In mid-October, a new brand of televisions was quietly offered for sale through Amazon Canada. The screens, from TCL, quickly moved to the list of top-selling devices, and the two most expensive models sold out.
“We’ll have more in stock soon,” Chris Larson, the senior vice president of TCL North America, assured me.
Larson was speaking at a hotel in downtown Vancouver where he and his colleagues were set up and showing off the televisions that have been disrupting the industry in the United States since they started selling there in 2014. In that time, TCL has gone to number three in the TV space south of the border, behind Samsung and LG.
When it comes to high-quality picture for a reasonable price, no other brand or manufacturer comes close to TCL. The company’s “6 Series” includes 4K resolution and supports Dolby Vision and full HDR. They also have a number of additional features and technology to improve colour and contrast performance, as well as local dimming (called “Contrast Control Zones” by TCL).
While similar TVs from other brands cost in the neighbourhood of $2,000, TCL’s two sizes of 6 Series TVs are a fraction of the price, costing $849 for the 55-inch and $1,249 for the 65-inch.
TCL also has two other models coming to Canada, with slightly scaled back features. The 3 Series models cost $209 and $309 for 720p and 1080p resolution, while the 4 Series models, starting at $390, have 4K and basic HDR support, but none of the picture-enhancing controls.
Although the cost of TCLs televisions is less, the quality is on par or better than other manufacturers.
Larson explained that TCL is one of only three TV brands that manufacture their own components. Other TV brands have to get components from other companies, or even have other companies construct their TVs for them. TCL has turned this advantage into an opportunity to undercut the competition.
Using a TCL is also a better experience because the company has partnered with Roku to provide the software for the TVs. Roku’s director of communications, Mike Duin, explained that his company takes care of the entire platform for TCL, including the operating system (OS) and programming.
The OS is not simply a port of the software Roku uses for its streaming devices, either. The Roku OS for televisions is a separate product, and Duin said that in developing the software, Roku prides themselves on “taking stuff out instead of adding things.” For example, the small and simple Roku remote control does not have an input button because anything plugged into one of the TCL TV ports appears on the TV's home screen.
Steven Abrams is leading TCL’s push into Canada. He said that what makes the market here so unique is that consumers are very polarized. They either want the cheapest TV they can get or they want the best thing available on the market.
TCL believes they have TVs that are both at the same time.More