Hands On: Hisense's new Series 8 and Series G TVs are dumb but pretty

Credit: Hisense

If you’re looking for big screen 4K TVs that are both nicer and cheaper than you expect, you’ll find them in Hisense’s new Series 8 and Series G TVs.

Envisioned as a bigger and better take on the Series 7, the Series 8 is available in two-sizes: 65-inch and 75-inches. If you have a larger space to work with, that’ll work against you. If you live in a small home, it might be a little more problematic.  

Like the Series 7, Hisense’s Series 8 TVs support at least two major HDR standards: Dolby Vision and HDR10. For more on HDR TVs, click through to our guide here. And if you’re looking for more technical upgrades, look no further than the integration of the same sort of Quantum Dot tech found in Samsung and TCL TVs. For more on QLED TVs, click here.

During the couple of hours we had to spend with it, we came away reasonably impressed with the Series 8. I wouldn’t say that Hisense’s latest middle-of-the-road option looked as good as something like LG’s cutting edge OLEDs or Samsung’s Quantum-powered Q90 but, when you factor in stuff like the all-important asking price, I don’t think the Series 8 falls short by all that much. It’s colorful, it’s 4K and it’s as crisp in detail as you’d expect. It was a little dim for my tastes but it does have 200Hz motion smoothing (if you’re into that). 

Forced to give a verdict on the spot, I’d be willing to say the Hisense Series 8 looks good - but it doesn’t look that good

HIsense Series 8 ULED 4K TVCredit: Hisense
HIsense Series 8 ULED 4K TV

Of course, beyond how it looks, the other point being emphasised here is how you interact with the Hisense Series 8 ULED 4K TV. The Series 8 runs on the brand’s proprietary VIDAA 3.0 smart TV operating system. Up-front, I’ve never been a fan of VIDAA. Even aside from larger concerns to do with future-proofing, I’ve always found Hisense’s in-house software more concerned with looking pretty than feeling responsive and I found that trend continued into the latest version. 

Like earlier attempts, the VIDAA 3.0 is nice to look at but slow and frustrating to use. It’d sometimes take a solid three or four seconds after pressing the home button for the main menu to actually appear. Opening apps would take closer to ten seconds. I struggled to get the platform’s vaunted “easy-sharing” of video content from my phone feature to work at all. 

To be clear: the models we used for our hands-on might not be final software but, all the same, our experience didn’t leave us glowing with compliments. 

Still, even if we assume those performance issues were anomalous, VIDAA has a ton of blindspots you have to consider before buying in. The usual suspects - Netflix, Youtube, Stan and Amazon Prime Video - are all here. However, most of our efforts to find more Australian streaming services were in vain. We could find SBS OnDemand but that was about it. No Hayu. No 9Now. No 7Mate. No Ten All Access. No ABC iView. What’s more, since the Hisense Series 8 lacks a built-in Chromecast, there’s no easy workaround here. You’re simply out of luck. 

Hisense VIDAACredit: Hisense
Hisense VIDAA

It’s one thing to be concerned that Hisense might drop the ball a year or two down the line when it comes to supporting new streaming platforms like HBO Max, Disney Plus or Apple TV+ for customers who buy the Series 8 right now. It’s quite another for them to not support almost half of the local streaming offering right now. 

Akin to other mainstream TV brands, Alexa and Assistant integration is another big callout here. However, at the time of writing, the Series 8 only has what’s called ‘Amazon Video Gear’ integration. This means that you’ll be able to connect it wirelessly to an Alexa-powered speaker like an Amazon Echo and use Alexa to change the volume or input on the TV but you won’t be able to request specific content (“Alexa, play Stranger Things on Netflix”) or even services (“Alexa, open up Netflix on the TV”) until full Alexa Voice Services integration arrives. Hisense say this will happen sometime in the second half of 2019. 

As for the Google Assistant, it’s currently missing-in-action when it comes to Hisense’s mainline Series 7, 8 and 9 TVs. For these models, Hisense simply say that Google Assistant will arrive via software update sometime in the remaining five months of 2019. 

Hisense Series G ULED TVCredit: Hisense
Hisense Series G ULED TV

Of course, if you can’t wait, there’s always the Hisense Series G. Pitched as the Hisense TV for Android enthusiasts, it runs on Android TV rather than VIDAA. And, as you might expect, this resolves a lot of the issues detailed above. 

It’s not as snappy as something like an Nvidia Shield TV (Amazon) but it’s familiar, easy to customise and it brings with it support for all the streaming services that the Series 8 overlooks. Hell, of all the Hisense TVs I’ve had the chance to spend any time with - this is probably the one I’d personally be the most interested in buying for myself.

Part of that is probably just familiarity but, at the same time, getting a taste of what Android TV can bring to the Hisense experience has left me a little spoiled. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come and not an aberration. 

The Hisense Series 8 is available in Australia now, with prices starting at $2999.

The Hisense Series G is available in Australia now, with prices starting at $1249.

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Fergus Halliday
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