Hisense 43” H43M3000 4K UHD SmartTV Review Conclusion
This is the conclusion to my Hisense 43” 4K TV review, the delay has mainly been because I’ve tried desperately to source in some products to help me fully test the 4K capabilities. Yet the whole purpose of the feature was to see if you could get a 4K enabled screen that provided enough features at a fraction of the cost of a well-known brand such as LG or Samsung.
However with the Black Friday deals and potential January sales the price of the latter TV's has dropped significantly, so the Hisense is less of a bargain than it was when I purchased it back in September.
With the review I’ve also needed to get hold of a 4K camera so my videos will attempt to show you guys how the screen looks when playing games and watching content.
I need to give a shout out at this point to Vodafone who have kindly lent me several phones during this period so I could record some 4K footage. Without the iPhone SE, iPhone 6s Plus, LG G5 and iPhone 7 Plus I couldn’t get the footage I wanted, so kudos to them.
In this part of the review I need to point out that I have been using the screen for several months now (one of the benefits of actually buying a device as opposed to getting a loan sample) and I’ve managed to nail down pretty much all of the finer details regarding the specs. I've also viewed plenty of footage in 4K now thanks to Amazon Prime, various 4K demos and 4K content from Netflix, YouTube and my PC (though not from a true gaming point of view).
I’ll also talk in the review about how the screen performs for standard TV watching, standard gaming (through the Xbox One) and films in HD; something that I feel the TV does well at!
Note: At the base of the review I have added a Flickr Gallery with some un-edited comparison photos to help showcase the difference between standard and HDR type footage. Additionally I’ll be posting several new videos on my YouTube Channel over the next week or so to showcase the TV in action. However because they are in 4K it's taking longer than normal to get these edited (hence why they are not included in the review from the start).
HDR & HDR10 Support
The key factor for me in the first part of the review was to discover once and for all what the HDR capabilities are for the Hisense H43M3000. Thankfully I now have the concrete facts, because I’ve been in talks with Hisense directly and also because I've witnessed HDR first hand via the Xbox One S.
By default the screen supports HDR via Local Playback, so it can run films from the USB drive. Then via a Firmware upgrade, that was released in September, it allowed the TV to play HDR content over HDMI.
However as for HDR10 this is another matter and one area that I must admit got me down in Part 1 because I heard that the screen does not sport a 10-bit panel (these are costly).
This makes a difference because HDR10 as the number suggests is designed for 10-bit panel screens. HDR10 basically indicates the number of colours and how the brightness is controlled by the TV.
I can confirm that the Hisense is actually an 8-bit panel, but the screen will still support 10-bit colour using a technology called FRC (Frame rate control) which simulates the colour depth.
This may seem like a cop-out but most budget screens and even some well-known brands, will not truly support 10-bit panel hardware at these prices (£350+).
However 8-bit FRC is still better than an 8-bit panel, it's basically how HDR10 capable sources, such as the Hisense, will still work with HDR content.
In practice without a comparable screen I can’t really tell how good a 10-bit panel HDR is anyway.
In all honesty with very few gaming titles supporting HDR in 2016 it’s going to be a waiting game until next year for the tech to be fully embraced. At least, thanks to the Xbox One S, PS4 and PS4 Pro, HDR is now built in so this will help accelerate the growth of this technology more, than say, films would.
Of course if you want a 10-bit panel screen then you will need to spend a lot more money, but to be honest now that I know all the details it still does not change the fact that at the end of the day I’m really happy with the Hisense. In fact even 4K is growing on me, especially as I have seen some great examples running on the set and my picture settings have been tweaked (thanks to the community over at AVForums who have provided guidance on how to set the screen up).
4K Streaming re-visited Netflix TV App
I’ve dabbled with Netflix for the past few months, but to be honest I’ve mainly been enjoying the HD content through the built-in TV app, as I feel Netflix does not offer the best example of 4K because the stream is pretty dark by default and currently the built-in App does not support HDR.
However now that I’ve tweaked the screen and watched content that is not all shot in the dark, the quality is starting to shine through.
Mind you I also dabbled with the Netflix App running on the Xbox One S and this does support HDR. Frankly put the quality is a lot better than the TV's built-in app; with a 4K presentation certainly benefiting from HDR. With the latter it seemed to bring out the detail in the darker scenes. This did make a vast difference to the overall presentation.
Yet in terms of HD footage from any source (Netflix TV App or Xbox One S) because the TV upscale's to 4K anyway the quality of HD content in my opinion is top notch!
