TCL’s 4K/8K TVs and Demos at CES 2022
TCL had a busy booth at CES 2022 full of new TV introductions and technology demonstrators. In 8K TV for example, they announced that the 85″ X925Pro TV with miniLEDs and the OD Zero backlight would be coming to the North American market this year. They also showed a super thin (3.9mm) 8K TV demonstrator with a potential fourth-generation miniLED backlight architecture. A demo of hardware-based VVC decoding of 8K content was also on display. A new motion grading-display solution called TrueCut was also announced, but just for 4K TVs to start. Also new is a 98″ 4K TV that will sell for around $8K, less than half the price of similar-sized and featured TVs available today.
3.9mm 8K TV Demonstrator
This technology demo showed an 8K TV with an ultra-slim miniLED backlight technology developed by their panel subsidiary CSOT. This was a very impressive display with the specs noted in the picture below. Brightness was not specified,d but it appears to be very bright with excellent contrast (over 2M:1) produced with tens of thousands of miniLEDs.
TCL CSOT was not revealing the technology behind this demonstrator, but this is potentially a fourth-generation design. Previous designs have used PCB and active-matrix glass substrates for the miniLED backlight. The second-generation design was deployed on their 6 series TVs while a third-generation design is used in the X925 Pro with their OD Zero branded backlight technology. In talking with quantum dot supplier Nanosys, they described a process with their new diffuser plate that can be embedded with red & green quantum dots that can now allow blue LEDs to be embedded in the diffuser plate. Could this be the design in this demonstrator? See video here.
TCL Embraces TrueCut for Better Motion Control
PixelWorks has been working on a technology they call TrueCut for several years. The idea is to solve some of the judder and strobing artifacts that can be annoying in high contrast HDR scenes. It also allows the content creator to “dial in” precisely what motion blur they want on a scene-by-scene basis. TrueCut mastered content would allow creatives to deliver the exact motion look they want to a TV without engaging Motion Estimating / Motion Compensating (MEMC) algorithms that can create a “soap opera” look.
For the process to work, creatives must embrace the motion grading technology, TVs must recognize TrueCut Motion graded content, and the distribution networks must deliver the content. PixelWorks has been working this entire ecosystem and at CES 2022 announced the first TV brand to adopt the technology – TCL. (download white paper on how TrueCut Motion Grading here)
TrueCut Motion is an end-to-end solution that includes a new content delivery format and device certification program to guarantee a consistent filmmaker-approved output. With TrueCut Motion, content creators have a new tool to dynamically use motion to better express style, immerse viewers in stories, and elicit emotion.
TrueCut will be offered in the North American market on 4K TVs to start, but we will need to await more news on the content creation and distribution front before viewers can experience this. (see video here)
VVC 8K Hardware Decoding Demo
Another technology demonstrator was showing 8K content that was using a hardware VVC decoder playing back on an 8K TV. VVC is the next generation MPEG-backed codec that may eventually offer a 50% bit rate reduction over similar HEVC encoded content. Unfortunately, there were no experts on-hand to provide more details. Specifically, we don’t know how the content was encoded (constant bit rate, constant quality, number of passes, VMAF scores, etc.) to be able to judge the result. The screen indicates that the playback bit rate varies from 35 to 50 Mbps. This is a level that can be achieved today with quality off-line HEVC encoding so VVC decoding should start to approach half this rate. The quality of the encoding did look very good, however.
In addition, TCL did not reveal the VVC hardware decoder source. For example, MediaTek now offers a TV SoC with a VVC hardware decoder. Is this one they used or was it an internal hardware solution? Was it built into the TV or a separate decoder box? These are some of the questions we will follow up on and hopefully report back on in a later article. See video here.
4K & 8K TVs
One of the key upgrades coming in 2022 is miniLED TVs that can offer refresh rates of 144 Hz making them especially good for gaming applications. Also notable is their commitment on miniLED TVs to offer over 1000 dimming zones. The exact models and series where such upgrades will be implemented will be revealed later. All 2022 models will be either Google TV or Roku TV powered as well.
“By utilizing our vertical integration advantages in the television space to continue innovating and producing, TCL has plans for bringing mini-LED powered displays across all new high-performance sets in North America and is well poised for another great year in the television business,” noted Chris Larson, Senior Vice President, TCL North America. He also said that in North America, TVs 60″ and larger were one quarter of all TVs sold in 2021 and those big screens were just over half of all TV sales revenue last year.
What was revealed was a new model for their XL Collection, a unique selection of TVs exceeding 80″. New is a 98″ model, a QLED TV with 4K resolution, 120Hz support and Google TV that will be offered at the ground-breaking price of $8,000. That’s not inexpensive, but it is also a lot lower than competitive offerings.
Gaming on TVs is another area where TV makers are paying more attention. For 2022, some miniLED models will feature panels with a 144Hz refresh rate. This will complement other gaming features available in some TVs like Variable Refresh Rate and a HGiG mode. This will be implemented on 4K TV only, it would seem, however.
TCL is one of Google’s largest TV partners worldwide, selling more than 10M sets annually featuring Google TV and Android TV. New features like hands-free voice control with Google Assistant, a content-first home screen and innovative ways to discover content will be part of TCL’s television lineup.
The 3rd generation of miniLED technology has already been launched as the flagship TV of the XL Collection – the 85-inch 8K QLED X925pro featuring the 10mm thick OD Zero mini-LED backlight technology. The X925 Pro is already available in Europe and Asian markets but will now be coming to North American markets as well in 2022. This is the top of the flagship line as noted by all the features in the CES product card. This TV has a pop-up camera – a feature Skyworth offers on its 8K TVs in the China market. It will be interesting to see how this feature is reacted to in the US market. As noted, it also has a high-end Onkyo sound bar solution with 5.1.2 channels and a whopping 160W of audio power.
TCL was also showing their 8K 6-series TVs that were previously launched in the North American market. These ROKU-based TVs include the App from The Explorers that delivers their content directly to the TV. See video here.
According the FlatPanelsHD, TCL Europe will launch several upgraded 4K resolution series as the C935, C835, C735, C635 and P735. The C935 will have a VA panel, miniLED, VRR, FreeSync Premium Pro. C735 and up get 144 Hz panels.
TCL also showed a miniLED direct view display that was 136″ in size diagonally with 4K resolution. The size of the LEDs and the pixel pitch were not disclosed but this looks very similar to a demo the company showed two years ago at CES. TCL announced no commercialization plans. See video here.