120Hz is not a true refresh rate , but rather a 120Hz CMI (Clear Motion Index*). It takes, according to TCL themselves, the native 60Hz rate from the LCD panel and enhances it through a combination of advanced signal processing and back lighting for smooth blur free images , making it’s still decent for basic gaming.

32-inch TCL Roku TV great for small spaces

Bottom Line

After a few weeks of testing driving this ultra-portable TV and having been used to watching a higher-end 60-inch model, overall, I was fairly impressed. I found the picture quality quite respectable. There’s no real auto adjustment for ambient lighting so a really dark or really bright room may not yield the results you want. I purposely moved it from room to room to vary the experience. I found it to shine the brightest, pardon the pun, in a dimly lit room.  

Also, having the Roku built-in is certainly a bonus and  although I love more bells and whistles, sometimes having a simple single remote to do it all makes sense – and you’re only “looking” for one remote when you can’t find it.

The TCL 32” Roku Smart LED TV (32S327-CA) retails in Canada for $219.99 on Amazon and at your local Best Buy

Couple of items of note: 

  1. If you need to place this TV far from where you’ll be sitting, you may find the text for reading show descriptions a tad on the small side – this is likely true for any model of this size. If that’s an issue, opt for a 3-series 40-inch model for about $80 more. This TV is part of TCL’s 3-series. There are also 5, 6, and 8-Series models up to 75-inches with some available in Canada.
  2. The TCL 32S327 should not be confused with other 32-inch 3-series models. Some are older models and albeit lower cost, but also lower resolution (not full HD), lower refresh rate and not necessarily the most current Wi-Fi standard.

Greg Gazin, also known as the Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg, is a syndicated veteran tech columnist, communication, leadership and technology speaker, facilitator, blogger, podcaster and author. Reach him @gadgetgreg or at GadgetGuy.ca.

A condensed version of this article is published by Troy Media and can be found there and on their syndicated sites.

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