Philips OLED 805 review (early verdict): gorgeous colours with AI processing you can see

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The Philips OLED 805 is part of a trend we’re seeing for OLED in 2020 – to expect a year of evolution, not whole-sale change. All the sets we’ve seen so far are adding better processing rather than changing the screen technology, and that’s the case for the Philips OLED 805, too.

Philips’ new 2020 OLED TVs are building in AI processing for the first time, making it easier for the TV to custom-tailor how it treats the image depending on exactly what you’re watching. And you can bring up a display that shows you what the AI is thinking, and compare the results to the original footage.

Given that Philips’ OLED screens already blew us away for their vibrancy and detail, will this evolution push them to the top of the TV pile? We’ll need proper time to test the TV to be sure, but here’s what we thought after seeing it for the first time.

(Image credit: Philips)

Philips 805 OLED: design & features

We’re fans of Philips’ approach to OLED TV design, which is basically to use nice metal and just get out of the way of the screen, which will be available in 55-inch or 65-inch sizes. (Philips is working on a 48-inch OLED, but has nothing to announce yet.)

The OLED 805 continues this, with the only visible structure being a pair of thin metallic feet poking from under the set. Because they’re reflective, even these will just kind of melt away in your vision, reflecting the tone of whatever they’re sitting on.

However, this also keeps the TV very low, which isn’t ideal if you want to add a soundbar in front. There is a variant of this set, called the OLED 855, which uses a T-shaped stand instead. This raises the display, giving more space for a soundbar.

You’ve got really thin bezels on all sides, and naturally Ambilight is here, sitting behind three of the set’s sides sides. Philips’ party piece for its TV spreads ambient light on the walls above and to the sides of the TV, matching the colour to what’s happening on-screen.

The glow it gives off is pretty vibrant, but then so is the image on-screen, so it’s not distracting – in a dark room, it just helps what’s on the screen to kind of merge into the darkness, rather than abruptly stop at the bezel.

We really like it, and while not everyone is keen on the idea, we think it’s a genuine plus in Philips’ column. And hey, it’s optional.

There’s a new, more premium, remote-control design for this TV, which comes with “sustainable” Scottish Muirhead leather on the back – we’re not sure if there will be a vegan version too.

One note about its connectivity: it doesn’t have HDMI 2.1, which means there won’t be any support for 120fps video from an external source – that’s a shame, since the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X will both support variable refresh rates up to 120Hz.

Philips’ high levels of processing have meant its OLEDs are not always the first choice for gaming anyway, since more processing introduces more lag (though they do have gaming modes to reduce this, of course) but it’s a shame to miss out on this opportunity.

(Image credit: Philips)

Philips 805 OLED: picture

As with last year’s Philips OLED TVs, the punchiness of its HDR handling combines with OLED’s natural rich blacks and its ability to have areas of sharp contrast right next to each other to make videos pop right off the screen.

From a bright and rich source, Philips’ processing really brings things to life, adding a touch of saturation to colours to make things look… not quite hyper-real, but like the most enticing versions of themselves.

Of course, they don’t have to look like this – you can adjust the picture mode, and Philips is supporting the new Filmmaker Mode standard, which will basically tell the TV not to alter the image from how it was mastered.

But there is a new picture processing option in the OLED 805 compared to previous Philips TVs: AI mode.

This is powered by the 4th-generation P5 processing chip from Philips, which it has described as using the same processing as the previous chip, but with the ability to better identify what’s on-screen, using machine learning, so that processing can be better targeted.

It was trained from a database of millions of images, so that it can classify content as Nature, Face, Motion, Dark, Other or a combination of the above.

Best of all, you can bring up a menu option to see what the AI is doing – a read-out at the bottom tells you how it’s classifying the video (in real-time), while there are also meters for showing you how much work it’s doing on noise, sharpness and other standard processing elements.

And above this read-out is a split screen of the video itself, showing the plain video on the left, and what it looks like after processing on the right. It makes it easy to see how dramatic a difference the set’s noise reduction makes in darker scenes, and how the colour and contrast tweaks subtly move colours towards feeling more pleasing and bright.

Philips OLED 805: sound

The OLED 805 doesn’t come with any external Bowers & Wilkins speakers – there will likely be a flagship set announced later in the year with these.

Instead it has a multi-speaker design with 50W of output. We didn’t get a chance to test this much during our hands-on with the TV, but we wouldn’t expect built-in sound to match what an external box can do.

That said, there are now four passive bass radiators for giving action some extra weight, and the drivers have been upgraded for the forward-facing speakers, so it should be an improvement over previous models, and might fare better than what’s on offer from other manufacturers for the same price.

(Image credit: Philips)

Philips OLED 805: verdict

From what we’ve seen so far, the OLED 805 is not a big leap forward, but the steps it has taken have us really excited to spend more time with it.

If the ‘AI’ processing is as capable as it seems, we’re looking at a really crowd-pleasing TV that should keep its predecessors place as one of the best OLED buys.

That said, we don’t have a final price for the set yet, so we’ll need to see how it compares to the likes of the LG CX at the same size, which includes the HDMI 2.1 and 120fps support that are sadly missing here.

The same goes for the audio, though we doubt it will underperform compared to other sets there – it’s just that we want to see how it stacks up against last winter’s OLED+934 model (with built-in Bowers & Wilkins external speakers) to see which feels like a better overall package for their respective prices.

Still, if you’re considering a new TV for the Euros this year (or any other reason), this should definitely be on the shortlist – we’ll bring you our full review as soon as we can.

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