Backlight uniformity aside, this is a bargain
What is the Hisense M5500?The Hisense M5500 is the latest budget TV from the Chinese manufacturer and as with their previous models it appears to offer an almost unbelievable combination of features and value. The H65M550 is a 65-inch Ultra HD 4K TV with support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Smart TV but it only costs £799 as at the time of writing (October 2016). Yes you read that price correctly – £799! So if the M5500 can deliver a decent performance, it will quite simply be the bargain of the year. We have been here before of course and last year's 55K321 and 65XT910 both offered exceptional value but struggled in key areas such as colour accuracy. Let's put the 65M5500 through its paces and see if it really is the bargain that it appears to be on paper.
Note: Along with the H65M5500, Hisense have also released the HE65K5510 for the same price but as far as we can tell both TVs are identical in terms of specifications and the only difference appears to be that the K5510 is styled in black rather than silver.
DesignAs you get the M5500 out of the box, the first thing that you notice is that it might have a budget price but there's nothing budget about it's construction. The 65-inch screen size obviously means the chassis is going to be fairly large and heavy but the 65M5500 really is built like a tank. The TV measures 1458 x 854 x 62mm (WxHxD) without the stand and 1458 x 898 x 315mm (WxHxD) with it and weighs in at 31kg. Once you've got the TV set up you'll also notice that Hisense have sensibly dropped the curved screen and tilted angle that they used on last year's XT910.
Instead the H65M5500 uses a simple flat screen surrounded by a 1cm wide metallic silver bezel. There is a V-shaped light beneath the logo which is illuminated when the TV is off but goes out when you turn it on, which is a nice touch. The TV sits on a pair of matching silver feet that are attached at either end and although this approach has become quite fashionable these days, it does mean you'll need a surface that is at least 131cm wide and 32cm deep on which to instal the Hisense. The TV obviously can't be swivelled and there is 8cm of clearance under the screen if you're thinking of using it with a soundbar. Alternatively you can wall mount the M5500 using a 400 x 400 VESA wall bracket.
The build quality is excellent considering the price and there are plenty of connections
Connections & ControlThe rear of the panel is composed of hardened black plastic and it's here that you'll find all the connections. There is a combination of rearwards and sideways facing connections, with those at the side measuring 31cm from the edge, so you shouldn't be able to see any cables from the front.
The rearwards facing connections are comprised of two HDMI 2.0a inputs (4K/60p, HDR and HDCP 2.2), a composite video inputs, a component video input, a SCART connector, a stereo analogue input, an optical digital output and a LAN port, although there is also built-in WiFi.
The sideways facing connections are composed of two HDMI 1.4 inputs (4K/30p and HDCP 1.4), one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and one of which supports MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link). There are also three USB ports (two 2.0 and one 3.0), Freeview HD and satellite tuners, a headphone jack and a CI (Common Interface) slot.
The M5500 comes with a simple but effective black plastic remote control. It is well made and large enough to make the buttons easy to read but also fits comfortably in your hand, with the keys all within reach of your thumb. The controls are sensibly laid out with the navigation buttons in the centre, the numbers above and home, volume and channels buttons beneath. There are also keys for using the media player and direct access buttons for Netflix, YouTube and Wuaki TV.
Features & SpecsThe M5500 might be a budget TV but Hisense have managed to fit a surprising number of features in when you consider the price. The TV uses a 65-inch Ultra HD 4K panel with 4K Upscaling for lower resolution sources and, as mentioned in the introduction, it supports High Dynamic Range (HDR). As we explained in the connections section there are two HDMI 2.0a inputs and the 65M5500 can decode both the HEVC and VP9 codecs. The Hisense is also PVR ready and includes Anyview Cast and Anyview Stream for easy access to content such as photos, music and videos on smartphones, tablets and home networks.
