I tested affordable Samsung and Hisense mini-LED 4K TVs side-by-side, and the results surprised me

 Samsung QN85D and Hisense U7N with sunset on screen .
Credit: Future

Mini-LED’s popularity continues to rise, with major TV brands including Samsung, LG, Sony, Hisense and TCL all adopting the backlight tech for their TVs. It can be found amongst some of the best TVs available and continues to evolve, with one of the latest innovations coming from Sony, whose impressive flagship 2024 TV, the Sony Bravia 9, uses an advanced backlight driver that allows for a higher mini-LED count and better backlight control.

Unfortunately, the Bravia 9 sits at the premium end of the market, and won’t find as wide an audience as other mini-LED sets. Two of the main purveyors of mini-LED, Samsung and Hisense, have released successful mini-LED TVs for years – Samsung with its Neo QLED range and Hisense with its ULED range. Both brands released highly rated sets in 2023, with the Samsung QN90C proving itself as one of the best TVs for sport and the full-featured Hisense U8K demonstrating incredible value.

I was recently able to test budget and premium mini-LED TVs side-by-side, with the Hisense U6N serving as the budget option against the premium Sony X95L. Although the X95L was the stronger of the two sets, the U6N thrived in some areas (brightness and color), proving there can be value in a budget mini-LED.

The results of my test got me wondering how mid-range mini-LEDs from Samsung and Hisense would perform side-by-side. Thankfully, I was able to test this using the Samsung QN85D and Hisense U7N. Despite the QN85D being the entry-level model in Samsung’s 2024 Neo QLED mini-LED range, it is kitted out like mid-range models from Hisense, TCL and LG.

Both the QN85D and U7N carry very similar specs – but not prices. For a 65-inch model, you would be looking at paying (at the time of writing) $749 / £1,599 / AU$1,695 for the U7N and $1,699 / £2,099 / AU$2,355 for the QN85D. The U7N is significantly cheaper across the board but demonstrates incredible value In the US with a nearly $1,000 saving compared to the QN85D.

Hisense surprises

Samsung Qn85D and Hisense U7N with The Batman on screen
Samsung Qn85D and Hisense U7N with The Batman on screen

First, it’s worth noting what settings were used for these tests. Both sets were in their Filmmaker Mode picture preset, with light sensor settings set to off (to achieve full brightness) and Local Dimming set to High.

The first thing that struck me was the level of detail on the U7N. Both TVs demonstrated accurate and refined textures and details, but the U7N's picture seemed to have greater depth and a more realistic look. Watching The Batman, the detailing on Batman’s armour was more intricate on the U7N, and facial features such as blemishes and hair were more pronounced. That isn’t to say the QN85D’s textures were bad, as they took on a softer, arguably more ‘natural’ appearance that some may find more appealing.

Sticking with The Batman, I was surprised to find that the U7N demonstrated better backlight control, which resulted in stronger contrast and deeper blacks than on the QN85D. In the opening crime scene section where Batman walks down a darkened hallway, the QN85D had a cloudy, gray sheen across the screen, whereas the U7N conveyed the dark, brooding tone of the scene with solid shadow detail.

Samsung QN85D and Hisense U7N with dacne sequence from La La Land on screen
Samsung QN85D and Hisense U7N with dacne sequence from La La Land on screen

I was so far surprised, and impressed, by the U7N and this continued with brighter pictures. In the two opening musical numbers of La La Land, which feature vibrant and bold colors, the U7N delivered a more dynamic picture that immediately drew my eye than the QN85D. Again, this seemed to be due to stronger backlight dimming, which allowed the colors to stand out against the darkened areas in the background. Colors were softer overall on the QN85D, which had a more muted look.

In Top Gun: Maverick, a movie primarily set in the Mojave Desert in California, the Hisense U7N’s brighter, more colorful picture nicely suited the beige and tan hues of the sand and surrounding landscape and gave it a more immersive feel compared to the QN85D’s cooler image.

Samsung fights back

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Samsung QN85D and Hisense U7N with Oppenheimer black and white scene on screen in dark room
Samsung QN85D and Hisense U7N with Oppenheimer black and white scene on screen in dark room

The Samsung QN85D (left) demonstrates a cooler, more natural look for black white images than the Hisense U7N (right), which takes on a green tint. This tint is much less obvious in dark conditions (Picture 1) than bright (Picture 2).

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Samsung QN85D and HIsense U7N with Oppenheimer black and white shot in bright room
Samsung QN85D and HIsense U7N with Oppenheimer black and white shot in bright room

It’s worth noting that the initial tests were conducted with harsh overhead lighting in our testing room. Neither TV was immune from screen reflections, however, so I  also compared them in pitch-black conditions and with some light coming in from the hallway to mimic low-light viewing conditions.

This is where things took a turn. Returning to The Batman, which often looks best in dimmer or pitch-black conditions, both sets still demonstrated excellent textures but the U7N seemed stronger – on the surface. I couldn’t help but notice that the Hisense’s blacks had a slightly green tinge to them, so I decided to give it a real test with black-and-white sequences from Oppenheimer.

The greener tone was more prevalent in these black-and-white scenes than initially expected. The U7N still delivered rich contrast and a wide range of gray tones, but the green tinge was inescapable. The QN85D with its overall cooler grayscale range, better suited Oppenheimer’s black-and-white images.

The QN85D had been by no means bad throughout the tests as it still had fantastic contrast and refined textures, but the darker viewing conditions allowed it to shine.

Final thoughts

Samsung Qn85D and HIsense U7N with dusk city landscape on screen
Samsung Qn85D and HIsense U7N with dusk city landscape on screen

Ultimately, this was a closer contest than I had anticipated. It’s fair to say I assumed the more premium QN85D would outperform the U7N, and in some areas, it certainly did – especially darkened viewing conditions. However, the U7N put up one heck of a fight and I couldn't help but find my eye drawn to it on more occasions.

The main thing to consider here is price. Although both TVs have similar specs, especially when it comes to gaming, and mostly similar performance, the Hisense U7N is significantly cheaper than the Samsung QN85D. For a lot of people, it will be very tough to ignore that price gap when choosing between these two TVs.

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