TCL is a pioneer of new technology. It is the leading force behind mini-LED, one of the most exciting areas in TV tech.
You'll find it in the TechRadar award-winning 6-series available in the USA, which was called the "budget-friendly 4K TV that we'll recommend to friends, family and readers for the rest of the year" in 2020. You can also find it in X10 series available in Europe.
TCL just levelled-up its mini-LED tech with OD Zero, and you will want to see it in action in a 2021 TCL TV. This next-generation display design was announced at CES 2021.
But before finding out why OD Zero matters so much, let's take a look at why your next TV should be a mini-LED one.
What is mini LED?
TCL's mini-LED TVs offer a generational improvement over that you see in the average LCD or QLED TV. They use thousands of small backlight LEDs, which lets TCL fit more of them into each set.
You might assume this is all about increasing a TVs peak brightness, but the main benefit is something else. It's easier to fit more local dimming zones in a mini-LED TV, and this is the key to a truly cinematic image.
For the richest picture, particularly when displaying HDR, a TV needs to make the brightest part of the image very bright and the darkest part ultra-dark. More local dimming zones let TCL's mini-LED perform this trick like a pro, even if the scene has a patchwork of dark and bright spots.
TCL's mini-LED TVs also have a QLED quantum dot layer, which enhances and enriches colour beyond that which a normal LED TV can achieve. Top-class contrast and colour are key building blocks of a cinema-grade picture.
There's nothing small about the improvement you get with mini-LED.
TCL OD Zero
TCL's 2021 reworking of the mini-LED blueprint is called OD Zero. And to understand why it is special we'll have to dig into the anatomy of a TV, just a little.
At the back of your ultra-thin mini-LED set sits the backlight array. Little pockets of LEDs, tens of thousands of light sources in total, lie across the set. These are split up into (up to) thousands of zones that can be controlled independently, and a QLED layer and diffuser layer sits in front of them. This distributes their light across the screen so you do not see hotspots of brightness where the LEDs are.
OD Zero effectively merges the diffuser with the LED array, so there's zero gap between the two layers. That's what the name stands for, optical distance zero.
This gives TCL much greater control over each light source, each backlight zone. And this results in better brightness uniformity across the screen, higher contrast, and less of the "halo" effect you may notice in TVs with local dimming systems less advanced than TCL's.
The perfect local dimming TV system is invisible, and TCL's OD Zero will take you to that goal.
You'll also be excited about how TCL's OD Zero panels will bring a whole new level of image quality to 2021's TVs. But it also allows for even slimmer sets, which may be a big deal if you want to wall-mount your next set.
TCL has not announced any of its OD Zero mini-LED TVs just yet, but keep your eyes peeled for them. It has already proved it can produce mini-LED miracles in the 6-series for the USA market, and X10 for the EU market, after all.
The Flexible display
Mini-LED is just one area of TV tech in which TCL is changing the landscape. It announced another at CES 2021, the flexible display.
This is a 17-inch screen that rolls up into two small hand grips when not in use, happy to be stashed into a rucksack. When you need the display, just pull outward, opening it up like a scroll.
This marks a sea change in how you will view and use displays, and it's all made possible by TCL's flexible OLED display tech. The display part itself is only 0.18mm thick, and the panel components are actually printed onto the substrate.
It has some of the characteristics of paper, but is one of the most futuristic concepts seen in the last 12 months. Imagine a TV you can fit in your backpack, or a full-size smart map you can take hiking and roll up just like a paper one.
You'll have to wait to see if TCL makes a consumer product based on the 17-inch printed OLED Scrolling display, but TCL will reveal more about its mini-LED TVs coming later this year, a little closer to their launch.