Philips and Bowers & Wilkins teamed up in 2018 to address one of TV's biggest problems: sound quality. The result was the excellent Philips OLED+ 903, a TV that went on to win awards not just for picture quality, but for its outstanding sound too.
That sound has now been applied to LED, giving Philips a new flagship LED TV set for those who want the complete package, but without the premium price of OLED.
We got to spend some time with the new TV as it was announced, and here are our first impressions.
Premium minimalist design
- Available in 50, 55, 65-inches
- Can be wall-mounted
- Integrated soundbar
The Philips 8804 casts a familiar design. Transparent minimalist feet are designed to carry through the décor of your room, perhaps the stand it's sitting on or the wall behind. They give the illusion that the TV is floating - but it can also be wall-mounted instead.
There are no forward-facing logos on the TV, instead they are subtly placed on the top of those feet, with Philips on one and Bowers & Wilkins on the other - remove the feet and there's no branding at all.
That's in part a reflection of the minimal bezel on this TV, but the biggest design characteristic is the sound system. With front firing units beneath the screen and covered with Kvadrat speaker cloth, it's an elegant all-in-one design that mirrors the OLED TV from 2018.
There's also in interesting slim remote that gives few controls, but does have a Google Assistant logo on it. Press and hold and you get voice control, but there are no far-field mics on this TV - Philips said that they felt that mics in the TV were too prone to accidental triggering.
The TV comes in 50, 55 and 65-inch sizes. With 55-inch being the new sweet spot for customers, it's great that this is available in a smaller size - the complete package for many homes without the need for additional speakers? Perhaps.
Those Bowers & Wilkins speakers
- 2.1 system
- 50W output
- Dolby Atmos support
The speaker implementation in the 8804 is very much the same as in the OLED+ 903 - Philips has said that it will give you the same performance. The 2.1 arrangement is the same, the drivers and subwoofer unit are the same, but there are a couple of minor differences.
Firstly, the subwoofer is mounted towards the base of the TV rather than halfway up the pack as it is on the OLED - this is designed to reduce vibration being seen on the display. The second change is that the speakers have all been decoupled, meaning they have room to moving in their own mounts, again to reduce any vibration transmission to the TV.
So it's a 50W system and from previous experience on the OLED and from demos of this new TV, it's very capable - for some users, certainly, it's a TV you can buy without needing a separate sound solution. You get rich and dynamic audio straight from the TV and watching the opening scenes The Greatest Showman certain demonstrates audio skill.
One of the things that Bowers attempts to do is direct the sound is lifting it from the bottom of the TV to the centre. The aim is to move the acoustic centre to match the centre of the screen. We've not watched enough content to really pass judgement on how effective this is, but it's becoming a common aim, to more closely align the sound with the vision.
The other thing that you'll find on this TV is Dolby Atmos support. What does this mean? It means that the TV will decode an Atmos source and use that information to create the best sound it can from a 2.1 system - but there are no upfiring speakers like you'll find on the Panasonic GZ2000 and there's no AI going on either.
Is it a complete Atmos solution? No it isn't - and it doesn't replicate the experience you'd get from a full setup with rear and height channels. Putting that to one side, the sound experience on first impressions is really good.
Picture quality and performance
- 50Hz panel
- P5 Perfect Picture Engine
- Dolby Vision and HDR10+ support
The 8804 becomes Philips' new flagship LED, with Philips saying that the experience it offers puts it in the top flight of its TVs. There's 50Hz panel, which some might say is a downside, but Philips' counter argument to this is that with the boosted sound it creates a better overall experience than if it just had a 100Hz panel. It's also worth noting that the larger size has a different type of panel, with the smaller getting IPS and the largest getting VA.
The 8804 is a direct-lit LED panel, meaning that it should be able to deliver more accurate dimming than edge-lit models, although there's a little more bulk as a result. It's a wide colour gamut panel too, capable of delivering colour with punch and accuracy.
Sitting at the heart is the P5 Perfect Picture Engine, which we've been impressed by: certainly, it packs the power to deliver great visuals, although we haven't spent enough time with this TV to fully assess its capabilities here.
What is impressive, however, is the range of formats that Philips is supporting. Dolby Vision is fairly rare, but adding HDR 10+ to the mix too - along with other formats like HLG. While Philips is offering this support across a wide range of its TVs, many aren't.
A smart TV experience
- Google Assistant
- Works with Alexa
- Three-sided Ambilight
The Philips 8804 will run on the Android TV platform, supporting apps for essential streaming services, and naturally it sits close to Google as a result. We mentioned Google Assistant previously, also letting you use Google Cast to send content to your TV and can be controlled by Google Home devices.
That's not the only smart platform it is supporting, because it also works with Alexa, meaning you can use your Amazon Echo to control your TV. Certainly, Philips isn't shying away from these modern conveniences and being able to use those Bowers & Wilkins speakers to playback music from Spotify will certainly add connected appeal.
Then you have Ambilight. Many of the things that we've mentioned about this TV you'll find in other places. It's not the only TV with an integrated sound system (although it might be the best…) and it's certainly not the only connected TV. But Philips Ambilight is a point of differentiation.
While you can get third party lighting solutions for TVs, none really come close to the integration that Philips offer - and extend that to Hue lights and other accessories too. Some might find it's too much (in which case you can turn it off), but as a way for increasing the experience of the television into the room, Ambilight remains a firm favourite.
The Philips 8804 looks like the complete package. With a sound system we've experienced before, we fully expect it to offer one of the best sound experiences that you'll find built into a TV in 2019. Whether that appeals to you or not will really depend on whether you have - or have plans for - a separate sound system.
But a smart TV, in sensible sizes and offering all the latest formats, there's a lot that turns the head. First impressions are good - and while we can't judge the absolute quality of the picture, or put this in the context of price, we definitely think it's a TV worth keeping an eye on.
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