When you’re shopping for a new TV, you’re buying a 4K TV, but not all are created equal. This means choosing the right brand, model, feature set and price point to match your personal situation is incredibly important. While the big names still dominate the industry, there’s some smaller, challenger brands that are in the Australian market that are offering great quality for a great price and well worth your time.
One such brand is Hisense who is growing rapidly in Australia and after spending a few weeks with one of their latest TVs, its easy to see why. The Hisense Series 7 sets offer 4K quality, High Dynamic Range (HDR support) a smart TV app platform and more. The review unit was the 55″ version, but the TV also comes in 50″ right up to 75″ if you have the space.
Before we get deep into the design, I have to give Hisense props for taking some time planning the unboxing experience. There’s two knobs that come screwed into the back of the display that make great handles to securely and confidently remove the TV from the box. These also help when maneuvering the display into place on top of your lowline unit. Other TVs are awkward and create a nervousness around removing the display without damaging it, so this simple consideration shows a thoughtfulness for the customer that should be applauded. Once the TV is setup, these 2 knobs easily screw out for removal, perfect for those wall-mounting the TV.
Once out of the box, Hisense ULED TV is visibly thin, with a slim bezel design that we now expect from modern smartphones. It’s great to see this arrive on the largest screen in the home. Smaller surrounds allow the picture to be the star, rather than a thick border of years gone by when the electronic construction dictated larger edges to secure the screen.
In this model, Hisense designers have chosen a silver border which ties in with the minamilst silver frame underneath. Personally love my TV picture surrounds to be black, so in dark environments, there’s less reflection for the light, but this is really personal preference, most people won’t care.
Straight away you notice how thin the display is, measuring just 1235mm wide × 713mm high and 60mm deep. Sure, this isn’t the thinnest possible, but you’ll glady hang this on your wall and achieve that thin picture-like profile.
The TV runs VIDAA U software with is a significantly update on its predecessor offering much snappier performance. The UI’s main menu is a simple ribbon-style, customisable set of blocks that can be made up from your personal favourites including multiple inputs, individual channels and even applications pinned to the start. You can choose to re-arrange the order to suit your needs. Personally I’d love to see future updates monitor your behaviour and re-order automatically based on the most frequently used.
This interface layout works really well, particularly when you’ve named your HDMI inputs, although there’s no automatic detection and naming of which HDMI connected devices found elsewhere.
Getting around the software is pretty easy and launching applications is generally in the 1-2 second range. Its snappy, faster than many others I’ve used, but not the fastest I’ve ever used. The reason launch times are so critical is that switching apps on a smart TV is the new channel surfing. I often found myself switching rapidly between Netflix, Foxtel on the Telstra TV (HDMI Input), YouTube and FreeView OTA broadcast.
To have the capacity to line these up next to each other is a refreshing change. It feels like all your content is avaialble to you, all the time. On previous TVs, I’ve watched less content from external sources due to the switching cost of moving to HDMI 1 or 2. Modern TC comes over the internet and Hisense recognise that and permit IPTV to have equal footing with traditional television.
What’s great about casually adding new Apps to the TV is they don’t require an account setup. This does mean all users of the TV can access the same set of apps, when it comes to something like weather or games, that’s fine. The downside of this simplicity, is that the apps like Twitter, Opera Browser are available for others to stumble upon, risky.
There’s a dedicated app to get you quickly to 4K content. As a 4K TV, this is one of the biggest questions that need to be answered by all manufacturers. Right now the content searches in this app have results aggregated from 3 sources, Netflix (requires higher subscription tier), YouTube and a kids app (turns out cartoons also look amazing in 4K).
An opportunity for improvement is the Settings menu. You’ll find that the simplified interface is a little too simplified. Its an awkward grid of 6 large tiles, not an elegant selection menu for such a high-resolution display.
HDR Plus offers a wide colour gamut to help deliver vibrant and accurate details on screen. This mean the Director’s vision are best translated to you living room as it was intended. This plays out with brighter whites and darker blacks which makes colours more lifelike than ever. Its important to know that not al HDR is created equal. You will need to enable HDR mode in the picture setting option and this is only available on content that supports it. Content support is increasing, but by far your best chance today, is still Netflix.
