What Hi-Fi (UK)
You would rightly think it strange if the 2020 winner of our Best 55in TV over £1000 didn’t make an apprearance in this round-up. And here it is, looking as good as ever – and a good £300 cheaper than when it received its gong.
The 55OLED805 is a Philips OLED as it should be; genuinely excellent. If you’re prepared to forego the odd next-gen feature, it may even be the best performance-per-pound OLED you can currently buy. Granted, it’s not the only top-ranking screen that’s recently enjoyed a significant price reduction in the first few months of its life, but its particular blend of features and picture quality still set it apart from the crowd.
Dainty feet notwithstanding, the OLED805 looks much like any other 2020 OLED: a pure black screen surrounded by equally black, flush bezels and a thin metal frame around the edges. Its IR receiver and corresponding light is positioned on the bottom-right rather than the bottom-centre of the set, but otherwise, you’d be hard pressed to pick the Philips out of a line-up with its rivals. Philips’s Ambilight tech, combined with a surprisingly large rear-firing subwoofer, make the rear enclosure both wider and deeper (58mm) than most rivals’. Philips also recommends leaving a gap of 10-20cm between the rear of the TV and the wall behind, for the best Ambilight effect, so you probably won’t want to mount it flush to the wall as you might with a conventionally lit screen.
Adaptors that can raise the height of the TV are included in the box, so it can better accommodate a soundbar. The set’s 80cm-wide footprint means it can be placed on a narrower piece of furniture than you might expect for a screen of this size.
The remote control is as stylish as the set itself, thanks to an elegant shape and a pleasant leather wrap across the back and up the sides. Its standard, Tv-specific buttons are nicely clicky but rather cluttered. There is a backlight, though, so you can find the one you want even when viewing in the dark.
The OLED805 brings with it the fourth-generation version of Philips’s P5 processor. The big new addition here is AI technology that uses neural networks and machine learning to analyse millions of video clips from a bespoke database in order to tailor picture quality to be as natural as possible. The set has a dedicated AI picture preset, but the AI feature is actually active on almost every one of the TV’S picture modes.
Both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ (as well as standard HDR10 and HLG) are supported and, while the benefits of HDR10+ are unclear, it’s reassuring to have both bases covered.
The OLED805 is also the first Philips to support Filmmaker Mode, although it doesn’t appear as a named preset in the TV’S menus. To activate it, you simply select the Movie mode, though with the bland, lifeless image produced by the preset, why you’d want to is beyond us.
While selecting modes and changing settings involves interacting with Philips’s own menu system, the core user experience is provided by Google, in the form of Android TV 9. It’s a less unified experience than you get from a Samsung or LG TV, the Home screen feeling more like a source than the true core of the user interface, but Android TV is getting better with each new version and is better laden with apps than ever before.
BBC iplayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 are now officially part of the package, Netflix is on board, too, complete with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos where appropriate, and Amazon Prime Video’s library is similarly stocked with HDR10+ content. Disney Plus is also present but, while Dolby Vision content plays accordingly, Dolby Atmos is currently missing from titles that should have it – this is presumably an Android TV issue, as the Sony A9 also suffers in this way.
There are one or two other omissions; Apple TV app is missing from Android TV entirely, which is disappointing but of little surprise. You can at least get your pay-as-you-go movie streaming fix from Google Play Movies & TV or Rakuten, both of which support HDR10 via the Philips. Also missing are Now TV and BT Sport, which is a shame, but on the music front you get Spotify, Tidal and Deezer – although we wouldn’t recommend using your TV as a music source.
If you’d rather watch content from an external source, the Philips has a fairly typical array of connections that includes four HDMIS, two USBS, a headphone
socket and optical audio output. It’s a shame the HDMIS aren’t better specified, though: ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) is supported, but the likes of EARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and HFR (High Frame Rate) are not.
The lack of VRR will be of concern to gamers considering an upgrade to PS5 or Xbox Series X, but the OLED805’S input lag of 33ms, which is a lot slower than the best in class, suggests that enticing gamers isn’t a high priority for Philips.
Ambilight – which extends whatever you watch (or play) on the Philips on to the wall behind the TV in the form of coloured light – has been around for a while and it is still wonderful. It serves to enhance perceived contrast, make the screen seem bigger and draw you into the action.
