Hisense 43” H43M3000 4K UHD SmartTV Review Part 1: Design, Interface & Features
I’ve taken a keen interest in the progression that both Microsoft and PlayStation have made to promote and champion the need for a 4K display. It certainly got my interest up when both companies announced updates to their console range to accommodate 4K gaming of sorts. However ignoring the Xbox One S for a moment, for me Microsoft’s Project Scorpio (which launches next year) has more of an appeal over the PS4 Pro at this stage, even though the latter is launching next month.
Partially this is to do with the Scorpio's extra grunt and partially because I don't want to buy two separate players for UHD movie playback; the PS4 Pro does not include a UHD Blu-ray player.
Mind you it’s not easy to get across the benefits of 4K, as Sony experienced themselves recently in their PlayStation Meeting.
They showed a lot of 4K and HDR content on-stage but the latter was utterly pointless unless you were there in person or had a 4K enabled screen to at least give you some visual clues as to what was on offer.
In fairness Microsoft will also have the same problem with the Scorpio and price is going to play a big role, but they kind of softened the blow by updating the existing Xbox One with the S model, as the console starts at £250 (500GB) model and yet has 4K up-scaling, HDR support and more importantly a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray player as standard. So it’s like a mini stepping stone to support your 4K TV that won’t cost the earth.
Likewise we need to remember the standard PS4 has somehow managed to get a HDR update as well which is what the PS4 Pro provides and for me HDR is possibly another game changing feature (more on this in Part 2).
My standard TV works fine!
However I, like many other people, already had an existing Full-HD TV in the lounge that did the job nicely and while mine was over 5 years old the picture quality was still pretty good.
So yes the allure of greater looking games had its appeal initially, but in the back of my mind I could only justify getting a replacement TV if the prices of 4K TV’s had dropped significantly.
Thankfully this is now becoming a reality, but I’ve seen plenty of sites recommending £600+ models to get into the 4K party and for a technology that is still finding its feat, from a console gaming point of view at least, as PC gaming has for a while now offered power users the 4K option, I don’t think at this stage it’s worth investing a vast amount of money.
Then again, if you are looking to upgrade your TV now it’s stupid not to get a 4K TV. This got me thinking though, what if I could still get a 4K TV (43”) that was around the £300-£350 mark and could also do HDR playback.
Of course you get what you pay for, so the plan could easily back fire i.e. I get a cheap screen and it lasts 2 minutes or some comprises have been made in image quality. It’s certainly a gamble that could cost more down the road. However at least this way I’m still getting an upgrade on the size of the TV I had (previously it was 32”) and I've invested in 4K without feeling as if I’ve upgraded solely because of it, if that makes sense.
Mind you I still wanted a TV that would be ready for Microsoft’s new console(s). Not possible at this price point you may think, but I thought there may be an option that was worth a punt on!
The TV in question was from a company called Hisense. Not a lot of people would have heard of the Hisense brand and unknown brands do get a bad rep. However my last TV was from a relatively unknown company at the time called Hannspree and this set is still going after 5 years of solid use.
Hisense though do sponsor some well-known companies, in terms of suppling their TV’s to Red Bull Racing and they were a recent supplier for the Euro 2016 tournament that has just gone.
They also purchased Sharp electronics a while back, which for me was a company that always produced some excellent quality display panels.
However I found out about Hisense by complete accident, as a company I was doing work a few months back had one in for testing. The model in question was the Hisense 43” M3000 SmartTV and unless you stuck it next to a higher priced model you could not really fault the quality for the money.
As a result after humming and haring I decided to bite the bullet and buy one. Thus the review is based on my own initial leap of faith, as at the time of writing there was very little in the way of reviews for this TV.
What tempted me the most from the research that I did do was that the screen had HDR support. However the niggle was it was only local playback i.e. it could only play HDR files via a USB stick.
Yet, I did read on the AVForums that there were suggestions that a firmware upgrade would arrive to allow HDR playback over the HDMI connection.
