Philips 803 OLED (65OLED803) review: OLED mastery from Philips

Philips has a formidable line-up of LCD TVs, but it wholeheartedly believes that the future of premium TVs belongs to only one technology: OLED. Now, the brand has released its latest top-end televisions for 2018 – namely the Philips 803 and flagship Philips 903 models – and they look ready to take on the cream of the OLED crop from rivals such as LG, Sony and Panasonic.

Philips 65OLED803 review: What you need to know

Key features on the 803 series include LG Display’s 2018 OLED panels powered by Philips’ second-generation P5 video processing engine, Ultra HD Premium certification, three-sided Ambilight integrated bias lighting technology, and it runs on an Android-based Smart TV platform. HDR support for the HDR10, broadcast-friendly HLG, and HDR10+ formats is present and correct, but Dolby Vision is a notable omission.

The Philips 803 lacks the superb-sounding Bowers & Wilkins speakers of the flagship 903, but picture quality should be similar between the two, which makes the 803 the more sensible choice if you already have your own sound system. Our review sample is the GBP3,000 65in 65OLED803, but there’s also a smaller 55in 55OLED803 which costs GBP2,000.

Philips 65OLED803 review: Price and competition

At GBP3,000, the 65in Philips 803 is priced competitively versus other OLEDs – namely the LG OLED65C8 (GBP2,700), the Panasonic TX-65FZ802B (GBP2,800) and the Sony KD-65AF8 (GBP2,800) – all of which have enjoyed price cuts since launch earlier in the year. The recently released Sony KD-65AF9 remains the most expensive mainstream OLED at GBP4,000.

Philips 65OLED803 review: Design and connections

From the front, the styling is the epitome of minimalism.

There’s only a pair of shiny cuboid feet peeking from underneath the panel, one of which is etched with the Philips logo. It’s so low-slung, however, that there’s not enough clearance to put even a low-profile soundbar in front without obscuring the screen. Thankfully, though, the 65OLED803’s onboard speakers are very decent, and produce sufficient presence and dialogue clarity for run-of-the-mill viewing.

The screen itself is wafer-thin, but protrudes at the rear to accommodate the internal components, power supply, audio system, and more importantly the LED lights responsible for Philips’ nifty Ambilight feature (more on which later). The connections are found on the right side of the television, including four HDMI inputs. However, only HDMI 1 and HDMI 2 are full-bandwidth HDMI 2.0b ports that can support 4K HDR videos at higher bit-depth, frame rate and chroma, so you’ll need to hook up your Xbox One X, PS4 Pro or Apple TV 4K box to one of these two sockets.

Philips 803 OLED (65OLED803) review: OLED mastery from Philips

The Philips OLED803 ships with two remote controls, though neither are conventional in the strictest sense.

The one with more buttons has a QWERTY keyboard on the back, making it easy to type in your Wifi or Netflix password on the TV, but it is infrared only and so requires you to point it fairly accurately at the remote sensor on the telly. The second remote is a more futuristic-looking example with only six keys, Google Assistant support, and a touchpad that doesn’t look like a touchpad at all.

Philips 65OLED803 review: Picture quality

The Philips 65OLED803 is equipped with one of LG’s 2018 WRGB OLED panels. We’ve generally found these to be more uniform than last year’s panels, and that’s certainly the case on our review sample.

Thin vertical streaks were barely visible on our 5% above black slide (that’s very, very, very dark grey, if you’re wondering), and not noticeable to us even in challenging low-light scenes from the movie Arrival. Brightness uniformity is fantastic too: we checked the screen with full-field grey slides, and there was no obvious colour tinting or dirty screen effect to spoil your football viewing; something which affected previous generations of LG’s OLED panels.

Philips 803 OLED (65OLED803) review: OLED mastery from Philips

Perfect blacks, vibrant colours and wide viewing angles are traits common to all OLED TVs, so here we’ll focus on other aspects of picture processing that separate Philips from the rest. What we like most on Philips TVs, including the 803, is that there is one particular set-and-forget motion setting that lets you enjoy both high motion resolution and smooth 24p playback without unwanted side effects.

In other words, you can watch 24fps films without judder or soap opera effect, as well as 50Hz or 60Hz sports content with high motion clarity and minimal interpolation artefacts, all without needing to change the motion settings after they’ve been set correctly. This is a refreshing departure from other TVs which require a degree of faff if you want everything to look its best. The Philips OLED803 excels at making the best of grubby, standard-definition broadcasts – it’s one of the very best in this regard – but unsurprisingly UHD (ultra high-definition) HDR content is where the TV shines.

After calibration, HDR peak brightness on our 65OLED803 review unit came in at 875 nits (10% window), the highest we’ve measured from any 2018 OLED. This helps the TV deliver some of the most impactful HDR we’ve seen on a consumer OLED, despite minor clipping of bright specular highlights in 4000-nit movies, and occasional posterisation at high colour luminance.
Input lag is a bit of a disappointment, however. We measured 39ms in both 1080p SDR and 4K HDR Game modes, which while entirely playable, puts the Philips a fair way behind the gaming responsiveness provided by high-end OLED models from other TV brands.

Philips 65OLED803 review: Ambilight

Philips 803 OLED (65OLED803) review: OLED mastery from Philips

No review of a Philips TV is complete without mentioning Ambilight.

Put simply, this is an array of LED lights positioned around the top and sides of the TV which illuminate the rear wall. This isn’t as gimmicky as it sounds, however, and to some degree it’s actually widely used in professional circles; the technical term for it is bias lighting. You can set Ambilight to change colours and brightness according to the picture or sound, and watch as colours on-screen spill out from the TV onto the wall behind but, while impressive, this can be rather too distracting.

Instead, we prefer to use it in a similar manner to how professional grading suites use bias lighting, namely by setting it to a single stable white colour (ideally calibrated to perfect D65 white). This adds a gentle glow the rear wall and surroundings, and the constant low level of illumination prevents your eye muscles from having to work overtime as scenes move from light to dark, thus reducing eye fatigue and promoting eye comfort. Our advice?

Just make sure you tone down the default Ambilight brightness level, otherwise it tends to crush shadow detail – and especially so during HDR viewing.

Philips 65OLED803 review: Verdict

In short, it’s another exemplary OLED TV from Philips.

As with its predecessors, Philips’ image processing engine serves up stunningly refined motion across sport, movies and games, and the only slight disappointment is the higher input lag compared to the class-leaders.

Add Ambilight to the mix, and the Philips 65OLED803 is a unique and highly credible alternative to other top-performing OLEDs on the market.

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