Philips 55PFL6007T £1500
7th Nov 2012 | 12:00
Depth effects are anything but passive on this slender Easy 3D telly
Framed by a matte black bezel measuring a mere 11mm, this is a smart TV in multiple ways – and a bigscreen that means business.
It's easy to get blasé about the size of TVs, but at 55 inches diagonally, the Philips 55PFL6007T is one seriously big screen.
Philips isn't a brand known for its great-value sets – the brand regularly concentrates on top quality and top prices – though the 55PFL6007T makes a play for both distinctions, at least if the inch-per-pound stats are taken into account.
With a depth of just 29mm and that tiny bezel, the 55PFL6007T is impressively dressed in as near to a timeless design as possible – and that's despite the use of plastic rather than the brushed aluminum that we usually find on a high-end Philips TV.
Nevertheless, the 55PFL6007T includes some of the latest and greatest digital goodies; a re-designed Net TV interface, alongside Wi-Fi and 3D.
The winner of the EISA Green Award for its power efficiency, the 55PFL6007T's most surprising feature is passive polarization technology, better known as Easy 3D, which ought to make for interesting watching on such a massive screen.
And, of course, this Edge LED has more LED lights than most such TVs; Ambilight, Philips' signature feature, is here presented as the two-sided Ambilight Spectra 2 system. Let the light show commence.
The 55PFL6007T is king of Philips' 6000 Series, where it's undercut by the 32-inch Philips 32PFL6007, 37-inch Philips 37PFL6007, 42-inch Philips 42PFL6007 and 47-inch Philips 47PFL6007. The 32-inch and 37-inch models ship with two pairs of 3D specs, while the rest get four.
Featuring Philips' Pixel Precise HD processing, 800Hz Perfect Motion Rate (a 200Hz panel that's quadrupled here by a scanning backlight) and the active shutter 3D Max system is the 7000 Series, which comprises the 40-inch Philips 40PFL7007, 46-inch Philips 46PFL7007 and 55-inch Philips 55PFL7007.
Also here are slightly more powerful speakers and an extra HDMI, but only one pair of 3D specs.
The 40-inch Philips 40PFL8007, 46-inch Philips 46PFL8007 and 55-inch Philips 55PFL8007 make-up the 8000 Series and add both Perfect Pixel HD and an extra pair of 3D specs.
If you're only interested in the very best, you'll have to wait until November for the premium 9000 Series, which comprises just the 46-inch Philips 46PFL9707 and 60-inch Philips 60PFL9707.
The 46-incher includes the fabulous Moth Eye filter, and both have a Pixel HD Engine that also includes Micro Dimming Premium and Bright Pro.
Philips' opting for the passive, polarised tech identical to that found in 3D cinemas is easily the headline feature on the 55PFL6007T.
It's a generous application of the tech not just in screen size, but also in the supply of 3D glasses; four pairs of Philips PTA416 3D specs are supplied in the box. You won't find as many as that in the box of any active shutter 3DTV.
Elsewhere on the 55PFL6007T is a Freeview HD tuner and some of Philips' picture processing tech.
A 400Hz Perfect Motion Rate (comprised of a 100Hz panel and some backlight scanning) ought to help rid both 2D and 3D fare of blur and shudder.
It's included in the Pixel Precise HD processing menus as Clear LCD and HD Natural Motion, the latter of which is available in three strengths. An advanced picture menu, meanwhile, adds options to tweak gamma, brightness, video contrast and colour temperature.
Another highlight on any Philips TV is Ambilight; strips of LEDs on the TV's rear flanks that pour out light to match whatever the dominant colours are on screen.
All well and good, but what about Net TV?
Philips has been playing catch up on catch-up TV of late, and though its newly refreshed platform has potential, the 55PFL6007T is a smart TV in only the most basic of senses.
Fueled by either wired LAN or Wi-Fi, apps in the grid-like Net TV interface include a web browser, the BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Napster, Picasa, Facebook, Absolute Radio, CNBC Real-Time, Aupeo radio, Social TV, Viewster, iConcerts, CineTrailer, Funspot, ScreenDreams and Euronews.
There's also an App Gallery with a further 12 mostly niche apps such as TomTomHD, Ebay, Foreca weather and a trio of risque video apps, Hustler, Private and Brazzers.
We also found the Acetrax on-demand movies in there, which should be on the Net TV home page as default.
The 55PFL6007T offered us the chance to download and move; we were then able to place the app icon exactly where we wanted it.
