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Hisense U8K Series TV review: Mini-LED magic at a strikingly low price

 Hisense U8K with onscreen image of colorful trees
Hisense U8K with onscreen image of colorful trees

Hisense U8K Series TV: Three-minute review

I was very impressed with the Hisense U8H series TV when I reviewed it in 2022, mostly due to its very good overall picture quality and low price. The U8H was undoubtedly great value for a mini-LED TV, many of which are priced at the level where you might be inclined to consider one of the best OLED TVs instead.

While the U8H was Hisense’s only mini-LED offering at the time, the company has doubled-down on the tech for its 2023 lineup. The U8K models lead off three distinct mini–LED series, with the differences between them mainly being peak brightness capability and the number of full array local dimming zones. Audio performance is another differentiating factor, with the U8K series sporting a built-in 2.1.2 Dolby Atmos speaker system.

While the new U8K doesn’t surpass its predecessor on the peak brightness front, its local dimming performance is very good, with only a few instances of backlight 'blooming' effects to distract when watching movies in a dark room. Brightness here is sufficient for the U8K to look good when viewing in daylight conditions, and the TV’s anti-glare screen helps to reduce any onscreen reflections from overhead lamps.

Hisense uses the Google TV interface for the U8K series, and it handily does the work of organizing your streaming apps and providing voice control for content searches and other functions, either using the TV’s built-in mic or the one in the set’s remote control. And while the Google TV interface is layered with personalized movie, TV series and YouTube video recommendations, there are also options to create a more streamlined look. Google TV additionally provides a Live menu that shows current free streaming channels, along with digital TV broadcasts ones pulled in by the set’s ATSC 3.0 tuner.

As for design, the Hisense U8K isn’t as slim and elegant as some of the more expensive examples of the best 4K TVs, but it has a slim bezel and a sturdy set of support feet. These can also be set to a narrow or a wider placement to clear space for a soundbar.

Gaming is one of the U8K’s strong points. The TV has a pair of HDMI 2.1 ports, and they support up to a 4K 144Hz input, along with VRR, ALLM, and FreeSync Premium Pro. Unlike some other top TVs, there’s no onscreen hub that compiles cloud gaming services, but the TV will automatically switch to a low input lag Game mode when an input from an Xbox or PS5 console is detected.

Another U8K strong point is value. It’s considerably less expensive than its mini-LED competition, while offering many of the same features and much of the same performance. I think most people will be very happy with what they’re getting here, whether the TV is used for movies, sports or gaming.

Hisense U8K Series TV review: Price and release date

  • Release date: June 5, 2023 

  • 55U8K: $1,099

  • 65U8K: $1,399

  • 75U8K: $1,949

  • 85U8K: $2,999

The Hisense U8K series is the company’s top mini-LED TV line for 2023 (a limited edition ULED X model is also available, but only in an 85-inch screen size). There are two additional lines that use mini-LED backlighting, the U7K and U6K, with the difference between them being specified brightness and number of full array local dimming zones.

Pricing for the U8K series is highly competitive and appears set to not only put Hisense’s bigger-brand mini-LED competition – most notably Samsung and Sony – on notice, but fellow budget-oriented brand TCL as well. Prices for U8K series TVs have also dropped by quite a bit since they first shipped in June, with the 65-inch model I tested now selling for 25% less than its initial cost.

At the time of this review, the 85-inch U8K was not available, though Hisense says it should ship in late August or September 2023.

Hisense U8K Series TV review: Specs

Hisense U8K back panel inputs
Hisense U8K back panel inputs

Hisense U8K Series TV review: Features

  • Mini-LED backlight with local dimming

  • Dolby Vision IQ and HDR10+ high dynamic range 

  • 4K 120Hz support with up to 144 Hz VRR for gaming

The U8K series TVs use a mini-LED backlight with full array local dimming. Hisense lists the local dimming zone count at “over 1,000” and peak brightness at 1,500 nits. High dynamic range support includes the Dolby Vision (IQ), HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG formats, and there are Filmmaker and IMAX Enhanced picture modes along with an anti-glare screen to reduce screen reflections in bright rooms.