Granted you don’t necessarily buy the screen for HD, but with the current shortage of 4K program content it does deliver on the HD front!
YouTube TV App
Likewise in YouTube I’m now witnessing some great 4K examples, one was some gameplay footage taken from a game called Doom. A person had captured the game in 4K on Ultra-High settings and I was literally blown away by the visual quality!
This is the key with 4K, in that there are other 4K Doom gameplays on Youtube but not all of them look as good. It all depends on how the content was uploaded and recorded.
However seeing proper 4K gameplay made me realise just how awesome it can be and I’m slowly starting to come around to the idea of 4K.
YouTube App Bug
My only observation with the YouTube TV app was that not all the listed 4K content will actually play in 4K. Instead it shows a HD symbol at the top and using the YouTube App's Info option showcased the videos were actually streaming at 2160 x 1440 and not 3840 x 2160. I know the videos are 4K because I created one example with my One For All Smart Control 5 remote and this was shot in 4K but does not display properly. Note: My internet speed is more than capable of handling 4K.
Other users on the various forums have also reported the same issue and having spoken with Hisense myself it is a bug. Either way a fix (touch wood) should be on the cards in December. While Hisense do promise Firmware updates they don’t necessarily deliver on time. Yet for me I found the support was quick at corresponding and acknowledging issues.
Amazon TV App
I also recently managed to watch 'The Grand Tour' and this sometimes has a similar issue to the YouTube App i.e. with it taking some time to get up to Ultra-HD mode.
Yet when it's running in 4K it looks simply stunning! It’s just a pity that the internal App does not support HDR yet, as this would take it up a step further!
I’ve also spent more time with this screen using BBC iPlayer, the built-in tuner and my BT YouView+ box which is connected to the TV.
However the SD quality running from the latter box is definitely a lot better than the built-tin tuner's SD presentation. The biggest qualm in SD is that everything looks fuzzy and this makes it harder to read text.
You can adjust the screens Noise Reduction setting to compensate, but for me HD is the only way to view TV content properly using the built-in tuner. Otherwise using a 3rd party box like the YouView+ for SD is the way to go as the quality is a lot better.
On a positive note BBC iPlayer in HD looks stunning, the up-scaling on Strictly Come dancing is literally mouth-watering!
Freeview Play Support
However I did hear from the horse’s mouth that Hisense are releasing a new firmware update in December or that’s the plan, and one of these updates will upgrade the TV to support Freeview Play. This will basically provide live TV on demand catch-up.
Thus you will be able to catch up on TV programs by browsing through your EPG and selecting a program. It will then take you into either BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4, Demand 5 and UKTV Play to give you access to previous program footage.
While the update has not been officially confirmed I have got to hand it to Hisense in that they do at least try to update their screens with fixes/features and like I said before their support did respond to my email requests promptly which was good to see.
Gaming on the Xbox One & Xbox One S
First up i’ve been gaming on the standard Xbox One now for over 2 months. In this time I’ve played F1 2016, Doom, Alien Isolation, Gears of War 4, Recore, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Titanfall, Halo 5: Guardians, Fallout 4, The Witcher 3 and Life is Strange (to name but a few titles).
Similar to the rest of the content viewed from the screen it certainly needed adjusting to get the most from the presentation, because I found a few titles i.e. Gears of War Ultimate and Alien Isolation were on the Dark side and it was difficult to view the on-screen content.
However I have been able to adjust the settings now to get the ideal balance of backlight control and brightness/contrast etc.
I also used the Xbox One’s calibration tool which is available under the Video Settings option if memory serves and while it does not calibrate the screen automatically it does provide tips on how to setup your TV properly.
One of the tricks was to use a Warm colour temp, something that I did not think would help, especially as it makes the interface look a tad muddier, but it actually fine-tunes the detail for in-game and it also seemed to reduce some of the backlight bleed.
You can also experiment with the Xbox One’s colour depth and colour space options. Get these wrong however and this can cause the screen colours to blow-out.
I think mine was set to 36-bits per pixel and TV RGB colour. Switching this to 24-bits and PC RGB did provide a better balance on this screen.
Interestingly the screen actually supports all of these modes (due to its FRC probably), but as I said before if you notice dark washed areas in-game it could be the settings in the Xbox need to be tweaked until you get a perfect match.
For me though with my current setup I can play in most light conditions now with all the games listed above and visually it looks top notch, even in HD.
Recent game titles like Gears of War 4 also looked pretty darn good. So even on the standard Xbox One console the screen performs well after calibration.
