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Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 4-85 Expert Review

Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 4-85

Rating: ★★★★★

More likely to be found on a yacht or luxury custom installation than the average living room, the BeoVision 4-85 boasts an 85-inch plasma screen, a host of features and a price that would make Croesus himself blush.

The display is the same as that behind Panasonic’s TH-85VX200, so its pedigree isn’t in doubt. Amazingly, though, the 4-85 is about to become the smallest TV in the BeoVision range, with the non-3D 65-inch version being phased out and a whopping 103-inch version (BeoVision 4-103) waiting in the wings.

The latter, with its motorised stand, will cost you – deep breath – close to £100,000. If you decide to wall-mount it, the price comes down to a trifling £82,000.

For now, this 85-incher is the only plasma sold by Bang & Olufsen, the rest of its range being mostly LED-backlit LCD TVs that are as delectably designed as they are expensive. At the entry level – if such a thing exists within B&O’s money-no-object ethos – is the BeoVision 8-40.

A snip at £4,500, this 40-inch TV has a full HD resolution, 200Hz and a surround sound decoder, plus a soundbar-style speaker system.

Next up is the BeoVision 10 range, all of which have a curiously square aspect, thanks to the three-way speakers slung under the displays.

The variations comprise the 32-inch BeoVision 10-32 (£4,500), 40-inch BeoVision 10-40 (£7,000) and 46-inch BeoVision 10-46 (£8,500), with only the smaller version unable to cope with surround sound. All have 200Hz, full HD and an anti-glare screen covering that’s also seen on this 85-incher (it works, too; switch-off the TV and reflections are only faint).

Finally, aside from this 3D monster, is the BeoVision 7 range, which comprises the BeoVision 7-40 (£11,000) and BeoVision 10-55 (£16,000). The smaller is LCD, the larger LED-lit, yet both have perhaps the greatest feature of all; built-in Blu-ray. It’s not 3D, sadly (it soon will be), but is designed quite brilliantly. Press Eject and a Blu-ray disc (or DVD) silently slips out, supported by a slim column.

All Bang & Olufsen TVs – and especially the BeoVision 4-85 – are programmable. An engineer asks you exactly what other products you have – say, a Sky+HD box and a Sony Blu-ray player – and the controls for those are integrated into the remote control.

However, if you change your components around, an engineer does have to pay another visit to reconfigure the remote.

It’s the kind of personal service you’d expect if paying this much cash, though the charges keep on coming. You can’t just barge into a Bang & Olufsen store and purchase the BeoVision 4-85, though. A site survey must be carried out first, largely to make sure the TV will fit through your doorway, and be supported by your walls or floor.

The site visit costs £300, though it’s refundable if you decide to buy a BeoVision 4-85. The final charge is for delivery, which, as you can imagine, requires some pretty specialist lifting equipment; say goodbye to between £4,000 and £10,000. The main reason for that is the BeoVision 4-85′s clever floor stand that weighs a whopping 500kg.

Whereas most TV stands rotate and wriggle, this one elevates. It’s largely a show-off feature and not aimed specifically at improving the viewing angle or picture, but it’s still addictive; switch the TV on from the remote and it rises to attention, revealing the BeoLab 10 speaker (also part of that 500kg bulk) as it does so.

Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 4-85     Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 4-85

This feature can be customised to exact proportions, with the TV leaning back or turning slightly. Does a TV need to have one position when switched-off, and another when turned on? No, not really – though arguably that’s more important with an 85-inch TV, which is likely to become the focal point of any room, however large.

When it’s switched-off, the BeoVision 4 retracts down to the floor – just an inch or two above, in fact – and from down there it doesn’t dominate quite so much.

No sooner has the TV lifted into position than the TV comes to life – no coincidence – in typical B&O style; a pair of digital curtains part on the screen to reveal a live TV channel.

B & O BeoVision 4-85: Features

At this price the BeoVision 4-85 isn’t going to sell in the thousands, which is great news if you’re in the market for it, since you can pretty much have it completely customised. Your first choice is between six colours (black, silver, red, blue, golden or gunmetal); the sample we reviewed was finished in snazzy brushed silver.

There’s no Freeview HD tuner on board the BeoVision 4-85. If you balk and splutter at that, you’re very probably not in Bang & Olufsen’s universe. Any situation where the BeoVision 4-85 could be used is also one where a Sky or Virgin box is going to be in place – if only for the plethora of high-definition TV channels – so we’re not unduly worried about the lack of DVB-T2. Despite that, we’re told it will soon be in place.

