Ever since I got burgled 2 years back my family TV has been a 32″ no name brand which has done the job but I’ve been trying to convince the wife since then that we really need a proper sized TV for family movie nights. However, convincing her that we need to spend over R20 000 on a TV hasn’t been easy and I’m still on the 32″ to this day.

So when I saw Hisense were offering their new large screen UHD (Ultra High Definition) TVs for very good prices I got in contact with them to see if we could review one of their new units and lo and behold a brand spanking new 55″ Smart TV arrived shortly afterwards.

Tech Stuff

The unit that we got to review was the 55K321UW with a stated resolution of 3840×2160 a viewing angle of 85/75, a refresh rate of 100 and a response time of 6.5ms. We’ll not get in to the pedantry around 4K and UHD, but suffice to say this doesn’t adhere to the professional standard fancy videographers tinker with.

The rest of the technical details according to Hisense are:

  • Brightness – 330
  • Native Contrast – 3000:1
  • 4 HDMI Inputs
  • 1 YPBCR Component input
  • 1 AV input
  • 3 USB interfaces
  • 1 Optical digital output
  • 1 Serial port (RS232)

It also has a standard Ethernet port and a built-in wireless adaptor.

Which obviously means this is a smart TV with applications built in for Facebook, YouTube and a ton of other options. If you are in a Netflix supported area then you obviously get that as well. The star of the show is YouTube though with the remote coming with a YouTube button built onto the remote.

However using a remote to browse YouTube is a nightmare and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could instantly stream to my TV from my iPhone when I opened the YouTube app on the phone without having to set anything up at all. Unfortunately though you cannot set the quality of the YouTube streaming and just have to deal with what YouTube feels your line can handle. And since I have a terrible line it meant the quality wasn’t great.

But a great little feature was the ability to turn the TV screen off while the audio kept coming, so loading up some YouTube music playlists and then turning the screen off was quite handy. There are other apps you can download, but the selection is rather limited here in South Africa – mostly limited to Facebook, Twitter and other services you’ll never use on a TV. The software and menus are easy to navigate – but as with many Smart TV’s, they’re clunky and slower than they ought to be. Smart it may be, but if you have an external device like a PlayStation, Xbox or Apple TV attached, the built in smart functionality won’t win you over.

hisense

Design Stuff

While the TV’s main purpose is to watch moving pictures on it the fact is that for a majority of the time it is turned off and just sits there taking up space so it is relatively important that it is either a feature in your room or that it fades away.

The Hisense, for me, did the latter perfectly and with its very sleek lines and simplicity ensured it didn’t become an eyesore while not being used.

The edges are as slim as possible and the small, but stable, legs gave me no worries about the stability while also not taking up any more room than the minimum amount that a 55″ TV is going to take up. The included 10W speakers are decent, but won’t shatter any windows, and you’re probably going to want a sound bar or surround sound system to supplement it.

But what about the picture quality?

Obviously the most important quality of a TV is the picture quality and the Hisense 55″ UHD Smart TV is no slouch in this department with its massive screen pumping out brightly and crisp pictures no matter what is being sent its way. The image was surprisingly crisp and clear given the sets price, with the panel exhibiting little to no backlight bleeding, and very good colour reproduction for a set in its bracket. Blacks are black, whites are white and colours are vivid and resplendent – with a decent luminance of 330 nits.

I tested the screen with Blu-Rays, PS4 gaming, Xbox One gaming and plenty Netflix and YouTube streaming and the quality was excellent throughout. Games like PlanetSide 2 with its miniscule text was no longer a problem as the text was now simple to see and read and you definitely get more immersed in gaming when you are sitting in front of such a massive screen. The built in upscaler seems to do a decent job; never did the picture look like it was stretched out and pixelated.

Movies and shows were perfectly crisp with the amount of detail shining through causing a faux-3D effect which I always love. You also get a native 100hz refresh, with a simulated 400hz refresh if you’re a fan of sports and like that interpolated motion compensation, something I prefer off because I’m not fond of the “soap opera effect.”

The TV also allows you to connect up USB drives to view photo galleries or movies from a HDD which worked flawlessly and if you have setup a media centre at home you could just stream directly to your TV from there again with very little effort. While “4K” media is limited, and my line isn’t fast enough to stream Netflix at those sorts of resolutions, I was able to view high resolution images, and even play UHD video through the included USB ports – which is impressive in that the USB ports offer a high enough bandwidth for that. The built-in USB media player will read NTFS (but not exFAT!) and will play just about any video format you can throw at it – including the newer H.265 codec that’s being adopted for UHD video.

The TV even supports 1:1 pixel-mapping, for those who like to hook their PC’s up to their TVs – but that’s not the only feature you’ll get that you’d only expect in a far more expensive set; thinks like Audio Return Channel through HDMI, an optical out for connection to non-HDMI audio systems and full DLNA support. IT is lacking any sort of Bluetooth connectivity, but that’s understandable.

So should I buy it?

I have to admit that I find reviewing TV’s exceptionally hard. It shows a good picture so 10/10 right?

Well, all UHD TVs will look good and the ability to stream to TV’s isn’t anything very new so what makes the Hisense 55″ UHD stand out from the crowd? For me the design of the TV is one of the more minimalistic that I’ve seen – which appeals to me and the ease of use of the TV was great, if not very important in the long run.

What did sell me on this TV is that the RRP is R10 999 and that price for a 55″ UHD Smart TV is an absolute steal.

The TV wasn’t perfect though. The review unit I received was one of the prototype version what didn’t have HDCP enabled (meaning I had to turn it off on the PlayStation 4 to even get it work) but this isn’t a problem in the retail version, which does support the feature. The TV, sometimes, didn’t want to switch on, on the first button press – but that minor issue isn’t something that is going to make we not pick up a Hisense when I do finally purchase my new TV.

 

Last Updated: September 7, 2015

Hisense 55" 55K321UW UHD TV
Summary
Hisense are not the first brand that we think of when looking for a new TV but their latest range has definitely turned the Chinese manufacturer in to a worthwhile contender. With excellent screens and extremely aggressive pricing it would be hard to ignore them. The old adage “you get what you pay for” usually rings true – but in this case, it really feels like you’re getting more. This unit was a pleasure to game on and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone looking for a new TV.
8

Gavin Mannion

I for one welcome our future robotic overlords

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