It's truly incredible just how good cheap TVs have gotten. Not that long ago, $500 wouldn't get you anything better than a bargain bin 40" screen with a laundry list of issues and terrible, vaseline-coated picture quality. But now it's hard to spend more than $1,000 unless you really have a reason to, and Hisense's H8G series is a great example of just how far your money can go. It's a pretty good lineup from 50" to 75", and they all come with Android TV built right in. But while I want to recommend the TV, it's ruined by a single deal-breaker: Video playback from streaming apps can stutter and freeze for long periods, which isn't acceptable at any price.

Specs

Display 50", 55", 65", 75" 4K (3840x2160) "ULED" Quantum dot LCD, up to 700 nits, up to 90 local dimming zones, Dolby Vision HDR
Sound Dolby Atmos
Software Android TV (9.0 Pie)
Inputs 4 HDMI (1 w/ARC), Ethernet, 2x USB 2.0 Type-A, 1 RF, 1 RCA composite, 1 digital audio output, 1 headphone output.
Misc 4K upscaling, "Motion Rate 240" smoothing, VESA 300x200 mount,
Connectivity Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (version undefined)
Prices 50": $400, 55": $500, 65": $700, 75": $1,400.

The Good

Price The 75" model may be a little expensive, but the rest of the sizes are very affordable for Android TVs.
Slim It's very thin, with tiny bezels, and more likely to fit where you need it.
Picture Gets very bright, relatively even backlighting, supports Dolby Vision HDR, has plenty of local dimming zones, and good overall quality.
Android TV built-in Comes with it, no external box required.
4K Upscaling Won't compete with Nvidia, but it does look pretty good.

The Not So Good

Limited storage space While it's USB (2.0) expandable, 4.4GB available to the user is not enough.
Stutters, lag, and freezes Streaming video would intermittently lock up around once a day, general performance in Android TV is prone to dropped frames and lag.
Android TV built-in If it ever stops getting updates after the promised three-year period, you'll be stuck with the last version it gets — an external box can be replaced.

We reviewed the 65" model.

Design, hardware, what's in the box?

The H8G Quantum has the obvious physical design of a modern TV. Two noteworthy physical characteristics are the very small bezels, around 3/8" to the top and sides, and the feet/stand, which are attached to each side rather than via a plinth in the center — that might affect what sort of furniture you can place it on.

Since we lack the hardware to do a proper display analysis at an appropriately technical level, our discussion will be subjective. For a detailed, quantified analysis, you should just wait for RTINGS' review — they're the best.

As a TV, the most important component is the display, and I'm impressed with it for the price. It's stunning how good relatively cheap TVs have become. The H8G Quantum seems to have decent color (with plenty of options for calibration), good contrast, and it gets way, way, way too bright: up to 700 nits, according to Hisense. That comes in handy for Dolby Vision HDR content, which it supports and which needs the extra brightness to work. Although it didn't seem to have the feature when I first received the TV, an automatic brightness mode is also available.

The H8G Quantum features up to 90 local dimming zones, but that varies. The 75" and 65" models have the full 90 zones, the 55" model has 72 zones, and the 50" model has 32. I couldn't visually tell how many the 65" model had, but it seemed like enough, though I could still spot the characteristic "halo" effect in some high-contrast circumstances. Watching the Netflix show Night on Earth, for example, it was sometimes noticeable. (I found it distracting, but other, much less picky members of the party didn't consider it an issue or even see it.)

I dislike local dimming; not in itself, but because so many shows do terrible color grading. HBO, in particular, avoids true blacks in many of its shows at times, which makes the occasional transition to full black immediately visible and annoying. If it bothers you, you can disable local dimming in the Picture -> Backlight menu. Backlighting also isn't perfectly uniform, but I didn't find it to be a problem, either with local dimming enabled or disabled.

Above: Surprisingly even backlighting. Below: A macro just for fun. 

