There are reasons why wine is dated by year. The grapes might come from the same fields, the fermentation process may be identical and the barrels alike, but the taste and quality still vary from season to season. While TV panel production is unlikely to be quite so affected by the weather, the Hisense Roku R50A7200GTUK proves that just because you use the same materials and method as last year’s excellent vintage, it doesn’t mean the results will be the same.
The Hisense Roku R50A7200GTUK is likely to be the cheapest 50in TV we’ll see on sale in the UK this year from a major manufacturer. It promises a good-sized, punchy 4K HDR image and all the major apps and services you could need, without so much as an additional box or stick in sight.
It’s a pledge that Hisense delivered so well in 2020 with its R50B7120UK model that it has decided to leave the recipe pretty much as it was for its 2021 Roku TV.
The Hisense Roku R50A7200GTUK is priced at £399, although if last year’s set is anything to go by, that could drop significantly later in the year. The Hisense Roku TV A7200GTUK is also available in 43in, 55in and 65in sizes, though our review sample here is the 50in version. On paper, these other panel variants are identical apart from the 43in version having a lower-powered, twin 7W speaker system and the top-end size benefiting from a two 10W speaker set-up.
These Hisense Roku TVs are only available in the UK and are Argos exclusives.
The Hisense Roku R50A7200GTUK is simple and unassuming in style and appearance and the chassis is almost the same as the previous model. It’s a little more even on the rear, though the overall thickness remains identical. The feet are matte plastic instead of gloss, but that’s about it.
The one key improvement is on the front, where the bezel has been reduced from a basic-looking 1cm band to something closer to 4mm, giving a more contemporary aesthetic. There’s no change to the usable and fully featured remote control. There are direct shortcuts buttons to Freeview Play, Netflix, Google Play Movies & TV, Spotify and Rakuten, plus some clear navigation and media controls too.
Around the rear of the set are three HDMI 2.0-rated ports which can manage frame rates of up to 60Hz at 4K level. There’s also a USB 2.0 socket, a wired headphones connection, and ARC support for easy connection to a soundbar.
HDR formats HDR10, HLG
Sound formats Dolby Audio, DTS Studio Sound
Inputs 3x HDMI 2.0 (inc ARC), USB 2.0, headphones out
Freeview Play Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 72 x 113 x 26cm (with stand)
The Roku TV smart platform is pretty close to flawless. It covers all the major streaming services as well as thousands of seriously niche ones. You want a channel dedicated to crossbow hunting? It’s there. Fancy gaining more knowledge about the cigar industry? You’ll find that here too, along with plenty of other topics.
The only gaps in its offering are Britbox, Apple Music, Amazon Music and VLC, although it does have its own Roku media app, and Airplay support means you can stream most missing content from Apple devices.
You’ll find 4K HDR content available on all the big players. Since last year’s model was launched, UHD support for Google Play has arrived as has the BT Sport app, which is good news for football fans.
It’s also well worth downloading the Roku Channel, which brings free access to over 10,000 films, TV episodes and documentaries from over 40 content partners. But it’s not just the apps that make Roku great, it’s the ease of use. The menu system is simple and clear and the universal search is excellent. Type in the name of an app, TV show, film, actor or director and it brings up all the information you need. Results pages show all the streaming services where each title is available, with the resolution and price information. That now includes the catch-up services, which is an upgrade on the platform compared to last year’s Roku TV.
To set up voice searching, you’ll need to download the handy Roku TV app allowing you to add new channels, cast content from your mobile or tablet to your TV, or just use it to control playback. We also love the Private Listening mode on the app interface; press that and the TV’s sound is routed through your device. Attach a pair of headphones to your mobile and you have a personal AV experience – perfect for late-night viewing.
For live TV, the Freeview tuner is at the helm, along with the Freeview Play homepage of curated catch-up content. At the heart of the experience is the exact same quad-core processor to do the leg work. It offers more than enough to drive the system with barely a hint of lag or frozen responses at any point. Once again, Roku TV is a pleasure to use from top to bottom, from app to screen.
Despite its low price, the Hisense Roku R50A7200GTUK is still a direct-lit LED TV – and it shows. Compared with others at this end of the market, the light levels are fairly even across the panel and, even if there’s a little bit of bleed, the blacks are strong with no off-putting blotchiness. Unlike pricier direct-lit LED sets, though, there appears not to have been enough left in the budget for any local dimming zones, and that’s probably the most telling absence on the spec sheet.
