TCL introduced Monday some of its 2021 TV plans including its next-generation of Mini-LED TVs using a new ultra-slim panel technology called “OD Zero.”

The company also announced one of the first wireless soundbars bearing the new Roku TV Ready wireless reference design certification for the technology and revealed that the popular TCL 6 Series of Roku TVs coming later in the year will step up to 8K resolution.

TCL said that despite complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic last year, it managed to leverage its innovative technologies to raise its TV brand share to No. 2 in the U.S. market in 2020, behind only Samsung.

“Last year was a unique one for TCL but through it all, the team never lost sight of its goal to become America’s preferred consumer electronics brand and maintain its status – the number two selling brand of television in the United States. Not only did consumer needs propel us toward that achievement as people looked to their TV for entertainment more than ever, but large screens were in demand and picture performance became even more important. As a result, technology like mini-LED and QLED made so much more sense as we approached CES,” stated Chris Larson, Senior Vice President, TCL. “And thanks in no small part to TCL’s advantages as a vertically integrated company, while our TVs are getting bigger, better, brighter and more accessible, our other categories like audio, mobile phones and home appliances continue to thrive as well.”

TCL Television

Mini-LED TV has emerged as one of the biggest technology trends at CES 2021, and TCL was the first company to introduce a television based on it in the U.S. with its 8 Series 4K Roku TV line two years ago. It returned with the technology in 2020 behind a price-aggressive next generation in its 6 Series 4K Ultra HD models which continue to be available through the first part of this year.

For 2021, the company is stepping up its Mini-LED TV technology a notch with a third-generation Mini-LED system called OD Zero Mini LED. This retains the wide contrast and peak brightness capabilities of previous Mini LED sets while significantly reducing panel thickness. The zero in the name represents the measurement of distance between TCL’s Mini-LED backlight layer and the LCD display layer, which TCL said has now been “reduced to 0 mm.”

Meanwhile, all 2021 TCL 6-Series Roku TV models, which have traditionally be affordably priced, will step-up to 8K resolution. That means four times the pixel count of last year’s 4K UHD models offering significantly sharper clarity from still scare native 8K content but also from upscaled native Full HD and 4K images. The televisions will include an advanced AI upscaling system called the AiPQ Engine.

TCL said that until the new 8K 6 series TVs roll out, all existing 6-Series 4K TCL Roku TV models will continue to be available.

In other announcements, TCL unveiled the “XL Collection,” which is a nickname for its lineup of mammoth 85-inch screen size displays. The XLs include three different models with varying performance levels for a range of home theater ensembles. TCL said the assortment will make very large screen TV possible for a wide range of budgets.

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The group will include a basic smart 85-inch TCL 4K UHD LED-LCD Roku TV (85R435), which ships later in the first quarter at a $1,500 suggested retail price. The step-up TCL 4K UHD QLED (quantum dot) Roku TV model 85R745; and a top-end 85-inch TCL 8K Mini-LED TV with QLED wide color enhancement. The latter two series will ship later this year.

The 85R745 features HDR support including HDR10 and Dolby Vision to dramatically expand brightness and color volume playing HDR content. It also adds Dolby Atmos object-based surround sound decoding and Contrast Control Zone technology to optimize the image across individual zones to boost contrast. For gamers the set supports Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and 4K/120Hz input via HDMI.

During its virtual press conference Monday, TCL also announced plans for a C725 4K QLED TV series, a C825 4K Mini-LED TV series and a P725 4K HDR TV series.

TCL also revealed that it would be introducing this year its first models of Google TVs, using the new easier to use and customizable Google TV user interface that overlays the Android TV OS. The company plans to introduce the Google TV models in the U.S. first followed by Europe.

The move marks a significant expansion in North America of its partnership with Google. Until last year, TCL was selling primarily Roku TV based television models here. TCL was and still is a major partner with Roku on Roku TV distribution, but it long has been a high volume brand for Android TVs and Android Open Source Project TVs in most other markets of the world, as well.

TCL Audio

TCL introduced the TCL Alto soundbar line with voice assistant capabilities and a new wireless connectivity with TCL Roku TVs, certified under the Roku TV Ready program. The premium TCL Alto R1 soundbar is the first Roku wirelessly connected soundbar that uses WiFi audio streaming technology between the soundbar and the display. This new feature completely eliminates the need to use a cable when connecting to the TV.

The soundbar only needs to be plugged into a power outlet. When turned on a nearby TCL Roku TV will automatically generate an on-screen guide for set-up.

This greatly improves the ease of use, and requires only one remote to control both devices. Both the Roku TV and the TCL Alto R1 will receive regular and automatic software updates to further support and enhance the experience. Both components can be controlled with a simple consolidated on-screen sound settings menu.

The soundbar can be tuned for the best audio modes to support news, TV shows, movies, or streaming music connectivity. Smart devices can be wirelessly connected to stream music via Bluetooth.

Additional non-wireless options with Roku TV Ready will also be available later in the year, TCL said.

TCL also announced the Alto 82i soundbar with Dolby Atmos and voice control capabilities via Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay. The unit will launch in Q3.

Two additional soundbars will round out the 2021 Alto lineup — The Alto 8e and another premium Dolby Atmos model. The Alto 8e is a 3.2.1-channel model with built-in Dolby Atmos decoding, Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Airplay and Spotify compatibility, along with a wireless subwoofer and up-firing speakers. This will be available in Q2, TCL said.

TCL Home Comfort

TCL’s Roku and Android TV will also be able to control products in the company’s growing line of home comfort smart devices. These include a smart air purifier in addition to a window AC, portable ACs, and dehumidifiers.

The Breeva Air Purifier features a sleek and quiet design together with a three-step purification system, eliminating up to 99.97% of microbes to help improve air quality in the home. TCL said the offering is the first of many products to come that will create a connected home ecosystem, promoting a better and healthier level of comfort.

Each of the home appliance categories will also feature WiFi connectivity on select units, and operation through a new TCL Home App. The app features a user-friendly interface offering a smarter level of comfort, while enabling changing the temperature and setting schedules from anywhere. Smart TV controls will also be integrated into the TCL Home app later in the year for controlling TCL’s Roku and Android TVs from a phone.

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By Greg Tarr

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