When discussing a big-screen TV, size is bound to be the primary topic of conversation, but with HiSense's 100-inch Ultra HD Laser TV, bigness approaches a thought-terminating cliche - one I have been happy to let take over my puny mind.
Editor note: The HiSense 100-inch Ultra HD Laser TV isn't available in Australia yet - we will keep you updated.
"How's the big TV?" more than one coworker asked after I agreed to review the $US10,000 device. "It's really, really big," I'd reply. Visitors to my Brooklyn apartment offered similar commentary. "Wow," observed a friend. "It's big."
Yes, unnamed friend, it is big. It's big like The Beatles. It's big like basketball. It's bigger than me and then another me and possibly a third me who came out kinda small.
Technically, the TV consists of three units: a two-inch-thick screen that both a Titanic passenger and her forbidden lover could comfortably lie on; a short-throw laser projector that sits beneath it, looking something like a Xbox that has been experimenting with HGH; and a computer tower-sized subwoofer that looks like nothing. It's the screen, however, that makes the impression. Even while off, it dominates its surroundings like the monolith from 2001, inspiring similar hoots and leaping from trembling hominids.
HiSense, however, tends to describe the Laser TV like a ballerina or exotic cat, emphasising its elegance and subtly: qualities that distinguish the minimalist projector system from bulkier large TVs. A comparably sized LED TV, for instance, would tip the scales at over 90kg (and cost maybe $US50,000 more). The Laser TV's projector and screen weigh in at 42 and 25kg, respectively. Getting the Laser TV to my third-floor walk-up and hanging the screen were still two-person jobs, but it's hard to imagine how a conventional giant TV would march up my cramped stairwell without the aid of the National Guard. Notably, delivery and installation are included with the Laser TV's price tag. (Did I mention it costs like 10,000 bucks?)
For most, the TV's toughest installation requirement is probably the wall space needed for the screen itself, a test my shamefully under-decorated apartment was designed (by neglect) to pass. It's fair to say that the Laser TV is a far cry from the industrial fridge-like big screens of the past. Incidentally, Far Cry 5 looks sick as hell on this thing.
Blam, blam, blam!
Turning on the TV for the first time is what can only be described as a "holy shit" moment, something like visiting a modern art museum when a Rothko painting starts playing Thor: Ragnarok in perfect Ultra HD. Seated on a couch 4.57m away, the 100-inch monster was still more than enough screen, comparing favourably to a trip to an indie movie theatre. For a more immersive experience, I sometimes placed a chair just a few feet away and played Forza Horizon 3 in first-person, although a real windshield is admittedly smaller.
At every distance and angle, the image was sharp and comfortable to look at, more like a window than a giant, light-blasting display. The greatest challenge was finding 4K and HDR content to take full advantage of the TV's alleged 8.3 million pixels (I did not count). For streaming, 4K is still mostly limited to pricey movie rentals and a few Netflix originals, but at a reasonable viewing distance, 1080p still looked great. And when I did put on a UHD Blu-ray of Planet Earth, the effect was remarkable. With its slim profile and 180-degree viewing angle, the screen transformed into an enclosure of unusually large birds. As long as my sightline was unbroken, it was easy to continue monitoring their flaps and roosting, even from the next room.
A beautiful parrot or something.
While the Laser TV is still definitely a projector, Hisense has addressed most of the standard drawbacks of a projector system: The main unit sat comfortably on a coffee table under the screen, requiring no additional mounting; boot up took about 15 seconds; fan noise was comparable to the hum of ceiling fan; and Hisense says its low maintenance laser light source is rated for 20,000 hours. I was not able to fully test that last claim, but after weeks of use, the unit required no servicing or cleaning, and the lasers seemed to lase as well as ever. It's also easier to set up than any other projector in this price range or above. There's no need to figure out what kind of screen to pair with it, or how much to pay someone to set it up.
Four Harman Kardon speakers are built into the projector, providing substantial sound. There's also the subwoofer, which I ultimately unplugged after watching an unusually rockin' episode of Billions. "Do you have your speakers on the floor??" complained a neighbour via text. "I can hear your TV louder than my own." Sorry about that.
One issue that the Laser TV still struggles with is ambient light. Hisense brags that the 3,000 Lumens light source is so "bright and crisp you can use it in any room — not just light-controlled, home theatre rooms," but on moderately sunny days, the picture was noticeably washed out even with my blinds drawn. Still useable in most cases, yes, but playing darker-tinted video games was something like spelunking while wearing sunglasses. For a projection TV, its daytime performance was impressive, but ultimately inferior to that of a closer, smaller, conventional TV.
Input is limited to two HDMI inputs, a VGA port, and a coaxial screw-in, which were fine for my purposes. There are also a few perfunctory streaming apps (including Netflix and Amazon Prime, but no Hulu) and gimmick-y features baked in, but things like Alexa-enabled voice control are not really what makes this TV worth talking about.
With a 100-inch TV in my home, it was easy to get friends to take time out of their busy lives and pay tribute to the Screen God (the TV, not me). And when they did come over for an impromptu viewing of They Live or whatever, the experience was more social, closer to visiting a private movie theatre than huddling around a stupid rectangle. Also, looking at the giant screen in my living room probably had me looking at the horrible one in my pocket less, so thanks for that.
Initially, I feared the colossal TV in my living room would be embarrassing, the kind of outsized psychic totem that neighbours could read subtitles on from across the street. Would I have to hide this symbol of my latent desire for more, more, more? No, if anything, my depravity was better hidden than ever thanks to the screen's gallery-ready design. Just a few days in, I won victory over myself. Everyone loved Big TV, and so did I.
If you're a big-screen size queen who wants the full 254cm experience without dropping the MSRP of a new luxury sedan, Hisense's offering is a, yes, elegant solution. It's a giant 4K TV that successfully avoids looking like a giant dumb TV. The Laser TV also makes a convincing argument for short-throw projectors as a viable alternative to LED mega TVs, one that could soon be attainable for non-elites: Hisense recently announced a similar 203cm TV for just over $US3,000 ($4,059), though many of its specs are unclear.
Of course, you could get a great 55-inch TV for $US650, or a 78-inch OLED with a better picture that works in more environments for $US8,000. So even the splurgiest consumers have to ask themselves (and possibly their therapists) a lot of questions if they're considering a $US10,000 TV that will probably end up streaming Chopped most nights.
Are you a rich prick that wants to show off how many zeroes are in your bank account? The Laser TV actually looks nice, so consider a gold toilet or $US60,000 home theatre setup instead. Are you a video game nut that dreams of entering the matrix, Reboot-style? Just sit closer, my dude. If, however, you're an ageing media addict that has trouble getting out so much these days, but still wants to hang out, the spectacle of the Laser TV is an expensive but effective friend trap. And if you plan on reliving your four-player Mario Kart glory days, just make sure to draw the curtains first.
- It's honestly so big.
- I love the big boy.
- Not great for daytime gaming.
- Good for hosting gatherings.
- Unless you're super loaded, probably just buy a smaller biggish TV and sit closer.