Though the Hisense U8Q isn't quite the all-round performer, its performance is mostly impressive with good upscaling skills, enjoyable 4K quality and decent sound. Iffy motion handling and a few backlight issues are a blot on the copy book
- Enjoyable 4K HDR performance
- Solid upscaling
- Good build quality
- Decent sound
- Multi-HDR support
- Iffy motion
- Some backlight bleed off-axis
- No native Disney+/Apple TV apps
- Review Price: £1099
- HDR10. HLG, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
- Dolby Atmos
- JBL front-firing speakers
- DLED backlight
- 8bit + FRC panel
- 1000nits peak brightness
- VIDAA U4.0
- Freeview Play
- 18.9kg w/stand
The Hisense U8Q is the brand’s flagship telly for 2020, boasting multi-HDR support and an integrated speaker system from JBL.
After dabbling with OLED, Hisense is back to promoting ULED as the main draw for its TVs, with the U8Q sitting at the top of the 2020 range.
With a more than decent spec sheet, the 55U8QFUK features multi-HDR support, full array local dimming plus an integrated speaker system tuned by JBL. Is this the TV that places Hisense as a viable and cheaper alternative to the likes of LG, Panasonic and Samsung?
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Hisense U8Q design — An attractive-looking set but the remote is not the most intuitive
By and large the Hisense U8Q is an attractive-looking set. Arriving in 55- and 65-inch sizes, the bezel that surrounds the screen is unobtrusive, and if you look closely the screen is raised, giving the impression that it’s floating.
Construction is robust. From the V-shaped pedestal to the fetching material that covers the integrated front-firing speakers, the U8Q has the hallmarks of a well put-together set.
Assembly isn’t too laborious. Put the various parts of the stand together, slot it into the main body, screw it in and attach a panel to cover it up. The TV and stand also appears to have a cable clutter feature, so you can filter a cable through the bottom of the rear panel and out through the stand.
The rear panel juts out at 83mm of depth and comes decorated in a checkerboard pattern, which is odd, but nice nonetheless. It’s compatible with VESA wall-mounts, and at 17.4kg without a stand (18.9kg with one), it’s not too heavy.
Connections are rear- and side-facing tallying at 4 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x USB 2.0, Optical out, Ethernet, composite, CI Slot and connections for satellite and aerial. The majority of the HDMI ports are on the side (HDMI 1 is ARC), but only support 4K/60Hz. For wireless connections there’s Wi-Fi (2.4GHz/5GHz) and Bluetooth.
The remote is a slim effort but too compact for my liking. Buttons are smushed close together and if you have sizeable digits such as myself, you’ll jab at the wrong button with regularity. It’s also not the most responsive, which doesn’t help its case. Netflix, Prime Video, Rakuten TV, YouTube and Freeview Play all have dedicated buttons, so you can hotfoot to whichever app you fancy.
Hisense U8Q features — No buzz worthy features but there is full HDR support
The Hisense U8QF comes with plenty of features, but compared to an LG or Samsung it is limited in scope. Despite its premium status, we’re still hovering around the value-added area here.
There’s no HDMI 2.1, so remove VRR, ALLM and eARC from the equation. There’s also no new buzz-worthy modes in Filmmaker Mode or Dolby Vision IQ. So what does the U8Q have to offer?
For sound there’s an integrated 2 x 10W front-firing system specially tuned by JBL. The telly also supports Dolby Atmos to output a more spacious sound. There is a Game Mode and switching it on brings latency down to very speedy and consistent 14.2ms.
Related: What is Dolby Atmos?
There’s the VIDAA U smart portal – version 4.0 – which avoids whizz-bang stylings and settles on a functional and plain look. You can create a VIDAA account to keep the TV up-to-date, but it’s not necessary for operation or downloading apps. Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube and Rakuten TV are supported, and with Freeview Play there’s access to UK catch-up apps such as iPlayer and All 4.
There’s an aspect of personalisation to the VIDAA interface with app recommendations and quick access to what you last watched in for those with Netflix accounts. There is no Disney Plus or Apple TV, but there’s the option of adding a Fire TV or Roku Stick. VIDAA is also Chromecast-able for flinging content from a mobile device or Chrome browser.
Alexa is built in, so the TV can be controlled by your voice if you fancy a chat. In a welcome decision, all forms of HDR are supported in HDR10, Broadcast HLG, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. With the panel apparently able to achieve a peak brightness of 1000 nits, the Hisense U8QF should just about be comfortable playing most HDR content to a reasonably exacting standard.
Related: What is HDR10+?
Speaking of that panel, it’s not a 10bit HDR display but a 8bit + FRC (Frame Rate Control) screen. That’s not necessarily an awful miss. Hisense says the set’s Quantum Dot Colour technology covers a wide spectrum of colours – a billion – for subtle shades and more realistic tones.
Also helping matters is the U8Q’s FALD (full array local dimming) Pro system, with 132 zones to assist with contrast for dark blacks and bright highlights. The TV has a refresh rate of 120Hz, which in theory should produce smoother images. As always, the proof is in the pudding.
