Hisense got what it wanted. Its TVs now sit on store shelves beside models from some of the oldest, most established and revered brands in the TV game. In 2019 it has been pushing even further into their territory with one of the cheapest OLEDs money can buy.
It’s the fifth most popular TV brand in the UK, and it’s time it started acting like it. TVs that cost less than the popular competition will only get you so far, and it’s got Hisense a seat at the table. But it’s not a comfy seat that matches the others: it’s like the folding one you drag out of the spare room when you have guests.
For Hisense to bump Panasonic or Sony out of the top four, its TVs need to be Best Buy quality. But Hisense hasn’t managed it in previous years.
We’ve tested all but three of Hisense’s 2019 range, from its 55-inch OLED down to its entry-level sets, and compared them with similar TVs from the big brands to see if 2019 is the year they can match or even beat them.
The best TVs of 2019 – with more than 150 TVs reviewed this year alone, we know which ones are worth buying.
Hisense vs everyone else
We’ve looked at the price and technology in Hisense TVs and some of its arch-rivals to see if there’s a clear difference.
We used the launch prices for the TVs to get an average.
OLED TVs: Hisense H55O8BUK or LG OLED55C9PLA?
You’d expect LG to have the clear advantage here. It’s been releasing OLEDs for six years and it manufactures the panels itself. Hisense doesn’t have this experience to fall back on and the H55O8BUK is its first stab at an OLED TV.
An OLED isn’t an entirely different beast to an LCD panel though – it’s still a TV after all. In fact, the much-lauded benefits of OLED displays, namely improved contrast, viewing angle and better control over which parts of the TV are lit, should help Hisense make a better TV.
It certainly looks the part. The dramatic silver base holds up the astonishingly thin display, while the off-centre Hisense logo that descends slightly from the lower edge of the left corner is an unconventional design decision that makes the O8B stand out in a subtle way.
The spec sheet ticks all the right boxes. Dolby helps with both picture and sound, with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos surround-sound processing alongside the usual promises of a wide colour gamut, intuitive operating system and extreme clarity. These are promises we’re used to hearing from Hisense, and it rarely delivers, but the quality of OLED displays could be the catalyst for improvement.
LG’s top-tier OLED has comparable tech. It supports the same HDR formats, plus an extra one (Technicolor), and has the same Dolby audio processing technology.
Entry-level TVs: Hisense H43B7100UK or Samsung UE43RU7100?
Both these TVs sit close to the bottom of their respective brand’s 2019 sets, but one costs £50 more than the other.
The 7100 will set you back £299, while the RU7100 costs £349. It’s a much tighter gap than it was last year. The equivalent sets from 2018 were separated by £120. The shrinking price disparity is more to do with Samsung’s basic range getting cheaper than Hisense’s getting more expensive, but not much has changed to explain the difference.
On paper, it’s the Hisense that has more features, namely a PVR allowing you to record one show at a time to a USB hard drive. It’s an almost ubiquitous feature, but Samsung’s cheaper 4K TVs don’t get them.
What they do get is one of the most advanced HDR formats around. HDR10+ was developed by Samsung to improve on the current industry standard HDR10. It can adjust contrast on a scene-by-scene basis, which should fix the problem of HDR10 making scenes look too dark.
Samsung isn’t the only leading manufacturer that’s dropped the price of its entry-level TVs. The LG 43UM7100PLB can be found for around £380 and Panasonic’s TX-43GX550B is just £329.
Have these household names been ripping us off for years while poor Hisense was the only one offering real value, or is this a sign that they see its cheaper sets as a threat? The big question is: have any corners been cut to match Hisense’s rock-bottom pricing?
Mid-range TVs: Hisense H50B7500UK or LG 50UM7600PLB?
Hisense’s line-up of TVs is smaller than its rivals, while LG has one of the biggest. The 50-inch 7600 sits at the top of its more basic UHD (ultra-high-definition) TVs, which means it gets some of the benefits of the NanoCell TVs above it. The 7500 TVs sit roughly in the middle of Hisense’s range.
Now on to price. The 6500 costs just £379, while the LG is almost £100 more at £469. As with the Hisense Samsung face-off, there’s very little separating these two TVs on paper.
Both support the same HDR formats, HLG and HDR10, and have access to smart apps and single-tuner PVRs. And they both look good too. Most media units work better with TVs that have a central stand compared with those with two feet, but there’s no denying that both TVs are attractive.
There’s not much to pick between these two TVs, so should you go with the cheaper Hisense? LG’s TV comes with an excellent remote, with an on-screen pointer for easy typing and menu navigation, but is it worth an extra £90?
We conduct hundreds of tests on every TV, so you don’t have to play eeny, meeny, miny, moe to make your choice.
High-end LCD TVs: Hisense H55U7BUK or Samsung QE55Q60R?
At the lower end, the gap between Hisense’s pricing and what we’ve seen from other brands is closing, but at the top end there’s still a canyon.
Despite being one of Hisense’s most high-end TVs, the U7B is just £549. The QE55Q60R, from the cheapest QLED range, is £869. The key difference between these two TVs is the panel. Both use backlights, but where the Hisense has liquid crystals (the ‘LC’ in LCD) to create the picture, the QLED uses quantum dots, which are said to produce more vibrant colours.
It may be LCD, but Hisense describes its high-end sets as ‘ULED’. It’s a combination of several different technologies with the goal of improving sound and picture quality through richer contrast, more vivid colours, smoother motion and heightened definition. Dolby Vision HDR is included too, so the cheaper TV has an advanced format to rival HDR10+ found on the QLED.
QLED means more than just quantum dots. It guarantees some unique features. Ambient mode is a way for your TV to blend in or stand out. It can mimic the wall behind it on the screen and continue the pattern of your decor, or display some works of art. Either way it makes your TV look more appealing than a 55-inch black void.
You get dedicated Bixby voice control on the Samsung too. To control the U7BUK with your voice you’ll need an Amazon Echo.
Extra features are nice, but if there’s parity in terms of picture and sound quality between these two, then Ambient mode, dedicated voice control and a twin-tuner PVR won’t be enough to justify spending an extra £220.