The Hisense 65SX Dual Cell TV rewrites what you can expect from a high-end LED/LCD TV.
Let’s not get into an argument between LCD and OLED – as each has their own merits. Why? OLED is self-emissive (each of the 4K, 8,294,499 pixels independently turns on or off) giving pure black or white and infinite ∞:1 contrast.
LED/LCD use some form of backlighting and can achieve somewhere between 1500-10,000:1 contrast.
What Hisense has done with the Hisense 65SX Dual Cell TV is take an edge-lit 4K LED/LCD TV and sandwiched a mono FHD LCD panel between it and the backlight. The theory is that the closely bonded mono and colour LCD panels work together to improve blacks via a more granular (2 million pixels/zones) dimming system.
This is a significant step up from the top-of-the-range Hisense 65Q8 LED/LCD FALD (Full-Array Local Dimming) screen technology that may have about 100 local dimming zones (Thomas Bartlett’s review here 4.7/5).
Dual Cell is new territory for Hisense
Hisense was the first to launch a Dual Cell screen last year as a consumer TV – the HZ65U9E for the China market only. The Australian model is Hisense 65SX Dual Cell TV. While the TVs are similar the 65SX is not a ULED (Quantum Dot panel), like the HZ65.
The other Dual Cell, the Panasonic MegaCon (4K colour and 4K mono sandwich) has 100,000:1 contrast and 1,000nits. Its claim to fame is that, apart from being extremely expensive and for Hollywood movie producer use, is that it can hold full-field peak-brightness of 1000nits indefinitely while covering 99% of the DCI P3 colour standard. Consumer TVs are not in that league. Not yet at least!
As this is new tech, here’s a quick summary of what it delivers:
Upside: Better colour and contrast from LED/LCD technology than what is currently possible. There should be no issues with lasting quality, colour or brightness
Downsides: It can cost more than some QLED TVs, uses more power and does not match all OLED picture standards
Hisense (Est. 1969) is a Chinese owned, multi-national white goods and electronics manufacturer headquartered in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China. It owns appliance brands including Gorenje, Hitachi, Sharp, Toshiba as well as some local China-only brands.
Please note that due to COVID restrictions this was a ‘first look’ for two hours of a pre-production Dual Cell in a blackout curtained boardroom. There was a Hisense OLED TV there for us to compare. Our test environment was not as comprehensive as the GadgetGuy TV rig used in Thomas Bartlett’s TV reviews. We use the terms FAIL, PASS and EXCEED against the test paradigms for LED/LCD panels.
OK let’s explain Dual Cell
First, there are several types of TV panels. IHS Markit has defined these as (in order of cost and performance)
FALD (FULL ARRAY LOCAL DIMMING) LED/LCD backlight
Mini/Micro LED/LCD backlight
Dual Cell LED/LCD Edge-lit
QLED is an overlay of nanoparticles on any of the above that gives better colours
OLED (specifically White OLED or WOLED) is an entirely different technology to LCD
Is brighter than FALD or OLED
Has higher contrast ratio than FALD (not OLED which is infinite)
Has finer dimming control than FALD as each mono pixel is essentially an LCD gate
In simple terms, Dual Cell differs from normal LED TVs with the addition of a mono 1,920 x 1,080 (FHD) LCD gate panel between a backlight and the 4K LCD colour layer.
It is not easy to precisely align a FHD and 4K panel so they work together perfectly. As the complexity reduces, so too will the price. We expect that Dual Cell will soon be able to mould a 4K mono panel, so there’s plenty of scope for even higher resolutions like 8K as time goes by.
The back layer is an edge-lit backlight. Light comes from LEDs at the edge of the screen and goes via fibre optics to local dimming zones (not disclosed but we estimate 132 zones). Unlike traditional LCD TVs, the number of Local Dimming Zones is not as important because the mono layer does most of the light re-distribution. We guess that the edge light is amped ‘way up’ to give the brightest possible screen. BOE report the screen has potentially 100,000:1 contrast – very good, but not OLED’s infinite.
The middle layer is a mono, 1,920 x 1,080 (FHD) LCD’ gateway’. That means 2,073,600 pixels can act as light’ gates’. To be clear, this is the LIQUID CRYSTAL DISPLAY transistor ‘gateway’ at 25% of the resolution as the colour layer. Each pixel opens or closes to let the backlight through to the LCD colour layer.
Hisense states that each 4K pixel has four dimming pixels (technically correct). We understand that in reality, it is two dimming pixels with is still pretty spectacular compared to any other LED/LCD panel.
Then in front of that is a 4K LCD panel. These gates let light through to excite RGB pixels to produce colour.
In front of the colour panel is a polariser – an anti-reflective matte sheet – that also protects the panel.
