Philips 803 (65OLED803) Review
Impressive 4K HDR and Ambilight, but is it enough to compete?
What is the Philips 65OLED803?This is the latest 4K Ultra HD OLED TV from Philips, which is available in 55 and 65-inch screen sizes, is UHD Premium certified and features HDR10 and HLG high dynamic range support with HDR10+ also available. As such, it boasts a wide colour gamut for 4K UHD content, it runs on the new second-generation P5 processor and the smart TV system is powered by Android N (7.0) but will be updated soon to Oreo (8.0).
The set features a quad-core processor and 16GB of expandable, onboard memory and also includes voice control, with Google Assistant due in the update coming soon, and twin remote controls. The second generation P5 processor offers up the usual host of Philips picture processing with the addition of the new Perfect Natural Reality feature, which Philips claim turns Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) content into HDR-like images. We will obviously put this to the test.
The 803 features a new minimalist design, with a super-narrow bezel in a brushed metallic finish that is complemented by two narrow, horizontal metal feet set at right angles to the screen. A razor-thin chassis also allows a near seamless connection to the three-sided Ambilight technology and the sound quality matches the set’s overall performance thanks to the inclusion of Philips' patented and powerful triple ring technology and DTS HD Premium Sound compatibility.
The OLED803 sits just below the flagship OLED903 models with the only difference being the Bowers and Wilkins designed soundbar on the 903. Picture quality and features are otherwise identical on both models according to Philips/TP Vision. Philips UK provided this review sample of the OLED803.
So will all this picture processing power add up to the Philips 65OLED803 being able to stand out from the now crowded UK OLED TV market? Let’s find out.
DesignThere is no doubting the sleek minimalist design of this 65-inch screen with its bezel-free look and two small 90-degree chrome feet. There is a Philips logo on the left-hand foot in white and that is it for the front side of the TV. The feet are small and fixed to the bottom of the chassis by screws, and they can only be fitted one way, so you can’t put the feet on the wrong sides. The gap between the feet is 31.5-inches and each is 13-inches from the edge of the screen. When switched off the screen has a dark black mirror-like look with a 2mm gunmetal stripe of metal surrounding the panel.
As with most modern OLED panel designs this year, the top of the panel is incredibly thin and as you move down the rear of the set, there is a wider section, which on the 803 bulges out to fit the electronics and connections, along with the three-sided Ambilight LEDs. Looking at the rear, the connections are on the right side of the back panel in both sideways and downwards configurations and the Triple Woofer Ring audio system is centrally mounted between the VESA mounting screws.
Overall, the design is minimalist and modern and will suit most living rooms either stand or wall mounted. Obviously, with the low height of the two feet, the screen hovers just above the mounting surface. This will cause issues if you intend to use a soundbar with the OLED803 as there is not enough clearance under the screen. In this case, you can either use an aftermarket Vesa stand mount to lift the screen higher to fit a soundbar, place the soundbar in a lower area of your TV rack, or wall mount the soundbar above the screen. A final option could be to go with the OLED903, which comes with the Bowers & Wilkins soundbar as standard.
The 803 design is sleek and modern
ConnectivityAs pointed out above, the rear panel design has the connections positioned to the left side from the front (and right side when looking from the rear). These are in a downwards and sideways facing configuration. The sideways-facing slots are far enough away from the edge of the panel to avoid thicker made cables from sticking out past the edge of the screen.
On the side, we have a CI slot, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 slots, a headphone jack and two HDMI slots which are full bandwidth HDMI 2.0b ports capable of supporting 4:4:4 4K/60p signals. If you want to get the most from your 4K sources, such as an Xbox One X, these are the only two HDMIs that can support this.
The downwards facing connections include a further two HDMI slots which are not full bandwidth but will support 4K/30p signals, along with satellite and terrestrial tuners, an Ethernet port, two 3.5mm component and audio jacks and a digital audio output. All four HDMI ports are ARC compatible.
The power cord is a figure of eight design and is positioned at the opposite side of the rear panel from the main connections. This means that it should be easy enough to add a longer cable for wall mounting.
ControlThe Philips 65OLED803 ships with two supplied remote controls that are very different designs from each other.
The first is a traditionally sized unit that has the TV controls on one side and a full QWERTY keyboard on the other. The idea of the keyboard seems like a logical step given the use of Android TV for the smart system, which does require you to enter usernames and passwords for app services. Doing so with the usual directional and enter keys on traditional remotes can be time-consuming. Here it is supposed to help make things easier and faster, but in our testing, we didn’t find it any more intuitive or easy to use. It’s joined up thinking that perhaps appears more useful than it actually is in practice.
