Hisense U7NAU first look: improving a good value Mini LED TV

Hisense U7NAU 4K Mini LED TV
Image: supplied.

When I reviewed Hisense’s 2023 U7 TV, there was a lot to like. As an affordable Mini LED TV, it boasted impressive gaming performance, earning a spot on our best TVs list. With the new Hisense U7NAU model, I wanted to see two main improvements: better local dimming, and a wider viewing angle.

I recently spent a couple of hours with the new TV from Hisense’s 2024 range and walked away pleased by the year-on-year improvements. Positioned as a high-value entry point to Mini LED, the Hisense U7NAU upgrades its internals, iterating on what was already a good TV.

Ultimately, it’s brighter and more precise, making it a tough TV to beat at its $1,599 starting price point.

Hisense U7NAU improvements

Right from the outset, the U7NAU model looks and feels more responsive. Even though it uses the same core VIDAA U7 operating system as last year, the incremental improvements are obvious.

Navigating menus and accessing content is quicker, in part thanks to the newer version of the Hi-View Engine chipset. Pretty much all the most popular streaming apps are natively supported, including the recent addition of Optus Sport.

Hisense U7NAU first look
Image: Chris Button

But, more importantly, the Hisense U7NAU wields more dimming zones than last year’s entry-level Mini LED TV. This year’s model has 300 dimming zones, compared to 100. Its 10,000-backlight count remains the same but they’re capable of 50% brighter images.

A quick primer on Mini LED

Why do these numbers matter? Mini LED generally produces the brightest output of any mass-market TV technology. OLED garners praise for its colour accuracy, contrast levels, and viewing angles, but it isn’t as bright. Some OLED TVs struggle in well-lit rooms because of this.

Mini LED, on the other hand, produces higher brightness levels. It’s handy for living rooms filled with natural light or glare, which accounts for many Australian homes. This is why there’s such a big push for Mini LED now from the likes of Samsung, Sony, and TCL. The challenge for Mini LEDs then is to control the brightness so that light doesn’t bleed across the screen.

As the name suggests, dimming zones control clusters of backlights, illuminating them as needed. The more dimming zones, the more precise the control, reducing unwanted effects like blooming, where a halo-like glow appears around a bright subject against a dark backdrop.

In the case of the Hisense U7NAU, it’s a noticeable improvement over last year’s TV. Although it doesn’t eliminate blooming altogether, it’s definitely better.

A Hisense U7NAU home cinema

One of the best ways to test this is to watch any letterboxed content. That is, any movie bordered by black bars at the top and bottom. Streaming Oppenheimer on Netflix, which also takes advantage of the U7NAU’s new support of the IMAX Enhanced HDR format, the cut-off between the letterboxing and the movie’s picture was far more precise.

Hisense U7NAU Oppenheimer bright
With an evenly lit picture, the light control is impressive. Image: Chris Button.

In a near-pitch-black room, the TV demonstrated decent contrast levels, depicting good black levels on unlit areas of the screen. It still struggled a bit when the brightness was localised to a specific area of the frame. Here, the surrounding area appeared more dark grey than black. Which, to be honest, isn’t a major problem in a TV at this price point.

Via the TV’s settings, you can tweak the local dimming intensity levels. Compared to when it’s switched off, it’s obvious how big a difference local dimming makes. Without it, the letterbox borders appear entirely dark grey. Meanwhile, enabling the setting enhances the contrast tenfold.

I did find, however, that it changed the colour profile a bit, adding a slight greenish hue. So, make sure to calibrate according to your preferred local dimming settings beforehand.

As for the viewing angle, you still need to sit as close to straight-on as possible for the best results. Sitting on a slight angle to the Hisense U7NAU is fine, but any wider results in the colours washing out and loss of brightness detail.

Hisense UXAU and U7NAU comparison angle
The Hisense UXAU (front) retains its colours and lighting better on an angle versus the U7 (back). Image: Chris Button.

Like the 2023 model before it, these criticisms only rear their head in a dark room. During the day, or in an otherwise bright room, you’ll barely notice a thing. It’s also why cinephiles are steered towards the more expensive U8NAU and UXNAU models, due to more dimming zones and wider viewing angles.

What else is new?

Improved internals aren’t the only change this year. Included with the 2024 range, including the Hisense U7NAU, is a solar-powered remote. At first glance, the redesigned remote looks ridiculously tall. Once you grasp it, however, it feels satisfyingly better to use than last year’s.

Predominantly adding to its height is the solar sensor at the remote’s base. Using any sunlight or ambient light, it holds a charge without the need for disposable batteries. If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t get enough light, you can also plug in a USB-C cable to give it some juice.

Remote control comparison
The 2023 remote (left) next to the 2024 solar remote (right). Image: Chris Button.

Like the overall user interface, the new solar remote feels more responsive to use. Its buttons are more tactile and easier to press, too. I also like that it’s less plasticky than the older remote.

Although I’m not ready to deliver a final verdict based on two hours of use, the Hisense U7NAU is a clear step up from its predecessor. When I get the chance to try the TV over a longer period, I’ll be keen to see how it handles in a real-world living room. I’ll also want to try a more diverse range of content. Sports and video games are the main forms of entertainment in my household, with the latter set to take full advantage of a 144Hz screen.

Based on first impressions, the Hisense U7NAU is another good value TV suited to the needs of many Australian homes. It’s brighter, more precise, and even quicker to use. You’ll find wider viewing angles from other, more expensive TVs, but the compromises are reasonable for keeping costs down.

Out now in Australia, the Hisene U7NAU starts from $1,599 for the 55-inch model. You can pick one up from tech retailers and browse the full range online.

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