IFA 2014: Philips Ultra HD 4K TVs
Philips are going for the higher-end with their latest TV line-up
As you will undoubtedly know by now, the Philips TV brand is one hundred percent owned by the Taiwanese manufacturer TP Vision.After a period of joint ownership, Philips decided to divest themselves entirely of their TV division, leaving TP Vision to continue with the name and much of their television expertise. Over the last two years TP Vision has sought to rebuild the brand, which had lost much of its market share over the previous decade. Whilst Philips still remained a strong brand in certain territories, there was no doubt that in the UK it had fallen behind the larger manufacturers. However with the planned launch of the Philips 9100, Philips 8900 and Philips 7900, all that is about to change.
As Nico Vernieuwe, TP Vision's Chief Commercial Officer for Europe & Russia, explained in a meeting at IFA, the relaunch of Philips as a brand concentrated initially on lower tier TVs. The idea was to build the business first, increase volumes and market share, and generate greater brand recognition. Now that's been achieved, TP Vision will look to launch more higher tier Philips TVs in the last quarter of 2014 and on into 2015. The company has seen good growth in both the second and third quarters of 2014 and the their ambition is to be a global top three player and even top two in certain territories.
To help support these ambitious plans, TP Vision is building a new panel production facility in China, which means they will be able to produce their own panels rather than just buying in from other manufacturers. TP Vision may still buy from third parties but at least they will now have a choice, allowing them greater flexibility in terms of future models. The factory will come on-line next year, with panels being produced for the 2016 TV range. They have also opened a new innovation site in Belgium, which will consolidate all the previous European operations, especially their technical expertise.
The latest Philips TV line-up now includes thirteen Ultra HD 4K models over six different ranges, as well as a growing range of Full HD models. Speaking with Graham Speake, Managing Director of TP Vision in the UK, we pointed out that one of the problems in the past has been finding Philips TVs in the stores. He was keen to stress that the new models would be much easier to buy in the UK than in previous years and there were now deals in place with almost all the major electronics retailers including John Lewis, Richer Sounds and Argos.Philips TVs are now available in most major retailers including John Lewis, Richer Sounds and Argos.As with the rest of the consumer electronics industry, TP Vision is heavily committed to Ultra HD 4K and according to Nico Vernieuwe they have seen rapid growth in this area, with 75 million displays sold in the last twelve months. TP Vision expect about 10-15% of all Philips TV sales to be Ultra HD models in 2015, increasing to 20-30% in 2016. In terms of this year, TP Vision have announced three new Philips Ultra HD 4K TVs to join the recently introduced flagship Philips 9800 and the previously released Philips 8800. These new models will all be available in Europe and the UK in the third quarter.
First of all there is the Philips 9100, which combines their Perfect Pixel Ultra HD image processing engine with a striking new design and four-sided Amiblight. It also features Philips' Ultra Resolution upscaling solution for non-UHD content, along with 1000Hz Perfect Motion Rate Ultra, Micro Dimming Pro and the new 'arc' stand with a polished chrome finish and an open arch below the screen. The Philips 9100 will also include Android TV, bringing the world's most popular operating system to their Smart TV platform, and be available in 55 and 65 inch screen sizes.
TP Vision have also announced the Philips 8900, which is their first curved TV. This particular model comes in a 55 inch screen size and uses a curved Ultra HD 4K panel. It is powered by Android and certified by Google, thus providing easy access to the GooglePlay Store with its wealth of apps, games and content. In addition, the increased processing power together with an Android operating system allows for a much faster and more fluid user interface. The curved Philips 8900 also features 3-sided Ambilight, 1000 Hz Perfect Motion Rate Ultra, Local Contrast with Micro Dimming Pro and Ultra Resolution image processing. When asked about the new Philips 8900, Nico Vernieuwe explained that the curve was a design feature for those who want it, rather than a statement of intent from TP Vision.
