Hisense adds its exclusive ULED technology to Roku TVs, providing enhanced motion, brightness, contrast, color, and motion processing. The only downside is that the bass feedback is not strong and can mean that you need to invest in a soundbar.
Full array backlight
Excellent image quality
Roku is easy to use
The sound is just fine
Weak bass feedback
ULED is a confusing acronym
Hisense has killed the funding TV game over the past few years. Thanks to the company’s relatively new ULED technology, Hisense’s panels can deliver deep black and vivid colors at a fraction of the price. Now, the company is back with another update to its much-loved R8 series, in the form of the new Hisense R8F.
In theory, the Hisense R8F offers a lot of premium features at a relatively low price: You’ll get Dolby Atmos, Roku TV, a beautiful design that includes a full-range backlight, and more for $499 or $699, depending on whether you want the 55-inch or 65-inch version of the R8F.
However, competition is fierce in the price range below $1,000, especially in a world with names like Vizio and TCL. Can Hisense R8F compete? We have been testing the 65-inch model for several weeks now to find out.
Hisense R8F Price and Release Date
The R8F Series has both 55″ and 65″ screen sizes with impressive introductory MSRP prices of $500 and $700 and is the new version for 2020, for example.
Hisense R8F is beautifully designed, sleek, and will look great in any living room. Sure, it doesn’t have all the design details that a higher-end Samsung or Sony TV will have, but you wouldn’t expect that either – and in the end, the simple design isn’t as important as things like image quality and features.
That said, we feel this needs a bit of qualification: simply Hisense R8F is not as sleek and stylish as it appears in press photographs. That does not mean that it is bad, but the first thing we notice when viewing press photos is how thin the borders are and, unfortunately, they are not as thin as in real life. They are thin, but not thin.
At its thickest point, the TV is three inches in size, good but not groundbreaking by any means. The TV is thicker towards the bottom of the screen and gradually decreases at the top, but you will probably not be surprised at its thinness (or thickness) at any point. It has the same thickness as the previous generation R7E and although it is great to see Hisense thin out a little during this period, it is really not a big deal, especially considering the entire lighting system.
Setting up your TV is relatively easy and Hisense thankfully has included options for both narrow and wide areas, depending on your preferences and interior. They can be mounted near the center of the screen or facing the edges, depending on the size of your TV stand or entertainment center. The vacuums themselves are modest and have a black color, so they will get along well with their environment and do not look like the rest of the TV design.
On the back of the TV is where you will get all your connections and there are many options that are definitely offered. You will get four HDMI ports with the first that support ARC, along with an Ethernet port, USB port, optical output, and 3.5 mm audio output.
If you’ve ever used a Roku TV before, you’ll immediately recognize the remote – it’s the standard Roku remote that comes with almost any other Roku TV. You’ll get buttons to control Roku software, including home and back buttons, along with quick access controls for services like Netflix, ESPN, Hulu, and the Roku channel, which we’ll cover in more detail in a minute.
TL design; DR: Hisense R8F won’t break any records and it’s not as thin as the more expensive TVs, but for less than $700, this is a nice TV.
Smart TV (Roku TV)
Hisense R8F, like the previous R7E, comes pre-installed Roku and that’s good news for those who don’t own smart boxes or streaming radios. Roku may not be the most attractive smart TV platform out there, but it is easy to use, works well, and will offer quite a lot of things that most users will want.
As you’d expect in 2020, Roku is compatible with the majority of existing streaming platforms, including YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, and Apple TV Plus. There is also the Roku Channel, Roku’s ad-supported free streaming service built-in and offers content to watch instantly.
Regarding the smart assistant, it is only built-in with the extremely basic Roku assistant, but it can interact with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa if you wish.
Perhaps the main disadvantage of Roku is that it lacks some of the smarter features offered by some other smart platforms, such as voice control, artificial intelligence, etc. You can search by voice through the Roku app, but not everyone wants to use this app in the first place.
Smart TV TL; DR: Roku is easy to use and works well, but lacks some of the smarter features that other smart TV platforms offer.
