Hisense U8K Review: Blissful Balance of TV Picture Quality, Size and Price
The U8K delivers an excellent image for hundreds less than better-known brands, and its 55-inch size beats chief rival TCL in smaller rooms.
Updated Nov. 4, 2023 4:00 a.m. PT
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David KatzmaierEditorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
ExpertiseA 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics.Credentials
Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
Not quite as bright or dynamic as some competitors
"Theater" picture modes engage motion smoothing by default
This year the competition among midpriced TVs is hotter than ever, and one of the best TVs I've tested is the Hisense U8K. This television offers excellent image quality for the price thanks to super-bright mini-LED technology. The brand name isn't as well-known as Samsung or Sony, but neither of those brands has a TV with mini-LED at anywhere near the price.
The main competition for the Hisense U8K is the TCL QM8 series. Both are currently available for around the same price, both have negligible brand cachet, both use the Google TV smart system and both offer mini-LED with spectacular pictures. I compared them side by side in the TV lab at CNET and I'm confident either one would make a picture quality snob (like me) happy.
The Hisense has one medium-sized advantage: a 55-inch screen option. The smallest TCL QM8, meanwhile, is 65 inches. So if 65 is too large for your room, your budget or your tastes, the choice between the two is simple: get the 55-inch Hisense UK8. Or bite the bullet and get a bigger TV.
If you do want a 65-inch or larger TV I'd recommend the TCL by a hair, assuming their prices are close. Its picture looked brighter and more impressive overall than the Hisense, although the TCL wasn't without flaws. That said, if that price gap grows a lot bigger, I wouldn't blame you for saving the money and going with the U8K. It's an excellent TV and you'd have to step way up to an OLED TV to get a significant boost in image quality.
Hisense U8K series TV sizes
I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 65-inch Hisense U8K, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have similar specs and should provide similar picture quality. The exception is the 75-inch size, which uses a different panel type (ADS), which can lead to worse black-level performance than VA panels used on the other sizes. I can't say for sure however since I didn't test that size.
The U8K sits near the top of Hisense's 2023 TVs lineup. The company does make more-expensive models – a souped-up 85-inch ULED X that costs $3,800 and ultrashort throw laser projectors ("Laser TV" according to Hisense) that start at $5,000 for 100 inches – but the U8K is the model most TV shoppers will be looking at. The company's less-expensive U7K and U6K TV series also offer mini-LED backlights but have fewer local dimming zones and aren't as bright as the U8K. I haven't reviewed them but based on their specifications I expect their image quality will be worse than that of the U8K.
And if you happen to be in the market for a 100(ish)-inch TV, it's worth noting that the 98-inch TCL QM8 costs more than $10,000 at the time of this writing while the 100-inch Hisense U8K costs less than half as much. Advantage: Hisense.
Hisense U8K design and remote: Basic, and that's fine
The Hisense U8K is a humdrum-looking TV, and that's OK in my book. It's supported by a pair of squared-off legs to either side under the main panel. It's also quite heavy, as befits a model with such a complex backlight.
The standard black, rubber-buttoned clicker sports two different menu buttons (one gear-shaped and another "hamburger"), a dedicated profile key for some reason and no fewer than six shortcut keys to streaming services – the usual suspects and, for some reason, Tubi. Another button summons Google Assistant, which you can talk to via remote.
For what it's worth I liked the design of the TCL QM8 better, with its central pedestal stand and superior remote.
Google TV: Fast enough and plenty of apps, more complex than Roku
Among all of the smart TV systems I like Google TV second-best, after Roku. Highlights include excellent voice results thanks to Google Assistant, a well-implemented kids profile mode and parental controls, tight integration with Google apps (in particular YouTube and YouTube TV) and more apps overall, thanks to the Play store, than proprietary systems like Samsung and LG.
The downside? In 2023 TV makers like TCL and Hisense do not offer the best image quality extras on their Roku TVs – they're reserved strictly for Google TV models. If you want Roku on the U8K or any Google TV you'll need to attach a Roku streaming device.
When I tested the U8K's built-in Google TV system the responses were quick enough, and a step faster than the cheaper Hisense A6H, which we tested last year. As usual with Google I didn't love the large chunk of space at the top devoted to promotions of shows and movies on various services. I also wish the "continue watching" row was higher-up rather than placed below the "top picks for you" and apps rows. There were lots of suggestions across various apps but still plenty of content I didn't care about. Search results were also worse than on the Roku, with too many YouTube videos coming up. Personally I prefer the simplicity of Roku menus.