The 4K upscaling seemed decent, which is good, because I can't figure out how to turn it off. However, there is one specific circumstance where it had a negative effect: Text that crosses from light areas to dark areas looks a little off — brighter on a light background than it is on a dark background. The AI-powered upscaling included in the latest Shield TV seems better, if it's an especially important feature for you.

As you'd probably expect from most modern televisions, it has motion enhancement features that offer frame interpolation for a "smoother" visual experience. Although I dislike the effect, they're there if you want them, with several options, including a "custom" setting allows you to set your own desired level of smoothing with two configurable sliders. Other expected settings for things like contrast, brightness, backlight level, noise reduction, motion clearness, and "active contrast" (read: dynamic contrast) are also available, plus an Enhanced Viewing Angle mode that appears to tweak contrast just a bit to make the image slightly more clear at extreme angles. It also has a handful of general picture modes that are ostensibly optimized for specific use cases like sports and movies. Note: that Menu -> Picture -> Picture Mode menu is where the low-latency "Game" mode setting also lives.

Hisense claims that input and processing latency in Game mode can be as low as 14ms, or less than one frame at 60Hz. I'm not sure it actually gets that low, and I don't have the gear to properly measure it, but it is more than acceptable, and I consider myself pretty sensitive to input latency.

It's unlikely that you'll use the TV's built-in speakers, but they're surprisingly good and loud, if lacking in clarity. Any half-decent home theater system will easily beat them. If you are stuck with them because of your setup, though, there's a wall-mount mode that optimizes sound for that use case. It can also be paired directly with a Bluetooth speaker, there are audio delay and lip-sync settings for laggy sources, and it supports Dolby Atmos.

H8G Remote.

While I believe the future is free of remotes, the H8G still comes with one. It's a basic affair with a handful of dedicated app buttons for Netflix, YouTube, Google Play, and Vudu. It also has a built-in mic for Assistant-based voice commands and text input, plus an Assistant button to trigger it. The TV claims to support Alexa, though I'm not sure if the button carries over. It's worth noting that it will crank down volume when the Assistant is activated on other smart speakers in the same room.

If you aren't familiar with Android TV's navigational schema, it's similar to the Android navigation buttons (down to the dated ICS-era icons), with a back button that behaves as it does in Android, and home button that takes you to the launcher. There's no real multitasking UI in Android TV — the "apps" menu is about the closest you'll get.

TVs come in big boxes, but that doesn't mean you get a lot of stuff. The H8G comes with that remote, the manuals/quick start guide, a power cord, and the TV itself.

Software and Performance

Android TV home screen on the H8G.

The Hisense H8G runs Android TV, and it's pretty pleasant if you aren't already familiar with it — far better than just Android on a big screen. I won't reiterate the full software experience again here (you can read our Nvidia Shield reviews for an overview), but I will cover a few broad strokes.

If you've used an Android phone before, it won't be hard to get used to. As I mentioned, navigating is similar, and you get your apps through the Play Store. Pretty much any app or service you can think of has an Android TV app, though they're not all as good as they might be on other platforms. The Criterion Channel app, for example, has issues loading content and collections at times, and can even bug out with image overlays that don't disappear or move when scrolling. Apps are a crapshoot: some developers care about the platform more than others.

This is about as much as you can realistically change on the home screen. 

The biggest difference (and perhaps the biggest drawback) is the lack of customization compared to Android on other platforms. You can let apps you install take over a row on your launcher, and you can add, re-order, and remove them as you like, but that's basically it. You can't really change themes or even your background. To do more, you'd need to install a separate launcher — that's something you can technically do, but they're all pretty garbage.

Hisense tells me that it promises three years of Android TV updates, until 2023. Two additional updates are already planned for this year. That's more software support than some Sony Android TVs have received, but it is unfortunate that you can't expect it to get updates after that when set-top Android TV devices like the Nvidia Sheild have received five years of support (and going). This three-year number isn't unusual, though, and you can expect the same from other built-in Android TVs.

I think Android TV is okay as a platform, though others like Roku and Fire TV seem to get more and better attention from developers. Still, the H8G's software is fine — though its performance could be better.

