What is the Hisense U9A?
The H75U9A is certified Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance, and supports High Dynamic Range – specifically HDR10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). It also includes Ultra Motion Plus, Hisense's proprietary VIDAA U Smart TV platform, Freeview Play, a Sports Mode, a built-in soundbar, and all-metal construction.
There are two models in the range, the 65-inch H65U9A which you can pick up for £1,999, and the 75-inch H75U9A which will currently set you back £3,499 as at the time of writing (September 2018). It's the latter I'm reviewing here, and at that price the 75U9A is in direct competition to the more established brands. Let's see how it measures up...
At the rear, there is a large perspex block that provides support and weight to balance the entire TV, and the screen itself is at an angle. Hisense hasn't made any spurious claims to the slant improving picture quality in the way that Sony did with the A1, but the reason is obvious: this TV is big and heavy, if it toppled forward it could, quite literally, kill someone.
The stand at the front is 1677mm wide and with the perspex block at the rear, it's 350mm deep; so you'll need a surface at least that big on which to position the U9A. You could also mount the panel, but you'll need to make sure your wall can take the weight because this TV is seriously heavy (just ask my chiropractor).
The U9A has a built-in, forward-firing soundbar, that is located just below the screen. To the far right of the soundbar, you'll find some basic controls for accessing the menus and changing the volume. There is 135mm of clearance below the screen, should you choose to use your own soundbar, but the front of the stand might get in the way.
Unsurprisingly, the U9A is very large, with the panel measuring 114mm deep thanks to the direct LED backlight and over 1,000 dimmable zones. The TV measures 1677 x 1005 x 114mm (WxHxD) and weighs 44.5kg without the stand, and measures 1677 x 1065 x 350mm and weighs 49kg with the stand attached.
Connections & Control
The sideways facing connections are composed of two HDMI 2.0 inputs (4K/60p, HDR, CEC and HDCP 2.2), one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and the other 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 3.5mm headphone jack, and a CI (Common Interface) slot.
It's disappointing that even on its flagship TV, Hisense has seen fit to only include two HDMI 2.0 inputs, but it isn't the only manufacturer to do that – both Sony and Philips have form in this area.
That's because the controls are sensibly laid out with the navigation buttons in the centre, the numbers, volume and channel buttons above and the coloured keys and media player buttons below. There is a home key for accessing the VIDAA U Smart TV system but there are also direct access buttons for Netflix, YouTube, and Media content.
You access VIDAA U by pressing the Home button on the remote, which then provides you with the option of choosing Freeview Play, Apps, Inputs, Media and Settings. You can also directly access Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Freeview, Inputs and Settings using dedicated buttons on the remote control.
The smart platform might be relatively simplistic compared to the competition, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Content is easy to find and, most importantly, the platform includes the majority of the main video streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube. All three support 4K and HDR, while the BBC iPlayer app also supports 4K and HLG. The only major streaming service missing from a UK perspective is NOW TV.
The smart platform also includes a web browser, and it supports DLNA, allowing you to access content on your home network. There was, however, one problem. When connected wirelessly to my network, I kept losing the Wi-Fi setup; so every time I turned on the TV I had to set up the Wi-Fi again. It was fine if I used a wired connection, but very annoying if I went wireless. I haven't had this problem on other Hisense TVs, so it might just be a fault with the review sample, but I have reported it back to my contacts at Hisense.
Hisense U9A Features
The 75U9A uses a VA (Vertical Alignment) panel that is 120Hz and 8-bit + FRC, which means it isn't a full 10-bit panel but it can accept content that uses 10-bit. The U9A also includes Hisense's Ultra Motion Plus, which includes a frame interpolation feature for smoother motion.
The Hisense uses a quad core processor and can upscale lower resolution content to match the 4K panel. It also has a 3D digital comb filter and can decode HEVC (H,265), VP9, H.264, MPEG4, MPEG2, VC1 and MVC. The media player can handle video, music and photos, and while it handled the majority of my files without issue, it couldn't playback Apple lossless files.
