Hisense H8F TV Review
The greatest thing about this HDR TV is its super-low price
It's 2019, and 4K/HDR TVs are no longer synonymous with preposterous price tags. In fact, several brands are focusing on bringing HDR-supporting TVs to the masses—all without sacrificing much in the way of performance. Hisense, a popular Chinese company, is one of those brands.
Enter the Hisense H8F (available at Amazon for $699.99). This ultra-affordable, 4K HDR TV is aimed squarely at shoppers searching for sale prices, but who nevertheless don't want to sacrifice picture quality on their quest to save money. For the most part, the H8F succeeds—this is a TV that will satisfy the easy-to-please crowd and might even surprise folks with more a discerning eye for picture quality.
But, like most entry-level, budget-friendly TVs, the H8F isn't perfect. Its narrow viewing angles, sub-par motion handling, and sluggish software will eventually sneak up on you. It offers great HDR performance for the price, but the value is offset somewhat by the H8F's shortcomings.
About the Hisense H8F Series
There are three sizes in Hisense's H8F ULED series. ULED (or Ultra LED) refers to a suite of patented technology developed by Hisense and oughtn't be confused with OLED, which refers to a type of display hardware, or QLED, which is proprietary to Samsung.
Here's how all three sizes in the H8F series shake out:
• 50-inch (Hisense 50H8F), MSRP $399.99
• 55-inch (Hisense 55H8F), MSRP $499.99
• 65-inch (Hisense 65H8F), MSRP $699.99
While we expect the 50-, 55-, and 65-inch versions of the H8F to perform similarly, we should talk about LED zone count. Each TV in the H8F series features full-array local dimming, and each TV has its own LED zone count: 32 zones for the 50-inch model, 56 zones for the 55-inch model, and 60 zones for the 65-inch model. In general, more LED zones usually translates to better performance, but we can only report on the performance of the 65-inch model that we received on loan.
In any event, here are some of the key features of the Hisense H8F lineup:
• 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution
• Supports High Dynamic Range (HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HLG)
• Full-array local dimming
• 60 Hz native refresh rate and optional motion interpolation
• Android smart platform
• Built-in Alexa support
• Built-in Google Assistant/Google Home support
• DCI-P3/10-bit color space
Before testing a TV, we make sure the panel is on and receiving a continuous signal for at least 24 hours, which gives the pixels plenty of time to warm up. For SDR tests, the H8F was set to its "Theater Day" picture setting. For HDR tests, we used "HDR Theater."
We use a standard ANSI checkerboard pattern for most of our basic contrast tests, but we also use white and black windows ranging from 2% to 90% to test how well the contrast holds up while displaying varying degrees of brightness.
• HDR contrast (brightness/black level): 469.4 nits/0.085 nits
• SDR contrast (brightness/black level): 441.9 nits/0.071 nits
• HDR peak brightness: 801.6 nits (50% white)
• SDR peak brightness: 452.4 nits (90% white)
• HDR color gamut coverage: 94% (DCI-P3/10-bit)
• SDR color gamut coverage: 99% (Rec.709)
• Viewing angle: ±21°
Take a journey around the back of the Hisense H8F and you'll fine a cutout in the panel with host of connectivity options. Here's the hardware at a glance:
• 4x HDMI (4x HDMI 2.0a, 1x ARC)
• 2x USB (1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0)
• Component, LAN ethernet port, RF input
• Optical audio output, analog audio output, headphone jack
What We Like
Solid performance, for the most part—and Dolby Vision, to boot
The H8F obviously doesn't deliver the type of picture quality you'll find on a higher-end TV, but its wide color palette and overall brightness contribute to a picture that punches above its weight class.
The H8F features a steady peak brightness of around 400-500 nits for basic SDR content. Considering that, up until now, budget-friendly HDR TVs like the 2019 TCL 4 Series typically top-out at around 300 nits in HDR, Hisense deserves kudos—it's raising the bar for the rest of the entry-level marketplace.