The other side of the larger remote is a traditional layout with a directional pad and enter key, surrounded by other direct access keys spread out in a logical manner. To the top, we have access to the source, settings, Ambilight, TV, Guide, list, top picks and search functions. You then have the directional pad, followed by the home, + and back buttons with four coloured keys under those. There is a direct white Netflix key and either side are the volume and channel rockers and below is a mute key. Finally, we get a number pad and playback keys to the bottom.
The second thin remote looks a little like the feet used on the TV stand. It has hardly any keys and a very small directional swipe pad. I will admit it took me longer than it should have to figure out how to use this one. It’s not as intuitive or responsive as the LG Magic Remote system and I could see it being lost down the back of the sofa quite easily. However, it does work when you get the hang of things, especially the tiny trackpad to navigate around menus and apps. There is a power button to the top, a microphone for voice commands, the trackpad, a back button, home key and volume up and down. These are all placed down one side of the remote and are the only access keys here. There is a small Philips logo etched on the right face.
In use I found myself using the chunky old-fashioned remote more often than the thin one, but I also found holding the larger remote to be odd as you have the keyboard keys depressing against your hand on the rear face, which can make one-handed use a little odd. Overall, both remotes work as they should, but lack that killer punch provided by something like the LG Magic Remote.
FunctionalityWhile the picture quality is the ultimate goal of a TV set, it also has to be easy to use for the whole family and offer intuitive ways to find what you might be looking for. With connected homes and apps, the way the TV integrates with everyday life is just as important as the ultimate picture quality on offer. The best on the market offer easy to understand smart platforms, which have a user interface that is simple to grasp, and quick to find content. At the time of the review in October 2018, the 65OLED803 was running Android 7.0 and was still waiting for an upgrade to Oreo (8.0).
The smart TV system offered by Android TV is obviously Google heavy in its layout and functionality, with the page layout the same you see with any smart system running this OS. It seems logical enough to find your way around the favourites, Philips Collection, Apps, Games and Settings after pressing the home button. Apps selection is good, but there are a few missing, such as Now TV and most terrestrial catch-up services. Again, when you compare this directly with the Philips competitors it does feel a little lacking for a modern Smart TV offering, even if it is more liberal with its adult XXX selection of apps. Netflix will playback HDR 4K content via the app, but YouTube and Amazon are only 4K capable at this time, with no HDR support and no HDR10+.
The TV tuner is Freeview only and doesn’t have Freeview Play functionality built-in like most of the competition, which we think is a miss-step here by Philips. There is a full TV guide EPG available via a direct button press on the large remote, but like most of the apps here, it feels slow to use.
While we never experienced any Android crashes during our two weeks testing the 803, we did find it slow and somewhat clunky compared to the best out there, like LG’s WebOS system.
Button presses feel like they take a few seconds longer to respond than they should and some app UIs required more than one press to get any movement at all. In isolation, you could probably get used to this issue and find a way of living with it without any major gripes, but when you have LG and Samsung sets sitting around next to this one with their lightning fast response times, it does make the Philips feel a little antiquated in comparison.
While the latest update due to Oreo may help with some of the issues we have found with the UI of the 803, the processing chip will remain the same and we guess that will also mean the same response times. Given all the plus points we have elsewhere with the OLED803, the functionality side of things feels a little dated.
Moving to the less used menu system and once again we find a menu only Philips could design. We have in the past lobbied manufacturers to include menu features, like calibration controls, for many years, so you may be surprised to hear us complaining about having too many picture setting options!
The truth of the matter is that the Philips' way of doing things is not the same as most manufacturers. As such, they have technologies that manipulate all types of different image attributes using the 2nd Generation P5 processing chip. So, as well as those functions we expect a TV to offer and perform well at, such as basic image controls, gamma selection, white balance, CMS and sharpness along with clean upscaling, the Philips also adds in a ton of processing features on top of those. We cover most of these later in the review, but it does make the menu system appear cluttered and full of items that perhaps don’t really need to be there, certainly not within the most used items. Putting ourselves in the position of a normal consumer, all this choice could appear very overwhelming.
However, using the menus to get the best image quality is fairly straightforward with off switches available for all the picture processing and manipulation features, and direct picture modes like ISF Night easily accessible, which defeats almost all of the unnecessary processing toys. Calibration is a more laboured affair with a number of button pushes with each measure and task adding to the workload. The menus get in the way of accurate readings, so this also takes more time. The lack of a ‘copy all settings to all inputs’ feature, available on almost all the competing sets, will certainly mean you will be getting your money's worth out of your calibrator. Again, adding this simple feature would make the OLED803 a far easier TV to use. We hope Philips will take this feedback as intended and look at perhaps adding a few of the suggestions going forward.
