Hands on: Philips 55PUS8909C Curved 4k TV review

Android meets Ambilight on this curved, twin-tuner Ultra HD telly

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Our Early Verdict

The Android OS makes this a very versatile smart TV, and the Ultra HD screen doesn't look half bad either.

For

  • Fabulous design
  • 4K is the future
  • Android interface
  • Apps seem to work fine

Against

  • It's curved

Curved TVs are everywhere in Berlin - it's the main AV theme at IFA 2014 - but Philips is the only brand that's paired it with an Android operating system.

Being shown-off only in the 55-inch size, this flagship LED telly nevertheless stands out just as much for its stunning Ambilight light show as for its eight million pixels.

As usual on Philips TVs, the build quality is bullet-proof solid and the design is awesome. The most obvious visual flourish is that slight curve, of course, but also a standout is the way it's supported.

It curves underneath and behind this 55-inch LED panel, but is joined not at the centre but at the sides.

The visual impression is therefore of the TV being propped-up at each end. It might sound a bit clunky, but it works a treat; in the world of TVs anything even slightly different to the mainstream can work really well.

The black frame measures a minuscule 6mm on the top and sides, complete with curved corners, while a 12mm-wide gunmetal grey aluminium strip across the bottom contains a LED-backed Philips logo at its centre. It's all rather delicious.

The rear isn't quite so impressive, being all black plastic, but it does contains a few highlights; a subwoofer in the centre that ought to help produce a tad more audio welly, and three strips of LED lights that make-up Philips' unique Ambilight system.

Features

The 55PUS8909C might be both 4k and curved, but it's nevertheless Ambilight that catches the eye just as much. On this 55-incher it's a three-sided affair, with the rear-sides containing 10 LEDs each, while the rear-top has 22 LEDs.

They change in colour as the onscreen images moves, resulting in a dynamically-changing aura of light around the TV that provides a delicate light show.

We managed to watch two back-to-back examples of the 55PUS8909C showing the same footage, and could see the lights changing by the second; in one sequence those LEDs all changed to blue for an underwater shot, with the bottom two swapping to yellow the moment a yellow surfboard arrives in the frame. It's all done with pin-point accuracy.

Ambilight also makes a lot of sense on a curved TV, which is likely to be put in the corner of a room where there's more wall to play with. As usual on Philips TVs, the Amblight effect can be tweaked to customise to whatever colour walls it's given.

Philips doesn't mess around when it comes to picture quality, and the 55PUS8909C is packed with the latest tech. As well as the Perfect Pixel Ultra HD Engine suite of picture processing, there's 1000Hz Perfect Motion Rate Ultra to keep at bay both motion blur, and a HexCore processor to fuel the Android TV-powered smart TV interface.

Philips 55PUS8909C Curved 4k TV

Philips says the TV contains its best-ever smooth motion engine

Ins, out & tuners

Ins and outs are exhaustive, with four HDMI inputs – two on a side panel and two on the rear – alongside an RGB Scart, a set of component video inputs, left/right stereo phonos, four USB slots, a digital optical audio output, and a headphones jack. There's also an RF feed to fuel a Freeview HD tuner.

Or, rather, two of them; the 55PUS8909C is one of the new generation of twin-tuner TVs, which gives an awful lot more flexibility when making recordings from live TV to a USB thumbdribe/HDD. The spec sheet being shown alongside the 55PUS8909C mentions an integrated smart camera, but we couldn't find one anywhere.

Philips 55PUS8909C Curved 4k TV

The stand is another interesting design from Philips

Performance

Key to the 55PUS8909C's performance is Philips' Perfect Pixel Ultra HD Engine, which is there primarily to make the best of both 4k and lesser sources. On the show floor the images appeared spectacularly bright and smooth, with time-lapse footage of a starry sky revealing intrinsically good contrast, too.

A 4k sequence called Lightwaves displayed luscious greens, reds, blue and blacks mixed together in underwater, which brilliantly showcased the responsiveness and effect of the Ambilight performance, too. The curve does appear to pick-up reflections, but there's no doubting its place as a design flourish.

How does the Android interface fare? Demo 4k footage was playing on the six samples of the 55PUS8909C on show at IFA 2014, but nearby examples of Philips' Android TVs showed a smart TV interface showing apps for the Chrome browser, YouTube, the Google Play Store and Spotify Connect.

Philips' Android TVs all support 'made for TV' games downloadable from the Google Play store, while the newly announced OnLive CloudLife service gives unlimited (though subscription-only) access to over 250 games.

Philips 55PUS8909C Curved 4k TV

The Android OS means most standard apps will work with the TV

Early verdict

Ambilight and Android star on the flagship 55-inch 55PUS8909C, though its deliciously curved design and some excellent, contrasty and awesomely detailed 4k images impress just as much.

Given the proliferation of Ultra HD 4k TVs on the Philips stand at IFA 2014, we fully expect the 55PUS8909C to be the first of many in the brand's 8909 Curved Series. With the arrival of curves in Philips' line-up of TVs it's just possible that Ambilight has found its true home.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.

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