Is ULED better than OLED? Hisense launch XT910 4K TV
Chinese giant puts the Ultra in LED with their new flagship 4K TV
Hisense have begun to make quite a name for themselves since entering the UK market earlier this year.
The consumer electronics giant has already gained greater brand recognition outside of China thanks to their high profile sponsorship deal with Red Bull Racing and whilst Hisense may have started life as a small radio factory in China back in 1969, it’s grown into a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate with a workforce of over 75,000 worldwide. Hisense are now the 4th largest TV manufacturer in the world and their recent purchase of Sharp’s American operations shows the scope of the company’s global ambitions. Along with a huge stand at CES over the last few years, they also had a significant presence at IFA this year, where they showed off their latest line-up of TVs. Hisense have eight ranges in total and these models have started to appear in UK stores, with Hisense TVs now available in Argos, Richer Sounds and John Lewis, as well as online retailers like AO and Amazon.Hisense have grown from a small radio factory in China back in 1969 to the fourth largest TV manufacturer in the world.Whilst some of the first Hisense models to hit UK stores were lower range and lower priced models like the K321, the company is a high tech premium brand in China and wants to establish the same reputation in the UK. To help achieve this goal, the company is launching their flagship TV the 65XT910. This is the latest version of what Hisense like to call their ULED range or Ultra LED range of TVs and the XT910 is the first Hisense Ultra HD 4K TV in the UK to include their integrated ULED 2.0 technology and will retail for about £2,000.
This 65-inch curved model uses a direct LED backlight and proprietary Hisense technology to deliver HDR (High Dynamic Range) support for an improved dynamic range and contrast ratio performance, Quantum Dot for a wider colour gamut, backlight scanning for smoother motion and 240 zones of local dimming. Through a combination of these various technologies Hisense are confident that their engineers have managed to deliver the best possible performance from an LED TV.
There are also all the usual modern refinements with 4K upscaling, Freeview HD, active shutter 3D support, a PVR capability, WiFi, HEVC decoding, HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2, USB 3.0, quad-core processing, a built-in media player, a web browser and key Smart TV apps such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix 4K and, in the near future, Amazon Instant. All of which will help provide the XT910 with an excellent degree of future-proofing.
So let’s take a closer look at exactly what the 65XT910 has to offer. Well it utilises a 65-inch Ultra HD 4K curved screen with a native resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. The screen has a 4000mm radius of curvature which Hisense feel creates a greater sense of immersion with more depth to the image. Hisense also feel that the use of a curved screen improves the viewing angles and focuses more light towards the central viewing position for an improved contrast experience. The XT910 uses a direct LED backlight and a local dimming system with 240 independent zones. Hisense believe their local dimming system can deliver both a superior black level and an improved contrast performance. Whilst a firmware update launched this week will add support for High Dynamic Range and although Hisense couldn’t confirm at the event, it’s most likely HDR 10.
The XT910 also incorporates Quantum Dot technology that uses nanocrystals to emit a wider colour space. Exactly how wide remains to be seen but at least as wide as Rec.709 and possibly wider. The XT910 also includes a backlight scanning technique that Hisense use in their latest ULED TVs to filter 12 sections of the LED backlight in order to reduce motion blur on moving objects. They are confident that the technology can eliminate motion blur, even on fast-paced sports action. Hisense actually quote a response time of 6ms and a 1000Hz refresh rate in the specifications for the 65XT910. The TV includes quad-core processing and can upscale lower resolution content to match the native 4K panel. There’s also HEVC and VP9 decoding built-in, along with support for active shutter 3D and 2D to 3D conversion - it’s worth remembering that 3D remains hugely popular in China. The sound on the TV is delivered via stereo speakers with 2 x 15W of amplification and there’s also Dolby decoding onboard.Hisense believe that their ULED TVs can offer a performance that is almost as good as OLED and in some respects better - especially in terms of priceIn terms of connections the 65XT910 is pretty comprehensive, with four HDMI inputs, two of which are HDMI 2.0 and include support for HDCP 2.2. There’s also support for MHL, along with all the usual legacy connections. Naturally the XT910 includes Freeview HD, along with the ability to connect a hard disc drive, enabling you to use the TV as a PVR and time shift programming. In terms of its internet platform, the XT910 uses a wireless LAN adapter and includes a web browser and app support. Crucially there is both BBC iPlayer and Netflix 4K, with Amazon Instant to be added soon. Hisense mentioned that the BBC were very impressed with their Chinese engineers, and the Corporation even went as far as to say that it was the best working relationship they’ve had with a completely new partner.
