When it comes to buying a new TV, most Australians are great at comparing specs and when it comes to the premium end of the market, you'll be making a significant financial investment in a TV that's likely to be on your wall for the next 5-10 years.
With a decision so important, you'll want to consider all the options in the market, rather than simply buying the same brand as you've had before, or even the brand you're friends have.
Hisense's Series 9, 65" 4K ULED TV, also known by model number 65P9 is a serious contender at the top end of the market that features a backlit display with 700 dimming zones, Quantum Dot Technology, HDR10, a massive 2500 nit peak brightness and great sound thanks to Harman Kardon.
After spending a few weeks with the display, it's time to share my thoughts on what's great and what's not and if the Hisense 65P9 should be the next thing you hang on the wall.
Detail front and back
Modern TVs are essentially a large pane of glass, with bezels now a thing discarded to the memory books. This means much of the design of a display happens not on the front, but on the base (if you use the stand) and at the back.
The 65P9 is a great looking display and the rear is particularly gorgeous, something a little wasted given it'll be facing a wall most of the time. It features a slick checkerboard pattern that matches the high-end intentions of the TV.
If you do decide to mount the stand to the bottom of the TV, you'll find a magnetic panels that replace the stock panels, making the process of hiding the ugly mounting screws an absolute cinch.
Interestingly, this magnetic technology isn't used on the input panel, something you'll need to access far more often than the mount points, so this decision is one I hope they reconsider in future models. Magnets are such a good idea for cover panels that it shouldn't just be used everywhere by Hisense, it should be borrowed by all TV makers.
The other significant attribute of the TVs design is the speakers. The rear features a number of holes, these contain the speakers that deliver some seriously impressive sound.
A list as long as your arm
The TV features a long list of features, combining to deliver a fantastic picture quality. While I think the software still has some way to go (like the android 4.0 looking on-screen keyboard), the hardware is brilliant.
After taking feedback on previous models, Hisense have included a dual-core processor inside the 65P9 and that really shows with a snappy UI experience that never lagged or stuttered, regardless of how quick you move around it. Switching between inputs and apps was also fast and boot times were impressive (particularly when using the dedicated buttons for Netflix and YouTube).
Many TVs on the shelves today still use illumination systems positioned on the side of the display. This can cause light bleed or leakage and understanding that potential issue, Hisense went with a prime array backlight with 700 Zones. On the 75" model, they have 1,056 dimming zones.
You can see the direction the company is heading in with this, when things are black, they want to turn off the illumination to the pixels in that area of the screen. The net result is that the blacks are really black and that helps the TV achieve it's UltraHD Premium branding. If you're not familiar with this, it's a certification from the UHD Alliance that represents the TV's ability to produce black levels below 0.005, along with 10-bit colour depth and HDR10. This means you can look for the logo on the box and know for sure that what you're buying meets the very best standard, not just rely on the in-store sales guy or girl to be across the detail.
Quantum Dot is a technology that essentially increases the separation and differences between each of the red, green and blue pixels. When you find yourself in front of 4K HDR content (thankfully there's plenty around now), this TV and the video on it looks absolutely stunning. From movies to video games, the content is absolutely stunning, just as the director or game studio intended.
The 65P9 is also super bright, at a massive 2500nit Peak Brightness, it's on the front edge of the industry for brightness and that means even in the middle of the day with windows open, you'll see a great picture. Unfortunately our eyes aren't always up for that much brightness and unless you want to wear sunglasses inside, you may need to turn down the brightness, or switch to a picture mode with a lower setting. This is a great problem to have as the fact the TV can produce a brightness level this high, enables it to more accurately reflect the real world.
We're not yet at a point where the AI in TVs can read your mind, or even dynamically switch between display modes based on the environment and source material. Until that happens, you can use the picture modes built into the TV to move between Standard, Natural, Cinema, Dynamic and Football. The last should really be called Sports, but is labelled Football as part of the Hisense's deal with the Fifa World Cup. Personally as a motorsport fan, I would love to have the choice to change this from the default.
The base modes are pretty standard, but the Football (or Sports) mode, takes the 200Hz refresh rate and optimises it based on the expected fast horizontal movement. Technically you may loose some image clarity, but Hisense says this is done in a way that's unlikely to be seen by the human eye. After using Football mode during a couple of AFL finals matches, along with Formula 1 race in Singapore, it does a great job of smoothing out pans from the cameraman and ball movement, something that can often result in motion blur.
The TV features 4 HDMI inputs, which on it's own isn't exactly noteworthy, but what is important is which input you connect your devices to. If you buy this TV, pay close attention to the labels of each input and don't do what I did, which was simply assume the best input is Input 1, it's not.