The Smart TV is fairly basic but includes all the things you'll need and it's easy to navigate and use. When you press the Home button on the remote, you are presented with five options which you can then go down through. The options are Premium, which includes 4K Netflix, 4K Amazon and 4K YouTube, as well as Wuaki TV and BBC iPlayer. The next option is My Apps which is the app store and here you'll find some useful apps like Plex. The next option is the Media Player, then a Recommendation feature and finally the Input selection. The H65M5500 includes quad core processing and we found the smart platform to be both effective and responsive.
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Despite the budget price there are still plenty of features on the M5500
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-BoxHisense use a relatively simple menu system, which means correctly setting up the M5500 is quite straightforward. As is usually the case with any TV, the Cinema Picture Mode is the most accurate choice out-of-the-box. By selecting Cinema the TV will already be using the settings that best approximate the industry standards (D65, Rec. 709) and it will have turned the majority of the processing off. You'll need to set the Backlight, Contrast and Brightness controls to suit your environment but otherwise by simply selecting the Cinema Picture Mode you'll be good to go.
All our measurements were taken with a Klein K-10A colour meter, a Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN Ultimate calibration software. For more information on how to correctly set up your TV, take a look at our PicturePerfect Guide.
The out-of-the-box greyscale performance was reasonably good but, as is often the case with modern TVs, there was too much blue energy, especially at the higher end of the luminance scale. This resulted in some noticeable errors in peak whites and a definite blue tinge to images. However the gamma was tracking around our target of 2.4, aside from a slight bump at 10 and 20 IRE. This isn't a bad performance by any means but given that anyone buying a £799 TV probably won't get it calibrated, we would prefer to see a more accurate greyscale.The colour accuracy was much better and any errors were directly related to the excess blue in the greyscale, which is why white is skewed away from its target of D65 (the square in the middle of the triangle). This is affecting the other colours as well but the overall gamut is close to the industry standard of Rec. 709 and aside from the greyscale errors, the colours are actually tracking their saturation points quite well. This is a definite improvement on last year, where the colour accuracy was poor and over-saturated.
Picture Settings – CalibratedThe M5500 includes both a two- and a ten-point white balance control, as well as a colour management system (CMS), and Hisense are to be congratulated for including calibration controls at this price point. Based on the out-of-the-box measurements, we would expect the calibrated performance to be very good because all we need to do is reduce the amount of blue in the greyscale and everything should fall into line.And so it proved to be, we simply reduced blue by 6 and increased red by 5 using the two-point white balance control and the result was a very accurate greyscale. We didn't really need to calibrate further but since there is also a ten-point control, we took the opportunity to fine tune the performance. As you can see from the graph above the greyscale is excellent and although the gamma was tracking between 2.4 and 2.5, we couldn't do much about it because the M5500 doesn't have any separate gamma controls. However, the overall errors are all less than one, which is near perfect.As we suspected, once we had calibrated the greyscale and removed all the excess blue, the colour performance was almost spot-on. The luminance measurements (not shown in the graph above) were excellent and the three primary colours (red, green and blue) and three secondary colours (cyan, magenta and yellow) were all tracking their saturation targets (25, 50, 75 and 100%) very closely. There were some minor errors that we couldn't correct despite the presence of a CMS but overall this is an excellent performance and big improvement on last year.
The M5500 delivered an impressive performance when it came to greyscale and colour accuracy
Picture Settings – High Dynamic RangeWhilst the performance with standard dynamic range (Rec. 709) content was excellent, the same could not be said about the high dynamic range performance. The M5500 is a good example of a TV that claims to support HDR and includes HDMI 2.0a inputs but doesn't actually offer all the benefits that the new standards have to offer.
During testing the 65M5500 didn't automatically go into its HDR mode when we sent an HDR signal from our Murideo pattern generator, although it did automatically switch into HDR when using our Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player. However the TV doesn't tell you it has detected an HDR signal and there was really no way of telling without going into the menus and checking.The fact that we couldn't immediately tell that the M5500 was in HDR mode was our first clue that perhaps it wasn't the best performer in this area. In fact even after maxing out the back light and contrast controls we couldn't get more than 150 nits off a 10% window, despite the fact the TV was clearly brighter than that when we tested SDR content.
