Philips focuses on LCD TV backlight with lasers

The Philips Smart Laser Backlight Ultra HDTV uses intense beams of monochromatic light -- a.k.a. lasers! -- to differentiate itself from other LED LCD TVs on the market.

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
2 min read


Quantum Dots not futuristic enough for ya? How about a TV that goes, "Pew pew!"

OK, not really, but Philips is the latest brand to incorporate the laser, that staple of science fiction firefights and cat distraction toys, into a television. Unlike Mitsubishi's famed rear-projection laser TV of yore, this first of its kind TV is a flat-panel LCD.

The PFL8900 series is a bit fatter than a normal LED LCD TV, but that's because its backlight incorporates lasers. Here's how the press release puts it:

"Philips Smart Laser Backlight Ultra HDTV utilizes a Red Laser in conjunction with Cyan LEDs as the backlighting source. This technique creates an unparalleled viewing experience. By adding a high-end color filter that enhances Red, Blue & Green purity, this TV is able to cover more than 80 percent of BT.2020 color space standards."

Much like with TVs that use Quantum Dots to supposedly improve color, we encourage you to take this tech with a grain of salt. Wider color gamuts require new color specs like DCI or Rec 2020, and content that adheres to those specs is nonexistent today. And quantum dots or no, they're still LCD TVs, and we don't expect them to match plasma's quality, let alone that of OLED.

For that reason, we actually expect the backlight's direct local dimming to have a greater impact on the picture than the lasers. Philips also touts the TV's 4K resolution, glossy panel filter and 240Hz refresh rate. We assume the latter number is achieved via the usual trickery since all 4K sets have native 120Hz panel refresh rates, and last we heard, that hasn't changed in 2015.

The PFL8900 should also sound better than non-laser TVs thanks to its pair of side-mounted external speakers with five-way drivers. Its smart TV suite lacks Android TV ( Philips is one of the initial partners) but does offer that stable of 4K-related features: built-in HEVC to support the 4K streams of Netflix and Amazon, among others. It's also one of the first TVs we've seen to specify VP9 support, the codec used by YouTube. Three HDMI 2.0 ports that support HDCP 2.2 are also present and accounted for.

The series comes two sizes: the 58-inch 58PFL8900 ($2,999) and the 65-inch 65PFL8900 ($3,499). Both will be available in May in the US. Pricing and availability for the UK and Australia were not announced, but those prices convert to roughly £2,000 or AU$3,700, and £2,300 or AU$4,350 respectively.