Products Review: Philips 804, 854 OLED TVs

If the demonstrations we’ve seen to date represents the quality we can expect from Philips’ 2019 OLED TVs, then we’re in for a treat when they go on sale this summer

Having bagged universally strong reviews and a number of awards with its 2018 OLED TVs, it’s no surprise to find Philips hitting the OLED trail again in 2019.

The brand (now owned by TP Vision) unveiled two new OLED models at a launch event in Amsterdam last week, and both appear to build on the Philips OLED story in impressive style.

The improvements introduced by these new 804 and 854 OLED models become apparent as soon as you catch sight of them. The 804 sits on a pair of extremely elegant, ultra low-profile feet made from sheets of aluminium, while the 854 sits on a gleaming, centrally attached “T-bar” stand.

Both designs look even better than those of last year’s 803 equivalent models – and you can even rotate the 854 on its stand. This is a rare but welcome feature for the OLED TV world.

Philips 804/854

The Philips OLED 854

As you’d expect with a Philips TV, both the 804 and 854 feature three-sided Ambilight. This sees rear-mounted LEDs emitting light beyond the TV’s outer edges to make for a more immersive TV experience. It’s especially effective if you set the Ambilight system to track the colours of the pictures you’re watching. Philips is the only brand that combines OLED technology with Ambilight.

The only difference between the 804 and 854 is their stand designs; both use exactly the same OLED panel generation and picture processing engine. In fact, the OLED panel is the same as the one used in last year’s models. However, the 804/854’s new, third-generation P5 processing system appears to be a big step up from last year’s version.

It introduces a second chip (alongside the previous P5 processor), which Philips says improves three of the five “pillars” of picture quality: noise reduction, detail/sharpness and issues related to tone mapping. This latter element is claimed to deliver cleaner, sharper, brighter pictures with standard dynamic range content, as well as better shadow detail, reduced colour clipping and minimal colour banding with HDR content.

Philips 804/854

The Philips 804 (left) and 854 OLED TVs

Both the 804 and 854 are expected to support the Android TV Pie (9) smart system at launch, but the most important new features for AV fans – alongside the improved P5 processor – is the addition of support for the Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos.

The addition of Dolby Vision to its previous HDR10+ support makes Philips only the second brand (after Panasonic) to support both of the premium HDR formats on its TVs.

It wasn’t possible at Philips’ launch event to hear the 804 and 854’s Atmos sound in action. However, we were able to get an early look picture quality – and it looked seriously promising.

Particularly good to see was the significant reduction in noise in both the 804 and 854’s pictures compared with last year’s Philips OLED models. This was particularly true in blue skies, where head-to-head comparisons revealed a huge reduction in dotting and fizzing. Crucially, the picture generally looked more polished without this more refined appearance leading to any softness or loss in detail.

Also noticeable in skies and in the aura around a setting sun was a reduction in banding artefacts. This is despite the fact that a more detailed, natural look to these ultra-vivid parts of the picture was achieved, presumably, by the third-generation P5 chipset’s improved tone mapping.

On occasion, improving tone mapping with HDR content can require a screen to sacrifice brightness at the most extreme parts of its pictures. However, on the 804 and 854 models we saw, the brightest elements of the picture looked markedly more intense than they did on last year’s models, rather than more muted.

Philips 804/854

Corner detail with Ambilight on the Philips 804 OLED TV

The only exception to this was during a shot showing a spotlit figure against a dark backdrop. Here, the spotlit figure appeared marginally less bright than it did on 2018’s models. However, there was handsome compensation for this in the appearance of greater shadow detail in the dark background, giving the overall image a far more balanced and convincing look.

Colours looked significantly better in bright areas on the 804/854 than they did on 2018’s Philips OLEDs, too. Skies that looked almost white on 2018’s sets now displayed their correct shade(s) of blue. Also, the front of a shop seen through a window showed its correct blue colour on the 804/854s, but looked pretty much completely bleached to white on the 2018 model.

Philips’ demonstrations of the 804/854 revealed better light management (with more subtle gradations) in high contrast images, resulting in a much more natural, three-dimensional impression.

No OLED TVs to date support 8K resolutions. Although Philips was cheekily running a demo at its launch event showing an 804/854 running native 4K images against a Samsung 8K TV (the latter of which, therefore, was showing the images upscaled to 8K). And the 804/854’s images clearly looked more detailed and crisp than those of the Samsung 8K model.

Philips 804/854

The Philips OLED 804 (centre) in a Dolby Vision Demo against Sony and LG rivals

It should be said that we couldn’t play with the Samsung’s complex upscaling settings to see if we could improve matters, but taken on its own limited merits, there’s no doubting that Philips’ demonstration was a persuasive reminder of the brand’s traditional sharpness prowess.

Finally, Philips had a pleasant surprise in store during a demonstration of the 804/854s’ new Dolby Vision capabilities.

We’re accustomed to Dolby Vision delivering more dynamic and precise-looking pictures than normal HDR10 pictures. However, Philips was feeling brave enough to run its new OLED TVs’ Dolby Vision pictures against those of Sony and LG Dolby Vision OLED sets.

And, using Philips’ new Dolby Vision Bright mode (which combines the latest P5 processor with Dolby Vision’s panel recognition and dynamic metadata enhancements) the results looked fantastic, with the 804/854 managing to deliver more brightness, greater dynamism and, especially, more sharpness without impacting the images’ colour tones.

The new Philips OLEDs also carry a Dolby Vision Dark mode for purists that essentially deactivates the P5 system. However, having seen the Dark and P5-enhanced Bright Dolby Vision modes at the Philips demonstration, I personally think most people will find the Bright mode hard to resist. It would have been nice to have had the chance to confirm more completely that the new P5 processor in the 804/854 fixes the occasionally “sunburnt” skin tones that were one of the few issues with 2018’s models.

Philips OLED 804/854 first impressions

Aside from that, however, I’m struggling to find anything negative to say about what’s set to be another stand-out moment in OLED TVs’ evolution. Look out for full reviews when Philips’ new OLED TVs go on sale in the summer.

Specifications

Display TypeOLED
Max. Resolution3840 x 2160
Full HD 1080pYes (actually 4K)
Digital TunerYes
Freeview HDYes
HDMI 4
3D ReadyNo

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