(Pocket-lint) - It's not hard to spot the main attraction of the Hisense H65N6800: it's a 65-inch, 4K-resolution, HDR-capable TV (that's high dynamic range, if you're new to it) that's currently on sale for the distinctly unprincely sum of £899.
That's a whole £600 less than the recently reviewed Panasonic 65EX750 - a set which itself earned praise for delivering good value for money at £1,500!
So is the HiSense N6800 too good to be true? What compromises must be swallowed to attain such an affordable 4K telly?
- 4x HDMI in
- 3x USB multimedia port
- LAN and Wi-Fi
- Headphone jack
Although the N6800 isn't the most glamorous TV in the world, it doesn't look like a cheapie either.
The bezel around the screen is as skinny as those wrapped around many much more expensive TVs, complete with a crisp metallic finish. The set feels robustly built too - certainly far removed from the flimsy plastic of so many budget TVs.
The only potential problem with the design is that the TV's feet sit out towards the left and right ends of the bottom edge, meaning you're going to need a pretty wide bit of furniture to sit it on. Unless you hang it on a wall, of course.
Connectivity is good for such an affordable TV. Four HDMI pports get the ball rolling - though you should note that only two of them support 4K and HDR - while three USB ports permit playback of photo, music and video files. There are the inevitable wired and wireless network options to ensure optimum streaming.
- HDR Support: HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma)
- Processing engine: ULED technology
The N6800 boasts Hisense's ULED sub-brand. Apart from conveniently resembling the word "OLED", the name doesn't refer to the self-emitting light source that you'll find with the latter (which is desirable for ultimate blacks and no light bleed/haloing).
Indeed, the N6800 has a combination of a local dimming backlight, wide colour gamut playback, 4K resolution and motion processing - the sort of stuff, in other words, that lots of other TVs offer without feeling the need to slap a fancy acronym name on it!
Still, while it's questionable if the ULED name really means much ("Ultra LED", supposedly), there's no doubting that the cluster of features it covers are all good to find on such an affordable 65-inch TV.
The screen is illuminated by LEDs ranged around its sides rather than behind the screen, and can handle the industry standard HDR10 and broadcast-based HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) and HDR (High Dynamic Range) formats.
HDR is a big play in 2018 and beyond, as HDR-mastered content can display brighter peak whites, deeper blacks, and a greater range of gradation between them. It means brighter images with more colour - but different sets vary in how capable they are with maximum brightness and their handling of the content.
The Hisense's HDR performance is somewhat hampered by a maximum measured brightness of around 530 nits. After all, a growing number of (more expensive) HDR tellies now deliver 1000 nits and beyond. That said, the Hisense is far from the lowest figure recorded from a budget TV - and not a million miles behind last year's OLED panels.
As you would expect, the N6800 carries a range of picture presets. The Dynamic option, though, is pretty much the only one that really delivers a satisfying image when watching HDR sources, as it amps the colour profile pleasingly.
Other features of note are motion compensation and noise reduction processing systems. The first of these is, as detailed in the performance section later on, necessary - but frustrating. The second is best left off, as it tends to leave the picture looking unpleasantly soft.
- Smart systems supported: Proprietary platform powered by Nvidia, plus Freeview Play
The N6800 isn't exactly state of the art where its smart TV platform is concerned - but then any sort of smart TV support is arguably a bonus on a £900 65-inch 4K telly.
Among the apps provided are Netflix, Amazon Video, YouTube and Wuaki TV. The Netflix and Amazon apps are both supposed to support 4K and HDR, though at the time of completing this review the Amazon app was delivering 4K only.
Also included are the catch-up platforms of the big four UK terrestrial broadcasters. These services are provided within a Freeview Play "wrapper", meaning you can access their content via a handy electronic programme guide (EPG) that can scroll back or forward through time.
Great standard def quality and upscaling
The good news is that the N6800 is far better with standard dynamic range (SDR) pictures than you've any right to expect for £899.
For starters, with 4K sources its pictures look really detailed and sharp - at least with relatively static content. There's never a question that you're watching 4K like there can be with some budget UHD TVs.
