$139 Mega Drive Mini, Meet Hisense’s $20K Laser TV

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

What better way to test-drive Sega's latest retro console than a 100-inch Laser TV.

Released earlier this month, the Sega Mega Drive Mini is the latest retro console to hit retail shelves and cash in on that sweet, sweet, sweet nostalgia capitalism.

And, if you're looking at the numbers side of things, there's a lot to like here. The Playstation Classic and SNES Classic Mini featured about 20 or so games each. The NES Classic Mini featured 30 games. The Sega Mega Drive Mini goes for broke with 42 games included on the system. While not all retro games are born equal (and some have certainly aged better than others), that's still a lot of games for the $139 asking price. 

Hisense's 100-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart Dual Colour Laser TV is a little pricier. It'lll be available through JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and The Good Guys from the end of September for an RRP of AU $19,999.

The "TV" itself is a portable short-throw projection system that consists of three discrete components, including a screen and subwoofer. It runs on Hisenses' VIDAA Smart TV interface, supports both HDR10 and 4K content and touts a TV tuner - a combination that still relatively rare in the home theater projector space.

Now, PC World weren't the only Australian media outlet that had the chance to spend a few hours hands-on with the Laser TV ahead of its local launch. Over the next week, you're probably going to see a bunch of different hands-ons and reviews for the first Hisense Laser TV to land in Australia.

However, you're not going to see any of these other outlets put this 100-inch screen to the test in the same way we did. I can basically guarantee that we were the only outlet who put the Hisense Laser TV through its paces in the only way that "really" matters: delivering the throwback console gaming one that only the Sega Mega Drive Mini can provide.

You're welcome.

Setup

The Hisense Laser TV was already set up ahead of time. As seen in the header image above, the unit itself was mounted on a small shelving unit and the "screen" was fixed to the wall behind it. I didn't really have to do anything, aside from hit the power button on the remote.

Hisense are including a "White Glove" installation and delivery with all orders, so if you do choose to burn the cash on this thing - you'll probably end up with a pretty similar experience. However, it's important to note that - unlike a projector - you can't really move the Laser TV around once its been setup nor can you make the 100-inch screen bigger or smaller at will.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

The Sega Mega Drive was a little more perplexing. The replica console is a fraction of the size of the original - which is cute. However, it also includes a bunch of faux details like a fake headphone jack. I didn't really like these and the real, working physical controls for the unit aren't much better. The power button didn't always trigger and the reset key often got a little stuck.

In terms of concept, the Mega Drive Mini is a delight. In terms of a physical product, it feels like pretty cheap plastic - which is disappointing. It's cool to look at but you probably won't want to actually handle it too often or for too long.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

The same can't be said for the Mega Drive Mini's controllers. These are full-size replicas of the original Mega Drive controllers and while they aren't as comfortable to use as any of their modern counterparts, they're still more than comfortable enough. Still, if you want to invest in something better, 8BitDo do offer a slick-looking wireless controller that you can use with the Mega Drive Mini.

It's also worth noting that the Mega Drive Mini doesn't include a power brick you actually need to run the thing. This feels like an annoying oversight. You'll have to buy one on Amazon or something, I guess.

Connecting the Mega Drive Mini to the Hisense Laser TV took longer than I expect it would. Initially, the two units just wouldn't play nice together. I tried a different HDMI cable. I tried swapping around the ports. Eventually, it decided to work. I'm still not entirely sure why. 

Noise

Credit where it's due, I was pleasantly surprised at how quiet the Hisense Laser TV was for a short-throw projector. When I've used these sorts of projectors in the past, fairly noticeable fan noise has always been a compromise you'd have to live with. With this one, I barely noticed it - even up close.

The Mega Drive Mini was also pretty quiet - however, I'd be more surprised if this thing did draw enough power that it needed to have fans in it. Games mostly ran at about as smoothly as you'd expect them too - though I did encounter some frame-rate drops when we loaded up Castlevania.

Picture Quality

Beyond the hands-on that provided the basis for this article, I've actually had a few different chances to see Hisense's dual color Laser TV up close before. I saw it at this year's CES and a few more times in-between. I've also seen it in a few different lighting environments - which is important because that's really the biggest factor that'll shape your experiences with it.

Put in a dimmer, darker or more controlled lighting environment, and the Hisense Laser TV can look and feel like your own cinema screen. Since there's no LEDs beaming forth from the thing, it's also a little easier on the eyes as well.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

Of course, in less complimentary conditions, like daylight. You're going to get a noticably muted colors and more greys than you are blacks. If you're staring at the screen for long enough, your eyes might well adjust and your brain might well forget it. However, if we're talking an 1:1 comparison of the kind of picture quality experience you're getting on this versus a traditional LCD-LED or OLED, the Hisense Laser TV almost comes away the loser on every front but size.

There's also nothing that really stuck with me about it. When I go hands-on with an 8K TV, the sheer fidelity and detail stay with me. When I spent time with an OLED, I'm thinking about those sheer and absolute blacks. Give me the chance to play with one of Samsung's QLEDs and I'll tell you about those vibrant colors.

Ask me about the Hisense Laser TV and nothing really sticks with me beyond the arguments that can be made in the absence of clear definition around whether or not this thing is a TV or a projector.

Sound

Again, credit where it's owed, the JBL sound system that comes integrated with the Hisense Laser TV does a lot of heavy lifting. Throw the right content at it and the bass on this thing roars. There's 50W of sound-tech in the main unit and then another 60W in the sub-woofer.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

This hardware provided superb results when paired up with the cheery chip-tunes found in the Mega Drive Mini's library of games. Unfortunately, however, it could not make the uncanny soundtrack found in the rare Mega Drive version of Tetris any less strange.

The Verdict

Even if there are a few cut corners that I found pretty irritating, the Sega Mega Drive Mini is still a pretty rad little piece of tech. $139 for 42 games isn't a bad deal and, cabling hijinks aside, it was still very easy to plug this thing in and get playing.

As for the Hisense Laser TV, I'm a little more skeptical. Putting the obvious disclaimer that I only spent a few hours with it on the table, I just wasn't sold on the brightness and picture quality of the thing. In the right lighting environment, it did look good. However, outside of those ideal conditions, it didn't fare nearly as well. And for $20K, you'd probably hope it looks more than just good.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

I'd be willing to give Hisense points for a home entertainment solution that is technically - albeit inconsistently - pretty and impressive. I'd even be willing to cede ground for business customers who want are willing to pay more for a 100-inch 4K HDR screen than's less hassle than a traditional LCD-LED panel.

But a compelling argument for why consumers should drop $20 grand on this instead of a regular TV? I'm coming up blank.

Hisense's 100-inch 4K Ultra HD Smart Dual Colour Laser TV is a little pricier. It'lll be available through JB Hi-Fi, Harvey Norman and The Good Guys from the end of September for an RRP of AU $19,999.

The Sega Mega Drive Mini is available now for AU$139 through EB Games.

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