In some ways the BeoVision 4-85 is all about cutting out features considered pointless, picture settings being first on the list. It’s a strange stance in some ways, because high-end punters should be the fussiest, but Bang & Olufsen has removed virtually all opportunities to tweak the image. Yes, there are some very basic drop-down menus to change contrast, brightness and colour alongside a Game mode, but that is it; everything else is performed automatically by the BeoVision 4-85′s … wait for it … robotic pop-out camera.

Has Bang & Olufsen gone cuckoo? The set arrives perfectly calibrated for its surroundings – B&O is very confident about that, and doesn’t want it jeopardised by the customer (heaven forbid) – so the job of the robot arm is to keep things that way.

Partly because plasmas are dynamic, colours can take on a slight yellowing hue the more they’re used, so every 90-100 hours of use a five-inch camera pops-up from the top of the display, drops down in front of the screen, and measures the saturations and contrast (from a colour spectrum and a greyscale shown onscreen). It then resets to its original parameters, and adjusts the colour temperature to steer away from yellow and the camera dives back in, cuckoo-clock style.

The whole process (called Automatic Colour management, which can be done manually at any point) takes about 20 seconds, during which time the IR receiver is also measuring the ambient light in the room, and adjusting the brightness accordingly.

It’s all a very subtle and silent process, and as we’ll see, does a great job, though home cinema aficionados might take umbrage at the apparently dismissive stance towards users making their own tweaks. We presume this stance is largely to stop customers requesting call-outs every time someone messes with the settings.

Aside from magical moving mechanisms, the BeoVision 4-85 is also a 3DTV. It employs the Active 3D system used by (for now) the majority of manufacturers and brands, though that’s absolutely no surprise; this is a high-end, and huge, plasma that is ideal for Active 3D.

In and outputs are, again, up to each buyer; on the back of the sample we saw was strapped a BeoSystem 3 surround sound processor that built-in DVI, four HDMI, component video, three electrical digital audio and, remarkably, three Scarts. Also back there were some line ins and outs, analogue and digital RF and an RF modulator.

B & O BeoVision 4-85: Picture

Paired with a reference-level Oppo BDP-95EU Blu-ray player, the BeoVision 4-85 pumps out some seriously great 3D pictures.

Perhaps it’s just the size of the screen that creates such enveloping intensity (not that we sat directly underneath it), but a run-through of Avatar delivered some of the most convincing 3D pictures we’ve seen.

Heavy on contrast and with a searing brightness (at least, for a 3D screen), the BeoVision 4-85 deciphered with intrinsic depth and startling detail the scene where the floating flowers settle on Jake. The way the screen picks out pricks of bright light in otherwise inky black areas of the image is brilliant. In the dog attack scene, it all moves a touch too fast for the BeoVision 4-85; there’s a suggestion of crosstalk, though it’s mostly a problem with judder.

Colour is sublime, as it is in 2D mode. There’s a huge drop in contrast with those 3D specs dumped, though it’s still enough to impress when compared to mainstream plasmas. On 2D mode there simply isn’t any motion blur at all, which is why plasma is best for monster screens (though the 3D specs do introduce some).

Sky channels look better than Freeview, which is blighted by softness and fizzing around moving objects. That’s no surprise on a screen this big, and the good work done in contrast and colour is retained. Overall, the BeoVision 4-85 is a top-drawer screen for 3D and 2D, while for standard definition it does a decent job at cleaning it up, considering its size.

It would be remiss not to point out that 3D material is best viewed on Active 3D screens in as near to blackout as possible – and the BeoVision4-85 is no different.

B & O BeoVision 4-85: Sound

If the picture relies largely on the Panasonic plasma panel it’s hosted on, the sound is all Bang & Olufsen’s work. The BeoLab 10 speaker that sits below the screen is a mono driver – but acts as a centre channel in a surround sound set-up, which is virtually the law if you’re spending this much.

In our review the BeoVision 4-85 was paired with two BeoLab 5 speakers (£3,600 per pair) and two surround sound modules, the BeoLab 3 (£2,700 per pair). The sound is crystal clear and powerful, as it should be at this end of the market.