Google TV's profiles worked well. I was easily able to set up a kids profile, and I appreciated that appropriate apps like YouTube Kids and PBS Kids were suggested for me to add, and that Netflix automatically invoked the kids profile. During setup I was also prompted to set screen time limits, create a profile picture and more. Google TV's system provides better parental controls than Roku, although Fire TV is similarly robust.
Features: Mini-LED, gaming and every other essential
The big difference between the U8K and cheaper LCD-based TVs is its mini-LED backlight. Mini-LEDs are, as the name suggests, smaller than standard LEDs, allowing them to be grouped into more local dimming zones. Full-array local dimming is the best way to improve picture quality on LCD TVs. It allows the screen to dim and brighten different areas simultaneously. Smaller areas, or more dimming zones, mean more precise illumination – which ultimately increases contrast, the most important ingredient in a good picture – but they're not the only factor.
The U8K has a true 120Hz refresh rate, which leads to better motion performance than 60Hz models. Like most TVs in its class today, it also uses quantum dots that help improve color compared to non-QD-equipped TVs. And of course it supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10 high dynamic range formats. These days basically the only manufacturer that doesn't is Samsung. The U8K also has Dolby Vision IQ, which works with an ambient light sensor to automatically adjust the picture.
Four HDMI inputs (two with 4K/144Hz, one with eARC)
Analog (composite) AV input
Two USB ports (2.0 and 3.0)
Ethernet (wired internet)
Optical digital audio output
RF (antenna) input with ATSC 3.0 NextGen TV
The U8K can accept 4K/120Hz input signals from an from an Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5. Like many newer TVs those inputs technically go up to 144Hz, but that's not a big deal in my opinion since since you need a PC gaming card to take advantage of it and likely won't provide a big boost over 120Hz input. Other gaming extras are par for the midrange TV course, namely VRR, or variable refresh rate, and ALLM (auto game mode). One of the inputs also supports eARC.
The U8K's antenna input has a built-in ATSC 3.0 over-the-air tuner, which allows it to receive NextGen TV broadcasts. Those are still only available in a small number of markets so I didn't get the chance to check out this feature, but it's nice to know that if the broadcasts become more widespread, U8K owners won't have to connect an external tuner box to watch.
Hisense U8K vs. TCL QM8 and others: Picture quality compared
For this comparison I lined up three 65-inch TVs side by side: the Hisense UK8 and the TCL QM8, which cost about the same, and the LG OLED C3, which costs significantly more. I didn't include other models in the lineup this time but from past reviews I can say the image quality of the U8K is significantly better – brighter, with better color and contrast – than the Roku TV Plus Series, Amazon's Fire TV Omni QLED and Vizio MQX (all of which cost less) and about the same as last year's TCL 6-Series and Hisense U8H.
TV and movies: I started my evaluations, as usual, with the demo montage from the Spears & Munsil 4K Blu-ray disc, and its nature scenes looked excellent. The well-lit shots of Yellowstone geysers and mountains were bright and brilliant, albeit a notch less impressive than the brighter TCL QM8 and not quite as contrasty as the LG OLED C3.
The difficult black background shots also looked tremendous, with almost no blooming and just a touch lighter than the absolute black I saw on the C3. The range of color and brightness looked a bit more natural on the Hisense than on the TCL, but the latter again showed an advantage in brightness.
Watching the Netflix series Our Universe, I was similarly impressed by the Hisense. In a series of animations of galaxies and star fields, for example (ep 2, 32:18), it maintained deep black levels in the letterbox bars and large swaths of void better than the TCL 6 series, albeit not quite as well as the TCL QM8 or (of course) the OLED. Highlights in a flare (33:35) were much brighter than on the OLED and 6 series, however, although again a bit dimmer than the QM8.
And when the action returned to the rainforest, the Hisense delivered excellent contrast and color in the forest canopy and plenty of detail in the fur of the chimps. Once more it lagged behind the TCL QM8 in brightness and contrast but the difference wasn't huge. And I did think the Hisense looked a bit more natural overall than the QM8, which subjectively seemed just a bit too bright in highlights.
