TCL 5 Series 2018 S517 Review

TCL 5 Series 2018 S517 Review

The TCL 5 Series 2018 S517 Review is a 4k TV with decent picture quality. It has a VA-type panel which can produce deep dark scenes, but doesn’t support more advanced features such as local dimming to improve the performance further. It also supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and can produce great vivid colors but can’t produce bright highlights. For gamers, it has a low input lag which is excellent.


The design of the TCL S515/S517 is quite basic. It has a sleek look due to its thin borders and elegant base, but from a closer perspective it looks less premium. Overall it is a decent, typical TCL design.
The stand of the TCL 5 Series is plastic and relatively wide. It is certainly narrower than the new TCL 6-Series R615/617, but provides the same stability to the TV.
It resembles last years S405 stand, without the silver finish.
Footprint of the 55″ TV stand: 38.6″ x 11.7″

The rear of the TV is made of the metal panel section and the plastic electronics compartment. It looks simple and clean, but lacks any planning for.

The TCL 5-series has very thin borders that give it a sleek look. There is however, a pretty obvious gap between the border bezel and the first line of pixels on the screen.
The S515/517 would be a very thin TV if it not for the lower bottom part where the LEDs are hosted, along with a big vent to dissipate the generated heat.

The TCL S515/S517 gets a little warm at the bottom where the LEDs are located. However, this should not cause any issues as the TV has two big vents one at the bottom and one midway up the back of the TV, that dissipate the heat well.

The build quality of the TCL 5-series is okay with no loose panels or gaps. It has a solid construction, and although it does not look premium it is at par with the built quality of Vizion E Series 2017 and the rest of the TCL TVs.

Picture Quality

The TCL S517 has a decent picture quality. It has an excellent native contrast ratio, great black uniformity and although it lacks local dimming, blacks in movies look good. Because the TV can’t get very bright, especially in HDR, the S517 performs better in dimmer viewing environments. Gray uniformity is okay with little dirty screen effect to worry sports fans. The TV can show great colors that can be calibrated close to perfection. Although reflections are handled well it is not recommended for a wide room since viewing angles are not good.

The TCL 5 Series does not have Local Dimming. It has a Micro Contrast option in the menu, however this only adjusts the contrast of different areas of the screen and isn’t actually a local dimming feature so we leave it off.

The above video is provided for reference only.

The TCL 5-series has a superb native contrast ratio. It is in line with with some of the best high-end LED TVs we have tested and certainly better than rivals Samsung NU7100 and Vizio E Series 2017. It displays very deep blacks and that enhances dark scenes when viewed in low-light environments.

The TCL 5-Series is a definite improvement from last year’s S405 since it has a decent peak brightness which is good enough for a dimly lit room. Although it performs better than Vizio E Series 2017 and similarly to Samsung NU7100, the S515 doesn’t even come close to the brightness of the TCL R617 6-series, or the Sony X720E. It just won’t get bright enough to overcome glare.

The results in our HDR Peak Brightness test were disappointing, albeit better than last year’s TCL S405. The luminance is very similar across all input windows and thus small highlights in dark scenes will not stand out and could be missed.

Again the TCL 5-series is overshadowed by this years TCL 6-series R617 scores in HDR, but still manages to outperform the Vizio E Series 2017 and perform at par with Samsung NU7100.

The S517 has the same decent performance in gray uniformity as last year’s S405. Both at 50% and at 5% gray, the image shows slightly darker along the edges and some clouding is visible. Therefore we expect some dirty screen effect to be present when watching sports.

The 517 has better gray uniformity than the TCL R617 we tested. This is expected as edge-lit TVs typically have less uniformity issues than full array TVs.

The viewing angle of 5 Series is bad. This is typical with a VA panels, but this TV is also at the lower end of the scale. Even slight deviations from the middle and blacks become gray and colors shift, while brightness decreases a little more gradually as viewing angle increases. The S515 is not a good choice for a wide room where people will be often viewing the TV from the side.

The native black uniformity of the TCL S517 is very good. We can see some slight clouding near the top and again closer to the test cross. However, this is faint and will not not show up in dark scenes while looking at regular video content.

As all TCL TVs the TCL 5-series has a semi-gloss finish for diffusing reflections across the screen. It does a great job in dimmer environments, but when viewed in a bright room the reflections can be somewhat distracting. This is especially apparent when the source is facing the TV.

