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Hisense U8B review (H55U8BUK, H65U8BUK): Can this mid-range TV deliver HDR thrills?

Vincent Teoh
22 Jan 2021
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
999

Hisense has done a good job for the money – but several issues keep this bargain 120Hz panel from achieving true greatness

Pros 
120Hz panel provides smooth motion
Comprehensive offering of streaming and catch-up TV apps
Solid build quality
Cons 
Narrow viewing angles
Sub-par colour accuracy
HDR marred by grey letterbox bars and blooming artefacts
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If you’ve been hoping to pick up a 4K HDR TV for well under £1,000, then chances are you’re already familiar with Hisense. The Chinese brand has become renowned for making some stunningly affordable big-screen TVs, and its U8B family is no exception. With 55in and 65in models sneaking under the £1,000 mark, and both accompanied by a litany of promising TV tech specs, these models are sure to catch the attention of anyone with an eye for a bargain.

Hisense U8B review: What you need to know

LG has its OLED technology, Samsung has QLED, and Hisense has ULED. That stands for Ultra LED, but all you need to know is that the U8B has an LED-backlit LCD panel – just like most TVs at this price point. Sorry. It’s not the exciting new display technology you might have hoped for.

At this price, however, you’d be crazy to expect anything too high-faluting. Instead, Hisense has concentrated on delivering a decent bunch of specifications and features for the money. You can pick up the 55in model for £749 or the 65in model for £999, and both promise 4K HDR thrills with an impressive-sounding peak brightness of 1000 nits and Dolby Atmos audio.

Hisense U8B review: Price and competition

Traditionally, rival manufacturers refuse to submit their more affordable TV models for review, but there are some who buck the trend. We’re currently reviewing Samsung’s RU7400 which retails for around £599 for the 55in model, and we’re waiting on the RU8000 and Q60R models, too. We were big fans of the previous generation NU8000 model – despite its flaws – so we have high hopes for the new models.

Another brand who produces some great mid-range TVs is Philips. We loved the 55PUS6753/12, for instance. Sure, it may have struggled to get bright enough to deliver proper HDR, but the image processing and colour accuracy made amends. With the new 55PUS6754 now retailing for around the £500 mark, that too is likely to be a decent budget buy – we’ll be getting our hands on one as soon as we humanly can.


Hisense U8B review: Features and design

Squint and you might just mistake the U8B for a Samsung: the Hisense’s Y-shaped stand design was a familiar sight on Samsung models from a few years back. This is no bad thing, however. The U8B feels hefty and solidly built; impressively so for the asking price.

You’ll find all the connections hidden on the left side of the TV, and you get four full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0b ports that support up to 4K resolution at a silky-smooth 60Hz. You also get a pair of remote controls – one cheap plasticky clicker, and one with a far more premium-feeling finish.

We swiftly relegated the cheap remote control to a nearby drawer, but the classy silver remote control provided a lovely, tactile experience in Hisense’s bizarrely titled VIDAA U 3 Smart TV interface. It isn’t the fastest or the slickest Smart TV OS out there, but it’s easy to navigate and not so sluggish as to cause any frustration.

Crucially, you get access to all the usual streaming apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Youtube, and all have HDR support. In our testing, the relevant HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision modes burst into action when we selected HDR-compatible content on the various streaming services.

The presence of Freeview Play is another boon, too, as it provides a one-stop gateway to onboard to content from all the major UK catch-up TV apps including BBC iPlayer.

One further pleasant surprise is that the Hisense’s integrated speakers provide good sound quality. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand, and there’s even a modicum of bass – as long as you keep the volume in check. Push the speakers too hard and distortion begins to add a shrill, hollow quality to the sound.

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Hisense U8B review: Image quality

It’s a familiar story for the U8B. At this price, it’s no surprise to find that Hisense has employed a VA-type LCD panel, so you get the usual positives of deep blacks and great contrast weighed against the negatives of reduced viewing angles.