In HDR, I easily and repeatedly clocked the H8F at 700-800 nits, which is plenty bright for a dark home theater and quite manageable for a room with ample lighting. Unfortunately, the H8F's black levels aren't nearly as impressive. Thanks in part to some fairly aggressive local dimming software, the H8F struggles with shadow detail, particularly during content where bright and dark elements clash.
When it comes to color, the H8F isn't messing around—it covers 99% of the Rec.709 standard and a respectable 94% of the expanded P3 color gamut. Its colors don't pop the way colors do on, say, a quantum dot TV, but given the H8F's price, you can color me impressed.
The price is right
What I like the most about the H8F is its aggressive pricing. Not only would a TV like this have cost several hundred dollars more just last year, but relative to its competition in the here and now, the H8F should, by most assumptions, cost more than it does.
There are, however, some key pain points to be aware of, even if the H8F packs indisputable value.
What We Don't Like
Narrow viewing angles limit the fun
Our viewing angle tests revealed that the 65-inch H8F will struggle to accommodate viewers who happen to be seated at off-angles—once you move three or four feet off to the side, the picture begins to deteriorate. Dark scenes in particular lose detail at off-angles, and the panel's natural light blooming around brighter objects becomes harder to ignore.
Narrow viewing angles aren't an uncommon issue among commercial LED TVs, but it's something to take seriously if you're shopping for a big-screen, crowd-pleasing TV with the hopes of entertaining a room full of people. The H8F does offer a solid picture for its price, but there's a good chance that not everyone who attends your movie night will have the same experience.
Slow, sluggish software coupled with a sub-par remote
As has been the case for Hisense TVs in recent years, the H8F's user interface is built around around Google’s Android TV. Unfortunately, even with the latest firmware updates in tow, Hisense's software and the Android smart platform isn't exactly a match made in heaven. In fact, more often than not, I found myself on the verge of bypassing the H8F's built-in platform in favor of a dedicated streaming device.
The biggest problem is the TV's response time. Opening a settings menu and navigating the options within involves mashing the remote repeatedly until the correct inputs are triggered. The remote control's chunky, sticky buttons only make the problem worse—did the TV fail to register your request, or did you simply not press the button hard enough?
It's possible, I suppose, that the issue lies with the TV's IR receiver and not the UI itself, but it's tough to know for sure. The bottom line? Everything from signing into Netflix, to typing a WiFi password is a slog, and you will probably grow to dislike the H8F's remote control.
If you regularly use Alexa, Google Assistant, or Google Home for daily tasks, you're likely to get more mileage out of the H8F series' smart features due to its Alexa and Google integration. For what it's worth, these features are relatively hard to come across when it comes to comparable TVs in the H8F's price bracket. That said, if you decide to invest in an H8F, our recommendation is to buy the best streaming device you can find and never look back.
Mediocre motion performance
For my money, the most disappointing aspect of the H8F's performance is its motion handling. The TV features a native refresh rate of just 60 Hz with optional motion interpolation, but no matter which settings you go with, things just don't look that great in motion on the H8F.
After trying a combination of options, I finally settled on a motion interpolation setting of "Film" with the TV's clear-motion option switched off. Unfortunately, this didn't solve the H8F's penchant for choppy motion, particularly during fast-moving camera pans and tilts. The only way to remedy the jumpy motion is to replace it with unnatural-looking, soap-opera-like smoothness—not my bag, but your mileage may vary.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—even if you prioritize price above all else, the H8F packs a ton of value
If you're shopping for bargain and nothing else, there are cheaper TVs that don't perform as well, but they're not that much cheaper than the Hisense H8F.
Take, for instance, the aforementioned 2019 TCL 4 Series. It's a respectable TV with some serious flaws, but for the price, those flaws are easy to swallow. For about $100 more, the H8F offers a much better picture and more flexibility.
As with most big purchases, it all comes down to what ways, specifically, you're looking to maximize your dollar. If you can get over the H8F's spotty motion handling and its sluggish software, you'll find that Hisense is offering customers quite a bit of value. With any luck, next year's version of the H8F will be even better—and more affordable—than this year's.
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