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Review: Philips 65OLED903/12 OLED TV with Bowers & Wilkins Soundbar

Philips 65OLED903
The Philips 65OLED903/12 is the new top model in the 2018 OLED lineup. Philips added extra functionality to their P5 image processor, and went to sound with reputable audio manufacturer B & W.

The Philips 65OLED903/12 is the new top model in the 2018 OLED lineup. Philips added extra functionality to their P5 image processor, and went to sound with reputable audio manufacturer B & W. That sounds like an ideal combination for a home theater. This model is available in a 55 and 65 inch screen format.

Philips 65OLED903/12 – specifications

  • What: Ultra HD OLED TV
  • Screen size: 65 inch (165 cm), flat
  • Connections: 4x HDMI (4xARC 2x HDCP2.2), 1x component video, 1x stereo cinch, 1x optical digital out, 2x USB (1x 3.0), 1x headphones, 3x antenna, Bluetooth
  • Extras: HDR10, HDR10 +, HLG, WiFi (802.11 ac 2 × 2) built-in, Android TV (7.0 Nougat), USB / DLNA media player, Multiroom (Client / server), DVB-T2 / C / S2, CI + lock, P5 processor, three-sided Ambilight
  • Dimensions: 1.449 x 892 x 280 mm (including foot)
  • Weight: 31.4 kg (including foot)
  • Consumption: 194 / 0.3 watt (Energy label B)
  • List price: 3.499 euro

A complete overview of all the models that Philips put on the market in 2018 can be found in the 2018 Philips TV line-up. Here you will also find the complete specifications per model.

Philips 65OLED903/12 – design

Those who place OLED803 and OLED903 next to each other, see that the devices share the same sober design. The thin OLED panel has a metal back and metal edge. The electronics and Ambilight LEDs are housed in a black plastic housing at the rear that covers only a limited part of the surface. The device stands on two very small but very stable feet. They are not more than chrome-colored rods, one with a discrete Philips logo, the other with a B & W logo.

Just like the OLED973, the OLED903 series is equipped with a soundbar, but it is no longer in the foot. The soundbar is much smaller, fits seamlessly with the screen, and is only betrayed by the Kvadrat speaker fabric in the front. At the rear we find a new, striking loudspeaker module.

The most important news is that Philips used this sound solution with Bowers & Wilkins. They looked at the existing speakers and developed an improved version that takes into account the main limitations of a TV: relatively small speakers, sub-optimal placement, and sensitivity to resonance.

Connections

The 65OLED903 / 12 is equipped with four HDMI connections, all ready for Ultra HD and HDR. You use HDMI 1 and 2 for HDR sources, only those that deliver the required bandwidth for the best HDR quality. There are two USB connections, wireless and wired network, and Bluetooth which unfortunately is only usable for wireless keyboards (and the remote) but not for audio. There is a headphone output.

Two of the four HDMI jacks, the USB jacks and the headphone output are to one side. All rear connections point downwards so wall mounting is no problem.

Philips 65OLED903/12 – ease of use

In terms of ease of use and features, we take our review of OLED803 the devices are on this flat identical. The 2018 Philips models are equipped with Android TV, version 7 (Nougat).

Remote control

Philips delivers two remote controls with 65OLED903 / 12. They are identical to the versions that were part of the 973. The classic remote with keyboard on the back is slightly wider than we are used to, which makes it also palpably larger, and is slightly less well in the hand. The keys also have a fairly hard attack. A slightly softer touch would improve comfort. This remote works exclusively with infrared, also for the keyboard on the back, so good focus remains necessary. By stopping IR transmitters in the long side, the keyboard is relatively easy to use, but it is less convenient than Bluetooth.

The second remote is the same as supplied with the OLED973. A small narrow bar, which also works with IR, but its main function is a built-in microphone (which works via Bluetooth). At the moment you can say simple searches, but in the course of this year the Google Assistant (initially with support for English, German, French and Italian, but later this year also in Dutch) will go to Android TV, and then there will be more possibilities for the microphone. So you can search directly in other applications, and for example control your Hue lamps via voice commands.

