Televisions tend to be more about the core functionality and less about the design and other aesthetics but every once in a while, we'll see something flashy and pleasantly over-the-top. One such concept is Philips' Ambilight technology, which interestingly and rather astoundingly, adds to the viewing experience particularly in dark rooms where the LED lights at the back of the TV can really shine. Philips' latest television in India brings back the concept in a big way, and at a much more accessible price than before.
Priced at Rs. 99,990 for the 55-inch 55PUT7906/94 variant, the Philips Ambilight 7900 series is a fairly standard Ultra-HD LED TV, but with the added feature of a three-sided Ambilight LED lighting at the back. There is also support for Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, and Android TV OS for smart functionality, among other useful features. Is this the most unique and interesting 55-inch TV you can buy for around Rs. 1,00,000 in India? Find out in this review.
The Philips Ambilight 7900 series TV runs on Android TV 10, with the improved stock Android TV user interface
Philips Ambilight 7900 Series 55-inch Ultra-HD LED Android TV (55PUT7906/94) design and specifications
The Philips Ambilight 7900 Series is available in three sizes — 55 inches, 65 inches, and 75 inches — with prices ranging from Rs. 99,990 to Rs. 1,89,990. All three sizes have similar specifications and features including the three-sided Ambilight LED lighting at the back of the televisions.
At the front and back (for the most part), the Philips Ambilight 7900 Series 55-inch television looks like just about any modern budget or mid-range television. There are slim borders around the screen, a small Philips logo at the bottom, a module for the IR receiver, indicator light, and a multi-function physical button to control the power and volume without the remote.
The TV is moderately thick but slightly slimmer at the edges, which leaves enough space to access the left-side ports when the television is wall-mounted. The 55-inch variant weighs around 14.2kg without the stands, and is compatible with VESA wall mounts (not included in the box). The table stands are included in the box and fix onto the TV near the corners, so you'll need a large table or TV unit to place the Philips Ambilight 7900 series TV on.
While the television seems rather ordinary-looking at first glance, the key feature shows itself only when you turn the Philips Ambilight 7900 series TV on. There are LED lights built into the frame of the TV all along the left, top, and right edges, projecting multi-coloured light onto the wall behind the TV. The lights can get quite bright, and are effective regardless of whether you have the TV wall-mounted or on the table stands slightly away from the wall.
The Philips Ambilight 7900 Series 55-inch television has most of its ports in the square cavity at the back and facing downwards, so you'll have to ensure that you've attached most of these connections before wall-mounting the television (if that's the case for you). The ports at the back include Digital Audio-out (Toslink), one USB Type-A port, RJ45 Ethernet port, antenna socket, and three HDMI ports.
The LED lights at the back project colour onto the wall behind, depending on the colours on the screen
The ports on the left side are much easier to access even with the TV wall-mounted. These include one HDMI port (with ARC support), 3.5mm headphone jack, and one USB Type-A port. I'd have ideally liked at least one more HDMI port on the side, as well as the Toslink port. That said, having the ARC-enabled port on the side is a sensible decision by Philips.
The Philips Ambilight 55PUT7906/94 LED TV has an Ultra-HD (3840x2160 pixel) screen, with support for the HLG, HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision high dynamic range formats. There are two full-range bottom-firing speakers with a total sound output of 20W, and support for various audio formats up to Dolby Atmos. Bluetooth 5 and dual-band Wi-Fi are supported on the TV, and there is 8GB of internal storage for apps and app data, along with an unspecified quad-core processor to power the software and interface.
Philips Ambilight 7900 Series 55-inch Ultra-HD LED Android TV (55PUT7906/94) remote and features
Philips has typically included a full-size remote with its televisions, and it's no different with the Ambilight 7900 series LED TV. The remote is arguably a fair bit larger than it needs to be, and has buttons to control navigation on the Android TV UI, playback controls, input selection, and a classic number pad, among others. There are hotkeys for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and YouTube, as well as a Google Assistant button and microphone to listen to voice commands.
