TCL's TV lineup just got a lot more impressive with an eye-popping 8K LCD TV that boasts thousands of mini-LED backlights, quantum-dot enhancement and a slew of other premium touches. The upcoming TCL Mini-LED 8K Roku TV has us rethinking both how soon we can expect 8K technology to take hold in people's homes, but also where TCL sits in the competitive food chain of TV makers.
TCL's mini-LED backlight wowed us when we first saw it on the TCL 8-Series Roku TV, which packed a staggering 25,000 discrete lighting zones into its 75-inch premium set. At CES 2020 today (Jan. 6), the company made things clear that it's just getting started, with a new version called Vidrian Mini LED which embeds these micron-scale thin-film LEDs into a clear glass panel that gets placed directly behind the LCD panel.
This micro-LED glass panel reduces the number of layers in the LCD stack, removing unwanted light-dimming filters and keeping the overall thickness of the TV relatively slim.
I asked Aaron Dew, director of product development for TCL North America, what makes Vidrian such an improvement over even last year's impressive mini-LED. "It's not only the mini-LED's, it's also the semiconductor circuitry," he said. "So it's not like a separate board for the electronics, it's simply a sheet of light."
In the construction of the TV, that means TCL can eliminate the gaps between the LCD and the backlight, while also keeping the TV slim and the construction sturdy.
Between the thousands of individually dimmable points of light and the thin, optically optimized glass surrounding each mini LED, TCL hopes to make Vidrian Mini LED the new leader for TV backlight. And in our first look at the TCL Mini-LED 8K Roku TV set, we can't help but think the company's on to something.
Watching the new 8K set, I was impressed not only with the remarkable clarity of 8K— such sharpness and crisp detail is simply expected at this ultra-high resolution — but I was just as impressed with the well-controlled backlight, which offered both bright highlights and deep shadows with very tight control.
And it seems that TCL's new glass-panel tech has eliminated the one complaint I had about mini-LED in 2019: viewing angles. With fewer layers between the backlight and LCD panel, the company eliminated the parallax effect that we saw on the TCL 8-Series 4K set, where off-angle viewing shifted the backlight so that it no longer aligned properly with the picture.
The new TCL Mini-LED 8K Roku TV is packed with other top-flight features, too. The set is outfitted with HDMI 2.1 ports, to support 8K content and higher frame rates for content of any resolution. It also supports uncompressed audio and enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC) for connecting to soundbars. Other HDMI 2.1 features coming to TCL's new set include auto game mode, for immediate recognition of game consoles, as well as variable refresh rate support.
TCL has also worked with Roku to make hooking up a new soundbar more seamless, with automatic device detection and a less cumbersome method for setting up soundbar controls through the TV remote.
TCL is also aiming to top the standards of other 8K sets, throwing its weight behind 8K Association Certification. The company has also worked with THX for a new gaming mode, leveraging the expertise of THX to certify gaming products for high performance on big screen TVs. This goes above and beyond basic game modes, but includes optimizations for both better visuals and low lag times.
The new TCL Mini-LED 8K ROKu TV will launch in North America sometime in 2020; however, additional specifics about availability and pricing have not been announced.
See all the hottest new tech products in our CES 2020 hub, including all the latest announcements and hands-on impressions from Las Vegas.