What is the Hisense U7A?
The U7A comes in three screen sizes, the 50-inch H50U7AUK, the 55-inch H55U7AUK and the 65-inch H65U7AUK, which is the model I'm reviewing here. I'm glad that Hisense has now adopted a sensible convention for the serial numbers of its TVs, using the screen size, model number, and a simple 'UK' suffix to denote the target market. The H65U7A retails for just £1,199 as at the time of writing (June 2018), so it's competitively priced for a screen of this size. Let's see how it performs.
The H65U7AUK is surprisingly well made considering the price point, with a largely metal construction that makes this 65-inch panel very heavy, particularly when the stand is attached. It is 8mm wide at the top, but thickens out to 54mm at the bottom, where all the LEDs, electronics, connections and downward-firing speakers are housed. The TV measures 1450 x 845 x 54mm (WxHxD) and weighs 27kg without the stand, and measures 1450 x 925 x 354mm and weighs 30kg with the stand attached.
The sideways facing connections are composed of three more HDMI inputs – two HDMI 2.0 (4K/60p, HDR, CEC and HDCP 2.2) and one HDMI 1.4 (4K/30p and CEC). One of the HDMI 2.0 inputs supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and the other supports MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link). There are also three USB ports (two 2.0 and one 3.0), Freeview HD and satellite tuners, an optical digital input, and a CI (Common Interface) slot.
The fact that only two of the HDMI inputs are full-fat version 2.0 is a shame, but frankly it's more understandable on a TV at this price point than it is on a flagship Sony!
The controls are sensibly laid out with the navigation buttons in the centre, the numbers, volume and channel buttons above and the coloured keys and media player buttons below. There is a home key for accessing the VIDAA Smart TV system but there are also direct access buttons for Netflix, YouTube and Media content.
You access VIDAA by pressing the home button on the remote, which will give you the option of choosing Freeview Play, Apps, Inputs, Media and Settings. You can also directly access Netflix, YouTube, Media, Inputs and Settings using dedicated buttons on the remote.
The smart platform might be simple but crucially it includes almost all the video streaming services that you might want, including Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. These services all support both 4K and HDR, while the BBC iPlayer app also supports 4K and HLG, which is handy given the BBC's trials during the World Cup. The smart platform also includes a web browser, and it supports DLNA, allowing you to access content on your home network.
Hisense U7A Features
The VA (vertical alignment) panel is 120Hz and 8bit + FRC, so although it isn't a full 10-bit panel it can accept content that uses 10-bit. The 65U7A also includes Hisense's Ultra Smooth Motion, which is a frame interpolation feature.
The VIDAA smart platform includes Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, with all three supporting 4K and HDR, while the BBC iPlayer app also supports 4K and HLG. In addition there is Freeview Play, which provides access to all the UK TV catch-up services.
The TV uses a quad core processor and can upscale lower resolution content to match the 4K panel. It also has a 3D digital comb filter and can decode HEVC (H,265), VP9, H.264, MPEG4, MPEG2, VC1 and MVC. The media player can handle video, music and photos, and while it handled the majority of my files without issue, it couldn't playback Apple lossless files.
Out of the Box Measurements
It's encouraging to see Hisense making such a good job of improving the out-of-the-box accuracy on its TVs, and I'm glad that it has added so many calibration controls. I applaud Hisense for its willingness to take feedback on board and then act on it, but those changes need to actually be effective, otherwise there's no point including them in the first place.
The problem with the TV not hitting the correct peak highlight probably explains the graph above, with its strange roll-off. The TV also tone maps below the PQ curve, which might explain the lack of brightness as well. The greyscale is good up to 60% but after that significant errors creep in, and I couldn't really fix them because if I changed the 2-point it changed the accuracy of the SDR picture setting.
Hisense H65U7AUK General Performance
Panel Uniformity and Viewing AnglesThe panel uniformity of the Hisense U7A was fairly good but certainly not perfect. When using a 100% white field the image was generally clean and uniform, but there was some dirty screen effect. A 5% pattern revealed a bit of clouding, but given the TV uses edge LED backlighting that's hardly surprising, and this is less apparent when the local dimming is engaged.
The optimal viewing angles were fairly limited, but that's to be expected with a VA panel. There was a perceptible drop in contrast and colour performance once I moved more than 15 degrees either side of centre, and blooming from the local dimming became far more apparent. This is basically a weakness of the underlying panel technology, so to mitigate it make sure you're sat central to the screen.
Black Levels, Contrast Performance and Local DimmingAlthough narrow optimal viewing angles are a limitation of VA panels, on the plus side they are capable of better black levels. With the local dimming turned off the Hisense U7A measured 0.04nits; with it on minimum it was 0.03nits; with it on medium it was 0.02nits; and on high it was 0.00nits. The on/off contrast ratio was 2700:1 with the local dimming turned off, but that dropped to 1200:1 for the ANSI contrast ratio.