A couple of useful additions include an ‘info' button which shows resolution and Internet speed, and the Ambilight button. The latter provides quick access to the Ambilight menu, which can be used to turn on or off the Ambilight effects, or modify the settings including the modes and lounge lighting presets. It's useful to quickly adjust this, particularly if you're finding the glare too much or the lights a bit distracting.
The remote initially worked fine, but after a few weeks I found that I had to point it directly at the IR receiver for it to work; this seemed to happen overnight with it working fine the previous day. Changing the batteries and resetting the TV made no difference, and Bluetooth connectivity only worked for Google Assistant and not the rest of the remote's functions, which continued to rely on IR. Strangely, the remote began working normally a couple of days later, so it's hard to pinpoint the issue here.
Apart from Ambilight, the Philips 55PUT7906/94 TV is pretty ordinary when it comes to features. There is built-in Chromecast for content casting, and Google Assistant for voice commands, both of which are standard to all televisions running Android TV software.
Philips Ambilight 7900 Series 55-inch Ultra-HD LED Android TV (55PUT7906/94) software and interface
The Philips Ambilight 7900 series 55-inch LED TV runs on the Android TV 10 operating system, with the updated user interface with the refreshed, Google TV-like appearance. Of course, this isn't the same as the Google TV user interface, but the core experience is the same as what you get on most Android TV-powered televisions. This includes access to the Google Play store, which now claims to have over 7,000 apps and games specifically designed for use on a TV screen.
The remote of the Philips Ambilight TV is a full-sized one and has hotkeys for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Google Play
Some key apps such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Youtube are preinstalled on the Philips Ambilight 7900 series television, and the new user interface is able to curate and push certain content recommendations using these and other major streaming services. While it is a step below the much more polished and capable Google TV UI, the stock Android TV user interface is still a pretty good option given that the app experience is the same reliable one that the platform has worked hard to get right.
My issues with the remote aside, I found the UI performance on the Philips 7900 series TV to be a bit sluggish at times. There was often a noticeable delay in the reaction time when navigating the UI, along with visible lag in the picture. Fortunately, this didn't extend to when actual content was playing, but I did find it a lot easier to switch to the Chromecast with Google TV which was a lot less frustrating to use.
Philips Ambilight 7900 Series 55-inch Ultra-HD LED Android TV (55PUT7906/94) performance
It's now possible to get a good quantum-dot or OLED television for less than Rs. 1,00,000, so spending that much on an LED television such as the Philips Ambilight 7900 Series 55-inch TV might seem a bit silly. However, the Philips television's key feature — and indeed its most impressive party trick — is the Ambilight effect which enhances the viewing experience in its own unique way.
Now, it's possible to set up aftermarket LED lighting for just about any television, with brands such as Govee and Philips offering such solutions. However the undeniable convenience and ease of use of the Philips Ambilight television, as well as the fact that you can switch it off easily with the television remote, makes it a superior option for anyone looking at rear adaptive LED lighting. That said, I'm left wondering whether that alone justifies the considerable premium of the Philips 7900 series TV.
The Philips 55PUT7906/94 television has an Ultra-HD resolution LED screen with support for HDR up to the Dolby Vision format. Performance was decent with high-quality content, and the picture was definitely as sharp as it could be, but there were a few drawbacks that I wouldn't typically expect to see on a 55-inch television priced at Rs. 1,00,000.
Colourful content such as Into The Spiderverse looked beautiful on the Philips TV, particularly with the Ambilight effect on
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse seemed like the best movie to start with given the bright colours and trippy comic-book style visuals that I expected to play well with the Ambilight functionality on the Philips TV, and I wasn't disappointed.
The truly impressive bit here was how the Ambilight worked with with the film, with the bright lights reacting intuitively to the continuously changing colours on screen, giving me the feeling of the television and picture being a bit bigger and more vibrant that it actually was. The Ambilight effect was quick to read colours on the edges of the screen and flowed well, making for a particularly good effect with fast-moving, colourful content.