More specifically it would make the HDMI ports 2.0a compliant. Something which the Xbox One S supports and hopefully Project Scorpio (touch wood) will to for HDR gaming. So as you can imagine it was still a bit of a risk buying this set, because £300+ was still a fair amount of money so I could potentially tap into the new console’s features and find it did not deliver.
It helped when purchasing that I was able to get a promotional price and a discount from AO.com (by searching for a voucher code). This allowed me to purchase the screen for under £300! £296 to be more precise.
I’m not sure if the promotional offer and 10% deal has now ended but even at its standard £349 price (depending on outlet, as some are selling it at £329) this is still a lot cheaper than £600 models!
Granted the recognised brands are following suit by dropping their own TV’s down in price but I did not have confidence in 4K to warrant spending any more than what I did, so the Hisense felt like less of a risk.
Update: A risk that may have paid off on paper at least, as the firmware upgrade I spoke of above has arrived. So yes, you can get a 4K TV for £300 or so that can delivery 4K/HDR playback.
Though the real test will be when I get the Xbox One S in for review as this will fully determine if the screen has the technical options required to allow HDR to work properly (the Xbox One S supports the HDR10 standard).
Used for testing
4K is very difficult to review in all honesty, as I mentioned above. For me it’s harder because the videos I’ve taken so far are in Full HD, so you will just need to trust in my opinion on what I thought about the screen until I get a 4K video camera for the gaming part of the review.
So this is why the review is in two parts. The first will look at the design, streaming side of things and features in general. The second part will look at the gaming/physical Ultra-HD movie side.
For the most part once I had the Hisense screen I put it through its passes by taking out a 1 month subscription to Netflix’s 4K service and Amazon Prime 4K content.
Additionally I played local HDR demo files from these sources...
Eventually for Part 2 I will use my Xbox One for standard gaming and then the Xbox One S loan console to test two HDR games (Gears of War 4/Forza Horizon 3). Plus I will use the Xbox One S’s Ultra-HD Blu-ray player to watch the film Pan in both 4K (HDR) and Blu-ray.
From a PC point of view I may struggle on this because I simply can’t afford to upgrade to get my computer to output 4K. As an alternative I do have a 4K montage of PC games that I got from the above sources so I will be able to showcase this in Part 2 if all else fails.
For now I’m going to focus on the core product. While I don’t plug companies as such I have to shout-out to AO.com for the quality of their delivery service.
Next day Sunday delivery was free when I purchased the screen and the Hisense TV arrived in the time frame it was expected and the box was mint in terms of no visible damage.
The box itself is pretty big as you would expect for a 43” screen, yet Hisense have ensured that there is no waste in terms of throwing tones of gimmicky packaging material that does not add any substantial protection to the product.
As you open the box you will get a glimpse of the small stands that are used to physically attach to each side of the screen's base.
You will also find a pack which contains the remote control. Despite its light weight persona it features non-slip rubberised buttons that offer a respectable amount of travel. It also has media playback controls as you would expect, including three dedicated buttons at the base for accessing the TV’s built-in Netflix, YouTube and Wuaki.tv streaming Apps. More on these in a moment.
You will also find in the box a quick start guide, your manual and a 2 year warranty card.
There is no HDMI cable in the box so you will need to get hold of a high-bandwidth cable yourself. But unless you have an external source capable of 4K most HDMI cables will suffice for now.
Design wise the first thing you notice about the screen is that it’s really light, especially when I compared it to my older 32” screen. Weighing in at Net 10.1 and 12.8Kg Gross, this device is light enough that - without being sexist - my Wife could handle without breaking sweat!
I also admit that on first impressions the build quality is not bad either and the black bezel surrounding the screen is pretty thin, with the majority of the space reserved for the panel. There is also a slight silver edge at the base with the Hisense logo in the middle and the led to the left is subtle, in that when it turns on you won’t be distracted by it.