Contrast, too, is unusually respectable with SDR sources by budget TV standards. Dark scenes enjoy quite credible black levels, and a decent amount of shadow detail is resolved in the darkest areas too. Nor is there much evidence of the sort of backlight clouding you can often see with edge-lit LCD TVs.
Meanwhile, the N6800's output colour palette looks well balanced, reasonably natural and nuanced enough to reinforce the image's sense of 4K detail. Just make sure you keep the TV's colour setting below its 52 level, as anything higher can cause some tones to look noisy.
Pricier tellies can deliver more vibrant and dynamic pictures, but it depends just how much more cash you want to part with.
Not class-leading HDR - as expected at this price
The bad news is that the N6800 is much less comfortable with HDR images. Though not intolerably so once you've taken its price into account.
The extra brightness and colour range associated with HDR content exposes some limitations in the N6800's picture make-up. For starters, black colours look noticeably greyer - especially where a bright object appears against a dark backdrop. The edge-based lighting system just doesn't have enough local light control to keep blacks looking black while also giving bright image elements the HDR peak brightness punch they need.
Oddly, the TV's local dimming option makes practically no difference to the N6800's HDR efforts. There is an upside to this: it means the set remains entirely free of the sort of distracting light banding around bright objects with which many locally dimmed edge LED TVs suffer. But it also means the image's contrast is fairly flat by HDR standards.
The extra brightness demands of HDR also reveal some gentle but noticeable torchlighting (jets of light) in the picture's corners during dark scenes. Also, while colours do look more richly saturated and vibrant than they do with SDR sources, they sometimes lack some of the tonal finesse associated with the best HDR performers.
It's good to see, though, that HDR colours are pretty much immune to the striping issues witnessed on some rival TVs (including Samsung's high-end QLED models).
The picture is also bright enough to unlock at least some of the extra punch and detail that HDR and wide colour gamut technologies are designed to deliver. It's bright enough to show dark objects against bright HDR backdrops without leaving them looking like mere silhouettes. This is a really rare achievement in budget HDR TV circles.
However, the N6800 also betrays its budget nature with its motion handling, which looks a bit messy when motion processing is engaged, but uncomfortably juddery if you leave it off.
Furthermore - and as with the Panasonic EX750 - the N6800's picture settings have to be quite precise to get an even remotely satisfying HDR picture. In particular, the Dynamic preset needs to be selected, and the brightness setting needs to be kept to 50 or less. Anything other than the Dynamic setting leaves HDR images looking flat and drab, while any higher brightness setting than 50 causes excessive amounts of detail to be clipped.
Although this Hisense is not a particularly great sounding TV overall, the N6800 can at least go loud without succumbing to cabinet rattles or speaker distortions. This means its sound largely matches the huge scale of its 65-inch pictures.
However, the sound doesn't spread far beyond the boundaries of the TV's bodywork like the best audio systems do. There's not enough bass available to the mix, either, to stop the sound starting to become pretty thin and unconvincing when there's an action scene.
In pure performance terms the 65-inch Hisense N6800 is a mixed bag. It handles standard dynamic range pictures surprisingly well, but drops back into more average territory with HDR sources.
Normally this sort of performance combination would result in a lower mark. But this isn't any normal telly - it's about half the price of some of its competition. That ace up its sleeve really is rather extraordinary.
If you're a total picture buff then there's better out there. But if your wants are scale with the latest 4K and HDR boxes ticked then there are few better options with as much raw picture bang for under a grand. The N6800 is exceptional value for what you get.
The 65-inch Hisense N6800 is available to buy now, priced £899.
Alternatives to consider
If you're really able to push the budget - by £350 - the 65-inch UE65MU7000 offers a much brighter, more dynamic, more colour-rich HDR picture performance than the Hisense model. It's got a much more developed smart TV platform, too. If you can't stretch to the 65-inch Samsung, you can get the 55-inch model for just £799 at the moment.
Read the full article: Samsung MU7000 review
Even though this Sony option is 10 inches smaller than the Hisense, it still costs a couple of hundred pounds more. It rewards your extra expense, though, with a beautifully contrast-rich picture in both HDR and SDR mode, courtesy of its direct backlighting system. It also boasts a far superior image processing system, with its only downsides being its cumbersome Android TV smart platform.
Read the full article: Sony XE90 review