Hisense R8F offers good HD video quality, including upgrade capabilities and generally good color depth, even in SDR. That said, it is worth trying with the image settings offered here since some are definitely better than others.
When viewing SDR content, you’ll get a total of five modes, including Movies, Normal, Sports, Vivid, and Low Power. Most of these image modes can use some adjustments – for example, The Movie mode leads to a slightly yellowish over the top.
For those who haven’t started yet, we recommend switching to Normal mode and sticking to it – although if you feel adventurous, then adjusting other settings may be worth it. There are many settings that you can fine-tune if desired.
The black level in the SDR is also quite good, especially for a TV in this price range. The TV offers 60 local dimming areas (or 55 for the 55-inch model), much more than most other TVs in this price range, including the Vizio M-Series Quantum, which comes with 12 regions. The result is that black looks natural and although they are not as deep or sharp as what you will get on the OLED panel, Hisense still seems to lead the group with deep black in this price range.
As already mentioned, the upgrade on the TV is quite good, and although there are still some small points on the upgraded content, you will forget it there if you are not looking.
HD/SDR TL performance; DR: Hisense R8F offers good upgrade capabilities and relatively bright colors, even without HDR.
Hisense R7 offers vivid colors and deep black in 4K and HDR, and this is also true of R8F. In fact, Hisense has gone a step further for this TV with the welcome addition of Dolby Vision – so if you can take advantage of the growing Dolby Vision content catalog. In addition to Dolby Vision, TVs also support HDR10, so you should watch the majority of existing HDR content.
When viewing 4K content, you get great clarity with a good amount of detail. Streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu are increasingly offering 4K content, and when you watch it, you’ll enjoy the level of detail offered here – especially when watching it live. Some dynamic ranges are lost from different perspectives, but TVs still work better than the majority of competitors in this price range.
In both HDR and Dolby Vision, you will get three image modes – Dark, Normal and Bright. In particular, dark seems to provide another yellow shade – and we recommend keeping the setting to Normal or changing the color temperature if you prefer Dark or Light mode.
In the fresh air, motion smoothing is turned off by default on the Hisense R8F – and we recommend keeping it the same for most views.
Gaming in HDR also gives good results. Playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins on the PlayStation 4 results in vivid colors with a variety of contrasts.
4K/HDR TL performance; DR: Sharp details, deep blacks, and bright colors in 4K and HDR. The fact that the TV supports Dolby Vision puts it ahead of most rivals in this price range.
According to Hisense, the R8F supports Dolby Atmos and the sound quality, in general, seems better than some others. In general, the sound quality on the Hisense R8F is good, but it will not disappoint you.
That said, you might want to invest in a soundbar or a higher-end sound system if your budget allows it. Areas where the built-in speaker is severely lacking, such as bass reactions and detail in high-end sound, lead to things like explosions and car engines that do not have as much depth as desired.
Thankfully, the speakers can be quite large to compensate for some. We do not think that users will need to use speakers at a volume greater than 50% and even a little large. Most of the time we sit around the 20% range.
TL audio; DR: Speakers are not great, so it’s a good idea to upgrade to a better speaker if you can, but if you can’t, you’ll still get a generally good audio experience.
Unsurprisingly, the Hisense R8F is a great choice and a heavyweight contender for the best TV in the price range below $700. In fact, we think that TVs can go head-to-head with much more expensive TV options on the market. Sure, it’s not perfect – sound quality isn’t the best, and although blacks are offered deep, they’re not quite as deep as what you’ll find on the OLED panel – but in this price range this easily one of the best options.
Of course, the cheap TV market is not without its competition. Vizio M-Series Quantum was probably the main competitor here and there was no clear winner between that time. Both offer excellent image quality in their price range, however, while the Hisense R8F offers an easy-to-use Roku operating system, the Vizio M-Series Quantum offers a slightly smarter, yet slightly more complex SmartCast.
If you want an easy-to-use and relatively well-designed premium TV, here’s how to go – but if you want some smarter features, like AirPlay and HomeKit support, the Vizio M-Series Quantum is absolutely the way to go.