Manufacturer promises that their flagship TV will be available in the UK
Although Philips first showed their new TV line-up in Barcelona back in March, the actual sets have only just started to arrive in UK stores.Whilst this delay wasn’t ideal, it did give Philips a rare chance to fine tune their TVs based on what the competition had already released this year. The company launched their latest models last week at IFA and whilst there we attended a closed door demo, where Philips/TP Vision’s picture quality guru Danny Tack took us through the latest innovations on their Ultra HD 4K TVs. We also got a closer look at the flagship 9600 and got Danny's views on HDR and OLED.
First of all Danny was keen to stress that whilst a normal LED TV combines a standard display and standard video processing, a Philips TV takes the basic components of an LED TV and adds their own unique ‘Philips Recipe’. This is based on three decades of experience and provides the optimum balance between sharpness, contrast, motion and colour to deliver a world class level of picture quality. The addition of this ‘Philips Recipe’ starts with the entry level models and increases as you go up the range.
When it comes to Ultra HD TVs, the majority of the content that you will be watching is still Full HD, so upscaling remains vitally important. Philips combine their Ultra HD 4K panels with an upscaling technology called Ultra Resolution which converts any content into a sharper and better picture on an ultra HD screen. This results in a more refined image with better defined lines and greater perceived detail.
Of course if the TV receives an Ultra HD 4K signal then it can deliver that additional resolution in full and this year’s TVs all use HDMI 2.0 inputs and support HDCP2.2 to ensure that owners can benefit from all the upcoming Ultra HD 4K sources. The standards for Ultra HD 4K not only allow for increased resolution but also greater bit depth and the majority of Philips TVs from the 7000 series and above use 10-bit panels to take advantage of this improvement.Philips draw on three decades of experience to provide the optimum balance between sharpness, contrast, motion and colour.
Aside from the increased resolution available on Ultra HD 4K TVs, another important factor this year is increased dynamic range. To facilitate this, Philips use Micro Dimming Pro on many of their TVs which is designed to optimise the contrast by using software to analyse the image in 6400 different zones and adjust accordingly. There is also a light sensor that can drive the backlight dimming depending on the ambient light conditions in the room.
For their 9600 flagship model this year, Philips are using Micro Dimming Premium, which retains all the features of Micro Dimming Pro but adds a direct LED backlight. There are also 256 active segments (16 columns and 16 rows) that can be dimmed independently to allow for different contrast levels. This enables the 9600 to go from blacks that measure zero to peak whites of 1000 Nits, thus allowing for support of the HDR 10 high dynamic range open standard.
Speaking of brightness, Philips have increased the output on many of their TVs this year, allowing them to deliver a full screen brightness of 450 Nits and a peak brightness of 700 Nits on their models with Bright Pro. In conjunction with Micro Dimming Pro, this is designed to deliver a similar experience to High Dynamic Range (HDR) with standard dynamic range content, resulting in deeper blacks and brighter highlights.
Once again the flagship 9600 takes this brightness performance to another level, using Bright Premium to deliver 600 Nits of full screen brightness and 1000 Nits of peak brightness. Philips also feel that this peak brightness can be achieved on up to 30% of the screen surface, whilst much of the competition can only handle 10%. It’s the combination of Bright Premium and Micro Dimming Premium that allows the 9600 to support High Dynamic Range.Philips are launching an HDR capable set this year that can reach a peak brightness of 1000 Nits.
The big innovation this year is the addition of HDR support to the 9600, which allows the TV to accept content that uses the HDR 10 open source standard. For decades studios have mastered content using a reference monitor at 100 Nits with 8-bit depth and the Rec.709 colour space. The new standards for Ultra HD include mastering content using a reference monitor at 4000 Nits with 10-bit depth and the DCI colour space.
The 9600's use of Bright Premium gives the TV the option of applying an adapted gamma to standard dynamic range sources to create an 'HDR-lite' effect. In the menu there is a choice of on. off, high brightness and HDR; although if the TV receives an actual HDR signal it immediately detects the ST2086 metadata and selects the ST2084 PQ gamma. Danny felt that edge-lit TVs might struggle to correctly deliver HDR content and that direct backlighting was the optimal approach.
Danny also said that although an OLED screen can deliver perfect blacks and is able to deliver suitably bright highlights (up to 750 Nits in tests), he felt that an OLED screen will struggle to produce a bright enough full screen image, only managing around 200 Nits instead of the 600 Nits that he 9600 can produce. He also said that although the 9600 currently supported HDR 10, other high dynamic range formats could be added later including the one developed by Philips Lab.