In the graph above the limited peak brightness is apparent, as is the curve beginning to roll of very quickly, although the greyscale actually tracks quite well. We could tell from test patterns that the Hisense was clipping HDR heavily and we had to move the contrast control down significantly to counteract this clipping but as a result the TV demonstrated none of the specular highlights we would expect from an HDR TV.The issues weren't just restricted to the peak highlights and the tone mapping, the native colour gamut wasn't that wide either. In fact we measured the M5500 at 56% of Rec. 2020 which is significantly less than many more expensive HDR TVs that can deliver up to 70% or more. The tracking of Rec. 2020 saturation points wasn't great either, as shown above, but given the limited native colour gamut, we have certainly seen worse.
The smaller native colour gamut was also evidenced when it came to DCI-P3 coverage and the 65M5500 could only reproduce 76% of DCI-P3 using xy measurements and 83% using uv. The minimum requirement for Ultra HD Premium certification is at least 90%. However the actual tracking against DCI-P3 within Rec. 2020, as shown below, was't too bad and when you consider the price the overall performance was certainly better than many more expensive TVs.
The result of these tests, and actual viewing material, is that although you won't get the full benefit of HDR from the M5500 you do at least get a taste of it with aspects such the increased resolution and higher bit depth. However you won't be getting the specular highlights or the wide colour gamut (WCG). Of course the positive aspect of the smaller colour gamut is that you do at least get an accurate reproduction of Rec. 709 and it's primarily standard dynamic range content that you will be watching for the next few years.
The HDR performance was less impressive, with a minimal peak brightness and colour gamut
Picture QualityThe M5500 does not have local dimming but the native black performance was actually very good for an LCD TV. We measured the native black at 0.028nits and the Hisense had no problem hitting 120nits, so that gave a respectable on/off contrast ratio of 4286:1. The ANSI contrast ratio was an equally impressive 3564:1, so even without any local dimming the black level and contrast performance was respectable. There was a hint of crush occasionally and the Hisense sometimes struggled with gradations just above black but that isn't unusual for an LCD panel - so overall it was impressive considering the price.
Or at least it would be if the backlight uniformity wasn't so poor with obvious clouding. We appreciate that the backlight uniformity on edge lit TVs can be something of a lottery but on our review sample their were two lighter sections towards the middle of the screen, that were very obvious in darker scenes. There was also some minor dirty screen effect and occasional banding but it was the cloudy backlight that really affected our viewing pleasure. At least there are things that you can do to mitigate the clouding such as bringing the backlight down or setting the brightness correctly, and some bias lighting is always a good idea.
We suppose the cloudy backlight did at least prove that Hisense aren't 'cherry-picking' their review samples but it basically stopped the H65M5500 from being awarded a Best Buy badge. It's a shame because in most other respects the M5500 is a very solid performer. The colours were natural, the video processing was extremely capable and the motion handling fairly good for an LCD TV. As a result, when watching standard definition content the image was quite watchable, even on a 65-inch screen – although the screen size will reveal any limitations in the source material.
The pictures obviously took a jump up in quality once we moved to high definition content, with all the previously mentioned positive factors coming into play. The increased resolution coupled with the accurate greyscale and colours meant that the numerous documentaries and cooking programmes on TV all appeared marvellous with plenty of detail and natural saturation. The effective upscaling and motion handling also played their part and it was only in darker scenes that the backlight clouding became noticeable, detracting from an otherwise excellent performance.
The experience with Ultra HD content was also a mixed bag but when we watched SDR 4K content the native resolution of the panel came into its own and delivered a wonderfully detailed image. However when we moved to HDR content the limited brightness and colour gamut meant that the images didn't have the impact that we had seen on TVs that performed better in this area. As a result whilst Ultra HD 4K Blu-rays like The Revenant and Deadpool can look great in terms of resolution, they will lack many of the other features that make HDR a game changer. So bear that in mind if you think HDR is going to be important to you.