With gentle motion and muted colours, such as the many monochrome scenes in the final season of Better Call Saul, the Ambilight effect on the Philips 7900 series LED TV often had very little to do or add, and was best switched off. I also found that the effect worked best when the lights projected onto a white wall, since this allowed them and the colours to be seen clearly. Against a textured blue wall for instance, the effects were largely lost, save for blue light itself.
Fortunately, controlling the Ambilight settings on the Philips 7900 series TV is an easy process, thanks to a dedicated Ambilight button on the remote which opens the quick access menu on the Android TV user interface. You can control the intensity through Ambilight presets, or set it to lounge lighting which sets a single colour for the rear lighting.
Although the picture was sharp on the Philips Ambilight 7900 series TV, the black levels weren't very good
The picture was sharp and detailed with the animation of Into The Spider-Verse and even bright, colourful shows such as Masaba Masaba. The colours looked good too, although not anywhere near as punchy and defined as on the more affordable Xiaomi OLED Vision TV. With the dark scenes in shows such as Better Call Saul and Obi Wan Kenobi, the poor black levels of the Philips 7900 series LED TV were quite the setback.
The backlighting of the LED display tended to create a ‘whitewash' effect during dark scenes, making blacks appear dark grey. This was visible even with bright and colourful content, but the whitewash effect looked particularly prominent and distracting with dark visuals. This is typically something I expect to see on a much more affordable LED TVs, so I was disappointed with this on the Philips 7900 series TV.
The Philips Ambilight 7900 series television is fairly bright thanks to its LED display panel, and as a result is easy to watch even in a relatively bright room. That said, making even a small effort to darken the room, such as drawing the curtains, goes a long way in making the picture look better. Quantum-dot LED TVs such as the Hisense 55U6G are considerably brighter and are priced lower.
Although HDR up to the Dolby Vision format is supported, the Philips Ambilight 7900 series television didn't benefit significantly from this. While there was a slight bump in brightness and somewhat improved colours with HDR content as compared to SDR content, it wasn't quite as effective as I've seen on a lot of televisions, such as the Sony X75K which did a better job despite being only HDR10-capable.
Where the Philips Ambilight 7900 series TV does perform reasonably well is with upscaling lower-resolution content. HD and full-HD movies and TV shows looked decent on the Philips TV in terms of sharpness, and there were no significant issues with motion, colour, and contrast that weren't already visible with Ultra-HD content.
Sound quality on the Philips 55PUT7906/94 isn't exceptional, but it isn't too bad either. Although the 20W output may sound a bit underwhelming, I found the TV to sound reasonably good in a smaller room, with the acoustics of the room making the television sound a bit louder than it actually was. In a larger room, this was usually fixed by turning up the volume a bit. Dolby Atmos didn't really add much to the sound apart from give the impression of the soundstage being a bit wider. On the whole, the sound is decent enough to use on its own if necessary.
The Philips Ambilight 7900 series LED TV is unique and unlike anything else you can buy right now for one big reason — the Ambilight system. As unnecessary as it may seem at first, the lights at the back work well to enhance the viewing experience in their own unique ways, making everything seem a bit more vibrant and exciting. However, that aside, the Philips television feels somewhat underwhelming for its asking price of Rs. 99,990, and the lights don't really justify the premium.
In terms of performance, I found the Philips 55PUT7906/94 to be on par with televisions priced at around Rs. 60,000 or so, such as the company's own 8100 series 55-inch TV. Issues with black levels and overall brightness didn't help either, and some odd issues with the remote were also worth noting.
Consider the Philips Ambilight 7900 series television only if the Ambilight system really appeals to you; it works very well and definitely has a role to play in the enjoyability factor of this television. If that's something you won't mind skipping, the Xiaomi OLED Vision TV is definitely worth considering instead, at this price.
Update: Although the Philips 55PUT7906/94 was priced at Rs. 99,990 at the time of publishing our review, the company has just informed us that it is currently available at a temporary lower price of Rs. 64,990. At this lower price, it is a much better value proposition than before. The 65-inch variant is currently available at Rs. 94,990, while the 70-inch option is currently discounted to Rs. 1,09,990.
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