Out of the Box Measurements
The result was a very accurate colour gamut up to 75%, but as you can see there is still over-saturation at 100% in many of the colours. However, you're rarely looking at a 100% saturated image, it tends to be in the 25 to 75% range, and so I consider the accuracy at those points more important. I could have used the CMS to make 100% more accurate but that would just mess up all the lower saturation points.
In terms of a more accurate picture mode, I measured the Cinema Night mode at 2,450nits, which is almost exactly the same as the 2,500nits that Hisense quote in their specifications. I was also pleased to see that the tone-mapping on the U9A tracked the PQ EOTF very closely. There was a red push to whites in terms of the measurements, but this didn't appear to affect the overall image, and there was no clipping on 4,000nits content either.
However, despite this, the U9A struggled to correctly track other colour spaces, so it only covered 95% of DCI-P3, when it should easily have hit 100%. It also struggled to correctly track DCI-P3 within Rec.2020, and, for reasons that I can't explain, it measured significantly less than DCI-P3 despite its huge native colour gamut.
Hisense clearly have some work to do when it comes to the colour temperature of white, which still uses the industry standard of D65 in HDR, and colour accuracy against DCI-P3 within Rec.2020.
Hisense H75U9A General Performance
Panel Uniformity and View AnglesThe Hisense U9A uses a 75-inch panel size, and even with a direct LED backlight and 1,056 local dimming zones you'll find it hard to get perfect uniformity on a screen that big. However, overall it was fairly good and while there was some minor clouding with the local dimming turned off, it largely disappeared when turned to Low, and almost completely disappeared on Medium. In a pitch black room you would need to use the High setting for the best results, but that introduces other issues. There was a small amount of DSE (dirty screen effect) but you couldn't see it with most content.
The 75U9A uses a VA (Vertical Alignment) panel, so the optimal viewing angles are fairly limited. There is a perceptible drop in contrast and colour performance once you move more than 15 degrees either side of centre, and blooming from the local dimming becomes far more apparent. This is basically a weakness of the underlying panel technology, but on a screen this big you do have to move quite a long way before you reach a viewing angle wide enough to affect the image adversely.
Black Levels, Contrast Performance and Local DimmingVA panels might suffer from limited optimal viewing angles, but they are capable of good black levels for an LCD TV. With the local dimming turned off, the Hisense U9A measured 0.04nits; with it on minimum, it was 0.036nits; with it on medium it was 0.014nits; and on high it was 0.00nits. The on/off contrast ratio was 3,000:1 with the local dimming turned off, but that increased to 9,000:1 in the Medium local dimming mode.
The local dimming was reasonably effective, thanks to the direct LED backlight and the number of available zones. As a result, blacks were deep and images had a good level of contrast. For SDR content I used the Medium setting and that delivered great images without any noticeable blooming. You could see a bit if you started to move off axis, but white credits on a black background looked very good.
I do think that Samsung's implementation on the Q9FN is more sophisticated in terms of the small details where an image crosses two zones, but since the Hisense local dimming is less aggressive, it doesn't crush detail just above black like the Samsung algorithm can do on occasion. In HDR the TV defaults to the High local dimming setting, which works well with the much larger dynamic ranges, although despite the number of zones there was the odd bit of haloing.
Motion Handling and Video ProcessingThe motion handling on the Hisense U9A was fairly good and the TV performed reasonably well in our tests. There was no visible judder with 24p content, and the 120Hz panel was adept at handling 50 and 60p content as well. I also had no issues with 50i content. I measured the motion resolution at about 300 lines, which is what I would expect from an LCD TV.
The 75U9A includes Hisense's Ultra Motion Plus feature, which uses frame interpolation to improve the motion handling. It has five settings – Off, Film, Clear, Standard, and Smooth. I found the Film setting to be quite effective because it doubles the frame rate to improve the perceived motion, but doesn't use frame interpolation so there's no 'soap opera effect' (SOE). The other three settings improved the motion resolution in tests and were effective at improving motion handling with sports, which makes it ideal for football, but I wouldn't use them for movies or TV dramas.
