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TCL Aims to Move Roku TVs Upmarket With Dolby Vision HDR

Variety logo Variety 5/11/2017 Janko Roettgers
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When TCL first introduced its first Roku-powered smart TVs in 2014, both companies were primarily targeting budget-conscious consumers: People who didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a Samsung smart TV, and who wanted quick access to Netflix without the need for an external streaming device.

Fast forward three years, and TCL is starting to move upmarket with the introduction of its first 4K Roku TVs with Dolby Vision HDR.

TCL officially announced two new, higher-priced lines in addition to its existing budget models Thursday: The company’s P Series combines Dolby Vision HDR with local dimming, with screen sizes ranging from 50 to 65 inches. An additional C Series line also features Dolby Vision HDR and what the company calls a more contemporary design, and screen sizes range from 55 to 75 inches.

C Series TVs are priced between $700 and $2,000. TCL has yet to release prices for all P Series models, but announced Thursday that the 55-inch model will be available for around $600 on Amazon.com later this month as part of a limited-time introductory offer.

Both lines will feature Roku’s latest operating system, which includes the ability to pause live TV for up to 90 minutes if you add a USB flash drive to the TV, as well as an option to recommend streaming content based on what you’re watching on live TV.

TCL has been using other smart TV operating systems for its TVs outside of the U.S., but the company’s director of product development Aaron Dew said that the partnership with Roku has been working very well for the U.S., where Roku is more of a household name. Part of the reason is that Roku has most apps, and no interest in pushing its own services, he argued: “They’re the Switzerland of the smart TV space.”

As for TCL’s desire to move upmarket, it’s admittedly taking baby steps. The design-focused C Series still very much looks like any other modern TV, with the entire industry moving to smaller bezels and thinner displays. And while other manufacturers have taken more drastic steps to move the bulky tech out of the TV’s body and into the sound bar to make for ultra-thin screens hanging on your walls, TCL still hides all the bulk behind the TV itself.

If anything, the addition of Dolby Vision HDR goes to show that the industry as a whole is rapidly moving to embrace high-dynamic range, just as services like Amazon and Netflix are starting to ramp up their HDR and Dolby Vision output.

Both services together now offer more than 100 hours of Dolby Vision HDR content, and Hollywood’s studios have committed to a steady stream of Dolby Vision titles as well. As 4K image resolution is pretty much a mainstay by now, picture quality has become the new premium feature.

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