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Hisense H55U7B Review

Just £499 gets you a 55-inch 4K HDR TV with Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support.

Verdict

The Hisense H55U7B offers a bigger helping of features and more premium design than you’ve any right to expect for £499. Inevitably, picture quality comes with some price-based compromises, and getting the best out of the TV requires some work. Overall, though, at a time where HDR is making buying a budget TV more of a minefield than ever, the H55U7B is one of the better options we’ve seen.

Pros

  • Good value
  • Excellent design for such an affordable TV
  • Excellent range of HDR support

Cons

  • Takes work to get the best from it
  • Pretty average audio
  • Various backlight issues

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £499
  • 55in LCD TV with edge LED lighting
  • Local dimming
  • HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR10+
  • Hisense's VIDAA smart system

Despite being super-affordable for a 55-inch 4K TV, the £499 Hisense H55U7B doesn’t skimp on features.

It includes support for Dolby Vision HDR, built-in Dolby Atmos sound and Hisense’s VIDAA smart platform. Plus, it’s one of Hisense’s ULED TVs, meaning it supports a wide colour gamut and local backlight dimming.

Related: Best cheap TVs

Hisense H55U7B design and build quality – Exceptionally attractive-looking TV

The Hisense H55U7B is especially attractive for its money. Most of its rear is remarkably slim, protruding barely any more than LG’s OLED TVs. There’s a chunkier section over the bottom third – where the speakers, processors and so on are housed – but this does little to detract from the futuristic feel.

There’s nothing brittle or plasticky about the Hisense H55U7B, either. In fact, the “unibody” design seems to be hewn from a single sheet of heavy-duty metal.

The frame around the screen is slim and robust. And sealing the deal is a pleasingly sturdy and heavy, boomerang-shaped desktop stand. Basically, there’s nothing about the H55U7B’s design or build that says “budget TV”.

Hisense H55U7B

Surprisingly, the H55U7B ships with two remote controls. One is slightly narrower and sleeker than the other, but they carry pretty much the same buttons.

Both remotes are hit and miss, though. They’re reasonably weighty and enjoy pleasant finishes – especially the slimmer one. They also both carry buttons for Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Rakuten TV and Freeview Play.

However, they’re rather crowded, and some key buttons are obscurely labelled or not given enough prominence. Neither remote carries a mic, meaning there’s no voice control support.

Related: What is Freeview Play?

Hisense H55U7B features – An impressive spec list

The Hisense H55U7B’s price and design are its most immediate attractions. However, there’s quite a bit else going on, too, if you need further excuses to spend £499.

Its VIDAA smart TV platform provides Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten TV, YouTube, Chili.TV and Plex. Plus, you can access all of the UK’s key catch-up services either individually, or through the Freeview Play portal.

There’s no sign of Apple TV yet – and Hisense doesn’t seem to have any plans to add it to VIDAA any time soon.

The video apps don’t yet support Dolby Atmos either, even though the Hisense H55U7B is capable of decoding it. The TV can handle 4K and HDR streams including HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, and should also handle HDR10+ in an upcoming firmware update.

Related: Dolby Vision – Everything you need to know

My H55U7B recognised and switched into HDR10+ picture preset modes with a Panasonic UB450 4K player. Bizarrely, it didn’t recognise HDR10+ properly with a Panasonic UB820 4K player. Presumably, this issue will also be fixed via the HDR10+ firmware update.

When you first set up the H55U7B, you’re introduced to some interesting attempts to streamline the user experience. For instance, when using the tuner, pushing down on the navigation buttons calls up PVR options. Pushing “up” brings up channel/program information, and hitting “select” at any time calls up full and favourite channel lists.

Hisense H55U7B

The Hisense H55U7B’s backlight is an edge-lit LED  (firing vertically) with 12 zones of local dimming. The panel is 60Hz but supports 100Hz via software, and supports 10-bit colour (although only in an 8-bit plus frame rate control configuration). I measured its peak brightness at 319 nits in HDR mode on a white window covering 10% of the screen. Note that you need to use the HDR Dynamic or HDR Sport modes to achieve this.

The TV carries four HDMI 2.0 and ARC support. There’s no eARC for passing Dolby Atmos to compatible AV receivers or soundbars, but I wouldn’t have expected this on such an affordable TV.

Other connections include two USBs, an optical digital audio output, an Ethernet port, composite video input, and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support. There’s no physical headphone output, though.

Hisense H55U7B setup – Not the easiest set to control

The  H55U7B isn’t the easiest TV to control. The menus don’t feel particularly logical, and as mentioned, the labelling of the buttons on the remote can be obscure. Once you’ve tracked the set-up menus, however, there’s room in which to experiment.

