Saturday 28 February 2015

Going 4k UHD with a 65" Hisense

Right, so I end up buying a 65” display. There were rationales’ behind this, fist that our main living room TV is now ancient. It’s a 720p Panasonic, still going strong, but now obsolete. My wife complained not so much about the size, but more so about the image quality, as generated by the old Sky+ box connected to it.

I saw Amazon selling the Hisense 65” UHD for £900, so I though kill three birds with one stone, get UHD, upgrade downstairs TV and the as yet unmentioned 3rd bird, the Samsung buzzing problem will be part solved, the one they promised to fix February last year (2014), yes I know that experience deserves a blog entry of its own.

So it arrived, box slightly beaten up, so we videoed it’s unboxing, however all was fine physically.

There are some reviews of this around, however performance wise, the most significant issues is that normal def, often referred to as 576p, or that which is broadcast by my Sky HD and BT Youview box as standard non-hidef, looks awful. This is quite apparent when comparing it to the 59” Samsung Plasma.

So now I have a ‘technology that just doesn’t work’ issue. The Samsung not only buzzed, which was quite noticeable during quiet scenes, charging input on it was a nightmare, the way it would start trying to tune channels when there’s no aerial connected, how slow it would be moving between inputs, the timeouts etc. It made turning the TV on a fist fight with the TV, it amazes me that so many people put up with this. From a UI perspective the Hisense doesn’t offer much, but it is just such a relief that changing inputs is so much better. Anyway that aside, my problem is, what is the best way to drive it? The BT (Humax) Freeview box, i.e. status quo is out of the question, the non Hi-def output is just far too poor to live with, and HD content thin on the ground.

Next up using my Zotac ID-41 media player, and then buy a DVT USB device for live TV. The Zotac is a 1080p device, and I noticed that recodings, that looked bad on the Humax, looked a lot better when up-scaled by Kodi on the Zotac. Worth mentioning that use of VLC is not an option the GPU is an Nvidia Ion which does a good job of rendering h264 mkv’s at 1080p, but the processor is an Intel Atom that struggles with h264 playback.

But then I tried my PC, which has a rather OTT graphics card that I bought cheaply, an MSI R9 290, that has Ultra HD output, i.e. 4020 by 2160. Now use this and the quality is excellent, with Kodi upscaling so well that even 1080p mkv’s look better than they do on the Zotac in its native 1080p. Even though I have an AMD FX-8350 Eight Core CPU running at 4.3 GHz, when using VLC it struggles to play 1080p files in Ultra HD. Problem is that if I use Kodi with dual display, I can’t use my PC at the same time, because if I take the context away from Kodi by using any other application, it turns off its output to the second display, i.e. the Hisense 65”. Though I can run its output ‘in a window’, that degrades its performance somewhat, but I have yet to try that one. The latter is because I am not keen on using my heavy weight PC as a media player in the first place, though it tends to be on when we’re watching telly anyway.

So here’s my dilemma, what to do? Buy an Android based ultra HD media player that uses Kodi for about £60, e.g. M8’s etc? (.. and if so which one, there are so many!) Then stick a USB DVT box on it?

Should I get the spare stuff I have and put a little PC together, with a display card that can manage quad HD?

Oh as for the Hisens’s built in Smart apps etc. nearly all useless, German, and slow (on YouTube for example), not to mention that it’s managed to crash a few times. A relative bought a new Samsung 50" display, has near identical Smart apps (is this some Android variant?), just as slow and useless, i.e. doesn't play a lot of mkv's and flv's etc.