TCL did a solid job of making high-quality 4K TVs affordable and attractive last year, and this year looks to be no different. They’ve kept up their partnership with Roku to make their OS native to the TV, but this year TCL has added high-end HDR in Dolby Vision, adding a little future-proofing into this year’s sets.
The most exciting releases we heard about at CES this year were their P-series and C-series TVs. Technically, they’re similar — they all have 10-bit 4K LED panels, Roku OS, and both HDR10 and Dolby Vision support. One nice upgrade this year (and a much-needed one for Dolby Vision), is near 100 percent coverage of the DCI-P3 color spectrum, the one Hollywood uses to make movies.
There are a couple key differences between the C-series and P-series. The C stands for contemporary — these TVs will be focused on design, featuring thinner sets, smaller bezels, and premium metal stands and accents. The P-series is plainer, but there’s a trade-off — because of the extreme thinness, C-series TVs lack local dimming zones, which can affect color contrast. The P-series TVs have 72 zones of local dimming, which is pretty good, but not as much as what premium LED TVs from the likes of Samsung or Hisense have.
But, Samsung and Hisense can’t boast too much. Their sets still lack Dolby Vision support (Hisense should have one in the R8 coming later this year), and while that might not be a big deal this year, it will be for the next five to ten years you have your TV. Dolby Vision is a new HDR standard that can dynamically change picture quality from scene to scene, expanding the usual color palette of movies while improving color contrast in darker scenes. The coolest part about this tech is that for Dolby Vision to work, movies need to be produced using the technology, too. I got to check out a demo of one of the TVs last month, and not only can you tell the difference in image quality, you can see where the creators saw the opportunity to expand their color palette — there’s a scene in Iron Fist where Danny is walking down a crowded street that really turns into a visual delight with Dolby Vision. The only problem is that there’s relatively little Dolby Vision content out right now — fortunately, Dolby has already secured a lot of content partners, so this is changing rapidly. It’ll be easy to find Dolby Vision content, too — you can find it in the TV’s 4K showcase collection, or look for the little Dolby Vision logo on Blu-rays or digital downloads.
TCL’s TV are no OLED TVs, but with OLED panels still prohibitively expensive for most of us, these sets are pretty convincing. And, while TCL isn’t the only TV manufacturer with Dolby Vision — Vizio and Philips have some, as do LG’s and Sony’s OLED sets — the use of the Roku OS instead of other smart TV interfaces like Android TV is a big plus. The prices are reasonable, too — in the C-series, the 55″, 65″, and 75″ sets cost $700, $1,100, and $2,000, respectively. The P-series will be available in 50″, 55″, and 65″ models, with the 55″ getting a special $600 preorder deal on Amazon come May 26.