I also liked that under the screen, at the front, is a physical on/off switch. This is placed in such a way that with the stands attached it’s easy to get to but does not get in the way of the aesthetics.
However there are signs of the lower price tag in that the corner manual controls for volume/changing channels, are little on the plastic side.
Other than this I’m pretty happy with the aesthetic look, especially with the screen in place in the lounge environment.
I nearly forgot to mention that at the back of the screen you get standard VESA mount holes, so you can mount this to a wall if needs be.
Additionally underneath is where you attach the supplied stands. As mentioned earlier there are two small stands that need to be physically screwed into place. I found that it’s best to cover a table and place the screen flat against the table top and attach the stands this way.
The process was not that difficult, the only snag is that the stands are near the left and right edge of the display so you will need a large surface area to accommodate the TV. There is no adjustment to tilt or swivel with this stand system but what I do like is that there is sufficient clearance to be able to utilise more of my TV cabinet, so I can place my Apple TV box for example underneath quite comfortably.
Before I forget at the back of the screen you will also find the grills for the two 7w stereo speakers. While this does not sound that impressive the speakers are backed up with some nifty features such as a Graphic Equalizer and Dolby MS10/DBX bringing up the rear. More about the speaker quality later.
Next I will give you a rough idea of the specification/connectivity options. At this early stage of the review I have to admit for the price tag this screen offers a fair amount of features for the money. Note: The full specs can be found on the Hisesnse website.
The 43” Hisense H43M3000 basically has a resolution of 3840x2160px, in English this is roughly 4 x the resolution of Full HD 1920 x 1080px. Of course if you do the maths 4 x 1920 does not equal 3840, but without going to techie true 4K (4096 x 2160) is more of a professional production and cinema standard, while the UHD is basically a consumer standard. This article by ExtremeTech does a good job of explaining everything, but don’t think about it too much as it is a minefield http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/174221-no-tv-makers-4k-and-uhd-are-not-the-same-thing
Refresh rate wise, for gamers the Hisense can support 4K resolution @60Hz or 60 FPS. Additionally the screen has UHD upscaling so any source connected to the device is upscaled to 4K.
To help it has a Quad-core processor built-in and HEVC (H.265)/VP9 support, which basically means it is able to stream 4K content comfortably. Infact with the TV you get a range of built-in aps, such as Netflix (4K), Amazon Prim (4K), BBC iPlayer and a 4K YouTube player. There are plenty of other Apps which I will talk about later.
The Hisense screen features HDCP 2.2 support, which is a hardware encryption standard. In a nutshell it’s a technology designed to prevent illegal copying of 4K Ultra HD content.
What this means in English is if your source and output are not capable of supporting the same standard then the content won’t display. With this screen HDCP 2.2 is the 4K standard so all bases are covered.
Secondly thanks to a firmware upgrade it now has HDR support over HDMI but I’m now not so sure if it is fully HDR10 compliant....
10-bit or not 10-bit that is the question?
HDR is still a minefield in my eyes, but from additional research done on the screen some people are saying that the screen does not support 10-bit colour.
This matters in some ways because HDR10 is basically a 10-bit video stream and the Hisense screen may be using FRC (Frame rate control) to trick the source into thinking it has a 10-bit panel when it actually is 8-bit.
Thus, as the Xbox One S uses HDR10 the Hisense will most certainly not support the HDR10 standard natively.
However, like I said before this is all speculation as I will know more when the Xbox One S arrives in for review as this will scan the TV for the 10-bit colour range, so watch this space.
USB is Featured
Continuing the specs, there are 3 x USB ports on the TV. Two USB 2.0’s at the back, with 1 x USB 3.0 to the side.
The USB port can also be used to turn the TV side into a PVR, thus you can record live TV programs to a hard drive (external). Additionally one the USB ports is MHL compatible which means you can charge your smartphone and output/connect to the larger screen if you need to.
