Philips surprised everyone at last year’s IFA show with a proof of concept product that took the company’s Ambilight ambient TV backlighting technology and expanded it with rear projection. The effect was incredible, making it appear like the action was spilling out of the TV and onto the walls behind it. The idea wasn’t expected to be ready for several years, but a hugely positive public reaction spurred the company into action. At this year’s show, Philips revealed the Ambilux, a commercial TV set with rear projection that you’ll actually be able to buy.
The 65in 65PUS8901 is a 4K set armed with Android TV smart functionality and almost every one of Philips’ picture quality enhancements (the exception being HDR, which is reserved for the flagship 9000 series). However, the real selling point is the nine tiny pico projectors built into the rear of the set. They beam a huge frame of light onto the walls behind the TV, essentially replicating what appears onscreen in separate zones. The focus is deliberately blurred to give the impression the projection is a continuation of the image, rather than a repeat, but the effect works very well.
Philips had several short films, movie trailers and game demos on a loop, and while each one looked impressive it was the game demo that truly impressed. It’s easy to think it would help get you even more immersed in your favourite titles than with Ambilight alone. There’s next to no visible delay between screen and projection, even during fast cuts and scene transitions, which again helps uphold the illusion. Whether you’re watching sports or films, or playing games, the effect is absolutely astounding.
As with other AmbiLight TVs, you can pair the AmbiLux with Philips Hue lightbulbs to control all the lights in a room for a truly immersive viewing experience. The new Music mode turns the projections into a light equaliser that reacts to any music played through the TV speakers, including music streaming apps like Spotify available from the Gogle Play store.
Overall picture quality was easily on par with Philips’ other top-end TVs being displayed at the show, with very crisp detail and vibrant colours. The AmbiLux uses LCD backlighting, but under the harsh IFA show lighting it was tough to say how deep blacks will be once you actually get a set into your house.
It’s great to see that swapping out AmbiLight LEDs for pico projectors hasn’t forced Philips to use a thicker display bezel, which really helps add to the effect of your pictures jumping out of the set. At less than a centimetre thick it matches the rest of Philips’ 2015 line-up of ultra-slim panels. The polished chrome ‘Bladewire’ stand puts two sculpted feet at the sides to keep the set upright, but you can wall-mount it and still get the full effect of the projection.
The TV itself is very well equipped, with the Philips Pixel Precise Ultra HD picture engine for upscaling 1080p content to 4K resolutions, a quad-core processor that makes Android TV feel very snappy, and Philips’ excellent remote control. It has a QWERTY keyboard on the rear, swipe pad on the front for quick navigation and a built-in microphone for Google Now speech recognition. Naturally you get HDMI 2.0 ports on the rear and HDCP 2.2 decoding for playing back UHD content.
The Ambilux is set to arrive in the UK and throughout Europe towards the end of the year. There’s no word on cost yet, but it’s looking highly likely it will fall towards the top end of Philips’ price structure. Either way, we can’t wait to get it home and put it to the test with a battery of games and films.