The S405 performs slightly better with reflections, as there are fewer halos visible around bright reflections.

The TCL S517 has decent out of the box color accuracy, when picture mode is set to Movie. Red/Yellow are a slightly dominant because of the warm color temperature and this results in an elevated white Balance dE. However, since color dE is low enough, this gray inaccuracy might go unnoticed to most people. Gamma already follows our target well.

The TCL S515 is easy to calibrate, like other TCL TVs we’ve tested. As a result, it is possible to get a very accurate result and it is very hard to notice any imperfections with regard to color representation.

Like other TCL TVs, the calibration is only possible via the mobile app (Android or iOS) and is one of the easiest methods available from all the major TV brands. The 11 points white balance control and the color space control are fairly responsive result in an easy way to do the calibration.

Upscaling of low-quality content such as DVDs is good. As with other TCL TVs, the image isn’t too soft and details are preserved.

720p sources such as cable TV are upscaled well. Details remains clear.

Full HD content such as Blu-rays look good. The image remains clear.

With some 4k images (such as for PC monitor use) the sub-pixel dimming algorithm results in some strange artifacts when viewed from up close (see here). This isn’t an issue for most content. This type of dithering is uncommon, and is only seen on some TCL TVs, including the S517 and R617. Most people won’t notice it much, but occasionally it causes artifacts when it interferes with spatial dithering in games such as this green or purple shadow.

The TCL 5 Series supports a wide color gamut. Coverage of the smaller P3 color space is great, comparable to many high end TVs. Coverage of the wider Rec 2020 color space is decent, HDR content will look good.

The PQ curve follows our curve well, and rolls off gradually at the TV’s peak brightness. We had to use a 50% stimulus as the 75% input looks bad. The PC and Game EOTFs also follow the curve well, which is good. These were tested with the ‘dark’ picture brightness, but the ‘normal’ setting looks almost identical.

The S515 supports a wider color gamut than the TCL R617 and last year’s S405.

Decent color volume. The 5 Series doesn’t produce deep dark colors or bright saturated colors very well. Most of its color gamut is displayed well across most brightness levels.

The gradient of the 5 Series is very good. Very little banding is visible especially in darker shades of green and red, but nothing major. Overall it performs slightly worse than last years S405 and equally well to Samsung NU7100.

No image retention is present on the TCL S515 and this is in line with other TVs that use VA panels.

We don’t expect VA panels to experience permanent image retention, as the VA panel in our long-term test appears immune.

Like the TCL 6 Series and other TCL TVs we’ve tested, the way the panel dims sub-pixels results in some minor artifacts visible in the 4k input test.

Sound Quality

The TCL S517 gas a mediocre sound. This TV doesn’t get very loud, and doesn’t produce much bass either. However, it produces clear and intelligible dialogs, and has low distortion. For a better sound, dedicated speakers or a soundbar is recommended.

The frequency response of the S517 is sub-par. LFE (low-frequency extension) is at 143Hz, which is inadequate. This meas that this TV doesn’t produce any thump or rumble, and doesn’t have much body and punch to its bass either. The response above the LFE point is decently balanced, suggesting clear and intelligible dialogs. However, this TV doesn’t get very loud. Additionally, since it doesn’t have a room correction system, it wasn’t able to remove the mode of our test room around 200Hz.

The S517 has an above-average distortion performance. The overall amount of harmonic distortion is decent at 80dB SPL. At maximum volume, there’s not a big jump in THD, which is good. But this TV doesn’t get very loud.

Smart Features

The TCL S517 has the same smart interface as the more expensive R617. While the interface is very basic, with a simplistic design and no advanced animations, it is very fluid and there are no frame drops. Most settings and inputs can be accessed within a couple of button presses. There are ads on the main page, and they cannot be disabled. The included remote is very basic, but the remote app is excellent and more than compensates for this limitation.

The interface of the 5 Series is very straightforward and easy to use. There are no frame drops and very little lag. Apps are responsive and open quickly.

Like the TCL R617, there are ads on the main interface page. The ads are quite large and varied. There is also a separate ‘Featured’ tab. The ads cannot be disabled and there is no opt-out option.

