What is the Philips 55PUS8601?
The 8600 series was announced at IFA last year but only started shipping right at the end of 2015, which was unfortunate although largely outside of Philips's control. The delays were mainly due to Android but at least Philips waited until the platform was stable, rather than just releasing TVs that simply didn't work. The 55-inch 55PUS8601 costs £1,699 as at the time of writing (February 2016) which reflects the TV's higher-end status but does put it up against discounted 2015 models from the major competition. So will the 8601 deliver enough features and performance to stand out in a rapidly changing landscape? Let's find out.
Connections & Control
Features & Specs
Aside from the Ultra HD 4K (3840 x 2160) 10-bit panel and the edge LED backlighting, the 8601 also includes Perfect Pixel Ultra HD picture processing, 1800Hz Perfect Motion Rate, Perfect Natural Motion, Micro Dimming Pro, Ultra Resolution and Bright Pro. Philips claim a peak brightness of 700 nits on the 8601 and they will be adding High Dynamic Range (HDR10) support via a firmware update in the near future. However, the 8601 doesn't support 3D which seems strange for a TV at this price point, even if the popularity of 3D in the home is rather limited these days.
The TV comes with the option of a wired or wireless connection and includes support for DLNA. It also includes 16GB of built-in memory although that can be expanded using USB storage for programme recording. The 8601 has an impressive level of file support with video playback for AVI, MKV, H264/MPEG-4, AVC, MPEG 1, MPEG 2, MPEG 4, WMV9/VX1 and HEVC; audio playback for AAC, MP3, WAV and WMA; and JPEG, BMP, GIF, JPS, PNG, PNS, BMS and MPO support for photos.
One of the reasons that Android has proved problematic initially is that some TV models just haven't had enough processing power but this isn't an issue with the 8601. It uses a Hex Core processor, so despite all the new features and the capabilities of the Android platform, the TV itself had no trouble keeping up. We like the Android layout and Philips have done a good job of integrating it with their existing services, creating a platform that is intuitive to navigate and responsive.
Picture Settings Out-of-the-Box
You can move the Sharpness control down to zero to avoid any ringing or unwanted edge enhancement and then go into the Advanced sub-menu. Here you can turn on the Game mode if necessary and also select a Colour Temperature of Warm. Under the Contrast sub-heading you can set the Brightness control to 49 and the Video Contrast (which most manufacturers just call Contrast) to 80 so as to avoid any clipping. We also left the Gamma at zero and turned off all the Contrast, Sharpness and Motion special features. All measurements were taken using a Klein K-10, CalMAN 5 and a Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator.
Philips 55PUS8601 Picture Settings
Picture Settings Calibrated
As already mentioned the greyscale and colour performance was also very good and although the calibration controls are limited, the out-of-the-box settings delivered suitably accurate measurements. The 8601 also tracked very well at different saturation points and only an inconsistent gamma was worthy of criticism. However the native colour space was also a disappointment, measuring only 81% of DCI-P3, limiting the TV's future performance. The same goes for the HDMI inputs, which we were able to check using our Murideo Fresco Six-G video generator. These features are important not only because the nature of television is changing but also because TVs in a similar price bracket do offer this level of future-proofing. Despite these limitations, with content that we currently watch (and will be watching for years to come) the images had a natural appearance, with accurate colours, decent blacks and plenty of detail. The video processing was also excellent, upscaling all lower resolution content to match the native resolution of the panel.
The motion handling was surprisingly good for an LCD TV, although as with all Philips TVs there's a host of frame interpolation features that need to be avoided. The same is true of the various contrast and sharpness features but once you turn this unnecessary processing off (and thankfully the ISF modes will do most of that for you) the result is an impressive looking image. The better the source the better the picture, but even with standard definition content like TV broadcasts and DVD, the picture was perfectly watchable. When it came to high definition broadcasts the 8601 could deliver some lovely looking images and any artefacts were the fault of the broadcast and not the TV. Once we moved onto Blu-ray the results were even better, with the 8601 delivering a cracking picture from movies like Jurassic World and Tomorrowland. Finally we watched some 4K content and the Philips took full advantage of its higher resolution panel to deliver all the detail in the source content. The 8601 doesn't support 3D but assuming that isn't important to you, it can certainly deliver a great 2D picture.
