Provided you’re willing to put in a bit of legwork to continually get the best out of it, the Philips 55OLED806’s picture quality and design prowess make its £1099 price look like one heck of a bargain.
- Outstanding picture quality
- Remarkably good value
- Beautiful design
- Complicated menu structure
- Requires work to get the best results
- Android TV isn’t always helpful
- OLEDUses OLED technology, where each pixel in the image produces its own light and colour
- HDR supportSupports all the main HDR formats
- Android TVPhilips supports Google’s older smart platform
- Gaming supportSupports gaming 4K resolutions at 120Hz, and variable refresh rates (to avoid screen tearing)
- AmbilightPhilips technology that casts coloured light onto the background behind it
While Philips’ premium OLED TVs, especially the OLED936 series, typically hog the spotlight with their eye-catching designs and class-leading Bowers & Wilkins audio solutions, I’d argue that thanks to recent price cuts, right now it’s the brand’s relatively ‘”low end” 806 OLED TV series that’s stealing the show.
Having started life at £1600, the 55OLED806 can now be had for just £1099. That’s a full third off its launch price – a price that already looked good value considering what the 55OLED806 has to offer.
Currently, you can also pick up LG’s rival OLED55C1 for pretty much the same money. However, while that model certainly has plenty going for it, its successor, the significantly more expensive (£1899) 65OLEDC2, is now established in the market, making the OLED55C1’s days numbered. Plus, the 55OLED806 has some definite strengths of its own.
In addition, there are 48, 65 and 77-inch versions of the OLED806, costing £899, £1599, and £2999 respectively at the time of writing. The 55OLED806 is also widely available across Europe for around €1150, but the TP Vision-owned Philips brand doesn’t sell its TVs in the United States.
- Four-sided Ambilight
- Ultra-slim edges
- Chunkier mid-section
The 55OLED806 doesn’t look remotely like one of the cheapest OLED TVs around. For starters, the screen is futuristically trim at its edges – both around the screen, and front to rear. In addition, the screen is backed by a lovely metallic finish that’s a million miles from the flimsy plastic you might have expected on such an affordable OLED TV.
However, the 55OLED806’s biggest design feature becomes apparent only once you switch it on, with pools of coloured light spilling out from the TV’s edges. This is, of course, Philips’ Ambilight technology, where LEDs on the TV’s rear can output colours of your choosing to create a mood, or by tracking the content of the images you’re watching.
If you haven’t seen Ambilight in action, the accuracy in terms of both colour tone and placement of the picture-tracking Ambilight setting has to be seen to be believed. It can genuinely enhance the viewing experience – provided you run it at a fairly subdued brightness level, and choose a relatively mild setting for the aggressiveness of its response to changes in the image content.
The 55OLED806 looks glorious when viewed head-on, or from a slight angle; but from the rear or side you can’t help but notice that its mid-section sticks out much more than the edges. In fact, more than the chunkiest bits of most OLED TVs we see these days. But if you’re constantly watching your TV from the side or behind, then trust me – you’re not doing it right!
- Native 4K OLED TV
- Philips’ P5 picture engine
- HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR support
Being able to gain the contrast and black-level advantages of OLED’s self-emissive pixels in a 55-inch screen for just £1099 might well be all many AV fans need to hear before parting with their cash. But, the 55OLED806 actually has plenty of other things going for it as well.
For starters, there’s the Ambilight system referenced in the Design section. This is implemented in a full, four-sided presentation, too, rather than simply being applied to the left and right sides – as you might have expected for the 55OLED806’s money.
The 55OLED806’s connections are also unexpectedly impressive for such an affordable OLED TV. In particular, there are four HDMIs, two of which are HDMI 2.1 ports capable of handling 4K at 120Hz and variable refresh rate (VRR) gaming features.
VRR support also extends to AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync, and the TV can switch in and out of its fast-response Game mode automatically, thanks to HDMI 2.1’s Automatic Low Latency Mode switching feature.
There’s support for eARC over HDMI, enabling the TV to pass Dolby Atmos sound to compatible soundbars or AV receivers, and the HDMI ports are joined by multimedia playback USBs and the usual Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options.