As we used Net TV we actually got to like the simplicity of the interface as a whole, despite its rather basic offering; its live TV thumbnail in the upper left-hand corner is bigger than on most such platforms, and there's none of the clutter found on some such platforms.
In terms of ins and outs the 55PFL6007T is more assured.
Its Full HD resolution is backed up by four HDMI inputs (one on the side, and three down-facing) and three USB (two on the side, one of which can record from Freeview) adaptors for both composite and component video, a VGA slot for hooking up a PC, a headphones jack, wired Ethernet LAN, and an RF input.
Audio, meanwhile, is via two stereo speakers with a combined power output of just 12W. Happily, there is an optical digital audio output, but rather inconveniently it's side-mounted, and squeezed under the fourth HDMI input.
To test the 55PFL6007T's polarised 3D features we set off with London 2012: 3D Review, recorded on a TiVo box from BBC HD back in August.
The horizontal lines across the 55PFL6007T are immediately obvious, though so, too, is a window-like 3D effect.
Looking into the Olympic Park's crowds there's rarely a confusing 3D effect, and though the faces of the athletes are soft and sometimes blurry as they march past the cameras in the Olympic Stadium, there's a massive amount of depth.
It's due in no small part to some excellent contrast, which shows itself in pure black backgrounds in some of the arenas, bold colours, and an all-round level of detail that we wouldn't normally expect on an Easy 3D telly.
It's not perfect, though; crosstalk appears instantly if you watch in 3D from a tight angle, particularly in the backgrounds, while during the 100m sprint we also noticed crosstalk on the hands of the sprinters. Perhaps they were moving too fast for any TV tech to cope with.
Moving on to some basketball, and we think we may have found 3D's ideal sport; there's not a trace of shimmer or flicker as Argentina take on Russia, with the scoreboard graphic lifted into the foreground of a depth-tastic image packed with perspective.
The O2 Arena has never looked this good, though through all of this giddy depth we did notice frequent shimmer in the court markings and slightly blurry faces in the crowd behind.
Generally speaking, it's worth engaging HD Natural Motion for 3D Blu-ray discs, simply because it removes the judder.
Wandering panoramic shots, such as the opening of Hugo, benefit enormously from a small dose of HD Natural Motion, with the slight side-effect in this particular scene not being crosstalk, but a slight 'cardboard cut-out' look to people as the camera rushes past.
If HD Natural Motion is left on Maximum it does cause a modicum of crosstalk (images meant for each eye only start to overlap) and fizz around rapidly moving elements of the picture, though arguably the downsides of HD Natural Motion during 3D are far less than when the mode is used on 2D footage.
Incidentally, there is also a 3D Depth adjustment option, either 'normal' or 'more', though we couldn't discern much of a difference.
The 3D picture isn't as detailed and as pristine as on an active shutter set, but nor does it come with any stability issues, such as flicker or crosstalk.
We just can't make up our mind between the two competing 3D TV technologies, and obviously neither can Philips, but we do know that the 55PFL6007T offers one of the best polarised 3D performances we've yet to see.
If only we'd had the 55PFL6007T back in the heady days of the sporting summer…
Remarkably, the 55PFL6007T manages to get round the whole 'problem' of our brain getting used to 3D after about an hour; we were still getting a 3D fix towards the end of the London 2012 action during the volleyball final, gymnastics and canoeing. On the 55PFL6007T all three sports make for truly awesome 3D spectacles.
Later … With Jools Holland in HD from Freeview HD reveals a highly-detailed 2D image that, in the dark, moody confines of the studio, is encroached by areas of (albeit convincingly pure) black that lack fine detail within.
The startlingly contrast-heavy opening sequence of Hugo in 2D sees HD Natural Motion – on its lowest power – remove virtually all the otherwise-distracting judder, adding barely a twitch in terms of artifacts.
We know some people hate the video-look this kind of frame interpolation adds, but on Hugo it makes everything just look more real. However, it's here that we really notice that although contrast is good and black levels strong, there is little shadow detail within large areas of black, which appear crushed and indistinct.
On standard definition the 55PFL6007T manages a decent effort. A broadcast of Rising Damp on ITV 3 was marred by a certain amount of contouring and a sheen of picture noise, but it's blessedly not as stark as on some TVs.
Meanwhile, our test DVD Children of Men did appear to be very soft, and there wasn't much we or the 55PFL6007T could do about it.
Usability, sound and value
Upon first use the TV 'finds' devices linked to it, and offers to re-name them as 'HD digital receiver', 'DVD player' and the like. It then dumps a dedicated icon on the 'home' carousel.
