An OLED screen for a living room TV is a great idea, and there is no doubt it’s the future. From the looks of it, the Philips 803 series is proof that we’re all going to be using this technology soon.
There is no doubt that OLED screens are the future, although they do seem like a very expensive one, at least for now. To be fair, this always happens with new technology, meaning that new stuff is always costly until companies figure out ways of making it cheaper.
OLED technology (organic light-emitting diode) has been around for some time, and it was a success on phones. Only the high-end devices are getting these displays, but now companies have finally begun mass production for large OLED screens, which is probably a lot more difficult.
The main difference between a regular LCD panel (no matter the variant) and OLED is that the first one needs a background light and the latter doesn’t. As the name implies, it’s a self-emitting diode, so it creates its own light.
There are a couple of implications that stand out from the new technology. First of all, since all of those white filters we usually find behind the display and in front of the LEDs are gone, the OLED panels are going be a lot thinner.
Secondly, the dark and light areas are going to be a lot more defined. The white is going to be whiter and black is going to be blacker. I’m sure that most people won’t be able to tell the difference or think right away that there is something wrong with their current TVs. “The white and black on my TV is just fine” is something that people will immediately imagine. And they would be right.
The only difference is when you place an OLED display next to a LED one. Only then such an investment will make sense, but that’s not going to happen in day-to-day life. But, if there is any consolation, in a few years’ time, they are going to be everywhere.
The Philips 803 OLED (55OLED803/12) is beautiful, and there is hardly any argument against that. Its thin display is something to behold. I feel like that calling it thin makes doesn't do it justice because it’s a term used all the time. Sure, thinner displays will make their way onto the market, but for the time being this is as good as it gets.
The top part of the display has the width of a modern smartphone, but it bulks up towards the base, where all the electronics are residing. Despite the fact the screen doesn’t need a backlight, there are still a lot of other components that were not shrunk in the process.
For example, the speakers themselves are quite advanced and quite large. It’s not the kind of sound quality you usually find in a TV, and that’s good, but it also takes a lot of space. To make matters a little worse, the speakers look rather cool, but you’re never going to see them.
Philips warns users during the unboxing process, with every chance it gets, that they need to be very careful picking up the display and how to handle it. The fact that it’s so thin makes it prone to breaking, so it’s essential to pay attention when you get it out if the box.
Before getting into detail, I need to stress the fact that it’s a really heavy piece of hardware at about 20Kg or about 46 pounds. If you think about it, that’s not all that heavy, but with a diagonal of 55 inches, it’s incredibly cumbersome to move around.
The setup process is quite easy, and the fact that it comes with Android TV makes everything a lot simpler. By default, there are a number of applications installed, such as Netflix for example. In fact, there is a Netflix button on the remote, and that says a lot.
Firstly, lets lay out some of the major features of Philips 803. We already talked about being very thin and that it has a 55-inch screen, but I also must point out that it uses the P5 Perfect Picture Engine, which was launch all the way back in 2017. The new engine promises significant improvements in image quality, and it looks like the Philips 803 is making full use of that.
As expected, Philips integrated support for HDR, which seems to be ever more present. It’s the kind of image improvement that you don’t usually think about, but which becomes necessary once you experience it. The skin tones, the image contrast, and color depth all have to gain from HDR technology.
Next up is what Philips calls Perfect Natural Motion, and which is supposed to help with fast-moving scenes, and which were always a problem for big screen TVs. While a smaller gaming monitor features extremely low latency, that’s not possible for TVs, so other approaches come into play, one of them being Natural Motion. And, I have to say that for the most part, it works beautifully.
The display also boasts a 4500DPI, which might sound like a lot, but is it really? Comparing it with a run-of-the-mill 24-inch FULL HD monitor, you might notice that the DPI counter is smaller. But that’s not the right way to go about it. The size of the display means that you’ll be seated at a much greater distance. The 4500DPI is more than enough, and even at close range, you won’t notice the pixels.
The available ports need to be mentioned as well, and there are some interesting options available. First of all, the TV comes with four HDMI ports, which might seem like overkill, but we have to keep in mind that not all HDMI ports were created equal.
