The latest Hisense 100″ 4K Laser TV 100L5F is a continuance of its laser R&D that started way back in 2007. Its first consumer model was in 2014.
And we have seen the earlier generations. The Hisense 100″ 4K Laser TV 100L5F keeps improving the formula, even manages to shave $5,000 of last years model and includes a new Ambient Light Rejection (ALR) wall screen with fully automatic geometric screen adjustment.
But the catch 22 is that with a price drop comes a performance drop. This is a new category – a 100” value Laser TV. If you view it as that you won’t be disappointed.
First a word or three on what is a laser TV
If you don’t know and are perfectly happy with a 65 or 75″ TV, then don’t read on.
If you are a ‘cinephile’ that wants full Dolby Vision and Atmos and you know that’s only going to come from a top-of-the-range OLED or Quantum Dot TV, and a dedicated soundbar or AV receiver then don’t read on.
What’s left? If size matters over picture perfection, then a Laser TV is the best alternative, albeit with a few compromises. As long as you know up front, then we have done our job.
Simply put, a Laser TV is an all-in-one short-throw projector and a separate screen that does what a TV does.
GadgetGuy had two hours alone with ‘biggie’, and this is the first Australian review. In two hours, we crammed in as many tests as we could. We are confident that we have nailed both the plus and minus of the Hisense 100″ Laser 4K TV 100L5F.
Ports: 1 x HDMI 2.0 ARC (not eARC), 3 x HDMI 2.0, S/PDIF Optical, Composite RCA, 2x USB-2.0, Ethernet, VGA+2 x 3.5mm (L/R)
TV Tuner and plays HEVC (H.265), H.264, MPEG4, MPEG2, VC1, MVC and VP9
Auto eye protection turns off Laser if approached
Brightness: 2700 lumens (equivalent to 788 nits – more on that later)
Contrast: 1000:1 (low by today’s TV standards)
VIDAA 4.0 smart TV features with 2x remote controls
Wi-Fi 5 AC
BT 4.2 A2DP & AVRCP (can cast to headphones)
Power: .5W standby and 350Wh
Voice support: Alexa built-in or Google Assistant (limited) via a separate smart speaker
NOTE: This is the 100L5F for Australia. It is very different from other ‘L’ models sold around the world.
We will start by telling you the ideal placement and the ideal use. It’s a 100″ screen that in the right environment is great for sport, free/catchup TV and typical streaming.
What is the perfect environment for the Hisense 100″ 4K Laser TV 100L5F?
It seems a little strange to start with the environment instead of the device itself. But as we found ambient and direct light directly affects image quality and brightness.
The imperfect place is the Aussie lounge room with copious, often uncontrollable, direct and ambient light sources. Don’t do it as 2700 lumens (or more) Laser TVs (and projectors) all lack the overall brightness and contrast for this environment.
The perfect place is a media room with 100% controllable lighting. That includes full control of overhead and side table lights, curtains, doors, reflections etc. The device works best in < 40-lumen darkness. As ambient light increases to office light levels (400-500 or more) lumens, it progressively washes out the colours and tones. If you open the door or curtains to let in daylight any semblance of subtle tones disappears.
Size-wise the room needs to be large enough to sit a comfortable four metres back. While 45° off-angle viewing is ‘adequate’, it means that the best viewing angle is straight on.
And in part that is due to the ALR screen. It needs a mid-point mounting height at the viewer’s eye level.
To put that in simple English. If you sit on a lounge chair, your eyes will be between 900-1000 mm from the floor. A 100″ 16:9 screen has dimensions of 2244 x 1275mm high (11kg x 30.5mm thick plus mount). If the screen is in the correct viewing position, the bottom will be about 300mm off the floor. It is not a tabletop laser – the screen would be too high for proper on-angle viewing.
Next, the laser unit has to sit below that. It is 547 (L) x346 (D) x158 (H)mm x 11.5kg so the cabinet it sits on should only be a maximum of 150mm high!
Now, that is for the perfect horizontal viewing angle. Does that apply to TVs I hear you ask? In theory, yes. In practice, no. An OLED or Quantum Dot TV panel has a far wider horizontal and vertical viewing angle. Wall-mounted TVs are generally placed about 1000-1200mm off the floor with little evident off-angle distortion.
Vision – Hisense 100″ 4K Laser TV 100L5F 2020
Texas Instruments DLP XPR chip
True 4K is 8.3 million individually addressable pixels. The TI DLP XPR is a 1080p chip, and single blue Laser are in most lower-cost ‘4K’projectors. It delivers faux 4K by shifting the 1080p pixel horizontally and vertically in four directions clockwise at 200/240Hz (4×50/60Hz).