We remain very skeptical about this remote. The only keys are volume +/-, Home, Back, a touch-sensitive part that functions as a d-pad (the silver piece above the Back key), the microphone key, and an on / off key. Long press on the Home button takes you to the TV menu, and a long press on the OK key (the touch pad) brings up an options menu. Yet many actions require intensive use of the d-pad. And all that with a touch-sensitive button that regularly refuses service, and where you sometimes accidentally make a click instead of a swipe action, so you select an unwanted action. We have never been a fan of these kind of touchpads because they rarely work reliably on a remote. Unfortunately, this is no exception. In short, let the classic remote certainly be on the table.

A good alternative is the Philips TV remote app for your smartphone. That gives you access to almost all TV functions, you start apps directly with it and it has a microphone function and keyboard.

Philips 65OLED903/12 – features

Smart TV platform

Also here no differences with the 803 series. This television takes place in the long row of devices equipped with the Mediatek MT5891. The quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 has 2GB RAM, a Mali-T860 GPU and 16GB internal storage. It is a standard chipset for Android televisions. In general, it is sufficient for a fairly smooth experience, but we still regret that in a top model such as this one is not chosen for a more powerful chipset. That would raise the experience to a more premium feeling. Now the set wants to falter, even if it is exceptional, and we obviously did not want to see that.

You still can not show HDR video via Amazon and YouTube, so you have to wait for a software update. We were able to view HDR content at Netflix.

Smart functions

The Android TV interface (Nougat) is still unchanged. The Home screen takes over the screen, although you can see what you were looking at in the background. Recommendations are prominently at the top, and below them are several rows of apps and TV functions. At the bottom of a row with settings.

The Android Home key is on the right below the D-pad. Philips also still uses an alternative menu that you activate with the button above the d-pad. That is the fastest way to choose another input, start the media player, or view other functions for live TV like the channel guide, or recordings.

The 65OLED903 is equipped with a single tuner and CI + lock. Recording to a USB hard disk, but recording while watching another channel is impossible.

The media player is very complete and played all our video test files, including HDR video. The music player only fails with ALAC, Apple’s lossless format. All other popular formats, including tags, are played correctly. Download Kodi from the app store, and your television becomes a real media library.

Ambilight

No Philips TV is complete without Ambilight. The three-sided version shines colors on the wall behind the television that match the image on the screen. That is how the picture looks even bigger. Keep in mind that you have to leave some free space around the screen to enjoy it to the maximum. Philips offers different modes, from very energetic (game) to rather quiet (relaxed). To give your dance parties a bit of a spice, Ambilight can also follow audio instead of video, or you can set it as a lounge light. Pairing with your Hue lamps is also possible.

Philips 65OLED903/12 – Image quality

The OLED903 series uses (like the 803 series) the 2018 LG OLED panel. Do not be distracted by the lower model number (vs the previously on the market 973 and 873). The 903 is definitely the latest top model.

Please note that OLED panels may be susceptible to burn-in. According to Philips, this would not be a problem with normal use. Never turn off the power completely, but leave the television in standby so that it can do the necessary work behind the scenes to counteract any visible effects.

Main settings

Here you will find an explanation of the most important picture settings and tips for setting up your TV. With the basic settings we have come to the following settings for this TV.

Image Image Advanced Image Advanced
Picture Mode: Movies

Color: 50
Contrast: 70
Sharpness: 1-2 *
Brightness: 50

Computer: From
Color / Color Enhancement: From
Color / Color Range : Normal
Color / Color Temperature: Warm
Contrast / Contrast mode: Optimized for images
Contrast / Perfect Natural Reality: Off / Minimum *
Contrast: HDR Perfect: Off-Medium *
Contrast: Dynamic Contrast: Off
Contrast / Video contrast: 100
Contrast / light sensor: Off
Contrast / Gamma: 0
Sharpness / Ultra Resolution: Off / On *
Sharp Image / Noise Reduction: Minimum
Sharp Image / MPEG Artefact reduction: Minimum
Motion / Motion Style: Movies / Standard

Explanation of main settings;

