Hisense vs TCL: which is the best cheap TV brand?

A TCL QD-Mini LED TV wall mounted in a room. Below it is a media cabinet, herringbone floor with a white rug, and a coffee table which is flanked by two sofas. The TV is showing an NFL player next to the NFL and TCL logos. QD-Mini LED is also written on the screen.
(Image credit: TCL)

Buying a new TV doesn't have to mean remortgaging the house. A TV is always a big purchase, so you want to get it right, but there are lots of excellent budget options around. And we wouldn't discount them because they're cheap – you'd be amazed at how some of the more affordable sets perform.

If you are looking for a relatively cheap TV, TCL and Hisense are a great place to start. They're two of the biggest TV manufacturers at this end of the market, though their ranges do span the high end as well. They also make very big TVs for very reasonable prices, so are a great choice for a big screen experience on the cheap.

But which brand would be better for you? And which model should you choose? Let's see what's on offer... 

Hisense vs TCL: overview

Hisense U7N TV on a wooden media unit in front of a beige wall. On screen is a wavy graphic in red and yellow with a touch of blue.

(Image credit: Hisense)

Both Hisense and TCL are Chinese companies, and both make home appliances such as air conditioners and fridges alongside TVs. But they're best known for their TVs.

Hisense is headquartered in Qingdao, Shandong Province, and was founded in 1969. It initially manufactured radios, but within a decade it had branched out into TVs. Since 2004, it has been the largest TV manufacturer in China by market share. Its current range spans from 32 inches up to over 100 inches, and includes OLED, QLED and Mini LED.

Founded in 1981, TCL actually started out making cassette tapes under the name TTK before being sued by rival tape maker TDK for intellectual property violation and changing its name to TCL (which originally stood for Telephone Communication Limited). As well as selling TVs under its own name, it makes some Roku-branded models in the US.

Hisense vs TCL: screen technology

A TCL X955 115 Max TV on display at a trade show. On screen is a lamp post-lined jetty at night with a city skyline in the background.

(Image credit: Future)

As if there weren't enough similarities between the two companies already, both also offer TV ranges with much the same screen technologies. But there are some differences: both brands make and sell a wide range of Mini LED and QLED models, while Hisense also offers OLED models and 'Laser TVs'.

Mini LED is a backlit technology that features on both brands' more expensive TVs. It's an evolution of the classic LED tech that used to be all the rage, but improves contrast control and black levels. Mini LED is leading a resurgence in backlit TVs at the moment – Sony chose it over OLED for its flagship 2024 TV, the Bravia 9.

QLED is another premium screen technology that you'll find in some of both brands' higher-end TVs. This involves the light emitted by an LED or Mini LED backlight being shone through Quantum Dots rather than LCDs. The result is more vibrant and potentially more accurate colours, though the results depend on the quality of the implementation.

OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) panels aren't backlit, but allow the TV to emit light on a pixel-by-pixel basis. Because each pixel can be controlled individually, it allows for stunningly precise contrast with little-to-no light bleeding, making for a richer, more natural-looking picture. OLED was previously the preserve of pricier TVs, but it's now available in much more affordable sets.

Hisense's Laser TVs are essentially ultra short throw projectors that come with screens. Hisense has previously declared these "the future of TV", but because of their high price and unconventional arrangement, they remain a niche proposition.

Hisense vs TCL: operating system

The TCL 85C805K 4K TV on a wooden table in a room. On the screen is the Google TV operating system with All Of Us Strangers selected.

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Google powers plenty of both brands' TVs, through its Google TV and Android TV platforms. But Amazon's Fire OS and the Roku OS also feature on some models. 

There is some regional variation. Hisense favours Google TV in the US, but VIDAA in the UK. Hisense founded the company VIDAA, whose main product is the VIDAA TV operating system. VIDAA is a little better than Google TV, but not quite on a par with Samsung's Tizen or LG's webOS.

Which OS you prefer will be a matter of personal choice, but they all offer a broadly similar range of features and apps such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Disney+ and Prime Video. Most support HDR and Dolby Vision/Atmos, and most play nice with various voice assistants. Some operating systems will prioritise their own content though (Amazon Fire OS, we're looking at you), and Google's supports Chromecast for wirelessly mirroring content from your phone on the big screen.

If you have Alexa speakers dotted around your house, a TV running Amazon's Fire TV OS makes perfect sense, whereas if you're deep in Google's ecosystem (and want to cast content from your phone to your TV), a Google TV/Android TV set will be a smart choice.

Hisense vs TCL: gaming

The Hisense 50A6KTUK TV on a wooden table in a conservatory. A mountain scene is on screen, while behind the TV are a sofa, chair and window looking onto the garden.

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Generally speaking, pricier TVs are better equipped for gaming, but the following features do appear on some cut-price models.

Variable Refresh Rate (VRR)Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and 4K/120Hz are all part of the HDMI 2.1 spec. But, confusingly, not all TVs with HDMI 2.1 ports support them. And some TVs support these features even if they only offer HDMI 2.0 sockets. 

