Can some Hisense H9G and veteran H9F owners help me out with my TV purchase dilemma?
I am purchasing a TV as my new gaming monitor. The TV will also see some use with regular television programming and the odd movie with gaming headphones on. But its primary usage case is for HDR and SDR video games, with smooth and artifact-free PS4 Pro HDR10 gaming being a priority.
I started out by giving a budget HDR light cannon a chance by purchasing a TCL 55R615
. To my surprise, the picture quality was very good, particularly in HDR mode and with HDR gaming. Not the quality that you would expect from a relatively cheap TV! However, before my 30 day return window with Best Buy expired, I ended up returning it.
These were my gripes with the TCL 6 Series:
- Dirty Screen Effect:
Despite claims of a panel lottery, both of the TCL 6 series that I tried had some amount of DSE on the edges of the screen and some vertical banding in different places in the center of the screen area. I now understand there is no such thing as a perfectly "clean" TCL and this is something you have to live with as a current 6 Series owner.
Now I had never heard of the dirty screen effect until purchasing the 6 series. If I only watched TV and movies, I don't think I would have overly objected and would have kept the TV, as this artifact rarely reared its ugly head. However, the DSE was painfully obvious when playing any video game with an open world environment, especially at the top of the screen where the sky is rendered in delicate, light blue shades. It is like looking through a windshield or through a cataract. It completely destroyed the immersion of the open world. I've seen better panels and I decided not to live with the poor screen uniformity of the TCL 6 Series for playing video games.
The 60Hz panel of the TCL 6 Series and its subpar motion rendering were the ultimate deal breakers for me. Again, for TV and movies, I found the motion performance of the TCL to be passable. But for video games, which are far more demanding of a TV's ability to render motion, the TCL suffered from a moire effect and some obvious blurring of the image when panning the camera around. I am sitting a mere 2.28 meters from a 55" screen and any image artifacts are made more apparent from this viewing distance. The TCL couldn't cut the mustard for smooth motion and comfortable gaming.
My second TV purchase to replace the TCL 6 Series was a Sony X900F
on clearance. The X900F cured the dirty screen effect: grayscale slides revealed a perfectly clean panel and the vaunted Sony motion performance was indeed evident compared to the TCL. However, the Sony again failed to stay in my house due to a new gripe:
- HDR Performance:
Compared to HDR on the TCL 6 Series, HDR on the Sony X900F was bland and boring and didn't look that much different than SDR. This can largely be attributed to Sony's more natural and subdued approach to image processing as well as some issues with the X900F's EOTF tracking in HDR mode. The average HDR performance of the Sony was also almost certainly a side effect of the much lower number of local dimming zones used by current Sony LEDs compared to TCL and Hisense that have difficulty isolating small specular highlights while maintaining deep black levels and high contrast at the same time. Basically, I found the Sony's HDR boring, like it had taken the HDR right out of the picture.
So fast forwarding to today, I have now moved my gaming TV purchase decision to two newer models. I am deciding between these two sets that feature similar, or at least comparable, pricing:
- Hisense 55Q9G
- Sony 55X900H
I have viewed both sets in a local store, ran my screen uniformity tests and HDR demo videos through the display's internal YouTube app and know the ins and outs of each set. Unfortunately, each has its own set of tradeoffs.
- Contrast and Brightness:
This TV has the ability to make you say "Wow" due to its fantastic combination of contrast, brightness and color saturation. Is it 100% faithful to the creator's intent in all cases? Probably not in all cases, but it comes the closest of the TVs I've tested to matching the contrast performance and wow factor of a more expensive OLED panel. HDR, in particular, looks really good and this high-contrast, "color pop" appearance is ideal for stylized video games. This alone keeps me interested in Hisense.
While I feel Sony still does a better job with motion handling, the Hisense Q9G appears very smooth in motion and is far better equipped with its 120 Hz panel to handle the demands of twitchy video games compared to the TCL 6 Series. From my brief viewing, I don't think I'd object to Hisense's motion handling for games, movies or TV.
