Unless you hate its Android TV smart system to an unreasonable degree, the 55OLED804’s outstanding OLED picture quality, its cute, well-built, Ambilight-enhanced design, its aggressive price and its brilliant dual HDR10+/Dolby Vision support make it extremely hard to resist.
- Extremely sharp, detailed, vibrant pictures
- Support for both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision
- Great price for what's on offer
- Colours flare out in Vivid mode
- Potential for MPEG noise with dark streamed video
- Sound is a little light on bass
- Review Price: £1800
- 55-inch OLED TV
- Native 4K resolution
- New P5 picture processing system
- Android TV smart system
- HDR10+, HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG HDR support
The Philips 55OLED804 is the first of the venerable Dutch brand’s latest range of OLED TVs. It boasts an improved video processing system, Philips’ unique Ambilight design feature, and support for both of the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision dynamic HDR systems. All on top, of course, of OLED’s traditional contrast and viewing angle advantages.
Design and build quality — The 55OLED804 is a great-looking, minimalist OLED TV
The Philips 55OLED804 is a seriously beautiful thing. For starters, its bodywork goes for minimalism with a capital M. The frame round the screen is about as narrow as you’d imagine it could feasibly get (though it still sneaks in some style with a silvery outer trim), and the screen depth is also remarkably slim over much of the TV’s rear.
The screen sits on a pair of slim, metallic feet that become practically invisible when you’re watching the TV from directly in front.
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The rear, oddly, is where the screen’s design becomes more showy. Much of its rear is finished in a gleaming, sturdy metal, with rows of LEDs running around its top, left and right rear edges.
These LEDs are there to deliver Philips’ Ambilight technology, which casts coloured light onto the wall behind your TV. The light can be set to a colour and intensity of your choice, or it can track the colour content of the images you’re watching. Choose the latter option and Ambilight’s accuracy in terms of colour tone and local colour placement is seriously uncanny.
The Philips 55OLED804’s remote control differs from the norm by boasting a full QWERTY keyboard on its rear side. This is very handy for typing in passwords and search terms. The set also lets you issue verbal instructions via Google Assistant (or Amazon Alexa if you have an Echo or similar listening device).
The main business side of the remote is pretty effective. Buttons are generally where you’d expect them to be, and include ones dedicated to Netflix and Rakuten TV. Build quality is good too, with plenty of heft and a comfortable fit for your hand.
Features — The 55OLED804 is a capable TV, with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision playback a welcome presence
If you want to get the best from any 4K Blu-ray or video stream, the 55OLED804 has news for you: it supports both of the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR formats. At the time of writing, this puts it in the first batch of TVs to offer such flexibility (following the Panasonic 50GX800 and the GZ1000) that we’ve tested thus far.
This matters, because at the moment the vast majority of 4K Blu-rays and streaming shows only support either HDR10+ or Dolby Vision – not both. So only TVs like the 55OLED804 that support both can unlock the maximum performance from all HDR sources.
Another up-front attraction of the 55OLED804 is the Ambilight feature mentioned earlier. As well as looking unique, this can reduce eye fatigue if you’re watching TV in a dark room, and increase immersion in what you’re watching. No other brand of OLED TV comes with Ambilight.
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Picture processing is always a key part of any high-end Philips TV story, and it’s no different with the 55OLED804. As expected, we get an updated version of Philips’ P5 image platform – named for the way it focuses on what Philips sees as the five pillars of picture quality: sharpness, motion, colour, contrast, and source recognition.
The P5 platform has already delivered some pretty dazzling results with Philips’ previous OLED TVs. But there are numerous claimed improvements to look forward to this time round. So many, in fact, that Philips has had to revert to carrying the processing across two chips, having boasted with last year’s P5 TVs about managing to cram everything onto one!
Where the sharpness pillar is concerned, we now have new systems for both protecting details in very detailed sources, and restoring them to sources that might have lost them due to compression or low native resolution. These tweaks should enhance the sense of three-dimensional depth and space you get with 4K images, too.