Sound QualityThe M5500 includes 30W of built-in amplification and also dbx-tv’s Total Technology audio enhancements, which are designed to create a better performance from the speakers in the TV. The technology features Total Sonics for clarity and dynamic bass boost, Total Volume for consistent, level volume and Total Surround for a wider sound field. The resulting audio performance wasn't bad and although we'd still recommend getting an outboard sound solution, especially if you like watching movies, the Hisense was definitely able to handle news and nature programmes well. Dialogue remained clear and focused to the screen, whilst music was reasonably well produced. The audio could sound slightly shrill on occasion and the louder you turned up the volume the more noticeable this was. However the larger screen size allowed for better stereo separation and a more open front soundstage, whilst the deeper chassis resulted in a better bass extension. Ultimately the H65M5500 produced a competent level of sound quality and maintained the TV's record of delivering value and performance in key areas.
In most areas the TV delivered a great performance but was let down by poor backlight uniformity
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionThe M5500 delivered an input lag of 31ms in the game mode which, whilst not as low as some manufacturers this year, is still a good number and low enough to keep even the most demanding gamers happy. We found gaming on the Hisense to be very enjoyable, the experience was involving and responsive, whilst the larger screen size increased the sense of immersion.
The energy consumption numbers were strange, in our calibrated mode we measure a 50% raster at 86W but we also measured the out-of-the-box mode at 86W as well. We initially thought that this was just a coincidence but we then measured the HDR mode at 86W, which you would expect to be much higher. We were at a loss to explain why the M5500's energy numbers were all the same.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 56% 10-bit Panel HDMI 2.0a Inputs HDCP 2.2 Support HEVC Decoding 4K Streaming Services Smart TV Platform Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 7 What do these mean?
- Great black levels and contrast ratios
- Excellent greyscale and colour accuracy
- Good video processing
- Decent set of features
- Solid build quality
- Amazing price
- Poor backlight uniformity
- HDR performance limited
Hisense H65M5500 UHD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?
The simple answer is that if you're on a tight budget and want a large screen Ultra HD TV that also supports HDR to some degree, then the M5500 is certainly worth considering. We're fairly sure you won't find a better 65-inch 4K model for the price and for that you get a well built TV with a great set of features. There are enough connections for most purposes, an effective remote control and a Smart TV platform that, whilst simple, includes most of the apps that you'll need. The platform is slick and responsive and the 31ms input lag means that gamers won't be disappointed either.
The greyscale and colour accuracy was excellent, especially after calibration and the video processing was also very good. The black levels and contrast ratios were impressive for an LCD TV, the motion handling was reasonable and the viewing angles weren't too restrictive. So what's the catch? Well the backlight uniformity was poor and unfortunately this affected the otherwise excellent contrast ratios. The HDR performance was also vey limited, with little of the wide colour gamut or specular highlights of which the format is capable.
The HDR support is a nice thing to have at the price point but the reality is that you won't find any TV at less than £1,000 that can really deliver a full HDR experience, let alone one that has a 65-inch screen size. Besides, the M5500's capabilities with standard dynamic range content are far more important because that's primarily what you will be watching for the next few years. In that sense the Hisense delivered an impressive performance and it's only the patchy backlight that lets it down. If the backlight uniformity had been better the Hisense H65M5500 would have been an easy Best Buy but it's a solid Recommended instead.
What are my alternatives?
At this price point we're not really sure there are many alternatives, in fact we don't think there are any. You will struggle to find a 65-inch screen size that has all the features found on the M5500 for anything like the same price and in reality you'll be looking at models over the £1,000 price point before you begin to get close. There's no doubt that Hisense have certainly delivered a very solid TV at an exceptional price in the form of the H65M5500 and we are now very excited to see how the higher end M7000 performs.
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Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box7
Picture Quality Calibrated9
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money9
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