Back in 1969, China’s Qingdao governmental authorities set up a small, local factory for producing a new radio brand, the Red Lantern. It was the year Hisense was first introduced to the public. It wasn’t until 1975, however, that Hisense became associated with TV manufacturing after the Shandong National Defense Office invested in training three chosen technicians whose efforts resulted in the development of transistor TVs. Thanks to the company’s brand-building efforts in the West, the Hisense name has stretched far beyond China’s borders over the last 48 years. While Hisense has traditionally been associated with budget-priced TVs, their acquisition of Sharp in 2015 has catapulted the brand to new heights.
As of 2017, Hisense has become a serious contender among industry behemoths like Samsung, LG and Sony. Their CES 2017 showcase earlier this January promised more premium specs at even lower prices, and based on their 2016 lineup, the competition has a lot to worry about going forward. Today, we’re taking a look at the 2016 4K Hisense H8C (55-Inch)—the company’s defining model. If you Google the model name, you may notice countless videophile forums praising the H8C’s picture quality, and some even drawing comparisons with higher-end sets, like the Samsung KS8000. And they’re right. As a KS8000 owner myself, I’m absolutely blown away by the Hisense H8C image quality, especially considering the stupendously low price of $400 for the 55-inch model.
"The Hisense H8C is, hands-down, the best budget 4K TV on the market. Period. It's an excellent choice for both gamers and movie buffs."
Since 4K and HDR are still in their infancy, early adopters like myself are limited to only a handful of models/manufacturers, and each requires a substantial investment. But for those seeking a cheaper, transitional unit until the technology stabilizes, there is currently nothing better in the lower price range than the H8C. The Hisense H8C is, hands-down, the best budget 4K TV on the market. Period. If you’re not too concerned with getting “certified” HDR performance, the H8C is an otherwise excellent choice for both gamers and movie buffs.
Screen resolution: 3840 x 2160
Local Dimming: Yes (Not recommended on this model)
Local Dimming Zones: Multi-zones
4K Upscaling: Yes
Contrast Ratio: 4000:1
Color Depth: 10-Bit
HDR: Yes (~47% of Rec2020)
Ultra Smooth Motion: Yes (Only 3 settings and no custom sliders)
Refresh rate: 60Hz
Audio output power (Watts): 10W x 10W
Audio technologies: Supports Dolby Digital and dbx-tv
Power Consumption: 145W (max)
Standby Consumption: 0.5W
Power Supply AC: 120V, 60Hz
Wireless Built-in: Yes (2x2 Dual-Band | 802.11ac)
Ethernet: Yes (gigabit)
AirBridge (Hisense-developed technology for content
sharing between devices): Yes (CAST)
HiMedia (Hisense-developed technology for playing
digital content stored on a USB device or in theCloud): Yes (DLNA)
Wall Mountable: Yes, VESA 400x400
Ethernet: (LAN) 1
RF Antenna: 1
RCA Composite Video Input: 1 (shared with component)
L/R Audio Input for Composite: 1 (shared with component)
RCA Component Video Input: 1
L/R Audio Input for Component: 1
Digital Audio Output: 1 Optical
Earphone/Audio Output: 1
Design & Remote
The Hisense H8C boasts a sleek and minimalistic aesthetic that wonderfully complements any entertainment setup. It’s nothing fancy, but it certainly doesn’t look cheap. Since the H8C features a full-array backlight, it isn’t as thin as most modern TVs, and may project slightly when mounted on the wall. Having said that, I appreciate the sturdy construction and stable legs. You don’t have to worry about the TV tilting over or getting easily damaged. Personally, I wish the frame material mirrored the bottom ledge and legs—but nevertheless, the design is functional and unobtrusive.
The H8C comes with a basic, albeit nicely designed and responsive remote. It offers quick-access buttons to Netflix, Vudu, Amazon and Youtube and it’s equipped with all the basic functions needed to control the TV unit.
Installation & OS
The Hisense H8C uses an Opera based operating system that maintains a snappy and responsive performance. It takes about 5-10 minutes to get everything up and running, unlike Sony’s X850D, which took close to an hour to finalize due to countless app updates and configurations. With all the latest software updates installed, my experienced with the Opera OS has been smooth and hassle-free. I haven't encountered any bugs and freezes in my month of testing, and I personally prefer Opera to Sony’s Android platform due to greater stability.
"With a 4000:1 contrast ratio, the H8C delivers superb black levels in a dark room, and there are no visible signs of clouding or light bleed."
The H8C comes loaded with popular apps like Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and Youtube, but unfortunately, it lacks Hulu due to a lack of licensing. It’s not a big deal-breaker since you can use any external device to stream additional apps, but in 2016/17, you’d expect all major apps to be accessible on a smart platform. The boot time is another minor quirk. It takes several seconds for the TV to display the picture after pressing the power button. I’m not sure if this can be remedied with another firmware update, but it’s a little annoying being unable to tell whether the TV is turned on right away.
Contrast, Black and Grey Uniformity
This is where the H8C truly shines. With a 4000:1 contrast ratio, the H8C delivers superb black levels in a dark room, and there are no visible signs of clouding or light bleed. The H8C has a VA panel with a full-array backlight, so you can expect rich image quality when viewing dimly filmed content like Daredevil or Stranger Things. Since the H8C is a VA panel, however, viewing angles (over 176 degrees) will suffer the further away you move from the center—although this is entirely normal with VA technology.
