TCL just dropped a bomb on the TV market.
Headlining a slate of new product announcements ahead of IFA — the world’s largest consumer electronics show — TCL has announced its new flagship TV model called the X955.
This X955 looks and sounds like a mind-blowing TV, with the kind of specs over which TV enthusiasts salivate. I think it is safe to say we have never seen anything quite like it before. Let’s take a look at the specs and break down what they mean, then take a deeper look at why this TV is likely to make some waves.
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The TCL X955 is marketed as a “Dual-5000 mini-LED.” But what does that mean, exactly? According to TCL, it means the TV has more than 5,000 local dimming zones — 5,184 to be exact — and is capable of over 5,000 nits of peak brightness. Please allow me to put that into context for anyone who isn’t super tuned in to the state of today’s TV tech.
The basic breakdown is more backlights, more control, better contrast, better brightness, better picture.
The trend for the best QLED TVs right now is to use mini-LED backlight systems. These work exactly as they sound: very tiny LED backlights illuminating an LCD TV panel that are much smaller than what’s used in a standard LED TV set. Now, because the LEDs are so much smaller, there’s an opportunity to use more of them. And more backlights means more control over how things look. So instead of standard LEDs counted in the low hundreds, we’ve been seeing mini-LEDs counted in the low thousands — which was already a big step up for TV performance.
Not only that, but as you increase the number of mini-LED backlights, there’s also an opportunity to break those backlights down into zones that you can turn on and off — we call these local dimming zones. The more zones you have, the more light control you have, and therefore the more contrast you can get — and the most easily recognizable part of picture quality to the human eye is, you guessed it, contrast. So the basic breakdown is more backlights, more control, better contrast, better brightness, better picture.
Mini-LED TV tech already was pretty exciting. But what TCL is announcing here is just next-level bonkers. Let me put the numbers into perspective for you so you can better grasp the gravity of this.
The brightest consumer TV I’ve ever tested came in at about 3,000 nits, with the most recent example being TCL’s QM8 , which was released in North America. The QM8, if you’ve not read my review, offers some of the best contrast, backlight control, and brightness I’ve ever seen from an LCD/LED TV.
This TV could have black levels that are indistinguishable from OLED to most viewers.
The TCL X955 promises to take everything that we thought was amazing about the TCL QM8and shatter all of it. From 3,000 nits up to 5,000 nits is a massive jump in peak brightness capability. But the zone count jump is almost more exciting to me – the TCL QM8 has 2,300 zones in the 85-inch and up models. This new X955 is well over double that. Honestly, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around it.
So, the X955 offers over 5,000 dimming zones and over 5,000 nits — what could this mean for picture quality? Well, with that kind of backlight control — presuming TCL’s AIPQ 3.0 processor performs as expected — this TV could have black levels that are indistinguishable from OLED to most viewers. Perfect black levels are OLED’s most desirable attribute (OLED, of course, can turn each individual pixel off and on). It would be amazing if the X955 can get close to matching that. The numbers support the theory that it would.
A whole lot of nits
Then there’s that brightness. Who in the world needs 5,000 nits? Well, you don’t need the TV to be 5,000 nits bright all the time. That actually could be painful. That peak brightness will be reserved for small, bright highlights, like the sun reflecting off the chrome of a car or off the surface of a lake. It will also lead to brighter overall colors, so you can expect for the color on this TV to leap off the screen. But if the TV is capable of 5,000 nits peak, that means its average picture level, or APL, probably is capable of being extremely bright when needed. This means the TV could compete directly with sunlight and still put out a picture that is not only visible under those difficult conditions, but impressive as well.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this TV’s high brightness is that it breaks a 4,000-nit barrier that’s existed since the inception of consumer TVs. See, when movies (and some high-production-value TV shows) are mastered for home viewing in HDR, most of them are mastered up to 1,000 nits. A very small handful have been mastered to 4,000 nits, but there’s never been a TV that could get that bright and take advantage of such a range in darkness to brightness. The X955 claims to be capable, and then some. This could push Hollywood to start being a little bit more expressive and creative with their HDR grades for the home version of their movies, and I find that very exciting We may soon literally see images at home that we’ve never seen before.
Now, this part is super important — right now, the X955 is being made available primarily to the European market. It is not yet currently destined for North America. But I think it is safe to hope that, come CES in January, we’re going to be seeing the X955 announced for the U.S. in 2024 (possibly under a differently named model). I’m not making any promises, and TCL is certainly not saying that. But this is how these things often work.