Hisense uses Google TV as a smart TV interface for the U8K series. A built-in mic gives you a hands-free voice command option (the microphone can also be switched off) and there’s also a button-activated mic on the set’s remote control. Beyond Google Assistant, the U8K has an Alexa voice control option, and it supports Apple HomeKit and AirPlay 2 for streaming from an iPhone or iPad. Chromecast built-in provides yet another streaming option.

Two of the TV’s HDMI ports support up to 4K 144Hz input from a next-gen gaming console. There’s support for VRR, ALLM and FreeSync Premium Pro, and an onscreen Game Bar menu lets you make gaming-related adjustments on the fly while playing. Additionally, the set has a built-in ATSC 3.0 tuner to receive 'NextGen' digital TV broadcasts.

The TV's audio system uses a 2.1.2 Dolby Atmos speaker system with 50 watts total power, with an Acoustic Tuning Adjustment providing automatic sound calibration. One of its HDMI outputs supports eARC for connecting to an external soundbar – something the TV’s width-adjustable support feet are designed to accommodate – and there’s also a WiSA option for wirelessly connecting WiSA-certified speakers to the TV.

  • Features Score: 4.5/5  

Hisense U8K showing image of landsape with lake and mountain
Hisense U8K showing image of landsape with lake and mountain

Hisense U8K Series TV review: Picture quality

  • High peak brightness

  • Deep blacks with detailed shadows

  • Some backlight blooming

I reviewed a 65-inch U8K, which managed to beat Hisense’s brightness spec for the series. Peak brightness measured 1590 nits on a 10% white window pattern with the TV set to HDR Theater mode, which is notably higher than the 905 nits I measured in Fillmmaker mode on last year’s U8H series model. A white pattern covering 100% of the TV’s screen hit 760 nits, which is similarly impressive performance for that test.

With the TV’s Local Contrast (local dimming) set to High, its backlight fully switches off when displaying a full black test pattern, resulting in 'infinite' contrast. Both black and white uniformity is very good, though a degree of backlight blooming could be seen when displaying white movie titles against a black background (or red titles in the case of the film Babylon) or on black letterboxed bars where a bright object is shown at the top or bottom of the image.

In the TV’s Filmmaker picture mode, measured grayscale Delta E values averaged out to 4.1 (we typically look for these to clock in below 3) with a high of 6.3. Measurements made with Portrait’s Calman color calibration software showed coverage of DCI-P3 (the color space used for mastering 4K Blu-rays and digital cinema releases) to be 97%, and BT.2020 to be 80%, both of which are excellent results.

An anti-glare screen coating on the U8K did a great job of reducing reflections from the overhead lights in my room. As with other LCD TVs with a vertical alignment (VA) panel, picture contrast and color saturation took a hit when viewing the TV from far off-center seats.

After breaking the TV in for a few days with casual viewing, I started out my critical viewing with the demonstration section of the Spears and Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark disc. Watching the version graded for 2,000 nits peak HDR brightness, I could see occasional banding artifacts in clouds, though the same issues disappeared when I watched it at 1,000 nits – a far more common peak brightness level for HDR programs. The disc's starfield sections also revealed a degree of backlight blooming, which showed up in the form of an elevated black level over what you would see on an OLED display, a TV tech that doesn’t use a backlight.

With the TV in Filmmaker mode, there was a notable degree of judder and blur in film scenes with camera motion. Watching a scene from the James Bond film No Time to Die, for example, a shot where the camera pans across a cemetery on a craggy hillside showed significant artifacts of both types. Fortunately, the TV’s Clarity menu provides independent Judder and Blur adjustments to minimize such artifacts, and it’s possible to create a setting that doesn’t also introduce a significant “soap opera effect” – something that the other Clarity presets generate.

Whether I was watching news channels with the lights on or streaming movies and shows with them dimmed, everything looked very good on the U8K. The Netflix movie They Cloned Tyrone has a dark and grainy-looking image, and both the shadows and grain were well handled by the Hisense. A brighter option was presented by the Apple TV Plus series Hijack, with strong HDR highlights in many of the scenes. On the U8K, these came across in a balanced and detailed manner, and there was a consistently natural look to the images.

