Even At A Virtual CES, TCL Is Taking Names And Kicking Ass
I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge TCL now that CES 2021 is in its final hours.
Ten years ago I attended CES 2011. Among the huge booths from TV titans like Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and LG was a smaller booth from a brand I’d never heard of. Yes it was TCL. As I looked around this booth and saw the sights of the many televisions that TCL was showing off, I had only one thought: man, what rubbish.
What a difference a decade can make.
That sounds nonprofit, and I suppose it was, but the context is everything. Back then, the big brands were showing LCD televisions with very good black levels, contrasts and colors, plasma televisions that were the pinnacle of picture quality, and 3D was just beginning to establish itself seriously. In comparison, TCL televisions were small, looked boring, and had poor black levels and contrast. They were also very cheap.
What a difference a decade can make. A look at the TV landscape here at CES 2021 immediately shows that TCL is continuing on its fast and unprecedented path to become the most important TV brand in the world.
Well, maybe it’s not entirely unprecedented. I remember Hyundai’s debut offering in Canada in the early 1980s, a four-door hatchback called the Pony. Canadians snapped them up because, with a base price of $ 5,795, they were far cheaper than any other car at the time. Ten years later, you would have had a hard time finding even a pony on the streets. They were poorly built and not designed to withstand Canadian winters. But as crappy the pony was, it gave Hyundai a much-needed presence in the North American market and the rest, as they say, is history.
TCL has developed in a similar manner, but it has grown from bargain basement to innovation leader in a fraction of the time it took Hyundai to grow into a major force in its industry. The evidence is abundant.
In 2014, TCL was one of the first TV manufacturers to introduce the Roku software and thus develop its Roku TV line. The earliest smart TV models didn’t get much praise for their picture quality, but there was broad consensus that the Roku TV platform is transforming the game TV user experience significantly.
In 2016, TCL added 4K resolution to its Roku TV offering, making it one of the most affordable ways to get a 4K TV. Again, the image quality wasn’t particularly boastful, but one couldn’t ignore the fact that TCL was breaking new ground faster and faster.
A year later, in 2017, TCL created the P-Series, their first 4K Roku TV with HDR support. Bam! The P-Series impressed seasoned reviewers with color and contrast, not so much because these TVs were better than the competition, but because they were just as good and cost hundreds of dollars less.
From that moment on, TCL was on a TV tech rift. The 4-, 5- and 6-series became the benchmark for value and even surpassed Vizio, the US value leader. In 2019 it took a quantum leap (literally) when it introduced the 2019 8 Series, the company’s first quantum dot TV, which was also the first mini-LED TV ever sold two years before the mini LED technology would make its way into the products of competitors.
TCL continues its foray into areas that were once the exclusive domain of Sony, LG and Samsung.
TCL used 2020 to double its mini-LED quantum dot display technology by adding both to the 6 series – without increasing the price. In the meantime, the cheaper 5 series has acquired quantum dots, making it one of the cheapest QLED televisions on the market. All three models, the 5, 6 and 8 series, have received high praise and strong reviews.
That brings us to CES 2021. This year, TCL continues its foray into areas that were once the exclusive domain of Sony, LG and Samsung. The 6 Series is getting an 8K model, the company’s first 8K TV, and TCL is promising prices for these TVs that continue the 6 Series’ reputation for extreme value.
It has also committed to launching its new mini-LED backlighting technology, OD-Zero, this year, which is set to produce the thinnest, most high-contrast non-OLED television to date.
After all, TCL is on the right track to produce three new TV models with a gigantic 85-inch screen size. TCL is calling these giants its “XL” models and they will include a 4K version of the 4-series (which is likely to set new affordability records for that size) as well as an 8K model.
What does the future hold for TCL? In the short term, we continue to hope that it will showcase its first televisions based on the Vidrian Mini-LED technology presented at CES 2020. In the long term, there is reason to believe that the brand will become a cutting edge display technology such as QD-OLED. You can bet it will continue to work on its imaging hardware and software.
Will we at some point see TCL televisions threatening Sony and LG’s supremacy in terms of picture quality? If that seems far-fetched, keep in mind that in the 80s, nobody could have expected Hyundai to produce a car that rivals the top luxury sedans from brands like Mercedes, BMW and Audi. As they say, never say never