The video processing was reasonably good, and the U9A performed well in our various tests. The TV had no problems de-interlacing the test scenes on numerous test discs and was very effective at upscaling lower resolution content to match the 4K panel. However Hisense's image processing isn't quite as sophisticated as the competition's, and on a 75-inch screen, any limitations become very obvious.
However, the H75U9A handled Full HD broadcasts and Blu-rays very well, with results that were often impressive. Things weren't quite as impressive with standard definition, but then any TV manufacturer is going to struggle to make that kind of content look good on a screen that size. A decent DVD could still look watchable but on a 75-inch screen, many of the standard definition broadcasts were unwatchable.
Input LagHisense claim an input lag of less than 50ms in their marketing literature, but in reality it was actually better than that. In fact, with Game mode turned off, I measured the input lag on the U9A at 41ms. Interestingly when I turned Game Mode on, it didn't make any difference, the lag was still 41ms, regardless of whether the source was 1080p, 4K, SDR or HDR. That should be low enough for most gamers, but these days manufacturers like Samsung are getting the lag down to 15ms, so Hisense has a way to go yet.
Sound QualityThe sound quality of the U9A was somewhat disappointing considering it has a forward-firing built-in soundbar. The sheer size of the screen meant that the audio had good stereo separation, and the TV could create a wide, front soundstage. The depth of the chassis and the solid build quality also helped, and yet there was something missing.
The problem might stem from the fact that despite its size, the 75U9A only has 15W of amplification per channel and thus felt somewhat underwhelming. The sound just lacked any real presence and felt insipid and rather constrained. It was fine with simple audio such as the news, documentaries and other programmes that rely primarily on voice-overs.
However, with more complex soundtracks like TV dramas and movies, the H75U9A struggled to deliver an immersive and clearly defined soundstage. Surprisingly, considering the size, the bass was also very limited, robbing soundtracks of much of their impact. The U9A includes support for Dolby Digital Plus, along with dbx-tv audio enhancement, and even a graphic equaliser, but nothing I tried could deliver a better audio performance, which is a shame.
Hisense U9A Picture Performance
Out of the Box SDR PerformanceVivid Setting: This mode has the backlight set too high, the colours are over-saturated, and the whites have too much blue in them. The Ultra Motion Plus is also on, as are all the noise reduction and sharpening features, which is to be expected. It's fine for catching your attention in a store, but not for watching TV at home.
Standard Setting: This is the setting that the TV defaults to and whilst it's definitely better than Vivid, it's still uses many of the same settings. So the backlight is too high, the colours are garish, and whites are blue. Many of the image processing and frame interpolation features are also still on, resulting in images that are overly-smooth and digital in appearance.
Cinema Night Setting: This is the best picture mode to select because it's fairly accurate. The Backlight should be set according to your environment, the local dimming set to medium, and Sharpness to zero. In addition you should turn Adaptive Contrast, Noise Reduction, and MPEG Noise Reduction off. Finally, make sure Colour Temperature is set to warm, Colour Gamut to auto, Ultra Motion Plus to film, and Gamma Adjustment to 2.4.
Aspect Ratio: The best way to ensure you get the correct aspect ratio with no overscanning to rob the image of fine detail is to select the Direct option, this will pixel map the content to the 4K panel. However you can also select the Auto option, but make sure Overscan is set to off in the Picture menu.
SDR Gaming Performance: The U9A makes for an enjoyable and immersive gaming experience in SDR, with a big, bright and detailed image that draws you into the game. A few sessions of Star Wars Battlefront showed that the Hisense was capable of rendering the game on a screen that big, and the motion handling appeared fluid. My ageing reflexes didn't perceive any lag, and since this is an LCD panel there's no danger of image retention or screen burn.
Out of the Box HDR PerformanceBest Out of the Box Setting: The best picture setting for HDR is Cinema Night, although the Cinema Day mode is also an option. In fact, you could use the Cinema Night mode for SDR content and the Cinema Day mode for HDR content. Either way, these modes deliver the most accurate greyscale, colour gamut and tone mapping for HDR content – whether that's movies, streaming services or games.