The X955 is available in 85- and 98-inch sizes. Prices are not yet announced.
Looking forward, perhaps the most impactful thing about the X955 is what it could do to the rest of the TV market. TCL is leading the way here, just as it did by introducing the first commercially available mini-LED TVs — now all the major brands use mini-LED backlights in their best TVs. I think TCL will push other brands to do reach for the skies as well, It’s likely the X955 is going to be a TV we talk about for a long, long time.
The bright crystal
So how did TCL pull off feats other TV makers haven’t yet? Is it just pure brightness muscle? Is it just playing a numbers game and cramming in as many mini-LEDs as it can? No, not exactly. It looks like there are some panel and processing innovations happening here, too.
TCL is using a new six-crystal mini-LED structure that offers more brightness from a smaller mini-LED chip than we’ve seen used before. That is a legit innovation. It also allows the X955 to be an extremely thin TV, which, again, just brings it that much closer to the appeal of an OLED TV.
But in addition to that smaller, brighter backlight, TCL is using a new micro lens to focus and distribute that light. This is different than the Micro Lens technology used in the latest OLED TVs in that it isn’t capturing and rerouting rogue light, but it’s instead making sure the light goes precisely where it needs to go with great efficiency. And TCL is talking about how the new six-crystal chip is 30.2%more efficient than previous mini-LED backlights. So, not only will the light be better focused, reducing halo and blooming, but all that extra brightness doesn’t mean your power bill is going to skyrocket. This is important considering the EU’s tightening regulations around out-of-box energy consumption for TVs.
Anyway, those are just some of the picture-quality elements. There is more to a TV than just raw horsepower and handling. If we look closer at the X955, we can see other signs of it being a true flagship product. It’s got a 98% screen ratio, which means that it is virtually bezel-free, as you can see in our video.
The X955 also is armed with quite an onboard sound system, too. This is something else that has me really excited to check this TV out. TCL has partnered with Onkyo for onboard sound — and for those of you who don’t know, I’m a big Onkyo fan. The Integra A/V receiver I’m using in our labs right now is an Onkyo product, for reference.
TCL describes it as a 4.2.2 audio system that is meant to improve bass response and overall clarity, and add height effects for Dolby Atmos. I’m very much looking forward to hearing it myself.
More TV models
TCL’s announcement had some other treats in it as well. The company announced a new C955 for Europe, which looks a lot like the QM8 we have here in the U.S., with over 2,000 local dimming zones and a claimed 2,000 nit peak brightness. This may not be TCL’s flagship for the Euro market, but it does bring all the hotness of the QM8 we have here in the U.S. to Europe, so I think that will be a super-popular model. TCL also announced a C755, which, in the 65-inch size, offers over 500 local dimming zones. And then perhaps the biggest announcement in terms of size is that the EU is also getting a 98-inch C745 model, which TCL promises will be the most affordable 98-inch TV on the market there, though there’s no word on what that actual price is just yet.
Smart home appliances
TCL also announced a new line of air conditioners that double as air purifiers, and I think these are going to get a lot of attention in the European market. Plus, frankly I’m wondering if we’ll get to see those here in the U.S. because with all of the superhot and hazy days filled with wildfire smoke that we have had around North America lately, this sounds like exactly the kind of product we need right now.
TCL also announced a new line of refrigerators designed to keep your food fresher for longer, with some interesting new designs around ionization and sterilization and three different climate control zones. Apparently, the fridge design includes new heat dissipation technology so you don’t need to give it quite so much room to breathe for it to work effectively.
And rounding out the home appliance announcements is a new series of washing machines that are more eco-friendly, quieter, and easier to access. They include new antifungal and anti-funk technologies to keep things smelling fresh – I mean, we all know what can happen when those front loaders don’t get cleaned for a while. These new washer designs can help prevent the buildup of odors in the first place, and that’s just great news for your clothes.
And NXTPAPER phones
Finally, TVs aren’t the only place you can find some new TCL tech. Also announced were a pair of new TCL 40 NXTPAPER phones. Like everything else announced, these are bound for Europe. But they’re also very much worth a look thanks to their screen tech. That’s the NEXTPAPER part, and it’s been used before on tablets and laptops.
The gist is that they’re “e-paper-like” in that they’re supposed to be easier on your eyes while still maintaining brightness, with a sensor adjusting things on the fly.