Kicking off with The Witcher on Netflix, we note that the set defaults to the HDR Personal preset and the resulting picture is vivid and vibrant but a touch over the top for our tastes. You could rein this in manually by adjusting the brightness, but we decide to switch to Dolby Vision Bright. The image is now more in line with what we’d expect from the content in terms of brightness and colours, but it still trumps price-rival the LG OLED55CX for punch and sharpness.
As Geralt is given a tour of Stregobor’s gaudy courtyard, the individual leaves of a tree are more clearly rendered, the fantastical glow of the scene is rich but controlled, and there’s a real crispness and solidity to the reproduction. All this makes the excellent LG look just a bit flat by comparison.
Switching to the 4K Blu-ray of 1917, also in Dolby Vision, the Philips proves that it’s just as capable with more subtle source material. There’s a fine line between delivering the film’s muted palette and draining the life out of the picture, and it’s one that the Philips treads with confidence. From the green fields of the ravaged French countryside to the grey, rubbled remains of the town of Écoust-saint-mein and the flushed faces of the film’s protagonists, everything is delivered with the requisite nuance.
Philips’s default Standard motion does, however, struggle with less predictable and more complex moments. As the camera spins around the soldiers as they watch the distant planes, for example, there’s quite a lot of shimmer around the rims of their helmets.
If these flaws are too distracting, the new Pure Cinema motion setting could be for you. This results in slightly smoother and sharper motion than by simply turning the processing off entirely, with none of the shimmer you get from the more aggressive processing options. On the subject of aggressive processing, Philips still insists that its Vivid modes are best for watching non-metadata-driven (i.e Dolby Vision) content. Whether you start with Vivid and pare things back, or take a more subtle preset and bump it up a bit, the results are the same. When we fire up the HDR10 Blu-ray of Blade Runner 2049, we give the HDR Vivid setting a whirl. It’s somewhat overblown, so we reduce Colour and Sharpness, increase Brightness, switch off the Light Sensor and Noise Reduction, and switch Motion Styles to Pure Cinema. The resulting picture is stunningly sharp, detailed and three-dimensional, and brilliantly balanced in terms of colours and contrast. It skews a little darker than the LG CX, but its picture is beautifully deep and dramatic and there’s no loss of dark detail.
The only slight flaw is that the Philips appears to hold back somewhat when confronted by high-contrast images that involve an overwhelmingly black screen with a small amount of bright light.
There are no problems when it comes to definition and detail though. The solidity and clarity of the image from the Philips makes rivals from LG and Sony look a little lifeless, yet that doesn’t come at the expense of naturalism.
Dropping down to the True Grit Blu-ray, the Vivid mode is horribly garish and overblown. But make the right adjustments (we reduce the Colour, OLED Contrast, Sharpness and Brightness settings, and turn off Perfect Natural Reality, Perfect Contrast and Ultra Resolution) and the end point is a lovely, natural picture. Sharpness and detail remain two of the sets greatest strengths, but its colour balance is also well judged.
We suspect that the tone is just a little richer than is truly neutral, but the resulting picture is so pleasant that we could hardly call that a flaw. With these settings, the Philips is impressively bright and punchy, while still maintaining the beautifully inky blacks for which OLED is so well regarded.
Switching to standard-def via the built-in tuner, we discover a picture that combines plenty of punch with a good degree of control to colours. There’s a touch more noise around edges than the very best sets exhibit, but the Philips puts in a strong performance here.
The midrange drivers and tweeters on the bottom of the set are an upgrade on those in the Philips’s predecessor (the 804), and while the rear-firing woofer looks the same, it features two extra passive radiators for improved bass response.
By TV standards, the Philips sounds very good. Play the start of chapter two of Blade Runner 2049 and the OLED805 delivers full, taut bass frequencies with a decent level of dynamics and punch as well as a pleasing crispness and clarity.
Award-winners need all-round talent, and this Philips has plenty. It produces stunningly crisp and detailed pictures from all sources, delivers far more accomplished audio than most rivals, adds awesome Ambilight, and is £300 cheaper than it was at launch. Gamers may be put off by its lack of next-gen HDMI features, but for everyone else, the 55OLED805 represents an excellent buy.
“From the green fields of the ravaged French countryside to the grey, rubbled remains of the town, everything is delivered with the requisite nuance”