Very wide viewing angles
Great for HDR
Distractingly poor motion
Big, cumbersome design
The Hisense U9DG offers the best black levels and viewing angles we’ve ever seen on a non-OLED TV. Its contrast control is superb, and it’s ready to showcase a world of shows and movies in blazing HDR. Unfortunately, the TV is marred by some brutal motion handling issues and its picture processing leaves upscaled content looking less than ideal. For a pricey TV that only comes in a single, gigantic size those are pretty significant warts.
To make matters worse, most of the U9DG’s closest competitors don’t have these motion handling issues, nor do they struggle to upscale 720p and 1080p content to 4K resolution. The U9DG is something of a technical marvel that manages to succeed at most of what it sets out to do, but anyone who’s familiar enough with its tech to be excited by it will almost certainly be scared off by the U9DG’s pain points.
About the Hisense U9DG
Being something of a specialty, the Hisense U9DG is available in just one screen size, a 75-inch model (Hisense 75U9DG) with an MSRP of $2,999.99. We received our unit on loan from Hisense. It’s important to keep in mind that, as new Hisense TVs begin hitting shelves this year, you can expect to see some significant price drops for the U9DG.
With sizing and pricing out of the way, let’s take a look at the specs:
- Resolution: 4K (3,840 x 2,160)
- Display type: Dual-layer LCD (IPS-style panel) with quantum dots
- HDR support: Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG
- Dolby Atmos: Yes, (native decoding)
- eARC support: Yes
- Native refresh rate: 120Hz
- Smart platform: Android TV
- Color: DCI-P3 color space/10-bit chroma resolution
- Variable Refresh Rate (VRR): Yes
- Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM): Yes
- Other features: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
As you can see, this TV is loaded with features. But the U9DG’s bread and butter is its dual-layer LCD panel, the complex nature of which is responsible for some of the TV’s most impressive performance flourishes. I’ll break down how this panel technology works further along in the review.
The TV ships with a standard Hisense remote control, which features a handful of dedicated app buttons and a built-in microphone for voice commands. The remote is fairly utilitarian, but the buttons feel fine to use and we don’t foresee anyone having major issues with it.
Like a great deal of Hisense TVs, the U9DG runs on the Android TV operating system. As far as smart platforms go, it’s not our favorite (that honor goes to Roku), but it’s a relatively straightforward experience. It’s not as easy to navigate as Roku, but there's an immense amount of flexibility in the form of downloadable apps.
Before testing each TV, we make sure the panel is on and receiving a continuous signal for at least 24 hours, allowing the pixels plenty of time to warm up. Our 75-inch U9DG received this standard warm-up time before any readings were taken. In addition, the TV received the latest firmware updates at the time of testing.
For our SDR tests, we used the U9DG’s Theater Day picture mode. For HDR tests, we used the HDR Theater picture mode. We’ve chosen these settings because of their accuracy, but performance may vary depending on which picture mode is enabled. For example, you might experience a brighter picture with different settings enabled, but it may interfere with color temperature and overall color accuracy.
To get a sense for the TV’s average performance, we use a standard ANSI checkerboard pattern for most of our basic contrast tests. 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.
Our peak brightness measurements are taken with sustained windows to represent the TV’s peak brightness over a sustained period of time. Specular highlights (like brief flashes of reflected light) might reach higher brightness levels, but not for sustained periods of time.
All of our tests are created with a Murideo Seven 8K signal generator and tabulated via Portrait Displays’ Calman Ultimate color calibration software.
I'll expand on our test results throughout the review, but for now, here are some key takeaways:
• HDR contrast (brightness/black level): 429.1 nits/0.005 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• SDR contrast (brightness/black level): 317.9 nits/0.005 nits (ANSI checkerboard)
• HDR peak brightness (sustained): 1,119 nits (20% white window)
• HDR color gamut coverage (DCI-P3/10-bit): 94%
• SDR color gamut coverage (Rec.709): 99%
Throughout our tests, Color Temperature was set to Low, both noise reduction settings were turned off, and motion enhancements (including Motion Clearness) were disabled. In addition, the TV’s automatic light sensor was disabled, its backlight was set to its default setting, and Local Dimming was set to High.