Note that unhelpfully, unlocking the 55OLED806’s full gaming features requires you to track down a specific Optimized for Gaming option in the TV’s HDMI setup menus. This complication is an early indication of how much time you’ll likely spend in the 55OLED806’s labyrinthine menus than you would with most other TVs.
Picture processing on the 55OLED806 comes courtesy of the fifth generation of Philips’ P5 picture engine. This focuses on what Philips identifies as the five pillars of picture quality: colour, contrast, motion, source detection and sharpness. However, it also includes many different sub-processing elements within those five broad picture brackets, marshalling them into what Philips considers to be the optimum order for delivering the best final results.
Anyone worried about the (decreasing) issue of screen burn with OLED TVs should note that the latest P5 processor includes an element that analyses 800 different zones of the picture in search of static image elements, subtly nudging down the brightness of any such elements it finds.
Another great feature of the 55OLED806 is its support for all four of the key high dynamic range (HDR) formats: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. In fact, the 55OLED806 even includes the HDR10+ Adaptive or Dolby Vision IQ extensions of the so-called active HDR formats, whereby they can adjust their workings to suit different ambient light levels.
Most rival TVs, including those from Samsung, Sony and LG, only offer either HDR10+ or Dolby Vision – not both. Even though there’s content out there that’s only available in one format or the other. Hopefully, one day all TVs will join Philips in taking such an agnostic approach to HDR formats.
The 55OLED806’s audio support includes built-in Dolby Atmos decoding, while its smart features – finally – are provided for the most part by Android TV. Happily, it’s the latest version of Android TV, which is far more appealing to look at and more logically organised than earlier versions. Android TV now also carries pretty much all the big streaming apps that matter. Personally, I still don’t think it’s as easy to use, customisable or clever about recommending content as some rival smart systems; but it covers the basics at least.
It’s worth pausing for a moment to stress that if I were to detail all of the individual picture adjustment features the 55OLED806 carries, this article would probably have to run to tens of thousands of words. The set’s on-screen menus provide user adjustments for just about every tiny facet of every picture “pillar”. However, while this is admirable on one level, it can make the TV quite intimidating to use. Especially since I’ve found that at least some of the features need revisiting fairly often to ensure that the TV is always performing its best.
- Stunning contrast
- Vibrant colours
- Intense sharpness and detailing
The 55OLED806 isn’t as astute at automatically optimising its pictures as Philips’ OLED936 and OLED986 models, with their extra processing power and AI elements. However, with a little work it can still deliver seriously gorgeous picture quality that makes its £1099 price look even more mouthwatering value.
As usual with OLED technology, contrast and black levels steal the show. Dark scenes enjoy pretty much perfect black tones, without so much as a hint of the greyness or instability associated with the vast majority of non-OLED screens. Most OLED TVs excel with black levels these days, however.
Where the 55OLED806 does better than many rivals is in the way its processing engine and, presumably, power management combine the immaculate black tones with more intense bright peaks with HDR images. It achieves this without benefitting from one of the new high-brightness panels that have found their way into the premium models of some brands’ OLED ranges this year.
Typically, the screen hits around 770 nits of brightness when showing a white HDR window covering 10% of the screen. However, in Vivid mode we noted that the TV briefly hit a mighty – for a “standard” OLED TV – 943 nits, before the brightness rapidly dropped off to a more typical level.
The 55OLED806 also excels on colour. Tones are vivid and vibrant, but unlike some Philips TVs in days gone by, this vibrancy no longer feels excessive, forced or short of nuance. Even the usually OTT Vivid mode is surprisingly engaging and watchable for most of the time.
That said, most people will still generally prefer the Standard preset – having, at least, taken to the set up menus to tweak the motion processing, noise reduction, sharpness, and brightness settings to suit different types of content. More on this later.
It’s a surprise given Philips’ previous hostility to it to find the 55OLED806 sporting a Filmmaker Mode preset. This uses settings defined by the Ultra HD Alliance to create a picture that gets as close as possible to the standards used by filmmakers in mastering suites. However, since it turns off most of the picture processing that Philips is usually so keen to show off, I hadn’t expected to find it included in the 55OLED806’s menus.
