As recently as 10 years ago, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung and LG dominated the consumer electronics market, including smartphones and TVs. But about 5 years ago, the situation changed dramatically. Chinese giants, including TCL, Hisence, Xiaomi and others, have rapidly burst into the arena of competitive battles. Moreover, their innovative enthusiasm quickly made up for the initial lag.
TCL’s epochal march in developing an innovative miniLED backlight for LCD TVs illustrates this trend. From 2018 to 2021, the company developed and implemented four generations of this technology, presenting the final OD-Zero version at CES 2021.
The fantastic success of Hisence ‘Laser Tvs’ is no less impressive. Of course, a slightly pretentious name might cause a skeptical smirk on a physicist, but these ultra-short throw (UST) laser projectors with a built-in TV tuner have significantly expanded the multimedia segment. In addition, strictly speaking, any projector with a tuner can formally be positioned as a TV with a screen outside the case. But to be fair, most reputable industry leaders including Epson, Optoma, BenQ, etc prefer to position their similar models as UST laser projectors.
In just a few years, Hisense has developed several generations of ‘Laser TVs’, showcasing at CES 2022 latest PX1-Pro and L5G. Together with September’s L9G, today they cover almost the entire price segment of premium UST projectors.
Hisense 75U9DG (2021) with Dual Cell technology was the second convincing demonstration of innovative potential Chinese giant. This technology enhances image contrast by using an additional monochromatic matrix, each pixel of which acts as a primitive local dimming zone in a miniLED backlit.
New TCL TVs
Of course, the successes of the Chinese giants did not go unnoticed, and their presentations at the annual CES arouse the constant interest of experts. This year, TCL has reaffirmed its right to a place among the industry’s innovative leaders. Company introducted the 98-inch TCL 98R754 QLED 4K TV and 85-inch X925 Pro OD Zero QLED 8K TV, expanding last year’s XL Collection.
However, the company also does not forget about the legendary 6-Series Roku TV, promising a new version this year. Last year’s TCL 6 Series (R646) became one of the bestsellers last year in the mid-budget segment. Today it costs $ 1,300 for a 65-inch model.
Of course, some experts drew attention to the suspicious similarity of the X925 Pro specs and TCL X12 8K OD-Zero Starlight Smart Screen.
As known, this 85-inch 8K model was announced on March 9th 2021 at the Spring News Online Conference with a preliminary price of $15,000. But in the future, its traces are lost. Perhaps the X925 Pro has become its cheaper version.
The OD-Zero miniLED backlit of this Chinese miracle is used an unprecedented 96,000 LED chips, grouped into 1920 local dimming zones. At 9.9 mm thick, the panel delivered peak brightness of up to 2000 nits, a contrast of 10,000,000:1, and an ultra-wide color gamut of 157% (Rec 709). In addition, the model had a theater-level Onkyo 5.1.2 Hi-Fi audio.
But the $15,000 price tag severely limited its marketing prospects. In this case, the appearance of a more affordable analogue for $ 10,000 looks quite logical.
X925 ProX925 Pro Mini LED 8K Google TV
Of course, the 85-inch X925 Pro (or X9) 8K is great. The developers have implemented almost all innovative technologies in this model, including 8K resolution, Google TV, quantum dot technology (wide color gamut with vivid and saturated colors) and FALD with OD-Zero miniLED backlit (great contrast). The ‘X’ in the X925 series name means ‘eXcellence’.
The name OD-Zero (optical distance – zero) is caused by the lack of optical distance between the mini-LEDs and the light distribution layer. Developer claims to have reduced the gap between LEDs and diffuser plates to “zero millimeters” (151 microns – thickness of new miniature LEDs). For comparison, the outer diameter in QLED panels is about 12mm.
The model has a stylish ultra-slim and even slightly futuristic design.
The Onkyo soundbar protrudes slightly from below, and the built-in subwoofer additionally doubles as a back support. During operation, decorative panel with Onkyo logo goes down, revealing sound emitters. But Onkyo’s great sound made wall-mounting in this design impossible. Perhaps someone will consider this price excessive.
The X925 Pro uses a bright (peak brightness up to 1,800 nits) and contrast (native contrast 5,000:1) VA panel. 96,768 blue miniature LEDs are combined into 1920 local dimming zones with separate intensity control, which further enhances the overall contrast. Considering the ‘blur-free’ picture quality of last year’s TVs with miniLED backlit (Samsung Neo QLED and LG QNED), the X925 Pro will be able to provide excellent HDR performance for content in HLG, HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats.
The popular Dolby Vision IQ optimizes contrast and brightness of Dolby Vision content. In fact, this technology uses an encoded metadata and information from the built-in photosensor to optimize them.
The 85-inch X925Pro features
– VA panel;
– quantum-dot display (Quantum Dot technology);
– 8K UHD (7,680 х 4,320) resolution.
– peak brightness up to 1,800 nits;
– 5,000:1 native contrast;
– OD Zero miniLED backlit (96,768 blue miniature LEDs are combined into 1920 local dimming zones).
-120Hz refresh rate;
– theater-level Onkyo 5.1.2 Hi-Fi audio with 8 channels, 25-unit speakers and subwoofer unit with a cavity of 7 liters – 160W;
– Google TV smart platform;
– 4K@120fps support;
– HDR – Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG;
– HDR Pro Pack with Dolby Vision;
– 4 HDMI inputs (2 х 2.1 + 2 х 2.0b, 1 eARC);
– Dual-band WiFi 6, Ethernet port, Bluetooth v5.2;
– Natural Motion 480;
– Chromecast built-in;
– Voice Control with Alexa;
– AiPQ Engine technology (machine-learning algorithms, optimizes color and contrast);
– THX Certified Game Mode (Game Studio Pro);
– Variable Refresh Rate (VRR);
– pop-up Magic Camera (video chats and gesture control);
– IMAX Enhanced (theatrical audio and visuals).
