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Lifewire / Sandra Stafford
Sleek design seems high-end
Android TV has many apps and features
Local dimming for darker blacks
Apps frequently freeze or crash
Motion blur is common
Uneven backlighting in corners
The Hisense 50H8F is a budget 4K TV with a surprisingly nice display, Google Assistant, and Chromecast built-in, making for a user-friendly interface.
With few budget newcomers to the TV market, the competition between brands is making better TVs cheaper than ever. Hisense is one of these new arrivals, offering the 50H8F a 50-inch 4K HDR TV that boasts Android TV functionality and a beautiful entry-level 4K display for under $400. I spent nearly a month testing it, to see how it stacked up against rivals on our best cheap TV list.
With an edge-to-edge glass panel and a super-thin 0.2-inch bezel, the 50H8F has a sleek design practically indistinguishable from the higher end brands. Other than a small red LED and the logo, the whole TV including the legs is a simple black. The stand has thin metal feet with a wide 9-inch footprint that felt perfectly stable in testing. Most of the USB and HDMI connectors on the back of the TV are facing to the left, so they're easy to get to whether the TV is mounted or not. The 50H8F is well-designed and of decent quality for its price.
The 50H8F is well-designed and of decent quality for its price
The Hisense 50H8F can be set up with the Google Home app or with on-screen prompts. The numerous prompts take several minutes to get through. Location, Google Assistant, automatic content registration, and other permissions are all enabled at the beginning. After various logins, a fairly unnecessary five-step tutorial, and any updates, the TV will finally be ready to use after several minutes. A slow setup is no big deal, but I lean toward the trend of streamlining setup wherever possible.
It’s going to be difficult for most consumers to enjoy the quality difference between 1080p and 4K on a 50-inch television, thanks in part to the relatively small amount of native 4K content available. That said, with an entry-level 4K TV priced as reasonably as the 50H8F, there’s no reason not to be an early adopter of the technology. New releases and old favorites like Jaws are being converted to 4K, and the quality differences are more noticeable if your TV is fairly close.
Local dimming allows the 50H8F to achieve deep, uniform blacks. There is a small amount of blooming, but the only time I noticed it was when stark whites and blacks were on the screen together. Backlighting was inconsistent enough to create a few dim spots on the screen, but it was another problem only noticeable when the screen had large spans of the same color. There was enough contrast that small details in dark scenes weren't lost, even in a brightly-lit room.
Local dimming and a great contrast ratio make this TV perfect for watching movies in bright and dark environments alike.
Slow response time does cause problems with motion on screen. A persistent blur trails behind fast-moving objects regardless of which picture settings are used. Long action scenes, like the lightsaber showdown in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, suffer from blur significant enough to be nearly unwatchable. Despite that, the 50H8F has an overall decent display.
The 50H8F does offer a picture setting to address some of the motion handling problems, albeit mostly for video games. Game Mode reduces input lag by disabling processor-intensive features like smoothing and motion enhancement. The picture setting doesn’t affect the appearance of games noticeably, but the performance gains are huge.
Without Game Mode on, a noticeable white blur trailed behind Ori every time I played Ori And The Blind Forest, even without the game’s motion blur enabled. Landing on narrow pillars and avoiding flying spikes is much easier with Game Mode’s reduced input lag. Ori looks much better as well, crisp and smooth as he jumps around the dark forest.
The 50H8F has two 10W speakers, which feel a little underpowered for TV of this size. The sound itself is clear, but soft sounds like characters whispering in movies or ambient noises are usually lost. Because there is no auto-leveling, I had to adjust the volume between commercials and scenes every time I watched anything. As with most TVs, the 50H8F would benefit greatly from a soundbar or dedicated speaker system.
Android TV is a widely used operating system in smart TVs, with a robust app selection and support for AI assistants. The remote included with the 50H8F can be used to give commands to Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. Android phone and tablet owners can control their TVs with any number of apps, but using Google Assistant with the remote is just as convenient.
Android TV's home screen brings apps and their content right to the surface. Side-scrolling ribbons showcase new and previously-watched content, with auto-playing previews right from the home screen. The result looks a little cluttered, but it couldn't be more user-friendly. By eliminating loading screens between apps, Android TV makes browsing much easier. I rarely had to load an app to find something to watch.
Throughout testing, there was one recurring problem: instability. Apps frequently crashed or became unresponsive, especially the Hulu app. The only way to resolve this was to reset the TV, but the problem was so common I usually watched something else instead. Instability issues should be resolved by updates and fixes, but in the three months that the 50H8F was being tested in my home, I noticed no improvement.
By eliminating loading screens between apps, Android TV makes browsing much easier.
At under $400, the Hisense TV is firmly in the budget range for 4K. Competition in this price point is tough, demanding a product that has all the features people value most at a price they're willing to pay.
Consumers have a lot of choices in this price range, and the small differences between them can have a big impact. The Hisense 50H8F is a solid choice that offers a little bit more to Android users, like support for Chromecast and several highly-rated remote control apps.
If those features aren't a priority, the 49-inch LG UM7300 (view on Amazon) offers a simpler experience. Running on LG webOS, the UM7300 has a minimalist interface and enjoys much greater stability than the 50H8F. I didn't have a single problem with crashing or unresponsive apps during testing.
VA panels like the one in the 50H8F suffer a drastic loss of color and contrast when viewed at an angle greater than about 30 degrees, making them unsuitable for large living rooms with sectional sofas or other spread-out seating. With an IPS display, the UM7300 delivers much wider viewing angles. Anyone in the room can enjoy the TV with no significant loss in video quality.
A budget-friendly 4K TV with easy to navigate software.
The Hisense 50H8F is the budget-friendly way to enter the 4K smartTV market. Local dimming and a great contrast ratio make this TV perfect for watching movies in bright and dark environments alike, and the advantages of Android TV and built-in assistants makes the OS easy to navigate for most users.