Roku TVs have been big in the States for a while thanks to TCL, but the Hisense R50B7120UK is the first Roku TV to arrive in the UK. Roku's smart TV platform is found on the best 4K media streamers, so we're excited by the possibilities of it being baked into a TV… and an interesting TV this one is too. But more on that in a moment.
Unlike TV manufacturers, it’s Roku’s business to make sure that it has a smooth running, intuitive user-interface that’s packed with every app and service you could possibly need – and thousands of others that you don’t.
While the likes of Sony, Samsung, LG and, yes, Hisense have TV hardware to build, Roku can concentrate on getting that software side of things just right. It adds new apps on a weekly basis, meaning that you won’t get left behind when the next big video service arrives. It is easily the best smart TV platform for this kind of budget, and that's great.
But the proposition of the Hisense R50B7120UK is more than just its software – it's an incredible amount of TV overall for this price. It's one of the best TVs under £500 you can buy right now!
Hisense R50B7120UK Roku TV review: price & features
At £349 for a 50-inch TV – there are also 43-inch (£299), 55-inch (£379) and 65-inch (£549) sizes in the series – this is very much a budget set, offering a hefty amount of screen size for that money. You’ll be hard pressed to find such bang for buck for a 4K HDR TV.
It doesn’t support all the HDR standards, such as Dolby Vision, but we can live with that – neither do some of the best TVs that cost thousands. There are plenty of HDMI sockets, including an HDMI ARC connection for a soundbar; USB slots; optical audio and a headphones jack too.
It’s also got a Freeview Play digital tuner built-in and the ability to pause and rewind live TV without the need for any subscriptions or additional boxes.
There’s no wireless option such as Bluetooth for headphones to connect direct to the TV, but there is a way round through the mobile app, as we'll come to.
Hisense R50B7120UK Roku TV review: picture performance
The classic pitfall for cheap TVs is uneven backlighting, with light bleeding through the LCD display when and where it’s not supposed to. Fortunately, that’s not a problem for the Hisense R50B7120UK. It’s a direct-lit LED panel, meaning that the source lighting is distributed right across the back of the panel and not just at the edges of the frame.
That goes a long way when it comes to keeping the picture consistent and it shows whenever there are scenes with block colour tones, such as skies or fields, which manage to maintain their character across the screen.
Every LCD has some level of light bleed but what there is on this TV is remarkably low. Blacks are a long way from OLED deep and come off a little more on the aubergine side when we’re testing out outer space-heavy films, but this is still far darker than what we normally find on cheap TVs and their hazy grey renditions. It was never going to rival the best TVs under £1000 that cost twice as much, but it does a truly impressive job for the price.
Detail is strong and, although it’s not as sharp as more expensive TVs (though it is a full 4K screen), there’s enough in the Ultra HD picture to see all the bumps and wrinkles in close-ups. There’s a fine sense of texture on wide shots of grassland and forests too.
That detail breaks down a little when it needs to be rendered in very dark or very light scenes. Like many budget TVs, this Hisense is not the best at coping from contrast – we get more of a block of light or dark. A more nuanced picture is only available on sets with local LED dimming, which can control backlighting on a more granular level. Again, you'd have to pay twice as much.
Where this TV really excels for detail, however, is in its ability to upscale from HD to 4K and, given that the majority of content is still at 1080p, that’s a massive advantage. Skin and materials still look real, colours maintain their balance and everything remains a treat to watch. Even when the source is SD, it’s all still very watchable.
It’s best to stick with the standard picture mode or the Balanced HDR when available. Hisense has chosen quite a dynamic picture style as its baseline and other main settings go too heavy and obliterate what contrast capabilities it has. It’s bright and punchy right out of the box, losing only a little of its vibrancy at wider viewing angles.
That strong sense of colour is a definite plus point for gaming, making all the virtual worlds really reach out and grab you. We were also pleased to note that input lag came in at under 40ms which will certainly be quick enough for most gamers.
Hisense R50B7120UK Roku TV review: sound quality
This isn’t a particularly impressive sounding TV but neither is it bad to listen to. Its speaker system is a little on the weedy side. There are just 2x 7W drivers built in, which is less power than you’ll usually find. The consequence is that there’s no value in taking the volume settings much beyond the halfway mark, unless you want to hear lots of distortion. There’s still enough sound to enjoy before you have to take it that far, fortunately.
There are a few different sound presets to choose from. We’d recommend either Normal or Theatre. The others are best left alone. What you’ll get with those is enough balance to get a clear sense of dialogue and as spacious a feeling of sound effects as is possible.
There’s no weight to the audio when you get on-screen hits and explosions. Bullets and spaceships don’t feel like they’re moving far across your soundstage as they whizz by either but, again, this is a cheap TV and that’s not to be expected. Spending a few quid on a budget soundbar will make up for these shortcomings.
Hisense R50B7120UK Roku TV review: design & usability
The only thing remarkable about the appearance of this TV is that it is totally unremarkable. The money in its creation was not spent heavily on physical design and nor should it have been. It’s made largely of a dark grey plastic which extends to a 1cm or so bezel around the display. It has two v-shaped plastic feet. That’s it.
The remote control is of far greater interest. With it, Hisense and Roku have managed to come up with an exceptionally usable balance between keeping things simple while offering plenty of functionality. You can access a few of the key streaming services with handy shortcut buttons and it’s quick enough to get to any of the onscreen options through a minimum of taps.
There’s no need to worry if you lose the thing, though. The superb Roku TV app for iOS and Android has a remote control built into it and it’s surprisingly responsive. We were equally happy using it or the hard remote.
It also happens to come with a brilliant feature called Private Listening. Hit the button and the TV will mute, sending all of the playback audio to your mobile instead. Connect a set of headphones to your phone and you’ve got yourself some personal audio to go with your viewing – perfect for late night action movie sessions without fear of waking the kids.
The big show on usability is, of course, that Roku platform itself. It doesn’t disappoint. There are thousands of apps available on the Roku channel store from the big name to the niche and very amusing. You've got Disney+, Netflix, Amazon, BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, Apple TV… the only significant missing app is BT Sport.
And then there are bags and bags of other apps for special interest, including ones for kung-fu films, golf enthusiasts, sports teams and many more. Thankfully, there’s also a search function that runs across just about all of them, meaning that it’s pretty good at finding the content you’re looking for.
Just as importantly, it's really simple to use. Whether you’re fiddling with the picture menus or picking up new apps, it’s very quick to respond, easy to understand and hardly ever got stuck at all in our trials. Very impressive stuff.
Hisense R50B7120UK Roku TV review: verdict
This TV is in a class of its own. It offers both a scale and quality of picture that cannot be matched at this price, while also taking prizes for its wonderful ease of use and incredibly rich app offering.
There are TVs which are better at shading and offer a more subtle image but you need to spend twice as much to buy them.