The S517 has a wide selection of apps built-in on the Roku smart interface. The default apps are limited, but work well. There are hundreds of streaming channels available, many of them free. Apps can also be installed through the companion smart phone app.

The included remote is basic, with a very limited number of buttons. All settings are accessible only through the settings menu or the companion app. There is voice control, but it is very basic. It can be used to change inputs or search for content, but does not understand contextual questions or random questions such as weather or even telling time.

The remote included with the S517 doesn’t require line of sight with the TV. The S515 sold at Best Buy does.

The very good remote app works as well on the S517 as on the R617. It can completely replace the included remote, and has all of the advanced functionality found on the more expensive remote included with the 517, great for owners of the S515.

It can be used to access most settings, and is the only way to access the calibration menu for the S517.

There is a small cluster of three buttons on the bottom center of the screen. Functionality is very similar to the R617. The center button brings up a menu on the TV with all of the inputs and an option to turn the TV off. Unlike the R617, there are two side buttons used to scroll through this menu.

The buttons are a little difficult to access, as they are placed behind the plastic IR receiver.


Wall Mount – Vesa 200×200
Borders – 0.35″ (0.9 cm)
Max Thickness – 2.91″ (7.4 cm)
Maximum Temperature – 111 °F (44 °C)
Average Temperature – 90 °F (32 °C)
Native Contrast – 6000 : 1
Contrast with local dimming – N/A
Local Dimming – No
Backlight – Edge
SDR Real Scene Peak Brightness – 277 cd/m2
SDR Peak 2% Window – 297 cd/m2
SDR Peak 10% Window – 298 cd/m2
SDR Peak 25% Window – 299 cd/m2
SDR Peak 50% Window – 299 cd/m2
SDR Peak 100% Window – 299 cd/m2
SDR Sustained 2% Window – 297 cd/m2
SDR Sustained 10% Window – 298 cd/m2
SDR Sustained 25% Window – 299 cd/m2
SDR Sustained 50% Window – 299 cd/m2
SDR Sustained 100% Window – 299 cd/m2
SDR ABL – 0.000
HDR Real Scene Peak Brightness = 273 cd/m2
HDR Peak 2% Window – 298 cd/m2
HDR Peak 10% Window – 299 cd/m2
HDR Peak 25% Window – 299 cd/m2
HDR Peak 50% Window – 300 cd/m2
HDR Peak 100% Window – 300 cd/m2
HDR Sustained 2% Window – 298 cd/m2
HDR Sustained 10% Window – 299 cd/m2
HDR Sustained 25% Window – 299 cd/m2
HDR Sustained 50% Window – 300 cd/m2
HDR Sustained 100% Window – 300 cd/m2
HDR ABL – 0.000
50% Std. Dev. – 3.140 %
50% DSE – 0.197 %
5% Std. Dev. – 1.550 %
5% DSE – 0.122 %
Color Shift – 18 °
Brightness – 28 °
Black Level – 9 °
Native Std. Dev. – 1.020 %
Std. Dev. w/ L.D. – N/A
Screen Finish – Semi-gloss
Total Reflections – 5.9 %
Indirect Reflections – 0.8 %
Picture Mode – Movie
White Balance dE – 4.15
Color dE – 2.61
Gamma – 2.21
Color Temperature – 5815 K
Picture Mode – Movie
White Balance dE – 0.17
Color dE – 0.43
Gamma – 2.20
Color Temperature – 6493 K
Wide Color Gamut – Yes
DCI P3 xy – 90.13 %
DCI P3 uv – 94.08 %
Rec 2020 xy – 66.14 %
Rec 2020 uv – 71.23 %
Normalized DCI P3 Coverage ITP – 72.5 %
10,000 cd/m² DCI P3 Coverage ITP – 28.4 %
Normalized Rec 2020 Coverage ITP – 64.3 %
10,000 cd/m² Rec 2020 Coverage ITP – 25.1 %
Color Depth – 10 Bit
Red (Std. Dev.) – 0.114 dE