Gaming: Hisense offers more gaming features than on last year's U8H, although they're not quite as varied as on Samsung, LG or TCL. When I connected an Xbox Series X, hitting the Menu key summoned a special gaming menu along the bottom that indicates current gaming status, including real-time frames per second, HDR and other features.
Unlike the competition, Hisense doesn't include special picture modes for gaming, although you can move to another menu to toggle away from game mode and choose others, such as "HDR Sport" or "Filmmaker." I found this arrangement confusing, especially when the pop-up "Optimized for game settings" appeared in those other modes. I much prefer to have separate discrete modes I know are designed for gaming.
There is a single toggle for "dark detail" that brings up shadow detail, and you can tweak a special Brightness setting to adjust it. I was annoyed that a few other settings – Picture Size, Screen Position and High Refresh Rate Mode – were inactive. Don't worry about that last one, however. According to my Xbox's menu the U8K is capable of supporting every format the box can put out, including 4K/120Hz and Dolby Vision. I also measured a solid 14ms lag in game mode for both SDR and HDR.
Comparing the game mode image quality between the Hisense, TCL and LG C3, the story was similar to what I saw with TV and movies. The C3 looked the best overall when I played Starfield, and the TCL had the brightness advantage, but the image of the Hisense looked a bit more balanced to my eye, with more natural color, than did the TCL's. I bumped up the local dimming setting to High on the Hisense to give it a bit more pop, but overall I preferred the more dynamic picture of the TCL for games in my side-by-side comparison.
Bright lighting: The Hisense U8K is a superb bright-room performer, especially for the money. Its brightness measured just a couple nits shy of the TCL QM8 and it costs a lot less, and of course it's much less expensive than an equivalent Samsung. And it's worth nothing that unlike the Samsung QN90B I tested, the other TVs including the U8K are able to maintain their "brightest mode" levels for more than a few seconds.
Light output in nits
Brightest mode (HDR)
Accurate mode (HDR)
Brightest mode (SDR)
Accurate mode (SDR)
Roku TV Plus
In HDR the brightest mode (Imax) was also the most accurate, which is an advantage over many TVs whose brightest modes have terrible color. In SDR, however, the U8K's brightest mode is Vivid (which, yes, has terrible color) so for bright room viewing I'd suggest using Theater Day instead. It's still quite bright, as noted in the chart above under "accurate" but not quite as searing as Vivid. That said, it's worth the tradeoff in brightness to get better color, in my opinion.
The TV's screen finish did a fine job handling reflections, about as well as the TCL QM8, but it didn't preserve dark areas as well as the C3 OLED.
Hisense U8K settings and picture mode notes
Much like the Hisense U8H I tested last year, on the U8K the three most accurate picture modes for HDR – HDR Theater, Filmmaker and IMAX modes – were essentially the same in terms of color and grayscale. I again ended up choosing Imax because the other two required tweaks to the default settings to look their best. Filmmaker engages the ambient light sensor by default, and HDR Theater does the same for the Soap Opera Effect, and in both cases I'd generally want to disable those "features."
In SDR mode it was (just like last year) between Theater Night and Filmmaker, which both require similar tweaks. Filmmaker with the light sensor disabled was too bright, and less accurate than Theater Night, so I went with the latter for the SDR Geek Box measurements below. Again it engages motion smoothing by default, however, so I recommend turning it off (Picture > Advanced Settings > Motion Enhancement > Off). In my opinion that setting should be disabled from the start, as it is with the best picture modes of Hisense's competitors.
Note that I also changed the gamma control (to my target 2.2 instead of the default BT.1886) so that tweak is reflected in the numbers below. I'd also recommend doing so for bright room viewing (Theater Day).
Black luminance (0%)
Peak white luminance (SDR)
Avg. gamma (10-100%)
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%)
Dark gray error (30%)
Bright gray error (80%)
Avg. color checker error
Avg. saturation sweeps error
Avg. color error
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)
Input lag (Game mode)
Black luminance (0%)
Peak white luminance (10% win)
Gamut % UHDA/P3 (CIE 1976)
ColorMatch HDR error
Avg. color checker error
Input lag (Game mode, 4K HDR)
Check out how we test TVs for more details on the Geek box and our TV testing methodology.