TCL announces mini-LED and 8K along with its 2019 TV lineup

    Back at CES 2019, TCL showed off its new TV models, including its first 8K TVs. And while those mega-resolution models aren’t quite ready for release yet, the company has announced the availability of the rest of the 2019 models. Here are all the details, and what you can expect to pay.

    TCL 8-Series Roku TV

    TCL’s new top-of-the-line TV is the 8-Series, which comes in two 4K sizes: The $1,999 65-inch 65Q825, and the $2,999 75-inch 75Q825. They’ll both go on sale later this fall. The 8K models will start at 75 inches and go up from there, but you won’t be able to get your hands on one until early in 2020, and the prices remain undisclosed.

    But regardless of whether you buy a 4K or 8K 8-Series, the features are the same. With a “bezel-less” design that has a tiny frame width on three sides, the 8-Series supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision. It also uses QLED technology — not the first TCL TV to do so, but it is the first QLED TCL model to be sold in North America. TCL claims these QLED displays will deliver 100% of the color volume in the DCI-P3 Hollywood reference color space. Of course, QLED displays are hardly new — Samsung and Vizio use the same Quantum Dot technology in many of their TVs too. But not all QLED displays look alike, because of differences in contrast and image processing — two areas where the 8-Series stands apart.

    LED TVs manage contrast through a series of LEDs behind the LCD panels. The greater the number of individual LEDs, the more you can control contrast (the difference between the brightest and darkest sections of the screen). Known as local-dimming, it’s the key to helping LED TVs achieve black levels that are now within a stone’s throw of OLED displays, the undisputed kings of contrast. The 8-Series employs a version of local dimming TCL calls Quantum Contrast, which uses as many as 25,000 mini-LEDs for a 75-inch screen.

    To put that in perspective, many similar-sized TVs only use a few hundred LEDs. TCL claims Quantum Contrast improves brightness, black-levels, viewing angles, and even allows for a slimmer overall TV design. At a demo of the new TVs, we were impressed by the picture quality, though we’ll withhold our formal opinion until we get a chance to review them in house.

    On the image processing side of the equation, TCL’s AiPQ Engine is built on a set of machine-learning algorithms and is responsible for optimizing color, contrast, and clarity, especially when managing HDR material. On a frame-by-frame basis, it uses three distinct processes: Smart HDR for improved color, Smart 4K Upscaling for better sharpness, and Smart Contrast which manages the capabilities of the vast local-dimming array. Speaking of color, TCL is also teasing a new smartphone app for Android and iOS called iPQ Engine Mobile, which will give users the ability to automatically perform color calibration on their TCL TVs from their phones. The app is scheduled to be released this fall.

    TCL hasn’t forgotten about audio. The 8-Series has Dolby Atmos built-in, and though you’ll still never mistake the sound quality coming from the TV for that of a dedicated soundbar or home theater system, TCL’s demo convinced us that it is actually possible to enjoy TV-only sound.

    You get plenty of choices when it comes to voice assistants: Roku’s own Roku Voice lets you launch streaming channels, search for content, and turn the TV on or off. TCL says that — when searching for a specific show or movie — if that content is found it will start playing immediately instead of taking you to a search results page or show description page. The 8-Series is also compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, though you’ll need an external device like an Echo Dot or Google Home to issue voice commands through these assistants.

    TCL 6-Series Roku TV

    The 2019 4K 6-Series starts at under $600 when it hits retail later this summer in both 55- and 65-inch sizes. It shares many of the same features as its 8-Series sibling, including a QLED display, AiPQ Engine processing, Dolby Vision and HDR10, Dolby Atmos, and a bezel-less design. Though it lacks the 8-Series’ Quantum Contrast mini-LEDs, it still features a large number of local-dimming zones — 100 of them in the 55-inch model and more in the 65-inch model. The 6-Series feature Roku Voice and compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

    TCL 5-Series Roku TV

    For 2019, the 5-Series inherits the 8- and 6-Series’ bezel-less design. Using a standard 4K LED display, it still boasts the AiPQ Engine processing, plus Dolby Vision and HDR10 support. The smallest model, at 43 inches, starts at under $300 when it hits retail later this summer and will be joined by 50-, 55-, and 65-inch models.

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