TV shoppers looking for a bargain in the past few years have embraced Chinese brands, helping those companies gain a firm position in the U.S. marketplace. These relative newcomers include Haier, Hisense, Seiki, and TCL.

Now, several of these companies are targeting consumers with more to spend on a TV, with 2016 product lineups that include high-end sets. These TVs, which we saw at the CES 2016 electronics trade show last week, will be competing with premium models from better-known players such as LG, Samsung, and Sony.

Probably the most aggressive move into the high end is coming from Hisense and TCL, which are the two leading TV brands in China. While neither company is very familiar to U.S. shoppers, Hisense and TCL are among the top 10 television brands worldwide, trailing only Samsung, LG, and Sony, according to research firm IHS.

High-end television shoppers may already know Hisense thanks to its first high-end UHD TV—the $3,000 H10B "ULED" 4K TV that it introduced in 2015. And even consumers who don't know the Hisense name will recognize the company's other TVs: Last year, the company acquired the license to the Sharp TV brand here in the U.S. 

At CES last week, we got a glimpse of that premium Hisense TV's successor, the 65-inch 65H10C, which will sell for $2,800. Like last year's 65-inch 65H10B ULED TV, which did very well in our TV Ratings, the new model is a higher-end quantum dot set (for a wider palette of colors) with a curved screen. Like that set, it also supports high dynamic range (HDR), which pumps up the TV's ability to display both the brightest white and deepest blacks, providing greater contrast.

But this year the set has a full-array LED backlight with more local dimming zones. (Local dimming can help the TV exert more control over brightness and contrast by dividing backlight sections into small zones that can be independently dimmed and darkened.)

The TV will also support the new industry HDR (HDR10) standard. Hisense will also offer a 55-inch ULED TV in a new H9 series, which will sell for just under $1,000.

Also in the mix this year will be a new N9000 flagship series of 4K UHD TVs sold under the Sharp brand. There are two models: a $3,300 70-inch set with a flat screen, and a 65-inch curved screen model, which will sell for $3,000. Both feature quantum dots for wider colors, making them the first Sharp TVs to use this technology, and the new HDR10 standard. Hisense says the TVs will have more local dimming zones than any other Sharp model, though the exact number wasn't specified.

Yes, these sets are pricey, but they are in line with their competitors. Most of the major brands declined to reveal prices last week, but last year's flagship LCD-based UHD TVs from Samsung and Sony cost $4,000 or more, and LG's 4K OLED sets, at about $5,000 for a 65-inch model, were even more expensive.

TVs for Everyone

Not that Hisense is appealing solely to well-heeled buyers. Entry-level UHD TVs in the Hisense line will start as low as $400 for a 43-inch model in the H7C series, going up to just $1,300 for a 65-inch model. Prices for 50- to 55-inch sets in the mid-tier H8C UHD line will be in the $600 to $700 range.

Under the Sharp name, Hisense will also have a more affordable line of N7000-series sets, which will range in price from $500 for a 43-inch set to $2,000 for a giant 70-inch model.

Photo of the new Hisense H10C ULED UHD TV.
The new flagship Hisense H10C UHD TV targets 4K sets from the major brands.

TCL to Offer the First 4K Roku TV

TCL, which first broke into the U.S. by licensing the RCA brand, has been selling TVs here under its own brand, mainly targeting budget buyers. Last year the company announced a 55-inch flagship 4K model in the H9700 series that would include quantum dots and Roku 4K technology—but the TV never actually shipped here in the U.S.

This year the company is seemingly confident that its new higher-end X1 series, which it is calling QUHD, will actually become available. Like the Hisense ULED TVs, it will use quantum dots for a wider range of colors, and it will support HDR. It will also use an LED backlight with what TCL calls "slim" local dimming; the company says that the TV will be the the skinniest quantum dot set on the market. According to the company, this TV will be the first to incorporate the new 4K Roku TV design as well as support for Dolby Vision HDR.

TCL didn't announce pricing, but we imagine the TV will have to be less expensive than comparable major-brand models. It will be interesting to see where it's priced compared to Hisense's ULED TVs, as well as to the new 4K HDR-capable models from Vizio, another company that built a following here in the U.S. by offering full-featured TVs at prices significantly lower than the major brands.

Last year, Hisense proved it could make a great TV, though the set we reviewed wasn't without its flaws. (CRO subscribers can dig deeper into our full TV Ratings, as well as our comprehensive Detailed Test Results, to learn more of what we found.) We've tested a number of TCL TVs, though so far no 4K UHD models. 

We'll be looking forward to getting several models from both brands—including their respective flagship UHD sets—into our TV labs for thorough testing to see how well they compare to the best models from the majors.