TCL S4/S470G Reviewed at $379.00 (55")
Product Name: TCL S4/S470G
Product Description: 2023 4K LED LCD TV
Build Quality - 8.8/10
Image & Audio - 8/10
Connectivity - 8.8/10
OS & Smart Features - 9.1/10
Price / Quality - 8.7/10
Reviewed at $379.00 (55″)
- Great viewing angles
- Very high color coverage
- Low input lag
- Dolby Vision support
- Very low brightness
- Low contrast
- Limited features
- Average audio
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After going through the entire TCL Q series it is about time to start looking at their more affordable S series. And so in our TCL S4/S470G review today we will take a thorough look on this low budget 4K TV and determine if it can be a good option for its corresponding category.
Before we start our analysis we need to point out two things. First of all the model we have for testing is for the US market. We do not know if it similar to the S4 that sells in UK and Europe so be sure to check the specs in your own region. And secondly there are two S4 variants available. The TCL S450G and the TCL S470G. These two have different panels and different characteristics. So keep in mind that what you will read here apply only for the S470G.
With that out of the way let’s take a quick look at the TV at hand. The S4/S470G is using a Direct LED backlight system with no local dimming along with TCL’s AIPQ Engine and a 60Hz VA panel. Some of its features include Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, DTS Virtual: X, DTS pass-through and the latest Google TV.
Obviously with such an extremely low price, expectations should be kept relatively at check. Nevertheless TCL is known to offer performance that is higher than what its price would make you think. Does this apply to the S4/S470G? Let’s put it to the test to find out.
The S4/S470G is a relatively simple TV that has many of the design characteristics we have seen in many other TCL TVs. It will not impress you but surely is better than some other low tier TVs we have checked from known brands.
Quality wise it is nothing special to talk about. Plastic is obviously the main material you will see and in general the TV does have a certain cheap feeling to it. But let’s be honest, you cannot expect anything major at this price point.
Thickness of the TV is about 3.2″ (8.1 cm) which is a bit on the high side, even for a Direct LED TV. But we have seen other TCL TVs measure the same so we are not surprised.
On the other hand its borders are thin enough for its category as we measured them just 0.30″ (0.8 cm). This definitely helps to make the image a bit more immersive.
Looking the TV form the back we find all ports on the left side looking sideways. The power connector is kept separately, as usual, on the right side. Unfortunately the way TCL placed these ports makes it hard to reach in case you attach the TV on a wall. They are very much towards the center meaning you will have to move the TV to create some space for your hand to fit in.
The TV doesn’t seem to have any special grooves for cable management. The electronics box is located in the middle of the back side and this is where the holes for the VESA wall mount are also found.
The design of the stand follows the fairly standard bench type that offers the TV more stability. But on the other hand you need a bigger furniture if you plan on placing it on one instead of the wall. The legs are made out of plastic which is not a surprise given the price. We did see some wobble but it was not so much to make us worry.
Unfortunately, unlike the TCL Q6/Q650G, there is no second narrow position for the stand legs in this one. So make sure these will fit in your furniture. Also for the 55″ we have for testing the gap between the panel and the surface was less than 2″. This means that many soundbars will not fit under the panel. So you will have to be creative in case you want to add one.
As for the remote, this is the same one we saw in our TCL QM8 and TCL Q7/Q750G reviews. It has the same layout and buttons but it is missing one feature, no backlight. Its button layout reminds us more of Sony’s rather than Samsung’s simpler approach.
As usual it comes with a built-in microphone to use with voice control functionality. And there are also six dedicated buttons for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Apple TV, TCL Home and TCL channels. But these buttons may vary depending the region so this may differ from ours.
If there is one thing that truly disappointed us is the missing backlight feature. Although we should not complain at this price, as this is supposed more of a premium feature to begin with. But seeing that the remote is exactly the same we thought we would get backlight functionality also.
Processor technology used
As with all brands, TCL has its own proprietary processor they use in their own TVs. Called TCL AiPQ Engine, this chip is a step down from the AiPQ processors found in the top tier Q series models.
There are no clear comparisons between these chips so we have no clear indication of their direct differences. But the processor in the S4 is missing a few key features like the “Deep Learning AI”.
But this is all we know about this processor for 2023.