The Hisense also has 4 x HDMI ports which run over the HDMI 2.0a standard. Two of the HDMI ports are to the side and these support 4K @30 fps. While the two back HDMI ports support 4K @60 fps.
Interestingly you will also find 1 x Legacy Scart port which is a real surprise to see on a modern screen. On the flip-side it’s great for those with slightly older EQ that they want to plug into the TV.
Alongside the scart you will find 1 x Component, 1 x Composite, 1 x S/PDIF Output, 1 x Audio Out for headphones and 1 x audio-out (L/R) input.
The only thing it does not have is a PC VGA/DVI style port or a PC-In, so you will need to use one of the HDMI 4K 60hz ports to get your PC Gaming fix.
Finally the TV has 2 x RF Tuners (DVB-T2/C/S2/S Freeview HD), one supports the standard digital aerial connection or you can use cable as an alternative. An Ethernet port (not sure on type at this stage) or a 5Ghz Dual-band Wifi connection bring up the rear. So as I said before the connectivity options are certainly no slouch!
I spoke of the stand setup earlier, but the TV itself only has a basic setup wizard for first time configuration i.e. you need to setup the relevant language, TV channels and so forth.
You will then spend a bit of time like I did getting used to the menu structure which does have a few nice touches.
For one the menu has a quick panel that displays alongside the on-screen content that changes depending on the last option you picked. So for example if I wanted to adjust the brightness the latter would then be in the History section of the panel so I could quickly access this again later.
In some ways you need this option because there are no shortcuts on the remote from what I could gather for adjusting the picture modes, it’s all done through the TV interface.
You can expand the Menu full-screen to get access to the entire range of options. This is something you will need to do at first, because as I will explain later some setup is required before you can get the most from the screen.
While I won’t go through all the options here as you can view the video below to see this in action, you will find plenty to get your teeth into.
This includes a Noise Reduction option which I found was ideal for SD content, you have Dynamic Adaptive contrast which can adjust the contrast on the fly, you also have back-light control, brightness, contrast, colour saturation, tint, sharpness, aspect ratio, colour temperature, overscan, colour RGB tuner, white balance the list goes on!
You also have several Picture modes which are pre-set options such as Standard, Cinema, PC/Game, Dynamic and HDR. You used to get two Cinema profiles, so if you see Cinema Day/Night then you are running the older firmware so you can head to Settings > About to check for the upgrade.
Note: At first I thought it was strange to have a HDR profile option. This only kicks in when a HDR source is sent to the TV, but it could explain why you can adjust the HDR profile with additional brightness and contrast settings because it is using the fudge I spoke of earlier i.e. using FRC to get more colour depth from the 8-bit panel.
What’s cool though, is that each of these adjustable options can be tweaked but you can tell the TV to apply any changes to the current source. Thus if I used my standard Xbox One say for arguments sake and I used the PC/Game profile it would remember the settings for that particular source. So I could have different sources with different settings. Alternatively I could set the mode so it would apply any changes to all sources using that profile. It’s a pretty good feature.
There are also a fair few sound setting adjustments that you can make, including enabling some Dolby virtual surround sound options or my personal favourite which is a Night mode which will dynamically adjusts the output to make it easier to hear content at night at lower volumes.
Another great feature is the ability to rename the Inputs, what I mean by this is that when pressing the Input button on the remote you will see by default all the ports in use such as HDMI 3 (UHD) for example. However what I can do is head to the settings option and rename this to say Gaming Console. Thus when I press the input now it will show this, rather than HDMI. The only downside is you can’t rename the input to whatever you want, as you need to pick this from a predefined list. Either way it’s still a nice touch.
It’s when you look at the Input menu you will also notice an option called AnyviewCast. If you have a Miracast device and both the TV and source are connected using the WiFi you can stream content from your smartphone/tablet to the screen.
On the left of the Input window you can also gain access to additional features, as the TV has a range of built-in Apps and media playback features (continued on page 2).