Because of the extra layers, its around 25% thicker and heavier than an edge-lit panel.
Apparently, BOE is the only company able to make Dual Cell at present, and it is about to launch a 31.5″ monitor for gaming.
It is a 4K, 3,840 x 2,160, 68ppi, 16:9, VA (Vertical Alignment), LCD Dual Cell panel. It is capable of Dolby Vision/HDR10 and Dolby Atmos sound decoding.
Now there are a few ways to measure Dual Cell specifications that Hisense can legitimately use.
In reality, Dual Cell is no brighter than the best FALD Quantum Dot TVs. What it has is better light control (contrast) allowing for deeper blacks than standard LED/LCD panels and potentially better HDR definition.
As per the above, Hisense can claim it uses a 12-bit+FRC (Frame Rate Control) panel. This comprises 4-bit mono and 8-bit+FRC colour.
FRC (frame rate control) achieves greater colour depth/tones (up to 1,073,741,824) from an 8-bit TFT LCD panel. Tech types can read more here. Don’t worry, most 4K LED/LCD panels use FRC and your eyes will never know the difference on a full 10-bit panel.
Next is colour. It really ‘pops’ in higher ambient lighting conditions whereas OLED needs darker, more controlled lighting conditions to show off.
Hisense claims that it has 100+% sRGB, 100% DCI-P3, 85% Adobe RGB and 80% NTSC. We could not test that, but the colour bar tests certainly indicate that it is one of the better LED/LCD panels we have seen in terms of colour volume.
Hisense has not disclosed its official brightness figures but we were able to find some BOE specs indicating 500nits (cd/m2). To our eyes, that figure seems a little low as Dolby Vision usually requires peak brightness of over 1000nits. We will update this section if we learn more.
Hisense has not disclosed its official contrast figures yet either. BOE specs show a static contrast of 200,000:1. This is the luminosity ratio comparing the brightest and darkest colour (not black and white) that the system is capable of producing simultaneously with a static image.
However, dynamic contrast is a better measure as it is the luminosity ratio comparing the brightest and darkest colour the system is capable of producing over time (while the picture is moving). We estimate that is closer to 100,000:1.
Keep in mind that this number is seven to ten times higher than traditional LED/LCD TVs.
Off-angle viewing – PASS
While a VA panel technically has 178° horizontal/vertical off-angle viewing, it is more about the colour shift and clarity.
Subjectively, the horizontal and vertical viewing angle deteriorates at about 130° – typical of most VA panels.
Some VA panels use a Fresnel lens to ‘bend’ light to give a wider viewing angle at the expense of brightness. We were unable to detect this.
Screen reflection – PASS
The anti-reflective coating tries hard but seems a little more reflective than the OLED TV in our comparison.
Dolby Vision (a superset of HDR10) and High Log-Gamma (HLG) – PASS
As mentioned, we compared the Dual Cell with a Hisense 2018/2019 series X OLED TV. It is not exactly a fair comparison, especially in a blackout curtained boardroom, and we almost decided to omit it. We would rather have seen the Dual Cell up against the Hisense 65Q8 ULED FALD TV, as that better represents what you might be comparing in a shop.
In this test, the Dual Cell is, subjectively at least 85% of the OLED as the gold standard. But when I pulled back the blackout curtains for more ‘normal’ light, the Dual Cell crept up a few notches.
Where the OLED exceeds is in the finer HDR detail in dark and light from the Dolby Vision metadata, and its pure blacks and whites. Don’t get me wrong – you can only see this when they are side by side. Dual Cell should be better than other LED/LCD TVs.
Motion compensation – PASS
We expected Dual Cell to be a tad slower than a single cell (it is logical – two screens of different resolutions). Still, Hisense says it has a 200Mhz smooth motion rate (the native panel is 100Hz) using motion estimation and compensation (MEMC). This is better than simple black frame insertion, but we were unable to test it at the time.
Dolby Atmos and DTS HD sound – EXCEED compared to a standard 2.0 speaker setup
The Dual Cell has a built-in 2.1 speaker system. This includes a 4.1″ 30W sub-woofer which doubles as the TV’s base, along with a row of speakers along the bottom of the screen. The obvious benefit here is that you may not need to buy an aftermarket soundbar.
It has Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 decoding and downmixes to its stereo 2.1 speakers. It will pass through via HDMI 2.0/eARC that to a Dolby Atmos soundbar. Please read our Dummies Guide to Dolby Atmos and DTX before you buy a soundbar – it will completely change your understanding of the much-misused term Atmos.
Maximum internal speaker volume is 80dB. It is more than enough to fill the average media room. Each channel has 15W (total 30W), and we understand there are four tweeters and two mid-range speakers in the base.
The sound stage is wider than the TV (good) and it does attempt to reproduce some Atmos effects (mainly side – not height).