There’s also a new feature focused on removing the stepping effect you can get with diagonal and gently curved lines on pixel-based screens, while Philips’ noise reduction systems have been bolstered to deliver their results without generating as many ghosting and banding artefacts.
On the motion front, the processing is now more adaptive, to reduce the chance of artefacts and softness appearing over or around fast-moving objects.
When it comes to HDR, with previous Philips OLEDs, really dark image areas could have low-level details crushed out of them. The company has looked to fix this issue, and HDR colour performance is also supposedly improved, with more vibrancy and more freedom from banding over subtle blends. Improved HDR tone mapping is reckoned to retain more tonal subtlety in peak bright areas.
The latest P5 enhancements aren’t just reserved for native HDR sources, either. There’s a host of new routines focused on improving Philips’ already highly effective system for turning SDR into HDR. These include better detection and emphasis of small bright highlights, improved ‘understanding’ of how different areas of an SDR picture should translate to HDR, and a new skin tone preservation feature. The latter is particularly welcome given the tendency of the previous P5 outing to leave people looking a bit overcooked after HDR conversion.
Like Sony, Philips turns to Android TV for the majority of its smart features. This means you can expect a huge number of apps, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Rakuten, GooglePlay Movies and TV, as well as built-in Chromecast support.
Related: What is HDR?
As you would hope these days, HDR and 4K are supported on the Netflix, Amazon and YouTube apps. What’s more, thanks to the 55OLED804’s format-agnostic approach, both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ streams will play where available.
The 55OLED804 also works with Google Assistant voice control out of the box, and can handle Amazon Alexa too, if you add an Amazon listening device.
Using Android TV does come with a few strings attached, though. First, there’s no support for the All 4 and My 5 catch up apps for Channel 4 and Channel 5 respectively. And unlike Sony, Philips doesn’t provide a work-around for this limitation by providing either YouView or Freeview Play apps outside of the Android ecosystem.
While it got better with the Oreo implementation in play on the 55OLED804, the Android interface is still rather overbearing by today’s smart TV standards. It’s also very prone to software updates (even the remote control received one of these during my tests), and less easy to customise than most rival platforms. The 55OLED804’s implementation does run fairly slickly and with less bugs than we’re used to seeing on Sony Android TVs, though.
The Philips 55OLED804 carries all the connections you would expect to find on a high-end TV these days, including four HDMIs, two USBs, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support.
The HDMIs don’t support the full 48Gbps HDMI 2.1 specification for future high frame rate 4K sources, but should support Dolby Atmos passthrough at some point. In fact, the TV supports built-in Dolby Atmos decoding and playback, delivered through a 2.1 speaker system reckoned to provide 50W of power.
Set-up — While the 55OLED804 lets you adjust the picture quality, the settings aren’t the most streamlined to use
The complexity of Philips’ processing engine together with the way Philips (worthily) lets you adjust almost every aspect of its processing systems makes the 55OLED804 rather complicated to use.
The menus are long and tortuous, and more often than not the only way to find the setting you like best is trial and error.
There are a few settings tips I can offer to help streamline the set-up process, though. First, most people will probably want to use the Personal or Vivid HDR picture presets for HDR viewing. Vivid uses basically all of Philips’ picture processing tricks on pretty high settings, and so delivers the most dramatic, colour-rich, dynamic picture – a picture with a punch and intensity beyond anything any other OLED TV can do.
For me, though, as I’ll cover in more detail later, the Vivid setting can generate a few distractions from time to time. So if you become routinely aware of these, the Personal HDR picture setting is a calmer fall-back.
Philips’ latest noise reduction system is so sophisticated and adaptive that you can pretty much leave it on its Low setting with all sources, even 4K, without fear of it causing the usual issues of softness or smearing.
