TVs

TCL wants to be popular, and it's hanging with Roku and BlackBerry to get there

You might not have heard of TCL, but with a raft of new Roku TVs and a deal to raise BlackBerry phones from the dead (again), it's clear this Chinese powerhouse wants to change that.

TCL is pushing its design cred with a new range of affordable Roku Smart TVs.

TCL

Based on the massive billboards wrapping around the Las Vegas Convention Centre, you'd be forgiven for thinking that CES is all about a couple of big brands.

But Chinese company TCL is starting to edge in on these well-known rivals, taking to the stage at CES in a bid to show why it's good enough to play with the big guys. And with a brand new lineup of Roku-powered 4K smart TVs and a deal to manufacture BlackBerry devices, TCL could soon be the brand that's good enough to win over your wallet at the cash register.

While it might not have the name recognition of Samsung and LG, at least not in the west, TCL only trails those two Korean giants when it comes to TV market share. The third-largest TV manufacturer in terms of shipments, a number that TCL execs quoted repeatedly at today's presser, the Chinese company sits above Hisense and even above CES stalwart Sony.

And based on the tote bags scattered through the press conference hall, it's also the official TV of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

According to TCL's vice president of sales and marketing for North America, Chris Larson, the company is "working hard to make sure the TCL brand finds a way into your life." Hence the Timberwolves bags, and big money sponsorships on the Emmys, Ellen and ESPN.

Billing itself as "America's fastest-growing TV company," (for the third consecutive year) TCL has largely reached its position in the US by manufacturing Roku Smart TVs. "Regardless of where you choose to buy a TV," Larson said today, "TCL is probably one of those choices."

This year, TCL is keeping up the trend with 25 Roku TVs and three new ranges of panels, including the value-driven S Series, the picture-focused P Series for "home-theatre enthusiasts" and the design-focused C Series.

While you'll be able to buy a 50-inch P Series panel for under $500 in the US, Larson was keen to reassure CES visitors that "picture quality cannot be sacrificed." With that in mind, the range offers features like Dolby Vision, 4K HDR and a wide colour gamut, thanks to "advanced LED phosphors" that offer a more realistic color.

While today's press conference in Las Vegas was all about TVs, that's not the only game TCL is playing at CES.

The big news out of the show this week is that TCL has finally started capitalising on its 2016 licensing deal with BlackBerry to start producing phones with the BlackBerry logo. The flagship device, known only as Mercury, has been on show at CES, giving itchy-thumbed BlackBerry fans a reason to get excited about typing again.

While TCL has a way to climb before it reaches the top three brands in the US (to match its worldwide ranking), it's clear the company has big ambitions. And with a little street cred from Roku and even BlackBerry, it could well be on its way. Particularly if price is a factor at the checkout.

Stay with CNET for complete CES 2017 coverage.