A 55-inch 4K TV for one and a half grand - what's the catch?
What is the Philips 55PUS7809?
Even our jaded eyebrows were raised when we saw the price of Philips' latest 7800 series of Ultra HD 4K TVs.Surely that £1,500 price tag couldn’t be right, even by the cutthroat standards of the consumer electronics industry that seemed cheap for a 55-inch Ultra HD TV. You would pay more than that for a high-end Full HD model, so we immediately began looking for the catch. It was quickly apparent that the Philips 55PSU7809, whilst using a 4K panel, was missing both HDMI 2.0 and HEVC decoding. The absence of the former might become an issue further down the line, when the standards have finally been approved and broadcasters switch to 4K but it is fair to say that’s still some time away. The lack of HEVC decoding is a more immediate issue because it precludes Netflix 4K.
Of course, that assumes you have a high enough broadband speed to use the service but, if you do, it's about the only source of 4K content currently available. However the inclusion of HDCP 2.2 means that the PSU7809 could support 4K Blu-ray, if it ever happens. Of course there are plenty of other features to consider when deciding on a new TV and upscaled Full HD can still look very impressive on a 4K panel; whilst sound, 3D, smart features and design all remain important factors. This is also the first model that we’ve seen since TP Vision took over the Philips TV brand completely, so we'll be interested to see how it performs. Let's see if the 7809 is a one and a half grand gamble that's worth taking.
Design and ConnectionsPhilips have gone for a very modern and decidedly minimalist design with the 7809 and we like it. The front is a single sheet of glass, behind which is the panel itself, surrounded by a 1cm wide black border, and the chassis is 3cm deep. There is a metal trim around the outer edge and an illuminated Philips logo on a silver strip at the bottom centre of the screen; although the logo can be turned off. The TV sits on a grey stand that is made of solid metal and can be swivelled - which makes a nice change these days - although you can also wall mount if you prefer. The build quality and finish is very good, especially when you consider the price, and overall the 7809 a heavy and well engineered feel.
The design combines a minimalist but attractive look with a decent level of build quality.
Philips have included their rather clever dual sided remote control, which uses gyroscopic sensors to determine which way around it is orientated, allowing you to use it as a standard remote or as a full QWERTY keyboard. The remote buttons are sensibly laid out and the keyboard certainly makes using the smart features easier. There are also four pairs of passive 3D glasses included but if you want more you can just use the Real D glasses that you probably brought home from the cinema. However, if you want to use the dual gaming feature you will need to buy those glasses separately.
The 7809 uses a combination of sideways, downward and rear facing inputs. Facing downwards are two HDMI inputs (one of which supports HDCP 2.2), a USB port, a dedicated satellite connection, an aerial socket, an optical digital out and a headphone socket. Whilst facing sideways are another two HDMI inputs, two more USB ports and a CI (Common Interface) slot. Finally, facing to the rear, are an Ethernet port, a SCART connector an analogue stereo audio in and out, a component video input and a service connector. It's a fairly comprehensive set of connections and thankfully the sideways facing inputs are a reasonable 16cm from the edge.
MenusPhilips have given their menu system a slight facelift and although it looks similar to before it's now a bit slicker and, thanks to quad-core processing, faster and more responsive. Most features can be accessed from the single Home screen, which, in turn, is accessed by just pressing the Home button on the remote. In this screen, along with the inputs you can also access the TV programmes, TV guide, the smart features, networked devices, recorded content, Skype and the Setup menu. In the case of the inputs, TV programmes, TV guide and Smart TV, these can also be accessed separately using dedicated buttons on the remote. Within the Setup menu there are five options - TV Settings, Channel Settings, Network Settings and Software Settings - each of which offers the choice of a simplified or more detailed version.
All the key image controls can be found in the Picture menu, including ISF Day and Night modes and various advanced calibration controls. In the Colour section you can choose the Colour Temperature, with a choice of Normal, Warm and Cool, along with a Custom setting which gives you access to the two point white balance control. Also in this sub-menu is the Colour Control which is actually a colour management system. Here you can control the hue or saturation of the three primary and three secondary colours. Unusually Philips split the standard TV controls, with the backlight (called rather confusingly Contrast), colour and sharpness appearing in the main picture menu, whilst the brightness and video contrast are located in the Advanced sub-menu.
The menu system and the Smart TV platform have both had an upgrade with new cloud-based features added.
FeaturesThe Ambilight feature remains unique to Philips and if you choose the ISF setting, the results can be very effective. This setting introduces a static white light equivalent to D65 around two sides of the TV. We remain fans off this feature because it provides an easy way of adding biased lighting and thus improving the perceived blacks at night. Philips have done all the hard work for you and installed dozens of tiny LEDs on either side of the chassis, so all you have to do is select ISF on the remote. The results were excellent and in the evenings we turned off all the lights and just used Ambilight to deliver the right amount of biased light for a very comfortable and enjoyable viewing experience.
