China-based TCL is coming on strong. At CES they launched 4 new series of TVs that include the full range of features including Roku integration, quantum dots, HDR and Dolby Vision. We attended the company’s press conference and visited their booth on the show floor.
A Growing Brand
At the company’s press conference, Li Dong Sheng, Chairman and CEO, noted the size and scale of the company’s reach indicating their strengths in TVs and mobile devices (via their acquisition of Alcatel). They are currently the #3 TV manufacturer and the #7 phone maker on a worldwide basis. Further, their subsidiary, CSOT, is the #5 panel maker in the world. It is now building a new giant G11 line to fabricate both OLEDs and LCD with an $8B investment (HKC To Expand Panel Making to G11). Overall, the company operates 23 R&D centers and 21 manufacturing sites, so it is a massive organization. Sales were up 44% in 2016.
TCL is a vertically integrated company – one of the few in China, but they are also forming partnerships to improve picture quality (for example, with Dolby and quantum dot suppliers).
TCL is also spending a lot on branding itself with huge sponsorship deals with Nascar, European football, ESPN, the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood and more.
TCL’s Chris Larson said that the company’s focus in the US in 2016 was on expanding distribution. TCL TVs are now in most major retailers and being offered with aggressive pricing. Citing NPD data, Larson said that TCL reached the #3 TV sales position last October in the U.S. Their goal is the become the #3 TV sales brand in North America by the year 2020.
Various managers then described the various TV products. Some will be launched initially in China and go global later, like the X2 and X3 models. Three other series of TVs are planned for the US in 2017, the C-, P- and S-series. All of these feature the latest Roku 7.5 OS.
TCL was one of the first Chinese brands to introduce a quantum dot TV, the H9700, a couple of years ago using a quantum dot tube architecture from QD Vision. This was replaced last year with the H8800 which moved to a QD film technology.
The X series will be the only quantum dot TVs TCL will offer and will be in two models, the X2 and X3. While they will have wide color gamut (no spec available), their luminance is limited at 400 cd/m². However, they do offer very thin designs for an LCD. The X2 is 7.9mm and the X3 only 6.9mm thick and both feature an “edgeless” bezel design. They include Harman/Kardon sound systems in both models.
The X2 and X3 will be offered in 55” and 65” screen sizes. The X2 is flat and the X3 is curved. They will be available globally starting in the second quarter of 2017, but no pricing has been specified.
The high end C-Series, which the company refers to as its Contemporary Design models, support:
- UltraHD resolution
- Dolby Vision and HDR10
- Three HDMI 2.0a ports
- Wide color gamut using red-enhanced LEDs
- 4K Creative Pro upscaling
- Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking
The C series will be available in 49”, 55”, 65” and 75”, only in a flat form factor and with availability this spring.
The P-Series for Picture Performance, has the same features as the C series listed above but with different design styling. While both the C-Series and P-Series look fairly slim and unobtrusive, the C-Series offers a more svelte profile, and a slightly more classy look.
TCL also mentions the P-series features 72 zones of backlighting and 750 cd/m² of peak luminance. These numbers were not disclosed for the C series, but the HDR performance for the C series is described as “HDR Dynamic Contrast”, whereas for the P series it is described as “HDR Contrast Control Zones.” It is unclear whether there is a difference in the picture performance between the two.
The P series will be offered in 50”, 55” and 65” in curved and flat versions. So far, this series is the only one that TCL has announced pricing for, with the 50-inch model (not clear if curved or flat) launching for $500.
Finally, the S-Series is what TCL refers to as its Smart Value line. This series still features UHD resolution and HDR, though unlike the above models, only HDR10 is supported, with Dolby Vision support missing, but the other features are the same.
The S-Series will be available in two sub-ranges. The S3 is a 1080p range (28”, 32”, 40”, 43” and 49”) with HDMI 1.4a connectors, while the S4 is UHD HDR10 (43”, 49”, 55” and 65”) with HDMI 2.0a connectivity and an advanced remote control (like the P and C series). These will all be flat models with spring availability. – CC
TCL marked one of the TVs on show at the event as using “QD on LED” technology, probably the first time that anybody has claimed this. At the moment, as we understand it, although you can put QDs on LEDSs, in place of the phosphors that are often used, the materials degrade quickly because of their sensitivity to heat. (BR)