Philips's efforts to deliver a superior sound experience on the 8601 have certainly paid dividends, with a decent audio experience from a very slim TV. The use of forward-firing drivers on either side of the screen means you retain plenty of stereo separation combined with an open front soundstage. Dialogue remains clear and the mid-range and higher frequencies are well rendered, allowing music to retain a sense of clarity with good localisation. The addition of extra woofers in the panel itself means that effects and lower frequencies have more presence, although obviously not as much as you would get from a dedicated subwoofer.
Philips 55PUS8601 Video Review
Input Lag & Energy Consumption
The 8601 was also highly efficient in terms of its power usage, using a mere 99W in its out-of-the-box Standard mode, which has a number of energy-saving features engaged. In the calibrated ISF setting the energy usage increased slightly to 109W but that's still very low and the image accuracy was obviously superior in that mode. In standby the 8601 was only drawing 0.3W, so even the most energy conscious user shouldn't feel bad about not always turning the TV off at the mains.
How future-proof is this TV?
|4K Ultra HD Resolution|
|Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best)||81%|
|HDMI 2.0a Inputs|
|HDCP 2.2 Support|
|4K Streaming Services|
|Smart TV Platform|
|Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10)||8|
|What do these mean?|
- Natural and detailed images
- Good colour accuracy
- Attractive design
- Great build quality
- Excellent sound
- Decent input lag
- Plenty of features
- Limited colour space
- No 3D support
- Inconsistent gamma
- Calibration controls ineffective
- Remote over-sensitive
Philips 55PUS8601 Ultra HD 4K LED TV Review
Should I buy one?
In many respects the Philips 55PUS8601 is a great flat-screen Ultra HD LED LCD TV, with a lovely design, solid build quality and superior sound thanks to detachable speakers. There are plenty of connections and features, along with Hex Core processing and an effective Android TV platform. The dual-sided remote control can be useful if a little oversensitive and there's a remote app for those that would rather use their smart device as a controller. The out-of-the-box greyscale and colour accuracy was very good and although the gamma was a little inconsistent, the Philips could produce a natural looking image. It also delivered good backlight uniformity, a decent contrast performance and, despite not having local dimming, the black levels were passable in most lighting conditions. The 4-sided Amblight really helped in this area, providing some effective bias lighting when watching TV at night. The motion handling was also very respectable for an LCD TV and the video processing took full advantage of the 4K 10-bit panel to produce detailed images, especially from higher quality content.
Where the 8601 lets itself down somewhat is in terms of its future-proofing because it not only doesn't support 3D, which probably won't bother most people, but it also doesn't have an especially wide colour gamut and doesn't currently support HDR - although an update for the latter is coming. You'll certainly be able to enjoy 4K content from Netflix and YouTube and eventually Amazon, but you won't be able to take full advantage of what those services have to offer. The same goes for Ultra HD Blu-ray, although at least the inclusion of HDCP2.2 support on one of the HDMI inputs means that is also an option. Ultimately what this means is that if the 8601 had been released earlier last year, it would have scored better, but as things now stand it is limited in terms of future-proofing, especially considering the price. If you're looking for a classy Ultra HD 4K LED TV and aren't bothered about 3D then the Philips 55PUS8601 is certainly worth considering but if your are concerned about future-proofing, there are cheaper alternatives.
What are my alternatives?
Well the late arrival of the Philips 55PUS8601 means that it is currently going up against the higher-end discounted models from last year and there are two obvious alternatives in the £1,500-1,700 price bracket. The Panasonic TX-55CX802B can be picked up for £1,499 and offers a great performance for the price. Yes it only has an 8-bit VA panel but it also has local dimming, a very accurate picture, HDMI 2.0a and HDR10 support. It also has plenty of connections and features, along with an effective smart TV platform. If you're happy to consider a curved screen, then the Samsung UE55JS8500 is another great contender that can also be picked up for £1,499. This TV includes a 10-bit VA panel, an accurate picture, effective local dimming, a wider colour gamut, HDMI 2.0a and HDR10 support. It also has plenty of connections, loads of features and a comprehensive Smart TV platform. Although the Philips might have better sound, you could always pick up a soundbar with the £200 you save, making either of these TVs great alternatives.
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
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