(Pocket-lint) - The Hisense O8B is a 4K OLED TV with support for high dynamic range (HDR). It represents the Chinese giant's first venture into this self-emissive display technology, and like all OLED TVs it uses a panel sourced from LG. As such, its success will depend on how well Hisense can make this model stand-out in a crowded market place.
Competitive pricing certainly helps, but with OLED costs tumbling Hisense needs to offer more if it wants to make significant in-roads. The company is certainly positioning the O8B as a premium product, with the inclusion of both Dolby Vision and Atmos, but does it deliver?
Design, Connections and Control
- 4x HDMI 2.0, 2x USB
- LAN, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
The Hisense O8B definitely looks premium, thanks to an impressive level of build quality (no doubt thanks the company's substantial economies of scale). Unsurprisingly for an OLED TV the chassis is ultra-slim, ranging from millimetres wide at the top to just under 60mm at the bottom where you'll find all the speakers, connections and electronics.
The design keeps things minimalist, with a bezel-less screen, a largely metal construction, and a black finish. The TV sits on a sturdy v-shaped metal stand that provides solid support, although you can wall-mount if you prefer.
The rear of the panel is also finished in black, and behind a removable panel you'll find all the connections. These consist of four HDMI 2.0b inputs with support for 4K/60p, high dynamic range (HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision), and HDCP 2.2 for broadcast compliance; while one HDMI input also supports ARC (audio return channel).
There's also two USB 2.0 ports, terrestrial and satellite tuners, a LAN port, a CI (common interface) slot, an optical digital output, an analogue stereo input, and a composite video input. In terms of wireless support there's built-in WiFi (dual band 802.11ac), and Bluetooth.
For reasons best known to itself, Hisense has decided to include two remote controls: a plain black plastic controller, and a more eye-catching silver and black metal zapper. They have almost identical button layouts, so why the need for two wands is a mystery, and owners will undoubtedly prefer the flashier version.
Regardless of which one you decide to use, they both include all the buttons you'll need to effectively control the O8B. These include direct access keys for Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Rakuten TV, and Freeview Play. The remotes also have built-in microphones for voice control, a feature that Hisense plans to add with a future firmware update.
Back-to-basics 4K processing
- HDR Support: HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision
- Processing engine: Quad Core
- 96% of DCI-P3 and 610nits of peak brightness
The Hisense O8B might be priced cheaper than competing OLED TVs, but the manufacturer hasn't skimped on the features. It uses a 55-inch LG-sourced 4K (3840 x 2160) 10-bit panel that accepts a 12-bit signal, and supports 4K frame-rates up to 120Hz. As you'd expect from an OLED screen, the blacks are deep and the viewing angles extremely wide.
The O8B also supports high dynamic range, specifically HDR10, broadcast hybrid log-gamma (HLG), and Dolby Vision. However, it doesn't support HDR10+, an open source version of HDR that uses dynamic metadata in a similar fashion to Dolby Vision. The panel reproduces 96 per cent of the DCI-P3 wider colour gamut and delivers a peak brightness of 610nits.
Hisense has decided to keep the processing fairly basic, eschewing the AI-enhanced machine learning algorithms employed by many of its competitors. The O8B uses a more straightforward quad-core processor that's able to upscale lower-resolution content to match the 4K panel. There's also a media player that can decode all the main video formats.
Hisense's Ultra Smooth Motion uses frame interpolation to eliminate judder and smearing, thus improving the motion resolution of fast-moving content like sports broadcasting. There's also a Sports Mode Auto Detection feature that automatically offers the option of selecting the Sports mode when it detects a sports broadcast on its internal tuner.
The O8B has an input lag of 50ms in its normal modes, but if you engage the Game mode it bypasses any unnecessary processing and the response time drops to 24ms. This applies whether you're gaming in 1080p, 4K, SDR or HDR, and should be low enough for even the most hardcore of gamers.
Competitive picture quality
The Hisense O8B uses exactly the same panel as all the other OLED TVs on the market, and as such you'd expect a certain level of performance regardless of manufacturer. So it proves with the Hisense, delivering a suitably detailed image with 4K sources and the kind of deep blacks and punchy contrast that differentiates OLED from other display technologies.
The overall image accuracy is also very good, with whites that actually look white, and colours that appear saturated without looking garish. As a result, watching the Blu-ray of Guardians of the Galaxy reveals all the colours available in SDR (standard dynamic range), while keeping flesh tones natural.
The O8B might lack the flashy machine-learning algorithms found on more expensive OLED TVs, but the quad-core processor does an excellent job of upscaling lower-resolution content without introducing unwanted artefacts. The motion handling is fairly average without any processing engaged, but the frame interpolation smooths things out nicely for gaming and sports.
When it comes to HDR, the O8B genuinely impresses with some lovely-looking 4K images. The Revenant is suitably detailed, with the icy landscapes revealing a realistically white appearance. The peak brightness is about average for an OLED set, but the absolute blacks, pixel precision of the highlights, and effective tone mapping ensure an impressive sense of dynamic range.
The accuracy of the wider colour gamut afforded by HDR is also excellent. A film like Wreck-It Ralph 2 is a riot of colour, which the O8B effectively renders and thus displays the full potential of the format. The combination of resolution, dynamic range, and wider colours is often breathtaking in its realism, especially with the demo footage on the new Spears & Munsil 4K Blu-ray.
