Hisense 55″ H8F 4K ULED Android TV Review

Now that 4K TVs are ubiquitous, it’s possible to get excellent picture quality at extremely affordable prices. The Hisense 55″ H8F 4K ULED with Dolby Vision ($449.99 on Amazon) is a terrific example of how much value you can get for your dollar with today’s TVs. In this case, it’s the fundamentals that matter: full array local dimming backlight for enhanced contrast and 700 nits peak brightness with wide color gamut, for vivid HDR.

This hands-on review examines the “out of the box” picture quality of this TV, and in particular the Theater Day and Theater Night picture modes that are designed to provide a faithful viewing experience without the need for calibration.

Hisense’s H8F ULED is part of the ULED high-performance line of TVs from Hisense; this TV has a premium look and feel to it. In addition to the 55″ model reviewed here, it is available in 50″ ($379.99 on Amazon) and 65″($649.99 on Amazon) screen sizes.

Let’s have a look at what makes this TV tick and see what it’s like to use its amart features to check out some streaming 4K HDR content! And play some games. And watch some 4K Blu-ray discs. And all the other fun things you can do with this TV!


Features and Specifications

This H8F 55″ ULED is an FALD LED-LCD design that features a high contrast VA panel. In layman’s terms, that means it’s thin, and able to present a picture that “pops”… at least as long as you’re viewing it head-on. Limitations in viewing angles are an issue with all TVs that use VA panels. With this TV, you’ll want to stay seated near the center of the screen for maximum picture quality as the image does degrade when viewed from the side. Notably, this TV features a high “native” contrast (6000:1) when viewed head-on.

This TV supports HDR content including Dolby Vision featuring dynamic metadata that tells the TV how to render HDR so that it looks as good as possible on this specific model. There is a lot of Dolby Vision content out there now, both on discs and available to stream through sites like Amazon and Netflix, plus Vudu and iTunes. It can also handle HLG format HDR and standard HDR10.

The Hisense H8F uses a 60 Hz panel, but it is able to process motion smoothly and uses black frame insertion. It is capable of displaying 24p content with proper cadence (thus eliminating judder without any soap opera effect), with the only requirement that it be native 24p content.

You’ll find four HDMI inputs on the H8F. ALl of these inputs support “full bandwidth” HDMI 2.0. Two of the inputs only support up to 4K/30p. The other two handle full 4K/60p content and one of those two (HDMI2) supports ARC (audio return channel). ARC is supported by HDMI 1.

You will also find a pair of USB inputs on the rear of this TV, as well as an ethernet connection, digital optical audio output, and stereo analog audio output that uses a 3 .5 mm (headphone jack) connection.

You can either wall mount this TV or use the supplied legs. Cleverly, Hisense has provided two sets of slots to insert the legs, allowing it to sit atop narrower TV stands with a slight loss of stability.


Setup and Performance

55″ TVs are a piece of cake to handle and with this model, setup was quick and painless. After attaching and going through basic setup, I put the TV in its Theater Night mode, which indeed looks good in darker rooms without the need for any tweaks. I suggest switching to it and don’t look back, unless you need some extra brightness for daytime viewing where the Theater Day mode can come in handy.

Make no mistake, you can get even greater accuracy and performance out of this TV with a proper calibration, which it supports, but how many people pay to calibrate a 55″, $500 TV? Not many unless they are a hobbyist who already own the gear! But again, this TV’s Theater Night mode is the way to go for good image quality with zero fuss.

This is not an especially “bright” HDR TV in that it does not reach 1000 nits in the highlights. Peak luminance is in the 600 to 700 nit range, which is roughly equivalent to OLED. The “benefit” here it that the the high contrast panel seldom gets overwhelmed by the FALD backlight, of if you stay on-axis the TV presents a compelling image, considering its price—you don’t see distracting halos or FALD pulsing or anything like that.