We watch the opening sequences of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 on 4K Blu-ray and the Missouri cloudscape is more heavy-handed than we’re used to. The dramatic overtones are still there, with plenty of contrast to handle that, but the lack of close control to individual areas of the backlighting means that it’s missing the subtlety of a more expensive TV set.
However, Hisense seems to know where this TV’s strengths lie. It’s not trying to offer finesse, it’s aiming to land a punch. And it does so successfully. The picture is bright and colourful, and even sharper and richer than its apparently identical predecessor.
This second run of Hisense Roku TVs for the UK really comes into its own once we leave the confines of Earth and head to the Sovereign planet for the Guardians’ battle with the Abilisk and a firework display of colour and fun.
The kaleidoscope of gases spewed by the multi-dimensional, tentacled monster look terrific, and the characters flying around it are bold and well-defined in all their HDR glory. There’s no adjustment for motion processing onboard, but while there’s some judder it isn't hard to cope with. There’s no blurring and smearing of the action to distract either.
Switching down to standard-definition material with Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Blu-ray, we are reminded of last year’s Roku TV and its brilliance with upscaling from 1080p. Fortunately, that ability remains intact.
The opening scene in the hut is as revealing in terms of shadow detail as we could hope. It’s worth adjusting the brightness slider in the picture settings until you strike the right balance. In terms of starting points, the 'Normal' setting gets you closest to the best results, but make sure ‘TV Brightness’ is set to max.
Both the early scenes of Rey’s desert home on Jakku and the lush green forests of Maz’s home planet of Takodana are produced with enthralling colours and so much natural detail that it’s hard to find fault with the picture. Even watching BBC News in SD, the picture is remarkably sharp and stable for a panel this size, even if the colours are more simplistic.
Our only real criticism of the image is at higher resolutions. Occasionally that punchy approach can take things too far; it doesn’t have the same chromatic complexity as more expensive TVs. The result is that every now and then, the colour of a piece of clothing or skin tone misses the mark.
For example, Quill’s overcoat ends up a little too oxblood in the throne room scene in front of Princess Ayesha. There’s also a moment when Gamora’s green face is a little too lurid, but there are relatively few of these mishaps. What this TV does with its limited technical resources is impressive.
According to the spec sheet, there’s no difference between the Hisense Roku R50A7200GTUK and its 2020 predecessor, but their two sonic presentations are like chalk and cheese. One favours clarity, the other authority, but ultimately neither one produces particularly better TV sound than the other. It seems there’s only so much life that can be squeezed from this modest two 8W speaker system.
As with the picture adjustments, there are only a few settings to play with – only really the DTS processing mode and a dialogue enhancer. There’s also a TruVolume mode for night-time listening which will limit the peaks and troughs of loudness at any one volume level, so that you can hear the onscreen action without waking your neighbours.
Watching the battle sequence outside Maz’s tavern midway through Star Wars: The Force Awakens, gives an excellent sense of what this speaker system can manage. Given its limited resources, this TV copes pretty well. The sound effects of the laser blasts and the TIE fighters screaming past are crisp and detailed. The battle cries and dialogue of the rebels and troopers are clear and placed effectively in the soundscape. When the X-Wings come to the rescue and chase off the Empire, the rousing score still manages to excite.
Naturally, there’s room for improvement. There’s not enough under the hood here to produce the whole frequency range with quality. Hisense has opted to prize the midrange and upper-mid sounds, which is good for voices but means that there’s not a huge amount of impact to gunshots and explosions. Equally, the sound can feel a little strained and congested in the treble. If you find it borders on being difficult to listen to, switch off the DTS.
That said, to expect much more from a TV at this price would be unrealistic. It never fails to deliver the meaning of the source material, no matter the content. You might wish for a little more fun while watching big action movies, but you’ll be thanking your lucky stars every time you opt for more character driven dramas.
Does it spread the audio all the way round the room? Does it offer height-infused Dolby Atmos sound? No. It’s a TV with small speakers and just enough processing that means you can understand what everyone is saying. Not all soundbars can manage that.
The vintage may be different, but this is another great year. We suspect that Hisense and Roku have made the best 50in TV you’ll find for under £400 in 2021. Neither the picture nor the sound are perfect but, combined with a brilliant feature set and an unbeatable content offering, the results are a lot more than the price implies.
It’s like uncorking a £4 bottle and discovering that it’s no cheap plonk. And that's something we can all drink to.
- Picture 4
- Sound 4
- Features 5
Read our guide to the best TVs
Read our Hisense R50B7120UK review