We’ve been big fans of TCL televisions lately, and there’s little wonder why — as it becomes cheaper to manufacture high-resolution LCD displays, it’s become easier for smaller companies to compete with giants like Samsung and LG by producing TVs almost as good for a fraction of the price. The competition is only heating up in 2017, with TCL showing off a new line of TVs, including a premium tier that includes almost everything you could want in a television this year.
Like always with TVs, getting through the sets is like wading through alphabet soup. The C series is the high-end series, and will be available in sizes between 49″ and 75″. P-series sets have 4K resolution panels, HDR dynamic contrast, the DCI-P3 color gamut (not quite 100 percent), local dimming zones, and Dolby Vision. TCL doesn’t use anything as fancy as OLED displays or quantum dot technology, so they’ve used advanced LED phosphor 10-bit panels to approximate the color fidelity of quantum dot. There are other budget moves, too — there are only 72 local dimming zones (areas of the backlight that the TV can independently dim to create deeper blacks), which is less than we’d see on a high-end LED TV from Samsung, but TCL is betting it’ll be good enough to make them more attractive on price. But, it’s Dolby Vision that really impresses — this is as good as it gets when it comes to HDR right now, using technology that analyzes the source content and adjusts color contrast on an ongoing basis. Better yet, any of these TVs can also be purchased as a Roku TV, making the C-series TVs the first Roku TVs with Dolby Vision. The C-series TVs also have a more premium design, with a very thin display and minimal silver-colored legs.
The next tier is the P-series, which retains Dolby Vision, HDR, and 4K resolution phosphor LED 10-bit panels. They’ll also have the wider DCI-P3 color gamut and the C-series, so the P-series isn’t a huge step down. HDR dynamic contrast won’t be as good (despite Dolby Vision support), but hey, TCL is saying the 50″ P-series TV should be under $500. Hard to complain at that price.
The S-series, which we imagine will range from $100 to $400 or so, strips off the good stuff like dimming zones, dynamic HDR, Dolby Vision, and 10-bit panels. The S4 TVs still have 4K panels with HDR support, while the S3 TVs will be simple 1080p sets.
TCL says all of their sets will be available as Roku TVs, which is great news — if you’re going to get a smart TV, Roku probably has one of the best, if not the best, smart interfaces. They haven’t partnered with any audio companies for super-powered speakers, acknowledging that most TV buyers tend to set up their own audio systems anyway.
TCL doesn’t have pricing finalized, but these TVs are expected to be very cheap for their feature sets. However, shoppers should expect a compromise — TCL is offering close enough, and their high-end sets will still noticeably lag behind the likes of Samsung, Sony, and LG. That TCL sets aren’t expected to get UHD Alliance certification is concerning, but if you want a decent Dolby Vision 4K set without spending well over $1,000, TCL still might be the way to go.