As far as inputs go, the U9DG isn’t as kitted out as our current top-pick in this price bracket, the LG C1, but there’s enough flexibility here to satisfy most A/V enthusiasts.
Take a trip around the back of the panel and here’s what you’ll find in the U9DG’s rectangular connectivity cutout:
- 2x HDMI 2.1 (4K @ 120Hz, 1x HDMI ARC/eARC)
- 2x HDMI 2.0 (4K @ 60Hz)
- 1x USB 3.0
- 1x USB 2.0
- RF connection (cable/antenna)
- Ethernet (LAN) input
- Digital audio output (optical)
- 3.5mm headphone jack
It’s worth noting that the TV’s port compartment can be covered up with a thin, plastic panel, should you decide to make its appearance a little cleaner.
What we like
Dual-cell technology creates incredible contrast
Typically, if someone asks me to help them buy a posh, top-of-the-line TV, I respond by asking them what they’re looking for in their TV’s picture. Someone browsing the proverbial top shelf has two options: an OLED TV, which will offer perfect contrast at the expense of mind-blowing brightness, or a premium LCD/LED TV with quantum dots. Usually referred to as a QLED TV, the mix of quantum dots and a powerful LED backlight system offers best-in-class brightness at the expense of perfect black levels.
There are other factors to consider, of course; whether or not the TV supports cutting-edge gaming features, its smart platform and motion handling, just to name a few. But for the most part, if you’ve got the money to spend on a dazzling, high-end TV, the “OLED or QLED” question is one you’ll have to ask yourself sooner than later.
The Hisense U9DG is one of the first TVs of its kind to hit the market. While it uses a traditional LCD panel with an LED backlight—just like you’ll find in any LED or QLED TV—its claim to fame is its dual-cell LCD panel, which aims to deliver the best of both worlds when it comes to contemporary display technologies: the inky black levels of an OLED TV with the searingly bright highlights of a top-shelf QLED TV.
Without getting too far down a rabbit hole of technical mumbo jumbo, the U9DG sets out to achieve this feat by adding a secondary LCD “luminance panel” beneath the main 4K LCD layer. This secondary layer—a 1080p panel—controls grayscale luminance, allowing for much tighter contrast control. Hisense describes the U9DG’s contrast as being "near OLED-level," and I think "near" is the keyword, there. There are technically over 2 million “dimming zones” on the U9DG, but by the same measurement, a 4K OLED TV features over 8 million. That’s because, unlike LED TVs, OLED TVs are self-emitting, meaning each pixel can turn on and off independently. Still, 2 million is an impressive figure.
Being no stranger to the oft ridiculous ballyhoo of TV marketing speak, I was naturally quite skeptical of dual cells reported triumphs. After all, in recent years, major efforts have been made to bridge the gap between OLED and LED TVs; to make the former brighter and to get the latter to provide darker black levels without light bloom. Some of these efforts (like mini-LED) took hold—they really make a difference. Others, like LG’s evo OLED panel technology, only managed to chip away at the margins.
So imagine my delight when I measured the U9DG’s black levels and found the lowest figures I’ve ever seen on a non-OLED TV.
On our contrast test pattern, an OLED TV produces a black level of 0.000 cd/m²—otherwise known as “zero.” On the same test pattern, the Hisense U9DG produces a black level of 0.005 cd/m². The picture tells a similar story in action, as the U9DG does an incredible job keeping dark regions of the picture jet-black and full of detail. It’s not exactly fooling me into thinking that I’m watching an OLED TV, but it’s the closest I’ve ever seen in a TV with an LED backlight.
And black levels aren’t the only thing the dual-cell tech does well. Instances of light bloom, the distracting glow of bright picture elements clashing with dark backdrops, are almost non-existent on this TV. I threw test pattern after test pattern at the U9DG and saw only the faintest hint of the ghostly auras that typically haunt TVs with LED backlighting—even those with thousands of dimming zones.