- Screen Uniformity:
I think Hisense may have made incredible progress this year in improving overall or average screen uniformity from panel-to-panel. I ran extensive dirty screen tests on an in-store Hisense 65H9G using grayscale slides and hand-picked dirty screen torture test clips and the 65H9G I tested appeared to have no significant issues with gray uniformity and the panel appeared to be just as clean as the nearby Sony X900H that was also tested. The LED panel was very uniform across all shades of gray.
Grays on the 65H9G were rendered without any signs of vignetting on the outside of the screen borders and the middle of the screen appeared to be devoid of any significant vertical banding. I didn't, however, have the opportunity to turn down the lights and test black uniformity, but at 15% gray, the panel remained perfectly uniform. Like all LED panels, small imperfections in the panel were still present, but nothing as bad as the TCL 6 Series that would be noticeable during most normal content viewing or gaming. Kudos to Hisense for vastly improving screen uniformity and addressing this major flaw of the H9F.
Surprisingly, the Q9G had better sound than the Sony X900H. It manages to have a little extra bass and was more than acceptable for watching TV. Most of my use of this TV will be with gaming headphones on, but I'd still like to be able to watch the local news on this TV with acceptable sound quality. The TV also has the option to apply an audio delay and adjust the lip sync for external devices such as headphones, soundbars or speakers. Nice.
- Blooming and Color Banding:
This is the current deal breaker for me. I am referring to this video that was posted here:
I have been able to confirm the presence of this blooming in-person. This was my torture test video from Horizon Zero Dawn in HDR that has some mild blooming already present around the many small specular highlights. The H9G multiplies the pain by adding additional blooming to each of the highlights in the video. This is most apparent during the underground cave sequence with the little girl where the dark cave is lit up by many small, bright blue and purple highlights that show obvious and ugly blooming artifacts on the H9G that were not present on the Sony X900H:
My questions for H9G owners:
If you play this video in YouTube, do you see the blooming in Horizon Zero Dawn that I see? How often does this blooming rear its ugly head when HDR gaming, or when gaming in general? Is the blooming present for other types of content?
I find the blooming around small highlights very distracting. I could see obvious halos around specular highlights in the three HDR game clips that I had with me where dark environments and bright highlights were rendered together.
Do you believe the obvious blooming around small specular highlights and the very poor local dimming performance of the H9G are in fact potential reasons to avoid purchasing this TV?
Quality Control and Bugs:
This is more of a nitpick and a general opinion of the current state of Hisense TVs based on extensive research and personal opinion. Hisense is known to have more defective panels, quality control issues and generally subpar video processing compared to its competitors. Sources such as Consumer Reports that tabulate warranty claims and consumer complaints seem to confirm this.
The poor video processing and inconsistency in panel quality point to poor software engineering and manufacturing issues at Hisense. When testing the internal YouTube app, for instance, one of my videos would not play in HDR, but would play correctly on both the Sony and TCL. I question whether obvious bugs such as this or the poor local dimming performance of the H9G can or will be corrected by future firmware updates. By comparison, the Sony X900H is easier to use and live with and does not appear to suffer from any of these quality control issues, or at the very least has a comparably low rate of failures. I don't know if I have the patience to wait for firmware updates for the H9G to address any issues that might crop up with this set.
Color and Accuracy:
Out-of-the-box, the X900H has very natural colors and a pleasing color rendering intent that creates a very natural image and a closer representation of the creator's intent. This is a staple of Sony image processing and would lend itself best to watching TV and movie content. I did find the color was somewhat subdued with video game footage, where extra color saturation and contrast may actually be necessary to accurately capture the creator's intent. Basically, Sony's color management is excellent, but I didn't feel like this was as accurate with video games, where the color was good, but perhaps a little too subdued. But I could live with it because there was still plenty of contrast on order and Sony excels at revealing delicate shadow detail and rendering natural color tones. I didn't have to do anything to get a good HDR image beyond selecting the Custom picture preset and Expert 2 color profile with all local dimming settings enabled and local dimming set to "medium."