While I can’t give you a scientific measurement or manufacturer quote on response time, as there is no official documentation on this, from my point of view standard gaming at least runs great!
Using the PC/Game Picture mode I could not detect any noticeable input lag or ghosting!
For the price I paid for the TV, in my case under £300 at the time, I can’t be happier with standard gaming on this set!
Xbox One S
Sadly I did not get hold of a PS4 Pro to test, yet at least the Xbox One S I had offered on paper the best option for 4K screens on a lower budget; mainly because of its 4K up-scaling technology and built-in Ultra-HD player for movies. More importantly it also provides a series of tests which will determine the capabilities of the screen...
Thankfully you can rest assured that the screen does support the Xbox One S, in fact it had all the ticks in green which meant it could handle 10-bit colour, HDR and 60Hz gaming! As you could see from the screen shot earlier (HDR & HDR10 section).
I did not get long with the Xbox One S but from a 4K point of view it's a good console to own. The Xbox One S's Interface runs at 2160P and it will also up-scale standard games to 4K.
In reality I found visually on standard games there was an improvement to the presentation, titles such as Forza Horizon 3 seemed more virbrant (even without HDR). Yet, I think titles such as DOOM actually ran a tad smoother on this console because of the extra GPU power.
However the key factor that everyone shouts about is the HDR support in games. I was only able to run Forza Horizon 3 Demo here because for some reason my copy of Gears of War 4 did not run on the Xbox One S due to a Store issue (which I have not been able to resolve in time). Thankfully the Forza demo gave me a quick insight into how HDR works in games.
With the Hisense if it detects HDR content it will automcatally switch to the HDR picture mode. This seems to set the back-light to 100%, with a brightness of 50 and contrast/colour options set to 40.
You would be led to believe that the HDR content is being fudge here using this method, as after all a picture mode is simply holding different settings. Yet I have done further tests and none of the other modes of the TV look as good as the HDR picture mode even with the same base settings.
So it is enhancing the HDR function of the TV by bringing out more brightness (because remember it simulates the 10-bit colour). However the HDR in the game is still there regardless of which TV picture mode you select, it just works better in the HDR picture mode.
Personally I cranked up the brightness to 55% but you don't want to go any higher with some of the base settings as it will blow out the colours. Yet HDR certainly does work on the TV...
Of course if you are in HDR mode you won't be in the more optimised PC/Game mode, but in all honesty it's not a problem here because the HDR option disables all the Dynamic back-light, noise reduction and contrast options which can have a negative effect on input lag.
Mind you I still wasn't instantly blown away by HDR, that was until I realised what it does. Even on the Hisense screen it managed to enhance the game making the environment seem more realistic.
In Forza's case you use a slider to increase the HDR brightness and without going into too much depth the HDR option seemed to bring out the detail in the clouds, foliage and the glare from the sun. Turn off HDR, by reducing the HDR slider to 0, and you can tell the difference when you look at the sky! With HDR enabled the sun's brightness can be blinding in-game, but without it the sun looks like a drawing! In other words less realistic.
While I can’t physically showcase how HDR works in written format I did capture some pics of the the game which may give you a basic idea. Of course in a few weeks I will find out when I get a Samsung screen what the differnce will be on a true 10-bit screen, but as far as I’m concerned the HDR does work on the screen to a certain degree.
A few things to note!
During testing though I started to use a different cable to the one that was supplied with the Xbox One S. In fact I used a KabelDirekt 2m HDMI Cable from Amazon which supports true 4K at 4096 x 2160, HDMI 2.0/2.0a/2.1, plus it can handle a higher bandwidth i.e. 18 Gbit/s. While the cable of the Xbox One S is High speed I did run into some issues with the playback of Blu-ray content (which I will talk about later) that were not evident when using the KabelDirect I purchased.
Additionally to cut along story short I believe there is a bug with the HDMI 3 & 4 (4K 60Hz) ports. I found when my Xbox One S was plugged in at the same time as the Xbox One i.e. one was plugged into 3 and the other into 4, if I watched a Blu-ray film on the Xbox One S and then switched over to the Xbox One's AV port it resulted in a black screen. I think the switching of the resolution i.e. going from 4K down to HD seemed to cause it problems when both devices were plugged into the 4K 60Hz ports.
It could be the timing of the switch over, but I'm sure I read about this problem on the Avforums, so it's another thing to be aware of if you run two sources at the same time from the 4K 60Hz ports.