By comparison, a native 4K chip requires higher brightness and generally uses three lasers. Is DLP XPR worse than native 4K? If your eyes could see the 4K pixels (over 8.3 billion) then yes. But as you can’t, it is a moot point at best. In our opinion, the image is commensurate with the cost.
But this clockwise motion, undetectable to the human eye becomes evident when taking a photo of the screen and in test patterns. We had to reduce camera ISO to very slow 50 just to get a viewable image. So please take any test images as indicative – they wont show banding to the naked eye.
High Dynamic Range
The detailed specs state that the Laser supports HDR. This means that it shows more colours and a little more detail in shadows and bright areas than SDR (standard dynamic range) for Free-to-air (FTA) and HD streaming. HDR applies to a TV with 400 nits or more – the brighter, the better.
We have certain reference scenes that we test with OLED, Quantum Dot and LED/LCD TVs.
When we viewed Lost in Space (Dolby Vision and Atmos) it streamed a 4K HDR Dolby Digital 5.1 version. It was quite a visible step down from the glorious deep blacks and vibrant colours that this content provides on the right gear.
This Laser is commensurate with a 500 Nit LED/LCD TV panel.
HDR versus HDR10/+/Dolby Atmos explainer (not applicable to this Laser)
HDR10 is next and uses static metadata to adjust the TV at the beginning of the show. It assumes the TV can reach 1000 nits, albeit in a very small portion of the screen (about 1%) at any time.
HDR10+ is the next level and uses dynamic metadata to adjust colours on a scene by scene basis.
Dolby Vision is more complex and demanding than HDR10+. When Netflix et al., encounter a compatible TV, it selects the right feed.
Lumen versus nits
For some reason, projector makers quote brightness in ANSI Lumens. BTW 3.426 Lumens is approximately one nit. In my opinion, nits are a more consistent way to measure brightness at a TV screen or projector screen. So, a peak of 2700 lumen is 788 nits.
The default settings are at maximum light levels. In the test environment (a fully light controlled area) it needed to be – there was no more light level control left.
Once set up, you will want to experiment with Standard, Natural, Cinema, Dynamic, Football and games mode. This does not alter the nits but the colours.
We were able to measure 504 nits reflected at 1 metre from the screen. That is by no means a definitive measurement – we had to use a light meter instead of a Calman calibration camera.
Contrast is the difference between pure black and pure white. Most projectors quote huge FOMO (Full on/Full-Off at the light source) ratios like 10,000:1 which is just to make the figures look better.
Hisense quotes 1000:1. This appears to be an ANSI Contrast ratio (correct) that takes into account the projection optics, average contrast over the image and other things like the screen efficiency.
It is less than a typical LED/LCD TV can produce.
Wide colour gamut versus DCI-P3
First, Hisense makes no claims on ‘percentages’ – just that it supports ‘Wide Colour Gamut’. What that means is that it supports more than SDR’s 16.7 million colours and somewhere up to 1 billion colours and tones.
100% DCI-P3 (that this Laser does not have) means it projects the full 1 billion colours and tones the way a moviemaker intended. Our 4K colour tests (not definitive as we could not use a calibration camera) put this around 70% DCI-P3.
Summary: The website says, “exceeding the standard UHD 4K colour range”.
It is better than a standard UHD 16.7 million colour range.
You can use your existing screen (if you have one)
The Laser has settings for front and rear, ceiling or floor projection as well as different screen surfaces. The ALR screen is great if properly placed.
Home Theatre advocates prefer a neutral 1.0 gain (as I suspect this is) – if you throw 2700 Lumens, it will reflect 2700 Lumens.
Automatic grid alignment – magic
As we always factory reset a TV before testing (to get over sneaky settings to make it look better) it needed an automatic grid alignment.
This requires the Laser to be internet-connected and to project a QR code that you scan with your smartphone. Seconds later the set is perfectly aligned to the screen. This implies that the Laser communicates with the Hisense internet cloud.
If you are concerned with privacy, there are a few setting to reset advertising ID, but you have to assume that at least operating telemetry goes to Hisense. Any smart TV does the same.
When it starts (warms up) you hear a definite 47.1dB fan noise for about a minute then it quietens down to about 38dB. But every so often it enters ‘clean-mode’, and fan noise goes to nearly 60dB.
