Projector Reviews

Hisense 100″ Laser TV Review – A 4K UHD, Smart Projector with Screen – Special Features 2

Hisense 100″ Laser TV Review – Special Features: Sound system and Audio, Smart TV/Projector Features, Newer – Alexa support, 4K UHD resolution, Laser light engine

Hisense Sound System and Audio Capabilities

First things first!  This projector TV has the best / biggest sound I’ve encountered yet on any TV or projector that isn’t supplemented with an expensive sound bar (with subwoofer), or full surround sound system.

Hisense Lase TV complete with sub-woofer (comes with a screen)
Hisense Lase TV complete with sub-woofer (comes with a screen)

For the purposes of reviewing, I mostly listened to sound with movies using my own surround sound system, which is vintage, but today would be ridiculously expensive (way more than this Hisense laser TV).  I did use the Hisense’s sound system, however when streaming directly to the Hisense, for Blacklist in 4K as well as a couple of movies on Netflix.  (I also listened to music only on the laser TV – which the Hisense lets you do with the laser light engine off.)  My home theater is upstairs from a two car garage.  As such, it’s about 450 sq feet.  The Hisense has no trouble rocking the house, for movies or music.  Not an excess of volume, but it plays fairly loud in my room.  My own system can go a good bit louder, but I found it had just enough volume and punch  to satisfy properly on typical action films.  And more than enough volume for anything else.

The HK sub-woofer uses Bluetooth. Setup was a snap! The Subwoofer really helps the sound!

Internally the Hisense Laser TV uses Harmon Kardon speakers (they have long been one of the highest fidelity brands in the audio industry), with a 50 watt amp, and it also comes with a pretty powerful HK (Harmon Kardon) subwoofer.

I put on some big action films, and am pleased to report that not only did the subwoofer provide some serious bass (not really deep, but more than deep enough), but the bass while providing the necessary shake and vibrate we expect from those movies, was relatively clean.  It wasn’t really boomy as many powered subwoofers are. Translated – boomy bass tends to mask/cover detail in the mid-range – especially details in voices, string instruments, horns…   I’m a music guy first, I have always demanded clean, and detailed sound.  Short of a higher end – near audiophile surround sound system, the Hisense is not bad at all.  It comes with some pretty extensive controls worth noting:

  • Total Sonics – increases bass, boosting mid-range. I would not use this for listening to music, but fine for action flicks for more bang.
  • Total Surround – you still don’t have rear or side speakers, but this adds a surround sound effect, so music sounds a bit hollow, echo-y for lack of a better term. I generally did not care for it.
  • Total Volume. A typical, peak limiting setting, so that it minimizes the volume of loud commercials as well as peaks in voice and music.  It reduces the dynamics but sometimes is necessary (apartment dwellers with neighbors), or just for convenience.

Friends over recently didn’t notice I used the Hisense speaker system until someone in the back wondered why they couldn’t hear my rear speakers!   My point being I’m pretty much a perfectionist, and I’m telling you Hisense’s implementation is pretty impressive, even if definitely not “audiophile!”   Hey, you can always drop $2.5K to $25K on a nice sound system, if you are more of a perfectionist.

There’s also a built in sound equalizer.  I used that to reduce bass output at 120 Hz, to remove some boom.  I also increased the upper mid-range just a touch.

There’s a digital audio out, and the ability to control the Audio Delay to sync with external speakers, as well as a Lip Sync to keep picture and audio in sync. That’s a necessary feature found on all surround sound receivers as well.  And as you would expect, the subwoofer has an audio volume control.  On the other hand, it lacks a variable frequency crossover control which many quality subwoofers have (and which can help eliminate boomy bass.)

Consider all of that!  Meantime, to summarize:  For most folks, the Hisense Laser TV will simply rock your world, sound wise!

Hisense Smart TV Features

The Hisense Laser TV is smart.  The one I’m working with, however, is technically last year’s model (D series); the E series is now shipping.   A primary difference was that the E series shipped working with Alexa, (this D version also should also now work with Alexa), allowing voice commands.  I’ll discuss the Alexa app in the next section.

