PHILIPS OLED 803
Seriously vibrant imagery makes this fantastic Ambilight screen a superb option for non-purists
It’s another Ambilight-infused stunner, featuring a slew of serious tech for a very reasonable price
When it comes to picture processing, there’s a fine line between art and science, even in the best TVs: over-cranked enhancement may be a turn-on for techies, but, for the rest of us, the end result is often difficult to watch. Philips has found the sweet spot with its latest P5 image processor, which makes standard dynamic range HD look almost as good as 4K HDR.
Style and substance
Available in 55- and 65-inch sets (we tested the latter), the 803 is a typically stylish Philips creation. It’s minimalist but upmarket, with a virtually edge-to-edge glass front. Connections include four 4K-capable HDMI inputs with HDCP 2.2 support, which should be enough for your average living-room setup.
The TV comes with two remotes. One is a crazy-thin Bluetooth wand featuring (probably) the world’s smallest touchpad. The other is a more conventional remote, albeit one with a keypad on the reverse.
Whatever you watch (be it sports, movies or The One Show), images are smoother than a hipster’s latte. There’s also been an upgrade to the TV’s digital noise reduction, in order to reduce smearing caused when detail is misinterpreted. Images look remarkably clean at all times.
Explore the All Settings menu and you will discover a host of imageprocessing adjustments. Your first port of call should be the advanced menu, where you’ll find the set’s Perfect Natural Reality mode. This is exclusive to Philips’ newest TVs, and it’s a doozy to use.
The mode makes everyday SDR TV look more dynamic. Although coated
in secret sauce, we do know it uses an intelligent contrast algorithm to enhance brightness, sharpness and contrast. It’s often quite subtle, but this is no bad thing. When appropriate, such as a character lit with spotlights, the image is imbued with HDR-like intensity.
Interestingly, when you switch Perfect Natural Reality off, the entire frame brightens. It quickly becomes clear that PNR isn’t simply peaking highlights, it’s also bringing down other aspects of the image to create greater contrast. For the best results, keep the setting on Minimum.
The set has various image modes, and while all give a crisp, authentic 2160p image, the set’s various HDR options can have a pronounced impact on performance. The HDR Movie mode would actually be our last choice when watching a UHD movie. It’s just too muted for its own good. HDR Vivid adds a lot of style, if you’re craving extra pizzazz. This isn’t about the creators or any of that: this is visual showmanship.
As for peak brightness, the set’s HDR performance is in line with the competition at the same price, so HDR is great. The 803 supports HDR10, HLG and HDR10+.
Audio quality is surprisingly punchy, given the telly’s slender form factor. A rear woofer, aided by two passive radiators, delivers a solid bass response, while a new oval mid-range driver and soft dome tweeter improve stereo separation. Philips’ more upmarket OLED903 has a stunning Bowers & Wilkins sound system built in, and this isn’t as good as that, but you can get by without a soundbar upgrade right away.
On the inside
The 803 runs stock Android N. This isn’t exactly elegant, but the quadcore processor keeps it snappy. There’s no Freeview Play tuner ( just Freeview HD), and catch-up is limited to BBC iPlayer. Streaming services include Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (both of which are 4K HDR capable), plus YouTube (4K), Google Play, Rakuten TV and others.
Happily, Philips is promising an early software upgrade to Android Oreo, which looks to be much nicer and has Google Assistant built in. There’s an Alexa app, too.
Ambilight, a Philips staple, is present here on three sides. This mood-lighting technology has been around for yonks but never gets old. It can be used to mimic the hues of onscreen action, follow the beat of music, or simply provide a colour wash for lighter walls. We’re fans.
Overall, the 803 is a mouthwatering OLED prospect. Sharp design, great images – including when working with less-thanpristine sources, crucially – and with the always-tantalising bonus of Ambilight, it has the chops to rival the likes of LG’s C8 and Sony’s AF8. If you watch a lot of regular TV, and like your movies as eye-catching as possible, the 803 is a brilliant buy.
Display sizes 55 or 65 inches Panel 3840x2160 OLED Image processorP5 Perfect Picture Engine OS Android Nougat Audio 2.1-channel 50W Connectivity 4x HDMI, 2x USB, component, headphone out, Wi-Fi, Ethernet Dimensions 1227.8x705.6x49.3mm
The Philips 803 boasts a razor-slim design and decent connectivity options