A friend of mine once said, "given enough time, everything expensive in tech will someday be affordable." At the time, I believe we were talking about computer parts, but it really applies across the board--especially when discussing flat-screen TVs. Nowadays, it's amazing just how much technology and performance you can get for so little money. Case in point: the Hisense 65-inch H8F reviewed here. For the purposes of this review I'll be diving into the 65-inch 65H8F, the largest of the three displays Hisense offers in their H8 Class, the others being a 55-inch and 50-inch model. The 50-inch model retails for $330, the 55-inch for $400, and the larger 65-inch reviewed here sells for $599.99--or less depending on where you shop. So yes, the H8 is cheap, real cheap, but is it any good?
The H8 certainly looks the part of a higher-end UHD TV; in fact, it's somewhat reminiscent of Sony's 900 Series of LED LCD TVs, albeit in its physical styling only. As far as build quality goes, the H8 does feel a bit cheap in hand and a cursory look around the unit itself reveals some measure of cost-cutting. Though, when was the last time you handled your TV on a regular basis? The 65-inch model measures 57 inches wide by 33 inches tall and just under three inches deep (at its thickest point). It tips the scales at 44 pounds, which makes it among the lighter 65-inch displays I've tested. That's good for my back, but perhaps more proof of some cost-cutting measures.
I/O options are limited, but should prove enough for most users. There four HDMI 2.0b inputs, one sporting ARC; two USB inputs (USB 3.0 and USB 2.0); an RF antenna; Ethernet port; composite video and single analog audio input; a single digital audio output (optical); and a headphone jack. The H8's 65-inch panel has a native resolution of 3,840 pixels across by 2,160 pixels vertically, making it a native Ultra HD panel. It supports Wide Color Gamut, but doesn't rely on Quantum Dot technology to get there. The H8 also supports Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10 and has a peak brightness (reported) of 700 Nits, which is more than sufficient for HDR content but not as bright as some displays on the market today. There are 60 total zones of local dimming, something we'll touch on more in a moment.
For smart TV functionality, the H8 relies on Android TV OS and features both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatibility. Its Android TV interface is the same that you'll find on Sony's costlier models, as well as a few other brands, and it also enables the H8 to be controlled/searched via your voice, which can also be defeated for those of you concerned about The Man listening in.
For those who prefer a more direct method of control, the H8's remote is functional, feels good in the hand, is easy to navigate, and for the most part is completely forgettable. It's not that it's a bad remote; it's just a remote. There is absolutely nothing special about it save for the fact that it is clearly laid out and easy to use.
Unboxing and mounting the H8 on my wall were easy enough, due to its manageable size and surprising lack of weight. Quick note: while the H8's internal packaging may not have been as slick as some other brands, I found the display to be more safely braced and ready for transport than just about any other TV I've encountered recently. Seriously, Hisense is not messing about when it comes to their packaging.
Connecting the H8 was also a breeze, though I was a bit surprised by the limited input options, albeit at first. It's funny how we expect to see and have everything and the kitchen sink, but when you really get down to it, most people can totally get away with three or four HDMI inputs in total (or even as few as one for most home theater enthusiasts), making any extra sort of a waste. I connected the H8 to my Technics integrated amp at first via its digital audio out, then later to my Marantz NR1200 stereo receiver via an HDMI connection (ARC with CEC enabled). Since the H8 utilizes Android TV, which I love dearly, I didn't bother with connecting any of my other streaming devices. Lastly, I connected my trusty JBL L100 Classic loudspeakers and called it good.
With everything connected, I sat down to set up the H8 itself. Android TV is one of the more straightforward TV operating systems, especially if you have a smartphone with the Google Home app already loaded on it. Upon connecting the TV to your home network, you can simply use the Google Home app to port over all your Google (Android) preferences, subscriptions, etc. to the TV, so my YouTube TV, YouTube Premium account, and others appeared ready and waiting on the H8 as if they had been pre-installed from the factory just for me. Adding my other subscriptions like Vudu, Amazon, and Hulu was easy enough, aided similarly by my iPhone. I love how customizable Android TV is, and wish more manufacturers would adopt it rather than go their own way trying to reinvent the wheel *cough* Vizio *cough* Samsung.
With everything connected, and all apps and subscriptions accounted for, it was time to see just what the H8 was capable of. The H8 ships in an Eco picture mode, which is just terrible, not to mention dim AF. Switching things to Standard does improve the brightness, but not the color or white-point accuracy. The panel does appear bright, but out of the box it features some of the most aggressive local dimming I think I've ever seen. Before carrying out any higher calibration, I went into the H8's menus and turned all of the display's dynamic lighting and contrast controls to Off, which is something I would urge all potential and current customers to do first and foremost with this display. The H8's dynamic lighting and contrast features all have a noticeable impact on the TV's performance--and none of them are good. Be sure and disable the ambient light sensor, as well.