FeaturesThe Philips 803 uses a 2018 OLED panel supplied by LG Display and is Ultra HD Premium Certified. It offers HDR10, HLG and HDR10+ dynamic metadata, high dynamic range playback, along with a wider colour gamut close to DCI-P3. Two of the HDMI inputs are full bandwidth 18Gbps HDMI 2.0b capable. Philips boasts a peak highlight brightness of 900nits in their promotional materials; of course, we will test this in the most accurate picture modes later in the review.
As we mentioned above, the user interface and smart TV system are powered by Android 7.0 at the time of the review and this is due to be updated to Oreo soon.
Philips' highlight feature for the 803 OLED TV is the introduction of the 2nd generation P5 picture processor and new features associated with that. The company is well known for its picture processing features that it likes to apply. While some manufacturers are basing their marketing positions this year on the directors' intent and producing image quality that matches that of a broadcast grading monitor, Philips are going off on their own once again promising SDR images that are HDR. There is no doubt that serious time, energy and processing has gone into creating the various contrast enhancers and sharpening tools, which come together to produce SDR images that look like HDR. But do we actually need this and isn’t that completely changing the way content is supposed to look?
The Perfect Natural Reality (PNR) feature was demonstrated at IFA and I will admit that, with the specially created demo footage being shown, it initially looked impressive with what could be achieved. It uses a new advanced, intelligent contrast algorithm in combination with existing Philips contrast enhancement features and gamma manipulation, to adjust the whites and blacks to give an impression that you are actually watching an HDR image. More on the actual results later in the review.
Thankfully, as well as all the various picture manipulation features on show, the OLED803 continues to be equipped with two ISF modes which can be calibrated for day and night settings and then locked to prevent loss of the settings. There are white balance and full Colour Management System (CMS) tools available.
The Philips 803 OLED also features three-sided Ambilight which works incredibly well in the ISF mode to provide a static bias light behind the screen which, when set up correctly, can reduce eye strain and make the viewing experience more comfortable and relaxing at night. We really like this feature, as there is good science that supports its use and improves the experience for the end user. Of course, Philips also includes a number of settings where you can go full nightclub if you so desire, or have colours follow what is happening on screen, which might appeal to some gamers out there. So you have a choice with how you want to apply Ambilight, including an off switch. It is certainly a Philips only feature at the moment and one we think really works well when used correctly.
Three sided Ambilight works really well as a static bias light to combat eye strain and make the viewing experience comfortable in dim rooms
Out of the Box MeasurementsWhile the Philips TV line-up has always been well known for picture processing and enhancement features, it is also nice to see that there are two ISFccc picture presets which should be accurate to the industry standards. Why is that important? All TV and movie content you watch is made to a set of standards, which says what colour white is and also how to display colours correctly, along with Gamma. This is important so all content is produced within a container of standards and therefore is displayed correctly. Modern TVs really shouldn’t have too many problems in getting close to these standards so you can view the content as it’s intended to be viewed. The ISF presets are designed to do just that.
We set about measuring the presets to see which are the closest to the industry standards and of course that turned out to be the ISF Night preset. We used a Klein K10-A meter, Murideo Fresco Six-G generator and CalMAN Ultimate software.
As we can see in the greyscale charts (top left) the out of the box results are very good and in line with most OLED TV manufacturers this year. We have DeltaE errors all below the visible threshold of three, which translates to onscreen images that are free from any visible colour tint or errors. Gamma is also tracking nicely at the BT.1886 curve values, with just a few very minor spots slightly high or low. These are not visible or noticeable with actual content. Overall, while the graph does look like the points of the scale are slightly higher or lower than the absolute 100% point, as our errors are lower than three, these are not noticeable with actual viewing material.
Looking at the Rec.709 colour saturation chart (top right) we can see that while colours and white could line up better in the actual graph, because we have lower than three DeltaE for both greyscale and colour saturation, these issues don’t cause any major errors with actual viewing materials. Of course, we have the controls available to calibrate the TV perfectly, but as it stands as an out of the box preset, there are no major issues with the image quality. Most viewers would never see any of the errors present, without a reference image to compare with. As such, we think watching the out of the box ISF Night preset is the best option, providing the most accurate images to the standards.
Out of the box performance in the ISF modes was impressive
Calibrated MeasurementsThe 65OLED803 has a suite of calibration controls available which will allow us to adjust the white balance and CMS system to get image quality even more accurate in the graphs. Care does have to be taken, like the LG system, with using the CMS to perform large adjustments, as there is a likelihood of adding in image posterisation issues by pushing it too far. Care has to be taken, but results should fall in to place with just a slight white point calibration and some light adjustments of the CMS. One thing to note is that changing the white balance in the custom adjustment can be moved between inputs in the ISF Night preset, but the CMS results are not carried over within the preset when using other inputs from the one you calibrate.
