On paper, the Hisense H9F delivers practically everything a TV buyer could desire: a sub-$1000 price tag, up-to-date HDR support in the form of Dolby Vision, and advanced features such as full-array backlighting.
It also packs a strong smart TV system via Google’s Android TV, and voice control via both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
We don’t review based on spec lists, though, and that’s for the better because rigorous testing proves that the Hisense isn’t quite the dream TV it at first appears. Instead it’s simply a solid option at a good price.
Our 65-inch review unit is the largest screen size available in the H9F family, with a 55-inch version also available for $600 at the time of writing.
Both are kitted out in a very basic black, with a so-called “bezel-less” display. The name’s a bit cheeky as there is a very thin border around the screen, but it’s admittedly barely noticeable when you’re watching it. It certainly does feel as though you’re getting more screen and less bulk when compared to the average TV at this sort of price.
There’s a centrally mounted, chrome-coloured stand, which spreads out into two triangular feet on either side, giving the TV a stable base for placement on a piece of furniture, and wall-mounters will be pleased to discover that the set weighs a fairly light 45 pounds. The slightly chunky back panel means it will protrude a little from your wall but the choice is there if you need it.
The Hisense 4K H9F TV is a step up from the company’s H8F series, offering quantum-dot technology, full-array local dimming and Android TV smarts.
It offers a decent array of connections to satisfy most home-theater setups, including four HDMI 2.0a ports for 4K, two USBs, a coaxial input for your antenna and a digital audio output for older sound systems. There’s also a set of traditional composite RCA audio and video jacks should you need them, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
For networking, there’s an ethernet port for hardwiring, but the H9F also has built-in 802.11 a/b/g/b/ac wi-fi and Bluetooth. That comes in handy for accessing the Android TV smart system, which has a broad selection of apps, from Acorn to Vudu.
The menus are vertically orientated, and are simple to scroll through. We find Roku’s interface better and slightly easier to use, but you won’t struggle to navigate your way through Android TV.
The Hisense H9F’s remote control helps, too, thanks to its logical layout. Where buttons aren’t labelled – the menu button, for instance – the icons are relatively common sense, and there are also dedicated buttons for Netflix, YouTube, Google Play and Vudu.
The remote connects to the TV using Bluetooth rather than infrared, so it’s more reliable and doesn’t require line of sight, but we do wish Hisense had also given it a backlight for easier use in the dark.
Google Assistant voice control works on the H9F. While it can be useful when searching for particular videos, we find it downright frustrating when you’re trying to get it to perform TV-oriented tasks.
As we’ve already mentioned, the Hisense H9F checks many of the feature boxes that shoppers will be looking for in a 4K TV. That includes quantum-dot technology to improve color reproduction, a full-array backlight with 132 local dimming zones for better contrast and HDR performance, and support for the two most common HDR formats – HDR10 and the more advanced Dolby Vision.
The HDR modes kick in automatically when the TV recognises supported content (you cannot manually switch this on or off), but the H9F will also automatically gauge individual scenes to adjust brightness and contrast – a feature you can switch off if you wish.
To get the best from the picture, you’ll want to play around with the preset picture modes as a minimum. We find the Theater Day setting to be the most accurate, so we’d recommend starting there and adjusting to suit. It’s worth noting that you are able to set different presets to different inputs, too, so if you find other settings work better for different content, you can have it switch automatically as you switch inputs.
Watching Blade Runner 2049 in 4K, the Hisense H9F shows how well its backlight can handle dark, murky scenes. Shadow detail is faithfully rendered and blacks are suitably deep. At the other end of the scale, highlights are reproduced with top-notch brightness. In fact, peak brightness hits around 1125 nits, which is a good result at any price range.
Colors are also nice and natural. Everything is realistically shaded, and the TV reproduces subtle hues as well as it does more vibrant colors.
There are, however, some subtle artifacts of video processing in the Hisense H9F’s picture. In images in which there’s lots of subtle shading, such as a picture dominated by a sunset or a large body of water, there is some banding as one shade moves on to the next, which can be a little distracting.
Despite this, it actually does a good job of upscaling lower-resolution content to suit the 4K panel, even when it comes to fast action scenes. Watching Skyfall in HD, the H9F handles the rooftop chase scene with aplomb, with smooth motion and no dropouts or distorted picture elements.
Competitive gamers will want to take note of the Hisense’s display-response times. Our tested lag time for the set came in at 19.7 milliseconds. That’s not the highest we’ve seen (Vizio’s M-Series competitor had a lag time of nearly 30 milliseconds in our tests) and there’s a strong argument that anything under 40ms is more or less imperceptible, but the most hardcore players might still want to play it safe and buy a TV that’s faster still.
To get the best from the H9F’s dual 15-watt speakers, you’ll want to pick carefully from the seven predefined settings. These include profiles for music, speech and movies – and there’s even a wall-mounted mode.
From our testing, we’d suggest steering clear of Standard mode, which makes the audio feel cramped and narrows the soundstage. Theater mode, on the other hand, widens it but adds some brightness to the treble. This is still the most balanced mode for most content, though.
There is a five-band equalizer for tweaking the balance further, but no matter what is adjusted the sound is broadly lacking when it comes to dynamic range and lower bass response. That’s not unusual for slim TVs such as this, but it does make adding a soundbar a priority.
There’s no doubt that the Hisense H9F is a solid Android TV that represents good value for money, with a decent picture, strong upscaling and a good feature set.
However, it is surrounded by competitors that are constantly cutting prices, and sets such as the Vizio M658-G1 or TCL 6 Series are currently simply better value.
Hisense is bound to follow suit and lower the price of the H9F in time and, when it does, this will be a TV well worth picking up.