There are numerous picture presets for both HDR and SDR content. With SDR I’d suggest sticking with Standard or, at a push, Cinema Day.

With HDR, the situation is more complicated. I suspect many will prefer the default HDR Dynamic mode (when not watching Dolby Vision content). This is much brighter and more richly saturated than any of the other HDR settings. As such, it pushes the screen to the extremes of its capabilities and delivers a much bigger “HDR difference” over SDR pictures. It also makes HDR more consistently engaging in bright-room environments.

At the same time, HDR Dynamic can leave some colours looking overblown, and cause clipping (loss of subtle shading) in the brightest parts of HDR images. Switching to HDR Day produces more colour refinement and balance, but the reduction in brightness – and especially colour intensity – is substantial.

The HDR Dynamic mode also brings out greater shadow detail than any of the other HDR modes. On occasion, a bit too much. This is largely a result of it deploying an adaptive contrast feature that the HDR Day and Night presets turn off.

The H55U7B’s local dimming feature is a bit of a double-edged sword. On balance, I’d just about recommend sticking with the Low setting – but there are issues with all the local dimming options.

Hisense H55U7B

It seems to me that Hisense should have provided a Standard HDR mode alongside its current options, delivering pictures somewhere between HDR Dynamic and HDR Day.

Since Hisense hasn’t done that, if you find HDR Day too muted, try choosing HDR Dynamic and nudging down the Color Saturation setting; switching the colour temperature to Standard from Cool (unless your room’s especially bright); turning off all the noise reduction processing when watching good HD or native 4K sources; and setting the local dimming to Low to get a slightly less extreme result.

In addition, pay attention to the Ultra Smooth Motion setting. This causes smearing and other unwanted digital side effects on all but its Clean and Custom settings. The Clean mode also causes stuttering, though, so I found choosing Custom with Judder set to three and Blur to 5 for the best all round results. However, even this can occasionally cause sporadic motion stutter.

The Hisense H55U7B isn’t exactly jam-packed with the latest gaming-related features. It does carry a Game mode toggle, and switching this on reduces latency to just over 27ms.

Playing Dolby Vision content locks out pretty much all of the Hisense H55U7B’s picture settings. All you can do is switch between Dolby Vision Bright and Dolby Vision Dark. This is a pity, since the Dolby Vision modes seem to deactivate most, if not all, of the local dimming, reducing black-level depth and making backlight clouding a touch more obvious.

Finally, should you find yourself trying to play 60Hz 4K HDR from an external source (such as the 4K Blu-rays of Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk or Gemini Man), you’ll need to head into the set-up menu to turn the HDMI input to Enhanced. Otherwise, the content will only play in SDR.

This sort of HDMI switching is usually done automatically by TVs. Having to make the switch manually is far from ideal – after all, most typical consumers likely won’t have a clue that they need to make this switch.

Hisense H55U7B performance – Gets decent HDR picture quality out of its limited brightness

The Hisense H55U7B’s menus and smart features aren’t the fastest I’ve seen. They do seem reasonably stable, though – and they’re at least substantially slicker than previous VIDAA versions.

My only major gripes about the TV’s usability are some tediously slow and faffy HDMI switching, and the presence in the on-screen menus of some dodgy English and glaring typos.

It’s clear pretty quickly that the Hisense H55U7B isn’t miraculously delivering a high-end picture performance at a low-end price. It’s decent for its money, though –especially in the value it gets out of its limited brightness.

While using the HDR Dynamic mode, bright HDR images such as the deserts of Mad Max: Fury Road look consistently brighter than I’d expect from a screen with a 319-nit peak light output.

Compare this with the much duller overall look of the HDR Day/Night modes, and it’s clear that Hisense’s Dynamic mode is choosing to sacrifice HDR light range in favour of a higher baseline brightness level.

Personally, I think this is a sensible approach – at least for one of a budget TV’s presets. Trying to make cheap, low-brightness TVs deliver a real sense of HDR’s full light range is a fool’s errand, given how little brightness they have at their disposal.

The Hisense H55U7B delivers its surprising Dynamic HDR brightness without greatly exaggerating source or compression noise.

Nor do dark scenes or areas look as greyed over as I might have expected from an edge-lit LCD TV. We’re not talking the same black-level depth you’d see from a high-end TV, of course. But black colours look consistently more credible and less distractingly cloudy than you typically see at this price – provided you don’t turn the local dimming off.