Out of the box, the best picture profile to choose for accuracy of both grayscale and color is the H8's Theater Day mode. Theater Night is also good, but does come at the expense of some overall brightness. In Theater Day mode, the grayscale had far less of a blue bias and its color rendering was more or less accurate (Delta E's falling between 5-7). Brightness topped out at 1,200 Nits with all dynamic backlighting controls set to off and the backlight panel itself set to 100. Hisense claims a max brightness of 700 Nits, which is totally honest, if not conservative on their part.
Using my trusty CalMan software and light meter, I was able to bring the H8's grayscale in line easily enough, as well as make its color rendering more or less perfect. In doing so I was also able to achieve (and measure) absolute black, which if you follow my reviews is a big deal for me; I'll happily sacrifice light output or brightness to get at OLED level blacks via an LED-backlit LCD TV. Only, with the H8 I didn't have to sacrifice brightness, as I was able to maintain roughly 1,000 Nits even after calibration. Admittedly, I did turn the backlighting down just a bit to taste, but if you're one that wants or likes it bright, the H8 can and should deliver, so long as you're not looking for more than 700 to 1,000 Nits.
A final note with respect to the H8's backlighting: even after calibration, when viewing a full white or grey screen, some minor vignetting is observable along the edges and corners. This is noticeable in some real-world viewing, as well, most specifically during commercials that feature a solid color or all-white end screen with text. Other real-world viewing of, say, film, sitcom, or sports content does not show off this lack of uniformity; nevertheless, it is present.
In the end the H8, with respect to grayscale and color, measured as well or better than the Vizio P-Series Quantum X, and was a close second to Sony's amazing X950G, which may be the highest praise I heap upon the H8 in this review.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
I began my evaluation of the H8 with Netflix's Mindhunter Season 2 in UHD Dolby Vision HDR. Via the H8, the show looked every bit as good as many of the latest displays to come through my home in recent months despite lacking buzzworthy features like Quantum Dots. David Fincher, the show's executive producer and occasional director, is a master of using practical lighting to achieve a very realistic vibe to the show. This often results in interior shots appearing underexposed as compared with your average dramatic television fare. I dig it, but it can be torture on some displays, especially those with less overall brightness. The H8 is bright enough to do the series' aesthetic justice, but only just.
When the scenes get especially dark, I could make a case for opting for a display with a few more Nits at its disposal, but all-in-all, the H8 wasn't a disappointment. All the same detail and contrast did appear to be present when comparing it to other sets. It just wasn't as easily discerned as with others. Watching in ambient light or in the daytime exacerbated this, whereas tuning in at night made it less of an issue.
Step into the light and things looked positively breathtaking. The natural daytime shots of Mindhunter's main actors were brilliant in their rendering. Colors were rich and appropriately punchy, despite the palette of the show on a whole being a bit on the desaturated side. Textures were rendered faithfully and with nary a sign of artificial sharpening along the edges. I left the sharpness control on the H8 in its default setting (+8) even post calibration. I found taking it to zero, which I normally do, made the image too soft, whereas increasing it past eight introduced artifacts. Motion was smooth and judder-free even with all of the motion smoothing and refresh rate enhancements turned off (man I hate the soap opera effect). On a whole, as it related to Mindhunter, there was little that differentiated the H8 from its costlier rivals, save of course its overall light output when viewing extremely dark scenes.
Moving on, I fired up Avengers: Endgame on Vudu. Endgame in UHD Dolby Vision was an absolute visual feast via the H8. Chaptering ahead to the climactic battle between the whole of the Marvel Universe and Thanos showcased how capable a display the H8 truly is. Unlike Mindhunter, the final battle in Endgame takes place on a dark battlefield punctuated by very vibrant highlights. Ninety-nine percent of what is unfolding on screen is CGI, and the H8 enabled me to enjoy every fine detail the visual effects artists painstakingly included in the film for me to gawk at. Throwaway elements like the dust being kicked up by the heroes' boots as they charged was rendered clearly. While I believe the Sony X950G and Vizio Quantum X are a touch more resolute in their contrast as it pertains to some of the darker earth textures visible throughout the final battle, the H8 was no slouch.
The contrast between the dark tones of Thanos' army and the orange-red bursts stemming from the wrist gauntlets of Dr. Strange's wizard crew was quite impressive. Moreover, I detected no discernable blooming around said light bursts, even in the face of near-darkness surrounding them. So, while the H8's backlighting may not be class-leading, in real world viewing it wasn't a distraction. Motion amidst the chaos was again smooth, with noise and artifacts being kept at a minimum despite the melee unfolding onscreen. Colors were rich, vibrant, and incredibly well-saturated without seeming overtly artificial. Reds were especially punchy, which suited many of our heroes' costumes nicely.