The 65XT910 also includes a full media player built-in, as well as three USB ports - two of which are USB 2.0 and one is USB 3.0. In terms of video file support the XT910 pretty much covers them all with AVI, WMV, ASF, MP4, MKV, PS, TS, RM, OGG, FLV, VOB, OGM, FLV, MPG and MPEG. In terms of audio file support it’s equally as comprehensive with FLAC, MP2, MP3, OGG, WAV and WMA, whilst for photos there’s support for JPEG, BMP, PNG, GIF, WEBP (3D), MPO (3D), JPS (3D) and PNS (3D). In terms of the actual dimensions of the 65XT910 it measures 1446 x 877 x 288mm (LxHxD) and weighs in at 32kg. The XT910 uses a curved stand with rear supports but is also compatible with a standard 400 x 400 VESA wall mount. We had a good look at the 65XT910 at the launch and in terms of its overall design, build quality and performance it reminded us of Samsung’s JS9500, which is praise indeed since it's one of the best TVs we’ve reviewed this year. The smart platform appeared intuitive to navigate and we were pleased to see a full set of calibration controls with a ten-point white balance and a full colour management system.
Hisense realise that there will be significant competition from new OLED TVs hitting the stores this year and into next but they feel their ULED technology offers certain advantages over OLED. For one thing their ULED TVs will be considerably cheaper, delivering a premium experience for half the price. However they also feel that ULED can outperform OLED in certain areas, especially overall brightness and detail in gradations just above black. Hisense also feel that although OLED clearly has the advantage in absolute blacks, their local dimming technology with its 240 zones can deliver an experience that is almost as good without any haloing or other artefacts. Of course this is currently just Hisense's opinion and we'll have to wait until we actually get in a review sample before we can judge the performance of ULED against OLED for ourselves.
We spoke to Hisense Deputy Managing Director Howard Grindrod at the event he said that "consumer response to Hisense has been overwhelmingly positive so far and we're happy to let our products do the talking in terms of building a brand image. The next stage in that process is the launch of the new 65XT910 ULED TV." When asked why ULED he said "what we've been able to do through our technical expertise is push LED technology to the next level. We believe that the picture quality on our ULED TVs approaches that of OLED and in a lot of cases is just as good as OLED."
Howard also said that "at shows where Hisense have been showing ULED next to OLED, there was very little perceived difference between the two technologies. The real difference is that our product is 50% of the cost of an OLED, so the 65XT910 will be selling for around £2,000. The message that Hisense want to get across over the next two months is that we are a premium manufacturer, that we can bring something different to the market and that we can take current technology and make it better. This allows consumers to get the best possible visual experience that they can expect for half the price of an OLED TV. Whilst we believe OLED technology may be the future and we are looking into it at the moment, to expect people to spend £4-5,000 is a bit of a stretch for most consumers. We believe we can take consumers on a journey from where they are now with high quality LED to ULED and then on to the next stage."
Howard also said that Hisense have been humbled by the response to their brand this year and that there’s a genuine appetite for a new manufacturer in the UK market, especially as so many other brands have been leaving the TV space recently. The last time that a major brand entered the global TV market was twenty years ago with Samsung and LG, a success story that Hisense ultimately wish to emulate. However the company understands that it takes time to build credibility with consumers and they hope to do this by gradually releasing a premium range of TVs that will embrace all the latest technological developments.Hisense want to build credibility with consumers by gradually releasing premium TVs that will embrace all the latest technological developments.Hisense feel they have already shown what they’re capable of with the 65XT910 but promise even more next year with a range that will be completely Ultra HD 4K and an emphasis on larger screen sizes of 55-inches and above. The company also plans to launch Freeview Play on their TVs next year and are even talking about the possibility of releasing an 8K TV in 2016. However that’s for the future but in the immediate run-up to Black Friday and Christmas, Hisense will look to deliver high performance large screen TVs to consumers at a realistic price. Their goal is to look for sensible entry points into the UK market, rather than simply going head-to-head with the four biggest brands, and thus grow organically. The 65XT910 Ultra HD 4K ULED TV only represents the first stage in a long campaign to establish Hisense as a premium brand in the UK, so we can expect to see a lot more from the company over the next year and of course we'll be getting the first review samples in very soon.
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