  • Picture quality score: 4.5/5

Hisense U8K rear-panel subwoofer
Hisense U8K rear-panel subwoofer

Hisense U8K Series TV review: Sound quality

  • 2.1.2 channel speakers

  • Good dialogue clarity, decent bass 

  • Auto Acoustic Tuning mode

The U8K’s 2.1.2 speaker system is powered by a total of 50 watts and includes a subwoofer built into the set’s rear panel. Overall, the TV’s sound quality is quite good. Dialogue sounds clear and the speakers can get fairly loud before you start to hear any signs of strain.

The TV’s two upfiring speakers add a sense of spaciousness to Dolby Atmos soundtracks, though the effect is nothing like what you’d get when using the best Dolby Atmos soundbars. There’s also an Auto Acoustic Tuning mode that uses the mic built into the TV to equalize the sound, though you shouldn’t expect to hear a night and day difference when using it.

Other audio features include a Late Night mode (useful for reducing overall dynamic range without affecting dialogue clarity) and a multi-band equalizer to dial in the sound to your liking.

  • Sound quality score: 4/5

Hisense U8K remote control held in hand
Hisense U8K remote control held in hand

Hisense U8K Series TV review: Design

  • Slim form factor

  • Adjustable-width support feet

  •  ATSC 3.0 tuner

The U8K series TVs have a basic but good overall look, with a slim bezel and adjustable width support feet. Being able to set the feet to either a wide or narrow width gives you a greater range of placement options, and it also helps make space for a soundbar.

At three inches deep, the U8K series lacks the incredible slimness of high-end TVs from Samsung and LG, though that’s not surprising as its casing accommodates a back-mounted subwoofer. A strip of LED indicator lights is located on a narrow panel at the set’s bottom, and a switch to turn the TV’s built-in mic is located on the same panel.

The TV’s side-mounted inputs include four HDMI ports (two HDMI 2.1 with support for 4K at 144Hz and one with eARC). There are also optical digital audio and wired headphone outputs and a powered USB port. An RF input lets you connect an antenna, and the set’s built-in digital TV tuner has support for next-gen ATSC 3.0 broadcasts.

Hisense’s compact remote control provides only a basic button set. There are controls for volume and channel selection, as well as ones to access setup menus, Google TV profiles, a built-in mic for voice control, and video inputs. A six-pack of buttons on the bottom also provides direct access to popular apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus.

  • Design score: 4/5

Hisense U8K smart TV interface
Hisense U8K smart TV interface

Hisense U8K Series TV review: Smart TV and menus

  • Google TV interface

  • Hands-free voice command that works with Alexa and HomeKit

  • Setup menus can be annoying to navigate

Hisense uses the Google TV smart interface for the U8K series. Like many smart TV interfaces, the home screen is loaded up with content recommendations, though Google TV also has an “Apps Only” mode that creates a more stripped-down presentation when enabled. Entering your Google account credentials or creating a new account, will provide you with personalized content recommendations, with the results based both on your viewing history and Google Chrome browsing activity. Multiple accounts can be created, which allows everyone in the household to have their own Google TV “experience”.

The TV’s built-in mic lets you use hands-free voice commands for content searches and basic control such as volume adjustment and input selection. You can also switch the mic off and instead use the built-in one on the remote, which is temporarily activated when you press the microphone button. Along with Google Assistant, the U9K works with Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s HomeKit, and you can wirelessly cast videos to it using Chromecast built-in and AirPlay 2.

Google TV’s Live TV portal presents a time-based guide featuring free-to-stream (ad-supported, of course) channels, with everything from movies to national news to cooking shows on the menu. With one of the best indoor antennas connected, you can also select a Tuner option to see a guide listing live programs from your local broadcast TV channels. Interestingly, the guide flags any ATSC 3.0 channels, so you can easily tell which stations in your area have been upgraded for “NextGen” digital TV.

The U8K’s setup menus can be a bit confusing to navigate at first, though you’ll soon enough find what you’re looking for. A Picture menu includes sub-menus for options like Brightness, Color and Clarity, with various related adjustments available for each category. It’s a comprehensive list to be sure, and fanatical picture tweakers will find much here to play with. The downside is that doing something as simple as adjusting picture brightness takes multiple remote button presses to get to a specific control. Also, the setup menu takes up half of the screen area, which makes it difficult to see the effects of your adjustments.