VRR matches the TV's refresh rate to the frame being outputted by the console, making games run smoother. ALLM detects when a console is plugged in and automatically switches on the TV's game mode to reduce lag. And it knows if you're running a streaming app like Netflix on your console, and switches off game mode.

4K/120Hz lets the TV display 4K games at up to 120 frames per second (the maximum that consoles output). Some TVs support frame rates up to 144fps, matching the output of some gaming PCs. Dolby Vision gaming is also available at up to 4K/120Hz, but not many TVs support this. HGiG will also tailor each game to the exact specs of your TV without you having to adjust any settings, but again, it's mostly reserved for more expensive TVs.

You should also look out for a low input lag (the time it takes for your button press to register). Anything below 40ms is pretty great.

Obviously the TV's picture quality plays a big part in how your games will look too. You need punch and vibrancy alongside a natural balance and plenty of dark detail. 

A few Hisense models support refresh rates up to 144Hz. The E7K Pro has Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, as well as Game Mode Pro which brings together all the relevant gaming features. All four of its HDMI ports are certified 2.1 for ALLM, but only two are equipped for VRR up to 144Hz. It only scored three stars in our review.

The TCL C855K matches the E7K at 144Hz, with Dolby Vision, ALLM and VRR, as well as Nvidia Freesync Premium Pro. But it only has two HDMI 2.1 ports, one of which doubles as the eARC port for a soundbar, which only leaves one socket free for the full-fat games experience from a console or gaming PC.

Hisense vs TCL: best TVs

The TCL 65C845K TV on a table in a white-walled room. On screen is a tiger stalking through long grass.

(Image credit: Future / David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet, Netflix)

Both brands have had some well-reviewed TVs in recent years, but TCL has the edge. 

Most recently, the TCL 85C805K earned five stars for its excellent performance (the fact that it's very affordable for a huge TV also helped). In fact, we called it the home theatre bargain of the year. It can't match a flagship's performance, but its decent contrast and brightness and ample support for HDR and gaming make it a surprisingly accomplished contender. If you want a big TV without breaking the bank, this 85-incher is well worth a look. 

Last year's cheaper (and smaller) C745K and C845K also fared well, picking up four stars and an Award, respectively. The former offers plenty of TV for not very much money, including good contrast and colour and impressive gaming specs. It's also dropped in price since we reviewed it. The C845K, meanwhile, won an Award for its stunningly bright and colourful picture and awesome gaming feature set. It has since been succeeded by the C855, which adds more dimming zones and increased brightness. That means the C845K has dropped in price to an almost scandalously low £799.

Hisense hasn't impressed us quite as much of late. Last year's U7 and U8 Mini LED TVs picked up four stars apiece – the cheaper U7 shows that Mini LED can be effective at the mid-range of the market, while the U8 offers a balanced, consistent picture, responsive interface and a weighty, engaging sound for the price. Both models are heavily discounted, making them even more tempting.

The Hisense U6 only warranted three stars. It does offer a bright, enjoyable picture, but its black levels are a way off the best at this level, while its colour problems are too big to be ignored. It's a similar story with the A6 – the 50-inch model again earned three stars due to its bright but crude approach to colour, so-so black levels and far from ideal viewing angles. The 43-inch A6 fared a little better, with four stars, thanks to its surprisingly balanced and consistent picture.


Both Hisense and TCL make a wide variety of TVs at different sizes, and while they're best known as budget TV brands, they do make premium models, too. Both brands excel at offering a variety of panel technologies and fancy gaming specs at prices that are usually lower than the established big brands such as Samsung, LG and Sony.

There's really not much to choose between the two in terms of operating systems, as both offer a broad spread of platforms.

But given TCL's recent run of reviews, we would say it's the more compelling TV maker right now. But the Hisense TVs that we've reviewed are heavily discounted right now, and given that some were already quite cheap to begin with, they could represent absolute bargains.

Ultimately which is best for you will depend on your budget, your needs and your priorities. Whichever you're considering, make sure you read our reviews to see what we make of it first.


Should you buy a Hisense TV? Or a TCL TV?

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Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.

  • Sonicvcam
    Why don't you ever talk about reliability/servicing in your reviews of budget TVs? This is equally important when making a purchasing decision.

    They are never as good as the big brands and have terrible after sales services in comparison. TCL for example just refund faulty new products and get the retailer to skip it ather than attempt to fix it ( in the UK) this creating e-waste. If the customer needs a repair later in the products life it takes ages to get parts to fix them.
    This is coming from experience of selling them.
  • apbrad123
    I have to disagree there.
    My had a 'black screen' issue with my previous TCL TV within the 2 year warranty and they sent an engineer out from 'Eqinox' to fix the issue at my home.
    I was very impressed with the service from TCL and stayed with the brand.
    I have a friend who delivers for Marks Electrical and every faulty TV, regardless of the brand, ends up in a skip. A major shame really.
  • Sonicvcam
    When we get get faulty tcls we always have a nightmare fixing them. You've been lucky.

    2 years is a pitiful warranty nowadays we've had 5 year warranties from Lg, Samsung and Sony for years now ( don't buy via Amazon as they will only allow sellers to give 12 months warranty btw)