The Dolby Vision performance also impresses, with the dynamic tone mapping adding a more nuanced appearance to the darker parts of the image, and better detail in certain highlights. The deliberately blueish tones and desaturated buildings of Cold War Berlin are accurately presented in Atomic Blonde, while the deliberately boosted highlights are free of clipping.
Conversely Overlord, which predominantly takes place at night, retains subtle details in the blacks and shadows. In addition the colour scheme, which is dominated by greens and browns, manages to deliver the shadings within the uniforms and forests with remarkable definition. In fact, the overall picture performance of the O8B certainly doesn't feel like a budget TV.
The Hisense O8B held its own in testing, and considering its price there's little to really complain about. However, there is an annoying issue relating to the screen saver, which sometimes comes on while watching moving content. All you need to do is press a button on the remote to get rid of it, but it's annoying nonetheless.
The inclusion of a screen saver is important to protect an OLED panel from possible screen burn, but it only needs to kick in with a static image. This is probably a bug that can be addressed with a firmware update, and we have reported the problem to Hisense.
The only other issue relates to HDR support, and specifically the absence of HDR10+. This alternative to Dolby Vision is growing in popularity, and its absence is a surprise given that Hisense was an early proponent of the format. Panasonic and Philips include Dolby Vision and HDR10+ on their OLED tellies, and hopefully Hisense can add it to the O8B with a firmware update.
- VIDAA U
The Hisense O8B uses the company's VIDAA U smart system, and while not as sophisticated as certain other operating systems, it remains an effective if relatively simple platform that's intuitive to use. The manufacturer has sensibly concentrated on delivering the smart features that users consider most important, rather than unnecessary bells and whistles.
What that essentially means is that Hisense prioritises delivering as many video streaming services as possible. In that sense it has largely succeeded, with the system including all the main services such as Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Rakuten TV – all of which support 4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision where available.
The system also includes Freeview Play, providing access to the UK catch-up TV services. In addition, the BBC iPlayer app also supports 4K and HLG. It's a solid selection of video streaming apps, and the only major absentees are Now TV and Apple TV (the latter is currently exclusive to Samsung).
The system is accessed via the Home button on the remote, and is based around a series of tiles about a third of the way up the screen. What really impresses is the responsiveness of the system, with its simplicity resulting in a lighting-fast user interface. You can easily add apps from the store, and also edit the layout so the most commonly-used apps appear first.
At the bottom of the screen is the 'discover' bar which suggests other apps, along with the 'system' bar that provides access to notifications, a search function, and all the menus. There's also an EPG (Electronic Programme Guide), which includes picture-in-picture, and a guide that displays five channels over a three hour period.
If you miss anything, Freeview Play allows you to move backwards and watch programmes using the UK catch-up and on-demand services. You can also turn the O8B into a PVR (personal video recorder) by attaching a hard drive, enabling you to time shift by recording programmes. However, there's only one tuner each for terrestrial and satellite TV, so you can't watch one channel and record another.
- Dolby Atmos
The Hisense O8B delivers a decent audio performance considering its screen size and the ultra-slim nature of the panel. It has two downward-firing speakers built into the bottom of the chassis, and these are each powered by 10W. This is sufficient for normal TV viewing, but obviously can't compete with soundbars and more elaborate audio systems.
The sound processing also lacks the AI enhancements employed by some of the competition, but overall it proves capable of delivering a wide front soundstage with definition and detail. Dialogue retains clarity and focus, while music is spread either side of the screen. Effects sound clear and precise, but there's very little in the way of real bass.
Hisense offer a number of sound modes: Standard, Speech, Late Night, Music, Theatre, and Sports. These modes essentially perform as advertised, with each enhancing or suppressing certain sonic aspects as required. Overall they prove surprisingly affective, although for most content the Standard mode is probably best.
The O8B is the first Hisense TV to support Dolby Atmos, which means it can decode the object-based format and create a more immersive sonic experience. Of course two speakers can't actually replicate a multichannel system, but the use of psychoacoustics does help produce a more immersive experience with a sound that's open and enveloping.
The Hisense O8B represents a significant step-up for the Chinese manufacturer, and delivers a fully-specified 4K OLED TV that holds its own against the more established brands. It has the looks and build quality of a premium display, along with a full complement of connections and even two remote controls.
Despite some aggressive pricing on the part of Hisense, the company hasn't skimped on features. The O8B boasts a simple but effective smart platform that eschews AI-enhanced recommendation algorithms and instead concentrates on delivering the main video streaming services.
So why not a higher score? Well, there's a lack of state-of-the-art processing when it comes to the picture. That's indicative of Hisense's approach: delivering the basics. The result is still an accurate OLED picture with detailed, bright and punchy 4K HDR images (it's just a shame there's no HDR10+ support).
Overall, there are better specified OLED TVs on the market than this Hisense, but those include features you can probably live without when you consider the O8B's price tag. As a result the Hisense is definitely worth considering as an affordable entry point into the wonderful world of OLED.
The C9 includes Dolby Vision and Atmos but also sports LG's remarkable webOS smart platform, AI-enhanced processing, and HDMI 2.1 inputs.