As we can see in the greyscale chart (top left) some slight adjustments of the white balance controls gave us a flatter scale and DeltaE errors all under one. Gamma was the only area where we couldn’t flatten out the results fully, but these are not issues you would ever see with on screen material. Overall, there isn’t much more we could do to improve the look of the graph, and with viewing material onscreen we doubt the majority of viewers would notice the slight differences between this and the out of the box results.
By correcting the white point we also saw colour points fall back to where they should be in the colour gamut, and then made slight adjustments in the CMS to balance out the small errors that were left. Doing this didn’t introduce any posterisation to the image quality, so we were left with excellent accurate image results on the graph, and more importantly, on screen.
HDR ResultsManufacturers have also been stepping up their game when it comes to HDR playback on their OLED TVs and Philips has a standards accurate mode with good quality tone mapping when used in the Movie preset. This does mean that on occasions, depending on your HDR source, you will need to physically change the picture setting to the Movie preset for HDR viewing in the menus. Also be aware that when you calibrate the white point for SDR content, if you then use an HDR preset and want to calibrate the white point for that setting, you can’t as there is only one custom white balance setting available for both SDR and HDR. Philips need to fix this issue by allowing different saveable settings for all the presets in SDR and HDR modes. We found that using warm and the Cinema HDR settings provided the results below and was a way around the issue, where we didn’t calibrate the white point, as it was accurate enough for most viewers. If you want complete accuracy for both, you can’t, as it stands.
The PQ EOTF results (top left) for the Philips 65OLED803 were good with excellent tracking until the native panel limitations dictate where the tone mapping should roll off. This was the same for both 1000 and 4000 nit metadata signals, with no difference in the tone mapping response. There is no dynamic tone mapping setting either, as the HDR perfect auto setting just brightens the entire image. It is possible using these settings to adjust between 1000 and 4000 nits content if you know what you are watching, to stop highlight clipping of 4000 nits movies or content. It would be far more useful if Philips employed an automatic tone mapping system that reads the static metadata and adjusts the tone mapping accordingly, so consumers always get the best possible image without switching settings manually.
While DCI-P3 coverage on the Philips 803 was 96% (XY) and 98% (UV) the actual colour points and tracking were not nearly as accurate as other OLED panels we have tested this year. The out of the box performance here was a little off when it came to the white point, which slightly affects the saturation of red, but it was with 75% saturation of yellow and green that grabbed our attention. This means that those tones are too bright and don’t fall where they should. However, we couldn’t really see the effect of this with actual HDR viewing materials where colours appeared natural and realistic with no obvious push.
Philips is making a big deal of the peak highlight brightness that they claim to be 900nits. Obviously, we have no way of knowing how they went about this measurement as it will no doubt be in a completely blown out and unrealistic picture mode. Using the HDR Movie mode for our measurements in the warm white balance setting, which gets close to D65, we measured a more realistic 720 nits on a 5% window and 712 nits on a 10% window. These are somewhat lower than other measurements from Philips, but as we keep saying, this is only one part of a far bigger set of parameters, which make up an HDR image. ABL was also very good in HDR mode with a more relaxed approach than compared to rival OLED screens we have seen. This means that there is no immediate dimming of the image if you suddenly have a snow-covered mountainside or other rapid change in brightness on screen. We found that fed a 25% white window the 803 measured 630 nits and gradually started to dim down over about 12 seconds to 360 nits where it levelled off. This again doesn’t tell the whole story but does point to a slower change within the ABL set up to stop any sudden dimming of images with certain HDR content.
All of this is only relevant when using the HDR Movie preset as all others are way over the top in terms of blue whites, and full on brightness with major clipping at both ends. For the most accurate viewing, and the mode we used when we assessed this TV, stick to HDR Movie.
Philips 803 General Performance
Panel Uniformity, Viewing Angles and Image RetentionAs we have now come to accept from OLED TVs, the viewing angles on the 65OLED803 are superb with no contrast or colour shifts when viewing at extreme angles. This means the Philips 803 is ideally suited for most living rooms where seating is spaced out and not necessarily directly on to the screen. Only at the maximum side-on angle does the picture start to be affected. This is a strong point of OLED when compared to LED LCD TVs that normally struggle at any angle more than 30 degrees, with contrast and colours shifting quite dramatically.