The Hisense H8F has great, accurate color that is faithful to critical colors like skin tones and the blue of the sky. Moreover, this TV has a surprisingly effective anti-reflective coating, so if you treat it right (don’t put a lamp behind your seat!) you’ll witness a very “clear” screen free of distracting reflections, where shadows and deep blacks are well represented even with some ambient light, in addition to “lights out” viewing.


Gaming

Gamers will enjoy this TV’s lightning-fast response. In Game Mode, input lag is consistently under 15 milliseconds, regardless of whether the input is 1080p, 1440p or 4K. This TV is limited to 60 Hz signals, but it DOES support 60 Hz 4:4:4, so it’s great for use with a PC.

I used Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, playing off a ZBOX Magnus EC52070D PC equipped with a RTXX 2070 video card to judge what this TV can do when fed 4K (no, I can’t come close to “”maxing out” the game with that card). The TV did well with effect like flames that took advantage of HDR and a benchmark showed I was able to get a steady 30 fps with up to 60 fps in simpler scenes with default “very high” graphics settings.

The main observation I have is motion is well rendered, the low lag makes you feel connected to the game, and the high contrast works with the (typically) centered seating position gamers use.

Forza Horizon 4 on Xbox One X provides spectacular visuals with which to judge any gaming TV or monitor. Here, HDR achieves a sublime look, making game world look almost photorealistic thanks to the HDR enhanced lighting effects. Not much more to say here, if you are a competitive gamer you need a zero-latency VRR monitor. But for a casual gamer, what you get for $500 in terms of picture quality and performance, makes this a TV an easy recommendation for both console and PC gamers.


Movies

A 55″ screen is a bit small for home theater, but this TV still provides a very satisfying movie-watching experience, especially if you use 4K streaming services.

Thanks to FALD (full array local dimming), letterbox bars stay nice and dark while movie scenes possess a “pop” that is the result of high contrast. Overall uniformity on this unit was very good, and I did not spot any issues like the dreaded “dirty screen effect” during my time with it. There is some darkening in the four corners, which is typical of FALD TV designs. This TV is no better or worse than what I’ve often seen in this regard,

This 4K HDR TV supports Dolby Vision including when streaming with onboard apps. I took advantage of that using the numerous UHD titles I own on Vudu. Between Captain Marvel, Bumblebee and Mission Impossible: Fallout, the TV delivers a stunning image that shows how far the sub $500 55″ TV category has come.

My complements to whoever came up with the remote that has dedicated buttons for Netflix, Google Play, YouTube and Vudu. Those are the exact four services I use most! Long story short is Android TV has improved to become a viable alternative to Roku. My time using the TV was easy and intuitive since I have existing profiles in each service, so curated content is at my fingertips. Someone who lives in the Roku or iTunes ecosystem may wish to simply add one of those devices to this TV.

Unlike flagship TVs where pixel-peeping and extreme scrutiny is justified, with this TV at this price there’s simply nothing to complain about when it comes to how it shows movies. Feed this TV 4K HDR and you will be amazed at the image fidelity you can get these days. Guaranteed.

When it comes to sound, my advice is simple. Don’t rely on the built-in speakers, at least get a soundbar or a pair of multimedia speakers. The H8F is surely not alone in having less than awesome audio onboard. ‘Nuf said.


Conclusion

The Hisense H8F is an attractive, affordable TV that’s packed with desirable features and offers great image quality considering its cost. Of course there are compromises—limited viewing angles, 60 Hz panel—but they rarely impact real-world use of the TV. The Hisense H8F succeeds by making both SDR and HDR content look great thanks to its Theater Night and Theater Day modes.

If the 65″ version of the H8F performs similarly, it may well be the better choice for movie lovers. But for gamers, this 55″ is the “Goldilocks” size and you can easily get a 4K console to go with it and still spend well under $1000. That’s a great package that will provide countless hours of entertainment!

It’s amazing how fast TVs are evolving. The Hisense H8F makes significant strides in terms of usability and image quality versus what the company offered only a year ago. Therefore, this TV is “Recommended” for 2019.