It all works well and enables the creation of a nice personalised experience, though it could do with a free-type custom name option, too.
We were also a bit surprised that during our test the 55PFL6007T didn't remember what we'd told it the day before, reverting a Blu-ray player to the default 'HDMI1' on the inputs list. It remembered, then forgot about the sources we set up intermittently throughout our test, and even refused to play anything from a connected TiVo box for a short while.
The 55PFL6007T gets back in the swing of things by showing schedules for seven channels over two hours on the Freeview HD guide, a colourful and easily-navigated piece of software.
Although it's not got the QWERTY keyboard adorning its rear – as found on some Philips TVs – the remote control is simple to use.
Built around a matte plastic hull and nicely weighted, it's nevertheless missing shortcuts to the 55PFL6007T's picture settings, which do take a while to find and fiddle with.
An alternative is to use the free MyRemote app, which is nothing more than a virtual representation of the hard-button remote with some swipe options, though it does add a keyboard that makes the web browser just about usable.
The Net TV interface is rather basic in both style and operation, though we like the big live TV thumbnail and the small Tweet button above it.
However, there are issues. It's not the only so-called smart TV to lack the processing power to cope with the demands put upon it – there are plenty of examples from all manufacturers – but the 55PFL6007T is a relatively frustrating place to indulge in an app habit.
That's partially because most of the apps are commercial in nature, and require the paying of subscription fees and/or the creation of accounts and passwords, but it's also to do with stability and reliability.
For instance, the BBC iPlayer worked fine in our test, and downloading apps from the App Gallery was a rapid, smooth experience, but the Social app didn't load at all. Skipping between on-screen menus also involves a few seconds of delay.
There's also the small matter of a light on the bottom of the screen, which bounces from side to side whenever the 55PFL6007T is thinking about something, and though it does appear a little too often for our tastes, it's also going to be totally unwanted in any blacked-out home cinema.
As well as streaming from apps, the 55PFL6007T can also stream files from a PC on the same home network from some very Windows-like on-screen menus; in our test it managed AVC HD, AVI, MKV, MOV, MP4, MPEG and WMV video files, JPEG photos, and MP3, WMA and M4A music files.
From USB thumbdrives the file support is identical.
Surprisingly for a Philips TV, the 55PFL6007T's audio is pretty average. It's utterly bereft of bass and width, and though treble detail is superior to most, there's a harshness even to dialogue that means the 's' sound comes out like a lisp.
We may not be completely happy with Net TV, but it's hard to gripe too much about a TV of this massive size that also piles on the likes of Freeview HD and Easy 3D.
However, if we were being picky we would like a few more pairs of 3D specs in the box, and perhaps even a set of 'games glasses'; the Philips PTA436, which cost about £30 and make split-screen games a full-screen affair (though don't involve any 3D). After all, that's exactly what LG puts in its polarised 3DTVs.
Without the fineries of Philips' top-draw picture-processing tech, the 55PFL6007T can't muster reference-level picture quality – but its Easy 3D pictures, in particular, get pretty close.
Net TV might only pass the minimum requirement test for a smart TV platform, but there's a lot to love about this massive telly.
3D is brought alive the by 55PFL6007T, which appears able to produce a depth that we've not come across before on a passive polarised TV.
Philips has achieved this by delivering in other parts of the picture; the 55PFL6007T has decent contrast, black levels, detail and especially smooth motion, which also contribute to an excellent 2D performance.
The user interface feels Windows-like, and a touch too fussy, while Net TV is under-served both by apps and processing power.
Black levels appear strong, but crushed, with shadow detail missing and a 3D effect that fades badly at the flanks.
Considering Philips' usually impressive audio, we were also a bit disappointed by the relatively thin, harsh sonics.
Nor is upscaling anything to rely on.
Premium, though not reference, picture quality is on offer in a package that's only slightly marred by a lacklustre user interface and content-poor Net TV.
For anyone after as big a screen as possible for truly immersive Easy 3D – and perhaps the odd trip to a BBC iPlayer app – the good-looking 55PFL6007T is hard to beat.
Other options in the 55-inch market include the slightly cheaper Toshiba 55VL963, which also includes passive 3D and a basic TV offering, though there's no integrated Wi-Fi.
The LG 47LM670T, also with passive 3D, is worth a look; it includes extra 3D specs, Wi-Fi and a more polished home-networking feature than this Philips.
For a good active shutter 3D alternative to this Philips, consider the Sony KDL-40HX753, which has a superior smart TV offering, too.