TCL C48P1FS Curved Full HD TV Review – Curves out the segment
• Economical for a curved TV
• Internet connectivity, app support
• Lives expectation on Full HD source
• Supports external USB HDD movie playback
• Interface is nice but slow
• Big and confusing remote control
• Doesn’t support MKV on USB
TCL launched a bunch of TVs in India last month, its entry into the booming sub-continent TV market marked by an affordable range of HD, FHD and UHD displays. But the curved TV announcement was one of the peculiar things you could expect.
While only Samsung and LG currently sell their curved screens at a premium, Chinese panel maker TCL launched its curved screen variant in India at a fraction of the cost – at Rs 37,990. The 48-inch TV comes loaded with a Smart TV interface; Ethernet, USB and HDMI ports.
Curved TVs are so hard to make that it’s a valid question to ask – do we need them? TCL is a 3-decade old electronics company that has global presence in several countries – including USA, Europe and UAE and was the 3rd largest TV producer in 2013 after Samsung and LG, as per Statista. But you would rather ask anyway, for the benefits of a curved screen heavily conflict the downsides it poses. It switched to its own brand in 2007.
Design – the Curved TVs
Apart from their usual benefits, curved TVs are a geometry marvel that you would desperately want to see in your living space. But its edges being closer to the viewer than a flat TV, does offer an immersive picture, better viewing angles, and contrast appearing better as most of the light is focused at the center (viewer).
For immersive viewing, it’s necessary to sit closer to the TV, the reason why bigger TV sizes are always preferred. Most of the Samsung’s curved TVs have a UHD resolution (and LG’s) have a size bigger than 55 inch.
TCL C48P1FS has a narrow frame design that maximizes viewing area. The build is far from premium and the TV is rather thick, but it is made sturdy using good quality material. Edges, corners and the back panel feel strong, the ports are firm in their place, and the stand is affixed in the right place. It’s fitted just below the TV and has an angled arc design. Made out of an alloy, chrome plated in silver and having a rubber feet for good grip, it enhances the TV’s overall look.
Its remote controller is a curious thing though. Almost a foot long, it has a few buttons that are overly big and many useful ones left teeny-weeny in size (like the menu button and the back button below it). To top that, they are placed haphazardly; it would be a tough thing to get used to.
The ports at the back are also a mix of convenience and desecration if you plan to mount the TV on wall. While the USB and HDMI are available out on the right side, composite, VGA and all the rest are placed at the back which are difficult to access and almost impossible when mounted. The TV is not bundled with a mount.
Connectivity and Interface
Unlike the spring of smartphones, TVs are yet to adopt the Android Interface wholeheartedly. Very few companies are using it right now and TCL is not one of them. It rather deploys its own operating system on the C48P1FS and all smart TVs it sells worldwide.
Trending videos are placed on the Home screen with a ‘search’ and history button for quick access. The next tab – Videos – arranges YouTube in to several predefined genres and tile-lists them.
Next is a source selection page, where you can pick the desired playback instrument. As far as the USB is concerned, it is automatically detected when plugged-in and other sources can be toggled from the source button.
The OS has its own app store with third party apps like MX player, T-cast, TedTalks and various others from various diverse genres. Most of the apps are useful software applications like T-cast that allows a smartphone to connect to the TV directly without a wireless router or MX player to play encoded files formats like MKV that are natively not supported by the TV. Though it’s a different thing that the video would still be processed at 1 frame per second.
|Wi-LAN, Bluetooth, MHL||Yes|
|Video||AV in, VGA, Component and Antenna|
|Audio||Aux/headphone, digital S/PDIF|
|Wi-Fi Direct||Connect smartphone directly to TV, push content, phone as remote|
The fact that you can connect your smartphone for sharing content is another great feature of the TV not usually available in this price range. The phone can be connected using Wi-Fi Direct app, or through a common Wireless connection the TV and Smartphone are connected to.
The TCL C48P1FS has translucent menus all over the interface with menu options glowing when selected. It looks beautiful but is a little slow in its working. Especially while browsing, when it would freeze at times or take several minutes to open a website.
Overall the interface has user friendly structure, though it’s a little archaic, slow and at times, limited. But would that be too much asking from a sub 40k curved TV?
TCL P1FS Curved Full HD uses a direct-lit VA (vertical alignment) panel measuring 48 inches. The company says it is similar to one used by Samsung in its Full HD TVs. That could be true but a TVs output tails a lot more than just the panel.
The VA panel is direct lit using a 36-LED array attaining a brightness more than sufficient for daily use. During the test it was kept at 50% of the full, more than sufficient for a well lit room during daytime. It has a said brightness of 280nits at 75% white picture. The refresh rate of the panel is 60Hz which is good news if you plan to attach your PS3 with the TV.
Curved TVs mostly have UHD resolution – companies explain that fact with the reason that a curved TV is meant to be viewed from a smaller distance than a flat TV is, to keep that immersive feel alive. If the source file you are playing doesn’t have good resolution, the image, when watched from near appears pixelated.
So it’s kind of doubtful if TCL C48P1FS would keep the images intact, as viewing distance the curved screen dictates is as close as 4ft. If you are using an HD set top box, some channels have proper Full HD resolution in the 16:9 aspect ratio, while the rest are upscaled.
But if any source could maintain at least 720p, be it YouTube, the STB or even a USB stick file (uncompressed), TCL C48P1FS works amazingly well. The images are bright, like glowing bright; and the colors are soft, upbeat and intricately rendered, even when viewed within 4ft from the screen.
For usual standard definition content, you would need to step back a little. The normal viewing distance for an LCD TV is calculated as 4 times the height or 1/6th the screen size in inches; which makes it over 8ft of distance. To view a blemish free pixel-intact frame, we had to practically stay at least 6ft from the screen.
A UHD TV would be a level up, but considering the content availability in India, Full HD resolution talks value. And the Curved 48 inch P1 from TCL is a complete bang for the buck in that case.
Like with most of the TVs, we weren’t satisfied with the up scaling function (yes TCL C49P1FS has one). It’s hard to tell by looking at the screen if the TV has this kind of feature built-in. There is also an option to control noise in the image at four different levels which does make a difference when viewing low-res content.
Though there are many flat TVs available in this price segment, TCL has brought the battle of curved TVs to an altogether smashing price that will be impossible to reach. It offers a Full HD resolution, a smart interface that allows a seamless connection of various devices, including wireless streaming from your smartphone without a router and access to YouTube and other media streaming services via wireless or wired internet. With a fine sound system put at the bottom, TCL doesn’t particularly look bad with its arc shaped stands being the only support. Overlooking a shoddily done remote control and a slow interface, if you ever lusted for a curved TV in your living room, TCL C48P1FS is an insane bang for your bucks.