Thanks to the full-array backlight and solid contrast ratio, the black levels are praiseworthy. Our unit has zero clouding, and the black bars in widescreen movies maintain their inky-deep values. Grey uniformity, while far from perfect, is better than anything in this price range. There’s no notable banding during panning shots, but uneven and cloudy areas can be seen when viewing a 50% grey test screen. The corners are also notably darker than the rest of the screen, but again, the lack of uniformity within mid-values is rarely an issue, and may only be visible when viewing a particularly washed out scene.
"Thanks to the full-array backlight and solid contrast ratio, the black levels are praiseworthy. Our unit has zero clouding, and the black bars in widescreen movies maintain their inky-deep values."
On a final note, the H8C’s local dimming is inadequate. This model may have a full-array backlight, but it doesn’t appear to have enough dimming zones for the local dimming to take notable effect. There is also an odd, reddish tint that can be seen following bright objects when dimming is engaged, so I definitely recommend keeping this feature off.
Overall, the screen evenness and smoothness is admirable at this size. Our unit has zero dead pixels and screen defects, and the DSE (dirty screen effect) is imperceptible. Considering that I just spent close to six month exchanging various TVs due to manufacturing defects, the H8C’s construction quality is a godsend. It’s also worth noting that the semi-gloss screen does a great job of diffusing distracting reflections during daytime viewing.
Brightness and HDR
Hisense added HDR capabilities after the TV launch via a system update, and it currently only works via HDMI/USB ports and can’t be accessed when using onboard apps. Since the peak brightness isn’t especially high and the color gamut only reaches ~47% of the Rec. 2020 color space, the H8C can’t hit the full dynamic range, and as a result, isn’t officially classified as an HDR unit. Despite its below average brightness, however, the added color and contrast punch from playing an HDR signal provides a commendable boost to an already excellent PQ performance.
Movie/Game/Sports Performance, Motion and Upscaling
You don’t have to give up an entire paycheck to enjoy movies, games and sports in high quality. The H8C, even when placed right next to premium brands, holds its own in terms of raw performance. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the H8C is superior to Sony’s mid-range 2016 lineup, which includes the X850D.
Whether you’re watching dark, bright or colorful content, the H8C provides excellent picture quality throughout. Guillermo Del Toro’s latest Trollhunters is a perfect testing ground for what the H8C offers. The dynamic shifts in color and light are handled beautifully, and there are moments of awe when it’s hard to believe you’re watching a sub-$600 TV. Animations in particular are genuinely gorgeous on this set.
"H8C’s motion handling isn’t as problematic when viewing identical content. It may have to do with H8C’s low response-time of only 13.0 ms, which somewhat negates the double-image effect caused by PWM."
Due to its 60Hz refresh rate, motion quality can’t compete with high-end 120Hz panels, and the lack of proper 24p support may be problematic for picky videophiles— but ironically, the H8C suffers less from motion judder than my 120Hz KS8000. The Samsung KS8000, which displays all 24p content correctly, is nearly unwatchable without low AMP settings due to horrid PWM flicker and motion judder, but the H8C’s motion handling isn’t as problematic when viewing identical content. It may have to do with H8C’s low response-time of only 13.0 ms, which somewhat negates the double-image effect caused by PWM. I should also note that I didn't use H8C’s Motion Interpolation feature, since all three available settings create undesirable SOE (soap-opera effect), and can’t be dialed down.
As we move onto gaming, the H8C continues to impress. With an input lag of 32ms in Game Mode, the H8C delivers excellent responsiveness for both single-player and competitive gaming. Although I’ve been spoiled by Samsung’s absurdly low input-lag of only 19ms, the shift to the H8C isn’t as drastic as I anticipated. I’ve spent an entire month playing Overwatch and Titanfall 2, and my performance has only marginally been impacted. Sure, the KS8000 remains superior when facing those high-reflex faceoffs, but overall, the H8C performs superbly when playing fast-paced online shooters.
"With an input lag of 32ms in Game Mode, the H8C delivers excellent responsiveness for both single-player and competitive gaming."
Sports perform equally well. I personally don’t watch any sports, but I skimmed through a few soccer and ice hockey games to gauge motion clarity performance. Thanks to the low pixel response time (13ms), the PWM flicker appears softer, resulting in a more natural blur instead of the notorious double-image effect. There’s the occasional frameskip and judder inherent with 60Hz, but it never becomes a real problem. Wide panning shots in hockey are clean for the most part, even if hints of DSE emerge every once in a while. For an LCD, motion clarity and DSE are well above average.
And how about upscaling? Anything down to 480p upscales without a hitch to 2160p. At the lowest resolutions, there’s a hint of softness and minor detail loss, but it’s negligible unless you’re seeing the original side-by-side. Everything else upscales beautifully, and I’m still shocked at how good my older, low-res Playstation 3 games display when upscaled to 4K on this set.
Conclusion: If you’re looking for a high-quality 4K display that performs phenomenally across all media and won’t put a dent in your budget, the Hisense H8C is the most impressive offering in the price range. Don’t be fooled by the Hisense name and the low cost. The company has grown tremendously over the years, and the H8C is a testament to their commitment in becoming a serious industry contender.