Actually, the 55OLED806 is flexible and assured enough to play perfect nicely with the Filmmaker mode’s requirements, so that it becomes just another viable option to try for different types of content. Philips can’t resist also providing its own Movie mode, which adds a few enhancements to the “accurate” picture core.
However, the overriding point in all this is that while you may well prefer to switch to different presets for different content, and while you may well want to tweak those presets to get the best from them, ultimately, the 55OLED806 is capable of adapting brilliantly to pretty much every taste and occasion.
As usual with Philips TVs, the other areas in which it excels are sharpness and clarity. Its Ultra Resolution sharpness booster is uncannily effective, making 4K look more like 6K, even on the relatively small 55-inch screen we’re looking at here. What’s more, clarity holds up superbly when there’s motion in the picture, thanks to Philips’ impressive Pure Cinema motion mode, which calms hardware judder without turning 24fps film sources into over-smooth soap operas.
Picking the right motion setting for what you’re watching is just one of the choices you’ll need to make regularly with the 55OLED806. Also worth regularly tweaking are the set’s noise-reduction systems (turn them off with 4K, but leave them on at a low power setting with upscaled HD); sharpness (you might find you want to calm it down a little with anything other than pristine 4K sources); and brightness (which you may find you want to nudge up a couple of notches from its default levels while watching dark content, to prevent shadow detail from being crushed out of the darkest areas).
- Decent bass performance
- Good projection and detailing
- Strong, well-placed dialogue
One aspect of the 55OLED806’s design I didn’t mention earlier is the row of speakers trailing across its rear. Despite being rear-facing, these drivers raise hopes of more audio power than you may normally expect from such an affordable, design-led OLED TV – and they just about deliver on those hopes.
Bass is certainly more present than it usually is with built-in TV sound systems – and not in a drony, detached way, either. Instead, the low-frequency response is nimble enough to always feel appropriately balanced and connected to the rest of the soundstage.
It helps that the 55OLED806 also produces a decently wide, open mid-range onto which the bass can latch. Treble details, too, sound rounded and clear enough to hold their own against the bass, so that it doesn’t become overly dominant, plus there’s plenty of room for vocals to sound rich, warm and clear. The 55OLED806 also seems to slightly lift vocals vertically, so that they come from the picture rather than from below the screen.
Philips’ TV manages to project sound away from its bodywork surprisingly well – well enough, in fact, to make its Dolby Atmos playback talents more than just a tick on a spec sheet.
The occasional extreme bass moment can cause some distortion and even wholesale bass drop-outs, and the sound tends to only exist to the side of the screen, rather than pushing forwards into your room. Overall, though, the 55OLED806’s audio is perfectly respectable for such an affordable OLED TV.
Should you buy it?
You want premium quality OLED picture performance and design at a knock-down price Philips’ P5 picture processing and the contrast benefits of OLED’s self-emissive pixels achieve much better picture quality than you might expect from a £1099, 55-inch OLED TV.
You’re lazy If you’re a member of the “never touch a TV’s menus once you’ve first set it up” brigade, then the slightly fussy 55OLED806 might not be the best option for you.
Between its sometimes awkward smart TV system, complex menus and need for regular manual input to keep getting the best from it, the 55OLED806 certainly isn’t the easiest TV to live with. Crucially, though, it rewards your efforts with some of the best picture quality the OLED TV world can offer. And don’t forget that it does this at a seriously tempting price.
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Tested for more than a week
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This is Philips’ proprietary TV picture processing system. Now in its fifth generation, it works to improve the main five aspects of picture quality, with multiple processing elements for each picture “pillar”.
This is another unique Philips technology that builds LEDs into the rear of the screen, so they can cast out coloured light to either create a mood or immersively track the colour content of the images you’re watching.
OLED screens use organic, self-illuminating elements to enable each pixel to make its own light, rather than external lights having to be shared across hundreds, if not thousands, of pixels.