What Hi-Fi (UK)

Hisense Roku R50A7200GT­UK

It looks almost identical to its five-star predecesso­r, but this version of the UK’S only Roku TV is a little different


The Hisense Roku R50A7200GT­UK is likely to be the cheapest 50in TV we’ll see this year from a major manufactur­er. It promises a good-sized, punchy 4K HDR image and all the major apps and services you could need, without so much as an additional box or stick in sight.

It’s a pledge that Hisense delivered so well in 2020 that the company has decided to try pretty much the same recipe for its 2021 Roku TV. While there are many Roku TVS available in the US, this Hisense model is alone in the UK. The TV is also available in 43in, 55in and 65in sizes, though our review sample here is the 50in version.

The R50A7200GT­UK is simple and unassuming in style and appearance and the chassis is almost the same as the previous model. It’s a little more even on the rear, though the overall thickness remains identical. The feet are matt plastic instead of gloss, but that’s about it.

The one key improvemen­t is on the front, where the bezel has been reduced from a fairly basic looking 1cm band to something closer to 4mm, giving a more contempora­ry aesthetic. There’s no change to the remote control, which has direct shortcuts buttons to Freeview Play, Netflix, Google Play Movies & TV, Spotify and Rakuten, plus some clear navigation and media controls. Around the rear are three HDMI 2.0-rated ports which can manage frame rates of up to 60Hz at 4K level. There’s also a USB 2.0 socket, a wired headphones connection and ARC support for connecting a soundbar.

The Roku TV smart platform is pretty close to flawless. It covers all the major streaming services as well as thousands of seriously niche ones. You want a channel dedicated to crossbow hunting? It’s there. Fancy knowing more about the cigar industry? You’ll find that here too, along with plenty of other topics. The only gaps in its offering are missing apps for Britbox, Apple Music, Amazon Music and VLC, although it does have its own Roku media app and is Airplay-enabled, so you can stream most missing content from Apple devices. 4K HDR content is also available on all the big players.

Since last year’s model was launched, UHD support for Google Play has arrived, as has the BT Sport app. It’s also worth downloadin­g the Roku Channel, with free access to more than 10,000 films, TV shows and documentar­ies.

Simple and clear menus

But it’s not just the apps that make Roku great, it’s the ease of use. The menu system is simple and clear, and the universal search is excellent. Type in the name of a TV show, film, actor or director and it brings up all the informatio­n you need. Results pages show all the streaming services where each title is available, with the resolution and price details. That now includes the catch-up services, which is an upgrade on the platform compared to last year’s Roku TV.

To set up voice searching, you’ll need to download the handy Roku TV app which also allows you to add channels, cast content from your mobile or tablet to your TV, or just use it to control playback. We love the Private Listening mode on the app interface. Press that and the TV’S sound is routed through your device. Attach a pair of headphones and you have a personal AV experience – perfect for late-night viewing.

For live TV, the Freeview tuner is at the helm, along with the Freeview Play homepage of curated catch-up content. At the heart of the experience is the exact same quad-core processor to do the leg work. It offers more than enough to drive the system with barely a hint of lag or frozen responses at any point. Once again, Roku TV is a pleasure to use from top to bottom, from app to screen. The Hisense Roku R50A7200GT­UK is still a direct-lit LED TV and it shows. Compared with others at this end of the market, the light levels are fairly even across the panel and, even if there’s a bit of bleed, the blacks are strong with no blotchines­s. Unlike more expensive direct-lit LED sets, there appears not to have been enough left in the budget for any local dimming zones, probably the most telling absence on the spec sheet.

Watching the opening sequences of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 on 4K Blu-ray, the Missouri cloudscape is more heavy-handed than we’re used to. The dramatic overtones are still there, with plenty of contrast to handle that, but the lack of close control to individual areas of the backlighti­ng means that it’s missing the subtlety of a more expensive TV set.

However, Hisense knows where this TV’S strengths lie. It’s not trying to offer finesse, it’s aiming to land a punch. It’s bright and colourful, and even sharper and richer than its predecesso­r.

We leave the confines of Earth and head to the Sovereign planet for the Guardians’ battle with the Abilisk, and this Hisense Roku TV comes into its own. The kaleidosco­pe of gases spewed by the multi-dimensiona­l, tentacled monster look terrific, and the characters flying around it are bold and well-defined in all their HDR glory. There’s no adjustment for motion processing onboard, but while there’s some judder, it’s not hard to cope with. There’s no blurring and smearing of the action to distract either.

Brilliant upscaling ability

Switching down to standard-definition material with Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Blu-ray, we are reminded of last year’s Roku TV and its brilliance with upscaling from 1080p. Fortunatel­y, that ability remains intact. The opening scene in the hut is as revealing in terms of shadow detail as we could hope.

Both the early scenes of Rey’s desert home on Jakku and the lush green forests of Maz’s home planet of Takodana are produced with enthrallin­g colours and so much natural detail that it’s hard to find fault with the picture. Even watching the BBC News in SD, the picture is pretty sharp and stable for a panel this size, even if the colours are more simplistic.

Our only criticism of the image is that, at higher resolution­s, the punchy approach can go too far. It doesn’t have the same chromatic complexity as more expensive TVS and the result is that, every now and then, the colour of a piece of clothing or skin tone misses the mark. However, there are relatively few of these mishaps and what this TV does with its limited technical resources is impressive.

According to the spec sheet, there’s no difference between the Hisense Roku R50A7200GT­UK and its predecesso­r, but their sonic presentati­ons are like chalk and cheese. One favours clarity, the other authority but, ultimately, there’s only so much life that can be squeezed from this modest two 8W speaker system.

There are only a few settings to play with, such as the DTS processing mode and a dialogue enhancer. There’s also a Truvolume mode for night-time listening which will limit the peaks and troughs of loudness at any one volume level, so that you can hear the onscreen action without waking your neighbours.

Watching the battle sequence outside Maz’s tavern in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, gives an excellent sense of what this speaker system can manage. Given its limited resources, this TV copes pretty well. The sound effects of the laser blasts and the TIE fighters screaming past are crisp and detailed. The battle cries and dialogue of the Rebels and troopers are clear and placed effectivel­y in the soundscape. When the X-wings come to the rescue and chase off the Empire, the rousing score still manages to excite.

But there’s not enough under the hood here to cover the whole frequency range with quality sound. Hisense has opted to prioritise the midrange and upper-mid sounds, which is good for voices but means that there’s not a huge amount of impact to gunshots and explosions. Equally, the sound can feel a little strained and congested in the treble.

That said, to expect much more from a TV at this price is unrealisti­c. It never fails to deliver the meaning of the source material, no matter the content. You might wish for more fun while watching big action movies, but it’s a TV with small speakers and enough processing so you can understand what everyone is saying. Not even all soundbars can manage that.

We suspect that Hisense and Roku have made the best 50in TV you’ll find for less than £350 this year. Neither the picture nor the sound is perfect but, combined with a brilliant feature set and an unbeatable content offering, you get a lot more than the price would suggest.

 ??  ?? The chassis looks almost identical to the 2020 model
The chassis looks almost identical to the 2020 model
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 ??  ?? With its limited resources, what this TV does is very impressive
With its limited resources, what this TV does is very impressive
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