Review: Philips 55PUT6820 4K Smart LED TV
Does this TV look too good to be true? It does - because it is.
The Philips 55PUT6820 is a 55" 4K UHD Smart LED TV with Ambilight: and for the sale price of AUD$1,298 (£790) it seems like a pretty good deal. With Android TV built-in, Freeview Plus, and built-in Google Cast, it seems like you can't go far wrong.
Although I planned to run this TV through a set-top box, and therefore not to plug it into the antenna, I thought it worthwhile to run a full setup so that I could see what user interface I was missing. The whole lot is powered by Android TV, even the setup and EPG; and this was the first disappointment - Android TV itself is in 1080p, and not 4K. Close to the screen, the upscaled text is quite blocky.
Set-up pulled all the channels in fine. But the EPG tries to show channel logos: and in spite of this set being on the Philips Australia website and being presumably certified to carry the Freeview Plus logo, it shows an incorrect logo for "ONE" and "ELEVEN" (these crazy Australian channel names), a vaguely correct logo for Food Network, and nothing else.
More concerningly, the picture was quite substantially behind the audio. Which for an inbuilt television tuner, that's a bit poor.
I plugged the HDMI set-top box in. It looks awful. And the picture is behind the audio.
At this point, I'm fearing that I've bought a dud. And I have. But I want to make the best of it, so I fiddle.
Removing all the video special effects has the effect of significantly making the image look better; particularly killing the over-sharpness and removing any of the dynamic contrast control. The picture is closer in sync to the audio, but still not perfect. There is an audio delay control in the menu, but it's only applicable to sound bars.
Worse, the delay appears to be a bit random. Sometimes, it's close-ish. Sometimes it's miles out.
Then I discover that you can change the picture to "game" or "computer". I don't know what the difference is, and a cursory Google Search won't help me, so I choose "game", because I'm thinking that games contain movement whereas computer screens don't. Anyway, this turns off even more picture processing, and the sound/picture sync is now acceptable, if not entirely fixed.
When the set is in TV tuner mode, you can't choose "game" or "computer". It is impossible, therefore, to match picture and sound using the inbuilt TV tuner on the inbuilt TV speakers.
Genuinely, therefore, this is a TV that actually fails at its primary purpose of being a TV.
But, let's continue.
The Android TV bit is quite nice - though it suffers from picture/sound sync issues. The Spotify app, when you open it, acts as a "Spotify Connect" device so you can control music from your phone or your laptop, while playing on your telly. There are also a surprising amount of decent apps for the system, including Haystack TV (a quite clever news aggregation tool). Android TV doesn't support any of the catch-up services here (there's no ABC iView or SBS On Demand) but both the Chromecast and the Freeview Plus functionality help you out here. This set runs Android Lollipop, which is nowhere near the latest version.
Android TV, as you'll know, is driven by voice. The screen excitedly tells you to "speak to search". Which is great, but there isn't a microphone in the TV, nor in the remote control, so you'll do no speaking on this device. (You could install an app on your phone, I think).
The special Philips menu contains a few additional apps to install that aren't present on Google Play, including Amazon Video, which was a nice discovery. That appears to run in 4K, and the picture quality is excellent. If it weren't for the sound sync issues, it would be a great experience.
Ambilight - the LEDs on the side of the TV that light up the wall - are surprisingly effective at adding an additional immersive feel to the picture. After only a few weeks, one of the LEDs second from the top have developed an intermittent flicker, so I've had to turn them off.
The TV comes with inbuilt Google Cast - a Chromecast, essentially, but without a backdrop or anything. The first thing I did was find a 4K video on YouTube and try casting it - and while it does play in 4K, there were a lot of dropped frames and corrupted video. I've discovered a lot of incompatibility with the built-in Chromecast. Plugging in a Chromecast Ultra into one of the HDMI ports works flawlessly: so that's what I do. $99 to fix this issue.
I spent another $299 buying a soundbar to fix the picture/sound sync issues (and, being fair, to get a better sound). For maximum compatibility, I bought a Philips soundbar, and it's plugged into one of the ARC HDMI outputs (I believe they are all ARC capable). This is supposed to let the TV control the soundbar, and turn it on and off when the TV turns on and off. It does, 80% of the time. It doesn't 20% of the time.
All in all, this is a relatively obvious tale. If you pay peanuts, you get rubbish - even if there's a Philips logo on it. And that's the issue here: this isn't a Philips TV, just a TV made by a company called TP Vision, who licence the Philips name.
So - the Philips 55PUT6820 might look like it's too good to be true: but that's because it probably is.
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