Over the last year or two, Hisense has shocked us with some breathtakingly high-quality TVs at ultra-affordable rates, owing primarily to the development of its unique ULED innovation, which combines parts of classic LED TVs and newer quantum dot tech.
The Hisense H9F is the latest model in Hisense’s ULED series, and on paper, it has a lot going for it: With up to 132 local dimming zones, a contemporary design, and Android TV integrated in, this might be the best TV under $1,000.
But, in a world where Vizio and TCL are producing incredible low-cost televisions, this once-forgotten segment of the television industry is suddenly a hotbed of rivalry. Does the Hisense H9F stand out from the crowd? We’ve been putting it through its paces for a few weeks now to see what happens.
Hisense H9F Price and release date
The Hisense H9F is offered in two screen sizes – 55-inches and 65-inches – and is currently available from most major stores. In terms of pricing, the 55-inch 55H9F costs $599, while the 65-inch 65H9F costs $899.
In comparison, the competitor Vizio M-Series Quantum is available in four screen sizes (43-, 50-, 55-, and 65-inches) and costs $349 for the 43-inch model and $799 for the 65-inch model. The TCL 6-Series QLED is also available in two screen sizes, 55- and 65-inches, for $599 and $899, respectively.
Hisense 55H9F Overview
The Hisense 55H9F has a little more contemporary look than the Hisense H8F, which we reviewed earlier this year, and we enjoy it. The TV now has elegant silver metallic legs with a distinctive design that extends to the side. More significantly, the legs appear to be solid, with minimal wobbling to speak of. The stand has a rather large footprint, but it is much narrower than some TVs that have distinct legs on each side.
The contemporary appearance is not just due to the legs, but also to the comparatively narrow bezels surrounding the top and sides of the display. The bezels are just around a quarter-inch thick, and while the bottom bezel is a little bigger, it doesn’t appear out of place. The panel is also rather thin. It’s around three inches thick at its thickest point, at the bottom of the TV, but it’s much thinner at the top, and it seems extremely slender considering the tapered shape.
In terms of portability, the TV is rather capable. There are four HDMI connections in total, one of which supports ARC, two USB ports for power and local media, an optical output, a 3.5mm audio output, an ethernet port, and a composite input. You should be able to connect all of your gadgets, including game consoles and external streaming players, thanks to the four HDMI inputs. We had more than enough ports with an Apple TV 4K, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch – and we’re certain that most people will as well.
We’re looking at the 65-inch model, but it’s also available in a 55-inch variant, which will be more suitable for most small to mid-sized living rooms. Even as someone who reviews huge TVs on a regular basis, 65 inches may get a little cumbersome, so make sure to evaluate your area before purchasing.
The Hisense H9F’s remote is OK, but it appears antiquated in a world of ultra-simple remotes like the Apple TV 4K’s. The remote has all of the functions you’d expect, such as channel controls, software controls for Android TV, and a Google Assistant button, which is a great touch. There are also quick-access controls for popular apps like as Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu. The remote worked great in general, and you’ll get used to using it – even if it’s a touch tedious at first.
Smart TV (Android TV)
If you purchase a Hisense TV, you will receive one of two operating systems: Roku or Android TV. This is a model of Android TV. That will be good news for some and bad news for others.
While Android TV in general is quite controversial, it has improved in recent years. Currently, Android TV is organized with a row of applications at the top and rows of content from each app underneath it. It’s not a horrible setup, but it’s a lot to take in at once. You’ll be able to download all of your favorite streaming applications, as you’d expect from a major TV operating system in 2019. Android TV, on the other hand, benefits from the Google Play Store giant, providing you access to a plethora of apps that you may not discover on platforms such as Apple’s tvOS or Roku.
Android TV may be slow to respond and unresponsive on devices other than the Nvidia Shield TV, and this was the case here. While Android TV on the Hisense H9F wasn’t as awful as it had been on other TVs, we believe that all Android TV makers should start considering higher-power CPUs more seriously if they want users to have a good smart TV experience. Lag was especially noticeable while using Google Assistant. We were accustomed to needing to wait a second or two before speaking when tapping the Assistant button, but the whole idea of Assistant is to be helpful and responsive, and we frequently found ourselves going to applications and information manually rather than using Assistant. It’s also worth noting that it wasn’t constantly slow; at times, it seemed to speed up and provide a far better user experience. That was especially true after a few minutes of watching TV.
For you, the advantages of Android TV may exceed the disadvantages. Google Cast and connectivity with your Android phone are useful features to have. While slower, Google Assistant is still as intelligent – so if you’re already linked into Google’s ecosystem, Android TV in general is a fantastic way to go.