It is worth noting that not all HDR is equal. While plenty of TVs now support it, the HDR format supported here is HDR10 which is required by the likes of the with # (and X from November) offering full compatibility.
Understanding you’ll want to fire up Netflix often, Hisense have included a dedicated Netflix button on the remote. This lets you access 4K HDR content instantly. This might seem like an easy, consumer-facing decision, but to do this, Netflix requires hardware manufacturers meet a pretty high benchmark for a great Netflix experience which Hisense obviously have. Beside the Netflix button, there’s a also a dedicated YouTube button.
One of the biggest challenges with TV that are backlit (this is) is to create black. When done poorly, blacks turn into great light bleending through the pixels. Local Dimming technology helps adjusts many LED lighting zones as the content is displayed, This helps the resulting picture appear sharper with darker darks and crisper whites. The Series 7 models are better at this black challenge than ever before and for a mid-tier set (thanks the new Hisense Series 8 and 9). Its certainly not the deep, deep black of a Samsung QLED, or LG OLED, but the ULED does a very handsome job at it.
Freeview Plus is available to allow you to have an alternate EPG and also access FreeView catch-up TV services the simple press of a button. This also seems logical, but other TVs require multiple button presses to access the red/green buttons. This is the benefit of having a larger remote, but there are some downsides we’ll get to a little later.
Another feature of the software is the boot time. Waking the TV from sleep takes less than 3 seconds. Compared to some of the other TVs I’ve used in the last year, that’s seriously impressive. Knowing that it’ll turn on so fast, means you’ll be comfortable turning it off more often, even if you may need it a few minutes later. Its a surprising important feature, one I’ll now expect from TVs.
Here’s the big question, how good is picture on the Hisense Series 7 picture quality ? When the content is in 4K, the answer is fantastic. The image is great when powered by a high-bitrate, great source material like that of Netflix (helped by the FTTP NBN). Of course you can connect a Blu-ray for the best possible image quality, but the convenience of online content means IPTV will often win.
What really surprised me is the upscaler in this TV. The HD content from broadcast also looked great, amazing actually. The same can’t be said for SD content, which in 2017, its kind of ridiculous how much is still around. Stretching that few pixels to 55″ and beyond doesn’t end well.
Something else I noticed is how crazy bright this TV is. This helps the display be easily visible in bright sunlight, but in a dark room, its at too bright and I found myself bumping down the backlight to around half of what its capable of.
In terms of picture modes, you can choose from Standard, Natural, Dynamic and Football. Hisense may be the official sponsor of the FIFA 2018 World Cup, but they’re also the official TV supplier at the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix and have sponsorships in Tennis. It seems like a very strange decision to name your Sports mode, Football. That aside, Hisense offer a wide range of advanced settings if your an expert and really need to refine every last detail of the picture settings.
There’s a lot to like about the remote for this TV, it has a dedicated Netflix and YouTube button which helps you get to 4K content, fast and speaks to the modern requirements of a TV viewer that much of their viewing over IP, rather than broadcast.
The issue I have with the remote is the availability of common commands. Many commonly used buttons, like the EPG, mute etc, are indistinguishable from the rest of the buttons. To add to this issue, there’s no backlighting, which means using the remote in the dark is a series of hit and misses. Remote operations should be learn-able and repeatable and even after a couple of weeks with it, I still struggled.
Price & Availability
The 4K ULED Series 7 TVs come in four display sizes, and can be purchased from leading electronics retailers including Betta, Bing Lee, Bi-Rite, Harvey Norman, JB HI-FI and The Good Guys. The prices start at A$1,699.00 for the 50″ Series 7 (50N7), while the review unit, the 55″ Series 7 (55N7) will set you back A$2,499, great value for what you get.
The larger 65″ (65N7) jumps a fair bit, but you are getting 10″ more on the diagonal for $3,499. The big daddy in the range is the 75″ larger than most people have space for, but if you do, the price tag is still relatively affordable for a set that large, the Series 7 (55N7) costs $4,999.00.
All boiled down, Hisense have done a great job at finding a great set of compromises and positioned the Series 7 ULED 4K TV at a price point that’s great value for the picture quality, design and experience available.
If you’re looking for a new TV and don’t have the top dollar to spent, look at the middle of the market for TV as 2017 TVs are great quality for a great price.