I question whether the default X900H firmware was forcing frame interpolation for the internal apps even though I had it disabled in the picture options, but motion on the Sony looked smoother compared to the H9G. Both appear to have motion handling as strengths, but I liked the motion performance of the Sony a little more. This smooth rendering of motion would be ideal for gaming.
Like the X900F I had purchased, the X900H passed all of the screen uniformity tests that I threw at it with almost ideal gray uniformity across the grayscale for an LED panel that lends itself well to smooth, artifact-free images. Good screen uniformity is known to be a consistent strength of Sony TVs, so this is no surprise. With that said, there are very slight dark corners on the Sony that can be occasionally be noticed against brighter backgrounds that aren't present on the H9G and the Hisense had equally good uniformity on grayscale slides. So call this a tie if the H9G's black uniformity manages to hold up.
Premium User Experience:
Quite simply, from menu design, to navigation, to the performance of the new Sony SOC, using the Sony X900H is a more enjoyable experience than the H9G. I like the bezel design and premium floating glass look of the H9G more than the bland Sony, but Sony excels at providing a polished user experience. The factory color calibration is more accurate. Black and white clip correctly out-of-the-box. The remote is not great, but the user interface is snappy and adjustments to the settings are easier to make and offer higher levels of user customization. Android TV, in particular, is snappier on the X900H than the H9G. Sony wins for being easier to live with and feels more polished.
HDMI 2.1 Features:
I have no plans to purchase a PS5 or Xbox Series X in the next couple of years, but the X900H has onboard HDMI 2.1 gaming support on two of its HDMI ports via a future firmware update that gives the TV greater longevity.
HDR Performance and HDR Contrast:
HDR on the X900H appears to be improved over the X900F I purchased and was bright and impactful and often looked similar to the TCL 6 Series that I had. I could easily live with the HDR performance of the X900H. However, going over to the H9G after seeing the X900H provided a more impactful HDR experience. While the X900H looked really great at all times, it never made me say "Wow" like the Hisense H9G did and appeared a little dimmer. Sony with its paltry 32 local dimming zones and more natural rendering intent never managed to make the specular highlights pop out at you like the Hisense can. This high-contrast, color pop and HDR performance had me siding with the H9G when doing a casual side-by-side comparison. I thought the picture of the H9G simply looked more appealing and exciting.
With that said, I am hesitant to purchase the Hisense H9G at this time because it is rendering artifacts. The Sony X900H can also bloom, but it is not nearly as bad by comparison. I know from experience that artifacts can seem trivial to many at first glance, but can also lead to long-term annoyances that cause you to lose interest in the image quality over repeated exposure. Quite simply, artifacts are not part of the original image and they will always be noticed by the viewer once made aware. The more common the artifact, the more annoying this can become, as your immersion in the content or game world can immediately be disrupted whenever this artifact appears. For example, I couldn't live with the DSE on the TCL and had to return it. I was seeing this artifact all too often across several games and felt the DSE was too distracting to live with as I couldn't stop noticing it.
For me, choosing between the Hisense H9G and Sony X900H is like choosing between a Ferrari with poor engineering and a bad gearbox and a Rolls Royce with more refined quality and superior engineering. One is exciting and what you were looking for in the first place, and the other may be slightly less exciting, but is more reliable, still looks excellent and is perhaps easier to live with over the long-term.
Because of the limitations of rendering HDR content on LED displays, I am sure my next gaming TV will be an OLED. But, for this purchase, I am going to keep the cost down and see if I can get some great gaming out of these wonderful, lower-cost LED HDR displays.
So can any H9G owners convince me that the artifacts and bugs of the current Hisense H9G are minimal enough to jump in and purchase this set over the Sony?