Resolution and Up-scaling
First comes our upscaling testing. We run a few videos in different resolutions ranging from ultra low quality ones, some 480p DVDs, some in 720p and obviously 1080p resolutions. We tried broadcasting signals, streaming content and discs to have a better, all around idea of the TV’s capabilities.
In general we were not thrilled with TCL’s up-scaling algorithms. In all the Q series TVs we reviewed this year the up-scaling was mediocre at best. So with a low budget TV as the S4/S470G you shouldn’t expect anything fancy. The final 4K image would miss a lot of details and smaller letters are harder to discern.
With low quality streaming content we noticed a lot of macro-blocking present as the TV was incapable of removing it to a satisfactory degree. Also the smoothing applied to the final image would result in many of the initial details to be lost as a result.
Such a low end TV can do very basic things with audio. The S4/S470G does comes with various processing features including DTS Virtual: X among others. But we will talk more about its audio capabilities in our dedicated section below.
Lighting technology used
The S4/S470G uses a Direct LED backlight without local dimming functionality.
Direct LED Explained
The Direct LED backlight is using LED lights behind the panel but is much less capable than a FALD or a mini LED system. This means far less brightness output, less light accuracy and lower contrast. As a result blacks will appear more greyish than true blacks when some bright object appears.
This happens due to the omission of a local dimming feature. When a bright highlight is on screen the TV cannot increase the brightness of that specific area. It has to up the brightness of the entire screen. The result of this is that the whole image will look washed out and over-brighten.
Having a Direct LED system is pretty common the last few years in mostly the lower end, budget friendly categories. And is in line with what we have seen in many other TVs with low capabilities.
Number of Dimming Zones
With no local dimming available the S4/S470G does not use individual dimming zones.
Blooming & Zones Transitioning
The Direct LED backlight may be the weakest one available but for a low performing system it does have its own merits.
First of all the TV does not suffer from blooming. Since there are no dimming zones the S4/S470G cannot light specific parts of the screen. But the lack of blooming is replaced by an overall washed out picture instead.
When local dimming is available, the quality of a fast moving bright object on a dark background is bound by the algorithms performance. Certain test patterns, check the speed the individual zones will light up or turn off. If these changes happen late then various undesired effects like flickering or ghosting will appear.
This TV is not affected by these at all. And from our tests all objects would appear moving smoothly across the screen no matter their speed or size.
Brightness / Contrast
Next we have our brightness tests. As per usual with our TCL TV tests, we used the Movie mode because it is the most accurate one from those available for both SDR and HDR content.
SDR and HDR Measurements
First test is the SDR brightness over a 10% window and the number we got was 212 nits which is not good at all. Even though SDR does not need excessive amount of brightness this TV surely will have problems in bright lit rooms.
We then switched to HDR content and in our HDR brightness over a 10% window test we measured 209 nits. This is bad HDR brightness by any standard. Small highlights would get lost due to the inability of the TV to push higher brightness levels. But even bigger ones felt dull and uninspiring.
Unfortunately this is an HDR TV only on paper.
Automatic Brightness Limiter (ABL)
As with most TVs nowadays the S4/S470G comes with an Automatic Brightness Limiter (ABL). This system lowers the overall brightness of the screen when large parts of it become very bright for a long period of time.
The TV managed to maintain its brightness no matter how long a bright image displayed on screen. We didn’t notice any major changes in the brightness either it was SDR or HDR content. Keep in mind that this kind of ABL behavior is very common with low tier TVs.
In these cases the ABL is not so much necessary as the brightness output is far too low for the ABL to kick in. And this is the reason why we did not notice changes at all compared to TVs with very high brightness limits.
The TV was not very accurate here. With near black levels the TV was brighter, something we were expecting to see. This happens due to the low contrast in combination with the lack of a local dimming feature. Basically this behavior is similar to all TVs with the same backlight.
As for the rest of the chart the TV was dimmer than the target values and this was happening due to the overall extremely low peak brightness the TV has.
Lastly there is a smooth roll off at the top, although that is very low in general and cannot impact the image quality by much.
The TCL S4/S470G uses an IPS panel which means that its contrast is not good at all. The result of this is that you get blacks that look more grey-ish that true deep blacks, which is particularly evident if you use the TV in a completely dark environment.
Unfortunately missing a local dimming feature means that contrast cannot further improve and it has problems when a bright object appears on a dark background as the whole screen will look washed out.
