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Hisense U8H Review: All Hail the King of Budget Premium TVs

A few years ago, if I asked you what the best budget premium TV brand was. Most folks would have undoubtedly answered “Vizio,” and I probably would have as well. Nowadays, that’s a much tougher question to answer. And while Vizio still commands a decent market share in all budget TV sectors, there’s new competition from TCL and Hisense, not to mention the many entry-level offerings from top brands like Samsung, Sony, and LG.

But in the search for the best budget premium TV one can currently buy, I believe I finally have arrived at the golden goose egg of lower-cost picture and performance, and this egg’s name is the Hisense U8H.

While not an entirely flawless TV, the U8H goes big in a number of important ways, especially when it comes to its full-array, mini-LED lighting and local dimming capabilities that achieve the kind of black levels you’d find on higher-end sets. And when you factor in Game Mode Pro, the 120Hz refresh rate, and the powerful Google TV interface, the Hisense U8H becomes a no-brainer buy — especially for the price.

I had the opportunity to test the TV for a number of weeks, and have constructed my review of the U8H based on key criteria including picture quality, gaming, and the Google TV platform.

  

Hisense U8H At a Glance

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Courtesy of Hisense

Pros:

  • Bright, vibrant imagery
  • Awesome colors and contrast
  • Top-notch gaming specs
  • Excellent and easy-to-navigate Google TV interface
  • Supports a number of HDR formats
  • Great price

Cons:

  • Some light blooming during darker scenes
  • Not the best off-angle viewing
  • Picture upscaling is only so-so

Quick specs:

  • Resolution: 4K
  • Display Technology: mini-LED/LCD panel
  • Operating system: Google TV
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi
  • Audio Support: Dolby Atmos
  • Ports: 4 HDMI 2.1 w/ eARC (HDMI 3)
  • Refresh rate: 120Hz
  • HDR: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG
  

Hisense U8H Design: Classy and Economic

Because of my TV testing experience, Hisense sent me the 65-inch version of the U8H, but the TV is also available in 55 and 75-inch sizes.

In terms of the overall design, the U8H looks about the same as a number of mid to high-end TVs these days, and that’s certainly no detriment. A polished metallic strip is the racetrack around the perimeter of the screen, with a sleek silver bezel running along the bottom of the panel. And in lieu of a traditional pedestal, the U8H comes packaged with two screw-on feet that can be connected for either a wide or narrow configuration, depending on how big your TV stand is or what kind of accessories you want to place in front of the screen (such as a soundbar).

The Hisense U8H.

On the rear panel of the TV, all of the inputs are housed on the left side. These include four HDMI inputs, two of which are 4K/120Hz and one of which is an eARC port, a digital optical connection, two USB-A connections, a 3.5mm composite video input, a 3.5mm audio port, an Ethernet port, and a coaxial input. The AC power port is on the opposite side.

The Hisense U8H.

A textured, industrial casing wraps the entire backside of the U8H, and you’ll spot something fairly unique on this part of the set, too — a dedicated TV subwoofer (more on that later).

The remote is a fairly traditional design with all your navigation must-haves, a Google Assistant button, volume and channel controls, as well as app-jump buttons for services including Netflix, Hulu, and a few others.

The Hisense U8H.

Getting the U8H up and running is a relative breeze, with Google TV acting as the setup wizard. After entering Wi-Fi info, enabling or disabling a few permissions, and entering your Google account info (if you have one), the U8H was ready to use in about five minutes or less.

  

Picture Quality: A Bold Foray Into Mini-LED Lighting

The Hisense U8H.

Year to year, LED TV namesakes like Samsung, Sony, and TCL continue to make cutting-edge advancements in how accurately their TVs control lighting, to the point where some of the best-backlit TVs are creeping closer to the infinite contrast offered by the top OLED sets on the market. And that’s nothing to shake a stick at, because only a few years ago, there was a notable difference between the kind of black levels you’d get on a flagship LED when you placed it next to a leading OLED from the likes of LG.

Did we think that a budget brand like Hisense would deliver a top-shelf screen that could go toe-to-toe with the MVPs of the 2022 TV world? Not exactly. But when it comes to picture quality, the U8H is nothing short of mind-blowing. So what’s behind the LCD panel that makes everything so sugary sweet?

For starters, we’re working with a mini-LED backlight array, similar to that of last year’s flagship Hisense U8G, but with even more brilliance and dimming accuracy. Hisense claims that the 65-inch model (our test unit) tops out at around 1,500 nits for peak brightness and features 336 local dimming zones. That’s on top of support for HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and HLG picture standards, making the U8H a strong second place next to competitors like the Samsung QN90B, and in action, the picture is truly astonishing.

In fact, during a Dolby Vision test run, I clocked peak brightness at around 1,760 nits, with sustained HDR output at around 950 nits. On the SDR side of things, I was able to clock around 1,390 nits for peak SDR brightness, and about 705 nits for sustained output.

The Hisense U8H.

Watching “Phantom Thread” on 1080p Blu-ray was quite the experience, and while we opted for Filmmaker Mode during this filmic exhibition, we had the Hisense U8H set to Theater Day mode for regular viewing, with motion smoothing disabled.

When protagonist Reynolds and his wife, Alma, journey to the Swiss Alps for their honeymoon, the scenery looked like something straight from a 4K demo loop, yet we were actually dealing with a lower-res source. The white-crystalline mountain vistas and oceans of snow gleamed like gems, and without robbing sharpness or color detail from any of the onscreen costuming choices, with the more earthly browns and grays of Reynold’s winter-wear able to stand out amongst the ethereal wonderland.

