TV maker Hisense really seems to be making a push into the space occupied by the big boys of TV (see panel), producing well-featured models at reasonable but not dirtfloor-cheap prices. This one under review, the Hisense 55M7000UWG, is an Ultra High Definition model with support for High Dynamic Range and Wide Colour Gamut, along with HDCP 2.2 so that it works with Ultra HD Blu-ray.
The TV has a 55-inch (139cm) screen with the expected 3840 by 2160 pixels. It features a brushed aluminium bezel, only a centimetre wide at the top and sides (with another couple of millimetres of glass before the picture starts), and a little wider at the bottom. The lightweight stand — its legs are widely spread so it’s not suitable for a narrow bench — keeps the TV slung low, with the picture 67mm from the bench top. The panel is less than 11mm thick for much of its area.
Two of the four HDMI inputs support HDCP 2.2. These are the two on the back, so your HDMI cable will be at a 90-degree angle to the panel, possibility limiting close wall placement. Neither of these inputs support the Audio Return Channel. The other two HDMI inputs are version 1.4 and HDCP version 1.4, so not suitable for Ultra HD Blu-ray. One of these does support ARC. Probably the simplest installation would be to ignore ARC and just use the optical digital audio output from the TV to feed the TV’s sound to your receiver or soundbar.
Legacy connections are provided for composite and component video and stereo audio. There’s a headphone output plus optical digital audio, along with the Ethernet socket. The TV has dual-band Wi-Fi and, according to Hisense’s specifications, supports the b, g, n, ac and ad standards! There are also three USB sockets, one of them USB 3.0.
The remote control is a simple IR unit, marked only by dedicated Netflix and Youtube keys as shortcuts to those apps.
Some of the specifications are stated with refreshing honesty. Hisense gives performance figures apparently read straight off their test instruments without tweaking, stretching or, let’s face it, exaggerating. In particular, it says that the brightness is 385cd/sq m and the contrast ratio is 4000:1 (native). These days few makers even quote those specifications, and when they do they rarely quote the native contrast ratio. In fact, apart from another Hisense TV I reviewed last year, it has been quite a few years since I last saw a ‘native’ contrast figure. Read on to see that those figures are pretty irrelevant anyway.
The TV section has a useful time-shift and recording function, and supports FreeviewPlus EPGs and apps.
As delivered, the TV actually had an incompatibility with HDR, but Hisense warned us of this beforehand and provided a firmware upgrade. This was a deeper level of firmware, it seems, than just the usual operating system, because it came to over 700 megabytes and had to be installed from USB, rather than the more usual over-the-network type of update.
After you run the basic wizard to get you set up, you will need — you absolutely must! — make some adjustments to the default picture.
First, change the aspect ratio (you’ll have to delve into the picture menu for this). The default is something called ‘Auto’, which adds plenty of overscan to Full HD and lower resolution content. That includes even Blu-ray content, though UHD material isn’t molested. You should change it to ‘Direct’, which eliminates overscan.
Second, reduce the ‘Sharpness’ from 10 to 0. This is hidden away in the advanced picture controls.
Third, wind down the colour intensity from 50 to around 40. Up at 50 there are way too many rosy cheeks, and Barnaby Joyce, who is high on the red scale by default, looked like he’d spent another day hatless in the sun and was suffering from a tomato top.
The brightness and contrast controls were just about perfectly set. To be super-pedantic, on the review TV bumping up the latter from 50 to 51 did make it spot on.
Finally, turn down the motion smoothing (called ‘Ultra Smooth Motion’). It defaults to the ‘Middle’ setting, but that combined smooth motion with weird artefacts that aren’t normal even for a motion interpolation system. There were random bits of noise tossed into the picture in a quite odd way. I preferred to have it off completely.
All that done, kind of bringing the Hisense TV’s settings back to basics, delivered an excellent picture.
There’s one more trick you ought to consider when doing this: with the Picture and Sound settings, you can apply adjustments to ‘Current Source’ or ‘All Source’, which is rather convenient. If you select the latter for making the adjustments mentioned above, they will apply to TV channels plus all the inputs. Then you can change to the other setting and apply source-specific tweaks to individual inputs as required.