The IPS panel in the S4/S470G may have bad contrast but on the other hand is good with viewing angles. It cannot reach the extreme angles of OLED technology but IPS and IPS-like panels perform far better than any VA ones will ever be capable of.
For this TV specifically we would say that a maximum of 30 degrees is the best you can get as anything more and the image quality will start to deteriorate a lot.
The TV is lacking any kind of wide viewing angle technology that we see in some of the top tier models but for its class it fares pretty good to be used as a family TV.
The panel uses a semi-gloss coating in order to combat light reflections. Its performance is decent but not the best we have seen overall.
Since what is acceptable image quality is very much a personal matter, and considering all the above, we would suggest you to try it out in a local store in order to be sure if it is acceptable by your standards or not.
With the current HDR situation you really have to choose which camp you want to follow as not many brands support all available HDR formats. It’s either Samsung’s HDR10+ or Dolby Vision that Sony and LG support.
And this is really a shame as we don’t get the chance to choose all of them at any time. Thankfully some brands, including TCL and Hisense, are not bound to any specific camp and instead went ahead and added everything in their TVs.
As such the S4 supports not only the basic HDR10 but also HLG which is used for streaming content. And we also get Dolby Vision which use dynamic metadata for much better and accurate images.
Unfortunately this TV is missing HDR10+ which is supported by all of TCL’s Q series. But even having Dolby Vision in this price is a huge plus by itself.
The S4/S470G, being part of the low budget S-series is missing the Quantum Dot layer found in the Q-series. As a result color reproduction surely will suffer.
Surprisingly, from our measurements the TV gave us about 91% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space which is really good for this price category. On the wider REC.2020 color space we got a coverage of 67% which is surprisingly high and very close to what we measured in the TCL Q6.
The TV had just ok out of the box performance. Certain colors appeared to have DeltaE errors way above the maximum limit of thee. White balance was also way above its target. On the other hand color temperature and gamma were pretty close to their target values.
Unfortunately the TV is not easy to calibrate and this surely will disappoint if you are a casual user. But we did manage to fix most of these errors in the end. White balance was massively improved and we managed to further improve the color temperature. As for the colors, all of them now registered under the DeltaE error limit of three.
This TV unfortunately is not very user friendly. Its out-of-the-box performance was not bad, but was not good either. So if you really want to get the most out of the S4 you will definitely need to spend some time with it. If you are not familiar with TV calibration we suggest you use the default settings as you can mess things up even more than they already are.
Color gradients were not good at all with this TV. We noticed banding almost in all color shades and especially in some darker ones. With real content things tend to look better but banding was still very much visible.
Panel uniformity was average. Gray uniformity tests revealed some vignetting, which is slightly darker corners than the middle of the screen. On the other hand we didn’t see any dirty screen effect which is good.
The black uniformity test was bad. Unfortunately the whole screen looks washed out if a bright object is on screen. The lack of a local dimming feature is very much responsible for this. But even without a bright highlight the entire screen was slightly brighten and blue-ish.
Next we have our motion performance tests. The S4/S470G comes with a 60Hz panel which is pretty standard for such a low tier TV. But unlike other TCL TVs that can display double the refresh rate the S4/S470G is only capable of 60Hz.
Without the use of any motion interpolation the S4’s motion performance was ok but not without issues. The TV has ok response times which means that some blur is visible. For this same reason we did notice some stutter with low framerate content. As for judder the S4 can remove it only from 24p sources.
The TV comes with a standard motion interpolation feature. This is a feature that smooths motion and removes blur and judder from fast camera movements. Motion interpolation on the S4 was ok but nothing great to talk about.
With slow paced scenes and camera pans the TV could cope with the processing needed. But with more demanding action scenes the TV has big issues processing everything on screen. As a result we did see a lot of artifacts which made the image quality far worse than without using it.
Black Frame Insertion (BFI)
The TV is missing a Black Frame Insertion feature. So the standard motion interpolation is your only option if you really want to have smooth motion.
Overall Motion Impressions
The S4 is your typical low budget TV and thus its price reflects on its motion performance. If you don’t have high expectations you are going to enjoy it. But if you expect anything fancy you will surely be disappointed.
Input lag Measurements
The TV’s input lag is next in the list.
According to our measurements the S470G measured an average of 10.8ms input lag in 1080p, 1440p and 4K resolutions at 60Hz. Very good numbers, as expected.