Hisense was unable to provide any lag times for gaming, but I suspect these would be a little higher than a gamer expects. It does not offer variable rate refresh (FreeSync, etc.). It does have motion smoothing that works for sport – turn it off for movies.
Despite what any specs may say about Dolby Atmos capability (essentially 5.1.2 or higher), the sound is still from the 2.0 speakers.
Unlike the image portrayed on the website, this sound has NO spatial height or rear left/right sound. It simply has a left and right front sound stage (stereo).
In our tests, we streamed ‘Lost in Space’ (Dolby Vision and Atmos) and were unable to hear any spatial height or Atmos surround sound. If you want to read more about Dolby Atmos (and you should if you want to listen to it) our Dummies Guide to Dolby Atmos is the best place to start.
Sound part II – ARC means Dolby Atmos passthrough is compressed
The Laser TV unit has an HDMI 2.0 ARC (Audio Return Channel) that cannot pass through uncompressed Dolby Atmos audio to Atmos soundbar. And vice versa a soundbar cannot passthrough Dolby Vision/Audio from a Blu-ray to the Laser TV processor. If it had eARC, it could!
What is the difference between ARC compressed (lossy) and eARC uncompressed (lossless)?
If you heard the same audio in both formats, you can tell the difference. The Hisense Laser 4K TV 100L5F has a lower data bit-rate than true Atmos.
And similarly, the Dolby Vision signal is parred back to HDR.
My advice is to attach a good quality 2.1 to 5.1 soundbar (not Atmos) to get the best from this device.
Sound Part III – how does it sound?
We have written about Dolby Atmos. If lossless is important, you will buy a Dolby Vision/Atmos OLED or Quantum Dot TV and a Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 or higher soundbar. Why a soundbar? No TV speaker system does true Dolby Atmos.
The 2.0 speakers reached 80dB at 100% volume. It was loud enough for a media room, and distortion was quite low.
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – nil
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – building nicely
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – flat
Low-mid: 200-400Hz – flat
Mid: 400-1000Hz – flat
High-mid: 1-2kHz – flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHz flat
Treble: 4-6kHz – dip to avoid treble harshness
High Treble: 6-10kHz – slight peak
Dog whistle: 10-20kHz – gradual decline
Technically this is a bright vocal sound signature (bass recessed, mid/treble boosted) with the barest hints of bass.
The EQ includes pre-sets for Theatre, Music, Speech, Late Night and custom (starts at 100Hz +/- 10dB). The EQ does not do anything for bass, but you can bring it to a mid-signature (bass recessed, mid boosted, treble recessed) for clearer dialogue.
All-in-all it is not bad for this type of device, but you will miss the room-shaking bass that only a subwoofer can add.
Hisense 100″ 4K Laser TV 100L5F is perfect for the right user.
A Laser TV (or projectors) attraction is a giant screen. If you have the right space, it can turn your home into a sports arena, a Pilates studio, gym or even a French countryside for cyclists. And there is nothing quite like a 100″ movie.
Even the top laser 100″ projectors don’t have the same HDR/Dolby Vision image qualities as TVs. In the right circumstances – e.g., a dedicated media room – a Laser TV can provide a great viewing experience.
The Hisense 100″ 4K Laser TV 100L5F is a value laser TV so don’t expect top performance.
If I appear to be a little harsh on the Hisense, it is not mean or deliberate. I have not reviewed a lot of laser TVs, and I wanted to be 100% accurate. Last year I saw the very much more expensive LG Cine Beam 100″ 4K laser (not sold here) and the Hisense 100” Dual Laser. Even at twice the price, these had similar issues.
To put this in perspective, it is $6999, including a dedicated ALR screen. Last year’s model was $11999. Similar devices from other makers are over $10K. So as a value big screen laser, it is fit for purpose.
It is a value device. It meets those test paradigms giving it a rating around 4/5. Does it exceed on any point? Not really. Does it underperform? Ditto as long as you have the right environment.
Should you buy one?
If you have $7K, the right light controlled environment and believe size matters over all else, then, yes.
Me, no. But that is because I don’t have a darkened man cave or media room space. And I have experienced true Dolby Vision and Atmos TV and sound perfection and can’t go back.
I need the Quantum Dot brightness or deep black of OLED, eARC (not ARC), HDMI 2.0/2.1, ALLM/VRR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos and a kick-arse Atmos 5.1.2 or 7.1.4 soundbar. And for that, I am prepared to pay more with all the gear.
Value for money
Ease of Use
100" screen included in the price
If you have the right environment then go for it
It is a value Laser TV and as such picture quality is more commensurate with a LED/LCD TV