The local dimming was reasonably effective, especially with SDR content. The higher the setting the greater the haloing, but I found that the medium setting worked well, delivering deep blacks without losing shadow detail and minimal haloing. Since the LEDs are located at the bottom of the screen, there were instances of columns of light. This was more noticeable in a very dark room, when off axis or with HDR content, where the increased brightness revealed more haloing and the columns of light were more pronounced.
Motion Handling and Video ProcessingThe motion handling on the Hisense U7A was fairly good and the TV performed reasonably well in our tests. There was no visible judder with 24p content, the 120Hz panel was adept at handling 50 and 60p content as well, and I also had no issues with 50i content. I measured the motion resolution at about 300 lines, which is what I would expect from an LCD TV.
The U7A includes Hisense's Ultra Smooth Motion feature, which uses frame interpolation to improve the motion handling. It has five settings – Off, Film, Clear, Standard, and Smooth. I found the Film setting to be quite effective because it doubles the frame rate to improve the perceived motion, but doesn't use frame interpolation so there's no 'soap opera effect' (SOE). The other three settings improved the motion resolution in tests, and were effective at improving motion handling with sport which makes it ideal for football, but I wouldn't use them for movies TV dramas.
The video processing was very good, and the U7A performed well in our various tests. The TV had no problems de-interlacing the test scenes on numerous test discs and, as I mentioned above, the motion handling was free from obvious judder.
The U7A was very effective at upscaling lower resolution content to match the 4K panel and in the case of Full HD broadcasts or Blu-rays, the results were often impressive. The TV could even upscale standard definition content surprisingly effectively and DVDs could look quite watchable despite the screen size.
Input LagHisense claim an input lag of less than 50ms in their marketing literature, but in reality it was better than that. In fact with Game mode turned off I measured the input lag on the U7A at 56ms, but when activated that dropped to just 31ms for 1080p content, regardless of whether it was SDR or HDR. That should be low enough for even the most dedicated of gamers.
The measurements weren't quite as good with a 4K signal, which resulted in a lag of 48ms for both SDR and HDR. It's worth noting that Game mode is activated within one of the five picture settings, rather than being a setting of its own. In addition when you activate the Game mode the Ultra Smooth Motion feature is greyed out, presumably to stop users from selecting frame interpolation and thus increasing the lag.
Power ConsumptionThe H65U7A has an energy rating of A, which is surprisingly efficient considering its size. Using a 50% full field pattern I measured its Cinema Night SDR mode at 82W; the Standard SDR mode that the TV ships in measured 111W; and the Cinema Night HDR mode measured 141W. Hisense actually quote the average energy usage at 130W, which would seem about right, while in standby mode the TV uses less than 0.5W.
Sound QualityThe sound quality of the U7A was about average for a modern TV but the 65-inch screen size and solid build quality probably helped. The TV has a two-channel speaker configuration, with 15W of amplification per a channel, and the larger screen size allowed for better stereo separation, and the slightly deeper chassis meant the speakers had a bit more room to breathe.
However their downward-firing configuration meant they were limited in terms of creating an effective front soundstage. The mid-range and higher frequencies weren't bad but, despite the woofers built into the rear of the panel, the low end extension was minimal. The Hisense could go reasonably loud without sounding brittle to harsh, and dialogue and commentaries remained clear and focused on the screen.
The U7A includes support for Dolby Digital Plus, along with dbx-tv audio enhancement, and there's a user equaliser. For basic TV watching the built-in audio is fine but for big sporting events like the World Cup, TV dramas and blockbuster movies, I'd definitely recommend a soundbar or AV receiver.
Hisense U7A Picture Performance
Out of the Box SDR PerformanceVivid Setting: This mode looks awful, the backlight is set too high, the colours are over-saturated, and the whites are basically blue. The Ultra Smooth Motion is also on, as are all the noise reduction and sharpening features, which makes faces look waxy and the image completely processed. Best avoided.
Standard Setting: This is the setting that the TV defaults to and whilst it's better than Vivid, it's still has many of the same problems. The backlight is still too high, the colours are still garish, and whites are still too blue. A lot of the image processing and frame interpolation features are also still on, resulting in images that exhibit SOE and a more digital appearance. I wouldn't use this setting either.
Cinema Night Setting: This is the best setting to select and, as shown in the graphs above, it's fairly accurate. The Backlight should be set according to your environment, the local dimming set to medium, Brightness to 50, Contrast to 36, Colour Saturation to 55, and Sharpness to zero. In addition you should turn Adaptive Contrast, Noise Reduction, and MPEG Noise Reduction off. Finally make sure Colour Temperature is set to warm, Colour Gamut to auto, Ultra Smooth Motion to film, and Gamma Adjustment to 2.2.
Aspect Ratio: The best way to ensure you get the correct aspect ratio with no overscanning to rob the image of fine detail is to select the Direct option, this will pixel map the content to the 4K panel. However you can also select the Auto option, but make sure Overscan is set to off in the Picture menu.
SDR Gaming Performance: The U7A makes for a great gaming TV in SDR, with a big, bright and detailed image that lends itself to an immersive and enjoyable experience. A few sessions of Star Wars Battlefront showed that the Hisense was capable of rendering the game play with style, and the motion handling was fluid. The low input lag made the experience responsive, and since this is an LCD panel there's no danger of image retention or screen burn.