  • The Movies setting provides the best start. The ISF presets are an alternative for those who want day and night versions.
  • If you want to see the effect of Ultra Resolution, you have to set sharpness at least 1, but 2 we also found very good.
  • HDR Perfect Natural Reality: gives a very good HDR effect. We usually left it in the minimum position, but experiment with what you prefer.
  • HDR Perfect: This affects the tone mapping of HDR images. At Maximum the image gets a little more impact, but there is a risk that you clip away some highlights. (everything above 1000 nits) Personal taste you can lead here, but leave at least Minimum activated.
  • Ultra Resolution: gives a slight boost to detail without false contours. Activate it, but do not forget to set focus at least 1. In this case also activate noise reduction.
  • Noise Reduction and MPEG artifact reduction can best be activated if you start from a bad source (old DVDs or low quality YouTube). We left it at minimum to get a softer image.
  • Motion style: Out for purists, but the ‘films’ mode is advised for extra detail, and getting rid of judder. From ‘standard’ you can also see smooth pan images.

General image and image processing

The flagship of Philips, the own P5 image processor, should not be lacking in the top model. This version is equipped with new functionality, so it differs from previous versions, but the good performance has remained. For example, we still see excellent deinterlacing and detection of film and video framerates, as a result of which jagged lines or moiré effect is a rare phenomenon.

Random noise is excellent hidden. The block formation that you see in highly compressed videos can also remove the P5, although it is not perfect in that area. We leave the two types of noise reduction in the Minimum mode, especially because that is necessary if you also want extra sharpness in your image. Without noise reduction, the television will also accentuate all the noise as a detail and that of course results in a very ugly image. If you want the extra sharpness and detail, you can focus on 1 or 2 and activate Ultra Resolution for some extra detail.

OLED TVs score excellent with motion sharpness, but still leave that last bit of detail that the best LCDs can show. Therefore, leave at least ‘Bright’ activated as the Motion Style, and for film playback choose ‘Movies’ to avoid judder. The motion compensation algorithm from Philips is excellent, so we even recommend setting motion style to ‘Standard’. The ‘Fluent’ setting creates just too many visible artefacts.

The Philips 65OLED903/12 has a great calibration in the Movies preset. The maximum brightness is quite high, so consider using the light sensor. If you usually look at dimmed light, you can lower the contrast setting in the basic picture menu from 70 to 30. The gray scale is nicely neutral, and provides a correct color temperature. The gamma value is a bit too low, so midtones are a little too bright, but there is a lot of black detail visible. This is good for looking at the most conditions. If you prefer the cinema experience of a darkened room, set the gamma value to ‘+1’ or even ‘+2’ if you look at full eclipse. The color reproduction is excellent with beautiful, natural skin tones.

Perfect Natural Reality

The biggest innovation is just like on the 803 series the addition of Perfect Natural Reality in the P5 processor. You can read all about it in our review of the 55OLED803. The algorithm gives a particularly handsome HDR tone to all your SDR images, with improved white detail, contrast, and color.

Although real film purists are avid adversaries of any kind of image editing, we do find a lot of added value in this technique. Not only does he make the images really nicer, there are also relatively few disadvantages. With dark images he gets a little more black detail, but the image sometimes gets too hard (high contrast) by accentuating light points. Occasionally you also see a slight change in some skin colors. You can easily keep all those things under control by avoiding the highest level. We often choose medium ourselves, but even minimum shows visible improvement, while the risk of negative side effects is even smaller.

HDR

This topper must also do without Dolby Vision. Philips is in the HDR10+ camp. It remains to be seen how these standards will find their place in the ecosystem, but for now the cards are slightly better for Dolby Vision (large and growing content offering). Of course HDR10 and HLG are also supported.

The new OLED panel confirms a slightly higher peak brightness. In our standard test we got 781 nits, and on a 2% window the Philips peaked to 985 nits, almost the magical limit of 1,000 nits, brightness that it holds estimated at around 30 seconds, after which the screen dims gradually over a very long time period up to about 150 nits. On a completely white field we reached a peak of 156 nits. The color range reaches 98% DCI-P3, and 71% Rec.2020, still with the best performance of all televisions, and more than enough to show a beautiful and rich HDR image. The HDR performance of this Philips is in line with what we see on other OLED TVs.