Obviously you are going to get such low numbers only if you use the available Game mode. As outside that the input lag will increase to around 95.9ms. This is a bit too high to be used even in slow paced offline games.
Other Gaming Features
The TV also comes with Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). This can be used with any devices that support that like the PS5 and Xbox consoles and can greatly benefit users.
Unfortunately, as with all Hisense TVs there is no HGiG mode.
We also need to mention that the S4/S470G does not support either 120Hz or 144Hz.
Also, keep in mind that the S4 doesn’t have any kind of VRR support. Which is a bit disappointing but not entirely unexpected in this price. If you are a gamer and would like to have VRR then you should definitely look for a higher tier TV than this.
Trying Out a Few Games
For our real world testing we connected both our PS5 and Xbox series X to one of the HDMI ports of the S4/S470G. The games we try out lately are F1 2022 and Dead Space, both in 4K@60Hz mode as the TV cannot do anything more than that.
The TV behaved great in both cases. Even at 60Hz we had no trouble at all and all our commands would register immediately on screen. Especially F1 2022, which is a particularly demanding game, had extremely fast reaction times.
If you are not particularly demanding with your gaming experience then the S4 will cover all your basic needs, for sure.
Overall Image Quality Impressions
The S4/S470G is a TV with some pretty big limitations. Being such a low cost unit we surely expected some of the numbers we got. But for a TCL TV we did hope to see something better in some areas.
On the one hand the TV proved to have great colors, nice viewing angles, extremely low input lag and even supports Dolby Vision.
On the other hand its brightness was disappointing, so was its contrast, its out-of-the-box performance was not so good, it is hard to calibrate and motion wise it offers only the basics.
All these low cost TVs use very basic audio systems and the S4 is no different. So don’t expect anything fancy here.
Audio System – Channels & Power Rating
The TV uses a 2.0 channels configuration with 20 watts of power output in a 2 x 10 watts configuration.
Audio Formats Support
The TV can decode Dolby Atmos and Dolby Digital+ but this is mostly for promotional purposes as the TV cannot create a real surround experience with such a basic audio system. If you want to get the most out of it then you will certainly need a dedicated surround system or at least a good performing Dolby Atmos soundbar.
Dolby Atmos can be passed-through eARC to some Dolby Atmos capable system or soundbar. As for DTS things are even more limited. There is no native DTS decoding support. And unfortunately the TV cannot pass-through DTS:X through its eARC port. DTS pass-through is the only one supported and for this you can use either ARC or the optical port.
The S4 does comes with virtual tech for the sound in the form of DTS Virtual: X. This aims at giving sound a more three dimensional feel for higher immersion. The result obviously is not as good as you may hope for.
The TV cannot really create an enveloping atmosphere. With DTS Virtual: X sound feels over-processed and unnatural. But as always different content behaves in different ways so some scenes will sound better than others. But overall do not expect this feature to give you what a real surround performance would.
Overall Audio Performance Impressions
The S4 behaved as most typical 2.0 channels TVs are. Its audio will suffice for casual use but not for anything more. Don’t expect to get any kind of cinematic immersion out of it, even with DTS Virtual: X. The TV simply lacks the hardware for anything more.
All audio is firmly fixed at the front. There is no surround activity and no overhead action. The TV lacks any kind of expansion and depth and everything sounds flat and uninspiring. Bass is also on the weak side which makes movies less immersive.
But not everything is bad. Dialog is relatively clear and distinct and for most content we didn’t have any problems with it. The TV can get loud enough but as always compression is pretty obvious at high levels.
Ports and Connectivity
All ports of the S4/S470G are located on the left side looking sideways. As always the power connector is the only port that we find on the right side.
Looking at all the ports from top to bottom we get the following. A USB 3.0, an Ethernet port for wired connection to your local network, three HDMI ports, the cable/antenna port, a special jack for composite video with stereo audio input, a headphones input and a digital optical audio output.
The S4/S470G comes only with HDMI 2.0 ports. This means that the TV is stripped of some advanced features.
But nevertheless we do get ALLM, ARC, eARC and Dolby Vision support.
Again, the Ethernet port is still the usual 100Mbps one. But this does not surprise us, as even flagship TVs in 2023 have not upgraded to Gbit speeds yet.