Panel uniformity has also moved on with the 2018 OLED TVs with no signs of the types of issues that used to be a problem. There are no signs of dark edges, vignetting and dirty screen effect (DSE) with the 803 looking clean with full frame grey slides. As with all manufactured OLED TVs, there are slight bands visible at 2% and 5% stimulus in a dark viewing room, but we didn’t notice these at all with a wide variety of viewing material, including some tough dark scenes. This testing was done in the accurate ISF Night preset for SDR and HDR Cinema mode. Watching football was a pleasure with no signs of any panel banding at all and the motion was also excellent. We had no issues at all to report with the Philips 803 concerning panel uniformity.
We are starting to sound like a broken record when it comes to image retention and OLED screens, but it is important we cover this area, which does put off some consumers from buying into the technology. With modern OLED screens and the fact they are an organic and self-emissive display, image retention is a possibility in certain circumstances. Running static images, like photos or HUD displays in games on the screen in bright modes for hours on end could see the panel retaining the static elements. This will be visible but will clear over a period of time. Retention and burn-in are not the same things and permanent burn-in is extremely rare. I have never had any issues with any OLED TV I have used normally over long periods of time and friends report hours of gaming pleasure without any issues affecting them. Running high brightness test patterns has also seen some retention, which again has cleared after a short amount of time. It is a possibility and something any new owner has to be aware of. As long as you use the TV with common sense and don’t overdo the brightness settings and static images, you should be absolutely fine with any OLED TV.
The Philips 803 like all 2018 OLED TVs we have tested so far has mitigation technologies to help stop any potential image retention issues and it is important that you use these. After spending two weeks with the OLED803 we didn’t see any issues with retention.
Black Levels and Contrast PerformanceBlack levels on the 65-inch 803 are superb as you would expect with an OLED TV. It manages this with no issues of black crush with SDR content - however at 120 nits peak brightness and in the ISF Night mode, there are copious amounts of shadow detail and image depth thanks to the superb dynamic range. As you would imagine the on/off and ANSI contrast measurements are infinity given this dynamic range and contrast performance. The star fields of Gravity against the thin atmosphere of the Earth look breathtaking and hugely dynamic in SDR.
With HDR content we did find a small amount of black crush going on with the out of the box settings, but certainly, nothing that can’t be fixed with some minor adjustments. Again the amount of detail retrieval within the shadows with HDR content is stunning and a forgotten attribute of the format. Too much emphasis is sometimes put on peak brightness numbers, when in fact the human eye is more adept at picking out the details in the mid tones and lower, where real image depth is created, not in hugely bright highlights that our eye struggles to see detail within. In terms of peak brightness, the standard 10% result is 712nits in the HDR Cinema mode, but given the per-pixel accuracy of OLED against infinite blacks, it looks perceivably far brighter and has superb visual pop, something numbers can’t always show you.
Motion Handling and Video ProcessingMotion and Video Processing are strengths for Philips and it shows here with the 65OLED803. With all motion switched to Movie, the 803 manages to playback 24fps without any induced judder or additional blur (other than intentional blur which is in the source). You can also add in some personal settings to the motion controls and end up with a nice looking motion for 25/50hz material without adding in Soap Opera Effect (SOE). Obviously, the rest of the motion settings within the Philips 803 do add varying degrees of interpolation and SOE, with some artefacts seen at the highest setting levels. For video-based content and fast-moving sports there will be a good degree of experimentation and personal preference needed, but for film material either switch everything off or use the movie setting.
Upscaling of 576i and DVD is excellent with a nice sharpness without any ringing or over the top edge enhancement. HD to 4K is also top drawer in terms of scaling with, again, no obvious issues with backdoor processing. You can, of course, get carried away with everything the Philips offers in terms of edge enhancement, sharpening and contrast boosting processing from the P5 processor if the desire should ever arrive to do so. Thankfully, there are also off switches on all of them. In all our normal video processing tests at various resolutions and frame rates, the Philips passed all of them with flying colours. On-screen motion and scaling really are excellent here.
Some of the new 2018 OLEDs have introduced Black Frame Insertion (BFI) to their motion settings this year, but Philips have refrained from doing so. In all honesty with the high contrast of OLED and the 50Hz content we view here, we have found the existing systems from all manufacturers to introduce too much flicker. This makes the technique unwatchable in our opinion with existing OLED TVs that have it.
Overall the Philips 65OLED803 offers some of the best motion we have seen with a variety of content and frame rates on an OLED TV, and it has even more processing power if you ever want to get carried away.
Input LagWhile the Philips 803 offers up some of the best motion we have seen from an OLED TV, it can’t win them all and if you’re a gamer, this is not the TV for you.
Sadly the input lag in both SDR and 4K HDR is just under 40ms, which will impact on most levels of gamer out there. This is a shame as it is double what some of the competition can manage, so we would urge Philips to place more importance on this area of performance.