In the calibration, the HDR Movies image mode is the best choice. We see that HDR-Perfect is still at a minimum, and we also recommend to leave it that way. Regardless of the setting, the Philips makes all brightness steps up to 400 nits too bright. If you leave your HDR perfectly off, it will keep all white detail up to about 4000 nits, but will show everything between 400 and 4000 nits a bit too dark. HDR Perfect ensures that the EOTF curve rolls slightly softer to the maximum value, but also pulls the brightness of the values ​​below 400 nits further (up to 20% too bright) and clipples white detail above 2000 nits and in the max position even above 1000 nits.

This could be a possible choice in a lot of light. Many films are also mastered on 1000 nits, so you do not lose much. We would have liked Philips to press the brightness below 400 nits slightly less. We advise to leave HDR perfectly at Minimum. You can also use the auto mode of HDR Perfect, the Philips itself then makes the necessary calculation to imitate a form of dynamic metadata, as we previously saw at LG. Ideally, we saw that Philips delivered an almost perfectly calibrated HDR mode, even though the difference will not be great. But those who want a real cinema will certainly appreciate it. We then look at the Panasonic OLED as an example.

Reflections and viewing angles

Oled offers a very wide viewing angle, an advantage that can prove a real asset in many living rooms. The screen is very good with reflections.

Gaming

In the film mode we measure a lag of 56.0 ms, which is pretty decent, and for a casual gamer is still perfectly ok. In the game mode the lag drops to 38.8 ms which is a great result. The screen is a decent choice for gamers.

Philips 65OLED903/12 – Audio quality

The main difference with the 803 range is its sound quality. Bowers & Wilkins provided the OLED903 series with superior loudspeakers that sit in a stiffer housing (against resonance) and use better drivers (high frequency titanium and fiberglass for midtones), and better motors. All with a view to a purer, more accurate sound, with powerful basses, but within the limited size available. Below the old modules in white, the new Bowers & Wilkins modules in black.

The result is absolutely excellent, and that is not only compared to the poor performance of the much larger soundbar on the OLED 973. The B & W loudspeakers do exactly what they promise. The sound is a lot purer, and there is a lot more power hidden in this inconspicuous soundbar. The basses have gained considerable volume, but better still, even if you turn the volume knob open they are much less or hardly distorted.

The dynamics are also less restricted so that you can enjoy a lot more , and more powerful sound also keeps going even faster. Dialogs are perfectly clear and even a lot of our music collection turned out to be absolutely perfect on this television. We can therefore speak of a successful collaboration.

Review equipment

For the lag measurement we use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter. For all other measurements we rely on a Spectracal C6 HDR2000 Colorimeter, Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and the Spectracal Calman for Business software. To analyze any HDR problems we use an HDFury Vertex.

Philips 65OLED903/12 – Conclusion

The Philips 65OLED903 / 12 is a real topper for the film lover. The list of negatives is particularly limited. We are not a fan of that second, small barrage, especially unfortunate because you need it for voice commands (and later for Google Assistant). We would also have liked a more powerful chipset to take the Android experience to a more premium level. Dolby Vision is missing, and despite the presence of HDR10 + we continue to regret that. The price is spicy, it is after all a top model, but the additional price compared to the 803 is barely 300 euro.

However, you forget things in no time if you enjoy the excellent image quality, with thanks to the OLED panel and the fantastic image processing of the P5 image processor. Thanks to Perfect Natural Reality you can now also enjoy your older content from HDR-style images, if you wish. The OLED903 series received a substantial boost in sound quality (the only difference with the 803 series) thanks to the work of Bowers & Wilkins. The discreet soundbar delivers impressive film sounds. Ambilight and Android complete the offer. In short, a clever combination for the home theater enthusiast.

Cons

  • Android chipset slightly too weak for topmodel
  • Second, smaller remote is awkward
  • No Dolby Vision

Pros

  • Good B & W sound solution
  • P5 Image processing with Perfect Natural Reality
  • Color rendering
  • Contrast, black value
  • Ambilight

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