Hands on: Philips OLED 803 4K HDR TV (65OLED803)

Could this TV be the Best UHD Buy in Philips 2018 OLED range?

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Philips expects to have a huge hit on its hands with this new (cheap?) entry-level OLED TV. And with good reason. Stylish design and premium picture quality should make this a must-audition 4K UHD TV...

For

  • Vivid, detailed UHD image quality
  • Three-sided Ambilight
  • Stylish, understated design

Against

  • Widely-space feet mean you’ll need suitably wide TV furniture
  • We’re trying to love the Android TV OS, we really are…

Due early summer, Philips 803 OLED TV is being touted as a new entry-point for those hankering after an Ambilight equipped OLED flatscreen. We had the opportunity to get an early look at a pre-production sample at Philips European TV launch convention, and while the set was far from the finished article (actually hand-built for the show), it’s already looking like a contender for Best Value 4K UHD proposition from the brand.

Design

For starters, the thing is gorgeous. To be available in both 55- and 65- screen sizes, the 803 adopts a stylised minimal look, all tiny brushed metallic bezel and widely spaced feet - you’ll need trendy wide TV furniture if you don’t intend to wall mount. The vibe is distinctly premium 

The specification also impresses. It transpires that there’s no difference in terms of panel, picture processing engine or Ambilight configuration between any of Philips 2018 OLED offerings. Deciding between them comes down to price (which has yet to be announced), cosmetic design and sound system.

It’s worth noting that unlike Philips TVs available in North America, which are made under licence by Funai, these European screens are produced by TP Vision, and have genuine Philips DNA. The engineering and design teams responsible have been with the brand (in some cases) for decades.

Performance

This experience is clearly evidenced by the convoluted P5 picture processor under the hood. With 4K OLED, Philips has finally found a display technology that seems a perfect match for its imaging sensibilities. No one does crowd pleasing colour and high detail quite like Philips.

It may be early days, but the 803 impresses. In addition to OLED’s characteristic pure black, the panel lays claim to 99 per cent of the DCI-P3 colour space and delivers rich, candy colours. Some may find images occasionally garish, but there’s no doubting their impact. 

Contrast is pronounced, with a healthy peak luminance quoted at 900 cd/m2 (aka nits). In addition to everyday HDR10, the set is also compatible with HLG broadcast HDR (it’s coming!) and HDR10+, the new dynamic metadata rival to Dolby Vision. There are no plans to add Dolby Vision compatibility to the screen.

Sound wise it’s not too shabby either. Privately, Philips engineers confide that the 803 should perform better than the step-up 873, thanks to a new trio of drivers on the rear of the panel.

A trio of rear-facing drivers should provide a satisfyingly beefy sound

A trio of rear-facing drivers should provide a satisfyingly beefy sound

We’ll take this with a pinch of salt, as it’s not yet been possible to hear this out, but the hardware bodes well. Hopefully, those speakers will do the business, as there’s not a great deal of space beneath the screen for a soundbar. Alternatively, you might plan on using the 803 with a full-blown AV amplifier. Total power output is rated at a fulsome 50w.

The 803, like other Philips OLED TVs, uses the Android TV OS and comes with 16GB of expandable memory for apps. Expect to see the usual streaming services onboard when it launches, including 4K capable Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube. The company says the TV will also be Google Assistant compatible, courtesy of a firmware update, sometime after launch.  

The 803 comes with two remote controls, a traditional zapper and a new pencil thin Bluetooth remote. The latter is designed to simplify the user experience, and features a built-in microphone for voice search and Google interaction. Rather cleverly, and not immediately apparent, the thin remote also includes a diminutive mouse pad, to swipe your way around the menus.

Our early verdict

While we don’t yet know the price of the 803 (and that’s a crucial part of the jigsaw still missing), Philips ensures us it will be competitive. This is tantalising, because as an entry-level Ambilight proposition, it looks extremely well specified. The 803 is definitely a model to look for when it launches (hopefully) before the FIFA World Cup kicks off.

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.