This is to be expected for such a cheap TV, but the S3600's Achilles' heel is its performance. If you just want the most bang for your buck, avoid this dud.
The TCL 32S3600 (MSRP $279.99, online for $119) is a problem child, and its inability to display motion smoothly is just the tip of the iceberg.

We test our TVs before and after calibration in order to get a sense of how much better the TV performs while operating at its full potential. The calibration process is only as extensive as the software, and the S3600 lacks just about every set of controls we typically use during calibration.

I started in "Cinematic" mode and used the TV's "Warm" color temperature. Since the S3600's reference white was already clocking in around 40 foot-lamberts, I did not adjust the backlight or brightness.

TCL-32S3600-Calibration.jpg

Given the nature of our testing, there was nothing I could do to improve the S3600's out-of-the-box performance.

Neutral shades—black, white, and gray—are representative of all three of a TV's sub-pixels (red, green, and blue). When we measure a TV's grayscale from its deepest black (0 IRE) to it's peak white (100 IRE), we can measure how evenly these sub-pixels are being utilized. Too much red, for example, and neutral tones might appear polluted with a peach-colored tint.

The amount of error in a grayscale is represented by DeltaE, and an out-of-the-box DeltaE of 3 or less is considered ideal. The S3600 sports a rather grotesque DeltaE of 15.13, meaning its grayscale is severely polluted with color.

TCL-32S3600-Grayscale.jpg

The S3600's grayscale is polluted with color.

When we take a look at its RGB balance, the problem becomes clear: The S3600 is all over the map. Coming out of black (0 IRE), it over-emphasizes red and green while under-emphasizing blue. Further up the grayscale towards 100 IRE we find the opposite: The S3600 begins over-emphasizing blue and under-emphasizing red and green.

TCL-32S3600-RGB-Balance.jpg

The S3600 simply cannot balance its sub-pixel emphasis.

So basic

The S3600 is comprised of a thick (albeit lightweight) 32-inch panel, dressed in black, that sits atop a slightly frosted, glass, trapezoidal stand. The glass is an interesting touch for a TV that is anything but luxurious, but some might find that it sticks out in a world of plastic Blu-ray players, plastic gaming consoles, and plastic sound bars.

TCL-32S3600-Front.JPG
Credit: Reviewed.com / Michael Desjardin

The TCL 32S3600 doesn't hold any surprises for a TV of its caliber.

Entry-level TVs tend to fall into one of two aesthetic categories: those that wear their affordability on their sleeve, and those that still look chintzy but try to make up for their entry-level performance by sporting at least one interesting design quality. This TCL falls into the latter category, though I don't find the glass stand particularly appealing.

TCL-32S3600-Remote-Control.JPG
Credit: Reviewed.com / Michael Desjardin

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: That is definitely a TV remote.

The remote control is rectangular, plastic, and has buttons. That's all anyone really needs to know about it, since the S3600 isn't a smart TV, but rather, a vessel for other hardware.

Take a trip out to the back of the S3600 and you'll find yourself looking at an L-shaped cutout housing a basic set of connectivity options. The only notable thing here is the S3600's three HDMI inputs, since most TVs in this class are limited to one—sometimes two—HDMI ports.

The rest of the options include combination composite/component inputs, an RF input, a digital audio output, a headphone jack, and a USB port.
A TV's peak brightness divided by it's deepest black level is called a contrast ratio, and we consider a high contrast ratio to be the cornerstone of a great picture. Not every TV with a decent contrast ratio is a winner, but it's hard to have a winning picture without a decent contrast ratio.

This is one of the few areas of performance where the S3600 did quite well. A black level of 0.040 cd/m2 and a reference white of 218.3 cd/m2 gives it a contrast ratio of around 5457:1, which is pretty impressive for an entry-level TV.

TCL-32S3600-Contrast-Ratio.jpg

The S3600's contrast ratio is one of just a few commendable performance aspects.

Nothing but flickering

When people ask me about motion—specifically, how to spot crummy motion performance—I often struggle to explain it. The truth is, seeing bad motion in action is the only way to really grasp the effect it can have on your experience. As it turns out, the S3600 is a fine candidate for a demonstration of this type.

Watching a movie on the S3600 is a lot like watching a stop-motion-animated version of the same film.

