Given the 2017 OLED TVs from Sony, Panasonic, Philips and LG features the same LG panel, does it really matter which one you buy?
Styling and price will obviously play a part for most people, but another thing to consider is the picture processing used by each manufacturer. We're still sadly a long way off widely-available 4K HDR video--in fact, the vast majority of the TV that most people watch is in 1080p, 720p or (shudder) SD resolution.
As such, some technical wizadry is often needed to help make non-4K content look acceptable on a 4K screen. Enter Philips and its new P5 picture processing technology. This new chipset promises to improve the quality of your streaming video, thanks to a multitude of clever picture processing techniques from, you guessed it, five picture processing units.
In addition to the television's new brains, it also comes with a 6.1 channel soundbar, as well as the Dutch manufacturer's familiar Ambilight technology. There's no price for the Series 9 65-inch, but we expect it to cost at least £3,000, if LG and Sony's similar-sized panels are anything to go by. One thing we do know is that it won't land until early next year, leaving you a few months to open that easy-access saver account and start making regular deposits.
So if you're a Netflix junkie, is it worth holding out till next year to buy this OLED? Let's find out.
PHILIPS 9 SERIES 65-INCH OLED TV: DESIGN & BUILD
Like most OLED televisions, the 9 Series is extraordinarily thin across the majority of its frame. It becomes thicker towards the back of the base, which is where the connectivity lies, but overall it's a beautiful television that effortlessly expresses an appreciation of minimalist design. Whether it'll look quite so sophisticated when it's being used to binge-watch next summer's series of Love Island while you're slouched on the sofa smashing a curry is something we couldn't possibly comment on.
The big new design feature on the 9 Series is the introduction of a soundbar, which can be sat underneath the television or mounted on a wall. Despite its compact size, it features a subwoofer and six tweeters for a 6.1 audio setup. It’s always difficult to judge the effectiveness of a speaker system over the noise of a trade show like IFA 2017, but we were impressed with its loudness when we turned it up to 80 per cent. Of course, many people buying a top-of-the-line OLED TV will already have their own speaker setups, but it’s good to know that Philips’ own solution appears to sound good while obviously matching the sleekness of the main TV.
As you'd expect from a flagship Philips TV, the 9 Series OLED also boasts Ambilight integration. Some people aren't so keen on Ambilight, but as always you can choose to turn it on or off, and even customise the level of lighting that suits your room. For what it’s worth, we quite enjoy Ambilight, particularly for playing video games. Philips also showed us a sneak peak of a new tablet app that it will be releasing for Ambilight TVs that will allow you to customise your settings even more easily, meaning you could start using Ambilight for mood lighting even when the TV is off.
PHILIPS 9 SERIES 65-INCH OLED TV: SCREEN & SOUND
Judging by our IFA 2017 hands-on, the main reason to wait till 2018 for the 9 Series is the P5 picture processor. Previous Philips picture processors have aimed to improve four key characteristics: sharpness, colour, contrast and motion. According to Philips, they've achieved a 50 per cent improvement on each of those processes in this new TV. Meanwhile, a fifth level called “Source Perfection” has been added, which is aimed at addressing the big thing that's changed in TV viewing over the past few years: streaming.
While streaming is great for convenience, it's not always the best when it comes to quality: slower connections in particular can result in artefacts, blockiness and poor detail levels, which “Source Perfection” promises to fix. It works hard behind the scenes to reduce all those MPEG artifacts, while upscaling whatever video you’re watching to 4K resolution.
Philips is so confident of the P5's performance, it put the 9 Series OLED side-by-side with 2017 OLEDs from LG, Sony and Panasonic. It set them all to “Vivid” picture modes, and showed off a number of different images and videos to emphasise how well its set handled detail, contrast, colour, motion, judder and picture artefacts. We've seen plenty of these demos and remain a little sceptical of their real-world merit (who uses “Vivid” mode?) but the results were difficult to argue with here. While the Sony OLED currently sitting atop our Best Televisions list came a close second, Philips' OLED did indeed boast a noticeably better picture quality to its rivals.
PHILIPS 9 SERIES 65-INCH OLED TV: FEATURES
The Philips 9 Series will be powered by the latest version of Android TV, so you’ll be able to access apps like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video without needing a separate box. However, a new feature coming to this set (as well as Philips’ 2017 Android-powered TVs) is Google Assistant. This means that you’ll be able to use your voice to search for content, control your TV, and even command other smart devices in your home.
If you've already used Google Assistant on a recent Android phone or Google Home, you'll know the drill, but it's still impressive to use on a TV. You can say “OK Google, show me TV shows on Netflix”, and the TV will present a list of the service's troublingly addictive shows along the bottom of the screen. From there, future voice commands are context-sensitive, so you can say, “OK Google, show me the first one”, which in this instance was Stranger Things, and it takes you straight into the main show page in the app. You can then say “Play” to pick up from where you left off in the show, and even say things like “Set volume to 20 per cent” and the TV will slavishly abide.
PHILIPS 9 SERIES 65-INCH OLED TV: INITIAL VERDICT
There's no doubt Philips' 9 Series OLED is a fantastic TV; the big question now is how much it's going to cost. Philips' rep was keen to remind us that OLED prices were dropping all the time, so we hope that it's competitive, and given the dominance of LG and Sony in this sector, Philips surely knows it needs to be competitive.
Whether it's worth holding out till 2018 for depends on your TV viewing habits. If you're a 4K HDR die-hard with a PS4 Pro and Xbox One X on pre-order, then you're probably not going to need all of the TV's picture processing power. However, if you're a streaming junkie with paid-up subs to Netflix and Amazon Prime, then there's no doubt it's going to make your favourite shows shine. Come back in early 2018 for the full verdict.