Sound QualityWith the Philips 803 being mounted lower down than normal stand mount TVs, the drivers are split between the higher frequency units at the bottom of the panel and a mid-bass driver and radiators within the Triple Ring situated on the rear of the panel.
This approach works well with a nice soundstage that is wide thanks to the 65-inch panel and it also sounds fuller than normal flat panel speakers, thanks to the low end created by the Triple Ring. For normal TV viewing and some dramas, it is perfectly adequate in terms of a large enough sound to keep you involved with what’s happening onscreen. It can’t, however, compete with its bigger brother with the dedicated soundbar from B&W, or a standalone unit. Unless you are a die-hard movie fan (and likely to have an existing sound system in place), the 803 handles day to day TV viewing with an assured sound quality thanks to its built-in system. If you want more, the OLED903 has that B&W soundbar and is, according to Philips themselves, exactly the same picture quality as the 803.
Philips 803 Picture Performance
Out of the Box Performance – SDRVivid Mode: Let’s start with a positive. Philips' version of Vivid mode is not as over the top and gaudy as some manufacturers. But, if you value image accuracy and want to watch movies as they are supposed to be seen, stay away from Vivid mode. It is too bright, colours are maxed and overly saturated and skin tones look odd. Motion is also super smooth with plenty of SOE that will ruin any semblance of what the filmmaker was intending you to see. With video-based content like TV game shows, news or sport, the smoothed look might well appeal to users, but colour remains unrealistic and overly saturated. Gamma is also manipulated by the several contrast adjustment features at use here too. As image purists and advocates of image fidelity, we still cannot recommend using Vivid mode, even if it is the best of a bad bunch. What is so wrong with watching content as it was mastered and supposed to be seen? We don’t see anything here that improves the experience, unless you like super bright and over the top colours and pop.
Natural/Standard/Game: each of these picture presets offers up more or less varying examples of the Vivid mode with slightly different processing switched on and varying degrees of overly bright and saturated colours. Whites are blue in every mode and skin tones vary, as well as colour hues looking odd. We couldn’t find anything here that gets close to being accurate and showing colours as they are supposed to be seen. We won’t dwell on the fact we wouldn’t use any of these modes for movie or TV viewing.
ISF (Day/Night): If you flick between all the picture modes you will notice that the ISF modes are slightly duller than the other modes and your eye might also see that it looks warmer in terms of the colour of white.
This is the most accurate mode to the industry standards and while on initial viewing you assume it is dull, you are not losing anything within the image. All the other presets are too blue, with blue mixed into the whites to make them look brighter and more ‘white’. There is a reason why with a doorstep challenge for whites, washing powders have blue specs and dyes to make your whites brighter and whiter. It’s a trick on the eye, whites don’t look like that. A warmer white to the D65 standard is what all content is mastered to and should look like. The ISF mode is mimicking the performance of the mastering display that your film or TV content was produced on and by doing so, it allows you to see it as intended. It looks duller because it is a balanced image compared to the other blown out and oversaturated picture modes. Once you watch for a while you’ll soon realise that you are seeing more detail in the brighter whites of the image and far more shadow detail, the real strong point of a high dynamic range image that OLED can provide. Colours in this mode are vivid, but realistic and natural. Skin tones look fantastic with superb shadow details and every line and pore can be seen, not smudged by over-processing or being too bright. Clouds have detail against the natural blue of the sky and the image is comfortable to view without becoming tiring to the eye.
Depending on your room you can switch between the Day and Night ISF presets if you need a slightly brighter image during the day with stronger ambient light being present. There is no lack of image brightness in the ISF modes when set correctly for the room and viewing conditions. Because of the strengths of OLED technology, like the per-pixel self-emitting nature of how the image is made, it allows for incredible contrast range and image fidelity. This is something that LED LCD technologies just cannot replicate, even with the best local dimming and direct backlights with hundreds or thousands of zones. For SDR viewing in the ISF modes out of the box, the Philips 803 offers superb images that are incredibly accurate and natural. This is the best picture set up out of the box and with the added excellent motion from the 803 along with the 65-inch screen size, we were continually blown away by the images on offer with HD and 4K material.
Perfect Natural Reality (PNR): I wanted to save this for the section before we start assessing the HDR image from the Philips 803. This is Philips' latest image enhancement technology which uses the existing contrast enhancement features, histograms and other processing, including the new 2nd Gen P5 processor to turn normal Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) images to a faux HDR look. Many manufacturers have added this feature to TVs, but Philips really is making a big deal out of their system and the end results it produces.