I’ve configured this review Hisense 100” laser TV for the Netflix app, and used it a number of times, for my test first episode of Blacklist in 4K (no HDR), as well as with various movies and a couple of Marvel TV shows (Defenders, etc.).

I encountered no difficulty getting my necessary user info, and starting to use it.  It brings up the usual onscreen keyboard to input ID and password for Netflix.  The process was similar to setting up Netflix on my AV receiver (Anthem), my Sony 4K Blu-ray UHD player, and my Apple TV 4K for working with most apps.

Remember, I rely normally on my sound system.  I didn’t test running sound directly into the Hisense from my other gear – notably my DirecTV box and 4K Blu-ray UHD player. That should not be a problem, but it would have required some changes to my AV Receiver settings, which I preferred not to do, especially since I could get audio from both 4K and non-4K sources off of streaming.

The Hisense doesn’t seem quite as well equipped as say the LG HU80KA’s smarts, but then the LG (best we’ve seen) basically has all the relative smart features found on LG’s premium TVs.  And of course I couldn’t test the Alexa app.

Alexa Control – Does It Work?

If you are out shopping for a Hisense Laser TV, you should be looking at the newer E series, which does have Alexa support.  After saying that it turns out that, in the course of updates, so does my D version.  That’s the good news.

The not so good news is that upon going to the Alexa.Amazon site to download and setup Skills, I discovered that the Hisense skills app gets an average rating of about 1.5 stars on Alexa.  Reading the comments, it’s pretty bleak.  Most complain that some/most of the commands simply don’t work.  1.5 stars is about as low as I have seen.  I assume that Hisense has noticed and will do something major to fix that.  Although many of the reviews are six months old or more, even some recent ones are complaining about the same issue.  From reading about the Skill on the Alexa.Amazon site, Hisense states these capabilities:

– “Alexa, turn down the volume on [your TV name].”
– “Alexa, set volume to 5 on [your TV name].”*
– “Alexa, turn down the volume by 2 on [your TV name].”*
– “Alexa, mute [your TV name].”
– “Alexa, unmute [your TV name].”
– “Alexa, fast forward on [your TV name].”
– “Alexa, pause on [your TV name].”
– “Alexa, play on [your TV name].”
– “Alexa, stop on [your TV name].”
– “Alexa, switch input to HDMI1 on [your TV name].”
– “Alexa, turn off [your TV name].”
– “Alexa, change channel to [Channel Number] on [your TV name].”**
– “Alexa, change channel to [Channel Name] on [your TV name].” **
– “Alexa, next channel on [your TV name].” **
– “Alexa, channel up on [your TV name].” **
– “Alexa, channel down on [your TV name].” **

It would be great if the Hisense/Alexa could do all of that!

Unfortunately, the complaints indicate that many commands don’t work or that the setup was difficult.  The bottom line is that most were unhappy with trying to get the smarts to work.  The reviews I saw started in May of ’18 with the newest being about a month old.

This is obviously very fixable.  As China’s largest maker of TVs, they have the resources. Now they need the will. Some users say it only turns off and on, others had luck with some of the other commands.  But the other half of this problem is that although only 38 comments, several complained that the online support was not helpful.  Most of the ratings were 1 star.   Also remember this Alexa control is apparently available on some Hisense traditional LCD TVs, not just the Laser TV.  Come on Hisense.  Give us a reliable Alexa skill.   I don’t think it’s a big deal if you can’t turn off the set, or adjust the volume with Alexa, etc. but it is supposed to work.

If only Hisense would produce a more reliable Alexa Skill.
If only Hisense would produce a more reliable Alexa Skill.

Let’s say that Hisense needs make this a priority.  A smart TV that doesn’t work as advertised, is going to upset folks, and they will complain – as the app ratings indicate.  Now I realize that Skill and authorization is relatively new.  Yet, I tried to get the Skill to work with no luck at all, because as with any Skills you have to let the Alexa site get password permission from the device (the Hisense in this case).  My attempts to create a Hisense account were unsuccessful (mostly) and very frustrating.

The Hisense site at first wouldn’t let me complete a sign up – said my email was already in use (it wasn’t) then when it finally let me create the account, when I shortly thereafter, tried to log in, said there was no such account.    Most folks should forget about Alexa, until Hisense does something about this.