On the side, there’s the CI slot, a couple of USBs, a weirdly placed headphone jack, and a couple of HDMI ports. One is marked HDMI ARC, and the other is HDMI ARC/MHL. Audio Return Channel or ARC allows users to control the sound output for devices connected to that port. MHL or Mobile High-Definition Link is used to connect a smartphone to the TV, allowing the user to control the phone with the remote, basically. So, both have HDMI functionality, and a little bit more.
On the bottom, we find another two HDMI ARC ports, analog video and audio ports (YPbPr), IEC75 antenna port, a couple of satellite ports, a LAN entry, and Digital Audio Out. It’s OK, but frankly, it could have been better.
And since I’m laying out the back of the TV, the speakers need to be mentioned as well. I already said that they look great, but they also consist of two 10W speakers, two silk dome tweeters, and a 30W subwoofer.
While they won’t replace a dedicated sound system, the speakers are head and shoulders above what people regularly get in a standard TV. Their placement raises a small problem, which is also the consequence of the thin display. To work properly, the speakers need to be close to the wall. If for some reason, the TV is not near the wall, the speakers are going to be wasted on empty space as most of the sound will go in the opposite direction of the viewer.
The last major feature on the list is, of course, the Ambilight, which I have to say it’s worth every penny. It might not seem like a necessary option at first, and users could dismiss it out of habit. Let’s be honest, we’re simply not used to it.
It’s also true that it might take people a while to get used to a light coming out of the back of the TV. Since the TV is smart enough to change the color based on what’s happening on the screen, the result is somewhat surprising. The changes are not fast, but they are noticeable, and will completely inform you regarding your next TV purchase.
Philips 803 also comes with a couple of remotes, and I have to say that both of them are extremely useful and fun to use. The bigger one looks like any other regular remote, but it also has a full QWERTY keyboard on the back, and I don’t have to explain just how useful that is.
The second remote is much smaller and looks like a wand, for lack of a better term. It has only the bare minimum of buttons, but also a touch-sensitive glossy pad that can be used to scroll in Android TV. It’s much smaller than the usual one and much better looking.
This leaves us with Android TV, which seems to be getting better with age. But, if I may continue with the wine comparison, it often feels like it could stay a while on the shelf, maybe it will get better. The experience is not a smooth one, and that’s annoying, to say the least.
The Philips 803 smart TV is not cheap, so you would expect a perfectly smooth experience, but I used smart TVs from LG and Samsung that were three times cheaper, and which felt much better during conventional use.
The comparison is not exactly fair because the 803 has a lot more functionality than those models. In fact, it has a ton of options and features that are not likely to come up during regular use.
For example, the TV comes with Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital PLUS support, it can play pretty much any video and audio file off USB drive (with support for subtitles), the digital decoder works with pretty much every standard (DVB-T/T2/T2-HD/C/S/S2), users can also record the TV programming on the USB, and it has HbbTV support (Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV).
As a side note, I couldn’t help but notice the Helmut Newton (a famous photographer from the 20th century) book shown on the box. Phillips organized an auction back in 2018, featuring works from many artists, including Helmut Newton.
Another aspect I l liked was the Ambilight, which is something that all companies should have for their TVs, although I’m fully aware that they can’t. It works both with the TV content, but it also has support for music or wall color.
The remotes available with Philips 803 are not be ignored either, but if there were a time when I needed a mouse cursor, this would have been it.
I also didn’t enjoy the fact that only two USB ports were implemented. There was plenty of room for more, but you won't find them. You might think that you don’t need more, but at one point I had a keyboard and mouse connected. Where am I going to connect a USB drive without pulling out one of the two?
The Android experience does detract a little bit from the enjoyment of having this great smart TV in your house, but I can also say, with certainty, that you can get used to it, quickly.
And since most of the time you’re going to be using the TV to watch stuff and not linger around in the confusing Android menus, I can wholly recommend the Philips 803. My only regret now is that I’m looking down on my 4K LED TV, which somehow is no longer worthy.