When it comes to buying a new TV, two of the top brands to consider are TCL and Samsung. Both companies make high-quality televisions across a range of sizes and prices. But which one is better for you?
In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll compare TCL and Samsung TVs across several factors like picture quality, smart features, sound, design, price and more. By the end, you‘ll have a clear understanding of the pros and cons of each brand and which TV is likely the best fit for your needs and budget.
Brief History of TCL and Samsung
First, a quick background on each company.
TCL was founded in 1981 in China as a state-owned enterprise manufacturing home appliances and electronic components. In the 2000s, TCL began producing and selling TVs internationally, acquiring the television businesses of Thomson in France and RCA in the US along the way.
Today, TCL is the second largest TV maker globally after Samsung, selling millions of TVs each year in over 160 countries. It‘s grown into one of the strongest brands in the budget and mid-range TV space.
Samsung‘s origins go back to 1938 when it was founded in Korea as a grocery trading company. Samsung entered the electronics industry in the late 1960s and produced its first black-and-white TVs in 1970.
Fast forward to today, and Samsung has cemented itself as the undisputed leader in the global TV market. It invests heavily in display panel R&D and TV technology innovation. Samsung TVs cover the full range from entry-level models to ultra high-end 8K QLEDs costing tens of thousands of dollars.
So in summary, TCL is therising challenger brand focused on value, while Samsung is the long-time market leader pushing the envelope on TV performance and features.
Picture quality is one of the most important factors when choosing a new TV. Both TCL and Samsung offer high-performing display technologies, but there are some key differences.
TCL‘s lineup includes LED TVs using LCD panels made with either VA or IPS technology. The differences between VA and IPS displays relate to viewing angles and contrast – VA panels offer better contrast while IPS provides wider viewing angles.
Many TCL TVs are also "QLED" TVs, meaning they use quantum dot technology to enhance color volume and brightness. Quantum dots act as a filter over the LED backlights.
Samsung sells LED TVs as well, along with more advanced display technologies like OLED and QLED. Samsung QLED TVs utilize precisely controlled quantum dot nanocrystals and advanced local dimming for impressive HDR performance. The company also makes QD-OLED TVs which combine quantum dots with OLED panels.
So when it comes to underlying panel technologies, Samsung offers greater diversity with additional options like self-emissive OLED and QD-OLED displays. TCL focuses more on improving its VA and IPS-based LED/QLED models.
Both brands support HDR across their lineups for enhanced color, contrast and brightness. TCL TVs work with popular HDR formats like HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG. The same goes for Samsung TVs, which are also compatible with HDR10+ and Samsung‘s HDR10+ Adaptive format.
Samsung has a slight edge here by supporting more HDR formats. But TCL TVs still cover the core essentials like Dolby Vision.
Picture Quality Results
Based on lab tests and reviews from experts and buyers, Samsung TVs come out ahead in overall picture quality. Models like Samsung‘s QN90B Neo QLED 4K TV or QN900B Neo QLED 8K TV deliver phenomenal contrast, searing brightness, accurate color and razor-sharp clarity.
TCL‘s 6-Series models with QLED and mini-LED backlighting get excellent reviews as well, offering performance that can rival premium brands at budget-friendly prices. But Samsung‘s more advanced display technologies, premium processing and advanced local dimming allow its best TVs to edge out TCL‘s offerings in areas like HDR, motion handling and upscaling.
That being said, TCL provides extremely good picture quality relative to price. You can get a 65-inch TCL 6-Series with QLED and full-array local dimming for $1,000, compared to $1,800 for a 65-inch Samsung QN90B. So TCL gives you great bang for your buck, even if Samsung wins on pure performance.
Smart TV Experience
A TV‘s smart platform and interface are vital to the overall user experience. Let‘s see how TCL and Samsung compare when it comes to smart TV features and usability.
TCL Roku TV
The streaming platform of choice for TCL is Roku TV. Almost every TCL TV runs the Roku smart TV system, which features an intuitive interface and thousands of app options.
Roku‘s simple home screen puts your favorite streaming channels, inputs and settings right up front. You get virtually every major streaming service like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu and more. Roku TVs also let you stream content from your phone, listen to music, mirror screens and control smart home devices.
The included Roku voice remote makes searching for content quick and easy. And Roku TVs receive frequent software updates, so the platform is always improving. For these reasons, TCL Roku TVs earn high marks for usability from both experts and users.
Samsung Tizen TV
Samsung uses its own Tizen operating system to power its smart TVs. The interface has multiple rows for apps, streaming channels, connected devices, settings and recommendations.
Tizen offers a full suite of streaming services and apps too. And you can use Samsung‘s Bixby voice assistant to launch apps, control TV functions and search for content hands-free.
