Philips add OLED to their 2016 Ultra HD 4K TV line-up
3D is dead!
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69Philips/TP Vision announced their new Ultra HD 4K TV line-up for 2016 and had more than a few surprises up their corporate sleeve, with plenty of talk about 3D, HDR and OLED.The event got off to a bullish start with TP Vision's General Manager David Kou pointing out that Philips/TP Vision are the largest manufacturer of PC monitors and LCD TVs in the world. He then went on to mention that they are now ranked number one in South East Asia and are the number one foreign brand in China. No doubt buoyed by these recent achievements, he is now targeting the number one spot in Europe. Whilst that might seem a lofty ambition, Philips/TP Vision actually already occupy the second or third spot in a number of European countries, so it's a more achievable goal than you might think. In general terms the company has doubled its sales in the last year and their commitment to innovation remains as strong as ever.
In terms of their latest technology, Philips will be carrying over a number of screens from 2015 that finally hit stores towards the end of that year. So they will continue to sell the 8601 that we reviewed last month, with its detachable speakers and superior sound quality. They will also be launching their 8901 Ambilux TV in March through an exclusive retailer at a price that will be less than £5,000. This revolutionary TV was announced at IFA and actually has projectors built into the rear that act like Ambilight on steroids to produce a large image on the wall behind the TV. One disappointment from last year was the dropping of Philips's flagship 9000 from the line-up but there is some good news on that front in 2016. Much of the technology that would have been in the 9000 including HDR support, a full array backlight and Micro Dimming Premium will now be available in the new 7601 series.
Depending on your point of view Philips/TP Vision had some other announcements that may or may not be considered good news. First of all the manufacturer won't be using any curved screens this year because as a brand they're not fans and they just haven't seen an real interest from consumers in Europe. We would tend to agree with that assessment but the company's second announcement will be more controversial. Philips are dropping 3D support from their entire 2016 line-up because, as the company itself said - "3D is dead". Whilst this news is undoubtedly going to be a disappointment for many fans of the format, the reality is that the majority of consumers have no interest in 3D at home and, aside from 3D Blu-ray, there's almost no content either. It's a shame that Philips aren't going to even offer 3D as an option on their higher-end models but we suspect they won't be the only manufacturer dropping support this year.
However Philips did have some good news, even if it wasn't actually meant to be announced yet. The manufacturer was demonstrating the benefits of OLED over LCD, which is something of a turnaround from their previous statements. They now feel that OLED offers enough benefits at the right price to make it a viable product. There's the incredible blacks and superior motion handling of course, but Philips now feel that OLED also has improved its colour performance (particularly with regards to red) and brightness and so the manufacturer is looking to produce an OLED TV of its own. They'll obviously be using an LG panel, who else are they going to buy them from, and they will be looking to launch in the second half of the year. So we can expect an announcement at IFA with pricing that will be similar to LG but with Philips processing.
Of course the big talking point this year is High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Philips will be supporting the technology on a large part of their range, starting with the 6401 and going up to the 8901. In the case of the 8601 and 8901, HDR will be added via a firmware update later in the year but TVs released this year will ship with HDR already included. Philips are using the open source HDR10 on their models this year and although they have been in discussions with Dolby Vision, they currently see no reason to support the format. There is another version of HDR that is joint venture between Technicolor and Philips but this is a completely different company from Philips/TP Vision. In terms of HDR performance, the 7601 and 8601 will use Philips's own HDR Premium logo, whilst the rest of the HDR models will be identified as HDR Plus. The main difference is that the 8601 and 7601 can hit a maximum brightness of 700 Nits, whilst the HDR Plus models are less than 500 Nits. Yet more logos to confuse the general public, then.
Philips have dropped 3D from their 2016 TV line-up but most of their UHD models will support HDR.In term of overall picture performance the 7601 is the flagship model thanks to its full array backlight and local dimming, which means it can deliver a full screen brightness of 500 Nits and a peak brightness for specular highlights of 700 Nits. However since it can't hit a peak brightness of 1,000 Nits, it can't be certified as UHD Premium by the UHD Alliance. Just how important that extra 300 nits of peak brightness will be is debatable but the local dimming, which uses 128 LED zones, was very impressive even on challenging content. Philips showed a scene from The Great Gatsby and the HDR experience was very impressive, with more detail clearly obvious in the brighter parts of the image. We certainly would rather have effective local dimming and reduced haloing, as opposed to just a higher peak brightness, and if the 7601 is priced competitively, we think Philips could have a real winner on their hands.
The main reason why many of Philips's TVs from last year were delayed was the company's decision to use Android TV on much of their line-up. Through no fault of Philips, the platform was late coming from Google and had a number of issues during its initial release. It's to Philips's credit that they delayed the launch until the platform was stable but now Android is maturing and beginning to show its true potential. The install base is growing fast with Android taking 11% of the market compared to 13% for WebOS and there are a growing number of apps available, all of which are optimised for TVs. The Google Play Store has added over 1,200 Android TV apps in the last year and over 1,000 Google Cast ready premium content services. Overall the experience has become more stable, intuitive and responsive. Philips have added voice control and 4K services from Netflix, Amazon Instant (with HDR) and YouTube. They will also be launching a special football app that allows you to customise Ambilight during the upcoming Euro 2016 championships.