I was given a closed-door demo of this technology at IFA in August with specially designed footage showing the impact it was having compared to normal SDR material. It was clear to see that the PNR was adding more brightness to whites while keeping detail with the clouds of the demo sequences. It was also adjusting the image brightness and gamma curve to produce the perception of a more dynamic image by increasing the differences between blacks and whites and the added brightness. It also lifts the mid tones to give the perception of more shadow details and with the special demo loop material it did look impressive.
However, when the demo I was in turned to movie material it looked awful with clipped details, strange gamma and shadows and edge enhancement that looked extremely fake. I haven’t seen anything here, as an image purist and someone who believes in watching content as it should be seen, that convinces me this is technology we need. It reminds me of the analogy where you ask someone if they would take some felt tip pens to see the Mona Lisa because you think the colours need to be more saturated and lifelike. You are changing what the artist wanted to show you and how it should be seen. The same is true with the content we watch on our TVs, especially films.
A whole group of professionals have spent many hundreds of man-hours carefully crafting how they want a film or drama to look. The use of colour, shadows, hidden detail and lighting is designed to create an emotional response, either subconsciously or consciously, to a scene or the entire piece. So why would we employ technology like PNR, or watch in Vivid mode and completely ruin the feel, emotion and intention of the artists creating our film and drama content? Besides this is not HDR content, it hasn’t been graded to be HDR in any way whatsoever, it is graded for the Rec.709, D65 white standard and 120 nits peak brightness. Adding in something like PNR is changing an image to try and replicate something it was never supposed to be.
So yes, it is very clever technology and it is obvious that Philips have spent some real time and effort bringing this to reality. But just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. In this case, we really don’t agree with what this technology is trying to do as it goes against everything we believe about image fidelity and the artist's intent. Maybe some of that R&D budget could be spent on a UI that is fast and slick, with smart TV systems that have all the major apps in 4K and HDR, that way giving users real HDR content to watch?
Out of the Box Performance – HDRThe HDR performance out of the box in the HDR Cinema picture preset looks superb, so it is baffling that Philips doesn’t have more HDR capable apps on the 803. It really does produce a high dynamic range image that really shows of the strengths of OLED technology and offers a perceived brightness that is probably at the top of the current crop of 2018 OLEDs we have tested so far. Indeed, next to our long-term LG C8 and the Sony AF9, we have in at the same time for review, the 803 has the edge with HDR10 material, in the dynamic stakes. This certainly gives an impactful image that is full of detail, colour and superb dynamics. Colours are vivid, yet superbly balanced, even with green and yellows that didn’t measure as well as we would like. However, with actual viewing material in HDR10 the Philips looks and performs just as well as the rival screens.
The strengths of shadow details and excellent mid tone retrieval add depth and volume to the image, making it appear with more pop, especially with small peak highlights and reflections at the pixel level looking so sharp against the dark areas of the image. Images are also super sharp and detailed without any issues of posterisation getting in the way. Blade Runner 2049 is a permanent demo disc used for all our reviews and here the new Vegas scenes look superb. The orangey yellow mist can trip up some of the best out there if not handled correctly, but the Philips 803 looks controlled with no out of place gradational jumps or posterisation present in the complex mist and light sources.
Even complex dark scenes, with bright objects and other elements like rain, can’t trip up the 803 with strong shadow detail and (after some correct set up) superb just above black detail. We all agree there is no such thing as the perfect TV and each has their strengths and weaknesses, which will appeal to different users. While the 803 is missing Dolby Vision support, we haven’t seen anything here in HDR10 that has made us think we are missing out by it not being available. The HDR performance is superb out of the box with one of the most dynamic performances we have yet seen from a 2018 OLED panel. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have Dolby Vision available, as there is a flood of content now available on various platforms to take advantage of and the competition out there also offer it.
Philips have their HDR perfect suite of processing which has an auto setting, but this is not the same as other manufacturer's dynamic tone mapping technology. All it appears to do is brighten the entire image and clip details, especially in the highlights. We also noticed some clipping with content we know is graded within a 4000 nit envelope, but you can mitigate this with HDR perfect. Sadly, gaming in HDR wasn’t a great success as discussed earlier in the review, this is not the best choice of TV for gaming due to the input lag. Images, however, looked very good with no intrusive ABL or image dimming issues.
Calibrated performanceWhile this review sample was extremely accurate out of the box for SDR and HDR content, it might not be true for every single 803 that comes off the production line, as we do get panel variance with mass-produced products. Thankfully, we are given calibration controls that do work and provide a very accurate image following use. There could, however, be improvements in how the system works with menus better designed to be calibrator friendly and more control for the white point. Also, we need per-input and signal preset saving so we can have a separate setting for SDR and HDR under the same presets, and copy these to all inputs. This is where R&D would be better placed, in our opinion, than fancy image manipulation features.
