Philips and Bowers & Wilkins are one of our favourite partnerships of recent times. Second only, perhaps, to Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner’s Timon and Pumbaa in the otherwise rubbish remake of The Lion King.
Good news, audiophiles: they’re practically inseparable. While the OLED+934 should be viewed as the natural successor to the 903, the OLED+984 is this year’s almost upsettingly desirable showpiece.
The latest flagship glowing rectangle from Philips continues to employ a dedicated sound system, in this case mounted to a cabinet below the TV. Here, though, a tweeter sits centrally above it, enhancing the 984’s high frequency performance.
Philips calls it the most advanced sound system ever offered by a TV and we’re not about to start arguing. Inside the TV lives the third generation of the P5 processor, so you can rest assured that this thing looks as good as it sounds.
Here’s what we thought after staring at it longingly at IFA.
Design: Thin nice
Available solely as a 65in set, the OLED+984 is definitely going to be the main attraction of your living room.
Just as eye-catching as the ludicrously skinny, all but bezel-free display is the integrated Bowers & Wilkins-designed soundbar beneath it. The gap between screen and sound system makes them look like separate entities, but the appeal of these new Philips TVs is that you don’t need an alternative sound solution (though there is a subwoofer out port if you really want to shake the room), as they’re truly all-in-one.
In a nice touch, the smooth top of the bar has subtle Philips branding on one side, and Bowers & Wilkins on the other.
Between the OLED panel and the fabric-wrapped soundbar you’ll find the catchily dubbed ‘Tweeter-on-Top’, which does look a bit like a Big Brother eye surveying you as you pile tortillas into your face. Happily, it’s there for a far less terrifying reason, but more on that in a bit.
Features: Packed to the brim
As you’d expect, the OLED+984 isn’t going to be found wanting where specs are concerned.
It’s obviously going to display your 4K UHD content at its eye-watering best, and there’s support for both HDR10 and HDR10+ sources, as well as Dolby Vision content. However you like your HDR, Philips has you covered.
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All the behind-the-scenes wizardry is handled by the third generation of Philips’ P5 picture processing engine. And it wouldn’t be a top-line Philips TV without Ambilight, which is four-sided on the 984.
Then we come to the Bowers & Wilkins audio package, which adds a considerable whack onto the asking price. Three individual ported loudspeaker enclosures house the left, centre and right speakers, each of which feature a 100mm mid/bass driver.
There are also tweeters at the far ends of the speaker system, with the central tweeter hovering just above.
Picture quality: Famous P5
There’s a lot to get into when it comes the 3rd Gen P5, but in simple terms, its dual exclusive chip solution purportedly facilitates a 30% performance increase over its predecessor.
SDR content should look cleaner and sharper, while skin tones will appear more natural - and if you’re viewing an HDR source, Philips is promising no detail loss in dark, no colour clipping and no banding.
The P5 allows for two Dolby Vision modes. Dolby Vision Dark cuts back the P5’s processing and gives you the picture the director intended. Dolby Vision Bright, meanwhile, aims for perfection in source, sharpness and motion for a sharper and smoother picture all round.
It goes without saying that this telly will need extensive testing before we can compare the P5’s processing to what you had with 2018’s 903, but certainly we noticed a reduction in noise on the relatively uncomplicated scenes we were shown, and motion was impressively smooth.
And of course, while we’re used to the peerlessly inky blacks and supreme brightness afforded by OLED tech, seeing it all come together on a big TV is never less than breathtaking.
Sound quality: Tweet in the middle
Along with the increasingly accomplished Ambilight technology they inhabit, the USP of Philips’ flagship is their speakers. Separating the sound system from the TV allows for larger drive units and much more impactful sound.
The 984’s unique audio-based flourish is its Tweeter-on-Top. Decoupled from the other drivers in its metal housing, it’s able to distribute more energy in different directions, notably towards the middle of the screen, making it seem as if that’s where the sound is coming from.
Essentially, being on its own means the speaker’s high frequency output doesn’t suffer from interference from various other components in the cabinet. Vocals could really benefit from this.
We can only take the audio wizards at Bowers & Wilkins on their word, but one thing’s for sure: the 984 sounds utterly brilliant; spacious, detailed and atmospheric. In the demonstration we saw, the roaring of engines in Mad Max: Fury Road were above and around us, and if our ears aren’t quite trained enough to immediately appreciate that central tweeter under the panel, they definitely weren’t unhappy with what they were hearing.
Sound is so good, in fact, that you could reasonably use the 984 as a music player. Indeed we heard Janelle Monae’s Prince-approved ‘Make Me Feel’ playing through Spotify and its brilliant squelchiness sounded as good as ever.
We’re not saying that Philips will beat any dedicated soundbar you lay before it, but it trounces the built-in sound of any TV we’ve listened to.
Philips OLED+984 initial verdict
At £4,500 the 984 isn’t for everyone. This is the very best of the best that Philips and Bowers & Wilkins have to offer, so obviously it’s the one we want at the forefront of our home cinema setup, however unrealistic that is.
If you are in the market for a big-money TV splashout, though, it’s hard to imagine anyone not being blown away by the all-round package.
An already great picture performance is improved by the 3rd Gen P5, it’s a stunning looking telly, and some of the smartest audiophile minds in the business are trying to one-up themselves with its sound system.
We’re looking forward to reviewing this one, and no doubt barricading the doors when Philips come to collect it.