Hisense H9F 4K UHD TV review: Great color and HDR for not a whole lot of money

Though the detail isn't Samsung-like, this TV's color is, and it delivers far more peak brightness for dramatic HDR.

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Hisense

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At a Glance

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better 55-inch TV—at least in the lower end of the market—than Hisense’s model H9F. At $600 ($900 for the 65-inch), it’s $100 less than the recently reviewed Samsung Q60R, and it offers twice the peak brightness, plus the same accurate quantum dot color. It doesn’t render detail and blacks as sharply as some of its rivals, but the overall image and HDR are superb for the money.

Design and specs

The H9F is one of the nicer looking TVs I’ve seen recently. It sports a very, very thin bezel, and is only a little less then three inches at it’s thickest. There’s a 400mm by 200mm VESA mount point, and the 54.5-inch (55-inch class) model I tested weighs only a little more than 33 pounds.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best smart TVs. Click that link to read reviews of competing products, along with a buyer’s guide to the most important features you should consider when shopping.
side view facing left small Hisense

Though not as thin as some, the Hisense H9F still wall-mounts well. 

I especially liked the handsome detachable stand that mounts closer to the center of the TV than many, allowing it to sit on narrower platforms. It’s my favorite after the iMac-like pedestal on the Samsung Q90R. The two halves also screw in from the bottom, rather than from the back, which makes it much easier to secure them while the TV lying safely display-side up. That creates a slightly weaker join, but don’t play handball off of it and you’ll be fine.

back view small Hisense

Hisense keeps most of the H9F’s electronics in the usual TV fanny-pack. Note that the actual back-facing ports are empty in this picture. See the image below to see what they’re filled with.

The power cord extrudes from the right-hand back side of the unit and the ports are recessed into a nook on the left. Present are four HDMI 2.0a ports, two USB ports, coax for antenna and cable connections, ethernet, and RCA composite video and stereo audio inputs. There’s also a headphone jack and 3.5 mm RS-232C port.

h955u6eu small Hisense

Hisense provides all the ports you’ll find in TVs costing more, including RS-232c for A/V system control.

The resolution is 3840 by 2160 (4K UHD), quantum dots are used to augment the color, and there are 100 zones in the direct backlight array. The larger 65-inch model has 132 zones.

Remote and interface

While motel-style in appearance, the H9F’s remote is efficient and easy enough to learn. The main onscreen interface comes courtesy of Google’s Android TV, and Hisense has rendered it suitably minimalist in terms of the number of icons. Android TV is  easy to get around, and of course supports every popular app in the universe as well as quite a a few that other smart-TV operating systems don’t. VLC—which I use at home in place of DLNA when possible—comes to mind. Not that there’s anything wrong with the Media app that Hisense provides for local streaming or playback from USB mass media.

The TV settings menu is a separate deal, nicely organized, and always available without completely displacing or pausing what you’re watching. Adjustments to the image are applied instantly, which is handy indeed for tweaking. There are advanced settings—such as white balance, RGB levels, etc.—for those who want to calibrate their TV. Most TVs these days come well adjusted from the factory, so unless you’re interested in a one-percent difference you likely can’t see, stay away from these. 

atv screen Hisense

Hisense uses Android TV as it’s main interface. Apps galore and easy navigation.

There’s no grid guide to show you what entertainment lies in the future, but there is a nice channel listing that allows you to select favorites. When the list of favorites is selected in the channel guide, the channel change button skips others. It’s the little things.

Performance

The H9F delivers very accurate color thanks to the use of quantum dots, and it generates a lot of peak brightness (1,218 nits in my measurements) for dramatic HDR (Dolby Vision and HDR10). Indeed, with most movies, the vast majority of the time, I really enjoyed my time viewing the H9F.

Fine details, on the other hand, are a tad lacking in definition at the default settings. At least compared to a TV such as the Samsung Q60R. Increasing the sharpness level even moderately beyond the default revealed that the H9F doesn’t deal with bright details particularly well. Hisense is hardly alone on that score.

When a TV is generating the high peak brightness levels requested by the HDR material we test with, moving bright highlights about the screen without moiré, shimmer, flicker, and so on becomes more and more difficult by the nit. Unless you employ a whole lot of processing power (as the more expensive TVs do), or double down on the pixels (as 8K TVs do), you won’t get an image that’s both sharp and artifact-free (relatively—no manufacturer has achieved perfection on that count). 

The upshot is that some vendors dial down the definition of details to make the overall image smoother. You lose acuity, but fewer customers. It’s also a matter of preference: If you like smooth, the H9F’s processing is very good at its default sharpness setting (and a hair higher).

The H9F actually glitched less in the tougher color, line drawing, pattern, etc. tests than the Samsung Q60R I’ve been comparing it to. Motion compensation was also quite good, but there’s quite bit of bleed from the array backlighting. A moving star field appears as if the stars are surrounded by a thin strata of plasma gas, or at least the Hollywood version of such. With an OLED, you’ll see nothing but pure black surrounding the stars. With a better LCD TV, you won’t get black, but you won’t get as much “gas”. 

h9f 65h9f front original small Hisense

HDR and color are Hisense H9F’s strengths. Black and sharp details are not.

Note that Hisense is developing a method of stacking two LCD layers, using the one in back as the filter for the actual backlighting, cutting down on light bleed tremendously. By all reports, it sets a new standard in black levels for LED-backlit LCD TVs. We want to review that one, though so far it’s only been seen at trade shows. It’s not an easy trick to pull off, as the gap between layers must be exact throughout or distortion will ruin the whole deal.

The H9F’s screen uniformity was good, if not excellent, as the corners were ever-so-slightly dark and cloudy. Off-axis viewing was more than acceptable, and glare wasn’t a noticeable issue either.

A very good deal

Overall, with the vast majority of material, I’m certain you’ll like the H9F: It delivers excellent peak brightness, and color will take a TV a long way. In this case, to a top spot on the short list in the price range.

That said, if you’re looking for deep blacks and sharp detail, you might want to spend a bit more. Compare the Hisense H9F to the Samsung Q60R and the TCL 6-series

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At a Glance
  • You'll be hard-pressed to find a better 55-inch TV in the lower end of the market. The Hisense H9F is a quantum dot model that costs less than Samsung's Q60R and offers twice the peak brightness. It's not as strong at rendering details, but it delivers a very good picture overall.

    Pros

    • Quantum dot color
    • High peak brightness for HDR
    • Very good image quality for the price

    Cons

    • Details not as sharp as some of the competition
    • Some backlight bleed in challenging scenes
    • Very mild screen uniformity issues in the corners
  
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