Watching a movie on the S3600 is a lot like watching a stop-motion-animated version of the same film. Objects, people, and landscapes flicker as they move about the frame. City skylines look especially bad during camera pans; skyscrapers hiccup their way through the frame. The effect is immediately noticeable, even to the untrained eye.

TCL-32S3600-Green-Screen.jpg
Credit: Reviewed.com / Michael Desjardin

Looking kind of green there, Peter.

Also noticeable to the untrained eye is the S3600's borderline-psychedelic color palette, which drenches the picture in a bright, oft-green sheen.

If you're searching for a TV to watch movies on, the S3600 won't serve you well.

If you're searching for a TV to watch movies on, the S3600 won't serve you well. It's better suited for cable broadcasts, provided you're not a stickler for picture quality.

Or, at this price, you might well consider the S3600 to be a dedicated gaming TV, since the gaming modes of most TVs mess with a video game's color palette anyway. Bear in mind that you won't be playing games in anything higher than a 720p resolution—an important distinction for people with an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4—and the aforementioned motion troubles aren't going away anytime soon.
As you stray away from the direct, head-on angle of the TV in front of you, the contrast quality begins to degrade. Our viewing angle test determines how far away you can sit before the contrast drops below 50% of its head-on value.

The TCL 32S3600 doesn't produce a very wide "cone." I measured a total viewing angle of 35°, or ±17°. Compared to its peers, however, this is par for the course.

TCL-32S3600-Viewing-Angle.jpg

Although the S3600's viewing angle is unimpressive, it's not out of the ordinary, given its weight class.

Tread lightly

You're most likely considering the S3600 because of its price tag, and frankly, I can't blame you. Despite an MSRP of nearly $300, the S3600 is listed on Amazon for $199.

Still, there's no denying this TCL's problems: Garish color and dismal motion performance sink what would otherwise be a winning deal. No one's expecting amazing things at the entry level, but no one deserves the absolute bare minimum, even at $200.

Garish color and dismal motion performance sink what would otherwise be a winning deal.

As far as alternatives go, consider the Sony KDL-32R330B: same size, same resolution, and it's available online for only $20 more than the S3600. The KDL-32R330B outshines the S3600 in nearly every category, making those $20 well spent.

Or perhaps you've arrived at the end of this review and have had an epiphany: You want a similarly-sized TV with a smart platform, but you don't want to go broke in the process. The Samsung UN32H5203 tested very well in our lab and can be had for just a hair under $300. Did I mention its full HD resolution?

Whatever you decide, remember that when you start wading around in sub-$300 waters, your specific needs become absolutely critical. Buying a TV in this weight class assures that you'll be making concessions of some sort, so it's especially important to differentiate between your needs and your wants.

It's just not that good, even for the price.

The S3600 is appropriate for a guest room or a dorm, but I'd keep it away from cinephiles and people who will otherwise spend a lot of time using it. It's just not that good, even for the price.
In order to gauge the accuracy of a TV's color production, we turn to the international standards outlined in a document known as Rec. 709. Each primary color point (red, green, blue) and secondary color (cyan, magenta, yellow) has a specific set of values, and our color test determines how close a TV gets to hitting these target values. That information is then plotted on a color gamut.

This is yet another test that the S3600 stumbles through. Other than blue, its primary color points miss their mark considerably. Its secondary color points are equally distressing: Cyan is far too blue-shifted, yellow is undersaturated, and magenta is much redder than it ought to be.

TCL-32S3600-Color-Gamut.jpg

The S3600's colors are either undersaturated, slightly oversaturated, or skewed towards blue.

Gamma describes how evenly a TV allocates its luminance throughout the grayscale. Poor gamma results in crushed details, particularly in dark areas of the picture. We test for a gamma sum of 2.4, which is ideal for dark rooms.

The S3600 sports a gamma sum of 1.85, and because of its lack of picture customization options, this cannot be adjusted. In short, the S3600 is not ideal for home theaters.

TCL-32S3600-Gamma.jpg

This TV is not suitable for a home theater.

Meet the testers

Michael Desjardin

Michael Desjardin

Senior Staff Writer

@Reviewed

Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.

See all of Michael Desjardin's reviews
Michael Desjardin

Michael Desjardin

Senior Staff Writer

@Reviewed

Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.

See all of Michael Desjardin's reviews

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

Shoot us an email