So we can confirm that, at least when it comes to black levels, the Hisense U9DG is closer to an OLED than any LED TV we’ve ever seen. But what about its brightness?
Ready to showcase HDR
While the U9DG doesn’t get nearly as bright as some of the brightest TVs we’ve ever tested, its picture is still plenty bright, and its HDR performance is worthy of celebration.
The U9DG is significantly brighter than the Sony A90J and the LG G1—the two brightest OLEDs we’ve evaluated. So while it doesn’t pump out knockout levels of brightness (think 1,500 to 2,000 nits), you can still expect it to punch above 1,000 nits, depending on content.
I watched my fair share of HDR and Dolby Vision content on the U9DG and spent most of that time marveling at the TV’s flashy specular highlights and the TV’s voluminous, quantum-dot color. To my eye, the U9DG’s highlights aren’t as crackling as they are on the Hisense U8G and it’s colors aren’t as psychedelic as the Samsung QN90A. However, neither of those TVs are able to limit light bloom as well as the U9DG, nor do they get as dark.
During testing, we always use the most accurate picture mode to assess a TV’s performance. This always comes with the caveat that you might be able to make your TV brighter by using a Vivid or Dynamic picture setting, but doing so would come at the expense of color accuracy. Curiously, however, the U9DG is brighter in its Theater picture mode than it is in Vivid. So if you want the brightest picture and one of the most accurate for color, we recommend using Theater Day and HDR Theater for SDR and HDR content, respectively.
In SDR, the TV is still bright enough for most living arrangements, so even if you live in a well-lit home and spend most of your time watching non-HDR content on cable or streaming apps, it won’t feel like you’re fighting the sun.
Seriously wide viewing angles
The U9DG features an IPS-style LCD panel, typically known for relatively shallow black levels and super-wide viewing angles. Due to the dual-layer nature of its display technology, the U9DG throws the “shallow black level” qualifier for its IPS-style panel right in the trash, but manages to hang onto the extra-wide viewing accommodations we’ve come to expect from this panel type.
It’s a good thing, too, since the U9DG is only available in a screen size that begs to be enjoyed by a room full of friends and family. Even if you’re watching the U9DG four or five feet off to the side, you aren’t likely to notice a drop in contrast, nor will you notice much color shifting. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-OLED TV with better off-angle viewing. It’s that good.
What we don’t like
Distractingly poor motion handling
It took me about four seconds to realize how impressed I was with the U9DG’s contrast, but it took even less time to wonder what on earth was going on with the TV’s motion handling. Simply put, the U9DG’s motion handling should be your number one concern if you’re in the market for a TV in this price range.
The U9DG features a native refresh rate of 120Hz—a maximally good motion spec, at least until 144Hz TVs hit shelves later this year. Every single one of the U9DG’s closest competitors also features a 120Hz refresh rate, so on paper, the U9DG should go toe-to-toe with those TVs in the motion department.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. I mean, it’s really not the case; the U9DG struggles not only with quick camera movements and fast-moving picture elements, but even the most basic of scenes have trouble. I watched the first half-hour of The Power of the Dog in Dolby Vision and was flabbergasted by the poor motion handling during basic, anodyne sequences that merely feature characters standing around and talking.
The motion issues manifest as choppy, ghostly artifacts that linger from one frame to the next. Some of the nature documentaries I watched were the worst offenders, as the camera moves fast to track birds or zip across a landscape, but to be completely forthcoming, the artifacts never went away, regardless of what I was watching.
I spent a very long time trying to tamp down the ghosting and smearing using the onboard motion enhancement options, but nothing worked. These ever-present, choppy afterimages are just part of the package, I suppose, and it’s a real shame.