Philips’ Movie motion setting does a pretty nifty job of reducing judder without causing either processing artefacts or too much soap opera-like smoothness. If you want to remove all judder while retaining maximum 4K resolution, Philips’ Smooth setting is unprecedentedly good at doing just that, without generating the sort of flickering and halo problems all other motion systems cause on their highest settings.
Switching on the Game picture preset when gaming is a must, as this reduces input lag to around 32ms. Not the lowest figure we’ve seen this year by any means, but much lower than the sort of times you get if you don’t use the Game preset.
The Perfect Natural Reality system for converting SDR to HDR is effective, but best left on its Low setting, while the Ultra Resolution system is clever enough in the way it sharpens pictures without causing unwanted grain or line noise to be worth leaving on with all sources.
Finally, I’d recommend making sure the Dolby Atmos height option is turned on, and setting Ambilight to a relatively subdued level in terms of both its brightness and responsiveness when tracking onscreen action. Otherwise it can become more distracting than immersive.
Performance — The 55OLED804 produces a consistent and immersive picture across all sources
The latest enhancements to the P5 picture engine make the Philips 55OLED804 a seriously handy step forward over its already excellent predecessor. Though not, as might have been expected, by dialling Philips’ trademark aggressive style up a few more gears. In fact, the 55OLED804’s picture quality beauty lies in the greater refinements it brings.
Take, for instant, its HDR contrast performance. While this might not look extreme in terms of the sheer range of light delivered between the lightest and darkest parts of the picture that the OLED803s achieved, there’s noticeably more subtlety in the way the darkest corners are rendered.
No longer are shadowy details and deep colour tones lost in the blackness.
As well as letting you see more of the details that are supposed to be there, this makes the image look more balanced and full of scale and depth. Or to put it another way, just more right.
It’s important to stress, too, that while the 55OLED804 doesn’t perhaps push to quite such extremes of brightness (by OLED standards) as the OLED803 series, it does a stunning job of emphasising even the tiniest bright highlights in an HDR picture. No other OLED TV picks out such things as distant window lights and stars in the night sky with quite as much sparkle as the 55OLED804, especially if you’re able to take advantage of the set’s support for the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats.
Also greatly refined compared with last year’s Philips OLEDs is the 55OLED804’s management of noise. Previously some quirk of Philips processing could lead to slightly exaggerated noise with any less than pristinely clean titles – even 4K ones.
But the new, more intelligent and more localised approach to identifying and managing noise does away with this issue almost completely. And just as importantly, the NR (on its low setting at least) is nowhere near as likely to intrude unnecessarily on pristine parts of the picture.
The net result of all this? Pictures that look much more consistent and immersive across all source types and qualities. There’s also much less need to keep visiting the settings to optimise the results with different image types than there usually is with Philips TVs.
Related: What is HDR10+?
The 55OLED804 continues Philips’ trick of serving up the most dazzling colours in the OLED world – at least if you’re using the Vivid picture preset. There’s a problem, though. Namely, the new Vivid setting doesn’t quite know when to ease off where colour is concerned, resulting in some very bright and rich saturations taking on a sort of glow that makes them stand out too sharply against their surroundings.
The slight over-aggressive approach to colours in Vivid mode can also see them bleached of subtle detail and tonal shifts, so that they become flat and cartoonish. This puts them completely at odds with the precision and depth delivered by the less extreme parts of the 55OLED804’s Vivid image.
Happily the Personal preset returns the sort of precision even to extreme colours that defines so much of the 55OLED804’s images. And while this setting does have to sacrifice some peak brightness and intensity, the new-found precision Philips has accumulated for its latest OLED TV makes this a sacrifice well worth making in terms of the overall image experience.
In all but the Vivid preset, the 55OLED804’s colour work is a clear advance on what was possible with any of the settings on the previous 803 models. There’s less banding in areas of subtle HDR/wide colour gamut blends, and generally more subtlety and naturalism across the colour board – especially when it comes to dark colours and skin tones.