HDMI Input 1 and 2 are version 1.4, supporting HDCP 1.4 and capable of 4K at 30fps. HDMI Input 3 and 4 are HDMI 2.0 compliant and support HDCP version 2.2 and importantly support 4K@60Hz. This difference may seem subtle to the casual observer, but for those who game and have modern consoles like an Xbox One X or a PC connected, will want to have that experienced delivered at the best possible fidelity and frame rate.
HDMI 3 is also the only one that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel), important if you have newer sound devices like a Sonos Beam.
Other inputs also include 1x USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0 ports, which at this point I wish USB 3.0 was everywhere, it can't cost that much more and in a premium priced device like this, surely it could fit in the budget. There's also a headphone and optical port, along with an ethernet jack but I suspect most will leverage the 802.11AC WiFi inside.
The remote is fine, it features all the standard buttons you'd expect to control your entertainment experience. It also features a couple of smart buttons for Netflix and YouTube. These dedicated buttons can actually but used directly, pressing either will turn on the TV if it's off, and take you right to the app. With the standard TV power on sequence loading broadcast TV services, using the dedicated buttons is considerably faster to get up and running. If you watch Netflix more than you watch Neighbours and Home and Away, then you'll love this.
Hisense now ship a mobile app RemoteNow which connects to your TV on the same network and allows you to perform a full 100% of the features of the physical remote. This means if you ever loose the remote, you're TV is still perfectly usable. It also supports multiple users simultaneously, so don't fight over the remote, just use your phones.
In 2018 we're using our mobile phones to open our garage doors, our cars and our homes, to operate our audio like Sonos, so using it for a TV remote is smart and something I expect will be the primary control surface in the living room soon.
What isn't available (at least not year in Australia) is models of Hisense TVs that support Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant which would enable integration with IoT devices. These are available internationally, so I strongly encourage Hisense to get this sorted sooner rather than later, because Aussies love our home automation and the omission of this feature could see potential buyers going elsewhere.
Hisense make their own TV operating system called Vidaa U and the 65P9 runs version 2.5. The main interface is made up of something called "The strip". This enables you to pin Apps, Inputs and Channels to home screen, placing online content on the same level as over the air broadcast channels. This show Hisense understand a modern user's watching behaviour and engineering a software experience to support simple, fast switching between IP and broadcast.
Personally I only watch a handful of TV shows in real time, a majority of my content now comes from online services like Netflix, YouTube and more. This brings us to discuss which apps are available. While most of the major applications are there, some are missing, namely Amazon Prime Video, but Hisense says there are more apps on the way.
You can find the full specifications here.
Room for improvement
While Hisense get a lot right with this TV, it's not perfect, with one particular paint point being the on-screen keyboard. The keyboard looks and feels like a keyboard from a very early generation of Android. By today's standards, this could definitely be improved.
In terms of inputs, there's also no voice control or magic mouse built into the remote. This would aid the input of text into the on-screen keyboard.
The one alternate method of input is the Mobile app, RemoteNOW. There's currently an issue with this app on the Huawei P20 Pro, which crashes almost instantly on launch. This won't be an issue for most users, but if you happen to find yourself with this TV and this phone, it will be a pain. I'm hoping Hisense can release an update to the app shortly to address this.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
How much does this cost?
The Hisense 65" Series 9 4K ULED TV (65P9) is available now from a number of retailers - ApliancesOnline, Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Joyce Mayne and RetraVision. This premium TV does come at a premium price with the RRP of A$4,499.00.
In reality, you'll find JB Hi-Fi has it for sale for A$3,996.00. For that price, it represents solid value for what you're buying, Series 9 however isn't the massive savings over brands like Samsung and LG that their lower series offer, so it's time we thought of the brand a little differently.
Series 8 and 9 offer high-end TVs and they come with an appropriate price tag.
Hisense also offer a 75" model of the Series 9, something important to know for those with larger spaces. The 75P9 has an RRP of A$6,499.00 or A$5,996.00 at retail, so the 65" is still the better value for money.
If you're in the market for a 65" TV, then you need to add this TV to your shortlist. I was blown away by the picture quality and even if the software has some room for improvement, the design, display quality and features on offer here, show Hisense are incredibly serious about competing with the big guys (read: Samsung and LG).
If Hisense were as aggressive on pricing with their Series 8 and 9 as they were with their Series 6 and 7, then it'd be a no brainer, buy this TV and you'd be extremely happy. While I encourage Hisense to invest as much in software as they have in hardware, it is an easy problem to solve as most of us rely on set top boxes like Telstra TV2 or Foxtel, along with consoles like Xbox One and PS4.
There's no shortage of 4K content and if you're yet to invest in a 4K TV, or are upgrading an early 4K TV, you'd be incredibly happy with this hanging on your wall.