HISENSE 55N7 UHD television
Hisense’s Series 7 55-incher delivers UHD sharpness and 10-bit HDR from LED-backlit LCD technology.
A handsome TV for value and wide media support.
Hisense keeps its model numbers from year to year, updating the central letter. As I was examining the various specifications for Hisense’s new premium model 55N7 TV, I couldn’t help but notice that the size and weight dimensions were identical in every way to the 55M7 I reviewed last year, except for the depth of the stand, which was just a touch deeper this year. So what exactly, I wonder, has changed?
Given that last year’s model was a handsome TV, this year’s 55N7 remains a handsome TV! The bezel of the TV is brushed aluminium, to which I am particularly partial, and which I think is far too rarely used. The distance between the picture and the TV edge on the sides and the top is only 13mm, with a few millimetres more at the bottom. The legs are fitted fairly wide on the TV so a bench with a width of over a metre is required.
The top third or so of the panel, along with the edges, is only 13mm thick. The rest adds another 47mm to accommodate electronics and what not. Hisense’s use of ‘ULED’ as branding for its TVs is not a screen technology as such, rather a marketing term covering the delivery of wide colour, local dimming and other technologies. The panel here offers Ultra HD resolution of course, and it’s natively a 10-bit panel, and therefore supports HDR10 and wider colour gamuts.
Two of the four HDMI inputs support UHD, along with the necessary HDCP protection required for Ultra HD Blu-ray players. There are three USB sockets, and you can use one to add a hard-disk drive for time shifting or recording of live TV.
The remote is a standard IR model. It has shortcut keys for Netflix and YouTube. There’s a welcome key on the remote to jump directly to live TV (something I wish all TVs included).
I watched quite the variety of material on this TV, including a couple of Ultra HD Blu-ray titles. The new Scarlett Johansson Ghost in the Shell (see Blu-rays) was wonderfully sharp, yet smooth, with good handling of a largely dark view of the world in which this human brain in a human-like robot body must fight crime. There was some very slight mottling around the corners of the darkest scenes, but for the most part the TV resolutely refused to draw any attention to itself, and just delivered the picture with good brightness and good blackness and attractive, natural colours.
Later I used test patterns to try to determine how the local dimming of the panel works, and it seems clear to me that there’s a grid of backlights, rather than artful edge lighting. That should provide for more accurate highlighting and darkening. A very little more breaking through of light in the corners was the only thing that limited picture performance, and that not by much. I’ve seen worse on much more expensive TVs.
I checked deinterlacing performance with 1080i/50 and 576i/50 content. The TV implements cadence detection to determine whether to use film or video deinterlacing, and motion-adaptive deinterlacing in the case of the latter. It was pretty competent on both formats, largely handling them properly, although it
was tripped up on the harder stuff. Perhaps the only stand-out fail was the end titles of Miss
Potter in 1080i/50, the horizontal strokes of characters flickering as they moved up thanks to inappropriate video mode deinterlacing.
The TV fired up with — of course — sharpness set way too high at 25 on a scale of 50. Zero is the appropriate setting. It also had the ‘Ultra Smooth Motion’ frame interpolation system set to ‘Smooth’. It was indeed smooth, but generated noticeable heat-haze artifacts. As far as I could tell, the ‘Standard’ and ‘Clear’ settings were identical. However there was a ‘Custom’ setting, and I found that setting ‘Judder’ to 3 reduced the judder (apparently generating one frame between each real one) without creating any obvious picture distortion.
There’s a slightly disconcerting pause of almost two seconds when you hit the ‘Input’ key. That brings up all panels showing all the inputs (classy looking graphics, incidentally) including ‘TV’ and ‘Anyview Cast’. As you’d suspect from the latter name, that’s for wirelessly sending content from some device or other. As it happens, my Microsoft Surface Pro 4 could see the TV’s name (‘Smart TV’!) as an available connection, but the connection always failed to be completed, regardless of whether either device was connected to the network wirelessly or via Ethernet. My Samsung Galaxy S7 phone couldn’t see the TV if it was connected via Ethernet, but could if it was connected via Wi-Fi. And in that case it happily cast its screen to the TV. So did my Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet.
As ever, these network connectivity things may be due to the TV or to my network. What I can say is that at least some casting works quite well. Different routers and different networks may work more reliably.
What did work reliably was DLNA using a tablet as the controller. You can also use its own interface to play network content. You can also play content directly from Dropbox. Playing from my network storage, the results were an interestingly mixed bag.
I was somewhat surprised to find that it played FLAC files... all the way to 192kHz, 24 bits. It also played MP3 of course and (once I’d disabled the MIME type compatibility check in the BubbleUPnP controller) iTunes-style AAC and, even, AC3 files! (AC3 is Dolby Digital. Years ago I snaffled some from the internet, but it never really caught on. So this is just a fun quirk.) Of course, it didn’t play DSD, but what TV does?
With photos it scaled directly down to UHD output and delivered the image with full 4:4:4 colour resolution, providing the greatest possible detail.
It handled a good range of videos too, including various Ultra HD ones. The Wi-Fi connection was fast enough to allow a 100Mbps UHD video to stream without interruption or quality loss. It would not play my Dolby Vision-encoded UHD clips, but it would play H.264 and H.265 clips. There’s many a TV that won’t play the latter.
There were differences in how things were handled depending on whether the built-in player interface or the DLNA controller on the tablet were used. The aspect ratio came out wrong with 576i video with the built-in interface, but right using the controller. And an MKV movie was the wrong aspect ratio with the controller, but right with the built-in interface. Go figure.
Using the controller, there was no way to display information about the content or change the picture settings. With the built-in interface you could use the Info key, and change some of the picture settings (but not aspect ratio, which was greyed out).
The Home key pops up a horizontal array of tiles which provide access to live TV, the inputs, the media playing I’ve just been talking about, and apps. It can be lightly edited by adding specific inputs or re-ordering the tiles. There’s a key on the remote specifically for apps as well. The apps include Netflix, Stan, YouTube, SBS On Demand, TED talks, 4K Now, a portal to 4K streaming video (most of it on YouTube). Among the video streaming services was a new one on me: icflix. This is service concentrating on providing Arabic and Bollywood movies and TV shows. You need to sign up to use it, and I’m signed up to way too many things, so I didn’t.
Oddly, ABC iView isn’t among the apps, but it doesn’t matter. The TV supports Freeview Plus, and catch-up for all the terrestrial channels is available through that.
The TV didn’t appear to support my USB keyboard (I’d tried to use it to type in passwords), but you probably wouldn’t get much benefit from one anyway, since there’s no browser in the TV, nor one available in the Opera Store from which more apps may be obtained, even though Opera started as the developer of the Opera web browser.
Finally, sound quality. Happily, the TV supports the Audio Return Channel on HDMI. Or you can use the optical or analogue audio outputs. For anything other than very casual use, I’d suggest you make use of one of those, as the 2 × 10W sound system is really suitable only for casual news viewing and the like.
The Hisense 55N7 ULED 4K TV represents significant value for a ‘name’ Chinese brand, delivering Ultra HD performance in a stylish package.