Plenty of TVs on the market today come with “smart” features, letting you stream video from Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and other sites and run a number of third-party apps. But what happens in a few years when your TV starts to show its age and companies start dropping support for your hardware?

You could buy a new TV… but that’s expensive. You could buy a third-party TV streamer like a Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV. Or if you have a TCL TV, you may be able to just upgrade the brains of the smart TV while keeping the display.

tcl transformer kit

TCL is showing off a Transformer Kit for its E6800 Ultra HD smart TV. The kid is basically a small box that connects to the back of the TV, adding an ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core processor with ARM Mali-450 graphics and Google Android software.

If that hardware seems too sluggish or incapable of supporting the apps you want to run in the future, you may be able to just remove the module and replace it with a newer version… assuming TCL continues producing these kits.

Charbax from ARMDevices got an early look at the Transformer Kit, and it does look kind of useful. The demo unit has two HDMI ports, a USB 3.0 port, and an Ethernet jack. Other models could have faster processors or different connectors.

I’ll be curious to see how much the Transformer Kits cost… and if it would be cheaper just to buy a third-party smart TV box.

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14 replies on “TCL Transformer Kit lets you upgrade a Smart TV”

  1. How is this any different from a regular Android stick? Okay, it has connection to the TV remote, but that’s about it.

  2. Brad, you are being very optimistic with the “But what happens in a few years when your TV starts to show its age and companies start dropping support for your hardware?” statement. It seems more like months than years. Some of the “smarts” have been demonstrated as spying on the owner too. If a non-smart TV is not available, just don’t set up the smart functions. They are nothing but a security risk and can give people access to your wireless network. Better to use one of those compute sticks or a Roku/AppleTV/Amazon stick.

    1. My LG is supported after 3 years, which is more than could be said for many 2012 phones, and TV sticks/boxes are just as likely to have support dropped.

      Yes for upgrading an existing tv, (either because it’s not smart, or the software is out of date), buying a box is better. But I see no evidence that the smart functions built into a new tv are worse than those in a separate box.

      As for spying, maybe you can get a tin foil hat with your new box?

  3. These “Smart TV” functions add cost, are poorly done and worse yet poorly supported over time. So don’t be stupid and throw good money after bad and try to “fix” it by slathering more rotten stuff over already rotten stuff. Just buy a cheaper “dumb” TV and plug a carefully selected and known good third-party solution in.

    1. Depends, sometimes that works out cheaper, but on higher end devices smart functions are built in as standard, so it’s a waste to buy a separate box on top of that.

  4. Though my TV has built in smRt stuff too (which I never use because it’s pathetically slow), I connect mine to either my laptop or my desktop via HDMI and run whatever I want at full speed (including Android apps using BlueStacks). Get a Logitech K400 wireless keyboard with built in touchpad for $20 on sale and rock out. Make your device hibernate after a set time and you won’t have to keep it on all night either. Hard to beat full desktop capable apps…

    1. I have my PC plugged in which does have the most flexibility, but it’s only used as a last resort. Much easier to stream to the TV, which I can control using dlna via laptop or phone.

  5. Samsung already sells these for its TVs; they call them “Evolution Kits”.

  6. Nevertheless, they should be applauded for taking an unorthodox approach to changing the innate wastefulness of so-called smart TVs. I generally encourage friends and family to buy the best, most “stupid” TV they can and a third party smart tv or streaming box that fits in best with their ecosystems of choice, as those third party boxes will continue to receive support long after a manufacturer has abandoned people who overpaid for integrated smart hardware.

    1. If it’s cheaper, that makes sense. But if I find a good TV I want that’s also smart, why should I instead buy a non smart one, which both limits my choice, and also costs me more buy having to buy a separate box? If it gets out of date, I can buy a separate box then – a box bought now is just as likely to get out of date and need replacing too.

      Sorry, I disagree that TV boxes get longer support. Why on earth should I trust android TV for example, after the whole Google TV mess?

  7. Hmm. Do I want to buy a box and plug it into the back of the TV or do I want to buy a ‘module’ and plug it into the back of the TV. Decisions. This unit might integrate into the set’s UI a bit better but what are the odds of even one upgrade module actually making it to market? The odds of a second one that plugs into the same single vendor, couple (at best) model port is so close to zero as to justify rounding down and calling it a day.

    The bottom line is that the useful life of a display is almost always far longer than that of computing hardware so marrying the two into one housing is a losing move. This has been the problem with all-in-one PC designs. With all ‘smart TV’s to date, the hardware becoming obsolete isn’t even the biggest probelm, the software is usually not even updated through the the warranty period, and that is when you buy a name brand. TCL is not generally considered a name brand. At least this one is part of the latest trend toward just loading up Android so while the OS itself won’t get updates the apps will for a few years.

    1. “what are the odds of even one upgrade module actually making it to market? The odds of a second one that plugs into the same single vendor, couple (at best) model port is so close to zero as to justify rounding down and calling it a day.”

      Samsung has made two years of “Evolution Kits” for their TVs, and they’re working on their third one.

      1. Ok, that is news. Still Samsung is in a different class of Tier One vendors.

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