Why Are TCL TVs So Cheap? And Are They Any Good?

TCL TVs often come in at reasonable prices compared to bigger-name competitors. Better recognized brands, such as Samsung and Sony, offer products that cost more than TCL equivalents despite what appear, on paper, to be comparable feature sets. So, is TCL any good?

Short answer? Yes.

Skeptical shoppers are right to be concerned. In an age of visual oneupmanship and competing smart TV standards, the consumer television market is fraught. Prices at the top end are dizzyingly high, while lower-priced sets often have a noticeable drop in quality.

By all appearances, TCL is building a successful business by offering a happy medium. Statista reports that as of 2019, TCL was the second-largest TV manufacturer in the world, just behind Samsung and notably ahead of notable names like Sony and LG. TCL finds a midpoint unavailable to other companies through a unique corporate structure that, by chance or good governance, passes savings onto the savvy TV buyer without an unacceptable loss of quality.

On covering the spread

The secret of TCL's success is one word: diversification. TCL is split into three divisions: product, service, and investment. Product is the division that makes TVs, soundbars, cell phones, and so on. Meanwhile, the service and investment divisions focus on making money in ways that don't necessarily involve consumer electronics.

If that sounds irrelevant, consider it like this: TCL has multiple revenue streams. Multiple revenue streams increase financial security, enabling innovation and experimentation without risking business-ruining failure. Several TCL projects have bounced clean off the consumer marketplace, including its doomed attempt at revitalizing Blackberry and a quirky, foldable, rollable phone that made it to prototype last year but hasn't been seen since.

TCL can afford to set its prices slightly lower than its competitors to plant a flag in the otherwise largely unclaimed mid-to-high-end TV market segment. It's the same reason TCL doesn't have a relentlessly advertised mascot product like Sony's Playstation or Samsung's Galaxy line. It doesn't have to — TCL doesn't live or die on its electronics business alone. Ironically, not betting everything on electronics causes TCL to make better, cheaper electronics than several of its more focused peers.