While Vizio has dominated the low-priced market for TV sets in the States, China-based Hisense has entered the market in Walmart, offering staggeringly low prices on UHD/4K TV sets.
We picked up a 50-inch 4K TV set at Walmart for a mere $598 to test its 4K display and upconversion technology.
Here’s our review, from The Online Reporter’s Kendra Chamberlain:
I’m quite familiar with Hisense’s HD TV sets, having owned one now for over two years with no complaints whatsoever. The HD display is suitable for the 40-inch set I had, and the price couldn’t be beat. The display wasn’t very very good or very very bad, it was just fine, and especially for such a low price point – under $300.
We at The Online Reporter have been very eager to test out as many 4K TV sets as we can, particularly for their upconversion technologies.
There is no standard for up-converting 720 and 1080p resolutions to near-4K; each TV set maker has its own proprietary technology at work in the set, and the quality of upconversion varies widely across TV set brands.
We believe the upconversion technology is the most important piece of any 4K TV set now, as most content that a viewer will watch on the set will be 1080p or lesser resolutions.
Having field-tested a Samsung UHD set, I had some idea as to what to expect in terms of upconversion in a real-world setting, and not through those special demo videos they play on loop at trade shows and in Best Buy and Tesco stores.
Hisense H7 50″ UHD 4K TV: put through its upconversion paces
Upconversion should work like this: nearly perfect with 1080p video; seams may begin to appear at 720p, but the image should still be noticeably better than it regularly would; anything less than that, and the image is practically unwatchable. This is especially obvious in commercials, whose resolutions can vary widely and during one commercial break you can really get a glimpse of the spectrum of image quality.
When testing the Hisense H7 50-inch UHD 4K TV, I was at a bit of a disadvantage because I am a (Millennial) cord-never. I do, however, have a digital antenna, and a variety of OTT subscriptions, with which to test the Hisense’s upconversion.
Overall, the Hisense’s upconversion technology is completely satisfactory. Much like its HD counterpart, the image wasn’t quite as good as Samsung’s but it was still very impressive, especially when given the full 1080p to work with, and particularly given the low price point.
Netflix is my go-to for TV watching, so I put on “The Dutchess” and could hardly keep my jaw off the floor. It was spectacular to watch. From the wide-angle shots of the English countryside, Keira Knightley’s perfect visage, the details of the period-appropriate costumes, even noticing the space between the actors and paying much more attention to the artistry of the camera work – it was like watching the movie with a brand new pair of eyes. There was a life-like quality to it that delighted my brain, and the experience lay somewhere between a theater production and an Imax screening. I thought to myself, “I’d never have to go to the theater again.”
I tried out a number of streaming titles, including CGI-heavy “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” older TV shows such as Granada Television’s “Sherlock Holmes,” black and white films, and animated films like “Shaun the Sheep.”
The upconversion handled these titles in different ways, some doing much better than others. Hands-down, HD black-and-white films upconvert beautifully, and the films with lots of CGI do so as well. The films I tested from the 80s and 90s had less spectacular transformations, but were by no means worse off than their regular versions. I also noticed that fast movement on the screen looked a bit off – not bad, necessarily, but not quite normal, and this was greatly improved by turning off Hisense’s “Ultra Smooth Motion” feature.
Overall, the OTT services fared incredibly well on the 4K TV set.
Next I tried my antenna TV. The results were awful. Each of the big local stations has one channel in HD, and the other channels were all in 480i resolution. They all looked terrible, though the HD channels looked less terrible than the 480i channels. Even the local PBS channel – which I love to watch because it mostly offers British mysteries – looked bad.
This realization didn’t have the effect on me that many TV network execs have claimed it would. I was not disappointed in the TV set.
I did not suddenly want to return the TV set and get my old HD set back – on the contrary, I wouldn’t have voluntarily parted with it if not for the promise of a Vizio to test out (more on that next week). My disappointment was placed squarely on those channels. I stopped watching the channels that looked awful; I suffered through PBS occasionally, but I mostly stuck to watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and some of the channels I have on Roku, along with a few DVDs I have.
Here are some of the big takeaways I’ve received during this experiment:
-If a TV channel looks bad on the 4K set, viewers will stop watching that channel, not return the 4K set. This should be a huge red flag for the linear TV networks that say they won’t get around the 4K for another five to ten years.
-Conversely, viewers will gravitate toward services that offer full 1080p resolution and higher. That means viewers with a 4K TV set will watch more Netflix, Amazon and M-Go than the linear TV channels broadcasting in less-than-1080p resolution.
– TV set makers should create some better video to show on their 4K displays in retailers and at trade shows. I bet Keira Knightley gliding across the screen would sell double the amount of 4K TV sets than those boring time-lapse cityscape videos TV set makers use today.
-Once you go 4K, you can’t go back.
I have returned the Hisense and experienced a week of agony waiting for the Vizio to arrive. HD television is boring after growing accustomed to the eye-candy of UHD.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Hisense a solid 5/10.
This takes into consideration upconversion technology and price.
I watched (of course) some 4K titles on the set, which were remarkably clean and visually stunning, as you would imagine them to be. I have no complaints about Hisense’s 4K display. As I said before, it’s not the best display, but it certainly is better than any HD TV set. The upconversion worked beautifully with 1080p video, and less beautifully with the lesser resolutions…
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