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Bang & Olufsen Beovision Avant 55 review

Tom Morgan
20 Mar 2015
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
5,995
inc VAT

Stunning design and outstanding audio, but 4K is wasted with no HDMI 2.0

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Specifications

Screen size: 55in, Native resolution: 3,840x2,160, Video inputs: 6x HDMI, Component, Composite, SCART, Tuner: Freeview HD, DVB-S2, Dimensions: 1,220x1,283x585mm

4K TVs have commanded a price premium over Full HD sets for some time, but premium sound and vision brand Bang and Olufsen has taken this to a whole other level with the Beovision Avant 55. Launched last summer, the Avant is more than simple TV; it's a design statement, that is meant to become the centrepiece of a room rather than merely the focus of your home cinema setup. With one of the most impressive sound systems we've ever seen on a TV as well, it's a serious TV that goes a long way to justifying the serious £6,000 price. We got the chance to put one through its paces in situ over the course of a month, finding out what living with an Avant was like when Bang & Olufsen installed it at our home, complete with a pair of Beolab 20 wireless speakers, in order to bring you a thorough review.

DESIGN & BUILD

With angular lines, a metal finish and a multi-layered frame that disguises the thickness of the set, the Avant is a rather attractive TV - and that's before you take the stunning range of stands into consideration. We tested the Avant on its rotating freestanding base, but it can be equipped with mechanised table or wall mounting brackets to suit your room. The base is made from aluminium and weighs close to 50kg, meaning it's more than sturdy enough to support the weight of the TV.

When you turn the TV on, the base rotates towards you and turns the screen to create a more comfortable viewing angle while the hidden speakers slowly drop down into view below the screen. Attention to detail is everything to B&O, which can clearly be seen in the way the screen turns on like a pair of curtains, with pixels activating in the centre of the screen outwards in time with the speakers extending below. It's a party piece to be sure, but one we weren't tired of seeing after a month with the set. The entire process is near silent too, with only the smallest hint of any mechanical action underneath the aluminium base.

However, there's no real way to hide the cables trailing out the back of the set, as the tall pole protruding out of the base isn't hollow. If you insist on having all cables hidden from view, you're going to struggle - especially as you need enough flex in any connected cables to allow for the stand to rotate and the TV to move way from a wall.

The other stand-out design feature is the small protruding bar in the top corner of the set. This is an evolution of B&O's Vision Clear picture enhancement engine, which uses light sensors to continuously detect the level and colour tone of ambient light in a room and adjust the image accordingly for the best possible picture quality. More on its effectiveness below.

CONNECTIVITY & USABILITY

On the surface, the Beovision Avant is practically overequipped when it comes to connectivity. There are six HDMI inputs on the rear, which is two more than we typically see on other TVs, the usual array of USB ports for multimedia playback, Ethernet and integrated Wi-Fi for getting online, plus Freeview HD and DVB-S2 satellite TV tuners. Connections for IR blasters let you control your set-top box, Blu-ray player or other AV kit with the bundled remote control, effectively letting you ditch your other remotes in favour of B&O's gorgeously sculpted metal remote. It has a built-in LCD display which shows you what input is currently active, letting you navigate the UI without stealing focus from whatever is currently showing. The TV has a bay at the back for holding an Apple TV box, so with some clever cable management you could completely hide it from view and control it purely with the remote.

Audio connectivity is in a world of its own, with the potential for 21 separate audio channels controlled solely through the TV. You could create a surround sound setup without the need for a separate AV amplifier, and with 8 wireless channels you won't even need to have every speaker wired to the set. It can be set to one big surround sound system, or control audio in multiple rooms to turn the TV into a complete home music system. This is done via BeoLink, B&O's proprietary protocol which can also be expanded into home automation - with the right gear you could close the blinds automatically when you switch on the TV or dim the lights. It's serious stuff that's as customizable as you would care (or can afford) to make it, that goes a fair way to justifying the Avant's premium price.

Bang & Olufsen Beovision Avant

However, the one glaring omission is any kind of 4K-compatible input. Beyond HDMI 1.4a, which is only able to support 4K images at up to 30fps, there are no DisplayPort or HDMI 2.0 ports for 60fps viewing. This is a major stumbling block for anyone looking to future-proof their home cinema setup, as it means you won't be able to enjoy UHD Blu-ray discs or on-demand content when it arrives later in the year. 

This is especially true as the Avant lacks Netflix, currently one of the only ways to get 4K content in the home. There's no integrated HEVC decoder either, meaning the possibility of a firmware update in the future is out of the question - at least in terms of full-colour resolution. B&O has said an update could feasibly add 4K support at higher frame rates, at the expense of colour resolution, although the details have yet to be finalised.

Smart TV services in general are very limited, with just BBC iPlayer and YouTube on the video front. The interface appears to be powered by an old Philips Smart TV system, and it isn't particularly quick or easy to navigate. As you might expect from a company renowned for sound, there are a few more audio services, including an internet radio tuner and full Spotify client. This is especially useful if you plan on connecting multiple speakers to the Avant wirelessly, as you can then use the set as a controller for a multiroom speaker system.