In this case, though, the viewing angles are even narrower than we’re used to from TVs which also use the same VA panel technology. Look head-on at the U8B and it’s already possible to see some fading of colours and contrast as you cast your eye to the corners of the screen. Move away from directly in front of the U8B, and it’s even more intrusive. If the layout of your lounge means that you can’t sit directly in front of the U8B – or you always get beaten to the best seat – then we’d definitely strike this TV off your shortlist.

And if you’re hoping for a taste of high-end features such as full-array local dimming (FALD), then dream on: the U8B employs edge-lit LED backlighting, and there are only 16 vertical dimming zones which span the entire height of screen. The result? Bright objects on dark backgrounds are surrounded by obvious blooming and halos of light, and the issue is particularly evident in HDR content. It’s also very noticeable on the black bars above and below movie content.

To be fair, these kind of issues aren’t anything out of the ordinary for a mid-range TV, but Hisense has dropped the ball in one other key area: colour accuracy. Many of our favourite mid-range and budget sets make amends for the effects of edge-lit backlighting and dim HDR by delivering fairly accurate colour reproduction. The U8B, on the other hand, does not. Despite the fact that it covers a reasonable 94% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, colour accuracy is entirely mediocre, and we found no amount of tweaking was able to satisfactorily rectify the issue.

There is one significant feather in the U8B’s bezel, however, and that’s its 120Hz LCD panel. It’s not something you see too much around this price point, and the results are that the Hisense serves up smooth 24p playback from Blu-ray discs and the like. Better still, you can also reduce motion blur and improve smoothness in everyday content if you engage the Ultra Smooth Motion setting.

Once activated, it’s to Hisense’s credit that the U8B’s video processing engine doesn’t induce soap opera effects (that floaty, overly smooth feeling which you see on lesser sets) or cause distracting visual artefacts. It’s reasonably adept at upscaling, too, and although standard definition content does look a little soft compared to the best, we did note how well the U8B managed to suppress the appearance of jagged edges in TV broadcasts.

Hisense U8B review: HDR & gaming performance

We had high hopes for the U8B’s HDR talents. Hisense’s marketing material claims that it can hit a peak of 1,000cd/m2, which is higher than any OLED TV and not too far off far more expensive LCD models with FALD backlighting. The reality, as you can probably guess, is a little less exciting.

In one of our tests, the U8B actually exceeded Hisense’s claims: with a white window filling 18% of the screen, it managed to boost up to 1,200cd/m2 for around 30 seconds. After that initial burst, though, the brightness drops back to a much less impressive 360cd/m2.

Oddly enough, we found that peak brightness measured at only 390cd/m2 on a smaller 10% white window, and actually measured higher with an all-white screen, peaking at 415cd/m2. In real-life content, where HDR highlights will be on screen for much longer than 30 seconds, you can expect peak brightness to be much closer to 400cd/m2 than the claimed maximum of 1,000. The net effect is that subtle detail in specular highlights is flattened, and particularly so on content that’s been mastered to a maximum HDR brightness of 4000 nits.

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The only further thing to note is that although the U8B supports Dolby Vision, there’s no adjustability: you can pick from Dolby Vision Bright or Dolby Vision Dark modes and that’s your lot.

The Hisense’s gaming capabilities aren’t anything to write home about. There’s no Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) support, but you can enable Game mode within each picture preset manually. There’s no Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) support, though, which is a bit of a shame. Input lag is also quite a bit higher than in class-leading TVs: we measured 34ms in 1080P SDR mode, rising to 38ms in 4K HDR.

Hisense U8B review: Verdict

For all its flaws, the Hisense U8B is a decent if unremarkable mid-range TV. The 120Hz panel is a bit of a coup at the price – not least because it permits smooth 24p playback – and buyers more interested in 4K big-screen thrills than out-and-out accuracy may not be unduly bothered by the colour accuracy issues. If, however, you were hoping for colour-accurate, vivacious HDR in a cut-price package, then keep hoping – this isn’t the holy grail you were searching for.

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