The sluggish smart TV platform is the Hisense H9F’s biggest flaw, but the visual quality is by far the greatest. Given that many people will wind up using another streaming device anyhow, visual quality is the most crucial factor to consider — and this TV delivers.
In general, the Hisense H9F provided good visual quality when watching HD and SDR content, however, like with any TV, you may want to experiment with the settings a little. Vivid, Standard, Energy Saving, Theater Day, Game, Sport, and Theater Night are among the visual modes available. We found Vivid to be a touch too open for our tastes, so we ended up leaving the TV on Standard most of the time. Fortunately, there are manual options as well, so you can tweak things on a more granular level, such as contrast and brightness.
The TV was capable of upscale HD and SDR material to make it seem pretty excellent. During our evaluation, we happened to be watching The Office for the hundredth time, and we noted that the TV provided typically bright colors and detailed pictures, with no severe visual artifacts or other problems. Sure, you won’t get an image that compares to watching 4K or HDR material, but we discovered that the TV upscaled content better than any other in this price range we’ve tested.
Black levels were also better than most while watching SDR material. Again, the message here is that you can get better by spending more – and OLED displays will provide deeper blacks. The Hisense H9F, on the other hand, was able to provide deeper black levels than similarly cost models, as well as practically no blooming, which is more than most models in this price range can boast. Even when compared to some of the lower-end Samsung QLED models, such as the Samsung Q60R, the Hisense H9F’s black levels are remarkable.
If it wasn’t obvious before, we were quite satisfied with the visual quality of the TV while watching HD and SDR content. However, when you switch to 4K and HDR video, things improve much further. Because the TV supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision, most contemporary video will be supported.
The viewing modes are the same as when watching SDR video, but they have been adjusted for HDR. As a result, you’ll receive “HDR Vivid,” “HDR Standard,” and so on. Surprisingly, the TV appears to default to HDR Theater – even when we had the mode set to Standard while viewing SDR material, it switched to HDR Theater when we watched HDR content. In the end, HDR Theater was our preferred image option for HDR material. We did notice some banding when showing similar colors, but it wasn’t too terrible – and it was scarcely apparent unless to the experienced eye. It’s also not as terrible as some other options in this pricing bracket.
Colors are incredibly vivid in HDR, and black depths are ultra-deep. OLED screens are famed for their deep blacks, but Hisense has invested a lot of money on its ULED technology, and it shows.
This TV’s motion smoothing was also rather impressive. Many people prefer to simply turn it off, but we found that as long as it’s tamed, it looks really decent here. There are other motion smoothing options to experiment with, but we found up toggling between the Standard and Off defaults. Some people enjoy it, while others despise it, and you may do whatever you want with this TV. When used appropriately, motion smoothing made for crisper, more detailed action sequences and plays when watching sports.
The audio performance of the Hisense H9F isn’t particularly impressive. If your cash is exhausted after purchasing the TV, the built-in speakers will suffice, but don’t anticipate a lot of depth or detail.
The speakers’ bass response is a little restricted. When it comes to music, the sound of things like explosions, motors, and kick drums is typically thin and lacks the punch that most people desire from their auditory experience.
The mids are also poorly calibrated, and while the low mids are there, they are overpowered by boosted high mids that make the speakers sound cheap overall. That’s frequent on TVs, inexpensive speakers, and cheap headphones, but it’s worth noting.
The top end has suffered the most. Detail is poor, which is especially noticeable when listening to music. Again, it’s not unbearably terrible, but as someone with a background in audio, I limited my time listening to the speakers for this review to when absolutely necessary, and switched over to an audio setup during downtime. We believe you will want to do the same if you can afford it.
The only redeeming grace is that they may be rather noisy. We believe the speakers will have more than adequate volume for the great majority of circumstances, and we virtually never went beyond 50% for fear of upsetting the neighbors. When we turned it up, there was some distortion at higher volumes, which was to be expected.
The Hisense H9F is the company’s first home run. While not ideal, the TV excels in one area: visual quality. We’d want to see a better Android TV experience on TVs like these, but Google is probably as as to fault as the TV makers. The speakers on this TV are also a touch underwhelming.
This device truly shines with a pair of good speakers and an Apple TV 4K: Colors are vibrant and realistic, blacks are deep, and upscaling is excellent for a TV in this price range.
If you value fast software and good built-in TV sound, the Vizio M-Series is probably a better choice. However, in terms of visual quality, the Hisense H9F reigns supreme in this price range.