Hisense’s even cheaper mini-LED 4K TV with ATSC 3.0 is a major challenger to OLED

Hisense U8H TV on white background
(Image credit: Hisense)

Mini-LED backlight technology has been increasing in popularity over the past few years, and is now a feature commonly found in the best 4K TVs. Budget brand TCL was the first to offer sets with mini-LED, and it was soon followed by Samsung, LG, and now Hisense.

The key picture quality benefits to mini-LED are brightness and contrast: sets featuring the technology are capable of much higher light output than even the best OLED TVs, while the clusters of tiny LEDs used for their backlights can be modulated to deliver deep, OLED-like blacks and refined shadow detail via a process called local dimming.

While the Mini-LED sets from Samsung and LG have been relatively costly, with the former’s flagship QN95B Neo QLED 4K TV starting at $2,300 for a 55-inch model, TCL has managed to keep prices for its smaller-screen models capped at under $1,000. They are now joined by Hisense, which recently started shipping its new mini-LED-backlit U8H series TVs with list prices starting at $1,100 for a 55-inch screen, though that model is currently being sold for as low as $700 in the US, or £900 in the UK.

Along with a mini-LED backlight, Hisense’s U8H series sets are outfitted with an ATSC 3.0 tuner in the US. This lets the TV receive NextGen digital TV broadcasts in the US, a format that is capable of, among other things, being transmitted in 4K/HDR with Dolby Atmos sound.

Hisense’s even cheaper new U7H series 4K TVs, which were announced at the same time as the U8H series, also feature a built-in ATSC 3.0 digital TV tuner, though those models lack a mini-LED backlight.

What else can viewers expect from the U8H series? These sets’ LCD display panels feature a Quantum Dot layer for extended color and they are spec’d for up to 1,500 nits maximum brightness. Dolby Vision HDR is supported and gaming-specific features include 120Hz display, Variable Refresh Rate, Automatic Low-Latency Mode, and Freesync Premium. The U8H series also features Filmmaker mode and a Google TV smart interface with built-in Google Assistant.

Analysis: Affordable TVs with mini-LED and ATSC 3.0 will give OLED serious competition

The picture quality benefits of mini-LED are undeniable, and a good reason why so many models featuring that technology rank on our list of the best 4K TVs. And while OLED models also sit high on that same list, a new OLED from LG, Sony, or Samsung is going to cost quite a bit more than a Hisense or TCL mini-LED model – more than three times as much in the case of Sony’s A95K Quantum Dot OLED TV.

When you combine mini-LED with features like Quantum Dots, full-array local dimming, Dolby Vision HDR, and, now, ATSC 3.0 digital TV broadcasting support, TVs like the Hisense U8H series become a compelling value and performance proposition. The value part is indisputable, while performance is something we’ll soon be reporting on in our forthcoming full review of a 65-inch U8H series TV.

Will OLED TV prices come down quick enough to make the technology competitive with mini-LED? There was speculation earlier in 2022 that a potential deal for LG, the only current maker of W-OLED (white OLED) panels, to supply its OLED screens to Samsung was in the works. This would have allowed Samsung to sell less pricey OLED TVs than the current Samsung S95B models which use QD-OLED technology.

But that deal ultimately fell through when talks between the two companies broke down, dashing prospects for cheaper OLED TVs in 2022. In the meantime, affordable and feature-packed mini-LED TVs are becoming available from a wider range of brands – something clearly highlighted by the arrival of Hisense’s U8H series.

Al Griffin
Senior Editor Home Entertainment, US

Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine. 

When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.