Hisense Breaks the $600 Barrier for 50-inch 4K UHD TVs

– Netflix Recommended; Amazon, UltraFlix & YouTube to Follow
– Goes after the Mass Market, Offering It in Over 2,000 Walmarts
– And the Case for Apple to License its iTunes OTT App to Setmakers

Every UHD TV that’s sold pushes up the demand for increased broadband and home network capacity because, for the next few years at least, most 4K content will only be available from OTT services — even if the 4K version of Blu-ray discs is finally launched.

Prices have been the biggest barrier to increased sales of UHD TVs, but Hisense is totally destroying that barrier. It has launched its H7 50-inch UHD TV that’ll retail for under $600, less than many 1080p HD sets. The $600 price for a 50-inch UHD set beats out Samsung and, in the States, Vizio, for entry level pricing of UHD TVs. Vizio P series starts at $999. Vizio is said to be upgrading its less expensive M-series sets to UHD sometimes this year.

Hisense UHD

Hisense’s 50″ UHD: hits 600 buck price point

 

Hisense is a new name for most consumers so the Hisense H7 model has a four year warranty, longer than any other TV in the States to the best of our knowledge.

Here’s something that’s even more impactful about the new Hisense 50-inch UHD set: it’ll be on the shelves of 2,000 Walmart stores and at Walmart.com — starting in June in the Walmart stores in Charlotte, NC, truly a mass market, er, market.

According to Hisense, it’s a high-quality UHD set. Hisense called it one of the first “true” UHD sets because it complies with both HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 standards. It’s also “Netflix Recommended,” because Netflix’s engineers have tested the set and marked it as approved for Netflix’s 4K app, which is included.

Hisense said the H7 set is still undergoing certification testing for supporting 4K content from Amazon Instant Video, UltraFlix and YouTube. Once the certifications are finished, the appropriate apps on the installed base of H7s will automatically receive the updates.

On paper, the new Hisense UHD TV appears to be very good, but the proof will be in the viewing and how well it handles the upconversion of videos that are 1080p and lower in resolution.

Hisense said it has optimized the audio that comes from the set’s built in speakers, something that is increasingly important for buyers. Other features are:

– Integrated 2×2 dual-band Wi-Fi
– One-touch keys to turn it on
– One-touch keys to launch on-demand and OTT services (more later about the threat of that to Apple TVs)
– Built-in high performance speakers
– Total Volume from dbx-tv provides enhanced audio and prevents unwanted changes in loudness such as when commercials start

Hisense produces over 10 million televisions per year and sells them in over 130 countries.

Hisense USA CEO Jerry Liu said in a statement, “Our partnership with Walmart allows us to make 4K smart TV technology accessible and affordable not just for the early adopters, but for everyone.” In short, the mass market! Who would buy a 1080p sets for even $400 when they can buy a future-proof UHD set for less than $600 — even if, because of upconversion, there is no 4K content, which there is?

Vizio used to have the entry-level TV market at Walmart pretty much to itself. Hisense has moved in and out-Vizio’d Vizio when it comes to a quality set at mass market prices.

55 inches seems to be the hotspot of UHD TVs, although smaller and larger sizes also sell well. Hisense’s designation of the set as being an “H7 Series” indicates that the company will likely offer other sizes of UHD sets. According to HD Guru, it will be followed by 55- and 65-inch models in the H7 series with availability and pricing announced later. Most people find they can use larger UHD sets in rooms where smaller 1080p HD sets were previously best — for example, 55-inch UHD sets replacing 47-inch 1080p sets. The thing about a UHD set is that the viewer can be closer to the screen without seeing any pixels.

An important feature in any UHD set is its ability to upconvert (upscale) non-4K content to near 4K quality. Hisense said its new set upscales to near 4K quality all 1080p and lesser resolutions that come in to the set via any input.

The four HDMI ports are:
– On the rear are two HDMI V2.0 ports with HDCP V2.2 and support for 4K content up to 60fps
– On the side are two HDMI v1.4 ports with HDCP v2.0 and support for 4K content up to 30fps.
– For gaming and other applications, it supports full HD content at up to 120fps via one of the HDMI 2.0 ports.

Hisense did not name the makers of its HEVC chips but said the set supports HEVC decoding from sources such as Netflix.

Hisense’s smart TVs come with Roku built in but Hisense did not say whether Roku is built into the new UHD set. Hisense’s Web page of the 50-inch UHD set does not say that Roku is included so we think it’s not.

In addition to Netflix, Hisense says the set includes Vudu HD Movies, YouTube, Vimeo, Pandora, a version of Twitter called Tvitter (an interesting selection that makes one wonder whether that includes Twitter’s Periscope live video app), Facebook (which is also moving into personal videos), Picasa, AccuWeather Viewster, NFB Films, Daily Motion, Pandora, AP News, Rockswap Adventurers, Ultimate Poker, Opera’s Web browser and Opera’s TV Store.

 

What about Apple’s iTunes?

Hisense does not list Apple’s iTunes as an app — nothing but Apple devices currently have iTunes. But one wonders whether Apple might start licensing iTunes to setmakers, particularly ones that sell well in China — purportedly to become Apple’s largest market in a few years. Already on most UHD TVs are Vudu, Amazon and Google Play, which are considered iTunes’ largest competitors in the Americas and Europe — although pay TV services are adding for-rent and for-sell apps on their STBs — and rightly so.

The question comes down to: Does Apple want to use content mainly for the purpose of selling its devices — or does it want to go all out and sell content and Apple’s services? To paraphrase: Is Apple more concerned about rival OTT services that sell and rent box office quality content or is it more concerned about rival makers of hardware?

Hisense and other set makers are Apple’s rivals in the sense that owners do not need an Apple TV NTB except to access the iTunes OTT services and content stored in the iTunes player on their local PC in the iTunes player such as music and previously purchased shows — but only those that were purchased from the iTunes store, not those from other OTT services.

Without “must see content,” at least some of it exclusive, the Apple TV has the possibility of becoming obsolete. This especially when compared to, say a Samsung UHD set, that has a much more accessible user interface for OTT services. Press only one button on the Samsung remote and the OTT choices instantly appear — simultaneous with the show that’s playing on pay TV. Starting the Apple TV requires a number of button clicks including finding the Apple TV remote and pressing the dreaded “input” button on the TV remote. It’s all very un-Apple-like.

The only thing the Apple TV must still be used for is…

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