Hisense U8G Android TV Review
Over the years I’ve used a variety of Android-powered TVs and streaming dongles. Among them are the original Sony Google TV, Nexus Player, LeEco X4-55, JBL Link Bar, and Chromecast with Google TV.
Google’s platform hasn’t always been the best when it comes to app support, which is why I’ve also used a handful of TCL Roku-powered TVs and streamer boxes to supplement in the past.
Fortunately, the Android TV platform has matured, and these days there’s only a couple of reasons you might still require an additional streamer box. Keep reading below to find out what those reasons are, and all the things I loved about the Hisense U8G.
The Hisense U8G comes in two different sizes, either a 55-inch or 65-inch model. For my review, I’ll be detailing my experience with the 65-inch model which weighs in at a little over 53 pounds and measures 57.1 x 13.6 x 35.6 inches overall.
It’s not a light or small TV by any means, and trust me, you’re going to need help setting this up. Just getting it out of the box and connecting the two feet at the bottom would be nearly impossible to do alone.
Speaking of the base, Hisense has done everyone a favor by not putting the two feet at the very edge of the TV making it easier to place it on TV stands less than 60 inches.
The ports on the back of the U8G include four HDMI ports on the left side with two of them dedicated for 4K 60Hz and the other two supporting 4K 120Hz, one of which features eARC for sound systems.
Flanking the HDMI inputs are two USB ports, a headphone jack, a coaxial input, and a port for connecting composite cables with an adapter.
Next door is another group of I/O, including the Ethernet jack, optical audio out, and serial inputs. The port for the power cable is on the left side of the TV and make note of that for deciding where to place it because if the outlet or surge protector is on the right side of the TV you’re going to need an extension cord.
The front of the Hisense U8G uses small bezels around its massive 65-inch ULED display with a small row of LEDs in the bottom center. There’s also a slider to mute the mic in the TV that’s used for Google Assistant.
After unpacking and getting the U8G in place, set up is a breeze, if you’re deep into the Android ecosystem like I am. All I had to do was pull out my phone and connect the TV with my Google account and sail through a few menu options.
Next, I connected it to my network where Google automatically filled in the Wi-Fi password and the U8G began downloading an update.
During that time, I was able to connect all my different devices to the HDMI ports and 10 minutes later I was all set up and ready to go. Without a doubt, being invested in the Android ecosystem helped speed along this process, and saved me from a bunch of tedious typing with the remote.
During the past year, Google has taken a lot of flack for updating the UI on Android TV to include promoted content, aka ads. In case you’re wondering, yes, this is also present on the U8G after the initial update.
While I don’t like ads on my TV more than any other person, and I wish Google would include a way to opt-out of showing them, I still really enjoy the UI and using Android TV. Besides, it’s not like Roku doesn’t also include promoted content, so it’s not like these sorts of ads aren’t present on other platforms.
Plus, I find the Google TV home layout to be clean and easy to use, especially the “Play Next” section, which makes it easy to pick up where you left off watching. That is when it works, as I’ve found it’s not always reliable and not all apps support it, I’m looking at you Prime Video. However, when it does work properly, and your apps support the “continue watching” section, it is a wonderful experience.
Android TV has matured a lot over the years and these days gives you access to pretty much every major streaming service out there. However, even though you have access to myriad apps, there are some quirks on this particular Hisense TV. For example, the Vudu and Movies Anywhere apps don’t support 4K playback. When attempting to play movies you’ve purchased in UHD using both of these apps you’ll be restricted to HD.
Fortunately, with Movies Anywhere syncing movies between services these days, you can still stream the UHD movies you purchased from Vudu in 4K through Prime Video, Google Play Movies, or even the Apple TV app.
The only problem being that studios such as Lionsgate and Paramount have opted out of Movies Anywhere. Meaning, if you purchased movies like Transformers or John Wick in UHD through Vudu, then you’re stuck watching them in HD unless you hook up a different 4K capable streaming stick to the U8G.
Additionally, I’ve since discovered Hulu also doesn’t support 4K playback on the U8G, making it one more of the built-in apps you’d have to use a different streaming dongle for if you want the highest quality video playback.
Google Assistant on your TV
Voice control is one of the areas where Android TV excels. Requesting a movie or TV show using your voice is simply the most convenient way to interact with your TV. It’s miles above trying to browse with your remote through screen after screen of titles, or trying to type out the name using the buttons on the remote.
The Hisense U8G even gives you multiple ways to issue voice commands, either by pressing the Assistant button on the remote or hands-free by saying the “Hey Google” hotword out loud. Plus, not only can you search content, but also control playback, volume, ask for the weather, control your smart home, and much more. You have the full power of Google Assistant built right into your TV.
My one issue with this, and it’s a big one, is that I have a house full of Google Assistant enabled speakers and smart displays already.
While I appreciate beyond words the ability to search video content on my TV using the remote, I did not want my TV to be always listening and competing with these devices. The primary reason being that it will cause the Assistant to pop up at the bottom of your TV and/or pause the content you’re currently watching.
My TV’s primary function should be to show me the video content on the screen without having it interrupted if I want to turn my lights on or off.
To make matters worse, I’ve had TV shows and movies activate Google Assistant while I’m watching, causing it to pop up and search for whatever random thing the actor just said. It’s a completely disruptive experience when trying to relax and check out a new movie or binge a show.
