HISENSE 55N7 UHD tele­vi­sion

Hisense’s Se­ries 7 55-incher de­liv­ers UHD sharp­ness and 10-bit HDR from LED-back­lit LCD tech­nol­ogy.

Sound + Image - - Contents - Stephen Dawson

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?

Equip­ment

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).

Per­for­mance

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.

Con­clu­sion

The Hisense 55N7 ULED 4K TV rep­re­sents sig­nif­i­cant value for a ‘name’ Chi­nese brand, de­liv­er­ing Ul­tra HD per­for­mance in a stylish pack­age.

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