ULED: Next Generation Picture Quality

Chinese brand Hisense is out to make a name for itself.

The Hisense 65H10B.

Whether you’re ready for it or not, we’re about to leap into a whole new world of picture quality. Driven by a combination of native 4K UHD and high dynamic range (HDR) technologies, the picture quality you can witness on your goggle box is about to hit heights of quality never seen before.

Which would be great were it not for one itty bitty problem: the prices of the screens you need to unlock the full potential of this 4K/HDR double whammy are eye-wateringly expensive. Or rather, they were. For Chinese brand Hisense has just taken its recent aggressive assault on the TV market to a whole new level by unveiling a new screen technology called ‘ULED’ that it claims can bring the joys of 4K and HDR within reach of a much more mainstream audience.

What's in a name?

The ULED umbrella name covers a suite of screen technologies, probably the most interesting of which is 3M’s QDEF (Quantum Dot Enhancement Film) technology. This is claimed by its makers to deliver an OLED-like colour response from an LCD TV - or around 50% more colour range than a typical LCD TV. This should be comfortably enough to cover the wide colour gamut aspects of the next generation of TV picture quality.

Where the expanded contrast of tomorrow’s picture formats is concerned, Hisense’s ULED screens use a proprietary Smart Peaking engine that uses localised light controls to boost the bright parts of pictures without compromising black level response. The ULED panels are also claimed to be able to shift from black to black faster than standard LCD TVs, which is another key factor for HDR picture quality given how much extra brightness the HDR format carries.

When it comes to the massive processing power required to handle 4K UHD and HDR content, especially when upscaling/upgrading current HD sources to these new standards, Hisense’s ULED screens draw on Octa-core processors - a level of number crunching previously only found on the most expensive sets in Samsung’s 2015 TV range

OLED Beater?

So bullish is Hisense feeling about its ULED technology that it’s even officially defined three ways it believes ULED trumps the much-hyped OLED technology its name is so clearly intended to resemble. ULED screens, Hisense says, can: last for three times as long as OLED ones; produce a wider gamut; and deliver two and a half times as much brightness.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about all this TV tech is that it’s not just taken from a scientific white paper. Hisense has already applied it to two living, breathing TV models due to launch as early as this October. 

These models are the 65-inch 65H10B and the 55-inch 55H10B - and the 65-inch model further reinforces its picture quality claims by using a direct LED lighting system (where the LEDs are positioned behind the screen) rather than the more commonly edge LED system. This should result in a more dynamic and accurate contrast performance - especially when, as with the 65H10B, 240 zones of the LEDs behind the screen can have their light outputs controlled individually. Sets at the 65H10B’s price level don’t usually boast any local light controls, and even those that do don’t offer control over anywhere near as many separate zones as the new ULED flagship.

Before we all get too carried away, it has to be said that if you look closely enough at the specs, there arguably isn’t necessarily anything completely new about Hisense’s ULED technology. But then even if ULED only manages to ape the existing OLED and SUHD TV technologies, that will be achievement enough considering how cheap is. Fingers crossed.