There are a couple of workarounds for this, such as using the mic slider switch on the front of the TV, disabling Google Assistant on the TV entirely, or turning off permissions for the mic in the Assistant app. Unfortunately, none of these is a good workaround. Disabling Google Assistant or removing the mic permissions means you can’t use one of the TV’s most valuable features.
Alternatively, muting the mic with the slider on the front turns on four bright orange distracting LEDs permanently. While this still allows you to use the mic on the remote, those glaring orange LEDs are just too intrusive to leave on constantly. Ideally, Hisense would have given us the option to turn off the LEDs in the settings and allowed us to use the mic in the remote with the mics on the TV disabled.
Now, besides my criticism of the ads, 4K playback missing on popular apps, and the lack of Assistant customization, Android TV runs wonderfully on the U8G. I never experienced any stutters or issues with the UI, navigation was quick and responsive, and the Assistant integration was smooth as silk.
The Hisense U8G features a 4K resolution 120Hz ULED panel with Quantum Dot technology for brilliant, purer, richer colors. The U8G also boasts a peak brightness of a whopping 1500 nits, up to 360 dimming zones, and support for Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG.
Before discussing the picture quality, I’d like to take a minute to recommend that you immediately go into the picture settings and disable all the motion settings. These are enabled by default and are what give TVs the often dreaded “soap opera” effect. Be aware that you may have to disable it for each input or app that you use, in case you ever notice something looking off when you swap to an input or app for the first time.
Watching UHD Dolby Vision content on the U8G is simply stunning. The display is uber bright and I had to dial the backlight down to 40 or else I was in danger of searing my retinas. If you have a room with a lot of sunlight during the day, then this is your TV. It should be able to overpower sunlight-drenched rooms without a problem.
Thanks to the abundance of dimming zones the Hisense U8G was also able to provide the inky darks needed for HDR content and provided a wide range of contrast in scenes. However, I did notice on a few occasions that the blacks were a little lifted or blooming was present, and there’s also some red smearing that I found most apparent on the Netflix logo when launching the app. Overall, the panel still performed beyond my expectations, and when watching content, you rarely notice these issues.
One issue that I did notice from time to time while watching content was some judder in scenes with slow panning motions. This can be tamed with the motion settings, but I’d much rather live with some occasional judder than watch everything with the “soap opera” effect enabled.
Besides the fantastic dynamic range, the U8G also impressed me with vibrant colors that leapt off the screen. My previous TV only supported HDR10 and seeing movies and TV shows in HDR10+ and Dolby Vision was a real game-changer. Both standards provide more granular high dynamic range control with metadata customized from scene to scene and it makes a big difference.
If you would like a more in-depth analysis, then I’d suggest you check out the rtings.com review, where they have the equipment and expertise to measure and rate the U8G’s display more accurately.
The Hisense U8G sports two HDMI 2.1 ports with support for up to 120Hz, which means it is made for next-gen gaming. I gave it a try myself with Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition and saw first-hand how smooth the 120fps mode is in the game.
You’ll need to make sure you go into the settings and switch the HDMI mode from “standard” to “enhanced” though or else you won’t be able to game in HDR or make use of the high frame rate. I’d also suggest changing the HDMI dynamic range to limited on the U8G, otherwise games looked washed out on the PS5.
Besides console gaming, the U8G provides two other ways to get your game on. The first is by installing games from the Play Store. I installed a few to test them out and had no issues playing them with a Bluetooth controller paired with the TV. A word of warning though, the U8G only had 6GB of storage free after I installed my streaming apps, so you won’t be able to load it up with many games.
That leaves us with Stadia, Google’s cloud gaming service which recently added support for televisions running Android TV. After installing Stadia on the U8G, I fired up Cyberpunk 2077 and was so pleased to be able to finally play without the need for an additional dongle attached to the TV.
As far as TV speakers go, I was impressed with the U8G. The speakers had far more bass than I expected them to have and they were plenty loud. I often had the volume set to 10 out of 100 and had no issues with hearing dialog or anything else.
If you want to take things to the next level, then using the optical out or eARC HDMI port makes it easy to hook up an external sound source. About half of the time I used a soundbar with the U8G through the eARC HDMI port and found everything worked perfectly, including adjusting the volume through the TV remote and having it power on or off with the TV.
In the land of premium budget TVs, the Hisense U8G has a lot going for it. The 4K 120Hz ULED Quantum Dot panel provides a crisp, vibrant, dynamic picture that’s perfect for watching movies in Dolby Vision or next-gen gaming. While it still suffers from some blooming and elevated blacks from time to time, there’s no doubt that the Hisense U8G is one of the best-looking TVs you can buy at this price range.
Regardless, I’d still love to see a software update to disable the always-listening mics on the TV while leaving the one in the remote active, and 4K support in all apps. These are minor annoyances, but they would go a long way in enhancing the overall user experience.
If you’re wondering if the Hisense U8G is right for you, then right now is the perfect time to give it a try. Currently, Hisense is running a promotion through October 31, 2021, that allows you to try out the U8G and other models such as the U800GR (8K), U8G, U7G, U6G, or L9G TriChroma Laser TV for 100 days. If you’re not satisfied, then Hisense will allow you to return the TV for a full refund via a Visa gift card or Paypal transfer. Just be aware that you’ll also need to register the TV within 14 days of purchase or delivery date.