There was a time when 32-inch TVs were the big boys on the block. They were the size every TV manufacturer aspired to, and they were consistently the sets that sites like TechRadar would regularly review.
Those days have since long passed, and the TV market has moved on to ever-greater sizes of screen. Now, the most common screen sizes sit between 55 and 65-inches, leaving the humble 32-inch TV to be relegated to the bedroom as a second screen.
That’s rubbish of course. Not everyone has a living room that can accommodate a massive screen, and even those with a room big enough might not necessarily want half a wall taken up with a 65-inch panel.
Enter the Hisense H32M2600, the cheaper alternative to the Samsung UE32K5600 that we reviewed a few weeks ago. While the Samsung can be found online for prices in excess of £300, the Hisense retails for a much cheaper £220.
This, then, is a budget set through and through. But when it comes to 32-inch TVs, is there really that much difference in quality? Read on to find out.
The Hisense H32M2600’s design is a tale of two halves. On the one hand we think the frame of the panel itself looks quite good. It might be a plastic construction, but the black plastic is at least narrow, and the simple Hisense logo on the bottom of the set is the TV’s one piece of flair.
We’re less of a fan of the harsh blue LED that’s constantly illuminated on the bottom right of the screen at all times when the TV is on. It looks a little cheap, and can be a little distracting.
We really didn’t like the TV’s stand, however. Although we appreciate most TV cabinets have gotten very wide to accommodate the sizes of TVs that are popular nowadays, we think most people who buy a 32-inch TV are probably going to be doing so for space saving reasons, and this makes it annoying that its feet are spaced so widely apart.
In fact, we struggled to stand the TV on the cabinet that had happily supported our previous 32-inch set. (Though, admittedly, if your TV cabinet is at least as wide as the TV itself however, then you shouldn’t have the same issues.)
The set’s remote is basic and functional. You’ve got dedicated buttons to open Netflix, YouTube and Wuaki.tv, and the it's free of superfluous buttons.
Design TL;DR: The TV’s frame itself is simply designed, but the stand is far too wide, and will likely be an inconvenience for those looking to save space.
The Hisense H32M2600 is technically a smart TV, but its sluggish interface and limited selection of apps means that we’d be reluctant to recommend anyone try and use these features.
The main home screen is a very simple interface constituting of just a row of apps. This in itself is not a bad thing, but what’s disappointing is how sluggish the control of this menu is in spite of its simplicity.
It’s not just the main app screen that’s slow to navigate – even something as simple as switching the picture from one HDMI port to another takes forever.
Since the sluggish interface makes the smart aspects of the TV so difficult to navigate, it’s almost a good thing that the scarcity of apps on the store means you’d be unlikely to ever have a need to use them in the first place.
Yes, the TV has Netflix, YouTube, and iPlayer apps, but beyond that things dry up remarkably quickly. There’s no Amazon Prime Video, no Now TV, and no other TV catch-up services.
There’s a Wuaki app if you want to pay to rent films, and a Deezer app if you want to listen to some music but, in 2017, the Hisense H32M2600’s app selection is frankly not up to scratch.
The scarcity of apps, combined with the TV’s sluggish interface, means that if you’re interested in watching any kind of streamed video then you’re better off buying an or and relying on that rather than the TV’s own built in software.
Smart TV TL;DR: With its sluggish interface that’s lacking in apps, the Hisense H32M2600 is a TV that requires an external streaming stick or streaming box plugged into it if you want to get the most out of it.
But the surprising thing is, the quality of the TV’s image means that this might actually be something you’ll want to consider.
Now, this is a budget television, so naturally you’re not going to get the same sort of performance as you would out of a premium or -equipped TV, but the Hisense H32M2600 was nevertheless a very enjoyable screen to watch.
Watching one of the numerous desert scenes in a 1080p stream of Better Call Saul showed off just how bright and vivid the set’s colors could be, and when the episode later switched to a night scene complete with numerous bright lights, the set continued to impress.
The lack of HDR meant that it wasn’t quite capable of preserving fine detail in the brightest and darkest areas of the image, but it was impressive for an SDR image.
Turning to watch an episode of Game of Thrones on an attached box showed off the set’s acceptable handling of dark, candlelit scenes. Yes, the blacks never got close to being truly black, but it was good enough that no important details were lost in the scene.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised by the picture quality offered by the Hisense H32M2600. It might not come packing the latest and greatest resolutions and display technologies, but it was nevertheless reassuring proof that you don’t have to spend hundreds to get a great looking picture.
Picture performance TL;DR: For a budget TV, the H32M2600 has great image quality. It might only be Full HD, but images are crisp and detailed and colors are nice and vibrant.
We weren’t blown away by the sound quality of the Hisense H32M2600, but it was more than good enough for a screen of this size.
Dialogue came through nice and crisply, and was rich with detail even when the mix got more complicated.
Naturally, the set’s audio didn’t quite have the same heft as a dedicated external audio system when the explosions in Captain America: Civil War really got going – but equally its sound never got distorted or overwhelmed.
Really the sound was everything we could have hoped for out of a small form-factor TV. It was clean, clear, and distortion free.
Sound quality TL;DR: It’s not going to let you feel a rumble in the pit of your stomach, but the Hisense H32M2600’s sound quality is decent enough. Everything comes through clearly, and stereo separation is decent.
Other panels to ponder
With the market so overwhelmingly focussed on large screen sizes these days, we haven’t had a chance to check out much of the small form-factor competition.
It's much more expensive at £360, but for the money you’re getting a genuine smart TV rather than the paltry couple of apps included with the Hisense.
The Hisense H32M2600 is a difficult TV to give a final review score to, because it’s really a television of two halves.
On the one hand you’ve got its sound and visual performance which are very good at this price point. You’re obviously not getting a 4K HDR screen, but colors are rich and vibrant, detail is good (for a Full HD screen), and its sound is crisp and clear – although admittedly lacking in oomf.
But on the other hand this functionality is wrapped in an interface that’s
frustrating to use. It’s lacking in apps, and everything feels slow and clunky.
If you’re looking for a budget 32-inch set, then the Hisense H32M2600 is a decent option, especially considering how good its Full HD images look … just supply your own streaming set top box to avoid dealing with its OS.