Hisense doesn't say what SoC powers the H8G, but it lacks oomph at times. Though I don't think that Android TV is the smoothest experience on the best of days, even just scrolling in the launcher or YouTube sometimes results in dropped frames. More than once for me, navigating around an app or the system would randomly and quickly freeze, followed by all my subsequent commands landing at once. I also ran into more concerning issues with video entirely freezing in some streaming services shortly after starting a stream. It was most common in Netflix, but other services were also affected, and it usually happened after waking it from sleep/standby for the first time that day. Once or twice, the TV even entirely locked up, requiring a reboot.

This happened to me around once a day on average, in multiple streaming services. 

I tried to work through this issue with Hisense, and even a factory reset didn't fix it for me, though the company maintains it's never heard of anyone experiencing this problem before. The company provided us with the following statement:

"We haven't yet had any feedback regarding this issue, nor have we been able to replicate it in our testing of H8G models, but we are working tirelessly to find the root cause of this instance. If we find anything that needs updating we will provide an over the air update."

I should note, we did dig up a similar report for the previous model, with a convoluted fix regarding a routine to wake the TV in the middle of the night.

Outside these more specific issues, general performance was okay, but storage space on the TV is limited: 4.4GB is listed as available in total. That's not even enough for some games. Thankfully, there are two USB ports for adding more, but you will be limited by their speed: USB 2.0.

Gaming on the H8G is so-so, but I don't blame the TV itself. While it might stutter at times, it was surprisingly smooth in the few titles I could get running. My bigger issue was that Android TV seems unreasonably picky regarding Bluetooth controllers, and game support for controllers is also pretty mediocre. While it might be a better experience on the Shield with the Shield controller and Nvidia-optimized titles, I found the whole process on this more generic Android TV very frustrating. I wouldn't buy this with Android TV-based gaming in mind.

Should you buy it?

Hisense H8G Android TV
6.5/10

Probably not. A lot of little things about the TV drove me nuts, even outside the stuttering and freezing issues I regularly ran into. Once in a while, I'd find my display picture settings had been randomly reset to "vivid" or "energy saving," even after globally changing those settings. It also liked to disconnect from (and subsequently refuse to see) my Bluetooth game controller after rebooting. The super limited storage space is also a problem, and three years of updates might be normal for most Android TV devices, but it is a bit of a bummer when external replaceable boxes like the Nvidia Shield seem to get updates forever. And, of course, the issue with freezing video during streaming playback is likely a deal-breaker for many. But if Hisense can fix that specific problem, I think the H8G series will be easy to recommend, given the price. Once things are dialed in, the actual TV and movie watching experience is pretty great, and the picture you get seriously exceeds what I expected.

I have the world's ugliest living room arrangement — sorry. It's a very cheap apartment.

I think the 65" model (which we reviewed) is the sweet spot when it comes to price and features, followed closely by the 55" model. The smaller models are cheaper, but they have fewer local dimming zones. The $700 65" and $500 55" sizes have the smallest per-zone surface area, and they're cheaper than the $1,400 75" model. While the big one is still a good value on paper (as the lowest price of all four per square inch), I think it's pretty hard to fit a TV that size in most homes, and it's still a lot of money compared to the other sizes.

I'm conflicted here, because overall I like this TV and I'd like to be able to recommend it. You get a lot for your cash, and without that freezing video issue, this is probably the standalone Android TV to get on a budget. But I think that one problem by itself is too much to ask folks to accept at any price. I hope Hisense can fix it soon.

Buy it if:

  • You're on a budget.
  • You want a decent picture for the price.
  • Android TV built-in is a requirement.

Don't buy it if:

  • You're willing to spend more — there are objectively better TVs out there.
  • You'd rather have a separate or standalone Android TV box.
  • Freezing video is a deal-breaker (and it probably should be).

Where to buy?

The Hisense H8G Quantum series is available at Best Buy and Amazon: