Philips 42PFL6007T £800
1st Mar 2013 | 10:25
An affordable 42-inch TV that still cares about quality
For a 42-inch TV that's relatively affordable and only sits around the middle of Philips' current TV range, the £800 (around US$1,219/AU$1,181) 42PFL6007T has got a surprising amount going on.
For starters, it looks much more attractive and feels markedly better built than many mid-range 42-inch televisions these days, even managing to incorporate into its strikingly svelte frame Philips' distinctive Ambilight technology.
Its feature list is anything but basic, too. Among the highlights are passive 3D playback, the ability to parse an impressively wide array of multimedia file formats from USB storage devices or networked PCs, and even built-in access to Philips' latest Net TV online platform.
Perhaps the single most intriguing thing about the Philips 42PFL6007T, though, is the way its mid-range focus hasn't stopped it from appearing to take its picture duties very seriously. Because onboard is Philips' powerful Pixel Precise HD picture engine, which stretches its tendrils into almost every area of the TV's picture performance to an extent beyond anything you would normally find with an £800 42-inch TV.
The Philips 42PFL6007T is the baby of the 6000 range, sitting beneath the £1,000 Philips 47PFL6007T and £1,500 Philips 55PFL6007T.
If you've got a few extra quid to spare, you might want to consider stepping up to Philips' PFL6907T range, where the Philips 42PFL6907T costs £900. This range introduces a new designer look with an ultra-thin bezel while delivering a broadly similar level of specification. The differences are that it ups the motion processing to a pseudo 600Hz level from the Philips 42PFL6007T's 400Hz offering, and slightly boosts audio output by incorporating an extra woofer on the TV's rear.
In terms of the competition, the Philips 42PFL6007T's price puts it in the same sort of ball park as the LG 42LM670T, Panasonic L42ET5 and Samsung UE40ES6800. This is some pretty strong company, with the first two models being extremely similar in spec - especially as they use the same LG-created passive 3D technology.
Samsung's TV, meanwhile, adopts a Full HD active 3D approach for resolution enthusiasts - though you only get two pairs of free 3D glasses, with extra pairs costing north of £50 each, while you get four pairs of passive 3D glasses with the Philips 42PFL6007T.
Philips has emphatically embraced the trend for super-slim designs with its current range, even with 'mere' mid-range models such as the Philips 42PFL6007T. Its bezel is barely 1cm across, ensuring that it looks cool, takes up less space in your living room and leaves you free to focus on the TV's pictures instead.
What sliver of bezel there is looks and feels reasonably robust too - albeit not in the same league as the aluminium finishes sported by sets higher up the Philips TV range.
And then there's Ambilight. This exclusive Philips feature finds small (and very energy efficient) LEDs ranged down the TV's rear left and right edges firing out coloured light from the TV's sides that can be set to match the colour content of the images you're watching.
It sounds silly to the uninitiated, we guess. But experience and Philips' own research provides plenty of evidence to suggest that once you've lived with Ambilight for a while, you miss it if you switch to a TV without it.
Google Glass: what you need to know
The Philips 42PFL6007T inevitably sports a 1080p Full HD resolution, illuminated - as is evident from its slimness - by an edge LED lighting array. This doesn't feature any local dimming, but it's still got plenty of potential, driven as it is by Philips' Pixel Precise HD processing engine.
Even though Pixel Precise HD only sits on the second rung of Philips' current TV processing ladder, it's still vastly powerful by mid-range TV standards, enabling it to work in real time on almost every tiny facet of a TV's picture.
Among its most intriguing tools are its motion processing (the set offers a 400Hz-type system delivered through a combination of a 100Hz native panel, backlight scanning and frame interpolation), various dynamic contrast settings and all sorts of adjustments (including edge enhancement, a sharpness booster and multiple noise reduction systems) for fine tuning the picture's crispness.
Some people will find the thought of the sort of processing power rather sinister. And it has to be said that if you're not pretty careful some elements of the TV's processing can quickly become overbearing, causing pictures to look very unnatural.
However, the key point here is that Philips enables you to adjust the power or turn off almost every facet of the Pixel Precise HD engine, so with a bit of work you should be able to get something pretty accurately matched to your individual tastes.
The Philips 42PFL6007T's connections are impressive for a mid-range 42-inch TV. Its four HDMI inputs should be enough to cater for even an ambitious home entertainment system, while even the most demanding of multimedia users should be left feeling satisfied by the television's trio of USBs, D-Sub PC input, LAN jack and built-in Wi-Fi.
Especially given that the TV is able to handle an unusually wide range of video, photo and music file formats from both USB storage devices or a networked MAC/DLNA PC.
The only area of disappointment where the Philips 42PFL6007T's multimedia features are concerned is the rather slender content level of Philips' latest smart TV online service.
The only services provided that we could imagine many UK users getting much out of are Blinkbox, Acetrax, Facebook, Twitter, a web browser and BBC iPlayer.
Read opinions from TechRadar
It is of course important to stress that as with all online TV services, the Philips platform can be constantly updated with new services. But it will need a heck of a lot of updates before it hits anywhere near the same sort of content levels offered by Sony, Panasonic, LG and Samsung.
The last feature to touch upon here is 3D. Philips caters for both passive and active 3D fans in its current range, and follows the fairly traditional pattern of seeing active tech as the 'premium' option for its high-end TVs, and passive as the way to go for its more affordable models.
So it's no surprise to find the mid-range Philips 42PFL6007T sporting the passive 3D flavour - a fact that handily finds it shipping with four pairs of free 3D glasses.
Active vs passive 3D
The current Philips renaissance as a TV brand has been built on three key principals: sleek designs, more aggressive pricing than it's managed before and some mostly sterling picture quality. Happily, for the most part the Philips 42PFL6007T continues this picture quality theme.
This is especially true with 3D. Despite its initial resistance to the passive format, Philips now seems to have fully embraced it, with the clarity, brightness, colour punch, natural sense of depth and complete freedom from active 3D's common tiring flickering issues ensuring that the Philips 42PFL6007T is as good a 3D performer as any passive 3D TV we've seen.
What's more, the fact that the Philips 42PFL6007T isn't especially large by current TV standards means you're generally not troubled - from a sensible viewing distance, at least - by traditional passive 3D problems of visible horizontal line structure and jaggedness over small, bright objects or curved edges.
We were also struck while watching the Philips 42PFL6007T strut its 3D stuff by the amount of shadow detail the screen was able to show in dark areas of the picture, and by the reasonably clean look to its 3D motion handling - especially if you use the surprisingly effective Natural Motion processing option on its Low setting.
One final plus point to make here is that even with the Philips 42PFL6007T's panel working unusually hard (to keep its 3D images looking bright) we didn't find ourselves noticing any overt patches of backlight inconsistency during dark scenes. This is a big relief when you're talking about a reasonably large screen with an extremely skinny frame.
The only issue with the Philips 42PFL6007T's 3D images is a predictable one: you don't get the nth degree of HD detailing you get with high quality active 3D screens. But honestly, the Philips 42PFL6007T is so good with 3D in every other way that the slightly lower resolution is a sacrifice we're confident many households will be more than happy to make.
2D TV picture
The strengths that make the Philips 42PFL6007T such a winner with 3D also serve it very well with 2D. The intense brightness the screen produces is even more palpable, and without the 3D glasses on you also become more keenly aware that this brightness doesn't come at the expense of a strong black level response.
Yes, there's a touch more greyness infused into parts of the picture that should look black than there is with Philips' higher-end TVs.
But compared with the black level performances of all its main brand rivals at the same sort of price level, the Philips 42PFL6007T holds up very nicely. Especially since it doesn't need to take so much light out of pictures to deliver a good black level that bright elements within predominantly dark scenes end up looking dull.
Colours are subtly rendered and mostly natural in tone too, even though the TV doesn't deliver quite as much vibrancy or as wide a colour range as higher spec Philips televisions.
HD TV pictures
As usual with Philips TVs, the 42PFL6007T produces exceptional sharpness when watching HD sources. In fact, some of the TV's processing elements can take the sharpness a bit too far, so that images start to look 'fizzy' and unnatural.
Rein the processing excesses in, though, and an innate talent at producing every pixel in HD sources joins with some credible/clean motion handling in producing HD images that sparkle with clarity.
Philips' processing prowess also helps the Philips 42PFL6007T produce unusually detailed and crisp standard definition pictures.
Just be careful, again, with the set's assorted noise reduction and sharpness-boosting tools, to ensure that the Philips 42PFL6007T's upscaling doesn't get so aggressive that edges start to look forced and detail levels tip over into grittiness.
There are a couple of areas where the Philips 42PFL6007T's mid-range rather than high-end position does become slightly apparent. First, occasionally the set gets too enthusiastic with its push for contrast, leaving images looking a bit too stark - with slightly bleached whites and forced blacks.