The new set of standards for Ultra HD results in a superior image performance, that not only has higher resolution but also a bigger bit depth to eliminate banding, a larger colour space for more saturated colours and a wider dynamic range. That means that not only are the dark parts darker and the bright parts brighter but also there is more detail within these dark and bright parts. The Philips 9600 supports Ultra HD 4K, HDMI 2.0a, HDCP2.2, 10-bit video, 94% of DCI and HDR.
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The 8600 has detachable speakers, whilst the 8900 is the first TV to include Philips new Ambilux feature.
Although the 9600 uses a 10-bit panel and supports a wider colour space, Philips also uses intelligent colour processing to boost the colours and create more shades of colour on their other TVs. The manufacturer employs three different versions, depending on the TV, and these use 12-, 14- and 17-bit processing. All three operate to varying degrees of effectiveness but each is designed to boost colours, whilst keeping flesh tones natural.
Philips TVs also include Perfect Natural Motion which uses frame interpolation to smooth motion for both Full HD and Ultra HD content. Philips use panels with either 50Hz and 100Hz native refresh rates, depending on which model you choose. They also use scanning backlights to help further reduce judder and make motion even smoother. The combination of frame interpolation and backlight scanning can deliver TVs with up to refresh rates up to 2400Hz.
Other features include advanced DNR and MPEG artefact reduction processing that uses spatio-temporal noise reduction to significantly reduce noise without introducing blurring or smearing. Philips also employ smart bit enhancement to extend 8-bit video to near 14 bits precision in areas where banding occurs, resulting in smoother gradations without detail loss in other parts of the image. Finally there is mosquito noise reduction and all three features combined allow Philips TVs to deliver an improved image with lower quality sources.
Philips are launching five new ranges into the second half of 2015, these include ten new models resulting in a total of twenty seven Ultra HD sets. Among these new Ultra HD models is the entry level 4900 which comes in 43, 49 and 55 inch screen sizes. It supports HDMI 2.0/HDCP2.2, includes Pixel Plus Ultra HD, Ultra Resolution, Micro Dimming, 400Hz and a direct LED backlight. The 4900 doesn't include 3D or a smart platform but it will be competitively priced.
The Philips 9600 includes all the features you'd expect from a flagship TV and a performance to match.
Also new for this year is the Ultra HD 8900 which comes in a 65 inch screen size, supports HDMI 2.0/HDCP2.2 and includes Pixel Precise Ultra HD, 1400Hz, Perfect Natural Motion, 3D, Ultra Resolution, Scanning Backlight, Micro Dimming Pro, Android TV and edge lighting. However it's also the first Philips TV to include Ambilux, which uses nine Pico projectors built into the rear to project an out-of-focus image of what's on screen on to the wall behind. The 8900 needs to be 20cm from the wall to achieve this effect and comes with a dedicated wall mount for this purpose.
Another new Ultra HD model is the 8600 which comes in 55 and 65 inch screen size, supports HDMI 2.0/HDCP2.2 and includes Pixel Perfect Ultra HD, 1800Hz, Bright Pro Perfect Natural Motion, 3D, Ultra Resolution, Scanning Backlight, Micro Dimming Pro, Android TV and edge lighting. It also has four sided Ambilight and features an innovative sound system designed to bring superior and expansive sound back to the TV. The 18-speaker system features 16 micro-drivers and two in-built Neodymium subwoofers, with a total output of 50W.
The micro-drivers are mounted in two seamless, polished dark chrome, detachable speakers that run the length of the left and right side of the set but can also be uniquely detached and placed wide of the set or mounted on optional stands. The result is a set with its own wireless sound system that can create an immersive 70W sound experience with richer bass and clearer dialog to match dedicated specialist home cinema products while offering the flexibility to suit all lifestyles.
Finally there is the 9600 which comes in a 65 inch screen size and includes all the latest features including HDMI 2.0a/HDCP2.2 support, along with Pixel Perfect Ultra HD, 2400Hz, HDR 10, Bright Premium, Perfect Natural Motion, 3D, Ultra Resolution, Scanning Backlight, Micro Dimming Premium, Ambilight, Android TV and direct LED backlighting. We had a chance to see the 9600 in action and it delivered a wonderful performance with Ultra HD 4K content, as well as HDR content. The local dimming was also highly effective, producing deep blacks without introducing any haloing or other artefacts.
Whilst it's a shame that Android TV delayed Philips first wave of TVs for 2015, there's no denying that their second wave offers a strong line-up with some genuinely unique features. However the really good news is that the flagship 9600 will be arriving in the UK before the end of the year and based upon what we saw at IFA, it could be one of the best high-end TVs available.
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