Review: Hisense 55H8E 4K LED-LCD TV Adds Alexa
For the past two years, Hisense has offered an H8 series of 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD TVs that we have found to be among the best values on the market for consumers on budget.
We are reviewing here 2018’s 55-inch model in the H8E series (55H8E), which as this was written could be purchased through Best Buy and other discount retailers at a remarkably inexpensive $399.99. Other sizes in the series include: 50-inches ($349.99), 65-inches ($599.99), and 75-inches ($1,099.99).
This year’s version, like all Hisense smart TVs for 2018 except the H9E-Plus series (which is Android based), also adds integration with Amazon’s Alexa voice-control platform, meaning users with Alexa smart speakers (like the Echo or Dot) or an Alexa app on a mobile device can use spoken commands to control basic functions on the TV as well as other Alexa-compatible smart devices in the home. Alternatively, Hisense makes an optional voice-control remote available with a built-in mic to take Alexa commands.
What you get in this year’s series is a very good (not great) 4K Ultra HD TV picture with local dimming that gives a subtle boost in contrast performance. The H8E televisions also have the ability to accept and play HDR10-based high dynamic range (HDR) metadata. These sets do not support Dolby Vision.
On the down side, the sets use 60 Hz native refresh rate panels and 120 Motion Rate motion smoothing circuitry and like previous year’s H8 series, the peak brightness level is not very high and won’t produce very spectacular HDR specular highlight results, compared to much more expensive premium 4K sets. But HDR colors do benefit some from a rise in vibrancy and visible texture detail.
The set also features a built-in sound system using the audio know-how of Harman Kardon to get the most from the TV’s two 10W main channel speakers with DTS TruSurround support. However, the speakers are a bit small and the overall sound is a thin, so a good soundbar or AV surround sound speaker setup will definitely help enhance the movie-watching experience.
Overall, this is a recommended budget 4K Ultra HD television that would be excellent in a secondary room, like a bedroom, dorm or covered porch. It will also get the job done as a primary television for households on a budget. We found the H8E easy to set-up and use, with a nice 4K picture and an acceptable upscaling system for viewing HD and Full HD sources without glaring distractions from artifacts or image noise.
Standard Dynamic Range
One of the strengths of Hisense H8 series televisions long has been the ability to deliver very satisfying standard dynamic range (SDR) pictures when playing HD and Full HD source material. Colors here conform to the ST.709 color gamut established for HDTVs and are richly displayed thanks to the set’s ability to show dark blacks that enhance color. Our calibration found colors to be very close to hitting the marks for accuracy without a lot of tweaking required.
The D65 white targets were accurate, as were reds, yellows and greens. Weaker areas came from blue, magenta and cyan, which get close but not quite dead on. In real world images, colors seemed natural overall with no glaring color shifts.
High Dynamic Range
Pre-calibrated HDR color on the H8E in CalMan calibration software from Portrait Displays/SpectraCal.
The Hisense 55H8E does not get very bright when playing HDR content. We measured 272 nits peak luminance in a 10% D65 white window pattern; 272.9 nits in a 25% pattern, 290.6 nits in a 50% pattern and 303.1 nits with a 100% white screen. These are a far cry from the 1,000 nit peak brightness (10% window) standard established by the UHDA for “premium” certified 4K HDR displays.
As mentioned, blacks do get pleasantly deep and rich, but they don’t quite reach Premium certified black level standards for LED-LCD TVs, ringing in at 0.0634 measuring a center black target with moving 10% white windows in all four corners of the test pattern.
The TV has a basic direct-back-lit LED (not full array) local dimming system that helps to achieve consistently dark blacks, and bright whites without clipping. However, the system doesn’t have the power or LED coverage to bring out subtle details in shadowed areas. We found that many of the pinpoint background stars in the space walk scenes from Gravity, for example, were hard to discern, where premium HDR sets make these very visible.
Hisense rates the H8E series a Rec.709 TV, meaning it wasn’t designed to reach 90% of the DCI-P3 color space specified for Premium certified HDR displays. We measured coverage of 79.7% of P3.
Motion handling is what we would expect of a television using a native 60 Hz refresh rate panel. The set includes a 120 Motion Rate system, which limits most, but not all, image blurring in sporting events. For movies and most television programs, though, the pans were relatively smooth without a lot of judder.
Slight dirty screen effect is present on a gray screen test pattern, but this isn’t enough to make a big impact on live video images. Similarly, black screen uniformity wasn’t bad in our test sample.
The Achilles heel of most LED-LCD TVs is off-axis viewing, and the 55H8E is no exception. Color and contrast performance begins to fade almost immediately after stepping to the right or left of dead center. Keep this in mind if a group of people frequently watch TV together seated at different angles around the screen.
Input lag from 4K/HDR gaming sources on the H8E is somewhat sluggish registering 38.6 ms for 1080/60Hz input with Game Mode turned on.
The noise reduction system in the 55H8E does a nice job at minimizing background image noise from low light, up-conversion and excessive film grain. The opening harbor scenes in Pirates of Caribbean: At World’s End, showed slight noise from film grain but the low-light issues that can be excessive on some displays were handled well, presenting a generally smooth overall canvas that doesn’t distract from the action.
This year Hisense is offering three different smart TV operating systems across its various models series. Top tier series get the Android TV platform, upper mid-range models get the Roku TV platform and mainstream services get company’s proprietary Vidaa operating system. The Hisense 55H8E falls into the last class. The Vidaa platform is basic, but easy to use and is equipped with a good selection of apps through an app store.
The remote control is designed to simplify the experience further by offering direct link buttons for Netflix, 4K Now (a collection of 4K movies and supporting apps on the platform), Vudu, YouTube, Fandango Now and TikiLive (a live streaming alternative to cable TV). Pressing any of the “hot keys” will automatically turn on the TV, launch the app and take the viewer to the last point watched in that app.
Users may select additional apps through the Vewd (formerly Opera TV) App Store and most of the major services, minus Hulu and Google Play Movies but including Amazon Prime Video are included. Apps also include a number of services with access to streaming 4K content. Overall, the streaming platform is not as fancy as Android TV or as easy and extensive as Roku TV, but it gets the job done pretty well.
The Hisense H8E carries a basic but manageable selection of inputs including three HDMI 2.0a, one of which supports ARC (audio return channel). These will all pass 4K Ultra HD signals with HDR10 metadata from outside source devices. Also included are an optical audio output, USB port, composite video (AUX) jacks, headphone jack and service port. It also comes with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and supports Bluetooth audio allowing a wireless connection to a soundbar or headphones.
At $399.99, the Hisense 55H8E is a solid value as an entry level 4K Ultra HD LED-LCD with HDR support. At this price, the picture quality is very good and close to or better than some similarly priced entry 4K Roku TVs, which would be the nearest competition. The Vidaa platform isn’t as slick as Roku’s, but it’s no slouch, either. It gets the job done while the TV provides very satisfying picture quality performance. Low price is one of the H8E’s best assets, but HD Guru’s ratings are based on picture, sound and feature performance only.
The Hisense 55H8E used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
Have a question for the HD Guru? HD GURU|Email
Copyright ©2018 HD Guru Inc. All rights reserved. HD GURU is a registered trademark.