Streaming requirements and internet connections have greatly advanced the last few years. This made the 100Mbps limit obsolete a while back. And while most TVs update their WiFi capabilities (some models even support WiFi6 this year) the Ethernet adapters are still the same.
Its tuner supports only the older ATSC 1.0 while the USB port surprisingly is the newer 3.0 version.
When it comes to its wireless capabilities the TCL S4/S470G supports WiFi5 (802.11ac) along with Bluetooth 5.0.
OS, Apps and Features
The S4 comes with Google TV which is version 11.0. So basically we have the same OS we used in the TCL Q6/Q650G. The last versions of Google TV do not have major differences between them and they keep their overall layout unchanged.
Google TV 11.0
Google has done a poor job at making clear of the differences between Google TV and Android TV that is still being used from some TV brands.
To make things real simple Google TV is still Android TV but with an extra layer on top of it. Think of it like how it works with Android smartphones. Most manufacturers that use Android in their releases they use on top of that their own layer that gives this extra something to their UI that make them unique both in appearance and functionality.
The same is with Google TV. You still basically use Android TV but there is the extra Google TV layer on top in order to make the UI feel different both in looks and functionality.
Google TV seems to have been designed around recommendations, either it be movies, TV shows or applications and this seems to be the main focus of all the latest OS in general. During setup the wizard asks you of what specific streaming services you use in order to customize the Home screen recommendations.
Keep in mind that Google TV is still Android at its core even though it looks different from Android TV. But with Google TV things seem more fluent, more direct and more easy to navigate around.
Google TV 11.0 in the S4 offers the exact same user experience as all other TCL TVs with the same OS. We didn’t notice any major slowdowns during navigation while all menus, settings and apps would open and close relatively fast.
If there is one thing that Google TV has in abundance that is huge app support. Through the included Google Play Store you can find literally thousands of apps that you can download and use. Except from the pre-installed ones of course. There is so much content available that you will hardly miss anything.
All the big names are obviously present like Google TV, Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, HBO Max, Apple TV and Youtube. There is also Pandora, Tidal, Google Play Music, Spotify and iHeartRadio to name a few.
As always some of them are region dependent so make sure the ones you are interested in are working in your area. Lastly many apps like Netflix and Youtube support playback for both 4K and HDR content for those interested in it. But since each app is different we cannot say which apps support what resolutions and HDR formats in various regions.
Various Connectivity Features
The TV comes with built-in support for Chromecast. This means that you can stream content from your mobile device to the TV itself.
And since we are talking about a smart TV, voice control is a given. The S4 works not only with Amazon Alexa but also Google Assistant.
Compared to other TVs
Next we have our comparison section. The first TV to compare it with is the 2023 Hisense A65K which is priced slightly lower than the S4. The Hisense is the better TV here as it has higher brightness and better contrast. Its out-of-the-box performance is also better and its motion performance proved to be more solid. On the other hand the TCL has better viewing angles due to its IPS panel.
Next we have the 2023 LG UR8000 which comes at almost the same price as the TCL. The LG is by far the better TV here. It manages to outperform the TCL in almost all categories while the S4 is better only with wider viewing angles. So the LG UR8000 clearly wins this one.
Lastly we have the 2023 Samsung CU7000. Here things are not so clear cut. The TCL has better viewing angles, better color coverage and supports Dolby Vision. On the other hand the Samsung has better contrast, slightly higher brightness and better brightness accuracy. So we cannot claim a definite winner here.
TCL is one of the brands that offers really great value for money TVs. Their Q-series is the definition of that and we were surprised to see such performance in these prices. Unfortunately the TCL S4/S470G cannot really claim to follow the same principle. It is more in line with many other low priced TVs and our tests did show as such.
On the bright side the S4 does have great viewing angles that can make it an excellent family TV. It has great color coverage, its input lag is extremely low, it supports Dolby Vision and comes with Google TV.
On the other hand its image quality leaves a lot to be desired. Its brightness is very low, so is its contrast. Out-of-the-box performance was not great, its motion was just ok and its audio quality nothing fancy to talk about.
Closing our TCL S4/S470G review, what we can say about this TV is that it will surely find an audience among those budget conscious consumers that just want a TV that can do the basics. If you do not have any unrealistic expectations or if you want a dirty cheap gaming TV the S470G is definitely one to consider.
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