Out of the Box HDR PerformanceBest Out of the Box Setting: The best picture setting for HDR is Cinema Night, although the Cinema Day mode is also an option. In fact you could use the Cinema Night mode for SDR content and the Cinema Day mode for HDR content. Either way these modes deliver the most accurate greyscale, colour gamut and tone mapping for HDR content – whether that's movies, streaming services or games.
However the HDR limitations revealed in testing were apparent, with minimal peak brightness and a less saturated colour experience. The blacks were reasonable but there was a loss of detail in shadow gradations, which is to be expected with an LCD panel using local dimming. There was also some blooming evident and the occasional column of light, especially in a darkened room.
HDR Gaming Performance: The HDR gaming experience suffers from the same limitations as the HDR images delivered with movies and streaming services. So the pictures were reasonably bright and colourful, but lacked the peak highlights and saturated colours that often give games a sense of reality. The motion handling remained good and the lag was low enough not to affect my enjoyment of Horizon Zero Dawn, but HDR isn't this TV's strong point.
Calibrated Image Performance
SDRThe Hisense U7A delivered a great picture with SDR content, thanks to some decent image processing, accurate greyscale and colours, and a bright and vibrant picture. The good native black levels and effective local dimming also helped, especially during the day. At night in a darkened room there was some blooming, especially if I moved off-axis, and the occasional column of light with white credits on a black background for example, but overall I enjoyed the U7A's performance with SDR.
TV programmes were delivered with a pleasing sense of realism, and the Hisense was great with sport. Rather fittingly football was hugely enjoyable, with the 65-inch 4K screen revealing all the detail in the players shirts, the grass and the spectators, whilst the motion was handled very well. The grass looked natural and the image was largely free of banding, clouding and DSE, although I saw all three on occasion.
The U7A handled my usual Gravity torture test very well, displaying the tumbling white space suits against the blackness of space. The TV effectively rendered all the stars, and retained most of detail in the shadows, whilst managing to avoid too much haloing or other local dimming artefacts. The constantly moving camera and characters were also all displayed smoothly at 24p, thanks to the Film mode. Overall this was a solid SDR performance and the equal of any other TV even close to the U7A's price point.
HDRThe out of the box HDR performance was very disappointing, and it's fair to say that if HDR is really important to you then this might not be the best choice of TV. The U7A is able to deliver the higher peak brightness and wider colour gamut of HDR to a degree, but its native abilities are fairly limited and the tone mapping isn't great; as a result there was some obvious clipping on classic test discs like Pan.
The U7A can handle all the major video streaming services, delivering 4K HDR with Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. I have to say that the streaming was actually quite good, with both Lost in Space and The Grand Tour looking very watchable, despite some obvious clipping. However I felt I just wasn't getting the best HDR experience, although if you don't see as many TVs as I do, you might like the HDR on the U7A.
Since the U7A is the official World Cup TV, it seemed appropriate to test the BBC's 4K HLG trials on the TV's iPlayer app. The Hisense actually did a good job, revealing the detail in the image as well as the shadows in the stadium, thus enhancing the viewing experience; although again clipping was evident. The only limitations were due to my own broadband connection, with the BBC recommending a fairly hefty 40mbps for the best results.
Finally the U7A did a pretty good job with 4K Blu-ray, and the detail in native 4K productions like The Revenant, Deadpool and Passengers was nicely delivered, whilst the 24p was free of judder. Once again colours were reasonable but failed to wow, but at least they looked reasonably accurate, and despite not being a native 10-bit panel, there was no banding evident. The limited brightness and tendency to clip the highlights was still an issue though, and frequently detracted from the experience.
- Good SDR performance
- Simple but effective smart platform
- Extensive video streaming support
- Attractive design
- Excellent build quality
- Great price
- Limited HDR performance
- Narrow optimal viewing angle
- HDMI 1.4 on two inputs
Hisense U7A (H65U7AUK) Review
Hisense U7A VerdictThe Hisense U7A arrives with a degree of fanfare thanks to its selection as the Official TV of the FIFA Would Cup, so I guess the company's sponsorship of the tournament was a success. Hisense has certainly done a great job of improving its brand recognition over the last few years, and thankfully the U7A is a solid TV from the Chinese manufacturer.
It's well made, nicely designed and includes plenty of useful features. The smart platform is simple but robust, and it includes almost all the video streaming services you could want. The TV delivers a reasonably accurate picture right out of the box, and there are sufficient calibration controls to improve on this, so it's good to see Hisense responding to feedback.
The SDR performance is actually rather good and aside from some narrow optimal viewing angles, the U7A is capable of delivering bright and detail images that are ideal for movies, games and sport. The HDR performance was a lot less impressive, and Hisense really have some work to do in this area. However there's no other 65-inch TV that comes close to the H65U7AUK in terms of price, so on that basis alone it deserves a recommendation.
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Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
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