Green (Std. Dev.) – 0.109 dE
Blue (Std. Dev.) – 0.088 dE
Gray (Std. Dev.) – 0.104 dE
IR after 0 min recovery – 0.00 %
IR after 2 min recovery – 0.00 %
IR after 4 min recovery – 0.00 %
IR after 6 min recovery – 0.00 %
IR after 8 min recovery – 0.00 %
IR after 10 min recovery – 0.00 %
Permanent Burn-In Risk – No
80% Response Time – 6.8 ms
100% Response Time – 15.8 ms
Flicker-Free – No
PWM Dimming Frequency – 180 Hz
Optional BFI – No
Min Flicker for 60 fps – 180 Hz
60 Hz for 60 fps – No
120 Hz for 120 fps – N/A
Min Flicker for 60 fps in Game Mode – 180 Hz
Motion Interpolation (30 fps) – Yes
Motion Interpolation (60 fps) – No
Frame Hold Time @ 24 fps – 25.9 ms
Frame Hold Time @ 60 fps – 0.9 ms
Judder-Free 24p – Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60p – Yes
Judder-Free 24p via 60i – Yes
Judder-Free 24p via Native Apps – Yes
Native Refresh Rate – 60 Hz
Variable Refresh Rate – No
VRR Maximum – N/A
VRR Minimum – N/A
VRR Supported Connectors – N/A
1080p @ 60Hz – 17.9 ms
1080p @ 60Hz + HDR – 18.0 ms
1080p @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode – 137.6 ms
1080p @ 120 Hz – N/A
4k @ 60Hz – 20.4 ms
4k @ 60Hz + HDR – 20.5 ms
4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4 – 20.4 ms
4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4 + 8 bit HDR – 20.4 ms
4k @ 60Hz Outside Game Mode – 123.5 ms
4k With Interpolation – 149.6 ms
4k @ 120 Hz – N/A
Variable Refresh Rate – N/A
1080p @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4 – Yes
1080p @ 120Hz – No
1440p @ 60Hz – Yes
4k @ 30Hz @ 4:4:4 – Yes
4k @ 60Hz – Yes
4k @ 60Hz @ 4:4:4 – Yes
4k @ 120Hz – No
HDMI – 3
USB – 1
Digital Optical Audio Out – 1
Analog Audio Out 3.5mm – 1
Analog Audio Out RCA – 0
Component In – 0
Composite In – 1 (incl. adapter)
Tuner (Cable/Ant) – 1
Ethernet – 1
DisplayPort – 0
IR In – 0
HDR10 – Yes
Dolby Vision – Yes
HLG – No
3D – No
5.1 Passthrough ARC Dolby Digital – Yes
5.1 Passthrough ARC DTS – No
5.1 Passthrough Optical Dolby Digital – Yes
5.1 Passthrough Optical DTS – No
HDMI 2.0 Full Bandwith – Yes (HDMI 1,2,3)
HDMI 2.1 Full Bandwidth – No
ARC – Yes (HDMI 3)
USB 3.0 – No
HDCP 2.2 : Yes (HDMI 1,2,3)
CEC : Yes
MHL : No
Variable Analog Audio Out : Yes
Wi-Fi Support : Yes (2.4 GHz, 5 GHz)
Low-Frequency Extension 142.54 Hz
Std. Dev. @ 70 4.04 dB
Std. Dev. @ 80 – 4.32 dB
Std. Dev. @ Max -5.76 dB
Max – 84.5 dB SPL
Dynamic Range Compression – 3.94 dB
Weighted THD @ 80 – 0.14
Weighted THD @ Max – 0.349
IMD @ 80 – 2.10 %
IMD @ Max – 4.34 %
Ease of Use – Easy
Smoothness – Very Smooth
Time Taken to Select YouTube – 3 s
Time Taken to Change Backlight – 4 s
Advanced Options – Many
Ads – Yes
Opt-out – No
Suggested Content in Home – Yes
Opt-out of Suggested Content – No
App Selection – Many
App Smoothness – Average
Cast Capable – Yes
USB Drive Playback – Yes
USB Drive HDR Playback – Yes
HDR in Netflix – Yes
HDR in Amazon Video – Yes
HDR in YouTube – Yes
Size – Small
Voice Control – Search, Some Other Features
CEC Menu Control – No
Other Smart Features – No
Acts as the Remote – Yes
Launches Apps and Inputs – Both
Inputs Text in YouTube – No
Inputs Text in Netflix – Yes
Streams Device Files – Yes
Controls TV Settings – Some
Voice Control – YesPower Consumption : 50 W
Power Consumption (Max) – 103 W
Firmware – 8.0.2 • build 4140-30


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