£600 doesn't really buy you a huge amount these days. A mid-range laptop or maybe a reasonably high-end smartphone. Or, alternatively, you could buy a 50" 4K HDR TV perhaps.
The Chinese brand Hisense is aiming very competitively at the UK TV market, and it’s pinning its hopes on a promising strategy: undercutting the competition with a family of feature-packed yet affordable TVs. The first of these to pass through Tech News Europe’ doors is the the Hisense H50N6800, a 50" 4K HDR television which is under £600.
Design and connections
The H50N6800’s specification list is not exactly comprehensive but what would you expect at this price, but the fact that it uses a basic edge-lit LED panel actually proves to be a benefit in design terms: as it’s so much more compact than a high-end full-array local dimming (FALD) backlight, Hisense has been able to create a super slim design.
The slender bezel has a brushed gunmetal grey finish, and the dainty chamfering along the side trim does its bit to add a touch of class, making look like a much more expensive model. The panel is supported on a pair of feet near both ends of the screen, but it does have one downside it does end up taking more space on your TV table.
The connections are found on the left side of the display, and these include four HDMI inputs. It has its limitations with only the first two ports support HDMI 2.0, so you’ll need to make sure that your HDR and 60Hz 4K sources are connected to the right sockets. To take full advantage of the 4K HDR content: you'll need to go into the user menu and switch the format mode from Standard to Enhanced before your 4K Blu-ray player will recognise the H50N6800 as 4K HDR-capable device.
Picture performance and gaming capabilities
Unsurprisingly, building a 4K HDR TV for only £600 means sacrifices needed to be made. One of these is the fact that Hisense has had to use a VA-type LCD panel. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself as the technology is capable of producing fantastically strong, inky blacks, and colour accuracy isn’t bad at all. The problem is that the viewing angles are narrower than more expensive models, so images lose their contrast and colours become less intense when you’re not viewing the screen in the optimum position.
The next compromise is noticeable in the N6800’s motion handling. As the LCD panel is limited to a refresh rate of 60Hz (meaning it is limited to show 60 frames per second only), it’s simply not capable of providing the super smooth motion or silky panning shots in 24fps films that can be achieved by 120Hz panels.
Designing a TV to such a tight budget has meant that it simply isn’t possible to include high-end features such as a full-array local dimming backlight – instead, the Hisense H50N6800 employs one stripe of LEDs along the bottom edge of the panel to illuminate the entire screen. Although there is a local dimming setting in the user menu, which is intended to improve the contrast and black level by dynamically adjusting the backlight, engaging it introduced noticeable brightness fluctuations and didn’t actually improve black level at all.
If you want a stunning HDR presentation for less than £600, then you are out of luck. The Hisense N6800's peak luminance in HDR mode is only 405cd/m2, which is yet another limitation of the LCD panel used. However, the TV handles Ultra HD Blu-rays that are mastered to 1000cd/m2 (i.e the intended maximum brightness of the brightest images in the movie) quite well, as its tone-mapping does a very good job of creating a vibrant image that retains most of the brightest detail. But the same can’t be said for HDR material which is mastered to 4,000cd/m2, as the Hisense’s tone-mapping simply isn’t capable of retaining those intensely bright highlights without making the rest of the image look far too dark. That means that you may have to disable HDR mode to get the best image quality, depending on what you are watching.
On a positive note, the Hisense H50N6800 is a highly capable choice for gamers seeking big-screen 4K thrills wihtout a huge outlay. Start using your PS4 or Xbox, and input lag measures only 31ms in both 1080p SDR (standard dynamic range) and 4K HDR modes, as long as the particular [Game] picture presets are selected.
The Hisense’s picture quality does doesn't measure up to more expensive models. Brightness is lacking, which prevents HDR content from looking anywhere what it should, and there isn’t the silky smooth motion processing that you’ll get from a pricier TV.
But at this price you really can't expect it to be all singing and all dancing. If you only have £600 to spend, but still want image quality that’s good enough to enjoy 4K TV, movies, and games then the Hisense H50N6800 is the best budget option you can buy.