Update:  Ultimately, I got the account working, went to the Alexa.Amazon site, and set up the Hisense Skill.  Unfortunately, even having accomplished that, I could not get the Hisense to respond to my these commands.  I tried again, and finally had some luck.  I can power down the Hisense Laser TV, and adjust the volume, but the phrasing is in a different order than the Hisense Skill says:  What works is:  Alexa, set volume of Laser TV (the name I gave it) to 20.

If you say (as they suggest) Set volume to 20 of Laser TV. it tells you that maximum volume is 10 (because Alexa sees that as a command to adjust Alexa’s volume), not the Hisense.

So, at least I got some of the smarts to finally work (as I’m finishing off this review).  BTW could never get it to turn it on, but turning it off is working. Volume works, as long as your wording is correct, and mute also works.  For those with an antenna, you should be able to change TV channels (did not test) via Alexa.  I do not know how well that works – fingers crossed.

4K UHD Resolution

The Hisense Laser TV uses the higher res of the two 4K UHD DLP chips: 2716x1528x2 (pixel shift).  That’s a good thing, smaller pixels than the other DLP chip.  As always I must point out that this is not native 4K.  But all these DLP manufacturers like to claim 4K resolution without making it clear that they are not native.

I won’t go into my usual long explanation of the trade-offs but here’s a short version:

First, unless sitting at minimum distances (say under 12 feet from the 100” screen), you probably can’t tell the difference between 1080p pixel shifters, the two 4K UHD pixel shifters and native.  But sitting close, native appears naturally sharper/more detailed. The other projectors make up for some of that with extensive image processing.   This Hisense is no exception.  Hisense throws a lot of image enhancement at it. Enough that I lowered the Sharpness settings to minimal (or just over that).  I still found it a bit over sharpened for my movie viewing, but fine for sports. That said, most folks will just think like I did when I first started working with the Hisense Laser TV:  That it seemed exceptionally sharp.  If you are serious about the picture you’ll back off the sharpness a bit, but if you are like the vast majority, you’ll probably like things just the way Hisense set them up.

The advantage of this and other DLPs compared to the other technology, is that there’s no three panels to converge, which always means some minor mis-alignment.  The trade-off for some – a visible rainbow effect.  I’m not sure of the color wheel speed but my guess is a 3X.  That is, I see rainbows when I watch those dark scenes with fast moving white on dark.  On the other hand the wheel is definitely faster than the Acer laser I reviewed, and also faster I believe than a number of the Optomas. BenQ runs faster wheels than most and all of the BenQ HT projectors through here had less rainbows than this Hisense.

Bottom line: Very nicely sharp – but can be too sharp from over processing.  That will be most noticeable on movies where the director emphasizes the films original graininess.

Laser Light Engine

I’ll keep this quick. The key advantages to a laser light engine:

  • Consistent brightness that drops slowly over 20,000 hours not hundreds of ours like lamp based.
  • Color also remains consistent far longer as lamps always shift color over time.
  • The laser engine basically means “no muss, no fuss” in that there are no lamps to replace, every year or two, and a more consistent picture.
  • A laser engine also allows for a wider color gamut, with the ability to achieve P3 color (50% larger than REC709).

Unfortunately many of the laser projectors we review that claim to work with P3 or start with the P3 signal and mix it back down to REC709, can barely can do REC709! Some only come close, on some primary or secondary colors, not all).  This Hisense fits that description.  It’s possible that the current E series is a touch better, but I’m looking to the just announced next generation Laser TVs including the 120” for improvements there.  They will sport a new laser light engine, and with that, perhaps a better wider color space.  By the time you read this one or more of the newest models may be shipping.

All else being equal, consider that the typical lamp based DLP projectors are still, in theory, at a disadvantage to those projectors, like this Hisense, with laser engines.

Enough –  on the next pages let’s run through the hardware, inputs and then we’ll get into our discussion about picture quality for all types of viewing from sports, to general streaming, 1080 movies and HDTV, and 4K content be it from 4K Blu-ray disc, or streaming.