A later scene has Reynolds arriving at a lavish and drunken New Year’s Eve celebration, in search of an irate Alma who stormed out of their home to join the revelry. A near-literal menagerie is what we see, with the boisterously colorful garb of the partygoers receiving plenty of spirited representation from the Hisense U8H’s quantum dot layering, with the many hues of the night bouncing playfully throughout the chaotic scene. And above the jamboree, an enveloping, ethereal glow from the ballroom’s monolithic chandelier illuminates everything in a fitting champagne-gold hue.

The Hisense U8H.

In terms of dimming capabilities, the U8H achieves some pretty incredible contrast levels too, with dark scenes getting close to the inky blacks you’d see on an OLED like the LG C2. Light blooming wasn’t much of an issue either, only appearing from time to time, and mainly in situations where titles appeared over a predominately black screen.

Off-angle, the U8H does lose a bit of its luster, with layers of saturation leaving the color gamut space, resulting in an image that appears somewhat washed out. This is something that tends to happen when viewing lower-res sources, like streamed 1080p content and non-4K gaming.

If you tend to do a lot of TV watching during daylight hours or in rooms with a lot of ambient lighting, the U8H does a decent job at tackling reflection, and for what little glare there is, the TV’s powerful brightness will all but eliminate.

  

Sound Quality: You’ll Want a Soundbar

Considering the relatively thin profile of the Hisense U8H, I was surprised to see that Hisense was able to incorporate a dedicated subwoofer on the back of the TV, something I’ve yet to see on any more modern set, which also gave me high hopes for the kind of sound the U8H would deliver. But alas, my dreams were squashed.

The two 10-watt speakers, combined with the woofer, offered little in the way of respectable sound staging, leaving me with a relatively flat listening experience, regardless of the source. And even though the Hisense U8H is a Dolby Atmos-ready set, the few Atmos titles I streamed on Netflix didn’t sound any different from non-Atmos content.

That being said, I’d completely bypass the Hisense U8H’s onboard sound system in favor of a soundbar or a dedicated home theater system.

And for those who may be curious, sound-wise, the U8H peaks at around 85 decibels.

  

The Budget Premium TV Every Gamer Dreams About Having

The Hisense U8H is a gamer’s dream come true, equipped with all of the next-gen must-haves supported by Hisense’s uncanny knack for optimizing whatever console experience you’re connected for.

Two of the TV’s four HDMI 2.1 inputs deliver 4K/120Hz refresh rate, and the integrated Game Mode Pro automatically dials down on input lag with features like ALLM (automatic low-latency mode), VRR (variable refresh rate), and AMD FreeSync Premium for anyone connecting their Alienware computer for a bit of “World of Warcraft.”

Your humble reviewer has only a mild obsession with the “Crash Bandicoot” series (although his partner would tell you otherwise), and I’ve played the remastered “N. Sane Trilogy” for PS4 on a handful of TVs, and truly, none have wowed me as much as my play-through of the original “Crash Bandicoot” on the Hisense U8H.

The Hisense U8H.

I absolutely despise artificial motion enhancement of any kind, and I usually kill these background engines, even when gaming, but the Hisense U8H’s Game Made Pro was so good, I left everything just the way it was. After a few in-game prompts for tweaking the system’s HDR settings for the best experience, I was left with a 2017 game that looked and performed like it was released this year.

Frame tearing was virtually non-existent, with all of Crash’s platforming powers running buttery-smooth. The colors were rich and vibrant too, and the U8H’s excellent mini-LED lighting added extra punch to the kaleidoscopic spectrum. I’ll admit that some side-scrolling levels ran a tiny bit choppy, but mostly in stages like “Slippery Climb” where the PS4 is tasked with juggling rain physics, background lightning, animated obstacles and enemies, along with whatever the player decides to do with the titular orange marsupial.

  

Google TV is Becoming a Smart TV Staple

Google TV can be found on current TV lineups from brands like Sony and TCL, and Hisense is now jumping on the wagon. As a smart TV streamer, I can totally see why.

As both a user interface and streaming platform, Google TV harnesses all the guts and power of the Android TV UI (its predecessor — which can still be found on certain 2022 TVs) to deliver a lightning-fast and intuitive experience, whether you’re adjusting picture settings or looking for something to stream for the night.

The U8H’s Google TV backbone supports all the go-to apps of today, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, Tubi, Peacock, and a handful of others. It also supports Google Cast, a feature that allows you to “cast” audio or video from a compatible Android device to the U8H, as well as a soon-to-drop software update will add support for AirPlay 2 as well.

Google TV is also easy to navigate around, and if you’re signed in with a Google account, the home screen will be populated with several recommended movies and TV shows based on your viewing history. And on top of Google TV, the U8H also features support for Google Assistant, with microphones built into both the TV and remote control. With just a simple “Hey, Google” you’ll be able to navigate through the apps you know and love, raise and lower the TV volume, and even control your home’s smart home equipment.

As a user interface, Google TV offers a solid streamlined experience that doesn’t overburden with ads and other add-ons you may not use (like with Tizen and WebOS), although some of the pages have some dedicated space for ad drops, which is something fairly unavoidable for any smart TV these days.

  

The Verdict: Should You Buy the Hisense U8H?

Budget Premium TVs are becoming an increasingly attractive option for every kind of TV buyer, now that a number of second-best brands are designing and delivering products that look, feel, and function more like top-shelf TV from the three titans (Samsung, Sony, and LG). And in terms of overall picture quality, motion capabilities, and other features, the Hisense U8H is truly one of the very best “budget” TVs you can currently get your hands on.

If upfront cash is a bit of a struggle, you could always opt for the Hisense U6H or U7H, although the former only features traditional LED lighting (no mini-LEDs), fewer dimming zones, and a 60Hz refresh rate. The U7H bumps up the motion rating to 120Hz, but still features fewer dimming zones than the flagship U8H model.

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Courtesy of Hisense

  

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