The HDR images are certainly bright and thanks to all the dimming zones the blacks are also good, although there is a loss of detail in shadow gradations, which is to be expected with an LCD panel using local dimming. Despite the number of zones, there was occasional blooming evident but overall the U9A delivered some impressive HDR images.
However, the colours weren't so impressive, appearing muted when they should pop. This ties in with the measurements, which showed that despite the huge native colour gamut, it was being restricted when the TV tried to teach DCI-P3. This was certainly borne out by actually viewing material, where colours lacked the saturation I'd expect from HDR.
HDR Gaming Performance: The HDR gaming experience was similar to that with movies, in the sense that images were bright and well defined, with solid blacks. However, once again, colours seemed muted in comparison with other high-end HDR TVs. However I did enjoy playing Horizon Zero Dawn, and the brightness and good tone-mapping gave the gameplay a pleasing reality.
Calibrated Image Performance
Standard Dynamic Range (SDR)The Hisense U9A delivered a great picture with SDR content, thanks in a large part to its excellent greyscale and gamma performance, along with its generally accurate colours and some decent image processing. The direct backlight could certainly deliver pictures that were both bright and vibrant, and all those dimming zones resulted in great blacks and contrast. There was very little blooming, even in a darkened room at night, although I could see some if I moved off axis.
However, overall I was largely impressed with the H75U9A's SDR picture and any issues largely related to the source content rather than the TV itself. The problem with a screen this big, is that there's nowhere to hide and artefacts that you might not notice on a 50-inch screen, are suddenly very apparent at 75 inches. However, feed the U9A a good source and the TV will reward you with pleasingly realistic images that retain plenty of detail.
Sport, in particular, could look very good, and football proved to be highly enjoyable, with the massive 75-inch 4K screen revealing the detail in the players' shirts and the spectators in the crowd. The motion handling was good with no stutters or other issues apparent, even without engaging the Ultra Motion Plus. The grass looked suitably natural and I was pleased to see that the H75U9A was free of any obvious banding as the camera panned across the pitch.
The U9A also impressed when I put on my Blu-ray of Gravity and watched the scene where Sandra Bullock tumbles into the infinite void. This can be a complete torture test for an LCD TV, but the Hisense handled it very well thanks to all those dimmable zones. The H75U9A rendered all the stars with precision, while retaining most of the detail in the blackness of space, and managing to avoid haloing or other local dimming artefacts.
The constantly moving camera and characters were also all displayed smoothly at 24p, thanks to the Film mode, and overall this was a solid SDR performance. I did, however, feel that the local dimming, image processing, and motion handling weren't quite as finessed as on a high-end Samsung or Sony TV.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)The HDR was something of a mixed bag, but there's no denying that the Hisense U9A can deliver the goods in terms of peak brightness. In fact, with content graded at 1,000nits, the TV could show it without the need to tone-map the luminance at all. The Hisense also tone-mapped 4,000nits content effectively, and the sun was clearly defined in the arriving at Neverland sequence in Pan. Where the H75U9A wasn't quite as impressive was in terms of colours which, despite the wide native gamut, looked muted.
It was the same story when it came to the video streaming services, with the H75U9A delivering bright HDR, but struggling to get the colours right. In terms of actually decoding the 4K HDR streams the TV did a good job, with shows like Iron Fist and Jack Ryan looking very watchable, thanks mainly to all that brightness. However the colours were again somewhat muted, with skin tones in particular, pushed towards red, and any compression artefacts were fairly obvious on a screen this big.
When I moved on to 4K Blu-ray, the U9A was able to take full advantage of the higher quality source to deliver detailed and very watchable images. The Revenant was graded at 1,000nits and it looked particularly impressive, with the Hisense able to show all the detail in the white snow-covered landscapes. The whites did have a slight red push to them, but the generally muted tones of much of the film were well handled by the H75U9A. However, put on a colour-fest like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and you can immediately see that the picture isn't as saturated as it should be.
