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TCL backtracks on making its first OLED TVs

TCL QM8 98-inch Mini LED TV
Enlarge / TCL will instead focus on bigger QLED and Mini LED Tvs, like the 98-inch QM8.

TCL isn’t letting go of the QLED dream. TCL still hopes to sell LCD-LED TVs with quantum dots but also feature QLEDs in its lineup. Numerous companies announced new OLED TVs during CES 2023 last week, with some using purported next-gen tech. However, TCL affirmed plans to be one of the last TV makers still holding out on OLED—despite what you may have heard.

During CES, TCL actually did announce that it was making its first OLED TV. It even went as far as to commit to Samsung Display’s QD-OLED panels, which would make it the third company to sell QD-OLED TVs, after Samsung and Sony. The announcement claimed that Mini LED and QD-OLED would “both hold premium positions in TCL’s 2023 TV line-up.” However, the TV maker known for budget and mid-range products told FlatPanelsHD today that this is false.

“A line in the TCL CES 2023 press release confirming plans to launch the brand’s first QD-OLED television this year was incorrectly included,” TCL told the publication.

TCL added that it is “focused” on Mini LED this year. At CES, TCL didn’t announce any specific OLED TVs but teased new Mini LED ones, like the 98-inch QM8, a 4K TV with over 2,300 local dimming zones. In TCL’s press release for CES 2023, Chris Hamdorf, senior vice president of TCL North America, said the company is looking to make bigger screen sizes with Mini LED and QLED technology this year.

TCL claims to have sold over 25 million TVs over the last four years, all without the most expensive, trendy, and premium option available to consumers. Rivals from LG and Samsung to Philips, Sharp, and Vizio all sell OLED options. Amazon-branded TVs have yet to start including OLED, but considering Amazon only started selling TVs in 2021 and its budget focus, that’s not as surprising. Even last week’s announcement of Roku-branded TVs included mention of an OLED reference design for TV partners.

It’s interesting, though, that TCL would namecheck QD-OLED tech specifically if it has zero plans to enter the OLED scene at this time. It’s reasonable to suspect that TCL does plan to release an OLED TV eventually but can no longer commit to one coming out this year for some reason.

TCL and Samsung also have a history; they formed the QLED Alliance, along with Hisense, in 2017. Far from formidable, the short-lived team did little to make a name for itself, despite claiming a commitment to elevating QLED TVs over rival OLEDs. With Hisense starting to sell OLED TVs just a year later, it had little impact.

Samsung held off longer but started selling OLED TVs for the first time in a decade last year, thanks to the advent of Samsung Display QD-OLED. QD-OLED uses a color filter with quantum dots and a blue light source to claim a greater range of colors. Traditional OLED screens, by contrast, use yellow and blue to create a white light source that goes through a red, green, blue, and, sometimes, white subpixel filter.

2023’s OLED and QD-OLED TVs are supposed to include brighter options, with the biggest impact expected to come from highlights. But it looks like TCL will continue to hold out from the growing OLED trend, aiming for Mini LED as its premium tech, which has advantages in being brighter and typically more affordable.

It will be hard for TCL to avoid OLED long-term, though. Last year, analyst Omdia predicted that QLED TV sales would decrease for the first time in 2022 and by 3.1 percent. The analyst expected OLED TVs to represent 12.7 of the market and go from representing 35.7 percent of the premium market to 42.1 percent. QLED, meanwhile, was predicted to go from representing 39 percent of the premium market to 37.8 percent.

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