Philips’ new Ambilight Plus might not be for everyone, but I think it’s dazzling in all the right ways

Philips OLED959 TV photographed against a white wall. On the screen is an image from a football stadium.
(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

During its 2024 TV launch event this week, Philips announced its biggest upgrade to Ambilight in years. Ambilight Plus, which will launch built into the company’s OLED+959 model in September this year, replaces standard Ambilight's flat light strips with dome-shaped lenses that project light onto the wall around the TV.

Philips says that this new system is brighter, more detailed and more responsive than the existing Ambilight system, and this was borne out in a quick demo at the launch event.

Where models such as the OLED809 and OLED+909, which feature ‘standard’ Ambilight, project a perfectly lovely but rather hazy coloured glow onto the walls around the display, the OLED+959’s Ambilight Plus system is more like a shimmering extension of the on-screen action that’s reminiscent of lights being reflected in rippling water.

There’s obviously not precise definition, but there are shapes to the light, aided by the fact that the new Ambilight Plus clusters can project four different colours in steps from the TV. It’s not simply that a green glow emanates from the appropriate edge of the screen: instead, there might be a bit of a green light to represent a football pitch but then a bit of red to represent a football player followed by some yellow for an opposition player. This pattern of coloured light ebbs and flows in super-responsive fashion, extending the on-screen action much more dynamically than the current Ambilight system can.

It’s fair to say that this dynamism wasn’t to the taste of some of the other tech journalists who were present for the demonstration, with many suggesting that they found it distracting. To me, though, the combination of enhanced precision and, even more importantly, the improved responsiveness actually makes Ambilight Plus less distracting and more natural. Current Ambilight, lovely though it is, often feels a little behind the on-screen action, like audio that’s slightly out of sync. I didn’t get the same feeling from this Ambilight Plus demo.

Of course, we’ll need much more time with the OLED+959 before we can properly evaluate it or its Ambilight Plus feature, and Philips reassured those who weren’t quite as impressed as I was by pointing out that the system is still being refined and that people who find the ‘Vivid’ mode a bit too flashy will have a selection of other, more relaxed settings to choose from – just as they do with the current version of Ambilight. I must confess that these days I only ever use Ambilight in its ‘Relaxed’ mode or I turn it off entirely (it depends upon what I’m watching), but I have a feeling I might be going ‘Vivid’ with Ambilight Plus – at least some of the time.


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Tom Parsons

Tom Parsons has been writing about TV, AV and hi-fi products (not to mention plenty of other 'gadgets' and even cars) for over 15 years. He began his career as What Hi-Fi?'s Staff Writer and is now the TV and AV Editor. In between, he worked as Reviews Editor and then Deputy Editor at Stuff, and over the years has had his work featured in publications such as T3, The Telegraph and Louder. He's also appeared on BBC News, BBC World Service, BBC Radio 4 and Sky Swipe. In his spare time Tom is a runner and gamer.