For all that, the LE48FHDF3310TA managed to disappoint; though it has some definite strong suits, clumsy motion performance and poor color management ruin the overall value.

A lifeless costume

TCL stands for "The Creative Life," but this design is just another lesson in TV basics. Budget models like this TCL take advantage of build to save you bills, but they sure do bore the eye while they're at it. This TV sports a black rectangle on top and another below. The end.

A healthy range of outputs and inputs are ready to go.

On-set controls line the right side of the TV to help you out when your remote goes missing. At the other end of the panel, a healthy range of outputs and inputs are ready to go. Users will find shared component/composite hooks, SPDIF out, PC audio in, an antenna port, and a headphone jack; on the back of the same side are three HDMI connections and one USB port.

Lastly, TCL accessorizes the LE48FHDF3310TA with a good-looking but basic controller. Nothing on the remote glows or flashes—annoying in the dark—but it gets the job done.

Feature fiends, turn away.

This feature set is very basic. Nothing glows in the dark or dazzles in 3D. You can't stream your favorite shows or talk to your grandma in Idaho using a built-in camera. The USB port is about all the excitement you'll find here.

Picture settings are meager, too. You can fiddle with color temperature, brightness, contrast, and sharpness, but advanced controls like white balance and gamma are unavailable. Users can at least enjoy a dummy EQ and a surround mode, though.

Motion and color: the bad seeds

I'll cut to the chase: This television has very poor motion and troubled color. The underlying bread-and-butter performance staples are satisfactory, but Achilles-heel-type errors really ruin the value here.

Achilles-heel-type errors really ruin the value here.

As soon as I turned on this TV, I could see the problems with my own eyes: When cameras pan in cinematic manner, details blur and shudder; certain shades of blue suffer a strange, blocky appearance where smooth transitions ought to take place; midtones sometimes appear very grainy.

Testing revealed the issues right away. Though contrast is quite healthy—with great dark levels and beaming peak whites—clumsy transitions from dark-to-light just don't produce attractive, polished pictures. Motion struggles a great deal, especially where horizontal movement is concerned. The viewing angle is extremely narrow, making the LE48FHDF3310TA a poor candidate for wall mounting. Yikes.

Bargain hunters: Your hunt is not over.

When a TV struggles with basics like motion and color, buyers should just keep their billfolds closed—sale or no sale. As I sat watching The Hobbit on Blu-ray yesterday, squinting with discomfort as the map of Middle Earth dragged indecipherably over the screen, it hit me: I wouldn't even put this TV in my living room for free.

Add to that some color troubles and a pathetic viewing angle. This is no crown jewel for your living room, and it's worse than what TCL delivered a year ago. With the LE48FHDF3310TA's poor testing results in mind, my advice is to say "pass" and continue to browse, browse, browse.

We can't transport you into the lab in body, but we can share our findings—which is why we have the Science Page. The LE48FHDF3310TA got off to the right start: Its contrast is healthy as a lark and it produces accurate colors. But after that, the wheels fall off.

From viewing angle, to shaky motion, to color processing errors, this TCL just can't keep its head above water.

This TCL turns to the dark side—and that's a good thing.

When we discuss contrast ratio, we're talking about a TV's dynamic range—how dark and how bright it gets. By dividing a panel's peak brightness by its minimum luminance, we determine this ratio. The LE48FHDF3310TA didn't choke here: We measured a total contrast ratio of 4279:1.

Its important to look further, though. Many budget TVs skimp on the most important end of the scale—the dark side—but not this TCL. We gathered readings of 286.70 cd/m2 (peak bright) and 0.067 cd/m2 (minimum luminance). With readings like these, not only is this TV now equipped to deliver areas of highlight and shadow with lifelike detail, but it can also perform well in both dark and sunny settings.

Here comes (color) trouble.

When it comes to color performance, we break it down into three aspects. I'll start with gamut, which is a visual representation of how closely a television adheres to the Rec. 709 international HD color standard. Are the TV's reds too red? Are greens faded? In this case, reds and greens are a bit undersaturated, blues are overemphasized, and the white point is off target. In other words, red and green are the wrong hue (they should be a bit more intense); blue looks unnaturally vibrant; areas of white have an unpleasant blue tinge. Yet at the end of the day, this color gamut is fairly satisfactory. We've seen far worse in this price range.

The next aspect of performance is that of color temperature, which is an assessment of a TV's light source. In a perfect world, a TV would have the same temperature in Kelvins throughout its entire greyscale, from dark to light. This TCL does nothing of the sort, producing temperature errors that pollute its entire grayscale with a blue tint.

The final area of color performance is one that the LE48FHDF3310TA really struggled with: color curves. These curves describe how skillfully a TV segues from one hue to the next. Time in the lab produced unhappy findings: This panel's curves are jumpy and incongruous. To give a practical example of how these troubles manifest on screen, transitions from dark blue to light blue lack detail, producing blocky, ugly textures instead of polished pictures.

View from the middle

Testing moved further downhill with the viewing angle test. As with most LCD televisions, this TCL doesn't look so hot from the side.

We measured a total viewing angle of 25°—or ±13° from either side. That armrest is comfortable, sure, but it also decreases this TV's contrast by upwards of 50%. I'd sit front and center, for this one.

Meet the testers

Virginia Barry

Virginia Barry

Former Managing Editor

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Virginia is a former Managing Editor at Reviewed.com. She has a background in English and journalism. Away from the office, Virginia passes time with dusty books & house cats.

See all of Virginia Barry's reviews

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