The Philips 2020 OLED TVs destined for Europe will be the first to feature the company's new 'AI' video processor. FlatpanelsHD saw the TVs in action in Amsterdam and here are our first impressions, videos from the presentation, and technical information.
Philips' first 'AI' video processor
Artificial intelligence is becoming a central theme in the TV industry. Before Philips, LG and Samsung began promoting their latest video processors as having 'AI'. Although many would argue that the term is being slightly misapplied, there are some interesting details underneath the surface.
What TV makers are doing is to employ machine learning techniques and a neural network to help analyze and enhance the picture. This is next-generation picture enhancement; a way to more intelligently apply artificial sharpness, boost colors and luminance, reduce noise etc. We generally prefer to turn off these enhancement systems as they tend to alter the picture and the creator's intent. Now, with "AI", manufacturers claim to be able to do all of this video processing in a more intelligent way.
Specifically for Philips, the video processor now analyzes and divides content into five categories; landscape/nature, skin tone, sports/motion, black/contrast, and animation. Based on this analysis, it aims to enhance "source, color, contrast, motion and sharpness", the five pillars that give name to its P5 video processor.
We could describe things in more details but we think it is better to let Philips' picture guru Danny Tack explain the concept and thinking behind it. In the video Danny Tack also touches on 8K OLED, "next-level source perfection", burn-in protection via more intelligent logo detection, and a few other subjects. We will cover some of these subjects in the next sections, too.
4K OLED and 8K OLED
In Amsterdam, Philips unveiled its new OLED805, OLED855, and OLED865 ranges. Same TV but the designs differ. These will be Philips' first TVs to feature the 'AI' P5 video processor. Other than that features remain mostly unchanged compared to last year's OLED804. So you have Android TV (Android 9), multi-HDR support, and 3-sided Ambilight.
Also read: New Philips 4K OLED and LCD TVs for 2020 unveiled
There is, however, one other new development that we think Philips TV buyers will appreciate, and that is the new remote control. Back in the days of cathode ray TVs and early flat screen TVs, Philips actually had an excellent high-quality remote control but like many other brands it fell into the cost saving spiral that led it to introduce new, cheaper plastic clickers. The company's remote control has changed over the years but has not really improved significantly.
This year, Philips' high-end 9 series LCD TVs and 8-series OLED TVs (presumably also 9-series OLED TVs that will be introduced later) will come with a new remote control. It has a different button layout, backlit buttons, and leather (sourced by Scotland's Muirhead) on the back and both sides.
It is still a little too light for our taste but it has a nicer feel to it. It has far too many buttons, including dedicated buttons for Netflix and Rakuten, but the backlighting is a nice touch. Overall, it is a step forward in our opinion. It will come in black or white, depending on which 2020 Philips TV you buy.
In Amsterdam, Philips once again exhibited its 8K OLED TV prototype that we first saw at IFA 2019 back in September. The company says that it is early days for 8K so it prefers to wait for the market to mature a little. Of course, the 88-inch 8K OLED is based on LG Display's panel and we already know what LG's asking price is ($30,000). It is not just the market that is not ready. 8K OLED is not ready either. It looks amazing - currently the best 8K panel by far in our opinion - but it is also far too expensive.
A more interesting development is the video processor inside Philips' 8K OLED prototype. If you watched the video above, you already know this, but Philips is working on burn-in protection that it claims can "solve 95% of the burn-in problem" as well as "next-level source perfection". In some ways, these two are related because through more advanced image analysis, which new 'AI' processors are capable of, it can detect logos (in order to dim brightness) and areas with problematic banding or posterization. LG has been doing similar things in its OLED TVs for a few years now but it is great to see especially logo detection be implemented in TVs from other brands.
Philips' OLED805 will launch in May and will be available in 55 and 65-inch sizes but the company said that it will also launch both larger and smaller OLED TVs in the future.
LCD TVs, Dolby Atmos & Ambilight
At the event, Philips unveiled three LCD TV ranges; 9435, 9235, and 8505. The 8505 will carry the company's "The One" branding to signal that it comes with all of the essential features for a modern TV. This includes 4K resolution, Ambilight, and HDR support but as always we want to emphasize that there is a long way from HDR software support to actually delivering HDR pictures.
The more premium 9 series 9435 will feature a 2.1.2-channel speaker system (with up-firing units) developed by Bowers & Wilkins who emphasized that "this is not a soundbar", the point being that it is a speaker system developed specifically for this TV. There was a listening session and although some overhead effects could be heard, a more potent system is still required to experience the great effects that Dolby Atmos, or object-based audio in general, is capable of.
The new 9 series LCD TVs will also come with the new remote control. Here is the white version.
Another big theme from Philips this year will be Ambilight. Over the last few years, Philips has made Ambilight compatible with Hue, Spotify, and other external systems or services. Buyers can now customize it and expand it. No new features were announced for 2020 other than all Ambilight TVs having 3-sided Ambilight. The company indicated that it will run some type of "try Ambilight for 30 days before you decide" promotion but the specific terms were a little unclear. We expect to hear more about it later this year, possibly leading up to the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament this summer.
Additional LCD models for the second half of 2020 will be announced later this year.
In this video, Philips' product manager Piotr Herod touches on Ambilight, new LCD TVs, Android, and a couple of other subjects.
HDMI 2.1, Android 10, Filmmaker Mode
The TVs announced in Amsterdam will not feature HDMI 2.1 ports. When asked, the company further said that HDMI 2.1 will not come to any Philips TV this year, arguing that the main benefit of HDMI 2.1 in a 4K TV is VRR (variable refresh rate) for gaming and that next-generation consoles are not due until late 2020. The 2021 Philips TV line-up will be ready for HDMI 2.1, the company added.
Like last year, the TVs will feature a single HDMI 2.1 feature that can be supported on HDMI 2.0 chipsets. ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) enables the TV to automatically switch to game mode when a game is detected (and switch out of game mode afterwards). The PC or game console must also support ALLM.
At CES 2020 earlier this month, Philips was announced as a partner for Filmmaker Mode. The TVs announced in Amsterdam will not support Filmmaker Mode but 2021 models will - and possibly some 2020 models (via firmware), but a final decision has yet to be made. Filmmaker Mode is in many ways the polar opposite to the 'AI' video processor so by offering both options the company will appeal more broadly to different types of viewers, including those who want an unaltered picture without any enhancements.
The new TVs for the first half of 2020 will come pre-installed with Android 9 - like last year's models. Philips argued that it would rather wait for Android 10 to become stable before making it available in its TVs. We will most likely get an update on Android 10 and Google Stadia for Android TV at IFA 2020 in early September, the company told FlatpanelsHD.
AV1 is a new video codec created by heavyweights like Apple, Amazon, Google, Netflix, and Microsoft. AV1 will enable 8K TVs to stream 8K from YouTube but can also be used to deliver 4K or HD video more efficiently across TVs and handheld devices. The Philips TVs announced for the first half of 2020 will not support AV1 but Philips confirmed to Flatpanels that it is committed to AV1.
That was all for this time. We expect to see new 7 and 9 series OLED TVs along with many more LCD models from Philips later this year at IFA 2020.