Hisense U8Q performance — Very good with HD and 4K content, but motion issues aren’t fully resolved
And that pudding, for the most part, tastes pretty good. But it’s not without a few caveats.
The set’s upscaling prowess is decent with SD content and pretty good with HD. With the former, content is unsurprisingly blurry, lacking detail and sharpness. But it’s watchable, moreso with Ultra Smooth Motion switched on.
HD content is a step up in all regards. Colours are better defined and there’s more fine detail for a pretty pleasing picture. There’s a bit of noise around faces, noticeably with wrinkles, and while it’s not the sharpest, it is a satisfactory looking image.
SD SDR HD SDR
What seems to plague the U8Q is motion. There’s no doubt the Ultra Smooth Motion feature should be turned on, as broadcast content can be rather staccato in its movement without it, but the U8Q doesn’t handle motion with a huge degree of confidence.
Warning bells go off during a stream of a Premier League match on Prime Video. The slightly jerky nature of the image is never resolved to full satisfaction, regardless of which Ultra Smooth Motion mode is used, or whether the de-judder setting is customised on its own.
There’s no bespoke option for sports either, so a watch of Aussie Rules football is a blur but not in a good way. Smooth or Standard are your best bets, but the slight blur and jittery motion that still pervades disappoints.
Curiously, streaming content takes a while to buffer, but once composed quality proves to be very good: colourful, expressive, detailed and laced with clarity. Dolby Vision HDR viewed on Netflix has a creamish tone and slick look that’s enjoyable, but not as high quality as the implementation on the OLED55CX.
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With 4K Blu-ray content the Hisense stretches its legs. Despite not being a native 10-bit panel, the use of 8-bit + FRC – a form of dithering which cycles between different colours with each new frame to give the impression of 10-bit HDR – and results in pretty good image quality.
Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven is a good showcase for landscapes and skies, and the smooth transition between colours appears capably handled; the TV giving a good sense of the film’s picaresque beauty with its different tones and hues. Contrast is also pretty good, dark and bright elements coexisting to create a sense of depth.
Related: What is HDR?
If you have a 4K player and discs capable of HDR10+/Dolby Vision, the U8Q seems better suited to the latter. Colours are more on point as are textures, and the tonally its darker, which in Doctor Sleep makes for the more convincing picture. Dolby Vision Bright and Dark modes are available alongside a custom version.
Related: What is Dolby Vision?
HDR10+ Dolby Vision
Pacific Rim shows that the Hisense U8Q can deal with a vivid colourscape. Whites are clean and bright, fine detail is excellent – spot all the nicks and scratches on the Gipsy Danger jaeger – and the bright and vibrant palette of the film is well handled. The intensity of the colours; the reflection of the city lights on Danger – it’s all beautiful to look at.
Black levels are solid head on, but move off-axis and colours start to lose their potency and blooming becomes more noticeable. Watching a film with black bars top and bottom and there’s some backlight bleed with HDR content.
Head on Off-axis
And while out of the box, picture quality is good, shadow detail is a little amiss. A whirl through The Dark Knight Rises and the TV isn’t able to to extract all the detail from the Batman suit. Raise the brightness and it’s more revealing, but there’s not much room to play with. A point up is all that’s needed, but any more and the scene looked washed out.
Sticking with TDKR and the front-firing speakers do a decent job. Tom Hardy’s vocalisation of Bane stands out from the rest of the mix, and there’s decent dynamic range and placement of effects. There’s not much bass to speak of – the reverb of Bane’s voice to the various punches, kicks and explosions lack heft – but treble and midrange frequencies are handled capably.
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In the Standard mode, the speaker’s delivery is deliberately flat to deliver the audio without additional processing. I think it works well. Vocal clarity is prioritised and it’s easy to understand what’s being said. It’s not particularly wide or tall, but the Theatre option is there for a more expansive presentation. Vocals, however, are less emphasised.
Funnel Dolby Atmos content – in this case the Brad Pitt-starring Fury – and it sounds more expansive, taller and with more depth, if not much width. There’s still a tendency for the audio to stay rooted to the lower half of the screen, but for daytime TV this is fine. For anything more, consider a soundbar.
Related: Best Dolby Atmos soundbar
One thing to mention is the Hisense U8Q doesn’t appear to automatically switch into Enhanced mode when it detects a device that can do 4K/60Hz or 4.4.4, 4.2.2, 4.2.0 chroma sampling. Head into the menu settings for whichever HDMI port the device is connected to and switch it on.
Should you buy the Hisense 55U8QFTUK?
The Hisense U8Q puts itself into contention with its satisfying upscaling performance, enjoyable 4K performance and sound quality that’s pretty decent. Gamers will also enjoy the 14.2ms latency on offer here.
It’s not the all-rounder it could have been due to some iffy motion and backlight issues. Consider a soundbar if you want a beefier presentation too.
A set close in price would be the Panasonic TX-58HX800. Similar size, similar feature set but slimmer build thanks to its edge-lit panel and it has ALLM for gaming. Picture performance is impressive and motion is handled more capably than the Hisense.