Insignia vs TCL: Which budget TV brand is better?

Insignia and TCL are both budget-friendly TV manufacturers, with the latter company being one of the most popular TV companies worldwide. Although both manufacturers focus on delivering the best quality at the lowest possible price, they differ in many key characteristics. In this comprehensive Insignia vs TCL comparison post, we’ll compare the two brands across a broad range of important features.

Insignia vs TCL – Quick Comparison

Insignia is a value-oriented brand produced for Best Buy by several TV contractors, including Hisense. This brand offers a great range of budget-friendly TVs and primarily targets consumers who aren’t willing to spend a lot of money purchasing a new TV set. With that in mind, they come with limited features but still offer decent picture quality that helps them stay competitive with other budget TV manufacturers.

TCL Electronics is undoubtedly the better-known TV manufacturer in this Insignia vs TCL comparison. Founded in 1999, this brand has made a name for itself by offering affordable smart TVs loaded with streaming features and plenty of advanced settings. Currently, TCL has over 40,000 sales outlets and is one of the biggest global TV manufacturers.

Features Face to Face

Panel Technology

Insignia TVs use standard LED VA panels, which employ light-emitting diodes to convert the electric signals into images. In comparison, many TCL TVs also use this type of panel technology. 

However, newer TCL models also come with QLED technology, which delivers significantly better brightness performance than classic LED panel technology. Another exciting thing about TCL is that it’s one of the few TV manufacturers with a mini-LED 8K panel.

Image Processor

Newer Insignia TVs include a quad-core processor with a 1.5 GHz clock speed. More precisely, this is the MediaTek MTK T31/L TV processor with ARM Cortex-A55, a relatively simplistic processor that can enhance colors, textures, and upscale image quality by reducing noise and blurring.

By comparison, TCL TVs use the manufacturer’s in-house AiPQ Engine processor, which has similar image processing capabilities as the Insignia image processor. In truth, both image processors are somewhat disappointing, as they are significantly less capable than the processors from other TV manufacturers.

Motion Technology

Insignia TVs have mediocre motion technology and okay response times. Most Insignia models can fully transition between images in around twenty milliseconds. This is noticeably below the desired fourteen-millisecond cutoff mark that separates good from okay TVs. In other words, these TVs can often suffer from motion blur following fast-moving objects.

In contrast, most TCL TVs come with discernibly better motion technology than those available in Insignia models. Most TCL sets can fully transition between pixels in around ten to fifteen milliseconds, with some models even having sub-ten-millisecond transition times. These are great values that can cover most fast-moving objects with little to no motion blur.

Picture Quality

TCL vs Insignia TV

With both brands targeting consumers looking for affordable TVs, you might expect the picture quality to be lackluster and disappointing. Of course, while these two manufacturers might not match the picture quality of a Sony or Samsung TV, you might be surprised by how well they perform in certain aspects. We’ve tested Insignia and TCL through half a dozen picture quality attributes to determine how they compare to one another:

Contrast Ratio / Black Level

Insignia TVs have an excellent native contrast ratio. As a result, they can produce deep and captivating blacks in a dark environment, allowing them to deliver superb performances for watching movies and TV shows.

That said, most newer TCL TVs outperform Insignia TVs in this regard. TCL TVs, particularly those that utilize QLED technology, can display deep blacks, which you can further improve through local dimming settings. Although the exact native contrast ratio can vary between units, TCL TVs can go toe to toe even with models from some premium TV brands.

Local Dimming

Most Insignia TVs have a direct lighting backlight configuration, so they, unfortunately, don’t have any local dimming properties. While some TCL models come with the same design, you can also find TCL TVs with a full-array backlight configuration, which does support local dimming. As local dimming helps reduce blooming around bright objects and subtitles and consequently increases the overall viewing experience, TCL TVs have an edge in this category.

Peak Brightness

Although TCL models, especially QLED panels, generally offer much better peak brightness numbers than Insignia TVs, it’s only fair to compare the two brands through two similarly-priced sets. With that in mind, here’s an Insignia vs TCL peak brightness comparison table through two models in a fairly similar price range:

Peak Brightness MeasureInsignia Fire TV Edition 4KTCL S Series
SDR Real Scene Peak BrightnessAround 280 cd/m²180 cd/m²
SDR Peak 2% WindowAround 300 cd/m²190 cd/m²
SDR Sustained 100% Window300 cd/m²190 cd/m²
HDR Real Scene Peak BrightnessAround 290 cd/m²Around 180 cd/m²
HDR Peak 2% Window315 cd/m²Around 180 cd/m²
HDR Sustained 100% Window315 cd/m²Around 180 cd/m²


As you can see from the table above, when comparing two similarly-priced TCL and Insignia models, TVs from Insignia offer better performance across the board. That said, this is only in the context of this specific comparison, as more expensive TCL models like those from the 6 Series can offer great peak brightness performance.

Color

Insignia TVs can produce an okay color gamut and have mediocre color volume coverage. Because of these limitations, Insignia TVs struggle to display saturated colors. Although color accuracy can sometimes seem off, the DCI P3 and Rec. 2020 coverage is decent.

TCL TVs, especially from the 2021 lineup, have good color volume and color gamut properties. They can deliver stunning HDR and SDR content, as their tone mapping is excellent and the colors are very accurate. 

This is especially true for TCL’s QLED models, which have an outstanding native contrast ratio. Considering all of this, TCL models offer much more impressive and more beautiful colors than Insignia TVs

Viewing Angle

Insignia TVs generally have terrible viewing angles, although this may slightly vary between units. These TVs start rapidly losing their brightness even at somewhat higher viewing angles of about twenty-five degrees. Even more disappointingly, blacks become gray at angles twice as low.