Frequency response is bass-heavy (yes, that depends on content and settings). Our tests were on standard settings.
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – nil
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – building to 86Hz
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – dipping (this is where we would expect the TV speakers to cut in)
Low-mid: 200-400Hz – building to flat
Mid: 400-1000Hz – flat
High-mid: 1-2kHz – flat
Low-treble: 2-4kHz – declining
Treble:4-6kHz – declining
High Treble: 6-1kHz – nil
Dog whistle: 10-20kHz – nil
Overall this is a bass sound signature (you can read more about this here) and the settings (movie, sport etc) allow a little more mid for clearer voice.
The 4.1″ Sub-woofer is wireless and rated at 30W. You can certainly hear the added bass. But there is a little issue with its design. As the sub-woofer is part of the desktop stand, this makes the TV quite deep at 1450 (W) x 908 (H) x 345 (D) mm on a desktop/sideboard – and together it weighs about 70kg. For wall mounting, the sub is removable and the panel fits a VESA 400×300 bracket.
Power – PASS
The overseas model has a 3-star energy consumption rating drawing 265Wh in use and .5W idle. Assuming that you run it at peak times (35 cents per kWh), it will cost about 10 cents an hour. A traditional LCD will use from 100-150W and an OLED about 150-170W. A new Hisense 65Q8 QLED has a six-star rating.
Voice control – PASS+
It has native Amazon Alexa built-in and Google Assistant via an OK Google Speaker (not tested).
This includes wake on command, change channels/volume/input source, search for content and playback control.
Gaming – PASS+ for casual gamers
G-T-G not disclosed but said to be <25ms. There is a gaming mode (not tested) that may improve the response time.
Ports etc. – EXCEED
3 x HDMI 2.0
HDMI 2.0 eARC
Wi-Fi 5 AC dual-band
AV RCA (Video and L/R)
Processor and OS – PASS+
Mali-G51 MP4 GPU
The processor is doing a lot more work driving two screens and local dimming zones. It uses a Hisense design Hi-View Pro made by MediaTek.
It also has quite good 4K upscaling technology. We tested from 720p, 1080p to 4K, and it did an excellent job.
VIDAA 4.0 – PASS+
I won’t go into the VIDAA 4.0 OS except to say that it has new AI functionality, a good range of streaming apps and is a nicely polished menu system.
It has Netflix, YouTube, Stan, Amazon Prime Video and Freeview Plus.
You can control it via the updated RemoteNow smartphone app for Android and iOS.
It also supports a PVR over USB and can replay (subject to HDCP 2.2 DRM) AVI, Flash, HVEC, MPEG, QuickTime, VP9 and more video formats.
It can play AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA and more audio formats.
Hisense 65SX Dual Cell TV is the new king of the LED/LCD mountain
I admit to being an OLED tragic – there is no better if you have the right conditions. And most OLED enthusiasts do. They can control ambient light and reflectivity and lap up that pure black and colours.
High-end Quantum Dot offerings from Samsung, LG NanoCell and Sony Tri-Luminous, and Hisense are great in the typical Aussie open plan living area where we invite copious unfettered light in. These are most under threat from Dual Cell, and perhaps later micro/mini LED backlight technologies.
So is it as good as OLED? No, not if you are just comparing black levels and contrast. However, if you factor in higher brightness levels and a panel that isn’t sensitive to burn-in over time, then the Dual Cell story is more compelling.
Is it an acceptable substitute for OLED? Yes, it is very good. We venture it is better than any QLED we have seen.
Price – we don’t normally comment, but $3,499 seems reasonable. It is above the street price of Samsung QLED Q80T, about the same as the Q95T and below the entry-level LG BX and Sony A8G OLED. Keep in mind that you get a built-in sound system, so you may be happy to forgoe a soundbar.
It is a safe buy now, but there is a lot of downwards price pressure as a result of COVID and the new 8K Quantum Dot TV. LG’s new Nano95 8K FALD is $3,795 (was $5,399) is tempting.
In rating this 4.6/5 it reflects the lack of time to do a full review. Once our AV expert Thomas Bartlett gets his hands on I expect it will creep up a notch or two.
I hope our explanation of the Dual Cell clarifies this new tech and that it is a safe buy. As usual, we warn buyers to cut through the marketing hype and test with your eyes!
For a summary of Hisense’s Dual Cell and other technology announced at CES earlier this year, check out our video below.
Value for money
Ease of Use
Higher brightness and contrast than most LED/LCDs - great for sunny living rooms
Good, but not quite OLED-like blacks!
Better 2.1 sound than most - you can almost get away without a sound bar unless you want Dolby Atmos
New LCD tech should last as long as older LCD tech
Don't compare it to OLED - compare it to Quantum Dot QLED