The new levels of control the Philips 55OLED804 exhibits over light, colour and noise management help it to also deliver some of the sharpest and most textured pictures in the OLED world. This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve said this about a Philips TV. But the key point is that now the sharpness feels more organic; a natural result of various areas of performance precision rather than dedicated sharpness-boosting processing.
It’s not just native 4K sources that look beautifully detailed on the Philips 55OLED804. The extra sophistication of Philips processing also helps it upscale sub-4K sources to the screen’s 4K resolution with more intelligence and finesse.
The result is that good quality HD sources often look remarkably close to native 4K images, while lower-quality HD and SDR sources look more natural than they have before on any Philips 4K TV. This is essentially because the processing is clever enough to apply its sharpness and detail enhancements on a more adaptive, intelligent basis.
The 55OLED804 doesn’t just upgrade sub-4K content impressively well. It also does a great job of converting SDR to HDR. Philips’ latest Perfect Natural Reality processing expands the colour and light range of SDR content superbly well. So much so – provided that you stick with the PNR Minimum setting – that if you give the feature a chance, I’d imagine you will probably never want to go back to watching native SDR content again.
That said, if your purist urges demand that you watch SDR without any HDR conversion, then the Philips 55OLED804 does that beautifully too.
Aside from the rather clipped bright colours in Vivid mode, the only other picture issues of note are the occasional appearance of macro blocking noise during some very dark streamed pictures; rare low-level ‘flashing’ of dark colour transitions; and a strange problem with raised black levels if watching Dolby Vision from an Oppo 203 or 205 4K Blu-ray player. Other Dolby Vision players do not seem to cause the same problem.
Philips is investigating the latter issue, and seems fairly confident about coming up with a firmware fix for it at some point.
The Philips 55OLED804 carries on-board Dolby Atmos sound decoding. And in some ways it makes a good go of this, delivering a soundstage that contains at least a sense of height and width, and placing individual elements of the mix quite accurately within that soundstage. As a result, you get at least a sense of the Dolby Atmos object-based approach to sound.
Despite not carrying forward-facing speakers, the Philips 55OLED804 also locks voices well to the onscreen action, and keeps them intelligible and clear at all times.
There is a limit to the 55OLED804’s audio talent, though. Loud, layered action scenes or dense bits of scoring can expose a lack of raw power and dynamic range in the speakers – especially when it comes to bass. The shortage of bass to round out the densest soundstage moments can leave things sounding a bit compressed and brash.
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Should I buy a Philips 55OLED804?
The 55OLED804 delivers the most refined, natural pictures Philips has ever produced from an OLED TV, without sacrificing much of the brand’s trademark dynamism and vibrancy. The set is beautifully designed too, with Ambilight cutely offsetting its gleaming bodywork. And its twin support for HDR10+ and Dolby Vision is a fantastically consumer-friendly touch that I’d dearly love to see all other brands adopting too.
LG’s new C9 TVs are the closest OLED rivals for the 55OLED804 that 2019 has given us so far. The LGs offer a different design and slightly more rounded sound, plus the most dynamic and refined pictures LG has ever produced from an OLED TV and LG’s user-friendly WebOS smart interface. On the other hand, it doesn’t have Ambilight, doesn’t support HDR10+ and, at the time of writing, costs £200 more than the 55OLED804.
If you want to explore more of the full brightness range HDR is capable of, you will need to look at a very bright TV such as the £1900 Samsung QE55Q85 (Q85R). These can unlock more colour volume with HDR content too, and also provide remarkably deep black levels by LCD TV technology standards. But they can’t deliver the same sort of localised light precision as the 55OLED804 and don’t support Dolby Vision.
Score in detail
Smart TV 7
Image Quality 9
Sound Quality 7
|Max. Resolution||3840 x 2160|
|Full HD 1080p||Yes (actually 4K)|
|Refresh Rate (Hertz)||100 (native)|
|Digital Audio Out||Yes|
|WiFi||Yes (built in)|
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