TCL has long been the flag bearer of Roku TVs. The company’s 6-series is one of the best-performing sets you can buy for under $1,000. It features a fantastic picture with the help of Mini LED backlighting — TCL beat Samsung and LG to implementing that technology — and quantum dot HDR color. The 5-series and 4-series Roku TVs are no slouches either in their respective pricing tiers.
But now TCL is taking a step that could dramatically shake up the US TV market: it’s expanding beyond Roku and will release updated versions of its most popular TVs that come with Google TV on board. The software that debuted on Google’s 2020 Chromecast (and also runs on recent TVs from Sony) will now be offered on the latest 5-series and 6-series TVs.
I recently spoke with some of TCL’s executives who made it abundantly clear that the company is not transitioning to Google TV instead of Roku or walking away from its longtime partner. Rather, TCL expects that the TV operating system landscape will take after smartphones and eventually consolidate down to two choices: Roku OS and Google TV. TCL wants to offer consumers the choice of either one, and the existing 6-series and 5-series Roku TVs will remain for sale. That stance seems just a bit dismissive of Samsung’s Tizen and LG’s webOS TV platforms.
The Google TV versions retain the same price points as the Roku models — but there are some tweaks and upgrades since they’re newer hardware. For one, the TCL 6-series with Google TV will be capable of 4K at 120Hz, an improvement over the Roku model, which can only reach 120Hz at 1440p. That’s a big deal for PS5 and Xbox Series gamers. The Google TV version comes with two HDMI 2.1 ports (one of which is eARC), with two additional HDMI 2.0 ports.
Both the 6-series and 5-series with Google TV will also support HDR10+. And in what some people might perceive as a controversial decision, TCL is outfitting its Google TVs with always-listening microphones that can be used for voice commands. There’s a physical switch on the back of the TVs to disable the microphones if you prefer to stick to the remote’s press-and-hold method to Google Assistant controls.