On paper, the U9DG is a seemingly perfect companion for next-gen gaming on the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5; it arrives with ALLM and VRR support to auto adjust the settings and motion handling to the content, looks incredible in HDR, and according to our lab tests, offers a low input lag of around 30ms in the TV’s dedicated Game Mode. Unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to recommend the U9DG as a gaming display—video games will not look good on the U9DG, even if you optimize the TV for gaming.
Quirky image processing and upscaling
Although both SDR and HDR content looks plenty bright and colorful, the U9DG is saddled by some image processing issues that obscure and soften finer details, particularly when those picture elements are packing a ton of information in a small region of the picture. This is something I noticed on and off while reviewing the U7G and the U8G, but the effect was more prominent on the U9DG.
These issues manifest as dithering, blurriness, or details being clumped together. I saw characters at a faraway distance whose white shirts appeared with a green or pink tint. During an episode of Our Planet, I noticed the strands of fur on a tiger’s face created a sort of moiré effect that came and went throughout the duration of the shot.
Admittedly, I’m far more likely to notice this phenomenon than most folks—I spend my days sitting two feet away from a TV, paying extra attention to every minor detail. Where I do expect people to notice some of these issues is while watching upscaled content upscaled from 720p or 1080p, like most TV broadcasts and older streaming content.
I spent some time watching HD movies on the U9DG (Contagion and Phantom Thread) as well as some basic TV programming, and the TV absolutely struggled with picture detail, particularly around the edges of characters and objects.
If you’re the type of person who watches a ton of over-the-air or cable TV, you’re likely to notice these image processing issues more often, since they seem to mostly rear their head when the TV is upscaling content.
Big, cumbersome stand design
Like the Hisense U8G, the U9DG features a metallic, butterfly-shaped stand system that visually sets itself apart from most of its competitors. Unfortunately, these pieces feature an incredibly wide footprint, and due to their placement toward the corners of the panel, you’ll need an extra-long, extra-deep table or cabinet in order to stand this TV upright on a surface.
This is mostly par for the course when shopping for a 75-inch TV, but it’s worth noting that the Hisense U7G offers two alternative slots for its feet that sit closer to the center of the panel, which goes a long way for shoppers who want to splash out on a big-screen TV but who don’t intend on wall-mounting.
If you’re considering the U9DG and want to set it up on a tabletop, make sure you’ve got plenty of room to accommodate its footprint.
Should you buy it?
Probably not, unless you’re looking to be an early adopter of dual-cell technology
Despite how silly it might sound, testing and reviewing the Hisense U9DG has been a bittersweet experience. I can see a ton of potential in dual-cell technology; as a proof of concept, its implementation here is plenty impressive.
The U9DG doesn’t quite replicate OLED contrast, but its near-perfect black levels alongside super-wide viewing angles bring it closer than any LCD/LED TV I’ve seen to date. And while it might not blast you with brightness like some of the top-shelf, quantum dot-enhanced TVs we’ve seen in recent years, it’ll hold up in a bright room better than any OLED on the market.
But the U9DG’s motion handling is seriously dire—perhaps the worst I’ve seen on a high-end TV with a 120Hz refresh rate. There’s no way around it: Video games, sports, and most filmic content will simply look off, as ghosting and smearing seem to be permanent fixtures. Hisense’s image processing software certainly doesn’t help, either, as it has a knack for smudging picture detail, particularly during upscaled content.
Shoppers hoping to invest top dollar in a flashy, world-class TV are better off spending that money on a Hisense U8G, a Samsung QN90A, or an LG C1. You’ll have to choose between the glamorous black levels of an OLED or the brilliant light show of a quantum dot-enhanced LED TV, but all three of those TVs look better across all types of content.
I sincerely hope that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of dual-cell technology—the hardware clearly has potential. I’d also like to see Hisense—who deserves credit for bringing this technology to the market—take another stab at a dual-cell TV with improved picture processing.
The Hisense U9DG may not be the groundbreaking TV many had hoped it’d be, but it might end up being the start of a whole new generation of TVs. I commend it, but I can’t meet its asking price.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Senior Staff Writer@Reviewed
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
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