PICTURE QUALITY

With a 3,840x2,160 resolution VA-type panel and edge-lit local dimming, the Avant is on par with most current 4K TVs from the more mainstream manufacturers, at least on paper. It certainly didn't disappoint in our objective tests: Right out of the box, our colour calibrator measured 99.8 of the sRGB colour gamut with the TV set to Adaptive picture. This is above what we’ve seen from other 4K TVs recently and seriously impressive for an LCD panel. Colour coverage was also relatively even across the primary colour groups, with a slight bias towards blue.

Contrast was a colossal 11,796:1, providing immense levels of detail in the darker scenes of our test footage. Black levels were a superb 0.0087cd/m2 too, which is up there with the best LCD can manage, while peak brightness was a very bright 310.62cd.m2.

Bang & Olufsen is so sure of its picture-enhancing Vision Clear technology that it has omitted more manual calibration options from the Avant’s menus. There’s no full colour management system, any way to control the motion processing beyond basic judder cancellation, or any way to adjust the level of upscaling for non-4K sources. You can at least lower or disable noise reduction processing, which is definitely worth doing; it struggles with SD content, particularly TV broadcasts, and actually managed to increase noise in some cases.

Bang & Olufsen Beovision Avant

We still did our best to improve the Avant’s picture quality, disabling as many of the adaptive settings as possible and tweaking the brightness, colour, contrast and backlight sliders manually. Switching to the Movie picture mode, we managed to improve the colour temperature, hitting 6,455k versus 7,165k on the uncalibrated set, but doing so came at a slight expense of black levels, which rose to 0.042cd/m2. Overall sRGB colour gamut coverage dropped to 99.7% as well, although this is barely enough to be perceptible to the human eye. Finally, brightness levels dropped to 142.3cd/m2, which should be more comfortable for watching in a dark room. For most people, however, the integrated light sensor does a brilliant job at getting the most from the panel.

In terms of image clarity, the Avant unsurprisingly performed best when displaying 4K sources. Even with the frame rate limited to 30hz, pictures looked brilliantly crisp and packed with detail. Colours were particularly vibrant, yet there was still plenty of subtlety to darker scenes and blacks. An anti-reflection filter applied to the panel glass certainly helps when it comes to these scenes, matching some of the best LCD sets we’ve seen and avoiding backlight clouding in all but the most demanding scenes. We spotted the effect when sat in a dark room, but only with the Room Adaption feature disabled. 

The Avant did a respectable job at upscaling Full HD content to 4K, although we felt images weren’t quite as precise as what we saw on Sony TVs last year. Unfortunately standard definition video suffers far worse, with noise being painfully clear to see in places and images looking overly processed in others. Viewing angles are also merely average, although considering you can rotate the TV mechanically with the remote control we’re inclined to let it slide.

Motion was arguably the Avant’s weakest aspect, with no options beyond basic judder cancellation.  Fast moving action scenes suffered a slight loss of detail, while other scenes saw motion artefacts introduced. You can disable judder cancellation, but we would have preferred some kind of frame interpolation settings to tweak broadcast TV and Blu-ray movies separately.

SOUND QUALITY

With a whopping 240w total output, the Beovision Avant has practically every other flatscreen TV on the market licked in terms of raw sound power. It achieves this with a three channel system built into the drop-down speakers and an up-firing 6.5in subwoofer on the rear of the set. The middle speaker acts as a dedicated centre channel, piping all speech directly towards the viewer and creating a real sense of stereo separation with the remaining two channels.

The left and right channels produced clear and crisp audio, giving real nuance to mid-range and high-end frequencies. Breaking glass and tyre squeals in particular sounded fantastic, and combined with the centre channel films easily sounded on par with what a dedicated soundbar would be capable of producing.

Bang & Olufsen Beovision Avant

The subwoofer does a great job at adding low-end rumble to films and games too. Although it can't match a dedicated woofer in terms of bass presence, it was more than sufficient for a medium-sized room. The balance between the front-facing speakers and sub was superb, so we were always able to hear speech clearly - even during hectic action sequences and explosion-heavy gameplay. We couldn't detect any hint of distortion at high volume levels either.

Adding a pair of Beolab 20 speakers into the mix was a transformative moment, expanding the soundstage and adding a huge amount of range and detail, but we would expect nothing less given the eye-watering price. At £7,495 per pair, you're more than doubling the total cost of the TV to add them to your setup.

CONCLUSION

The Beovision Avant is a stunning TV, taking the best of Bang & Olufsen's design, audio and visual teams and combining them into a single gorgeous product. The mechanised stand, fantastic sound quality and attention to detail are all second to none, and picture quality is undeniably impressive too, despite the restrictive lack of calibration options. If design and wow factor is all you're looking for in a TV, there's little doubt you'll find anything more jaw-dropping than this. However, the lack of 4K support right now means it isn't as future-proof as competing TVs from mainstream manufacturers. With an upscaling engine that's merely average, anyone at all interested in picture quality would be better off with a 4K set from Samsung or Panasonic, or LG's 55in EC930V OLED instead. If that TV doesn't quite fit your needs then check out our regularly-updated Best TVs to Buy.

SPECIFICATIONS
Screen size55in
Native resolution3,840x2,160
Video inputs6x HDMI, Component, Composite, SCART
TunerFreeview HD, DVB-S2
Dimensions1,220x1,283x585mm
WarrantyThree years RTB
Detailshttp://www.bang-olufsen.com
Part codeBeovision Avant 55

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