Second, the motion processing system you get with Pixel Precise HD is not as clever or artefact-free as the one you get with Philips' more powerful Perfect Pixel HD engine. But this is no more than you would expect, and you can still get good results from it for a set at the Philips 42PFL6007T's price, so long as you handle its set-up options with care.
Usability, sound and value
Overall, ease of use is not a strong area for the Philips 42PFL6007T, chiefly because of the way Philips has opted to put so many elements of its picture processing engine at your disposal.
The reasoning behind this level of flexibility is sound, of course. But it does make for some intimidating on-screen menus, packed with features and adjustments that you really do need to familiarise yourself with if you want to constantly get the best out of the TV's picture quality.
It doesn't help that the menus are slightly sluggish to respond to your remote control commands, and follow a rather cumbersome, text-heavy structure.
We also have a problem with the on-screen interface for the smart TV service. Because despite being engagingly graphics-rich, it tends to waste rather a lot of the available screen real estate, and so doesn't present many link points on the screen at once.
This isn't too serious an issue right now, given Philips' limited content levels. But the interface will surely start to feel cumbersome as content levels (hopefully) increase.
The one saving grace in the Philips 42PFL6007T's operating system is its remote control, which does a surprisingly efficient and straightforward job of helping you get to all the features on offer.
Please note, though, that the Philips 42PFL6007T does not feature the full QWERTY keyboard on its rear (to help you input text into the web browser and social media apps) that you get with televisions higher up Philips' range.
First, the bad news. The Philips 42PFL6007T doesn't have either the power or audio range delivered by sets higher up Philips' current range.
Its bass levels, in particular, fall short of those you can get from the likes of the PFL6907 and, especially, PFL7007T, PFL8007T and PFL9707T models.
However, these other TVs cost more (substantially more, in some cases) and produce some of the very best TV audio we've heard.
Considered more fairly against other sets at its own kind of price level, the Philips 42PFL6007T's audio is actually rather good, sounding well rounded, clean and reasonably detailed.
When you've got the likes of Samsung and LG combining more advanced online services with mostly impressive picture quality for the same sort of money as the Philips 42PFL6007T, you might think the Philips model could struggle to justify its price.
However, the Philips 42PFL6007T's unique Ambilight system together with its quite specific but winning combination of picture strengths mean that it has enough individual attractions to comfortably justify its price.
The mid-price 42-inch TV market is especially crowded right now. But the Philips 42PFL6007T has enough tricks up its sleeve to make its presence felt.
Its design gets the ball rolling nicely, thanks to its exceptional slimness and minimalist design. It's extremely well connected too, making it as comfortable with multimedia sources of all types as it is with HD and standard definition video.
The best thing about the Philips 42PFL6007T, though, is how well it performs. It's particularly outstanding with 3D, delivering some of the most watchable, immersive 3D pictures we've seen to date.
But 2D, too, competes very handily with the efforts of similarly priced TVs from Philips' main rivals, while pictures of all flavours are joined by a nicely tuned and reasonably powerful audio performance.
After grabbing our attention with its uber-svelte, Ambilight-enhanced design, the Philips 42PFL6007T continues to reel us in with its impressively wide-ranging multimedia playback tools and strong AV performance standards - especially in 3D mode. Its all-round talents make it look like solid value, too.
While it's mostly good to find Philips giving you control over most aspects of its comprehensive processing engine, this approach also means that getting the best out of the Philips 42PFL6007T is a tricky business, requiring extensive knowledge of the TV's rather sluggish on-screen menus. Philips' online services are a bit off the pace by today's standards, too.
Active vs passive 3D
The Philips 42PFL6007T is in some ways the most significant TV we've tested from Philips' current range.
With its extremely flexible multimedia playback skills, sumptuously slender design and best of all its strong picture and audio credentials, it proves that Philips isn't just a 'high-end' brand these days; it's also able to perform at the mid-range in a way that competes with the other, bigger brands out there.
In short, the Philips TV renaissance continues.
The Philips outguns the LG and Panasonic sets in the contrast department, and Ambilight gives it a design edge too. However, both the LG and Panasonic sets are much easier to use, and have more content-rich online services.
Samsung's UE40ES6800 is another alternative for people who prefer the Full HD active 3D system. This set also delivers a superb online service, and some great (post-calibration) picture quality - though it doesn't give you as many free pairs of 3D glasses, and extra pairs soon start to push its price up. It doesn't sound as rich as the Philips' audio system, either.