Picking up on something I mentioned earlier: the difference in shadow detail between the Hisense H55U7B’s different HDR settings is quite extreme. In the dark Patrick Hockstetter sewer sequence in Chapter 4 of It, for instance, HDR Dynamic mode renders a far more detail in the dark sewer walls than either of the HDR Day or Night modes can manage. But in the process Dynamic mode also reveals a little noise, reinforcing my feeling that there should be a “halfway house” Standard HDR mode.

Hisense H55U7B

Colour is hit and miss on the Hisense H55U7B. Relatively dark tones tend to come out fairly well if you follow my earlier set-up advice, achieving more natural, balanced and nuanced tones than some TVs I’ve seen costing far more. However, super-bright colours with HDR can look either a bit forced or a bit wan, as if the screen doesn’t have quite enough colour range to “keep up” with its brightness.

This can lead to a slightly yellow tone to some colours – especially skin tones – when watching particularly aggressive HDR content.

Again, I’ve certainly seen more egregious examples of colour volume limitations on other similarly priced TVs. So clearly there’s some truth to Hisense’s wide colour gamut claims. Colours also seem to retain a more natural feel with Dolby Vision and, to a lesser extent, HDR10+. But colour volume is one area where spending significantly more should give you a richer, more even-handed HDR experience.

There’s also a little banding in the Hisense H55U7B’s colours, as the set lacks the bit-depth and processing power to render the finest blends with sufficient subtlety.

Another area where the Hisense H55U7B slightly reveals its budget nature is with sharpness. Native 4K pictures look a little sharper than HD, but the difference isn’t as emphatic as with the best 4K TVs. And if you try to fix this with the sharpness setting, you mostly just get more grittiness for your trouble.

Another limitation finds the picture losing colour saturation and contrast if viewed from an angle – although this is a universal issue for such affordable LCD TVs.

Hisense H55U7B

Next, extremely dark HDR shots with just one or two bright central elements can expose a few faint patches of backlight clouding. Worse, where a very bright object appears against a very dark backdrop when watching HDR, the local dimming system can create a quite defined vertical “bar” of light running down the screen around the bright object. And since I counted only 12 separate vertical dimming zones, these bars can run quite wide.

I also noticed that if you turn the local dimming on, even to Low, it reduces the image’s brightness. For instance, using the 10% white HDR window test signal, in HDR Dynamic mode brightness with local dimming in play plummets from 319 nits to 240 nits. The difference is far less pronounced with the HDR Day and Night modes, which lose around 25 nits. But those two modes are much darker to begin.

Perhaps the brightness reduction with local dimming might be expected where there’s a small bright object against a dark backdrop. After all, the TV will be trading brightness in the light object against trying to retain good black levels and limit backlight blooming.

However, the way that brightness reduction also impacts uniformly bright HDR images is more difficult to explain. If the local dimming was working as intelligently as you’d hope, you’d expect it to realise it can pump out the same levels of brightness with uniformly bright images as you get if you turn local dimming off.

Before lovers of bright HDR (like myself) just turn the local dimming off, remember that as noted in the set-up section, removing local dimming significantly reduces black levels and increases backlight clouding.

The Hisense H55U7B’s audio is pretty uninspiring: its speakers just aren’t powerful enough to deliver satisfying, room-filling volumes with films. The sound always appears swallowed and lacking impact – as if it’s all coming from behind the screen, rather than projecting forward. Which is, of course, exactly what’s happening given that the TV only has fairly insipid rear-mounted speakers.

Voices struggle to stand out during action scenes, yet such scenes also sound flat and muffled due to the 2 x 20W speakers having so little power and dynamic range.

There are some positive points about the Hisense H55U7B’s audio for its money. It doesn’t distort, and what little bass it provides never drops out. Its cabinet doesn’t succumb to rattling, either. And while the Dolby Atmos delivered by the set is limited in the extreme, it does at least result in a little extra clarity and a slightly larger soundstage.

Overall, though, the H55U7B’s sound is only marginally better than the budget norm – which isn’t saying all that much.

Should you buy a Hisense H55U7B?

If your budget is £500 then you should certainly think about buying a Hisense H55U7B. It’s capable, after all, of producing punchy pictures with black levels and brightness that outperform many similarly affordable rivals. It’s also beautifully designed, and its support for Dolby Vision and (currently limited) HDR10+ is very welcome indeed.

Just bear in mind that as a result you will have to accept some performance limitations, and that HDR10+ support is a work in progress.

Also, if you’re keen to always get the best out of your Hisense H55U7B, be prepared to spend quite a bit of time in the TV’s picture set-up menus.

Probably the main competitor for the Hisense H55U7B is the Samsung 55RU8000. This costs around £100 more, but doesn’t offer Dolby Vision support. Nor does it carry any local dimming. However, it’s slightly brighter, easier to set up, and its smart system is more comprehensive.

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