One downside is that Tizen shows ads on the home screen, which some users find annoying. But otherwise Samsung Tizen provides excellent smart TV features and usability. The platform is very customizable as well, letting you reorder apps and channels to your liking.
which is better?
When it comes to smart TV software, TCL Roku TV narrowly beats Samsung Tizen thanks to Roku‘s simpler interface, broader app support and lack of on-screen ads. But Samsung still provides a polished, feature-packed smart TV experience that most users appreciate. So this category is extremely close.
Let‘s move onto audio performance. A TV‘s built-in speakers will never match the sound quality of a dedicated sound system. But better audio capabilities lead to a more immersive viewing experience, especially for TV shows and movies.
TCL TVs typically use basic speaker systems with limited power output. For example, the entry-level TCL 4-Series includes just two 8W speakers. Sound quality is passable but lacks bass and richness.
Step-up models like the 5-Series and 6-Series improve audio with higher wattage speakers and Dolby Atmos support for more three-dimensional sound. But in general, TCL‘s audio capabilities lag behind its superb picture quality.
With Samsung TVs, you‘ll find more advanced audio features like Object Tracking Sound on high-end QLEDs. This uses extra speakers to better locate sounds in the scene as the action moves across the screen. Samsung TVs also integrate side- and upward-firing speakers for enhanced surround sound.
As a result, Samsung models tend to sound noticeably better than comparable TCL TVs. Of course, adding a sound bar levels the playing field for both brands. But if built-in audio performance is a priority, Samsung has the advantage.
TV design plays a role in the viewing experience as well. Let‘s see how the styling and form factors of TCL and Samsung TVs compare.
TCL TVs have a simple, functional design aesthetic. Bezels are relatively thin but not quite as sleek-looking as premium competitors. Most models have just basic plastic stands, though upgraded metal stands come standard on higher-end series.
Samsung goes the extra mile on styling and form factor. Even entry-level models like the AU8000 look quite stylish with ultra-thin bezels. And Samsung‘s premium QLED TVs feature near-bezel-less Infinity Screen designs that dazzle from any angle.
Samsung also has unique lifestyle TVs like The Frame, a gorgeous, customizable TV designed to directly blend in with your living room‘s art decor when not being watched. So if you want the most stylish-looking TV, Samsung is tough to beat.
But TCL‘s designs are pleasing and unobtrusive enough for most rooms. So this category comes down to your priorities – Samsung for maximum style points and seamless room integration or TCL for good-enough looks at lower prices.
Price and Value
When buying a new TV, price always needs to be a consideration. And this is an area where TCL shines compared to Samsung.
Across screen sizes and feature sets, TCL TVs are consistently more affordable than comparable Samsung models. For example:
The 65-inch TCL 6-Series with QLED and full-array local dimming costs $1,000. Samsung‘s closest competitor is the QN90B which goes for around $1,600 for 65 inches.
TCL‘s entry-level 4-Series starts under $300 for a 50-inch size. A similar 50-inch Samsung Crystal UHD TV is priced closer to $500.
At the very high-end, Samsung‘s flagship 85-inch QN900B 8K Neo QLED costs a staggering $8,500. TCL doesn‘t offer an equivalent 8K model yet, but its prices max out around $3,000 for an 85-inch 6-Series.
Of course, Samsung‘s premium pricing reflects meaningful technology advantages in many cases. But if you simply want the largest, highest quality TV you can get for the money, TCL is the way to go. Its performance-to-price ratios are unmatched.
TCL also frequently offers discounts and sales that make its TVs even more budget-friendly. Just don‘t expect huge price drops on the latest Samsung sets.
Availability of Sizes
TCL and Samsung both offer a wide range of screen sizes from small 43-inch models up to massive 85-inch options. Samsung generally has the edge in options though.
For one, Samsung sells TVs as small as 24 inches all the way up to 110-inch and 130-inch 8K monsters. TCL‘s size range is narrower at this point, spanning 43 to 85 inches.
Samsung also quickly scales up screen sizes into premium territory with giant 4K and 8K QLEDs exceeding 80 inches. For example, you can get a Samsung QLED TV in 98 inches if you have an extremely large room and budget. Comparable big-screen TCL models only go up to 75 or 85 inches.
So if you need a small TV or extra-large premium set over 90 inches, Samsung is the better choice. But TCL covers the core middle range from 55 to 75 inches extremely well.
Gaming on the latest video game consoles and PCs keeps getting more advanced. So gaming-related features are vital for modern TVs. Here‘s how TCL and Samsung stack up when it comes to gaming support.
All newer TCL TVs support important gaming specs like 4K @ 120Hz, VRR (variable refresh rate) and ALLM (auto low latency mode). Combined these features deliver smooth, fast-paced gameplay. TCL‘s THX Certified Game Mode provides optimized settings too.