Once calibrated, the Philips is capable of extremely accurate SDR images that offer up an image the creators would be pleased with. After all, this is not a £35K reference monitor designed for critical mastering or grading, but as a consumer level product, it does produce the goods when set up correctly, with superb motion for an OLED TV also ticking the right boxes. With a wide variety of content from fast-moving sports, to news tickers and 24fps movies, the 803 manages to produce some of the most consistent motion reproduction on the market, another real strength for this OLED TV.
While the Internet might be obsessed with peak brightness numbers and clean looking graphs (and measurements and testing are important), sometimes the most important items are overlooked. Like sitting down and enjoying a film or TV drama knowing you are getting a superbly accurate image to the eye. The Philips 803 might be missing some bells and whistles, but there is no doubting the SDR and HDR images produced by this OLED TV are right up there with the best available right now.
The OLED803 genuinely offers up some of the most accurate SDR images, but also the most dynamic HDR, we have yet seen in 2018
- Excellent SDR image quality
- Excellent calibrated colour reproduction for SDR
- Excellent calibrated greyscale tracking for SDR
- Good quality calibration controls
- Strong out of the box picture quality in ISF modes
- Superb HDR brightness and picture quality for an OLED TV in HDR Cinema mode
- Superb Motion performance
- Excellent panel uniformity
- Superb contrast and Black levels in both SDR and HDR
- Ambilight is superb as a white bias light to compliment viewing in dim environments
- No Dolby Vision
- UI and Smart TV using Android 7.0 is weaker than most of the competition
- No Freeview Play and lacking most catch-up services
- App line-up could be more comprehensive
- Menus get in the way of calibration and we need better memory saving for presets in SDR and HDR for white balance and CMS
- No HDR for Amazon or YouTube at this time
- Input Lag is double that of the competition
Philips 803 (65OLED803) ReviewThere is no doubt that Philips has been struggling over the last few years to get their products into the UK retailers and building brand awareness with new products. This has been a shame, as the TV products over the last few years have been very strong indeed, but not finding one to demo on the high street has probably lost many sales. However, this time we are told that the OLED803 and 903 models are going to be well supported in the high street retailers and you will be able to go out to see and buy one. This is good news because no matter what your expectations and opinions are of this brand, the 65OLED803 is one of the best OLED TVs you can buy right now, if accurate picture quality and HDR are on your list, as must-haves. If not, you can also play around with some of the most advanced picture processing toys available on any TV out there – although we really hope it’s because of the former.
As always, we have to point out that there is no such thing as the perfect TV and with every model, it will be a case of seeing if it lives up to your wish list of features and you are prepared to make some compromises to get most of what you need. There is no one size fits all, even with manufacturers using the same LG display supplied OLED panels, each has their own processing and image twists to make them their own.
With the Philips 803 you are making some choices and compromises as with most models this year. There is no support for Dolby Vision or Dolby Atmos audio, which will likely see a few people turn away at this point as they see it as a must-have. There is also the fact that the Philips uses Android 7.0 at this moment in time, but will be updated soon to Oreo. However, the UI and Smart TV system do feel underpowered and under featured with no Freeview Play or most major catch-up apps and only a few of the major movie streaming services. We are also disappointed to see no HDR from the Amazon or YouTube apps at the time of this review, although Netflix does offer this. There were also a few other niggles for us with calibration menus, preset saving and applying picture settings to all inputs, missing, but these are minor issues we hope Philips will address in due course. So, as we pointed out, there are some missing features and compromises to make.
However, when it comes down to image quality the Philips OLED803 really did surprise us with some of the most accurate and compelling SDR and HDR images we have seen this year. It really does perform at the same standards as our favourite models like the LG C8 and Panasonic FZ952 and offers up images any film fan would be happy with. It does this while offering some of the best motion we have seen this year, with superb 24fps playback without SOE and settings that can be added to set and forget without any SOE issues. Of course, you can also go mad if you wanted to with some really over the top image processing, as you would expect from a Philips TV. But don’t let that divert you away from just how accurate this Philips can also be and the type of image quality that genuinely competes with the LG, Sony and Panasonic sets.
We feel this performance along with genuinely useful Ambilight bias lighting and superb motion elevates the 803 to our Highly Recommended Status, even with the caveats we have mentioned in some detail within the review. If you have decided to go for a 2018 OLED TV, we suggest adding the Philips OLED803 to your demo list and expect to be as pleasantly surprised, as we have been, at what it can offer in terms of image quality for both SDR and HDR content.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,999.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level10
SDR Picture Quality10
HDR Picture Quality9
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box9
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease of Use7
Value for Money8
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