Philips 42PES0001 £1900
17th Mar 2009 | 09:30
A trip down innovation lane with this terrific wall-hanging 42" special
While hanging your TV on the wall sounds like a great idea, in reality it's often so tricky to achieve that many people don't even bother trying. Which is doubtlessly why Philips has come up with this TV that's constructed from the ground up to make your wall-hanging dreams come true.
The 42PES0001 Essence wears its wall-hanging aspirations very much on its sleeve, by being one of the slimmest and lightest 42-inchers yet. And rather than forcing would-be wall-hangers to suffer bundles of ugly cables spilling from their TV, the screen ships with an external multimedia receiver that links to the screen via a single cable.
This receiver carries an unusually format-flexible DNLA network socket for streaming in AV files from your PC.
Both the TV and its receiver sport a luxurious-looking, matching gloss-black finish, as well as being neat and trim. In fact, the bezel around the screen is barely half an inch wide, reminding us of Toshiba's distinctive Picture Frame sets.
Clever sound bar
Fitting speakers into really thin TVs can be tricky. So Philips has opted instead to put the screen's speakers into a separate 'sound bar' that attaches to the TV's bottom edge via a simple two-screw mount. This bar impressively gets its sound information from the TV via touch-pins built into the mounting bracket, rather than using anything as old-fashioned as cabling.
The speaker bar is built to the same depth and width as the screen, but you can, of course, choose not to use it at all if you have a separate sound system.
Great though all these little touches are for people wanting to hang their TV on the wall, the coup de grace comes from the wall bracket that comes with the screen. An inspired curved design means that if you don't fasten the bracket to the wall completely level, you can simply slide the TV around on its fittings until it looks perfectly aligned. There's no need to drill any new holes. Hallelujah.
Plethora of options
On the picture quality front the set enjoys the latest version of Philips' Perfect Pixel HD processing engine, which is renowned for working more aggressively than possibly any other image engine to improve everything from colours and contrast to sharp motion and fine detailing.
Nearly every element of the TV's video processing can be tweaked or even deactivated via its endless onscreen menus. But we have to report something the set doesn't have: Philips' Ambilight system. The necessary LED lights just couldn't be fitted into the TV's skinny frame.
The 42PES0001's sheer number of picture options make it a daunting prospect for technophobes, as you often need to adjust some of the options if you want to keep pictures looking their best. The navigation wheel on the remote control is fiddly too, although the menus are at least sensibly organised.
Pixel Perfect power
To get the best from this telly you'll have to commit to regularly tweaking the HD Natural Motion, noise reduction and sharpness settings, to name but three options. Otherwise the picture can suffer from distracting levels of unwanted processing side effects, such as edge shimmering and flickering over fast-moving objects.
If you do keep adapting the settings to suit your source types, though, the Essence will reward you with some of the finest pictures the LCD world has seen, exhibiting as it does the trademark Perfect Pixel flourishes of extremely vibrant, bright colours. There's exceptional sharpness and detailing with SD as well as high-definition; remarkably fluid, crisp motion handling and generally natural, noiseless colour tones.
In fact, for our money, the 42PES0001 even marginally outperforms Philips' Aurea II and 42PFL9703 TVs in one crucial area: black level response. Dark scenes definitely look slightly less greyed over than on Philips' other LCD sets (bar the LED backlit 42PFL9803H).
Clearly the shift over to an ultra-slim design with the Essence hasn't compromised Philips' terrific picture quality in the slightest.
Although it could be a whole lot better if it produced slightly more bass, the 42PES0001's speaker 'bar' is considerably more powerful, dynamic and clear than the built-in speaker systems employed by most of its other skinny rivals.
This is a difficult category to award points for, since on the one hand paying two grand for a 42in TV looks very steep, while on the other, the 42PES0001 offers a truly unique proposition that we have no doubt some people won't mind paying the extra reddies for.