The picture quality of any TV you buy depends on five key elements: contrast, colour, sharpness, motion clarity, and source recognition/adaptation.

We recently looked at the first of these, contrast, in the context of Philips' stunning new P5 picture processing engine. Now we turn our attention to colour.

Why accurate colour processing is vital to TV picture quality

Colour is arguably the most widely misunderstood, mis-represented and fast-moving aspect of TV picture technology. Which is a little strange given that colour is also capable of having the most impact on the quality of your viewing experience.

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Good colour, for instance, shouldn't just be about throwing the most vibrant, punchy tones onto the screen. It should also be about making sure that colour tones look natural, balanced and full of enough subtlety to deliver even the finest blends without banding or blocking.

Push colours too hard without enough picture know-how and processing power to back them up and images start to look noisy, cartoonish or both. You'll also get colour problems if your screen doesn't deliver convincing black levels; suffers with inconsistent lighting; and doesn't know how to correctly apply its available brightness to tones across the colour spectrum.

The world of colour has become even more complicated in recent years with the arrival of high dynamic range (HDR) and wide colour gamut (WCG) technologies. This means the best TVs have to be able to cope with two completely different industry colour formats associated with completely different levels of brightness.

How the Philips P5 Picture Engine provides great colour reproduction

It's hardly surprising that with so much to think about, many TVs just don't have enough picture 'intelligence' to avoid all the pitfalls associated with getting colour right. Which is where Philips' new P5 Picture Engine comes in.

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As its name suggests, the P5 Engine is focussed on improving all five of TV picture quality's most important elements (as listed above). By combining more processing power with a single-chip design that consolidates processing systems previously spread across three chips, the P5 delivers a 50 per cent improvement over any other Philips picture quality engine. And a healthy chunk of that power is focused on colour.

Particularly critical to the quality of colour reproduction on Philips TVs equipped with the P5 chip is the system's 17-bit colour booster. Typically, TVs today only offer 8-bit or 10-bit colour processing, which means they can deliver around one million colour shades. The P5, on the other hand, can work with a mind-bending 2.250 trillion colour shades.

That's two million times as many tones as you get with a 10-bit processing system. It results in exceptional colour definition with today's wide colour gamut and HDR picture sources. Objects look more three dimensional, 4K detail levels look higher than they do on less colour-precise screens, and there's no sign of the common striping issue over colour blends that affects many other TVs. Especially as the P5 system works in tandem with a Smart Bit Enhancement feature to look for and resolve potential colour banding compression issues in your sources.

The P5 Engine is great with skin tones too

The P5 Engine also recognises that skin tones are one of the most difficult parts of colour reproduction for TVs to manage by including a dedicated Skin Tone Detection system.

Normally, a source has to flatten colours where an image contains skin tones, in order to keep the skin looking natural. But if a TV tries to compensate for this by injecting more vibrancy and colour punch into the image without applying any sort of skin detection, all the colours are boosted equally, leaving skin tones looking oversaturated and unnatural. TVs with the P5 system, however, can tell the difference between skin tones and other colours, enabling the screen to only boost the areas of colour that aren't skin, leaving the skin looking natural and authentic.

While the P5 Engine is more than capable of working with colours in either the standard dynamic range or HDR/wide colour gamut worlds, its combination of raw processing power with Philips' decades of picture quality experience gives it one final substantial colour advantage: HDR upscaling.

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What is HDR upscaling?

The thing is, once you've seen how stunning high dynamic range, wide colour gamut pictures look, having to switch back to sources that appear with a standard dynamic range and standard colour gamut can feel pretty disappointing. So the P5 Engine has the ability to intelligently remap the colours (and their attendant brightness levels) of standard dynamic range sources so that they look like HDR.

Other TVs, to be fair, often offer a similar feature. But without the sort of processing power and wide-ranging picture oversight delivered by the P5 Engine, the results of HDR upgrading on those rival TVs tend to be much less convincing.

The bottom line here is that colour continues to be the most instantly impactful but also difficult to deliver element of picture quality. So it's well worth investing in a set such as the Philips 9002 OLED TV that has the processing power and joined-up thinking to do colour right.