  • Smart TV and menus score: 4/5

Hisense U8K onscreen game menu
Hisense U8K onscreen game menu

Hisense U8K Series TV review: Gaming

  • 4K 144Hz with VRR and FreeSync Premium Pro

  • No native cloud gaming portal

  • 13ms input lag

With a pair of HDMI 2.1 ports and support for up to 4K 144Hz input, the U8K series is a great option for gaming. The Hisense also supports VRR, ALLM and FreeSync Premium Pro along with Dolby Vision gaming at 4K 144Hz. Google TV currently doesn’t offer a gaming option with native support, though you can find the Nvidia Geforce Now app in the Google Play store.

Measured using a Bodnar 4K HDMI tester with the U8K in Game mode, input lag on the U8K was 13ms, which is an average performance. When a game console input is detected, the U8K’s ALLM (auto low latency mode) feature automatically switches the TV to Game mode, and you will be able to use an onscreen game menu to adjust settings like Brightness, Dark Detail, Picture Size and High Refresh Rate Mode.

  • Gaming score: 4/5

Hisense U8K TV support feet on stand
Hisense U8K TV support feet on stand

Hisense U8K Series TV review: Value

  • Cheaper than the mini-LED TV competition

  • Great performance for the price

  • Maximum brightness is less than competition

Priced at $1,399 and selling for significantly less than that just two months after being released, the Hisense U8K is fantastic value. You’ll pay a good deal more for mini-LED TVs from Sony and Samsung, though those models are likely to offer features not found on the U8K, such as soundbar audio integration and a cloud gaming hub.

The U8K is also priced lower than the TCL QM8, a 2023 mini-LED TV that we favorably reviewed. What are the differences between the two? Brightness mainly, with the TCL TV managing to hit 2,321 nits peak light output as compared to the Hisense’s nearly 1,600 nits. Otherwise, the two share similar features and gaming specs, and both use the Google TV smart interface for streaming.

  • Value score: 5/5 

Hisense U8K Live TV guide showing ATSC 3.0 channel
Hisense U8K Live TV guide showing ATSC 3.0 channel

Should I buy the Hisense U8K Series TV?

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if…

Also consider...

Samsung QN90C mini-LED
Samsung’s Neo QLED model is pricier than the QN90C, but it offers higher peak brightness along with refined local dimming. It also has an anti-glare screen and an excellent suite of gaming features, including 4K 120Hz support and Samsung’s Game Hub for cloud-based gaming.

Read our Samsung QN90C mini-LED TV review.

How I tested the Hisense U8K TV

TCL QM8 TV showing color test patterns onscreen
TCL QM8 TV showing color test patterns onscreen
  • I spent about 15 hours in total measuring and evaluating

  • Measurements were made using Calman color calibration software

  • A full calibration of the TV was made before proceeding with subjective tests

When I test TVs, my first step is to spend a few days using it for casual viewing for break-in and to assess the out-of-box picture presets. The next step is to select the most accurate-looking preset (typically labeled Movie or Cinema) and measure the white balance (grayscale), gamma and color point accuracy using Portrait Displays’ Calman color calibration software. The resulting measurements provide Delta-E values (the margin of error between the test pattern source and what’s shown on-screen) for each category, and they allow for an assessment of the TV’s overall accuracy.

Along with those tests, I make measurements of peak light output (recorded in nits) for both standard high-definition and 4K high dynamic range using 10% and 100% white window patterns. Coverage of DCI-P3 and BT.2020 color space is also measured, with the results providing a sense of how faithfully the TV can render the extended color range in ultra high-definition sources.

For the Hisense U8K, I used the Calman ISF workflow, along with the TV’s advanced picture menu settings, to calibrate the image for best accuracy with SDR and HDR sources. Once done, I watched a range of reference scenes on 4K Blu-ray discs that I’ve gathered after years of TV and projector testing to assess the TV’s performance, as well as new Dolby Vision-encoded material streamed from sources like Netflix and HBO Max.

  • First reviewed: August 17, 2023