If Hisense can sort out the colour tracking, then they will have a winner on their hands because, with a peak brightness of 2,500nits and a colour gamut that reaches 80% of Rec.2020, they should be able to deliver 1,000nits content exactly as it was encoded, and display 4,000nit content with minimal tone-mapping. As it is, less theoretically capable TVs from Hisense's competitors are doing a better job of retaining the content creators' intentions.
- Decent SDR performance
- Very bright HDR
- Accurate PQ EOTF tracking
- Effective smart platform
- Good video streaming support
- Solid build quality
- Wide colour gamut needs work
- Narrow optimal viewing angle
- HDMI 1.4 on two inputs
- Issues with wireless connection
- No Dolby Vision or HDR10+
Hisense U9A (H75U9AUK) Review
Hisense H75U9A VerdictThe Hisense U9A certainly has a lot going for it, including a massive 75-inch 4K panel, a direct LED backlight, and over 1,000 independent dimmable zones, which is more than any LCD TV currently available. As a result, the 75U9A could hit 2,450nits on a 10% window in its most accurate HDR mode, which is more than any other TV on the market. It also uses quantum dot to deliver a native colour gamut that covers 81% of Rec.2020, which again is wider than any other TV. Once you throw in Ultra HD premium certification and support for HD10 and HLG, this all starts to look very tempting.
However that's not the complete picture (if you'll excuse the pun) and Hisense still need to address a number of key issues, especially when swimming in the higher-end waters that come with a £3,499 price tag. The really important improvement that Hisense need to make is in terms of colour accuracy for SDR and especially HDR content. There's no point having a massive native colour gamut, if you don't have the ability to control it properly. Hisense also need to address the colour temperature in HDR, but since that goes hand-in-hand with the colour gamut, I suspect that will happen once they sort out the overall colour performance.
The other issues are more minor, and will certainly improve as Hisense gains more experience. The inclusion of over 1,000 dimming zones is great news, but a successful local dimming algorithm really depends on how you actually use those zones. Despite having only half as many, I think Samsung's Q9FN actually applies its local dimming in a more effective manner. The same goes for video processing, it's great to have a 75-inch panel but the upscaling needs to be top notch because there's nowhere to hide on a screen that big.
I'd like to see Hisense use 10-bit panels and include four HDMI 2.0 inputs, and, although it might only have been my sample, they need to check the Wi-Fi setup. I'd like to see Hisense get the input lag lower as well, and the audio performance still needs work, despite the built-in soundbar. If they could add NOW TV to their smart platform, and look at either Dolby Vision or HDR10+, they'd really be cooking. Hisense has come a long way very fast, but although the H75U9A is a solid TV, it doesn't quite reach the levels of performance found on large screen LCD TVs from Samsung and Sony.
What are my alternatives?Hisense's strongest selling point has always been its pricing, and while £3,499 for the H75U9A might seem like good value, it's still a lot of money. Granted, it's a lot less than the £5,399 you'd pay for the Samsung QE75Q9FN, but there actually is a cheaper alternative. Sony's KD-75XF9005 is available for just £3,299, which is incredible when you consider what you get.
The XF90 also uses a direct LED backlight and although it doesn't have anywhere near as many dimmable zones, it does benefit from Sony's superior image processing, local dimming, and motion handling. The XF90 performs very well with both SDR and HDR, and it has a 26ms input lag for 4K games, although that increases to 42ms when playing 1080p games.
Still, it's hard to fault the XF90, especially with cool new features like X-Motion Clarity, although like the U9A only two of the HDMI inputs are Version 2.0. The biggest question mark against the XF90 is Sony's implementation of the Android smart TV platform, which remains problematic. However, when it does work it offers the same features as Hisense's VIDAA U.
The Sony XF90 has a more traditional stand arrangement, and if you want to improve its sound quality, you can also add a soundbar. In fact, Sony offers the HT-XF9000, which was actually designed to specifically match the XF90. It's great to have alternatives, but three and a half grand isn't small change, so I definitely suggest you demo both before parting with your hard-earned readies.
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