Not the first name that comes to mind when buying a new LED television, at least in India, Hisense has a huge fan base in Europe and North America where it actually is at the cutting edge of display technologies.
The brand isn’t exactly new to India either, being an OEM supplier to other mainstream and more established names on our shores. But this is the first official entry of Hisense in India with its own brand of TVs and it comes with a price tag that brings a smile on your face faster than you can say wow!
Life of pie
Of the three ranges to be launched, this 55A71F fits smack in the middle, flanked by an entry-level smart TV line and a slightly upwardly QLED-based selection. This being a straight-up LED panel, Hisense has thrown in terms like ultra-dimming, UHD AI upscaler and Precision Colour to the marketing material but it’s still unclear whether it is an IPS or a VA panel. Although, judging by the picture quality, it does appear to be a VA type but more on that later. As is the trend these days, the bezel-less design with chicken feet stands is easy to set-up by a single person and looks smart enough. Based around Android 9.0 Pie, you get all the usual goodies like built-in Chromecast, Google Voice Assistant and of course, access to the Play Store with its plethora of games and apps. Initial logging-in is as simple as signing in with your Android phone on the same Wi-Fi network and the Mali470MP quad-core processor seems to be up to the task by keeping everything swift and tidy. Even light gaming can be done via the remote control without breaking a sweat.
Connectivity is adequate too with three HDMI ports, all 2.0 compatible and HDCP2.2 compliant, twin USB ports, an optical digital output, headphone jack, analog AV input and ethernet. But the HDMI ports are placed so close together that if you try to wedge in a FireStick, the port next to it becomes unusable! Good thing then that the Hisense has almost every app built-in so you won’t need a FireStick anyway, but you have to be mindful of the kind of HDMI cables you use as well.
The first remote controller I’ve seen with a hot key for every major app, the Hisense unit makes space for Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play and Disney Hotstar! It does make it easier than ever to get to your desired show but Prime Video loads up as a fresh app every time you go back to the home screen, adding to the wait time. Not that a few seconds is a big deal, but surprising nevertheless since most modern smart TVs don’t close apps when you switch to something else.
With 4K, Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG in its arsenal, the Hisense instantly proves that it is great with colours. On animated films like The Lorax, saturation is just right with colours that pop yet aren’t overcooked and with Gamma set to 2.0, the dynamic contrast too takes on a realistic turn. Even the presets are well-judged without the usual showboating modes used by salesmen on shop floors. Hollywood on Netflix with its rich colour palette looks eminently watchable with Dolby Vision detected automatically. There’s plenty of detail in the shadows even in the darker, night scenes and if you set the colour temperature right, it comes as close to a professionally calibrated screen as possible at this price. Move off-axis and there is a very slight drop in saturation but nothing as dramatic as the OnePlus U-series I reviewed last month. The image isn’t washed out like on the OnePlus, leading to questions about the type of LCD panel this is.
Regardless, the on-axis picture quality is as good as it gets at this price and even makes more expensive TVs look poorly executed in comparison! The same great things cannot be said about its audio quality though and although it wears a Dolby Atmos badge, it’s no assurance for great sonic quality from the onboard speakers. Audio output is claimed to be 30W but power notwithstanding, the presentation is just too thin and anaemic. Another gripe is the D-pad on the remote control which isn’t designed to create enough separation between the keys, prompting incorrect inputs that annoyingly take you back to the home screen or in the least, not where you wished to navigate. You really have to look at this remote to use it effectively and since it’s not backlit, makes it harder in a dark room.
For all its shortcomings though, the Hisense 55A71F makes a lot of sense considering its modest asking price. With all the money you’d save buying this over a “premium” brand of 4K LED TV, you could get yourself a soundbar and increase your immersiveness quotient exponentially. Add a 5-year panel warranty and it's clear that Hisense wants to lure Indian customers quickly into their lair.