This Hisense is fine—but there are better TVs for less money

The H9D Plus TVs feature the latest in fancy TV tech—namely, 4K resolution, HDR compatibility, and smart features—and they're priced like it. The 50-inch H9D Plus starts at $999, and the largest size (75 inches) will put a small dent in your bank account.

Hisense's H9D Plus series is available is four sizes:

We received our 65-inch H9D Plus on loan from Hisense, and gave it about 24 hours to warm up/break-in prior to evaluation and review. One thing to note about the H9D Plus series as of this review is that availability is pretty spotty. While there are four sizes and prices listed for the series, tracking down specific SKUs may prove tricky.

While the 75-inch H9D Plus purportedly has a full-array backlight, the TVs in the series are otherwise identical from a specs and design standpoint. They feature thin, silver bezels, wide-set caltrop feet, and narrow profiles, like many modern LED TVs.

Each H9D Plus TV has four HDMI inputs (only two of which are HDMI 2.0-compatible, unfortunately), three USB inputs, and the usual array of ethernet, component/composite, and optical audio ports. They also come with a rather large, standard remote control.

As we've said many times, black level (or shadow depth) is the keystone of good picture quality. Not only does a deep black level give content more depth—and an almost three-dimensional appearance—but it also helps make contrasting, bright elements of the screen really pop.

On the other hand, this deep black level holds over into the TV's HDR modes, which is doubly welcome. Typically, activating HDR makes TVs very bright, but (outside of OLED models) this brightness often comes at the expense of black levels. While this Hisense's black level jumps from 0.023 to 0.075 nits in HDR mode, the latter is still a solid result for an edge-lit LED TV.

The only drawback is the HDR peak brightness, which we'll get into in the next segment.

To be a great HDR TV, the H9D Plus doesn't just need to be capable of a lot of brightness, it also needs extra, or "expanded" color. When we test HDR TVs, we measure their color accuracy and saturation in both "standard" (SDR) mode and HDR mode. Basically, any HDR TV worth its salt should be able to match both the older SDR color space when playing that kind of content, and should expand to meet the wider, more colorful HDR color space when required.

To simplify, there are "proper" colors for non-HDR content, and "proper" colors for HDR content, and the best HDR TVs display both accurately depending on which kind of content they're receiving. The H9D Plus performed well in this regard, covering 100% of the non-HDR color space and about 93% of the HDR color space. It's not perfect—a little calibration can benefit both modes—but overall, shouldn't disappoint most viewers.

As HDR TVs go, the H9D Plus's wider color presentation is its best foot forward. As I said above, it doesn't get all that bright, which is a big necessity for the best HDR presentation. The color saturation is a welcome performance boon, of course, but it's not the "whole package."

Currently, TVs come in two basic varieties: 60 Hz and 120 Hz. This refers to how quickly (how many times per second) their panels refresh. The H9D Plus TVs feature 120 Hz refresh rates, meaning they're technically at the "cutting edge" of motion performance.

This means if you're a big film buff and plan to watch disc content that plays at 24fps, you'll most certainly want a 120 Hz TV like this one.

Because streaming content (Netflix, Amazon Video, etc.) streams at either 30 or 60 fps, it plays back identically on 60 or 120 Hz panels. But the H9D Plus's smooth playback of video games and filmic content is definitely welcome, and all but the pickiest viewers will be pleased with this TV's motion performance.

The smart features available on the H9D Plus aren't going to blow any minds (and really, almost no smart TV platform will), but they at least don't detract from the TV in any way. Hisense has included a simple, easy-to-navigate system that gives users easy access to the best thing about smart platforms: apps.

You'll find 4K and/or HDR-capable versions of apps like Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube, etc. It's a dressed-down menu that's easy to navigate using the remote's big navigational buttons. All you need do is connect the H9D Plus to your WiFi network and you're good to go. (Oh, and don't forget you'll need the appropriate subscription to watch HDR content on Netflix).

If you're willing to adjust the ambient lighting in your room or close the curtains, you'll be perfectly pleased with the TV's brightness during SDR content.

The bigger issue is getting a good HDR experience out of this TV. While it does have the wide-color chops to present an impressive picture, the HDR brightness simply isn't high enough to really do justice to the format itself. When 50% or more of the screen is bright, it can get close to the high 300s, though we consider 400 or better a baseline for modern HDR TVs.

To put it simply: For what you're paying, we expected better.

A common problem with edge-lit LED TVs like this one, the H9D Plus simply doesn't offer a very wide viewing angle. I measured a total viewing angle of 15°, or ±7.5° from the center to either side of the screen. A very deep black level of 0.019 during head-on viewing jumps up to almost 0.05 when you start to move off center.

Finally, last—but definitely not least—in the list of the H9D Plus's performance issues are some hangups in the particulars of image production that are pretty, uh, nerdy—but still affect the performance and user experience to the degree that they warrant discussion.

Essentially, the H9D Plus struggles a bit with some of the basics of performance: gamma scaling, or how much luminance it produces at each electrical signal input level; and color temperature, or the neutrality (or lack thereof) of neutral grayscale tones. During HDR content, the H9D Plus produces fairly blue-tinted grayscale elements, likely the result of pushing the blue sub-pixel in order to achieve higher brightness (despite that it doesn't get that bright).

The difficulty in detailing this problem is that neither issue is something most viewers will overtly notice, but it lessens/dampens picture quality during HDR regardless. It's the kind of thing we probably wouldn't carry on about if this were a lower-end TV, but at the $2,000 price point, we expect better.

While there's almost always a niche for any TV series, the H9D Plus fails to find one. It's priced alongside semi-premium and premium models, but simply lacks the wow-factor required for effective HDR. Despite its reliable production of "wider" color, the H9D Plus just doesn't get bright enough.

 

November 14, 2017

Sources:` USA Today

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