There is already a separate review of the current Philips Smart TV system, which can be found here, and overall we found it to be very good in certain areas such as networking and connectivity but limited in others, such as the number of apps and video-on-demand services available. Philips have given the platform a facelift and expanded it, adding greater 'cloud' functionality and a Drop Box feature, as well as the almost ubiquitous Netflix and Spotify. Given Philips liberal dutch origins, it shouldn't be too surprising too discover that there are also quite a few apps for more 'adult' services that cater to the discerning gentleman. As with previous Philips TVs we remain impressed with the remote app - it is well designed, has good functionality and is available for both iOS and Android.
The out-of-the-box performance was mediocre but the accuracy was excellent after calibration.
Philips use a slightly different naming convention for some of their picture controls but thankfully the newly updated menu system includes brief explanations for those that are new to the brand. They also include ISF modes, which makes creating a decent out-of-the-box mode pretty easy. You just need to select one of these ISF modes, which automatically turns off almost all the processing, and then set the backlight (which Philips rather confusingly call Contrast), the Brightness, the Contrast (which Philips call Video Contrast) and Sharpness controls.
As the graph above left shows, there was a large excess of green in the greyscale, resulting in visible errors that could clearly be seen on a stair step patten. There was also a deficit of blue, resulting in whites have a definite push towards green and yellow. However the gamma was tracking very accurately around our target of 2.3, which is good. The colour gamut also wasn't as accurate as we would have like, largely due to the errors in the greyscale and as a result many of the colours are being drawn towards green.
Philips include a two-point white balance control, which allowed us to remove all the excess green and bring blue back up, delivering a much better greyscale performance with errors mostly below one. However there was an excess of blue in black and just above, which we were unable to correct with the two-point control. As a result there was a slight blue tint to blacks, although this didn't generally impact on actual viewing material. After calibrating the greyscale the colour accuracy immediately improved and the luminance measurements were particularly good. The overall errors were all now below the visible threshold, with the exception of a small error in blue. The CIE tracking chart below shows the performance at different saturation points and here blue is actually tracking better but there is some minor undersaturation in the reds. However, overall the 7809 is capable of a very accurate picture and this was certainly the case when watching actual viewing material.Black Levels, Contrast Ratio and Dynamic Range
The 7809 uses an IPS panel which means it has a wider viewing angle than TVs that use a VA panel, however it also means the black levels are poor. We measured 0IRE at 0.2cd/m2 which is high even for a IPS panel and as a result the on/off contrast ratio was only 620:1. However on the plus side, the backlight uniformity was excellent, which meant that whilst the blacks weren't as deep as we would have liked, at least dark scenes weren't ruined by light spill or clouding. The 7809 also managed to retain a decent level of shadow detail, even if the blacks themselves were wanting. The graphic below shows the measurements for the ANSI contrast ratio, which was 594:1, but it also shows the excellent uniformity. The lack of deep blacks to dark scenes aside, the 7809's image still retained plenty of punch thanks to its inherent brightness and well-lit content looked spectacular. Since this is a Philips TV it also has Ambilight, so using the ISF setting can make the blacks look better by adding some biased light behind the TV.Video Processing
We put the 7809 through our usual battery of video processing tests and overall it did very well, cleanly scaling standard definition images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The Philips also scored well when it came to video deinterlacing and motion adaptive deinterlacing, whilst in the film detail test it correctly locked on to the image resulting in no aliasing. It also correctly detected both 3:2 and 2:2 cadence and had no problems handling film material with both horizontal and vertical scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without any blurring or shredding. When it came to 1080i content the 7809 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and again detected both 2:2 and 3:2 cadence. When it came to 24p content the 7809 had no problems, replicating the frame rate without introducing judder or other artefacts. The 7809 will certainly do an excellent job of upscaling any content you currently watch to match its 4K panel.
The 7809 delivered an input lag of 80ms when measured in its calibrated ISF mode and, in a first for us, measured higher at 90ms in its Game mode. We certainly weren't surprised to see a relatively high lag in the ISF mode, most of the Ultra HD TVs we have reviewed to date have delivered higher input lags, presumably due to the increased processing. Quite why the Game mode increased the lag is a mystery, everything seemed to be off, but given we had also turned off all unnecessary processing in the ISF mode, we didn't expect there to be much difference. What kind of impact this lag will have will largely depend on how much gaming you actually do. For the casual gamer it won't be an issue and we certainly enjoyed a prolonged session of Killzone on our new PS4 but for the more hard core amongst you it will undoubtedly be too high.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 94W
- Calibrated – Professional Mode: 103W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 138W
Philips 55PUS7809 Video Review
Thanks to an even backlight and great video processing, the upscaled images were impressive.