In total, the H8 is a very competent display, one that makes a compelling argument for why even the most budget-oriented displays are worth serious attention. No matter what I chose to view, be it Ultra HD streaming content or broadcast news, 95 percent of the time there was little, if any, difference between the H8 and costlier displays I have or have had in house for review. It's only at the extremes, specifically low-light HDR content, where the H8 runs out of horsepower and takes a back seat to its rivals. But if you're not one who watches a whole lot of HDR content, or you're just looking for a great TV for casual and some critical viewing elsewhere in your home, I'd take a good long look at the H8 before committing to spending more with another manufacturer.
No display is perfect, and the H8 is no exception. For starters, about three weeks into my review I noticed some flickering in the panel's backlighting. This flickering was not visible during 99 percent of real-world viewing, but if the content was, say, an all-white or colored text screen, you could see a portion of the screen (upper right corner in my case) dim then brighten subtly, but noticeably. This happened only one time during my review and it lasted for about a minute or two in total before fixing itself.
Obviously, this calls into question the H8's QC and longevity, but it did appear to be an isolated incident. So, keep it in the back of your mind, but know that your experience may differ for the better.
Speaking of backlighting: the H8's backlighting controls, especially its dynamic lighting and contrast functionality, are among the worst and most noticeable I've encountered in all my years of reviewing displays with this feature set. Even with these settings set to low, the changes in lighting and contrast are distractingly noticeable. Thankfully you can defeat these features, but if you're one who likes this sort of thing, you're going to likely want to shop elsewhere as the Hisense isn't going to be for you.
Despite the H8 utilizing Android TV as its OS, its menus with respect to inputs, picture controls, etc., are a bit slow and not the most intelligently laid out. They're easy enough to understand, mind you; it's just that you seem to have to wade through pages of options before getting to features you'd think would be located closer to the top level of the UI. Moreover, when streaming via the Android TV platform, hitting the TV's menu/setup button will pause your programming, think for a few seconds, then produce the menu, leaving this reviewer to think that the issue isn't Android TV but rather that the H8's internal processor maybe being a little on the older side. Also, the Android interface was prone to the occasional lockup or crash, something I hadn't encountered with the latest Sony models using the same OS.
Additionally, the H8 treats every app on the Android platform as its own input in some respects, but not in others. If you calibrate the display, then tell the H8 to transfer those figures to all of its physical inputs, your settings will not be applied to the Android home screen, or to any of the apps within. You'll be forced to re-enter your calibration settings manually for each app or service you use. This is a major pain in the ass, and the H8 is honestly the only display I've ever encountered that makes you do this.
Competition and Comparison
The H8 wades into some pretty deep water with respect to competition. While it may have affordability on its side, that doesn't mean that spending a little more won't pay dividends.
Before we get into costlier sets, the Hisense directly competes with the likes of Vizio's V Series as well as its M Series, despite the fact that latter now features Quantum Dot technology. At $599.99, the H8 comes in at the same price as the V Series of the same size while offering more zones of local dimming, a brighter overall picture, and, in my opinion, a better OS. Stepping up to Vizio's M Series means spending $200 more, which gives you Quantum Dots, but not more overall brightness, nor more zones of local dimming. Mind you, Vizio's Quantum Series of displays are impressive, but I'm not wholly certain they're outright superior to the picture put forth by the H8.
Other direct competitors include TCL's 6-Series (65R625) at $799, which adds Quantum Dot tech but not much else save for also featuring a Roku-branded OS opposed to the H8's Android TV one. TCL's 5-Series would be another direct competitor to the H8 worth considering, though, again, I'm not sure either the 6 or 5-Series are any better (or worse).
In my opinion, you'll likely have to spend double the asking price of the H8 before you see noticeable, demonstrable improvements. This means jumping up to the Vizio P-Series Quantum or even Quantum X, or Sony's X800/900 line of LED Smart TVs.
At $599.99 retail, the Hisense 65H8F LED-backlit LCD UHD Smart TV is a great way for budget conscious consumers to get a taste of the high-end on a beer budget. I absolutely love the thing, despite its flaws. While I can pick at its quirky backlighting, somewhat sluggish processor, and plastic fantastic build quality, when all is said in done, in real world viewing, the experience is nothing if not 100 percent enjoyable.
While I cannot comment on the H8's long-term viability (we're only given so long to review a set), during its stay in my home I found it to be one of the more surprising TVs of the year. Its Android TV OS is a delight, making the H8 a true centerpiece of a simple media room or home theater setup. Picture quality out of the box is better than most if you put it in its Theater Day picture profile straight away, though after some minor calibration the H8 proved to be every bit as good as its costlier rivals in most viewing scenarios.
In the end, my friend's comment proves true: given enough time it would appear that even those of us on a budget can and will be able to enjoy how the other half lives. The Hisense H8 Series is proof of this, and if nothing else, it proves that it's a great time to be a 4K enthusiast on a budget.