There’s nothing too alarmingly ‘budget’ about the screen’s key specifications. The native resolution is an HD Ready 1,366 x 768, the claimed brightness is a normal 500cd/m2, and the contrast ratio claim is actually pretty good at 1600:1 – especially as this appears to be achieved without as much backlight reduction trickery as usual.
It’s impossible not to feel at least a little disappointed, though, by the lack of other features. The only two tricks even remotely worth mentioning are a Dolby Virtual pseudo surround audio circuit and an Active Control system that adjusts two or three picture elements automatically in response to an analysis of the source image. Woo.
Coming from a brand that can usually be depended on to stick everything bar the kitchen sink into its TVs, even at £680 it’s hard not to feel the loss of, say, Philips’ Ambilight system, 1080p support via HDMI, or, even worse, any form of Philips’ Pixel Plus image processing, with its colour and detail-boosting capabilities. Many of Philips’ lower-end TVs have at least found room for an early form of Pixel Plus, but the 37PF5521D doesn’t even boast the very oldest version.
And unfortunately this is all too evident in the TV’s picture quality. Almost immediately we found ourselves surprised and more than a little alarmed by how soft and mushy the 37PF5521D’s standard definition pictures look. Detail levels look lower than they should, and there’s far more evidence of LCD’s common motion smearing complaint that we’d even expect to see on a TV as cheap as this one. As the gangs have a go at each other at the start of a standard definition showing of Gangs of New York, for instance, the combatants leave trails of their motion behind them, and have their punches, kicks and stabbings routinely blurred. The problem is, if anything, even worse while playing action-packed games like Gears of War on the Xbox 360. Even if you’re playing in HD.