Overall, you can’t knock the Hisense 55K321 for value. If you want a big UHD screen that £699 price is a steal, but this isn’t a set to buy if you want to make the most of 4K sports. However if you’re looking for a step up from 1080p, which will work with HDCP 2.2 content sources at a reasonable price, it’s well worth auditioning.
Hisense may not yet be a familiar brand name in the UK, but its TVs have been best sellers in home-turf China for years. Now the brand is looking to Europe for expansion, with a range of Ultra HD screens that combine a high specification with temptingly low prices.
See also: Best 4K TVs to buy in 2016
Hisense 55K321 review: Price
The 55K321 (or to give it its full moniker, the LTDN55K321UWTSEU), is just the kind of set likely to make you do a double-take on the high street. It’s a 4K 55-incher, priced at just £699.
John Lewis also sells the 55K321 for £699, but it’s an online exclusive, so you won’t be able to check it out in store.
Hisense 55K321 review: Features and design
So what’s the catch?
Cosmetically, the set is neat if understated. It has a small grey bezel and wears matching plastic boots (there is no pedestal). To the rear, you’ll find four HDMI inputs, SCART, component and AV phono inputs, plus a digital optical audio output for use with a soundbar and a trio of USBs (one a fast 3.0 variant for timeshifting – pausing live TV – to an external HDD). There’s also a CI slot (of little interest to anyone in UK).
Networking comprises Ethernet and dual-band Wi-Fi, giving you the option of the less congested 5GHz wireless band as well as the more conventional 2.4GHz. The tuner choice is Freeview HD or generic satellite.
It should be noted that only two of the four HDMIs are HDCP 2.2 compatible (inputs 3 and 4). This may prove a limitation if you plan on investing in a variety of 4K sources, be they set top box, UHD Blu-ray or NVIDA SHIELD. The copy protection is standard and compatibility is essential. (See also: What is 4K – the Ultra HD standard explained.)
Hisense 55K321 review: Smart TV
The Hisense Smart TV platform is somewhat light when it comes to catch-Up TV services, offering only BBC iPlayer and the corporation’s News and Sport apps (never say never though, that’s the beauty of firmware updates). There’s also a 4K-enabled Netflix client, plus Amazon Video, Chili Cinema video on demand, Viewster and a variety of other euro-centric streaming services and games.
The K321 comes with an excellent media player for connected USB thumb drives and networked NAS or PCs. Video compatibility is broad, and includes MKV, WMV, MP4, AVI and MOV, while audio covers MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC and FLAC. You’ll need to be pretty unfortunate to have files it won’t play.
Hisense 55K321 review: Performance
Image quality is ostensibly fine given the price point, but there are caveats. To see the screen at its best, use native 4K content from Netflix. Ridiculous 6, the daft Adam Sandler western, is one of the better streams available from Netflix, rich in texture and colour. Make a point of dropping back the sharpness to 10 on the fuel gauge, to avoid excess ringing.
Black level performance is also good. Backlight uniformity is above average considering the price, with only slight unevenness evident from edge-lighting. Shadow detail is plentiful and blacks are smooth without undue pixel fizz. When viewed in a room with ambient light, the image looks suitably contrasty.
The set also boasts Hisense’s Ultra Smooth Motion processing technology, but its implementation here proves of limited use. None of the modes actually retain motion detail, their main raison d’etre being to smooth out panning judder. As a consequence, the panel can look a bit smeary.
With Ultra Smooth Motion turned off, the set is unable to display motion resolution above 600 lines (using a 1080p resolution chart travelling at 6.5ppf), and there’s some horizontal panning judder. Switching the processing to Low doesn’t improve detail and the panning judder looks worse. The Middle and High modes simply add unwanted motion artefacts to the mix. This limited resolution undermines the 4K value of the panel a tad. The real benefit of 2160p on the K321 is the lack of any pixel grid structure, rather than absolute clarity.
For the record, the screen is 2D only. It’s unlikely though that the absence of 3D will be much missed by buyers.
Audio performance is surprisingly good. The set has volume and while not particularly stereophonic, is loud enough for general use. Power consumption is low, which is also good. Running standard colour bars, we measured the set at just 124.8W
Hisense 55K321: Specs
- Screen size/resolution: 55in, 3840 x 2160 pixels
- Contrast ratio: NA
- Brightness: NA
- Speakers: 20w (2 x 10W)
- Built-in tuner: Freeview HD, satellite
- EPG: 7-day
- Inputs: 4 x HDMI, 1 x SCART/Component/composite
- Outputs: Digital audio coaxial, headphone jack
- Networking: 10/100 Ethernet, Dual band Wi-Fi built-in
- Ports and slots: 2 x USB 2.0/ 1 x USB 3.0, CI slot
- Physical dimensions (w/o stand): 1239 x 717 x 83mm (w/h/d)
- Weight: 17.3kg
- Average power consumption: 125W (average), A Energy rating
- Warranty: 1 year return-to-base