So, how about those brightness and contrast ratio numbers? Well it shows how irrelevant the figures can be. In practice, the TV was about as bright as any mid-priced UHD TV from any of the leading brands. And its black levels were similar to most edge-lit TVs, and better than some quite premium models. On very dark scenes there was a little mottling around the edges, due to the backlight breaking through differentially across the screen, but it was at a very controlled low level, and infrequent enough such that in one whole movie, it appeared just once, during a fade. With just about anything showing on the display amidst the black, the viewer’s eye adjusts rapidly to make any mottling impossible to see.
On both Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray, the picture quality was very good, with fine sharpness. The processor for turning 1080p from Blu-ray into 4K for display on the screen was quite sophisticated, producing smooth diagonals and curves with the full UHD resolution, without producing any visible artefacts. Even static test patterns — delivered from Blu-ray disc — were smooth and clean.
The grey ramp test patterns on Sony Ultra HD Blu-ray discs (press 7669 while at the main menu) were smooth and free of steps, and topped out at the ‘1000 nits’ marking, leaving 1000 to 10,000 the same constant white. Those higher brightness levels will presumably be available in the future when displays are capable of delivering those kinds of outputs. And while 1000 to 10,000 does seem like a large absence, our vision tends to the logarithmic when it comes to brightness. The future certainly looks like fun, now that there are signals able to encompass much greater ranges available.
But back to this TV. I also checked some of the smart functions. Hisense calls its system VIDAA, which seems to operate over some form of Android. The processing power is sufficient to drive it along reasonably well, but it isn’t a super-snappy smart performer, with a brief lag between selecting some functions and the results happening on screen. I used
a wireless keyboard with dongle to employ the Opera web browser, and once its quirks were overcome, it worked rather nicely. Again, I had to type a little more deliberately than usual because sometimes a keystroke didn’t register.
There were lots of apps available, and many more through the Opera TV Store. These apps are, essentially, HTML5 web apps, so apps for many other TVs also work. They are broken up into categories, and there are very many for streaming. There are games for kids and the ‘Tools’ section can let you check your Biorhythms (talk about a blast from the past) or use the ‘Love Calculator’. We didn’t start that one.
There are also some catch-up services, but since the TV supports FreeviewPlus, that’s the best way into catch-up. And Hisense says that the Netflix app supports 4K streaming, though we couldn’t check this, lacking NBN-like speeds here in the national capital!
I use a couple of test patterns to see how well UHD sources are translated to the screen. Oddly, still photos over the network appear to have full resolution in the vertical dimension (both black-and-white and colour), but only half resolution horizontally — see images above right. That is, each pair of two horizontal pixels were merged — or more precisely, I think one was used for both and the other was ignored. Yet when I played the same test pattern as a video (thanks to reader Patrick Clark for the conversion!), it came through at full resolution.
For what it’s worth, the music player for the TV supported FLAC files up to 192kHz, 24-bit resolution.
The network video streaming worked on just about all content I had available, including H.265 UltraHD content and even a 100Mbps 4K file without problems, speaking well of its network speeds.
The Hisense 55M7000UWG is a good value-for-money proposition in this TV size, with very good UHD picture quality, useful smart features and full support for Ultra HD Blu-ray. You miss out on a few advanced features, such as Bluetooth connectivity to an external speaker or a nifty smart remote, but the solid basics make it well worth inspection at your retailer if it fits within your size and budget requirements.
+ Good quality UHD picture
+ Good smart features
+ Good value for money
- TV audio seemed particularly tinny
- No ARC while using UHD
Tested with firmware: V00.01.00a.G0909
Display technology: LED-backlit LCD panel
Screen size: 138.8cm
Energy Rating label: 4 Stars, 412kWh per year
Native aspect ratio: 16:9
Native resolution: 3840 x 2160
Brightness: 385 cd/sq m
Contrast ratio: 4000:1 (native)
Inputs: 4 x HDMI, 1 x component video, 1 x composite video, 1 x stereo audi)o, 3 x USB (1 USB 3.0), 1 x Ethernet, WiFi, 1 x aerial
Outputs: 1 x optical digital audio, 1 x 3.5mm headphone
Audio: 2 x 10W, 2 x 2-way
Included accessories: Tabletop stand, remote control
Dimensions without/with stand (whd): 1235 x 713 x 60mm/1235 x 763 x 218mm
Weight without/with stand: 19.6/19.0kg
Warranty: Three years (in home)