It’s widely regarded as the best TV panel technology out there, but with OLED screens now widespread and the technology maturing, where do you go next?
For Philips, the key differentiator for years has been its Ambilight technology. That’s still present in the new 4K Philips OLED 805 and Philips OLED 855, but it’s not quite enough to turn heads anymore.
So what is? The new P5 picture processing engine. Now in its fourth generation, it’s bringing AI-powered image enhancements to the table. Here’s what we thought of the screens, and the engine, in action from a recent European hands-on event.
Price and availability
We’re still waiting on pricing for the Philips OLED 805 and OLED 855, but have been told to expect a Q2 release date in 2020. In terms of pricing estimations, these are just a step down from whatever Philips’ flagship model for 2020 will end up being, so we’d expect a price tag upwards of £1,500.
Note that these are the fruits of the TP Vision arm of the Philips business – which unfortunately does not distribute sets to the USA, where Philips branding is handled by Funai, instead. So don’t expect to see these screens on the other side of the Atlantic anytime soon.
In terms of spec sheets, the Philips OLED 805 and OLED 855 are pretty much identical – what sets them apart is their stands.
With both finished with chrome edging and bezels, the OLED 805 features a 'chamfered stand' while the OLED 855 has a central stand that sticks out like a thin foot at its front. Like most OLED screens, both panels are relatively thin, but they bulge more than your usual OLED due to the inclusion of three-sided (top, left and right) Ambilight LEDs, which light up to reflect the action on screen, blooming colors on the wall behind them. It’s a worthy trade off.
Note that there’s no built-in Bowers and Wilkins soundbar sound system on board here, as has been found on other high-end Philips TV models. Also note, though, that the new design sees there being enough clearance between the TV sets’ panels and any AV unit-mounted surface for you to be able to comfortably sit a soundbar in front without obscuring your view of the TV.
Like last year’s Philips range, the OLED 805 and OLED 855 will take a fairly agnostic approach to HDR formats. Though Dolby Vision IQ isn’t present, all other major HDR formats will be supported. So that’s HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, and HDR10 and Hybrid Log Gamma, too.
Android 9.0 is the operating system of choice – always welcome for its wide range of available apps (and definitely superior to Philips other go-to, the Linux-based Saphi), while voice assistants from Amazon and Google will be onboard too. Netflix, Amazon Prime and all other notable streaming services will be onboard, as well as newcomer Disney Plus, which Philips promises will be present from launch.
Ports are reasonably well catered for, with four HDMI, two USBs, an optical out and a headphone jack. However, those HDMI ports aren’t of the newer 2.1-grade, as Philips is waiting for the proliferation of next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X before it goes all-in on the format. They will have certain features of the HDMI 2.1 standard however, such as Auto Low Latency Mode, even if Variable Refresh Rate is missing. Likewise, eARC is missing, too.
Our time with the OLED 805 and OLED 855 has been limited so far to a brief play demonstration of the new P5 engine generation’s AI processing techniques. But it gives a good indication of what Philips is looking to achieve with this year’s screens.
With the 65-inch and 55-inch versions of the screens sat side-by-side, we were shown the same clip of a stroll around a colorful European city on both. Though both had the new 4th generation P5 engine installed, the 65-inch was running the new AI mode, while the smaller one was set to Philips’ existing Movie setting.
The AI mode uses neural network processing to tweak the image on screen, based on the sort of content it’s receiving. It does this by running the image it’s displaying frame by frame against a database of millions of images that it’s already assessed and recognized. Using the data it has, it then adjusts things like brightness, color vibrancy and sharpness of details based on how it has been taught, based on the database.
Movie modes on screens always lean towards a more ‘filmic’ softer, warmer image – which some would argue is a more natural image. But the difference between the two settings was notably stark. AI mode led to punchier imagery, brighter in key areas of a scene without washing out detail in the brightest areas of a frame. Colors in general were more saturated, and HDR effects seemingly more pronounced. And though this may sound worryingly close to a ‘Vibrant’ setting, it’s far easier on the eye than those garish out-of-the-box shop floor settings – more like a fresh lick of paint.
The second demo was a very specific look at the AI mode in action, using what we’d expect will be an in-store demo feature. It split each screen down the centre, with one half showing the AI mode, and another showing the Movie mode. Side by side, on the same display, the difference is even clearer – but what’s really smart about this particular demo is that you can see the degree to which the AI engine is classifying every frame, and how accurately. Charts show whether or not the image is being classified as one that has nature elements, human faces and so on, revealing on what basis the image is being altered.
If this all sounds a bit removed from how the director would have intended, you’ll be pleased to hear that the screens will be supporting the newly-determined ‘Filmmaker’ mode that gets the Hollywood seal of approval. Whatever your preference, Philips next-gen OLEDs will have a display type to suit all content and tastes.
There’s a lot left to learn about the OLED 805 and OLED 855 from Philips. What do they sound like? How aggressive – and effective – is the AI processing on low-resolution content? How much will they cost? And will we see a later version revealed with the superlative Bowers and Wilkins speakers of earlier models?
We’ll have to wait and see. From a first exposure to the new sets though, Philips’ confidence and assured performance in the OLED sector looks set to continue, and there’s always that Ambilight magic to rely on. We’ll have more on the sets as the year continues.
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