Although the emphasis is clearly on Ultra HD 4K this year, Philips realise that there is still a market for Full HD TVs, especially in the smaller screen sizes. This year Philips have the entry level 4100 series with 22 and 24 inch screen sizes and a black finish. The 22 inch is HD Ready, whilst the 24 inch is Full HD. Then there is the 4101 which comes in 32, 40 and 48 inch screen sizes. These models use a 50Hz panel, a direct LED backlight and can deliver 280 Nits. They include Micro Dimming, Digital Crystal Clear and a 200 Picture Performance Index (PPI). The PPI is a rating that Philips have developed for their TVs that takes into account the model's motion, sharpness and contrast performance.
Also new this year is the 5211 which is a 24 inch Full HD model with a built-in Bluetooth speaker base. It uses a white cabinet and whilst it can't be wall mounted it does have 60W of built-in amplification. It also uses a 50Hz panel and direct LED backlighting, it can deliver 280 Nits and includes Micro Dimming, Digital Crystal Clear and a 200 PPI. Finally as far as Full HD is concerned there is the 5501 series which uses a silver finish and has its feet moved closer to the middle to reduce its footprint. The 5501 comes in 32, 40, 43 and 49 inch screen sizes and includes 100Hz frame rate (a 50Hz panel with backlight scanning). It also has a direct LED backlight, it can deliver 300 Nits and includes Micro Dimming, Pixel Plus HD and a 500 PPI.It was supposed to be a secret but Philips will be launching an OLED TV in the second half of the year.Philips consider their Full HD models to be their entry level point and it's Ultra HD 4K that will constitute their mainstream line-up. However there is one UHD model that is still considered an entry point and that is the 6101. This model comes in 43, 49 and 55 inch screen sizes and has a direct LED backlight. It can deliver 350 Nits of brightness and includes Ultra Resolution Upscaling, 100 Hz frame rate, Natural Motion, Micro Dimming, Pixel Plus Ultra HD and an 800 PPI. Moving onto the mainstream range and all of these TVs are Ultra HD and support HDR. First off we have the 6401 which comes in 43, 49 and 55 inch screen sizes and uses a direct LED backlight and 2-sided Ambilight. This model uses a dark metallic finish, is the first to include Android TV and also has HDR Plus, with 350 Nits of brightness. There's also Ultra Resolution Upscaling, 100 Hz frame rate, Natural Motion, Micro Dimming Pro, Pixel Plus Ultra HD and a 1000 PPI.
After that we move on to the 6501 series which comes in 43, 49 and 55 inch screen sizes. This model uses a slim frame with a silver finish and a chrome arc stand. It uses a direct LED backlight, includes 2-sided Ambilight, Android TV, HDR Plus, and produces 400 Nits of brightness. There's also Ultra Resolution Upscaling, 200 Hz frame rate (100Hz panel and backlight scanning), Perfect Natural Motion, Micro Dimming Pro, Pixel Precise Ultra HD and a 1800 PPI. Finally within the 6000 range we have the 6561 which uses a 65 inch screen size and a more traditional flat stand with a central column. It terms of its specifications it is identical to the 6501 with a direct LED backlight, 2-sided Ambilight, Android TV, HDR Plus, and 400 Nits of brightness. There's also Ultra Resolution Upscaling, 200 Hz frame rate, Perfect Natural Motion, Micro Dimming Pro, Pixel Precise Ultra HD and a 1800 PPI.
Finally we have the 7000 series which is the top range of new TVs for the first half of 2016. The 7101 series comes in 49, 55, 65 and 75 inch screen sizes, it uses a chrome ribbon stand and edge LED backlighting. It has a brightness of 400 Nits and includes HDR Plus, Ultra Resolution Upscaling, a 200Hz frame rate and Perfect Natural Motion. It also has Android TV, 3-sided Ambilight, Micro Dimming Pro, Premium Colour, Pixel Precise Ultra HD and a 2000 PPI. The 7181 is essentially the same TV as the 7101 but comes in a 49 and a 55 inch screen size and uses a more traditional stand. Otherwise it's the same, with edge LED backlighting, a brightness of 400 Nits and HDR Plus,. There's also Ultra Resolution Upscaling, a 200Hz frame rate and Perfect Natural Motion, along with Android TV, 3-sided Ambilight, Micro Dimming Pro, Premium Colour, Pixel Precise Ultra HD and a 2000 PPI.The 7601 includes much of the technology from the 9000 series that was dropped from last year.Finally we have the 7601 series which comes in a 65-inch screen size, uses open chrome 'V' stands and has a full array backlight with 128 LED dimming zones. The 7601 has HDR Premium with 500 Nits of brightness and 700 Nits of peak brightness, along with Micro Dimming Premium. It also has 3-sided Ambilight, Android TV, Ultra Resolution Upscaling, 200Hz frame rate, Perfect Natural Motion, Premium Colour, Perfect Pixel Ultra HD and a 2600 PPI. There's no doubt that the 7601 offers the best picture quality of any of Philips's TVs this year and if they can introduce a 55-inch version as well then they will have a very strong hero model for 2016.
Overall it's an impressive line-up that includes many of Philips's own proprietary technology with a range of models for just about everyone. There may be those that bemoan the loss of 3D but Philips are supporting the key features this year and for the majority of consumers the range will meet all of their needs. Philips couldn't confirm pricing yet but crucially they expect to have all these models in stores in the first half of this year, with the exception of the 7601 which will be available in the UK in July. Sadly that will be too late for the Euro 2016 Championships but just in time for the Olympics.
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