In comparison, most TCL models also offer unimpressive viewing angles and provide a very narrow viewing field. However, they provide somewhat improved performance across the parameters mentioned above, meaning that most TCL models offer slightly better viewing angles than Insignia TVs

Still, you shouldn’t look to either if you’re searching for a TV suitable for a wide viewing arrangement. In that case, we recommend going with an OLED Sony or LG TV, as these can deliver impressive viewing angles.

Reflections / Anti-glare

The bulk of both Insignia and TCL models have a semi-gloss finish. This type of anti-glare coating fares well in an average lit room but struggles to fight reflections in very bright viewing environments. 

More precisely, TVs from both brands have decent reflection-handling properties and reflect between five and six percent of the total light that hits their display surface. 

However, some TCL models have impressive anti-glare features. For example, the TCL 6 Series reflects only about three percent of total light and around half a percent of indirect light. Knowing this, we can say that TCL is the better performer in this category.

Sound Quality

Most TCL and Insignia TVs have substandard sound quality with speakers that deliver a poor frequency response. While they can get reasonably loud, TVs from these two manufacturers tend to produce compression, so the audio can be unpleasant to listen to at higher volume levels. Lastly, don’t expect to find any models with powerful bass. 

Still, TCL offers a significantly more varied lineup, so you can find TVs with slightly better audio performance features. This mainly includes models from their 5 Series and 6 Series lineups. Because of this, we give TCL the edge for overall sound quality.

Smart TV Platform (Operating System)

For budget-minded TVs, Insignia and TCL offer very respectable Smart TV properties. Insignia TVs support Amazon’s Fire TV operating system, while TCL TVs can run on either Google TV or Roku TV. Here’s how Insignia vs TCL fare through their supported operating systems:

OS FeaturesInsignia TVsTCL TVs
OS VersionFire TVGoogle TV / Roku TV
App Selection/Variety8/108/10
App Smoothness9/109/10
Ease of Use7/106/10
Interface Layout7/107/10

The supported OS platforms are very comparable, with TCL’s Smart TV platform being slightly better. This is primarily because TCL TVs are a bit faster at loading apps and include a larger selection of advanced options.

Connectivity

Even though these two budget brands aim to deliver inexpensive products, they don’t fall short in this key Smart TV performance category. As well-rounded connectivity properties are a crucial aspect of every modern Smart TV, we’ll do a thorough Insignia vs TCL comparison through these three major connectivity elements:

Inputs

Comparing input specifications holistically between two brands can’t give us a precise insight, as input features can vary significantly between two models, let alone these two manufacturers. With that in mind, here’s a quick overview of the input specifications that you can expect from TCL and Insignia TVs in the same price range:

Input PortsInsignia Fire TV Edition 4KTCL S Series
HDMI Ports3 HDMI 2.0 Ports3 HDMI 2.0 Ports
USB Ports1 USB 2.0 Ports1 USB 2.0 Ports
Digital Optical Audio Out1 Port1 Port
Ethernet PortYesYes

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that TCL TVs generally offer much better input lag times than Insignia models. Although Insignia TVs have fairly solid response times, they can’t match the exceptionally low input lag most TCL sets can deliver. 

Voice Assistants

Insignia TVs that run on the Fire TV operating platform fully support the Amazon Alexa voice assistant, allowing you to link it with any Amazon device. The built-in microphone is excellent and allows you to perform a long list of voice commands. Most notably, these include changing between input ports, opening apps, and even searching for content within some apps like Netflix and YouTube.

In comparison, voice assistant features on TCL TVs can vary considerably based on the OS platform that the TV is running. For instance, older models with Roku OS have little to no voice assistant features. On the other hand, TCL models with Google TV utilize the Google Assistant feature, which is equally as capable as the Amazon Alexa voice assistant you get on Insignia sets. 

Wireless Technologies

Although TCL TVs are more technically advanced in many aspects, this is not the case for wireless technologies. Most TCL TVs only support Bluetooth LE, while many Insignia models provide full Bluetooth support. 

The latter technology is preferred, as it allows you to pair up devices like speakers and controllers, while Bluetooth LE only supports low-energy devices like tablets and mobile phones.

In terms of Wi-Fi, both manufacturers include standard Wi-Fi support in the form of 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi in their TVs. That said, focusing on the difference in Bluetooth support capabilities, Insignia offers more powerful wireless technologies.

Standout Features

HDR10+ and Dolby Vision and HLG

Insignia TVs are pretty barebone, so you shouldn’t expect any advanced features that would help them stand out from the competition. In contrast, many TCL TVs have a handful of features that separate them from their Insignia counterparts.

These include gaming-friendly features like VRR and FreeSync, and content streaming traits like HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. In that spirit, if you’re looking for a budget TV with some convenient and advanced features, TCL TVs are a much better option.

Price

Both manufacturers strongly emphasize product affordability and are generally much cheaper than TVs from some other big brand companies. While Insignia models are slightly cheaper, TCL TVs are still very reasonably priced. Moreover, considering the many advanced settings and standout features some TCL TVs come with, this brand arguably offers better value for your money.

Conclusion

To sum up this Insignia vs TCL comparison article, we want to leave you with a few key considerations you should remember. Although Insignia TVs are of solid quality, they simply can’t match TCL models in several of the categories we’ve compared them through in this post. This is because TCL is arguably the best value brand on the market and performs surprisingly well in many essential performance factors.

So, if you’re looking for a budget-friendly TV set that can deliver decent picture quality and has excellent motion technology, satisfactory Smart TV properties, and plenty of standout features, TCL is undoubtedly the better choice.

About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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