However, only some TCL models support advanced features like AMD FreeSync. And while input lag is low for casual gaming, it‘s not quite as blazingly fast as top gaming TVs.
With Samsung TVs, you get broader support for specs like FreeSync Premium Pro and ultra-low input lag approaching 5ms. Plus exclusive features tailored for Xbox and PlayStation owners. Samsung Neo QLED TVs are official partners of Xbox and come Xbox Game Bar and Game Pass built in.
Overall, both TCL and Samsung offer strong gaming performance. But Samsung TVs edge out TCL in areas like input lag and adaptive sync support for the best possible console and PC gaming experience.
For connectivity, TCL and Samsung TVs come equipped with the major essential ports including:
- 3-4 HDMI inputs
- USB ports
- Composite video input
- RF antenna tuner
- Ethernet port
- Optical digital audio output
Plus both brands support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity for streaming, casting and smart home integrations.
In terms of number of ports, Samsung TVs tend to include one more HDMI input compared to TCL on average. But otherwise, both provide the core ports needed for connecting external devices like game consoles, Blu-ray players, cable boxes and more.
Smart Home Compatibility
Smart home platform support is another area to compare. Most TCL TVs integrate with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control. Many models also work with Apple HomeKit and AirPlay 2 for easy casting from Apple devices.
Additionally, TCL Roku TVs can connect with Samsung SmartThings devices for broader smart home management. But they aren‘t directly compatible with Bixby.
Samsung TVs naturally integrate seamlessly with Bixby and SmartThings. You also get support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. However, Samsung TVs currently lack official support for Apple HomeKit and AirPlay.
So TCL wins out in terms of cross-platform smart home compatibility. Though Samsung owners can still cast from iOS using AirPlay workarounds.
Reliability and Durability
Reliability is always an important consideration for any big ticket electronics purchase.
Overall, both TCL and Samsung build quality televisions that will last for years of use. In fact, TCL and Samsung TVs have very comparable 3 year average reported failure rates around 15% to 17%, per Consumer Reports‘ extensive TV reliability data.
However, among 75-inch or larger TV models, Samsung scores noticeably better for predicted reliability according to CR‘s findings. And boutique brands like Sony tend to edge out both Samsung and TCL when it comes to long-term TV durability.
Anecdotal reports reflect this as well, with fewer complaints about Samsung TVs failing outside the warranty period compared to TCL. TCL‘s weaker quality control seems to show up mainly in entry-level models.
So Samsung gets a slight reliability advantage, but both brands are likely to serve you well for years before needing a repair or replacement.
Hopefully you won‘t need to contact customer support too often after purchasing your TV. But it‘s good to know what kind of support you‘ll receive in case any issues pop up.
TCL offers customer support by phone, email and online chat. Support hours are reasonable but limited on weekends. TCL‘s standard warranty covers parts and labor for 1 year. extended warranty plans are also available for purchase.
Response times for TCL support vary widely based on the inquiry. Some users report very fast, helpful service while others faced long delays receiving satisfactory support.
Samsung provides phone, chat and email support as well. Weekend support hours are slightly better compared to TCL. Samsung TVs come with 1 year parts and labor coverage. Additional warranty extensions can be bought up to 3 years.
Response times and satisfaction with Samsung support are generally above average. It‘s easy to find knowledge answers on Samsung‘s website and community forums too.
Overall, Samsung gains an edge for customer service thanks to slightly better response times and more weekend support availability. But TCL‘s customer service is adequate for the most part if issues arise.
Which Brand Makes Better TVs?
So taking all factors into account, is TCL or Samsung the superior TV brand overall?
The truth is that each brand has unique strengths and advantages:
- Delivers amazing picture quality for the money
- Roku TV platform is excellent
- Very budget-friendly prices across all sizes
- Good smart home compatibility
- Best-in-class picture quality with advanced display tech
- More stylish, premium designs
- Superior sound quality
- Great smart TV capabilities
- Leads in extra large size availability
- Better suited for high-end gaming
For shoppers focused on value, TCL is the way to go. You‘ll get way more TV for your dollar with TCL vs Samsung or other brands. Picture quality punches well above TCL‘s price points, and Roku TV is a pleasure to use.
On the other hand, Samsung is the choice if you demand the very best performance and features. Samsung dominates when it comes to providing the top overall viewing experience. But be prepared to pay a premium for those gains over TCL.
Within their respective budget and premium spheres, both TCL and Samsung make fantastic televisions that cover the needs of most buyers. Whichever you choose, you‘ll likely be very happy with your purchase. Let your budget, priorities around features and screen sizes drive the decision to find your perfect TV.