Philips describes its OLED+986 as the ‘statement TV’ and it’s hard to disagree. Right now, there’s not much to match it for physical design. A free-standing OLED TV with a Bowers & Wilkins soundbar built-in, four-sided Ambilight and the kind of style to match an ultra-modern home. One look at the pictures – and the price tag – and you’ll know if this TV is for you or not.
But the 986 is more than good looks. This is the flagship TV from Philips for 2021. We loved the previous model and, from what we saw and heard at our Philips OLED+986 demo at Abbey Road Studios, it doesn’t look like this iteration will disappoint either.
The Philips OLED+986 design is, once again, nothing short of showstopping. It’s a delightful-looking build, prizing glass and metal wherever possible. Even the fully-featured remote is tastefully backed in tactile Muirhead leather.
The OLED panel is connected to the Bowers & Wilkins speakers system by a stand which continues down to a rectangular floorplate that you can position right up against a wall if desired. There’s also a wall-mount included if you prefer. The screen isn’t one for wafer-thin OLED lovers, though. The four-sided Ambilight system requires a little space on the rear to work its magic.
Between the screen and soundbar remains the B&W trademark ‘tweeter-on-top’ concept which the company added to its hi-fi speakers in 1977. The idea is that separating it from the rest of the cabinet gives a cleaner and more precise sound. That cabinet itself is finished with a micromesh cloth on the front.
On the inside it’s the twin-chip, 5th generation P5 Intelligent Dual Picture Engine that powers the top-of-the-line (and LG-supplied) Evo OLED panel.
Gaming gets a huge boost with this year’s Philips flagships. This set goes all out for HDMI 2.1 features with eARC, VRR, ALLM, FreeSync Premium and G-Sync all supported. That all helps make for what Philips claims is an input lag of just 8ms.
The user-experience comes courtesy of Android 10 which brings all of Google’s voice, screen sharing and smart home functionality along with a choice of over 5000 apps. According to a Philips executive at the demo, all major streaming and UK catch-up services are available. The only temporary absentee is Sky’s Now PAYG content platform.
The OLED panel on this TV is the identical one to the slightly less flashy and certainly less expensive Philips OLED+936. It has that same dual-chip P5 processor too which brings with it a number of benefits.
Philips’s upscaling engine, the Perfect Natural system, has been updated and promises to add machine learning AI to bring a sharper and more realistic 4K approximation of HD content. It also focuses on reducing colour banding to add a better blend of hues to the picture. There’s a better anti-burn in process too. It uses a grid of over 30,000 zones to detect static images, such as logos and news stickers, and reduce the light intensity around them, mitigating any possible image retention effects.
As ever, there’s an Ambient Intelligent mode which adjusts picture brightness according to readings from the TV’s environmental light sensor. HDR10+ Adaptive is onboard for the first time too. Much like Dolby Vision IQ, it offers real-time adjustments to HDR output according to your lighting conditions. There’s also now a film detection process which will automatically switch the TV to either Filmmaker Mode or Philips’s new Home Cinema picture preset when watching a movie.
Peak brightness is the stick used to beat OLEDs with, but Philips believes it has enough in the tank with this 1200nit panel. The company admits that it can’t compete with LCD tech peak brightness stats but questions how bright one really needs to go.
Black depth is the OLED trump card and we get plenty of that on show in our demo. Watching Rocketman on 4K Blu-ray, Elton John’s glossy piano is suitably inky but there’s lots of dark detail on show in the curves of the wood – something we’ve come to expect from 2021 OLED TVs.
Shading appears to be handled well too. There’s a well-rendered cheap fluffiness to Jonn’s striped dressing gown as he sits to play Your Song at his parents’ house for the very first time. The sepia tones of the 1970s suburban decor are well delivered and hint towards a rich colour palette.
Philips’s Fast Motion Clarity motion processing tech seems to keep much of the judder under control too, although we do notice some artifacts around Elton’s hairdo as he comes down the stairs at the beginning of the sequence. We imagine we'll turn that setting down a little once we get the 986 into our test rooms.
Philips promises audiophile quality sound whether watching TV or just listening to music with the Philips OLED+986 and, from our demo, it’s hard to disagree.
Bowers has given the speaker system quite the upgrade. In comes Continuum cone material, which features in some of its best hi-fi speakers, for the build of the three 100mm mid/bass drivers with higher spec voice coils and crossover components than before.
The 'tweeter-on-top' technology, which itself now has a new surround, includes the B&W Nautilus tube which aims to improve heat dissipation from the increased power output of the new and more beefed-up amplifiers. All-in-all, the idea is that this system can be pushed harder for a larger and more room-filling soundstage.
Rather than a soundbar, Bowers considers the driver pairs as speakers in their own right. Each has an isolated enclosure with decoupled tweeters which are mounted further forward on the baffle than with the last incarnation of this TV and it’s claimed that it leads to exceptional clarity, detail and bass extension. It certainly feels like it helps push that audio out further and wider too.
The sound processing itself is in the TV. There’s the latest Dolby Atmos decoding and an Atmos Virtualizer, important given that there aren’t any actual upward-firing speakers in the set-up.
Our demo clip doesn’t offer much in the way of 3D effects. Instead, we’re treated to the feel of audio excellence in both the incidental sounds of the scene – the tea cups and cutlery at Elton’s parents’ breakfast table – and the dialogue. It appears dynamic, interesting and crystal clear too.
When we switch to the Your Song moment in the film, there’s a tangible difference to the feel of the studio recorded audio rather than what was taken on set. The music fills our small demo space with grace and ease. If it can manage this for bigger, zappier film effects too, then we’ll be very pleased come review time.
We don’t yet know the price of the Philips OLED+986 but in some ways it doesn’t matter. This is everything that Philips and Bowers can throw at a TV in 2021 and we’re already getting the feeling that we kind of like it.
It’s going to be expensive. It’s a premium TV. The only question will be how it compares to the top-end models of the other big TV manufacturers. Fortunately for Philips the Ambilight, audio proposition and form factor will be enough to convince many all on their own.
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