Hands on: Philips OLED 804 / 854 review

Standing tall on the shoulders of an OLED giant

What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

With the excellent OLED+ 903 as the blueprint, the Philips OLED 804/ OLED 854 models look like a great option for those wanting top-flight OLED visuals on a slightly tighter budget.

For

  • Fantastic, rich panel
  • Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10+
  • A choice of stand styles

Against

  • Doesn’t feature Bowers and Wilkins sound
  • Dolby Atmos will be downmixed

We were hard pressed to find a better TV than the Philips OLED+ 903 last year – but it came at a hefty premium. As 2019 kicks off, Philips is looking to bring some of the flagship specs of its best set to a lower level of the range with the new OLED 804 and OLED 854 screens.

Separated only by stand designs, the 804 and 854 are built from the same DNA as last year’s OLED showstopper, but have dropped the impressive Bowers and Wilkins soundsystem that wowed us. Can their superb 4K visuals pull them through?

Pricing and availability

Philips hasn’t set pricing and release date information for the Philips OLED 804 and 854 screens yet, though we’ve been told to expect to see them hit shops around May. 

For reference, the Philips OLED+ 903 launched at £2,499 ($3,270 / AU$4,590). It now costs closer to £2,000, so we’d hope to see these screens come in around that price, and possibly a little lower.

Design

The Philips OLED 804 and OLED 854 screens are, essentially, the same TV with only one slight difference – the design of their stands. 

While both have an ultra-slim chrome frame, the OLED 804 sits on metal feet towards the edges of the display, while the OLED 854 sits on a centrally positioned metal stand with a T-bar shape that lets it turn. 

They’re both attractive, with the OLED 854 sitting slightly higher off the surface. It’s just a matter of taste and viewing requirements then (though we’d expect the more complex stand of the 854 to eventually cause a pricing premium between the two).

Other than that, you’re looking at almost identical screens. Both 4K OLEDs, they will each come in 55- and 65-inch sizes. 

There’s a USB port on the side, and four HDMI ports, all of which are HDR ready. Both screens also feature 3-sided Ambilight, the Philips USP that sees onscreen colors beamed out behind the display to match the action, letting your room bloom with immersive colors.

Both the 804 and 854 use Android TV as their operating system, running the latest Android P version of the OS, and come complete with all the catch up and streaming services you can expect, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. 

Both also work with Google Assistant voice commands and Alexa, and feature built-in Chromecast functionality. They’re each powered by a new quad-core processor that ensures the relatively-resource-heavy OS runs without a hitch.

They look fantastic then, but note that, despite coming from the same stable as the OLED+ 903, neither features the Bowers and Wilkins soundbar design that featured in that impressive set. 

You get a more compact screen with the 804 and 854, but at the expense of having merely only Philips own audio tech built in.

Picture quality

Whether you’re going for the Philips OLED 804 or Philips 854, you’re getting one of the most impressively-tuned OLED panels on the market, just like the 903 before them. 

Going with the trend kicked off at CES 2019 by the Panasonic GZ2000, Philips is going for the full house of HDR support here. 

You’ll get access to Dolby Vision content, HDR10+ and HLG high dynamic range modes, and these will all take advantage of the refined P5 Pro image processing chipset.

Philips does lots of behind the scenes image processing work to make its OLED screens pop, and the P5 Pro is working overtime here to make the image even more impressive than it’s top-notch earlier efforts.

Take its Dolby Vision performance, for starters. Philips has finally come to an agreement with Dolby to allow it to lay its processing techniques on top of Dolby’s standard, meaning there are five Dolby Vision viewing modes. 

HDR Personal can be tuned to a user's taste, HDR Game favors response time over post-processing, and Dolby Vision Dark is the default Dolby Vision standard. 

Dolby Vision Bright and HDR Vivid modes, in comparison, look to enhance sharpness, color reproduction and motion smoothing to varying degrees. 

When compared in a demo side-by-side with standard Dolby Vision playback from Sony and LG competition, the difference is startling – color accuracy appears far more natural than LG’s yellowy panels, while motion is far smoother than on Sony’s - but then you'd expect the tests to favor the brand's own set. 

The third generation of the P5 chipset is a performer all round then. Weve been told to expect cleaner, sharper and brighter SDR imagery, and better detail in dark HDR scenes as well as the near-removal of color banding. 

Bright HDR scenes will retain their color too, as shown in a superb demo against last year’s impressive P5 chip, which lost the richness in a blue sky through its HDR implementation. 

That Philips can continue to eke out performance like this from the revised chip is remarkable. 

Audio performance

If these sets sit below the OLED+ 903 flagship, something’s got to give, right? While image quality goes from strength to strength, it appears that audio may be where Philips is cutting the corners.

Rather than opt for the premium Bowers and Wilkins sound system again (which is now trickling down to LCD sets through the Philips 8804 screen, due later this year) Philips is going for its own proprietary soundsystem with the 804 and 854 sets.

It’s still ostensibly a 2.1 system with 50W power output, but it won’t have the same oomph or depth that the Bowers and Wilkins-packing models do. 

That’s not to say Philips hasn’t done its homework however – we were shown a demo of some of the audio advancements Philips has made across its 6000 and 7000 series for 2019, widening the soundstage and giving greater emphasis on the mid range, as well as extending the frequency range overall. 

In other words, the 804 and 854 will sound good for a TV – just not as good as Philips’ top-flight flagship efforts. If you’ve got a nice home cinema sound system already, that may well be a trade off you’ll be happy to make.

What the audio downgrade doesn’t help with, however, is the purported Dolby Atmos support. 

The 804 and 854 OLED screens will be able to handle Dolby Atmos sources, but they’ll be downmixed to fit the available channels, rather than a true delivery of the overhead object-based surround sound audio. 

It’s here where this year’s Panasonic GZ2000 flagship, with its built-in upfiring speaker system, looks to be leading the pack across all TV manufacturing brands.

Early verdict

From our first eyes-on impressions with the Philips OLED 804 and OLED 854 screens, Philips has done a fantastic job of not only bringing the OLED+ 903’s top-notch image quality to what is expected to be more affordable screens, but also further refining its image processing techniques.

We’ll no doubt miss the inclusion of Bowers and Wilkins sound systems, but if the price is right, and you happen to be the proud owner of your own home cinema sound system, the 804 and 854 are looking very promising televisions indeed.

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.