IMAX Enhanced is a certification program developed by IMAX Corporation and DTS. It contains IMAX Enhanced devices (TVs, speakers, AVRs, etc) and IMAX Enhanced content (Blu-ray and streaming services in 4K HDR). In fact, it guarantees maximum playback quality for IMAX content.
X925Pro key features
Frame rates of 120Hz and HDMI 2.1 eliminate motion blur, judder and strobe when playing high-dynamic scenes. Therefore, the model is ideal for live sports broadcasts.
For 4K@120Hz & 8K@60Hz X925 PRO supports a full range of modern gaming features including ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) VRR (Variable refresh rate) and eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) for Dolby Atmos.
X9 audio system is identical to the last year’s announced TCL X12 8K OD-Zero Starlight Smart Screen. It includes a theater-level Onkyo 5.1.2 Hi-Fi audio with 8 channels, 25-unit speakers and subwoofer unit with a cavity of 7 liters. In fact, an external soundbar is completely redundant for this model.
The 48MP on-top 3D ToF Magic Camera is handy for making video calls via Google Duo, and sensed gestures in the air and the distance between the person and the TV very accurately.
The latest Google TV platform supports over 7000 apps through Google PlayStore, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Youtube, etc.
98-inch TCL 98R754 QLED 4K TV
TCL 98R754 became the second giant LCD TV, but the first relatively affordable model on the market. Last year’s 98-inch Samsung Neo QLED QN90A 4K TV costs today $ 14,500. Perhaps the functionality and specs of the Chinese TV are more modest, but it costs ‘only’ $ 8,000. Strictly speaking, LG also introduced the first 97-inch OLED TV, but the launch price of this South Korean wonder is over $ 25,000 (€ 25,000). However, R754 offers an almost complete set of modern premium options, including:
– quantum-dot display;
– 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution;
– Contrast Control Zone technology with 192 local dimming zones.
– 120Hz refresh rate;
– 15W x 2 speakers + 20W subwoofer;
– Google TV platform.
– 4K@120fps support;
– Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG formats;
– HDR Pro Pack for Dolby Vision;
– Chromecast built-in and Voice Control with Alexa;
– THX Certified Game Mode (Game Studio Pro);
– Variable Refresh Rate (VRR);
– Natural Motion 480.
According to some experts, TrueCut Motion technology from Pixelworks has become one of the most promising announcements of this year. As known, California-based PixelWorks, Inc is a leading provider of innovative video and display processing solutions. At CES 2022, the company announced a partnership with TCL. But for now, TCL has not announced when and which TVs will receive TrueCut Motion platform support.
In fact, any film is a series of separate frames. During playback, their discreteness creates motion blur, judder and strobing. PixelWorks solves this problem with TrueCut Motion. It can be positioned as analog of color grading for motion, which uses algorithms for auto-calibration based certification programs.
Motion Appearance Model (MAM) is one of the main TrueCut components. It complements the Color Appearance Model (CAM), which provides the most realistic reproduction of studio-created colors in any environment. MAM solves a similar problem for movement. Working together, MAM and CAM create a new Motion Picture Appearance Model.
In general, the ultimate goal of this technology is somewhat similar to Filmmaker mode, which is actively used in Samsung and LG TVs. Theoretically, it preserves the director’s intent, eliminating the soap opera effect. Perhaps this collaboration will help TCL catch up with the competition.
If this technology is successfully implemented, the end-to-end system will make motion interpolation unnecessary. In this case, the video content will be distributed to the TV in a certified format without the need for additional signal processing. Of course, its prospects depend on the desire of video content producers to use this standard. But Pixelworks already today offers TrueCut cinematic high frame-rate tools, allowing filmmakers to shoot at any frame-rate.
As known, today the market shows the growth in popularity of huge TVs, and TCL ‘XL Collection’ fits this trend perfectly.
This year, the company once again confirmed its right to a place among the industry leaders. Its 98-inch 98R754 4K ‘only’ $ 8,000 became the most affordable huge TV on the market. Price-wise, it doesn’t compete with last year’s 98-inch Samsung Neo QLED QN90A or the new 97-inch LG G2 OLED, which cost $ 14,500 and $ 25,000, respectively.
The UST laser projectors are increasingly competing with huge TVs. For example, this year Hisense introduced PX1-Pro and L5G Laser TVs with a price tag of $ 3,500. In addition, their range has expanded due to great LG HU715Q and JMGO U2 UST 4K projectors. Both models cost $ 3,000 (no ALR screen). But even triple-laser TriCroma projectors provide less vivid and vibrant colors when playing back HDR content. However, cable and satellite TV offers only SDR content, for which their brightness and performance are even excessive.
The 85-inch X925Pro is great. The OD-Zero miniLED backlit, Google TV platform, 8K resolution, quantum-dot display and theater-level Onkyo 5.1.2 Hi-Fi audio make it one of the best LCD TVs to date. But $10,000 is also impressive.
To be honest, it’s not yet clear with what to compare it. Perhaps the price tags for the new Sony Master Series A95K and Samsung QS95B 4K with new hybrid QD-OLED panel by Samsung Display will clarify. But they have a maximum size of 65 inches, which makes comparison with an 85-inch TV incorrect.
The video shows TCL X925Pro (X9) with OD Zero miniLED backlit.