(Pocket-lint) - The OLED+ 934 is the first Philips flatscreen with an integrated Dolby Atmos soundsystem. While there's no shortage of sets now sporting Dolby Atmos decoders, these generally lack a speaker configuration able to do anything with the 3D sound format, instead expecting you to pass the Atmos audio stream out to an external soundsystem more able to do a meaningful job.
The OLED+ 934 is rather different. The screen comes with an integrated soundbar designed by long term sonic collaborator Bowers & Wilkins. Boasting an upfiring driver array, Philips describes this Dolby Atmos execution as 2.1.2, but that only tells part of the story...
Svelte design with a stylish built-in soundbar
- 4x HDMI, 2x USB
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Bowers & Wilkins designed Dolby Atmos soundbar
Philips partnership with Bowers & Wilkins recently resulted in the excellent OLED+ 984, our TV of the Year 2019, so expectations for this second audio-centric model are obviously high.
Styling is on the right side of tasteful. The TV doesn't subscribe to the blade-like thinness of rival OLED screens, but only because it also incorporates a three-sided implementation of Philips Ambilight LED mood lighting technology. It's a girth worth paying for.
The Ambilight menu offers the familiar options of following TV video or audio content, as well as casting solid colour swatches and mimicking country flags. It can also work as part of a Hue smart lighting system.
The 934's soundbar is dressed in regulation grey Kvadrat wool-blend acoustic cloth, the uniform of choice for upmarket speaker designs. Behind the grille are four 30mm mid-range drivers, two 19mm tweeters and an 80mm subwoofer, aided and abetted by two 50mm Dolby Atmos elevation units. As not everything you'll listen to will be Dolby Atmos encoded, sosound formats are up-mixed to create a larger soundstage.
The bar is attached directly to the screen, with cable management through the TV's pedestal arm. It can decode Dolby Atmos from both internal apps and connected sources.
Connectivity is in line with its peers. Four HDMI v2.0 inputs support 2160p up to 60Hz; they're HDCP 2.2 compatible and (rather generously) all ARC (Audio Return Channel) enabled. There are also two USB ports, an optical audio output, and Ethernet. Wireless support covers dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth v4.2.
Android OS is light on catch-up
- Android 9 TV OS
- Chromecast support
- Three-sided Ambilight
The set uses Android 9 Pie OS, which is a solid, if occasionally limited smart platform. While there's support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice control, a lack of Freeview Play means it's not well served when it comes to catch-up TV services.
Key available apps include BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies / Music and YouTube.
Somewhat ironically, neither Netflix or Amazon Prime Video on our review sample were Dolby Atmos enabled, although a firmware update is said to be imminent, so both should be offering Dolby Atmos sound on select content by the time you read this.
Detail packed picture performance
- Third-generation P5 image engine
- HDR support for Dolby Vision and HDR10+
As you might expect, there's no surprises when it comes to the panel's picture performance, or the technology employed.
Image processing is handled by Philips' third-generation P5 picture engine, which does a fabulous job extracting detail from 4K sources and extrapolating more from HD.
High dynamic range (HDR) compatibility is refreshingly universal. In addition to HDR10 and HLG (the flavour favoured by broadcasters), it plays dynamically with both Dolby Vision and HDR10+. This means the 934 will make the most of any video source it encounters.
The P5 engine positively celebrates fine detail and wide colour, and the end result is an unashamedly crowd-pleasing picture performance. This wide colour gamut panel claims to cover 99 per cent of the DCI/P3 specification. We found hues are deep, vibrant and engaging.
HDR is also impressive. Contrast, specifically the set's ability to play coherently at the boundaries of black and near-black, is excellent, ensuring specular highlights - those lovely HDR encoded lighting effects, bright objects and conspicuous sparkles - have high impact. The TV may not be 3D capable (none are these days), but there's still tangible depth to its images.
HDR peak brightness was measured in Philips Natural picture mode at around 750 cd/m2 (aka nits), using a standard 10 per cent brightness window. However, this is actually a rather large expanse when it comes to probable HDR highlights. Reducing this measurement window to five per cent allowed the set to peak closer to 980 nits, AKA two thumbs up.
Integrated Dolby Atmos soundbar
- Dolby Elevation speakers
- Kvadrat acoustic design
So far so good, but what of the set's Dolby Atmos audio system?
There's no doubt that the Bowers & Wilkins bar creates a sizable soundstage. It has width, which means you get some splendid stereophonic panning, and height.
Those elevation drivers add a welcome sense of scale to Atmos encoded dramas, such as Sky Atlantic's brilliantly bonkers Britannia, or Amazon's high octane Jack Ryan.
The tweeters in this bar are also relatively top notch, ensuring clarity and clean vocal articulation.
Things get a little more controversial when it comes to bass performance. This isn't to say the bar itself is lacking bass - we measured it down to around 50Hz. It's more about how it handles, or rather doesn't, the deep bass from multichannel mixes.
You see, the Philips OLED+ 934 doesn't play the .1 Low Frequency Effects (LFE) track in a 5.1 mix. While left right and centre channels are present and correct, and those height drivers get to do their thing, the .1 is just ignored.
The result is that Dolby Atmos soundtracks sound neutered when the action hots up. Anything placed into the LFE by the sound designer is missing. Bad news if you're watching battling autobots or bad tempered terminators – those big sonic slams are AWOL.
Of course you still hear bass, at least bass which is mixed into the remaining channels. The modest woofer in the soundbar is actually driven by mid bass crossed over from the left and right channels. Don't be fooled into thinking that using the subwoofer output on the set will bring back the LFE boom. That simply gets the same L/R mid-bass. What should ideally happen is that the LFE track is sent to the left/right channels, in the same way that the rear channel info is.
So while the 934 sounds a good deal better than most non-Atmos enabled TVs out there, it struggles to do full justice to Dolby Atmos movie soundtracks.
There's plenty to covet about the Philips OLED+ 934. Image quality is delicious, offering classically inky blacks, good shadow detail and effective HDR.
But the Dolby Atmos implementation is ultimately frustrating. Taken at face value, its Bowers & Wilkins tuned bar sounds fine, particularly with upmixed TV dramas, sports and music. Yet Dolby Atmos films don't always convince (although this ultimately depends on the way the movie was mixed) given the issue with the Low Frequency Effects (LFE) channel. Ironically the bar itself could be quite capable of reproducing at least some LFE.
So while the Philips OLED934 wins on many fronts, it won't quite rock your world from every angle.
Samsung Q90R QLED
This offers best-in-class peak brightness, with vibrant wide colour performance, and a lightning fast Game mode. Party it with a Samsung Dolby Atmos soundbar to get the full AV Monty.
This UHD flagship features a superb Pro-Edition custom OLED panel, for brighter HDR highlights, and a more satisfying home theatre audio performance than the Philips 934, but you'll pay a hefty price premium to enjoy its fuller enchilada.