Philips 55PUS7809 Picture QualityWe found that with high definition content, the 7809 was capable of delivering a genuinely impressive picture, especially with sporting content. Since the World Cup is fast approaching we watched quite a lot of football on the Philips and the pictures it produced were excellent. The video processing did a fantastic job of scaling the content to the native 4K resolution of the panel, retaining all the detail without adding any artefacts. The motion handling was also surprisingly good for an LCD TV and we didn't feel the need to use the frame interpolation whilst watching the football or the Canadian Grand Prix but, as always, that is an option for those that feel differently. However you should always keep it off for film based content and when it came to 24p, the 7809 handled the content very well with motion free of any distracting judder.
A recent episode of Game of Thrones proved something of a torture test as it took place entirely at night, at Castle Black and with the black garbed men of the Night's Watch. Needless to say the 7809 struggled to deliver the deep blacks that the episode was almost entirely composed of but it did manage to retain enough shadow detail and the excellent backlight uniformity meant the image was free of distracting light spill or clouding. There was some minor banding apparent as the camera panned from side to side in the recent England football matches but this was only because we were looking for it and it certainly didn't detract from our enjoyment. When we moved onto Blu-rays the results were very impressive, with natural colours and beautifully scaled and finely detailed images. Whilst the might not be much 4K content to currently watch, even upscaled Full HD can look spectacular on a 4K panel when processed correctly.
That brings us on to 4K itself and what little test material we currently have looked spectacular on the 7809 with bright and highly detailed images that clearly looked superior to their Full HD counterparts. A screen size of 55 inches is probably about the limit at which 4K really remains effective but, depending on how close you sit to the TV, it can be quite a revelation. As far as the 7809, the lack of any HDMI 2.0 inputs does limit its 4K future-proofing because HDMI 1.4 can only handle up to 30Hz. However, since the standards for 4K broadcasting have yet to be agreed and it could be at least two years before such broadcasts begin, so the lack of HDMI 2.0 might not be such a big issue. The inclusion of HDCP 2.2 on one of the HDMI inputs does mean that if we ever get a 4K Blu-ray format the 7809 should be able to handle it, assuming the discs are encoded at 24p. The bigger concern is the lack of built-in HEVC decoding because that precludes Netflix 4K, which is currently the main source of 4K content. Although once you've watched season two of House of Cards, you quickly run out of 4K programming and it's possible that an outboard solution will become available, so that HDCP 2.2 input could come in handy again.
The 7809 uses passive 3D and this is one area where the native 4K panel adds immediate value because it allows a Full HD image to be delivered to each eye. As a result, the 3D on the Philips was excellent, with bright, natural looking images that were highly detailed. There was no distracting flicker and an absence of crosstalk, which resulted in a hugely enjoyable and genuinely immersive 3D experience. We put on Hugo purely to test some scenes but were so captivated by the film and the fantastic 3D that we ended up watching the entire movie. That says it all really.
The 3D performance was excellent thanks to Full HD being delivered passively to each eye.
- Excellent screen uniformity
- Impressive video processing
- Accurate image after calibration
- Superb 3D performance
- Wide viewing angles
- Ambilight can be a useful feature
- HDCP 2.2 included
- Good sound
- Fantastic price
- Mediocre blacks and contrast ratio
- Some very minor banding
- No HDMI 2.0
- No HEVC decoding
- High input lag
Philips 55PUS7809 4K TV ReviewThere's no question that the Philips 55PSU7809 represents a significant milestone in the mass market acceptance of Ultra HD 4K TVs. A price point of £1,500 for a 55 inch screen size puts the 7809 in direct competition with similarly priced and sized Full HD TVs, so anyone think of replacing their old TV no longer has to think of there being a premium for Ultra HD. Certainly from the perspective of the 7809's design, build quality and features, it can go toe-to-toe with any of the other Ultra HD TVs on the market. The excellent backlight uniformity, inherent brightness, wide viewing angles, accurate colours and superb video processing mean that even upscaled content looks fantastic. Whilst the use of passive 3D delivers an immersive and enjoyable experience that is highly detailed but free of crosstalk and flicker. When it comes to native 4K content, what little we could find also looked amazing, with a breathtaking level of detail.
It's not all good news of course, the black levels are very mediocre, robbing the 7809 of much of its dynamic range and resulting in dark scenes appearing underwhelming. This is mitigated to a certain extent by good shadow detail and backlight uniformity and is the price you pay for wider viewing angles. There was some minor banding but not enough to be a real distraction and for serious gamers the input lag will be too high. The main issue with the 7809 is the absence of HDMI 2.0 and built-in HEVC decoding, both of which could limit its potential 4K future-proofing. However much depends on what standards are finally agreed and any 4K broadcasting is probably still a long way off, so the lack of HDMI 2.0 is a moot point currently. It's possible that an external HEVC decoding option may also become available, so even that might not be an issue either in the long run.
In the meantime, the Philips 55PSU7809 remains an excellent TV that delivers great pictures and a taste of Ultra HD 4K at a very attractive price. It might well be a gamble but at £1,500 the 7809 could be a gamble that's worth taking.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality10
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money9
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