Finally there is the Philips 7900, which is designed to offer an affordable Ultra HD 4K option for those on a tighter budget who still want to enjoy UHD picture quality, Android and Ambilight. The ultra-slim Philips 7900 includes two-sided Ambilight, a Pixel Precise Ultra HD engine, 600 Hz PMR Ultra and twin tuners. It also includes Android TV and all Philips Ultra HD 4K Android TVs are certified by Google. This means that they have access to all apps, services, and content in the Google Play Store that are suitable to TV usage. You can find out more about Android TV and how Philips are implanting it in the article here.Philips are committed to Ultra HD 4K, with thirteen models over six different ranges.TP Vision also announced the new Philips UHD 880 Media Player which can stream HEVC encoded 4K content to a 2014 or 2013 Philips Ultra HD TV, although in the case of the 2013 models it will only apply to content not using HDCP 2.2 copy protection. The UHD 880 will be able to receive HEVC encoded videos via Wi-Fi, Ethernet and USB and will include Netflix and YouTube initially. An HDMI 2.0 connection between the media player and a Philips UHD TV will allow 4K UHD content to be displayed at up to 60 frames per second.
Along with HDMI 2.0, HDCP 2.2 and HEVC decoding, the UHD 880 will also include 12GB of digital storage. The UHD 880 will include Google’s upcoming operating system, Android L, bringing this to all connected Philips UHD TVs. It will also be upgradable to support any new HEVC video streaming offerings from video service providers that are developed for the Android platform. The Philips UHD 880 will be launched in the first quarter of 2015 and will be free to consumers who buy a 2014 Philips 8000 or 9000 series Ultra HD 4K TV.
Philips have been a partner with Dolby on their Dolby Vision project, although at the moment they are not yet a licensee. The prototype on display was more of a technical showpiece but it shows what Dolby are trying to achieve. They feel that currently content is created based on the 100 Nits brightness of a CRT display and modern displays such as the Philips' 9100 can deliver 500 Nits across a full screen. The 9100 could even peak 1000 Nits but not across the entire screen. Dolby feel that displays can be created these days that have a wider colour gamut and are much brighter, with deeper blacks, thus creating a bigger dynamic range. They feel that this will create a greater sense of realism with images and the experience will be more like looking out of a window than at a TV.
TP Vision say that their panels could produce 1000 Nits across a full screen but it would take a lot more power. That is the current problem with Dolby Vision, whilst the idea of greater dynamic range is appealing, to achieve the kind of brightness suggested would require significant amounts of energy and a lot more cooling. TP Vision are still deciding whether to go with Dolby, a competing system from Technicolor or develop one of their own. As far as OLED is concerned, Nico Vernieuwe said that Philips will bring curved OLED to the market when it reaches an affordable price point but currently there is not enough reliability in big screen sizes and they're not cost effective to produce.TP Vision are developing new TV technologies, including a partnership with Dolby Vision.We spoke with TP Vision's imaging guru Danny Tack about the use of IPS panels in their current range of TVs and asked why they used them if picture quality was so important? Danny agreed that whilst VA panels had improved their viewing angles, IPS panels can’t improve their contrast performance. So for the best picture quality you need to use a VA panel but for lower price TVs you can use an IPS panel because it is better in other areas such as motion and gamma. Danny also demonstrated some of the new technologies found on TP Vision's latest Philips Ultra HD 4K TVs. These include advanced line thinning technology and improved sharpening that preserves and enhances fine details without colour desaturation.
Danny showed us Micro Dimming Pro, which uses a combination of a light sensor, global dimming and 6,000 zones for manipulation of contrast within the content itself. This helps the TV perform to the best of its ability regardless of ambient light conditions. Whilst Micro Dimming Premium includes local dimming zones and a dynamic contrast feature to create deeper blacks and reduced haloing. In the demonstration, the contrast performance of Micro Dimming Premium was very good. There were fireworks against a black sky and whilst there was some minor haloing, it was otherwise very impressive. The dimming is used even for bright pictures to create increased contrast and reduce power consumption.
On previous Philips TVs black, measured at 0.16cd/m2 but on the new models black is 0.04cd/m2, thanks to better LEDs. However they won't be able to get this number down to zero due to motion which causes the panel to anticipate a bright scene. Danny also demonstrated the distance adaptive sharpening, which gives you the optimum choice between sharpness and artefact reduction depending on how far you are sat from the TV. It uses the Skype camera to detect the viewer from a distance of between 1 and 5 metres and then the picture quality is optimised accordingly.
After visiting the stand and sitting in on the workshop demonstrations one thing was obvious, the Philips TV brand might well be owned by TP Vision now but there is still plenty of innovation to come.
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