TCL has been a value favorite of ours for years among TV brands, regularly showing up on our list of the best TVs, and the Chinese manufacturer has big plans for the new year, with new premium 8K and 4K models on the way and top-of-the-line features coming to popular budget-friendly 4K smart TVs. TCL has only formally announced one of its TV coming in 2020, but early details have already been confirmed about other major products getting updated in the spring.
TCL has staked out a strong position in the TV market thanks to its excellent budget-friendly sets and polished Roku TVs. In 2020, TCL is poised to make serious waves in the premium space, following up 2019s impressive 8-Series Roku TV with an even better 8K model, more refined and innovative backlight technology, and more premium features on affordable sets.
TCL Mini-LED 8K Roku TV
The new 8K set combines higher resolution with TCL's new Vidrian mini-LED backlight technology, which embeds thousands of thin film LED lights into a clear glass panel. The result is improved backlighting, slimmer and sturdier overall construction, and better backlight control for deeper black levels, brighter brights, and less haloing than other sets with local dimming.
In our hands-on time with the set, the new Vidrian approach to mini-LED did indeed seem to solve one of the few problems we had with TCL's first mini-LED TV: Viewing angles. While the tight control offered by miniLED means that one light can illuminate a small cluster of pixels, instead of the several square inches lit up by standard local dimming techniques, it only looked its best when viewed head-on. When seen from an angle, the tightly controlled backlight no longer lined up properly with the LCD panel, resulting in a parallax error that introduced all sorts of unwanted halos. The new Vidrian panel lets the manufacturer place the mini-LED backlight closer to the LCD panel, minimizing the gap between and reducing this parallax error to the point that I wasn't able to see it on the demo unit.
It pairs that new mini-LED backlight technology with a QLED panel, delivering great brightness and vibrant colors to go with the high contrast and tight backlight. Quantum dot LED uses nano-scale light emissive crystals to offer better color and brightness, and while it's best known for appearing on Samsung's premium QLED TVs, the technology has also shown up in sets from other brands in the last year. TCL's own top sets have all added QLED, and the improvement is noticeable.
Finally, as 8K sets also boast excellent HDR capability for better picture, we were pleased to learn that the 8K Roku TV will support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+, two leading HDR formats that haven't been widely available on the same products.
TCL only had a 75-inch model to show at CES, but company reps have said that it will also be available in larger sizes when it launches later this year. When asked about pricing, TCL simply said that they aimed to keep prices in line with "the reputation for value" that other TCL models have established.
TCL 8-Series QLED 4K Roku TV
Specifics have not yet been announced, but TCL will be introducing a 2020 version of the 8-Series QLED 4K Roku TV that updates the model we saw in 2019.
With TCL announcing HDMI 2.1 support on its 2020 TVs, we can definitely expect to see the new 8-Series offering the same 2.1-based features that have been touted for 2020, like variable refresh rates for gaming and THX gaming mode.
No details have been shared, but it also stands to reason that if TCL has a new, better version of mini-LED backlight, it is likely to show up on TCL's premium flagship 4K set. We haven't gotten confirmation that Vidrian will be making its way to the 4K 8-Series model yet, but we'll update this story when we know one way or the other.
The original 2019 8-Series QLED Roku TV with miniLED backlight came in 65- and 75-inch versions, priced at $1,999 and $2,999, respectively. We would expect any new models to come in similar size and price options.
TCL 6-Series Mini-LED QLED Roku TV
While TCL has not announced specifics yet, such as model numbers or feature set, the company has confirmed that a new model of 6-Series Roku TV is being prepared for 2020 that features both QLED and mini-LED technology.
Though we have no details about what form the mini-LED backlight will take – it's likely that Vidrian will remain a premium option, found only in TCL's top sets – the addition of mini-LED to the already excellent quantum-dot-enhanced display seen on last year's 6-Series models should deliver a set that offers superb picture quality. TCL has a well-deserved reputation for punching above its weight in terms of high quality and affordable pricing, but the addition of miniLED and the improvements to picture quality that the new backlight offers should cement that position for another year.
TCL has not confirmed specifics about availability or pricing, but we are told that a spring launch is expected and that the 6-Series will maintain its sub-$1,000 pricing for most model sizes.
TCL 5-Series 4K QLED Roku TV
The other exciting development we learned about at CES has to do with TCL's even more affordable 5-Series Roku TV. Just as the company is trickling miniLED down to the 6-Series, they are also bringing QLED to the 5-Series, putting the same brightness-enhancing quantum dots into its mid-range budget set that we saw on the 6-Series last year.
Again, TCL has not yet confirmed when the new 5-Series will come to market, or what the pricing may be, but we would expect the 2020 5-Series QLED Roku TV to be priced in line with past models.
TCL 2020 TVs new features
Some of the features TCL has announced will show up on multiple models in the TCL lineup of Roku TVs. The first is HDMI 2.1 support, which should be more prevalent on more TCL Roku TVs this year. The new standard will allow such features as enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) with uncompressed audio formats and gaming with variable refresh rates that match the TV's refresh rate to the game console's output frame-by-frame to eliminate tearing and judder.
But TCL is taking gaming a step further, with a newly announced THX Certified Game Mode, which takes the low-latency of traditional gaming modes and tweaks it with visual enhancements like contrast and color boosting. Because these enhancements rely on the TV's video processor, and video processing adds milliseconds of unwanted lag between the console output and what shows up on screen, traditional game modes have stripped out all audio-visual improvements in favor of faster response times.
With the new THX certification, TCL claims that it can reintroduce some of the picture-improving aspects of video processing while keeping lag time short and not impacting gameplay. We'll have to see what that really entails later this year as new details emerge, and we get TVs in for testing.
TCL TVs will also come with the latest version of Roku TV, one of our favorite smart TV platforms. In 2020, Roku-based smart TVs will ship with Roku OS 9.2, which should benefit from improved search capabilities and voice search, along with compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for controlling your Roku TV through your favorite smart speaker.
This article is based on the information presently available about TCL's upcoming TVs. As we learn more in the coming weeks and months, we'll update this story to reflect the latest announcements and confirmed details, so check back regularly to stay up to date on all the latest TCL 2020 TV news.