In fact, with the sharp and well-weighted vocals, pitch-perfect bass levels (no external subwoofer is needed) and overwhelmingly effective surround effects, we’d argue that the audio brings the movie to life just as much – if not more – than the 3D effects onscreen.

B & O BeoVision 4-85: Value

If you want one of the best screens on the planet, it will cost you. There is the small matter of price to contented with though – Panasonic’s TH-85VX200 costs a ‘mere’ £42,000, so where’s the BeoVision 4-85′s extra £24,000 going? On the robot arm, perhaps? The motorised stand?

The look of the BeoVision 4-85 is a lot more sculpted, and the way it integrates into a home automation system – and, more importantly, a speaker array – is impressive. Other than that, the money seems to get you a screen that delivers a consistent picture performance that refuses to bend to your will.

For those after a top-notch, fuss-free 85-inch screen with huge wow-factor, the BeoVision 4-85 is first class – but the only real reason for any TV to cost £66,000 is that a production line simply doesn’t exist; it’s custom-built, and that is what determines the price.

B & O BeoVision 4-85: Ease of use

There are two remote controls to pick from. The default option is a Beo4, a long, slender and pleasingly weighty product that takes some getting used to. It’s thoroughly effective, though a tad slow at communicating with an IR receiver that protrudes from the BeoVision 4-85′s top right-hand corner. The Beo6, which has been in the Bang & Olufsen arsenal for quite some time, costs £230.

Those that want a more up-to-the-minute touchscreen remote are also catered for by the Beo6. It’s a strange looking thing, with a small colour OLED screen sitting atop what looks like part of a model aircraft’s fuselage. It’s nicely weighted and comfy to hold, but best of all channel logos can be programmed to appear on the touchscreen.

At £600 it adds further to the increasingly stratospheric bill (it comes free with the BeoVision 4 and BeoVision 7 products, so why not this top-of-the-range TV?).

The remote really comes into its own when controlling external equipment; we managed to control the internal workings of a Sky+HD box with no problem, perusing the EPG and setting-up recordings.

Both remotes are capable of mastering a home automation system if paired with a MasterLink Gateway so, for example, you can use it in conjunction with a Lutron lighting system; press ‘movie’ on either Bang & Olufsen remote and the Blu-ray kicks-in as the lights dim. It also works with Crestron and AMX systems, so for the wealthy it can control security systems, ventilation, curtains, a burglar alarm – even your electronic pool cover.

The TV’s user interface doesn’t make such a splash, though it is complete simplicity defined. While other brands struggle to introduce polished graphics and colourful, responsive menus, here a different attitude has been taken. There is a bare-bones (and attractive, despite being just white text on a black background) interface that cuts in menus and choices from the left-hand side, but usually the remote can be used to directly choose the source.

Those wanting to control TV, or even entire zones of their automated house, with a smartphone can do so with the free – and highly polished – BeoLink app on iPhone or Android.

Verdict

Although it’s always been a pricey brand, the last four or five years has seen the Danish brand issue TVs that haven’t been sufficiently different to mass-market propositions to get anyone very excited.
That all changes with the BeoVision 4-85.

We liked:

Contrast, colour and sheer detail are the picture highlights, but this TV goes way beyond its great 3D and 2D work. The robotic camera, home automation options and speaker opportunities are excellent, as is the touchscreen remote and iPhone app, while the motorised stand does nothing to lower our expectations. The choice of plasma when LED-backlighting is so well marketed is a shrewd, if risky move – and absolutely pivotal to its success.

We disliked:

The constant piling-on of costs – for the remote, surround sound decoder, speakers, stand and even delivery charges – might begin to annoy even those with vast resources. We’re also rather surprised there’s no online dimension whatsoever, while the lack of a Beo6 touchscreen remote as a default, included option is a shame.

Bang & Olufsen BeoVision 4-85

Pros

  • Colour
  • Easy to use
  • 3D pictures
  • Robotic camera
  • Good with all sources
  • Colour
  • Easy to use
  • 3D pictures
  • Robotic camera

Cons

  • High cost
  • Mono speaker
  • No Freeview HD
  • Beo6 remote costs £600
  • Mono speaker
  • No Freeview HD
  • Beo6 remote costs £600

Verdict

Incredibly expensive and aimed at money-no-object types, the BeoVision
4-85 sees a return to form. Bang & Olufsen’s engineers have sensibly
built the swish user experience around a cutting-edge plasma panel that
excels with all sources.


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